Dressing For Leadership: A Rant

This is upsetting. I have saved it for awhile so as to not post it immediately after the event that the Concerned Writer is reporting. I have done a little bit of editing for content and clarity.

I don’t know if I need someone to publicly acknowledge this, or if I just need to vent…I am a ____ pastor in ____ and we are in the middle of our [big, important assemblage].
This year, we are electing a new bishop. There was only one female among the top candidates. In our process, the top candidates are each given a short amount of time to address the assembly. She knew she was going to be a prospective candidate; many people would say she was “campaigning” to be bishop.
I did not care for her as a candidate, but I wanted her to represent well as the only female.
She didn’t even wear her clerical collar!!!

My anger and frustration is that we are in a [district/synod/presbytery/conference] that has had difficultly with women in positions of power, and she knew she was going to be a candidate and she didn’t even look the part! She was wearing a long flowing skirt and cotton top, semi-casual. It was insulting to the office of Bishop and a betrayal of all the women there.
This is not something we can do anything about now – it’s over — but I just needed someone to hear my frustration. Thank you for giving me a chance to vent and blessings to you as you keep up this amazing ministry.

I hear you, sister. Rant away. I would have been furious!
I am not sure what happened here. How could a woman who has been campaigning for such an important position and promotion not only forego the visible symbol of her priesthood, but dress for a picnic?

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A flowy skirt is not appropriate for any woman who wants to be taken seriously in a professional capacity. It’s fine for a day at the office, it’s fine to wear to a social outing in the parish, it’s fine for a conference where you’re not presenting — and if you are, pair it with nice shoes (no sandals) and a structured jacket. A flowy skirt, unless it is in a formal fabric, is an informal garment. It is not business casual. It is NOT bishop-elect wear.

What was this woman thinking? Was the candidate trying to underplay her authority in order not to threaten the sexist contingent? BIG MISTAKE. Was she trying to seem non-threatening, fun and feminine? BIG MISTAKE. Did her luggage get lost? Is she allergic to nice pants and a handsome jacket? We’ll never know. We can, however, feature the first female bishop of Australia, the Venerable Kay Goldsworthy here and say, “This is what a bishop looks like.”

YES, Ma’am with your fabulous hair and make-up, poise and power:

Vibrant, alive, exuding charisma in a simple black suit, sheer hose and her collar. Serving up ordained fierceness. Go ye and do likewise. Leave the flowy skirts for casual occasions.

4 Replies to “Dressing For Leadership: A Rant”

  1. At what point is it appropriate to challenge the preconceptions baked in to the ideas of “professional attire”, particularly when framed by gender? [Probably at the point at which the clergy have stopped looking like slobs on a frequent basis. Maybe at the point at which clergy have figured out basic grooming, have stopped reacting defensively when told that they look like refugees from Woodstock, aren’t representing the 21st century church in an appropriate, respectful or encouraging way, and perhaps after I attend one clergy gathering where the attire isn’t extraordinarily depressing, ugly, and embarrassing. I am certainly interested in gender issues, but my work here is on a much more basic level: to get clergy to please stop looking like crap, resisting the idea that attire and grooming don’t matter, and that there’s no need to dress in a way that conveys leadership, excellence and a clear sense of self and context. – PB]

  2. Yes, Kay Goldsworthy rocks.
    But as far as I know as a Bishop she is not “venerable” any more but “right reverend”. 🙂

    Anglicans- please correct me if I’m mistaken. [Oh, gosh, I’m sorry! Y’all and your fancy titles. I took the title off the site whence I nabbed the old photo. – PB]

  3. As I prepare for a new senior position, each time I put on an outfit, I imagine myself saying: “And this is what I think about the budget…” If you can’t imagine having a serious conversation about money wearing that cute little dress, then leave it at home! Here ends my rant. [That’s very wise advice! Not a rant at all. – PB]

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