I wrote this a long time ago and it disappeared somehow. Then Facebook popped it up as a memory. So here it is, returned from oblivion.
My grandmother was born in about 1896 in rural Nova Scotia. She was not much educated, but she went to the Salvation Army where they taught her what nice ladies do and don’t.
More than 70 years later, my mother was visiting her family in Halifax when on a hot afternoon she changed into shorts. When she came downstairs, her mother was appalled, “Go put some clothes on!”
My grandmother knew, as part of her cultural and religious heritage that good protestant women wore dresses that covered their knees.
You can readily observe in the history of the last century, that when prescriptive clothing restrictions are relaxed, people inevitably move away from them and dress more practically, or more as they please, within a couple of generations. This is a good thing. Women particularly should not be pressured into or required to wear particular styles of clothing.
My grandmother was way out of line when she demanded that my mother go put on a longish dress. But it would have been equally wrong if my mother had required her mother to wear shorts.
I do not feel comfortable with some sorts of prescriptive clothing, particularly of a religious nature, because they seem to be part of a cultural oppression of women, just as my grandmother’s clothing was. However I have no more right to ask or expect a woman, who chooses to wear such clothing, not to than anyone else has to make a woman wear such clothing, if they do not want to.
There are people and governments that would love to prevent women who want to wear “traditional” clothing from doing so, at least under specific circumstances. This is contemptible. The state has no more right to require such dress off, than a community should have the right to require it on.
Moreover, such restrictions are also impractical. Prohibiting cultural practices never does anything to moderate them. Restrictions can only harden and help to entrench deeply held traditional beliefs. And in that respect, kindness and tolerance is the only way forward.