I am an observant girl and I plan to run the New York City Marathon this November. I will wear a long skirt, as I always do. I need a good answer to give people who will inevitably ask "why are you wearing a skirt?"
It is highly impractical to run a marathon wearing a skirt. Not that I have ever tried (either running a marathon or wearing a skirt, let alone both at once) but I can only imagine that it would slow you down and somewhat hamper your success.
But practicality is not everything. Your determination to run the marathon in a skirt is a credit to you. Life is a marathon, and you win not by running the fastest, but by living according to higher standards.
A woman's body has a mystique and power that should not be flaunted or cheapened. That's why Jewish law requires that a woman's figure should not to be accentuated by her clothes. Skirts, unlike pants, fulfil this requirement.
Of course there are baggy pants that don't accentuate the body, and there are tight skirts that do (and indeed tight or short skirts defeat the purpose and are not kosher). But there is something else about skirts that make them appropriate as opposed to pants. A skirt is distinctly and unmistakably feminine. Skirts help nurture and express the female identity.
The way we dress does not only send a message to others about who we are, it actually affects our own view of ourselves. When a woman dresses in a way that is clearly feminine, she proudly affirms her identity as a woman. She need not imitate men or compete with them, she can be herself and be proud.
The last four decades have seen women make huge progress in every area of life, something Judaism applauds and embraces. But we have also seen women trying to catch up with men in a way that denies their femininity. Instead of flourishing as women, they sometimes have been made to feel that they have to become more male than men. In so doing, the world loses out on hearing the uniquely feminine voice. And women lose out even more, for they are not being themselves.
The skirt represents a proud feminine stance. When you run a marathon wearing a skirt, you are making a clear statement. I am not trying to catch up with men. I am running my own race, keeping my femininity in tact. In that race, you have already won.
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