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On Short Sleeves and the Church

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The new priest at St. Peters Church is dark-skinned and hawk-like. After mass, he talks about a woman he refused to let into the church ...

On Short Sleeves and the Church

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The new priest at St. Peters Church is dark-skinned and hawk-like. After mass, he talks about a woman he refused to let into the church for a wedding because the blouse she wore with her George wrapper did not have a high-enough neckline. I was very happy we didnt let her in, he screeches with glee, a glee that strikes me as incredibly childlike.
It does not seem to matter to him that this woman was supposed to be a sponsor at the wedding, and that not letting her into the church must have ruined the wedding. Then he goes on to say that he will soon have people at the entrances of the church, manning the doors, ready to send back any woman in sleeveless shirts.

He makes these threats often, I learn later - he is on a self-made mission to purify the university community, to stop the jeans and short-sleeves the female students have been allowed to get away with. I also learn that this new priest refuses communion to women he considers improperly dressed. And that, as he walks into the church for mass, he stops to tap at women and ask them to leave.

My reaction - after my incredulity wore itself out - was where is the outrage in this university community? My cousin Ujuaku tells me the students were annoyed at first but they all have become so used to it that it doesnt bother them. And yet Ujuaku makes it a point to sit at the back of the church and never on the edge of the pews because she is afraid he might pick on her. Her dresses are long, her trousers loose-fitting, but she wears sleeveless shirts. The fans are not working, she tells me, and the church is always full. It is simply too hot to wear long-sleeves.

Elitist as this may sound, this priest, and the whole scenario, seemed to me odd in a Nigerian university community. But again, the university is changing in other ways - it is a place where murder is snaking itself in, where armed robbery is becoming commonplace, where people are no longer their brothers keepers. And yet the priest day after day, mass after mass, is focused on the clothes women wear.

After listening to that priest, I could not help wondering who exactly is being protected when a middle-aged mother is sent away from church because of her blouse - are we protecting the women from themselves? The men from the women? The men from some form of uncontrollable canine-like lust? Or are we protecting God from seeing bare female arms?

Mostly, though, I wonder if this kind of monotonous barrage that goes on not just in St Peters Church but in many Nigerian churches, this tugging at womens shirtsleeves, is not demeaning to the notion of faith itself, to the idea of an omniscient God.

That, to me, is the big shame.
The issue of decent dressing for our women will always be wi...(Guest: )
well, u can hardly blame the priests. they are all covered u...(bishop)
I noticed the same thing when I went back to visit St. Peter...(Guest: )
Well Dear Ngozi, thanks for you exploratory insight into th...(Guest: )
well what can i say,really i don`t blame d priest in anyway....(Guest: )
But i don't actually see anything wrong with that, people!!!...(kiyara)
i think it is areal shame that a fr would only come to chur...(hollaspice)
Amanda, Your article is highly insightive, I have seen it a...(Guest: )
Thanks for your article, I noticed it was the same situation...(governor2001)
I really is quite sad. It is however a reflection of all of ...(Guest: )
women dressising half naked to church is a 21st century ev...(Guest: )
We can understand short sleeves, what matters really is a de...(Guest: )
Amanda u r bold,beautiful,preety and undoubtedly brilliant b...(Guest: )
the way the female ones are dressing now adays is so so terr...(Guest: )
well i this is pertaining to St Peters alone, it is peculiar...(afolabialbert)
I just read this article and while i admire the style of wri...(Guest: )
does it really matters,ur soul and spirit matters not ur bod...(seunnlafunmi)
omo me i won just talk say u fine me i no read the article ...(Guest: )
Take caution as to what you say about the prophet of God. I...(Guest: )
should this really be an issue? surely they are more importa...(Guest: )
well the issue of decent dressing by the ladies is good,i do...(theking)
I feel what one wears is not what matters but ones heart.Mor...(Guest: )
The idea of wearing short sleeves to church should not be a ...(Guest: )
hi may name is john iam a nigeria...(johnuwas)
In my view, the article simply points the priests ignorance ...(yahayaehi)
Unfortunately,our ladies dont have much of personal identity...(afolabi_sam)
even in the new testament women are adviced to dress in mode...(afolabi_sam)
Today fashion don push our ladies inside pit finis yet them ...(afolabi_sam)
unfortunately we live in a time and age where people no long...(afolabi_sam)
i just want to add this words that when ladies dress provoca...(afolabi_sam)
FUCK THAT ...(Guest: )
Amanda,don't blame him(d priest)...u know some men loose sel...(Guest: )
Well Written, but what's your point....(Guest: )
All those who are in support of it will one day pay with t...(Guest: )
u weting dey be say if una wan go chuch na the priest u wan ...(Guest: )
Ngozi, the fact is that you children of these days dont rea...(Guest: )
Wetin the girls dey wear na trouble e go dey cos, e better m...(Guest: )
...(Guest: )
most girls that wear such things and the attendant accessor...(Guest: )
I beg make una no blame the man of God 4 wetin he do. At lea...(popeson)
For Christ's sake how do you feel harrassing pple sexually i...(Guest: )
It is ver funny cause we all know how in the bible, we are e...(Guest: )
Dear Sir/Madam, Switzerland Government's decision to releas...(Guest: )
Dear Sir/Madam, Switzerland Government's decision to releas...(Guest: )
I'm one of the newest member of this community and i'll like...(slimgene)
I agree with amanda's view that while the environment at nsu...(Guest: )
Yea just stumbled onto your article, I think its pretty disg...(Guest: )
The fada is sexually frustrated..........he probably isn't g...(donchichi)
I thinks ladies should dress properly and decent to avoid em...(Guest: )
The Pastor has taken a cause that is dear to his heart. So, ...(Guest: )
A word is enough 4 a wise.priest has to take note and the wo...(olusho)
then what;s gonna happen.........(Guest: )
u know what ?? my own comment is to say all is ...(beejay)
I see!nasty...(Guest: )
To me putting on short sleeves shirt to church is not that b...(lolomaxi75)
amanda dear, i believe that in our present democratic dispen...(Guest: )
Why is this big news? This has been happening for such a lon...(Guest: )
Dat's bullshit!...(Guest: )
Amanda I reckon the priest at St. Peters is in his infinites...(bibi82)
lmao. Thas some sick shit right there! Isnt the church suppo...(Guest: )
women will always find excuses 4 dressing indecently.If u do...(Guest: )
women will always find excuses 4 dressing indecently.If u do...(Guest: )
Since the colosal decay in our moral and societal values as ...(Guest: )
Ngozi,i think you are nagative minded about your orientation...(Guest: )
.....those d precher dey talk about are like the one on my p...(jees)
our women should try as much as possible 2 appear decent in ...(Guest: )
On Short Sleeves and the Church I found your write-up very ...(Guest: )
Has this generation lost knowledge of the effect of a female...(Guest: )
well i think that the priest should focus on more things lik...(Guest: )
The priest simply dosen't want distractions. Pls, don't blam...(Guest: )
I think some people are misconstruing the meaning of the wor...(Guest: )

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