The woman shall not wear that which pertains to a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment…
We have here particular directions as to the maintenance of the distinction of dress between the sexes. On the termination of what Carlyle calls "Adamitism," in his 'Sartor Resartus,' when through the fall of man fig leaves were first resorted to, it is evident that the Lord was not content therewith as the device of self-conscious modesty, but gave them "coats of skins." These "coats," we can well believe, were differentiated, so that Eve's was in some particulars distinct from Adam's. This distinction in dress between the sexes, begun, let us suppose, immediately after the Fall, is designed by God to continue; and we have here the law prohibiting any exchanges of apparel, so as to conceal one's sex. It is, in fact, an earlier "philosophy of clothes" than Carlyle has given us.
I. THE PROMISCUOUS INTERMINGLING OF THE SEXES IS MOST UNDESIRABLE. Of course, this is quite another thing from the entire separation of the sexes as it prevails among Orientals. The latter custom proceeds on the supposition that there can be no social intercourse between them except licentious intercourse; and is the poor precaution of deep depravity. But suppose that men and women were wont to dress alike, there could be no enforcement of decorum such as difference in dress renders possible. The sexes are intended to be distinct, and cannot profitably be intermingled.
II. IT IS A DEEP INJURY TO BOTH SEXES TO OBLITERATE THE DISTINCTIONS PROVIDENCE HAS MADE. Whatever tends to render the male sex effeminate and the female sex masculine, is an injury to both. The tendency of the times is in this direction; women are being introduced to fierce competitions with men: we have had women, forgetful of their sex, even entering the prize-ring, to afford amusement to brutal onlookers; we have women persistently knocking at the door of professions fit for men only; while, on the other hand, we have a number of occupations, which will readily occur to every one, where men are made effeminate, and which could be most fitly discharged by women; and those reformers are not friends of either sex who try to break down the barriers between them. If Providence has made the one sex different from the other, then it is idle by any manipulation of ours to obliterate the distinction.
III. AT THE SAME TIME, IT IS A DEEP WRONG TO EXAGGERATE THE DEFECTS WHICH PROVIDENCE HAS ALLOTTED TO EACH BY ENLIGHTEHED SYSTEMS OF EDUCATION. We thoroughly sympathize with the effort to do away with the exaggerated "subjection of women," upon which Mr. Mill in his book has so ably insisted. The education of each sex should be as broad and liberal as possible. But no education can ever remove the inequality which naturally obtains between the sexes. Let education consider the providential purpose of sexual distinctions, and work on these lines, and. then, and. then only, need we expect permanent amelioration for oppressed sisters.
IV. MODESTY IS ONE OF THOSE SOCIAL GRACES WHICH SHOULD BE FOSTERED AND NOT RESTRAINED. We have heard of men whose command of their emotions was so perfect as never to allow their modesty to appear by any chance. It may be harmless or ludicrous in men; but it is ruin to women, and whatever tends to make them "Amazons" or "Trojans" is to be reprobated most earnestly.
V. IT TAKES THE TWO SEXES COMBINED TO GIVE A COMPLETE IMAGE OF THE DIVINE NATURE. When God said, "Let us make man (אָדָם) in our image, after our likeness," he used the generic term, and hence immediately resorts to the plural verb, "and let them have dominion (יִרְדּוּ)," etc. (Genesis 1:26). The idea is that it takes the female with the male to complete the Divine image. There is a maternal element as well as a paternal and a filial in the Divine nature (cf. Isaiah 49:15 with Psalm 103:13 and John 8:29). And it is interesting to notice among the theological vagaries and conceits of such a man as Theodore Parker, that he was forced to call his God," Infinite Father and Infinite Mother," a set-off to his dreary unitarianism. If then we find the sexual distinctions to be but the reflection of elements in the Divine nature, then a halo of true glory is thrown around each. In their respective spheres the sexes are exhibiting traits of divinity, and all effort at obliterating the distinctions through artificial means, will be found only to obliterate the Divine. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost have their counterparts in the development of humanity, and it is well clearly to see this. May the sexes carry on their respective missions so faithfully that earth may soon reflect in undimmed luster the various qualities of God! - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.