by Joe Crews
Any discussion of dress today would be incomplete without some consideration being given to the topic of unisex. One of the phenomena of our times is the mushrooming growth of look-alike boutiques and hair salons. Unisex shops and signs are appearing all across the country offering exactly the same clothes and hairdos to both men and women. What is the significance of this development? Are there any spiritual dangers inherent in this growing trend?
First we need to take note of the astronomical rise in homosexuality in the last few years. America has been literally swamped in a blitz of newspaper and magazine stories about the gay movement, and how it has proudly come out of the closet to demand its rights. Gay marches and demonstrations attract great crowds and wide publicity. Television forums have openly discussed the matter before millions of viewers, with both lesbians and homosexuals taking part.
Psychiatry has given formal recognition to the practice as normal sex behaviour. Great Protestant church organisations are not only opening the doors to membership, but are ordaining self-professed homosexuals to the ministry. Churches have been established exclusively for the worship of homosexuals, and some marriages have been performed and publicly registered between two persons of the same sex.
Much has been written about the possible causes for this spectacular escalation of a very old perversion. Very few seem to understand exactly why it has made such a sudden resurgence, but I believe we can discover the reasons by examining some parallel social developments which have given explicit encouragement to the gay movement. There is a cause for every effect, and through the centuries of time the same conditions have produced similar results.
AH Bible students are acquainted with the strong condemnation of sodomy which is woven throughout both Old and New Testaments. God labels it as one of the worst abominations, a sin which will utterly deprave and destroy. The ancient pagan world was riddled with the vice. The very name is derived from the city of Sodom which harboured a host of militant homosexuals. Paul speaks in Romans 1:26 and 27 of "vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another;, men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet." The reprobate minds "which commit such things are worthy of death," Paul stated in verse 32.
The land of Canaan, which the Israelites were to possess, was filled with the perverse iniquity of sodomy or homosexuality. This was one of the reasons God gave such explicit instructions for them not to intermarry or intermingle with the inhabitants of the land. They were to avoid any contaminating contact which could lead Israel to join their debased practices. Furthermore, they were given specific instructions against dressing in a way that could create the climate for committing this sin. "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shah a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God." Deuteronomy 22:5.
Because sodomy involves a changing of sex roles which is usually accompanied by a pattern of acting and dressing like the opposite sex, God warned His people not to open any door of temptation on this matter. They were to maintain clear lines of distinction between the dress of men and women. The New Testament reaffirms this principle of separation in appearance. Paul wrote, "Doth not even nature itself teach you that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her." 1 Corinthians 11:14, 15.
Now we are ready to make some observations about the modem social scene which could explain why we see the alarming rise of homosexuality. If God saw that the blurring of sexual identity could cause problems, then we must admit to having a great problem. We are seeing three factors at work today which have never operated before in human history at the same time. Taken alone, none of these three things would be too impressive. But when we see the combined effect of their influence, it is frightening even to contemplate. The three contemporary conditions are these:
(1) The Women's Lib Movement, whose declared purpose is to interchange the roles of men and women in much of our social, economic, and religious life.
(2) The pantsuit fashion revolution, which has led the majority of women to abandon the traditional feminine dress styles.
(3) The growing tendency of men to dress in frills, with feminine hair styles, and accompanying demasculinisation.
This combination of related circumstances has probably been responsible for pushing thousands of borderline homosexuals over the line into perversion. Many of them only needed the little bit of psychotic confusion that the three popular movements thrust upon them.
Dr. Charles Winick, professor of Sociology at the City University of New York, is one leading authority who feels that the current vogue for interchangeable clothing is leading us to ultimate disaster. In his provocative book, The New People, he delineates the numerous ways that unisex is desexualising the American people. He believes that even the over-thirty group has been critically affected by the radical changes around them, although they don't fully realise how it is happening.
Dr. Winick points out that even the staid business men are edging into patterned, pastel-hued shirts and pants. Men's departments are doing a brisk business in jewellery, scented grooming aids, hairpieces, manicures, face creams, and colognes. Hair nets and permanent waves are discreetly labelled with terms like "trainers" and "hair processing?
In his book Dr. Winick catalogues several hundred pages of items in our culture that have become neutralised, bland, and consequently boring. For example: Parents are giving more and more interchangeable names to their children such as Kim, Chris, Leslie, Gene, Lee, and Dana. He believes that the blurring of masculine and feminine distinctions is leading our society into deep trouble, because people cannot cope with critical life situations until they are certain of their sexual identity. Unisex clothing is confusing them and creating serious emotional crises for many. Sociologist Winick doesn't care how masculinity and femininity are defined as long as they are clearly defined. "Just about every combination of male and female role-relationships can be healthy and effective except one in which roles are blurred," he wrote in Medical Opinion and Review, a magazine for physicians.
With both Bible writers and social experts focusing on unisex clothing as a factor in creating sexual confusion, what should be our own personal attitude toward this spreading vogue? As members of the remnant church we have not been left without guidance on the matter. E.G. White commented on the biblical position in these words:
"I was referred to Deuteronomy 22:5: 'The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman' s garment, for all that do so are an abomination unto the Lord thy God.' ... There is an increasing tendency to have women in their dress and appearance as near like the other sex as possible, and to fashion their dress very much like that of men, but God pronounces it abomination." Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 457.
Please notice that she called it abomination for women to fashion their dress much like that of men. So the issue for us is no longer whether the clothes are actually those of the opposite sex. They might be created for one sex only, but be fashioned like the opposite sex. Thus the influence could be to push the bisexuals or fringe homosexuals over the line into the confirmed camp.
Now the question is raised: Where should the line be drawn between male and female styles of clothing? There seems to be no disagreement about wearing the actual clothing of the opposite sex. It is clearly forbidden. There is apparently much disagreement about the degree of similarity which can exist without becoming an abomination.
Many are convinced that the typical pantsuit is already fashioned very much after that of men. But if it is not, how many small changes would it take to put it into the category of being so fashioned? At that point Mrs. White said it would be an abomination. As the pantsuit collars widen and coat styles shift to become more and more masculine, would it be possible to detect the point of transition from stylish to abomination?
Each month as the popular pantsuits adapt slightly more to the unisex, Adventist women continue to buy theirs from the styles available. Finally, one small change could place them in the category of being "fashioned very much like that of men." In harmony with his last-day strategy of creeping in by degrees, Satan could lead the remnant church into the unisex camp just as he led so many into the miniskirt scandal. And it would be done in such a way that few would recognise where the little steps were leading. Remember the small hoops of Sister A? In the same innocuous manner the pantsuits of women and the effeminate styles of men could bring weakness and shame to the remnant church.
Many sincere Adventists believe that the Spirit of Prophecy condones the pantsuit fashions. The truth is that Mrs. White took the opposite position. She condemned it. The popular American costume of Mrs. White's day is described by her in these words: "It consists of a vest, pants, and a dress resembling a coat and reaching about halfway from the hip to the knee. This dress I have opposed, from what has been shown me, as not in harmony with the Word of God." Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 465.
In what respect does that dress differ from the modern pantsuit? She was describing almost exactly what we see being worn by the vast majority of women today, except that the dress coat is a bit shorter on today's version. Later Mrs. White described the objections to that particular dress which made it unacceptable. She saw in vision three companies of ladies pass before her. The second group was wearing the dress which she described as the American Costume. Here are her comments: "The dress of the second class which passed before me was in many respects as it should be. The limbs were well clad. They were free from the burdens which the tyrant, Fashion, had imposed upon the first class; but had gone to that extreme in the short dress as to disgust and prejudice good people, and destroy in a great measure their own influence. This is the style and influence of the 'American Costume' taught and worn by many at 'Our Home' in Dansville, New York. It does not reach to the knee. I need not say that this style of dress was shown me to be too short." Present Truth and Review and Herald Articles, Vol. 1, p. 73.
Now the picture comes into clear focus. The dress which was described as "vest (blouse), pants, and a dress resembling a coat and reaching about halfway from the hip to the knee" was not acceptable because the dress did not reach to the knees. In other words, pants apparently were not objectionable if they were covered by a dress which came at least to the knees. This, of course, pantsuits do not do. So we have no reason to conclude that she would approve of today's version of the American Costume, the pantsuit. She clearly stated "I saw that God's order has been reversed, and His special directions disregarded, by those who adopt the American Costume. I was referred to Deuteronomy 22:5." Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 457.
It is true that some of the pantsuit blouses are distinctly feminine in their cut and style, while others are severely masculine. Many fine Christian women defend the wearing of the feminine type, and others who are just as dedicated see no harm in wearing the more masculine. It is not the purpose of this study to designate some line between these two fashions which separate wrong from right.
No one, as far as I can tell, would know where such a line should be drawn. Every Adventist sister should weigh the dangers involved in taking the first step that would encourage a unisex trend. Those tiny steps which Satan uses to lead into the snare are often so innocent that they can be defended with righteous enthusiasm.
It is truly difficult to debate the argument that pantsuits are more modest than many current dress styles. But in the light of our knowledge about Satan's "modus operandi" and the lesson of the good wheat and quails, we should ask, Where would it lead us? Would it be a step closer to the abomination that Mrs. White referred to? And would it give encouragement to Sister B to make her pantsuit just a little more mannish? And what about Sister C, who would go a step further?--and they, along with every other lady who wears them, all the while protesting they are not wearing masculine clothes at all.