Today I was Asked to Leave a Church.

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I’m away on holiday at the moment, travelling through Europe and I didn’t intended to post any articles during this time, but what happened today pushed me to say something. I debated over relaying the following story, but since I believe silence is just as bad as ignorance, I didn’t want to keep quiet.

This morning I was at St Antony’s Basilica in Padua, Italy when I was treated to a hurtful dose of blatant bigotry. To cut a long story short I’ve included a review I’ve left for a travel website that goes into the details of what happened:

“As tourists, my partner and I were unaware of the dress code of this particular church. Though shorts are apparently not permitted, it was a hot and humid day and other (male) tourists were entering the church wearing them. A security guard asked us to leave, stating my shorts in particular were “not respectful” my partner pointed out all the men wearing shorts, but the guy didn’t budge. I would have happily worn a wrap around my waist, however was never offered one (like pretty much every other religious tourist point with a dress code), just merely and rudely asked to leave.

I’ve been to many churches and mosques around the world and have never been treated so much like I should be so ashamed of my female body. We were so put off we didn’t bother to look at anything else on the grounds. So much for ‘respect’.”

The lead photo attached to this post shows what I was wearing. I was not overly ‘made up’ in a sexual manner or to be ‘disrespectful’. I was dressed for comfort, as most tourists dress. To further my point, here is a photo of what I successfully wore to the Vatican last year, I’m maybe showing two inches less leg. And let’s not forget how hard it can even be just to find woman’s shorts in the shops that aren’t shorter than men’s anyway.

My outfit at the Vatican

I hate complaining, I really do, and I hate to argue religion; but I also hate the idea that as much as we might try to raise women up to be unashamed of their bodies, we still face situations where ours are out and out called ‘disrespectful’. It’s even worse when it comes from institutions with such wide influence.

That guard was a representative of the Basilica and the Roman Catholic Church. He was not just rude to me, he was rude to my partner by blatantly stating that shorts were not a problem so much as MY shorts. My partner tried to offer reason, but was not given reason or an alternative in return; in fact, the guard was sarcastic and condescending. While asking us to respect the church and the people in it, he went out of his way not to offer us the same in return.

Other women have stated online that they have encountered similar discrimination at this Basilica and while some were offered wraps, I was not. Considering this church opens it’s doors to hundreds of tourists on a daily basis, one would expect their staff to be prepared and trained to handle situations such as ours with more decorum.

I understand the boundaries of faith, I grew up a devout Roman Catholic myself and have completed many of their traditional ‘rites’. What happened today only confirms why I (and many others) have turned their backs on religion all together. It was made clear today that as a woman, I was neither welcome or of equal value.

Hope you enjoyed today’s post. I love reading and responding to everyone’s comments, so feel free to leave a comment of your own.

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  • MIke Mike
    August 20, 2014 - 9:29 am · Reply

    Very sad my friend. Both of your outfits look perfectly fine for going tourist and I’m stunned you would be singled out for your gender! I wonder at what point they would stop a man? When any organized religion treats your clothing as more important than the religion – something has gone very wrong.

    • Katerina Simms
      August 20, 2014 - 12:14 pm · Reply

      “When any organized religion treats your clothing as more important than the religion – something has gone very wrong.”…Thank you, and to advertise and charge for tourists to be there and then act so inappropriately when they do not happen to know your specific rules does no one any favours. I have little issue with being asked to leave, but the manner in which it all happened was rather contradictory to the sensitivity they seek in return.

  • Gerry
    August 27, 2014 - 3:09 am · Reply

    I don’t see anything provocative or disrespectful about your clothing. It seems to me that if any institution opens its doors to the general public it should indicate, in advance, clearly in its literature and advertising if it has a dress code of any kind. If it does, it should be applied fairly.

    • Katerina Simms
      August 27, 2014 - 3:24 am · Reply

      Thank you Gerry. I’d been raised within this religion and with numerous stories that ‘none should be turned away from the house of God’ – clearly in this case fashion takes precedence over acceptance…

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