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Physical Education for Girls - 1

A Gradual Slide into Immodesty

Marian Horvat & Elizabeth Lozowski
Dear Dr. Horvat,

Our 13-year-old granddaughter attends a Catholic elementary school. One day my husband and I saw them in P.E. class performing odd exercises such as the backwards spider crawl. Another day, the girls were made to do sit-ups while wearing dresses (they had on leotards underneath the dress). We did not think this was appropriate exercise for the young students and asked the priest about it, thinking he would agree.

walking

The crab walk: immodest postures for the sake of health

Father ‘X’ didn't seem to agree when I said it was unacceptable for girls. I said that there are other types of exercise that are more appropriate for them. The priest advised me to talk with the principal, which I will do.

However the priest seemed to disagree with my point of view and asked me to give him the principle behind having different sports for women than for men. I tried to explain that the difference between the bodies of boys and girls calls for different types of training. Boys need more physical training, while girls nature calls for more feminine activities that will keep them physically fit for their future vocations of motherhood, etc. I also tried to explain why modesty during PE is very important.

Nevertheless, he thought I was being emotional about it and said I should get back to him with the principles of what I was saying; i.e., why girls should not participate in manly sports and should be taught modesty of action and bodily movements.

I also mentioned to Father that a Traditional French priest once told me that a woman or a man should never cross their legs in church because it's disrespectful. Father said it's not bad to cross the legs in church because it's not immodest and might be more comfortable for the person.

situps girls

Exercises that demand pants are not modest

I'd like to get your opinion on all of this and can you guide me to the articles you have written that will help Father understand? I read many articles on TIA but I haven't found one that talks about the principles that Father is asking for. I read, "No to Rodeo Cowgirls..." and that is a good one, but maybe there is another that has more of what Father needs to know.

Also, isn't it true that the American gov't introduced sports and co-ed sports for girls into the schools after WWI and WWII as part of a Masonic plan to destroy the family?

We will send you a donation by check because we don't like sending money over the internet. Thank you for everything you teach us about how to be counter-revolutionary.

In the Immaculate Heart of our Mother,

L.H.
______________________


Dr. Horvat responds:

Dear L.H.,

Thank you for the trust you place in our work. I apologize for our late response to your question, but I wanted to offer a fuller response, which demanded some research, undertaken by myself and another TIA writer, Miss Elizabeth Lozowski.

Initially, let me emphatically affirm our agreement with your statement that modesty should always be a first concern in sports and exercises for women. For hundreds of years this was the case – in the home first, and then in schools when physical education classes were introduced in some Catholic schools at the beginning of the 20th century.

1910 phy ed

A ‘modern’ co-ed class at school in 1910

Then, suddenly, or so it seemed, in the mid-1900s it became “necessary” to liberate women from the good customs born from Christendom. Girls began to wear immodest clothing (shorts, trousers, swimsuits, etc.) for games, calisthenics and sports, and to assume manly attitudes and postures.

This new approach to exercise was adopted in the name of developing strong bones and muscles and to provide for the general good health and happiness of young women. The Revolution always tries to destroy Christian Civilization. Only later did it openly admit a second feminist aim in encouraging physical education classes and sports for girls: the emancipation of women.

Immodesty is never permissible

The lamentable immodesty in women’s sports clothing appeared timidly in the 1800s, opening in a slow crescendo until it reached, in the 20th century, the almost complete nudity and boldness we see today, which violates the very nature of the woman. We will examine more closely this gradual change in attitude toward women’s exercise and sports in Part II of this response.

Unfortunately, the response of the Catholic Church in the United States to the introduction of physical education and competitive sports for women in Catholic schools and universities was very weak. To not appear old-fashioned or unscientific, Catholic schools followed the examples set by the modern curriculums of secular institutions and, slowly but surely, the girls adopted the modern gym clothing for their physical education classes.

exercise

Girls exercising with the ‘latest’ equipment in a private school in the 1930s

There were some warnings about the escalating immodesty in women’s clothing from the Vatican and ecclesiastical authorities, but very few. In another article, Women in Sports: Natural and Unnatural Challenges to Purity, there are criticisms of Popes Pius XI and XII to this type of dress being worn by girls and women already at the start of the 19th century. You could certainly show these pontifical texts to the priest you are discussing with.

For example, Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) expressed vigorous disapproval of national gymnastic and athletic competitions for women because they promoted immodesty of dress and broke down a woman’s “natural reserve and self-possession” (Letter a Lei, Vicario Nostro, May 2, 1928).

Pope Pius XII also addressed the problem, warning that many women were losing “the instinct of modesty,” and encouraged a militant spirit against impurity. In his Allocution to the Girls of Catholic Action of May 22, 1941, he warned that young women should shun at all costs:
  • “Dresses which hardly suffice to cover the person, as well as others that seem designed to emphasize what they should rather conceal;

  • Sports that are performed with such clothing;

  • “The kind of exhibitionism that is irreconcilable with even the least demanding standard of modesty.”
To excuse that shorter skirts, split skirts and pants were more hygienic or convenient for exercise and sports, he responded: “If a form of dress becomes a grave and proximate danger for the soul, it is certainly not hygienic for the soul, and you must reject it…

1930 gym class

A basketball team in the 1930s:
Immodest clothing but still feminine postures

“Will you, then, for the love of Christ, in the esteem for virtue, not find at the bottom of your hearts the courage and strength to sacrifice a little well-being – a physical advantage, if you will – to conserve safe and pure the life of your souls?” (ibid.).

Sadly, few Catholics listened to these somewhat timid papal warnings. We say timid, because it seems to me that, with the ever more bold and immodest fashions of the 20th century, strong papal reprisals were needed, with instructions for bishops and parish priests to enforce authentic Catholic Morals, which do not change with the times.

Instead, even these sparse and weak statements abruptly ended. None of the Vatican II Popes have addressed the issue of modesty in women’s clothing, especially regarding exercise and sports. To the contrary, the world calmly watches John Paul II embracing both men and women dressed in immodest clothing at his World Youth Day events with nary a protest.

victory

Today’s immodest & masculinized girls

Given this lack of vigilance over Morals, and especially modesty for women, it is no wonder that many priests and religious today – even traditionalists – are making accommodations to the modern mania for exercise and sports for girls.

I am certain that the exercises you mentioned above that the girls were doing in your Catholic school, as well as the clothing worn, would not be approved by Popes Pius XI or Pius XII. Yet, sadly, they may seem mild and non-offensive to the modern-day parent, who has become accustomed to such great vulgarity and nudity

This is the way the principle of gradualism works: Little by little modesty in women's dress broke down to the point that we can affirm that nudity is not far away. The long and victorious march of corruption in good customs did not proceed by leaps and bounds. To the contrary, it progressed through stages so imperceptible that on that long trajectory everyone unconsciously slid into new customs, styles and ideas.

leg crossed

Leg crossing became acceptable to accommodate short skirts

I believe this is what has happened with today’s common habit of women crossing their legs to be more comfortable when they sit. Traditionally, all ladies were taught to keep their feet on the ground when sitting, only crossing the ankles: it was considered unladylike and immodest to attract a man’s attention by crossing the knees and emphasizing the form of the legs. Modern women ridicule this custom from what they scornfully label “the sexually repressed times” of the past.

Yes, in those times past, modesty demanded a woman sit demurely with her knees together. It was a symbolic gesture that began to be abandoned when the hemlines rose in the Roaring Twenties. As Feminism exponentially grew, even respectable circles spurned the strict standards of past centuries.

Now feminists scorn this good custom that demands discipline, good posture and decorum. Their call for liberty of movement and freedom to “sit like a man or any way we please” is a reason to reassess the past moral rules. We contest this behavior and we have more good reasons to return to the ladylike custom of sitting properly, legs crossed only at the ankle or not at all.

It seems to us that your parish priest has fallen into an accommodation with the modern world in customs. He is unconsciously adopting its norms by making small concessions to the modern ways, instead of firmly rejecting them and upholding pristine Catholic Morals. Doing so, however, he adulterates the teaching of the Church.

The march of the egalitarian revolution

Underlying the entrance of women into sports and its immodest masculine apparel is the Egalitarian Revolution: the march toward complete equality between men and women in all aspects of life: religious, social, cultural, political, recreational, etc.

The long and justly held fear that sports and vigorous exercise would masculinize women has, indeed, taken place. Again, it was a gradual march toward an end that wants to completely eliminate the differences between male and female.

When the call for equality with men entered the competitive sports arena, Feminism was able to establish itself into the mentality and way of being of the modern young woman, who places the health of the body and freedom of movement above modesty and propriety.

In the next article we will look at how this gradual march toward immodesty and equality for women in sports took place. Perhaps knowing the process will awaken sincere Catholics – like your parish priest – to the danger of making concessions for girls and women in the name of comfort and health.

To be continued

Posted November 9, 2022

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