It’s often true, especially in very conservative church environments, that men can move much more easily between the church and the world than women can. The church’s teachings and standards keep women tightly bound to the church community which makes the thought of leaving that much harder.
While women are often discouraged from getting jobs in the world (outside of working for people in the church), while men are free to work wherever they please. Women may be required to dress so that they are recognizably of the church even when they do enter the outside world. On the other hand, men are free to dress as they please and find it easy to come and go between home, church, marketplace, etc.
This lends to a dynamic where if a man wants to leave the church, he has options and mobility. However if a woman wanted to leave the church, she would be taking a huge step – leaving behind all the familiar spaces where she was allowed to move. To continue dressing the way she had would make her stand out in another church – but men never have to feel this because they aren’t held to the same standards. This is why our theology and community standards really matter. It’s also why they should be fleshed out by everyone in the community, not just those (men) in authority positions. This isn’t a subject where we can just say, do what the Bible says. Men in Paul’s day weren’t wearing Levi’s, and women weren’t shopping online. Our standards in this case are what we make them.
I explored this topic at length in this article several months ago. I would also direct the reader to Katie Funk Wiebe’s excellent article, in which she points out
“Historically, women were never the ones to introduce theological positions
but were expected to be the standardbearers of the positions held by the larger
church body, especially cultural traditions and social roles. Long after men had
moved in other directions, women were expected to be the social conservators of
… culture, presumably based on Scripture, particularly clothing and
hairstyles. Clothing restrictions were never as severe for men as for women” (Wiebe, 16).
In my community, is it harder for women to leave than single men?
Who gets to set the standards for what’s considered kosher in my church?