High School Girls In Tuxedos Are Not A Sign Of The Apocalypse

One man decided that a girl in pants threatened the good order and sensibilities of the high school prom. So when Claudetteia Love said she’d be wearing a tuxedo to the dance, the principal put his foot down: no tuxedo.

Love’s mother tried to talk to him about it.

“[He] said that the faculty that is working the prom told him they weren’t going to work the prom if [girls] were going to wear tuxes. That’s his exact words. ‘Girls wear dresses and boys wear tuxes, and that’s the way it is.’”

The Root reported that the school board president stepped in, saying the principal didn’t have the authority to enforce dress restrictions that weren’t written down anywhere and had never been forced upon students before. Love can wear a tux if she wants.

Love in her tuxedo, looking rather sharp.

I wonder if the principal and teachers would have been as likely to come up with this requirement about gender and clothing if Claudetteia Love weren’t a lesbian. After all, I am willing to bet that the school does not generally require girls to wear dresses to school. If it did, the school board president wouldn’t have spoken of the lack of a precedent.

But this post isn’t about LGBT rights, although (if I am reading between the lines correctly) that is what brought it to the fore. This post is about arbitrary and hurtful gender restrictions and expectations.

Old Testament Dress Codes

Some people would say that enforcing proper gender clothing is biblical, that the Bible tells women not to dress like men and vice versa.

A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this. (Deuteronomy 22:5.)

It’s in the Bible, fair enough. But what constitute men’s clothing and women’s clothing? I remember 45 years ago when my grade school dropped its dress code and girls could wear pants to school instead of dresses. Did all those girls show up at school the next day in men’s clothing, earning God’s detestation*? I think not.Diane-Keaton-as-Annie-Hall

Even when someone is wearing clothing that might be thought by society to belong to another gender – think of a woman with a necktie on – there is no mistaking who is wearing the item. Diane Keaton did this famously as Annie Hall in 1977.

Supreme Court Justices in their robes (Wikipedia)

Supreme Court Justices in their robes (Wikipedia)

Also, some men today wear items that might be considered more usual for women to wear – my judicial robe comes to mind.

In fact, if you consider what people wore when Moses wrote Deuteronomy, everybody was wearing robes and the attire we have today that is most like a robe is a dress. So to be faithful to the plain meaning of Scripture all men should wear dresses.

But not really.

Culture and Context

Only the most literal of Bible literalists would say that men today must wear robes because men wore robes in Bible times. This is one of those areas where everyone else agrees that you should look at the culture in order to understand the context. You don’t have to have lived back then to imagine that the way women and men wore their clothes had a gender distinction. If everyone wore the exact same clothing, that passage in Deuteronomy would make no sense.

The irony is that the same people who will consider the cultural context regarding clothing will reject cultural context in other passages, such as whether gender-based restrictions on behavior, activities and roles in some passages take prominence over other passages which state that in Christ there is no male/female distinction in his kingdom. And rather than consider women in the Bible such as Deborah and Huldah and Junia as true leaders and prophets and apostles in God’s kingdom, they rationalize away these passages where God placed no restrictions on women leading and preaching and teaching men under both the Old and New Covenants.

When you suggest a cultural construct for the Deuteronomy passage there is a reasoned discussion and much agreement, but try the same for passages such as concerning gender roles and reasoned discussion on cultural context becomes almost impossible. Despite much evidence both in the Bible and in the historical record, gender restriction passages are somehow deemed to outweigh gender freedom passages.

In looking at the whole of Scripture, the most rational  and reasonable conclusion is that God does not approve of rules and restrictions which limit women – just as that school board president did not approve of the principal making up rules about what to wear to the prom. The Bible shows over and over again that God lifts women up in his kingdom to exercise their gifts, and to lead and serve God’s people to bless all of us in his family.


*As for those who belong to Jesus, we are never detested by God no matter what clothes we wear. There is no condemnation for anyone who is in Christ. (Romans 8:1.)

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36 Responses to High School Girls In Tuxedos Are Not A Sign Of The Apocalypse

  1. How about Zombie “Lesbian High Schoolers Wearing Tuxedos Are” they a sign “Sign Of The Apocalypse?” Just wondering you know! Or seeing “Lesbian High Schoolers Wearing Tuxedos” under a blood moon are they a sign “Sign Of The Apocalypse?” Thoughts

  2. Greg Hahn says:

    Some of these guys are adamant that they always take the Bible at face value. But they seem to get angry when you greet them with a holy kiss. Go figure.

  3. You had to mention Annie Hall, didn’t you.

  4. Actually, Greg, one of Tim Bayly’s hobby horses is bringing back the holy kiss. At least he’s consistent.

  5. I had been planning to attend an academic conference this weekend in Bloomington, Indiana, which would have given me a chance to attend the Temple of Tim for the first time. And maybe lunch or coffee with Greg Hahn on the road to- or fro. But alas — an executive decision was made NOT to go. No holy kiss for me!

  6. Laura Droege says:

    I have a question. Should we consider the cultural context for all of scripture? If so, how do we determine which Scriptural mandates are not cultural and apply in every circumstance? I think some people are afraid that if they allow for cultural context in one situation, then that starts down a slippery slope toward relativism, rejection of any absolute truth within the Bible, and abandonment of Scripture altogether. I just wondered if you’d run across this ideology and how you’d respond to it. (It seems to be prevalent where I live.)

    BTW, some females hate dresses/skirts and feel more comfortable in pants, regardless of their sexual orientation, so I don’t understand the pincipal’s ire on this one! Besides, if the girl isn’t wearing a dress, she’s less likely to be wearing heels, and she’s less likely to twist her ankle and fall. Safe prom=good prom, in my opinion! 🙂

  7. I’m glad they reversed the decision. Common sense won!
    My son has autism. When it was non-uniform day at school he wanted to wear his grizzly bear onesie. We let him. I don’t care what he wears as long as he’s happy, although I may encourage him to not wear certain things for fear of bullying (because he has no clue about such things).
    Also, at school in the UK most schools have a uniform. Most schools now allow girls to wear trousers (which they weren’t allowed to do when I was at school) but boys aren’t allowed to wear skirts, yet this is very rarely questioned. Trousers are much more practical for children for all sorts of reasons, but I do love seeing my little girls in dresses!
    I have to say that the whole thing around clothing and modesty confuses me. I definitely think these things are contextual. But on the other hand, how far does contextual go? I guess my own answer would be that context goes as far as culture, but does that mean that different cultures around the globe today can interpret certain things differently? I’d say that it does, which is interesting. So how do we respond to another culture’s different interpretation of these things? To answer my own question again, I’d say that it comes down to ‘love thy neighbour’ because the first sign of loving another human being is respecting them for who they are, not imposing ourselves on them. I can think of so many, many instances where well-meaning ‘missionaries’ have not done that. But it’s easier said than done. Ultimately in the Western world, I think (for believers) the decisions on what to wear are personal, rather than prescriptive. I dress in a way that seems ‘modest’ (and I don’t just mean that in a sexual way) to me and I encourage my children to do the same.
    I wonder, has this an application in the courtroom, Tim, the idea of context?

    • Tim says:

      Sometimes it does, Sandy. For example, if someone is testifying about what they heard at the scene of a crime, the person in court might quote someone else’s use of profanity. But if attorneys used profanity in presenting an argument to the court, I’d tell them to stop.

    • Annabelle says:

      In general, the American church has a much narrower view of modesty than other parts of the world. Closer to the Muslim view, actually.
      Also, we had uniforms where I grew up too. The girls wore ties and blazers, pants in winter, and lace-up shoes : a pretty masculine look overall. We still knew we were girls, though.

      • Tim says:

        Interesting insight, Annabelle. And I know what you mean about those school uniforms. They might appear at first to be unisex, but they weren’t meant to abolish gender distinctions.

  8. Brian says:

    Wowsers ! Tim I love your blog and I gleaned some wonderful stuff here especially from the responses, I needed to read these reasonings as they many times point out unhealthy thought processes in my own life as I strive to follow Jesus. I do however ( you could probably feel this comin ) feel for the dinosaur who probably reacted out of emotion or misguided religious rigor.Trying to say enough ! leave your tux at home “Billy”
    THAT being said when do we stop rationalizing and dissecting scripture to a point where we may be wrong and think we’re right ? My thoughts about the Lord saying men not to dresss like woman is when I see guys in my town wearing heels & make- up etc. ( see I struggle with that) but I don’t say much cuz I coud end up in ” stocks” in the town square, and I seriously don’t think we’re far off from that. ( I sometimes reflect on Anita Bryants life ) I know I know what if it was my son ( Lord please no) YES love would prevail ,when our culture starts to swing over where it’s normal for men to wear blush my argument ceases,I get it, that’s the rub this teacher may just be ready to snap that the world ( his & partially my world) is a mess where have we gone as ” what is moral now “????
    I said all this as you commented if a lawyer used profanity straight up as his vocabulary , not simply quoting you’d stop him , God bless ya man solid stuff, how long before some wizard lawyer is going to get that changed by fighting ” nothing” is really profanity I’m making a hard exclamation point and you won’t be able to say ” stop” and rofanity could then be the ” norm” I’m sure as the wisdom in your life as a judge has seasoned you you’ll suck it up but your heart would be broken.

    • Tim says:

      Those are great points, and I’ll tell you things are already different in the courtroom than back when I graduated for law school, Brian.

      Times change, but God’s word stands forever. Does his word mean we should all wear Old Testament style robes? I think not. Does it mean a girl can’t wear a tux to a school dance? I think not. Does his word mean we should accept the gospel of grace and experience the joy that comes from Christ living in us? Yes.

      So while men in long flowing robes was the norm a couple millennia ago and men wearing blush and powder was fashionable a couple centuries ago, I’m not really concerned with changing social trends.

  9. Jeannie says:

    This post has generated a great discussion! I like your point, Tim, about how we must always be aware of Scripture’s cultural context as we try to apply it to our own context. It’s easy to assume that to apply it to today we have to DISregard the cultural meaning, yet in fact that meaning can only be helpful to our attempts to understand/apply it. As for the original case: the principal’s ruling, “Girls wear dresses and boys wear tuxes, and that’s the way it is,” is ridiculous, and I’m glad the board president had the good sense to overrule it.

    • Tim says:

      Seeking to understand the cultural context is likewise good sense, Jeannie. Glad you joined what truly is a great discussion going on in the comments here.

  10. Pastor Bob says:

    How to look at this? There are a few sides that could be looked at so:
    -dress code is one thing, but apparently not an issue.
    -some schools have rules about unusual distractions, applied in strange ways
    -some schools have taken to measure hemlines
    -some schools limit makeup, all the time
    -some schools restrict perfume (allergies)
    -some provide no food
    -some limit chaperone discretion
    -some restrict dance activities

    Common sense can be found in some of this. The UK also has many from Scotland, the formal attire is the Prince Charlie Jacket with Kilt.

    Me as Principal: “Young lady, please feel free to wear this outfit. Please do not be upset if someone address you as ‘Sir,” or “Young man.” If you wish to be remembered for this, it is your memory.”

    Thankfully the restroom issue was not addressed!

    • Tim says:

      I would have told her a tux was fine, and to let me know if anyone made rude comments about it.

      • Pastor Bob says:

        The common response when the young soldier would see gold or silver where officer’s insignia is worn is to immediately greet the officer more often than not as “SIR!” – Easy to do in low light. The appropriate growl usually has the offender apologizing profusely. Few people would make this error on purpose.

        Low lights, lots of people, it is easy to misidentify people. A group of us were talking when the vice-principal strongly asked for us “guys” to move on. the girl who was next to me turned and kindly said something like, “Excuse me Ms. Johnson, I strongly resemble that remark.”

        The VP apologized and repeated the request with “you too Missy.”

        Point is – mistakes happen, please do not upset if this does happen.

  11. EricaM says:

    Honestly, pants tend to be more comfortable in general. Plus it’s easier to find comfy shoes to go with them! Too many shoes for dresses just aren’t practical. And, if it’s about being appropriate, I have seen some prom dresses that are much less appropriate than a nice tuxedo but are given a pass from regular school dress code because it’s prom.

    Also, I would not object to worldwide kilt wearing. In fact, I’m going to dig my husband’s kilt out of the closet and then hide all his pants. It’ll be warm all the time soon, he’ll thank me for it.

    • Tim says:

      Kilts are a cousin to muumuus, and since I wear a black muumuu for work I think you’ve got a fine idea going there, Erica!

      • Pastor Bob says:

        AACH lad! Whut are ye speakin! If yer uv McTavish blood ye have a pass this day!
        Lass, ye may on ta sumthin thaire!

  12. Ruth says:

    I remember a grade 6 girl at the graduation dinner who had ultra conservative parents, and had no idea what wear. Some girls looked like over done Barbie dolls-12year olds in outfits I’ve never had the money or bottle to wear! She asked me what she should do, in tears, so I asked her if she had a nice top she liked..yes….a skirt?….no, so suggested she ask mum for one of hers…thankfully she got a nice longish black skirt. The girl was tall, so ballet flats were ok. Got her to put her long hair up in a smart style, no make up allowed by mum. She had some jewelery, so in the end she looked conservative but elegant. That put me off the ridiculous notion of young boys and girls dressing to look like adults at these things. End of year graduation from high school is one thing, pushing that sort of thing on pre teens is weird, we copy some customs badly, and the Prom etc is no exception. Rant over, child happy, photo a special momento.

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