I realize that most of my case for women to wear dresses stems from a couple underlying premises, mainly that men and women are different, and that it is good for men and women to be different. Any good logic student could point out that I would have to defend these premises in order for any conclusion based upon them to be sound. So first things first, men and woman are different.
Surprisingly, I actually have to defend this. Our society seems to be rather intent on reducing gender differences, so that mankind is made up of equally able and qualified individuals, so that all tasks can be mastered by both genders. Magazines instruct women on how to get their men to do their traditional jobs- "Make your expectations clear, relenquish control, don't be a martyr!" And when all else fails, hire help. Women cry out that they are fully capable of doing any task traditionally assigned to men, calling those who object neanderthals.* A small underground movement is encouraging men to breastfeed. But the facts remain clear- at this point in history, men and women are different, as evidenced by our physicality. Men still can't give birth. And even though surgery can do wonders to outward appearances, our DNA will bear witness to our differences. I'm sure someone somewhere is try to work those kinks out, but for now, the premise stands. Men and women are different.
Now for the harder part: it's good that men and women are different. I've been pondering this for awhile, and I can't find an obvious reason outside of Scripture and its account and defense of creation why we should encourage such differences. On the surface, equality sounds like a good idea. Men and women would have equal access to all jobs, because there are qualified men and women to do all jobs. It would be wonderful if I wasn't solely in charge in birthing and feeding the babies, and I would gladly turn over the laundry duties to my husband. I appreciated having a life outside of the home, and enjoyed cashing a paycheck. But as my husband pointed out, this is a rather Gnostic view of life-that one's self is only housed in the body, and therefore cannot be influenced by it. Essentially, that my gender shouldn't influence the role I play in my family. The self can be breadwinner or homemaker, regardless of the body's gender. While this sounds fine in theory, I read through Brave New World and shudder at the thought of a society ruled by gnosticism.
It is better to understand that we are whole, unified beings, and our "self" cannot be separated from the body. Our bodies influence our selves, and our selves are reflected in the ways we present our bodies to the world. Every piercing, tattoo, hairstyle, accessory, blouse, and shoe make a statement about who we are. Dresses and skirts make the statement that the woman is different from man, a delicate flower to be treasured and protected. Pants make the statement that woman is no different from man. She can open the door herself, even while pushing a stroller and making a conference call. No one rushes to her assistance because she doesn't want it. She isn't treasured; she isn't protected. She is pardoned, and forgotten.
*I must say, however, that I am gladdened to hear that a mother who knew her child would have Down syndrome chose not to terminate her pregnancy. Seems a rarity these days.