I just read an article on things you shouldn't wear after thirty. I was expecting to see polka dots. I saw instead, among other things, hoop earrings. Listen, this is a case in which the standard is too generic. I wear hoop earrings because I am Latina. The article said specifically that you have to be in high school to wear those. That rule might fit someone else. For me, hoop earrings are a cultural expression and an expression of my personal power.
Let's talk about power. Does the way I dress telegraph power? Recently, a colleague told me that I am one of the most colorful dressers he's ever been around. I loved that. My most important commitment lately is to be available to Life, Dressing colorfully is about that for me, about expressing some of the affection I have for the world in the beauty of the colors I wear. I guess it's not a linear thing: I wear color because I am in love with God, the world, and myself and I'm not afraid to show it.
But there's a lot at stake. Francesca Stavrakopolou, in reference to academia, phrased it this way,
"The unspoken dress codes of academia are simply a reflection of the wider policing of women's bodies of women's bodies in other professional contexts in western society. No matter what their occupation, women are still frequently frequently held to account for their appearance, rather than only their expertise and experience."
Is this something that happens in ministry, where power is mostly the mantle of ministerial authority as we each take it up? I believe it does. There is a white cis-male conception of authority which a woman's body does not fit. I think about the way having a disabled body further decenters me from that white cis-male conception, because in that original mental, emotional picture of what a minister is, he's never disabled, never walks with a cane or drives a scooter. I worry about the physical location of my body on the chancel in relation to the pulpit when I'm preaching. (It's too tall to use from my scooter.) I worry about what being seated telegraphs about my power. These are real things that people parse when they decide whether I have the power to do the work and bring the message that I hold.
I am over thirty. I am going to wear two kinds of glitter eyeshadow in the pulpit. Not enough for you to think we are at a club, but even from a distance, I need you to locate my face and look at my eyes. I'll be the one up front, talking to you about building Beloved Community and living your values. I might wear a flowing skirt. I'm going to sit in my scooter and preach to you. You have the skills to deal with it; what's at stake is the growing of your spiritual self and your own understanding of your humanity. I know it might take getting used to. Thankfully, we're in this together.
Theresa loves you.