Sunday, February 7, 2010

Can a priest be sexy?

The other day I watched "What Not to Wear" and they had an episcopal priest on the show.  It was an interesting show because it dealt with a lot of the issues many of my clergy friends and I have discussed:  How do you combine your personal wardrobe with your professional clothes?  (or can you?)  How do you accent your body without being too scandalous or seductive?  

She handled the questions well and chose clothes that were complementary to her figure as well as professionally appropriate.  

At one point, the hairdresser asked, "Can a priest be sexy?"  She paused and then said "yes".  Ever since I have been running that question through my head.  I think personally, (like in her personal life) it's alright, but as a priest, I don't think so.  It's a tough line to draw, and even in her personal life it's questionable since she's bound to run into parishioners outside of the church walls.  I don't know. Maybe it depends on how you define sexy, but it made me uncomfortable.

Maybe that's because I wore a dress last Sunday that got a lot of comments.  People said things like "You look too good to be a pastor." And even, "You look sexy." (That one came from an 80-something year old lady).  It was unnerving actually. I had not intended for such a look. I wore a dress with boots...long sleeve, knee length and fairly loose, and yet it evoked comments that dealt with my sexuality, or at least perceived sex appeal.  

It wasn't 5 minutes at church before I lamented my clothing choice and was ready to be robed.  I don't think a pastor can or should really be "sexy".  It has the potential to seriously undermine what we do.  And for women in particular, I think others are prone to sexualize us anyway (call it cultural, call it a minimization of the feminine side of God, call it whatever, but my experience is it seems to be true).

That doesn't mean we have to be drab and frumpy, only that we do have to be conscientious of how we dress and how we are perceived.  After all perception is 9/10 of the law!

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