Priest proposes all-Russian dress code

Modest attire

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin has angered women’s groups recently with his comments about female modesty. At a December round table on interethnic relations, he said a woman wearing a miniskirt “can provoke not only a man from the Caucasus,” the predominately Muslim region on Russia’s southern border, “but a Russian man as well.”

“If she is drunk on top of that, she will provoke him even more,” he said. “If she is actively inviting contact, and then is surprised that this contact ends with a rape, she is all the more at fault.”

Feminists began a series of protests and petitions against Father Chaplin, who leads the church’s social outreach department and is a close associate of Patriarch Kirill I.  He responded on Tuesday with a pungent letter, saying provocative clothing led to “to short-term marriages, which are immediately followed by ratlike divorces, to the destruction of children’s lives, to solitude and madness, to life-catastrophe.”

He argued that clothing was not a private business, and that he hoped that Russia would soon be a place where scantily dressed women or men in track suits would not be admitted into public venues.

“You think it’s a utopia?” he said. “Well, you will have to get used to it soon.” His comments sounded especially jarring in Moscow, whose women soldier through arctic winters in stiletto heels and cocktail dresses. Commentators responded to the idea with shock and large doses of sarcasm.

“It is not good for a woman to wear only one dress—this has long been considered indecent!” wrote Anton Orekh, a commentator for Ekho Moscow radio. “A minimum of three dresses worn on top of one another, this fully corresponds to the dress code of a well-intentioned Russian woman.”

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki group, a human rights group, called the proposal “nonsense.” “The next thing they will say is that women shouldn’t wear lipstick,” she said.

The church was cautious in its comments on Tuesday. Vladimir Vigilyansky, the patriarch’s chief spokesman, said the dress-code proposal would not be reflected in church documents. He went on to say that clothing styles were best influenced through a “social contract.”

“If a young woman knows that people will look at her askance and consider her an outcast, she will not dress the way so many of them do today,” he told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

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