Joe-Lize's comment – Head covering a female oppression?



Joe-Lize Brugge, CNE.news

Dutch couple enters a church. She wears a hat, as she believes that females should cover their head in church. He does not, as he believes that men should pray with a bare head. Photo ANP, Remko de Waal

Shawls, scarves, hats; head covering for women is coming back in European Christian circles. In the Netherlands, the hat has never been out of style in conservative Reformed churches.

I was two when I went to church for the first time – wearing a hat. I don’t quite remember the service, but I do know about the hat. My mom still has it somewhere in her closet.

In the Dutch Reformed denomination I belong to, wearing a hat, toque or beret is the standard for women attending church services. During the Sunday service, women rarely appear in the church without a head covering. And when someone does, it is very likely that she did not intend to do so. People quickly assume that she accidentally forgot her hat in the car or left it at home.

Although there are many different conservative churches in the Netherlands, the hat is one of their common denominators. The tradition is based on a Bible text from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. It reads that “every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head since it is the same as if her head were shaven.”


I agree that covering your head during the church service can be defended very well from a Biblical perspective. A while ago, I read a book by the Dutch Reformed pastor Maarten Klaassen. Together with a Dutch lady, Sara Maria, he defends using head covering for women.

Dutch family going to church. Photo ANP, Remko de Waal

Even though the hat has been out of fashion in mainstream society, they argue that covering your head is not a hollow religious tradition or a form of overdone piety. Their main argument is that head covering symbolises the order of creation. The man was created first and is, therefore, the head of the woman, the authors point out. The hat is a token of respect and submission of a wife to her husband and an expression of female dignity in this calling.

I know the issue of submission is a sensitive one nowadays. Often, it is associated with repression, perhaps also because of what we sometimes see with Muslim women who wear the headscarf to protect them against staring men.

And I understand that. However, I do not believe that submission can be equalled to blind obedience. Instead, I think submission is meant to mirror something of what marriage is a weak reflection of, namely the relationship between Christ and His bridal Church. Christ, as the Bridegroom, laid down His life for His bride in an ultimate expression of His love. And would the Church then not delight in being allowed to submit herself to such a Bridegroom?

And even though relations between men and women on this Earth are imperfect through sin, they are still to reflect something of this self-sacrificing love and unconditional respect and submission. And if Christian husbands show such love for their wives, should Christian wives then not be happy to submit themselves, knowing that their husbands will seek the best for them and take their interests into account, maybe even more than their own interests? And should they not be happy to cover their heads as a token of this?


Many more questions can be asked about head coverings. For example, whether unmarried women are also obliged to cover their heads in church. Some would argue that unmarried women do not necessarily have to, as they do not have a husband to submit themselves to and from the wording by Paul. Others acknowledge that, for example, young girls do not have a duty to cover their hair but argue that they never will if they are not taught to do so from a young age. And a third opinion is that the Bible text about head coverings applies to all females on the planet.

International issue

The questions around head covering do not only play in The Netherlands. Recently, Dagen reported that more and more Christian women are covering their hair in Sweden as well. Also, in Eastern Orthodox Churches women are used to wearing veils during religious worship services.

Also, the type of head cover is an issue of debate. In the times of the Apostle Paul, women covered their heads with veils. Nowadays, some women still do so. Others wear hats or shawls to cover their hair. I think that the intention of the head covering is much more important than its specific form, which may very well be culturally dependent. Of course, a hat does not need to be the most old-fashioned or the veil only black. However, when the colour of the veil or the type of hat becomes the most critical issue, I think the head covering misses its real purpose.

Another issue concerning head coverings is whether women should not cover their heads at all times and not only in church. Opinions also differ on this matter in Christian circles. Some point out that the text in Corinthians is written in the context of Christian worship meetings and, therefore, only applies to church services. Others refer to the Bible text that says Christians should pray without ceasing and, therefore, always cover their heads.

Main issue

However, in the discussions on head covering, Christians should keep one thing in mind. And that is that head coverings can never save you or reconcile you as a sinner with a holy God. It is not a pre-condition for salvation and neither sufficient for that. Instead, as pastor Klaassen writes, “head covering is not the main issue. That is the love of Christ and knowing Him. Despite the importance of covering your head, it is much more important to know the Head of the Church Himself.”

Joe-Lize Brugge (1999) has been working as a journalist since 2020.

Joe-Lize Brugge

She started her career with the Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad as a reporter on domestic affairs. Before that, she studied Liberal Arts and Sciences at Utrecht University.

Since 2021, she has worked as an editor for CNE.news.

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