olivemylove

The Myth of Modesty: Part One

I have a bad habit: I like to read things that make me mad. What started in high school as reading Movieguide.org’s ridiculous movie reviews during church (“implied off-screen naturalistic upper female nudity!”) has grown and morphed into a quirk I can’t shake. I read a lot of blogs I disagree with, spend a lot of time on ultra-right wing news sites, listen to vile people like Glenn Beck in the car (but not when my two-year-old daughter is with  me – I don’t want to expose her to that sort of thing!), and frequently stop on channels where televangelists are preaching. (That one annoys my husband quite a bit.)

It’s almost a compulsion to interact with things that make me angry. Maybe it is sick, but it’s what I do.

It’s not uncommon for me to call my brother Phil and say, “YOU’RE NOT GOING TO BELIEVE WHAT I READ ON THE INTERNET!” I have stories of men saying that women should never have been given the right to vote because it “broke down the family unit.” I’ve read comments condemning a mother for acquiring abortion services for a 9-year-old girl who was pregnant through incest – with twins. I assign my composition students a “takedown” essay, where they must identify a viral meme or image or status update that bothers them, and explain why its assumptions are problematic. You won’t believe what they’ve found out there, and let me tell you, I don’t have any trouble finding examples of viral content that frustrates me to give them as examples. (It helps that my friend Susan writes such awesome takedowns for Persephone, like this one, this one, and this one.)

Anyway, that’s what I hope to do in this series of posts: to “take down” something I’ve read on the internet.

Why? Because since reading this particular blog a few days ago, I’ve experienced over the last few days is the opposite of enjoying a healthy dose of rage. I’ve been reflecting for about three days on a blog post that I disagreed with, sure, but that has affected me far more than all of those other things that get me up in arms. This has bothered me more than content posted on Facebook by my Ron Paul loving friends, more than any randomized selection of Rick Santorum quotes, more than idiots on YouTube calling everyone who has ever uploaded a video a fatass.

I like to have silly bouts of anger over those things.

Mulling over this content has not felt silly or trivial at all. It has felt haunting and upsetting and incredibly frustrating.

I’ll explain.

On Saturday, a woman in my community, whom I don’t really know personally but with whom I have many friends in common, posted this article on her blog that she has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about and developing. It is a treatise, of sorts, about the importance of modesty for Christian women. I have only heard good things about this woman. From what I’ve read of her writing, she seems kind and thoughtful and talented. In fact, part of me thinks I shouldn’t even write this reply, because what if it is hurtful to her? However, I’ve always felt that if I put something on a blog, I am welcoming public responses, and I think it’s fair to believe she assumes the same, so I’m going to follow those guidelines and respond in the best way I can. Plus, I’m going to guess she doesn’t want this as one incredibly long comment on her blog.

When I sat down to write a comment in reply to her blog post, it ended up being seven single-spaced pages of a Word document. That’s what has prompted this multi-part series.

I'm familiar with the idea of modesty: the last time I was confronted by someone about my outfit being too revealing, I was wearing this tank top. In Texas. In July.

Now, I should start with this: I am a Christian. I grew up in an evangelistic home. I believe that sin exists, and that Christianity is at its heart about living in community with other people. There are certain things you give up in order to live in a community. You give up total autonomy, for example. You give up the “I can do this on my own” mindset. You give up on refusing to look a little foolish from time to time. Community is great. It’s a beautiful thing. So, I love Jesus, and I love church.

But I don’t love the idea that this young woman who I’ll call K promotes on her blog: the idea that to live in Christian community, women must adopt a spirit of “modesty” in order to glorify God and help men not to “stumble,” “fall into sin,” or “struggle.”

I don’t agree.

Here are some quotes from the blog post that has had me thinking and struggling and angry and obsessed since the weekend:

“And as I’ve gotten older and attend weddings as my job, I’ve seen that some of the most radiant and strong Christian women I know believe the lie that it’s okay to show a little cleavage on your wedding day if that’s how the dress is supposed to look. The guy staring at you up front is about to be your husband anyway, so it’s okay. Nevermind all the other men in the room.”

“Just the other day my husband’s good friend told him that he is dreading spring and summer because of the way women dress. Between work, facebook, or simply going to the grocery store, it can be a non-stop battle for the men in our life during those hot summer days when we are simply just trying to stay cool. My brother eventually deleted his facebook account for a couple years just because those seemingly harmless photos posted by his girl friends had turned his facebook into something more harmful than beneficial.”

“But it’s also not fair that men are so much more stimulated by what they see than we are and they can’t control what we wear. Only we can.”

“I’m not writing this to harshly judge anyone. I’m writing because I believe more women who claim to follow Christ and pursue His holiness need to be reminded that dressing modestly is just another part of that process. They aren’t separate. And to the one or two men that might possibly still be reading this: please don’t be afraid to tell us the harsh truth that we need to hear to protect YOU. We won’t get it until you tell us.”

Here are some quotes from the comments section of her blog, which have been overwhelmingly supportive:

“It takes a really strong, disciplined man to look away when he sees something that makes him lust. And yes, after he sees it, it’s his responsibility to own up to how he handles it. But we believe that brothers and sisters in Christ should do what they can to help each other and not put each other in that situation.”

“Let’s put this in different terms; would you like your husband (or future depending) to lust after a young girl wearing a short skirt and barely any shirt so much that he has an affair with her and divorces you because of that short skirt.”

“I actually conclude that it is the woman who most often has the problem. The problem is called “control”. It pleases her immensely when heads turn, especially if they are good looking, have status, power and are supposedly “holy”. She knows that in most cases, she could seduce these men if they could get by with the seduction, and it gives her power.

It, to me, is no less than the power a male rapist exerts, which experts declare is more about the power than the sex. It is control at its finest.”

“Women can be allies to men in glorifying God by not giving them reason to stumble”“so that they can focus on the things that God wants them to focus on.”

“‘Legalism”’is believing that your salvation comes from following rules. People often toss out the ‘legalism’ card any time they are confronted with something that needs to change in their life. Legalism is doing something for the sake of rules and being a slave to it”“what Karissa is pleading for women to do is to be modest for the sake of love for fellow men and for God.”

“I know that modesty may look different on different women with different body types and you’re right that each woman will have her own convictions about what is “modest”, however, because the need for modesty is to protect and help our brothers to keep from stumbling (Romans 14:13) and to draw attention to Christ and not ourselves, I feel so strongly that we as women need to be much more aware and understanding of the power that we have in this area.”

These words! They have been turning over and over in my head for the last few days, to the point that it’s all I want to talk about. I’ve been calling my brother, sharing the link with people I consider my church to read and discuss, talking with one of my best friends at length on the phone, writing and re-writing responses, and alternating between discouraged and angry. This afternoon I even ran the whole thing by one of my colleagues at work, just to see if I was the only one who thought this to be absurd. I chatted with one of my best friends from college this afternoon, too, and we talked at length about the problems with this way of looking at the world.

And the biggest problem? This just doesn’t make sense!

I don’t know how to respond. Part of me wants to flash a KBURD or that awesome President Bartlett gif, but I know myself too well. I can never settle for the one-liners. One-liners cannot do the topic justice; I’m not even sure if all of these pages can fully explain why this is so upsetting, but I’ve never been able to back down from this kind of challenge.

So. I’m going to try to be like my friend Susan and do a takedown of this idea of “modesty.” There is no way I can touch on everything that is said in that post and the follow-up comments, but I can at least process my thoughts and explain why I think this interpretation of scripture and modesty is wrong.

Channeling my Susan takedown skills now”¦

My series will respond to four main questions.

1) Is sexual arousal the same as lust, and is it a sin?

2) If it’s not a sin, is it my responsibility to protect someone from it?

3) If sexual arousal IS lust and is sin, then can one person be held responsible for someone else’s sin?

4) What risks does a person take by believing that sexual arousal and lust are the same thing, and that women are obligated to help men avoid them?

5) If sexual arousal is not lust, can you still teach young women that modesty is important and/or relevant?

I’ll discuss the first two questions in Part Two.

This article first appeared on Back to the Hoosier State.

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55 thoughts on “The Myth of Modesty: Part One”

  1. I LOVE a well outlined plan. I can’t wait to see how it all works out.

    Which will be helpful because then it might calm my blood a bit.

    Women take enough shit from others on how to manage a career, a family, a ‘passel of brats’ as the fabulous Scarlett O’Hara would say and for fuck’s sake their own damn health. We’re judged for what we eat, what we don’t eat, what we read and what we don’t read.

    And to top it off, we can’t even dress ourselves without facing judgement. We can’t wear makeup without comment and finally OMG SHOES! Seriously, they are just shoes. They aren’t some magical form of currency among ‘our people.’

    Are women considered too stupid to figure out how to cover themselves appropriately for a given situation? It’s fuckin hot in the summer. I’m not wearing pants. Deal with my legs, dude. I have to deal with the heat.

    Gah. So yeah, really happy to see a calm approach being taken…

  2. I’m late to this, but I’m very much looking forward to this series. The whole modesty issue always bugged me growing up in church and I could never put my finger on why any mention of it made me see red.

    I think it basically came down to the extreme dichotomy that some have mentioned here before. No one seems to take into account that both men and women are rational, smart and capable of making their own damn decisions.

    I also do the same thing you do by reading things I disagree with. Anything written or said by Mark Driscoll is a particular favorite.

  3. O MY TIME LORDS. I was afraid I wouldn’t like it and I felt frustration bubble up reading this post.

    No, a good man isn’t ruled by the mini-trunk and women should never have to ‘protect’ men by dressing differently. I will keep it at this.

  4. I am really looking forward to your posts! Coincidentally, I have been reflecting on this a bit today, I am visiting my parents, and found a copy of Brio (the focus on the family version of seventeen) from when I was in highschool. Flipping through it totally got my hackles up, as I now think that the whole narrative of female modesty is incredibly dangerous for women. It absolves men of responsibility for their actions, denies women agency, and basically perpetuates rape culture. But- I will say this, though in hindsight I often mock the brainwashing powers of Brio Magazine (and that it basically told me to not hang out with gays and non-christians, and wear baggy clothes) being fed modesty doctrine as a teen through this piece of tripe magazine gave me a way to delay certain things till I was a lot older (though still not married and no longer devoutly christian)  and possibly more ready?  And I think for me that was an ok outcome. But  I was fortunate, in a culture where “modest is hottest” (to borrow a t-shirt slogan) and men aren’t really held accountable for their actions, it seems like it would be pretty easy for  a chaste christian gal hanging out with a guy friend to a become  victim being blamed for her lack of sexual morality.

    1. Oh, wow–Brio! I haven’t thought of Brio in a while. You know, someone could probably do a pretty interesting blog responding directly to Brio articles, either old ones or new ones. Do they still make publish it?

      I will say that I feel the same as you in terms of feeling like I turned out okay anyway, despite growing up with a lot of these teachings. One thing that probably makes a difference is that I wasn’t getting these messages from my parents. They were conservative Christians, sure, but there was a lot of humanity in what my parents taught me. There was room for asking questions and disagreeing.

      The churches I went to, on the other hand, and the organizations I was involved with? Those taught me that I shouldn’t ask questions. I found sermon notes from high school recently that literally said, “Questions are the beginning of lawlessness, and lawlessness is the beginning of sin.” Seriously. I about died when I read that.

      I think because my parents were going to support me no matter what I ended up believing, it was easier for me to walk away from the teachings of the conservative church.

      1. I actually WANTED to read (but never could, because magazine subscriptions cost money and it was pre-internet-has-it-all days) Brio. I ate Wendy Shalit’s modesty books like they were ice cream. I was DESPERATE to be Special, and being modest would make me Special, and I’d be Special Enough for a Good Christian Man.

        I’m so glad that my Fella’s a heathen Episcopalian who likes that I’m a feminist and a nerd, and he isn’t afraid of feminism or gender equality or skipping church for sleeping.

      2. It’s interesting, you actually describe a lot of what my faith experience was like. The organizations I attended growing up were definitely on the conservative side of things. My parents, however, became progressively more liberal. Their church is in the downtown of the city they live in, in a neighbourhood that became gentrified and full of gay men some of whom wanted to attend and be involved in a faith community. The view of the congregation generally (and my parents too) went from “homosexuality is a disease” to “people who lie outside of hetrosexual binaries are clearly minorities whose rights need to be protected”.  But yes, I definitely believed modest is hottest for a long time.

  5. What gets me is that the people who promote the modesty movement seem to have no understanding of history and/or human nature. People will always find something to be lustful over. It doesn’t matter how much we cover up. If women stop showing cleavage,  once people get used to it, some other piece of exposed skin will become an object of titillation – and then showing that will be shameful and it will still be our fault that men get horny. As the song says: “In olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking.”

  6. Yay, this series is up! (You posted it in a post-crazy-religion group we’re both part of and recommended p-mag to me.) And good feminist conversation!

    But, yeah. I went through my “modesty” phase in high school and right afterward, when I was still terrified of the idea of any kind of relationship that included sex (and my crushes were all like “the hot twentysomething who volunteers with youth group but is so RESPECTFUL of the girls” rather than “hot basketball player a grade above me”). I didn’t want guys my age to notice me, because I was caught up in the romantic ideal of a Good Christian Relationship That Leads To Marriage — and only MEN would be interested in marriage, and it’s better to focus on THAT than think about dating, because dating leads to sex leads to DANCING. (And “respectful” twentysomethings don’t do things like “tell the sixteen year old that she’s too young”, they just ignore the crush, so it continues for 5+ years and chastity is preserved.)

    All that babbling to say, yeah, the modesty thing is part of the purity thing, and neither really allow for growing up or any kind of “modern” (or mature) relationships. Boys and men must be protected from the evil, filthy, whorish skin, because otherwise they will be TEMPTED! and they cannot resist. And anything that comes from that temptation is not their fault, but that of whoever TEMPTED them, because slutty whores know what they’re doing.

    1. If I had gif-making skills I would send you one with a high five. You basically encapsulated my entire highschool-early adulthood experiences. I think the whole narrative of “men are horn dogs who can’t control themselves so we should only where knee length skirts and baggy t-shirts” is so dangerous because it puts all of the burden of responsibility in regards to sex on young women who don’t know any different  and strips women of any agency. Under the regime of “modest is hottest” (a popular t-shirt slogan during my teenage years) women are  both not allowed to feel sexual desire themselves and are held responsible when/if they are physically taken advantage of.

    2. Thanks, Sheena!

      I hope it’s okay, but I’m cracking up at your description of who you had crushes on: ME TOO. I’ve got two words for you that I think you might recognize: Ministry Team. :)

    3. and it’s better to focus on THAT than think about dating, because dating leads to sex leads to DANCING

      I may have snorted some of my coffee at this. I still remember the kerfuffle caused by one of my cousin’s bride’s maids deciding to dance with the other bride’s maids and the flower girls (and other assorted female children) at the wedding reception. We caught her mother giving her an earful later about it, and the bride and I had to rescue her by pretending to need her for something. The way her mother was going on about it you would have thought that she had personally invited the devil to diner by swaying along to “Sweet Caroline” in a crowd full of other girls. Girl was married to a minister. This was all very disaster spectacle to my Catholic self who thought that my church tended to conservative views.

  7. I still need to go and read my fellow Persephoneers’ comments, but I had to jump in early. I am totally with you on hate reads. I spent an hour or two (okay, maybe four) reading comments on the official Army Wives blog about the recent storyline involving a lesbian officer and her partner. I know your pain.

    I grew up in an extremely conservative (which totally seems like the wrong word, because to me the teachings seem pretty extreme, which is the opposite of conservative) church, I know my bible pretty well. I may not believe as I did when I was a kid, but I remember a good bit of what I was taught. I  can’t think of a single sermon, bible verse or even commonly-held belief that Christian men are such utter lust-beasts, they have no control over their feelings and emotions. In fact, I’m pretty sure Christianity puts a lot of weight behind the idea that we’re all responsible for our own actions and reactions.

    Additionally, doesn’t the entire concept of modesty stem from shame? In the garden of Eden, after the whole forbidden fruit kerfluffle, Adam and Eve only felt shame in their nakedness because of Satan’s influence, right?

    I’m very excited for this series, and welcome to P-mag!

    1. Thank you for the warm welcome, Selena!

      You’re right about looking for Biblical support for the idea that men are lust-driven sex-monsters: it’s not in there. Supporters of this belief system tend to quote some verses from 1 Corinthians where Paul tells his followers that you should try to help keep others from stumbling by not doing things that they consider sinful, even if you don’t consider it sinful yourself.

      This is a noble concept, and one worth consideration. However, no one I know actually lives this out. It’s the lowest common denominator form of faith, and that is not what I believe Christians are supposed to live. If people actually took that seriously, we’d all be living according to what will keep the most wicked person from “sinning.” Not only do we not do that, but it all comes down to the idea I will emphasize in this series: you cannot keep someone else from sinning. You just can’t.

    1. DOOOOOOON’T DO IT!

      I should have put a disclaimer in this post. The comments are far worse than the original content. The original content is kind of status quo, ordinary legalistic Christian stuff. The comments are appalling.

  8. Oh honey, I am SO looking forward to your upcoming posts! I grew up (and still am, I suppose) pentecostal so the whole holiness movement was always lurking around, especially when I went to college at a Christian liberal arts university that used to be a Bible school. Oy vey…

    This is a topic I have discussed MANY times with other young women. It can be a constant frustration.

    1. Baptist College grad, here. I know your pain.

      (Though the same people who had fits about tank tops overlooked athletes who’d go to the cafeteria while soaked in sweat and in exercise briefs/sports bras without shorts or a t-shirt over, because “they’re good representatives off-campus”. Well, they’re sweaty and I can see buttcrack while I’m eating. THAT I object to, much more than the existence of skin.)

        1. Basically. I wore my slutty whore tank tops (which weren’t the spaghetti-strap kind, mind you — too much boob for no bra and I don’t like strapless or showing thick bra straps) and basically did what I wanted, and occasionally laughed at the idea that skin was offensive. I think most of my classmates had already written me off as a crazy, irredeemable liberal, so I didn’t get a lot of fussing.

  9. OMG YOUR TANK TOP. SLUTTY MC SLUTTERSON.

    Seriously, none of this makes any damn sense to me. I don’t think any kind of clothing or lack of clothing is wrong, except for hateful or insensitive messages or symbols. We are all responsible for our own sexual conduct and no one else’s.

    About this comment:

    “Let’s put this in different terms; would you like your husband (or future depending) to lust after a young girl wearing a short skirt and barely any shirt so much that he has an affair with her and divorces you because of that short skirt.”

    Actually, if I had a husband that brainless and changeable, I’d much rather be rid of him.

    1. Ha! Seriously, if my husband left me because of a woman in a short skirt, I married the wrong dude. That’s for damn sure.

      ALSO: Yes, I am super immodest in my dress, as you can see from that very slutty tank top.

  10. I have a question of semantics. Why would someone, like many of the commenters on the original post, refer to themselves as a “Christ-follower” or “follower of Christ” instead of simply “Christian”? What does the distinction signify? (I’m not a Christian, so apologies if this is a dumb question. I’ve just never heard that phrasing before).

    I enjoyed this post, and look forward to the rest of your takedown. And thanks for reminding me of movieguide.org – I used to love reading their reviews, too.

    1. Fun Back In Sin, I think there is definitely something worth analyzing in the semantics of that decision. Using “Christ-follower,” I think, is an attempt to distance yourself from traditional Christian points of view. However, I’ve found that a lot of people who use that phrasing still hold the exact same beliefs as fundamentalist Christians. Even though I myself am very uncomfortable with a lot of things said and done in the name of Christianity, and I get very uncomfortable identifying with other people who call themselves Christian, I see no reason to divorce myself from the word.

      Also, I’m glad someone else gets a kick out of Movieguide!

    2. I usually identify as “Christian,” but it is probably not accurate. I don’t believe only Christians are going to heaven, I don’t believe in much of the Bible, and I’m not overly concerned with what is literally true. Christianity is the spiritual tradition I grew up with, though, and I think Jesus’s teachings are amazing. I would probably say “Christ follower” if I were doing a better job of being a good person.

  11. This was interesting, that’s for sure. As will it be interesting to see the following “takedowns”. Though, put simply, I find this all mindboggling – as I try and wrap my head around both the questions and the stance that has provoked them – but that is perhaps because I am seeing this from a Humanist perspective.

    1. Same here. The questions this raises for me are very different. I’m really looking forward to this series; “I don’t agree with your worldview/religion/etc.” is not a justification for not learning/knowing shit about it. And I am so, so grateful I can do that someplace like this, rather than, say, the original blog. Cuz ew.

  12. This makes me want to spew as much profanity as I possibly can.

    I love how men are constructed as such sexual beings that women must be “modest” lest men become aroused. You know, cause men are never aroused by men. And women are never aroused by men. Nope. WOMEN TOTALLY DRESS LIKE THAT FOR POWER AND CONTROL AND IT IS TOTALLY LIKE RAPE.

    I have no words.

    So, gifs:

     

    1. Silverwane–you are appalled by the exact thing I am appalled by! I think that comment was the most disturbing of all of them. Far more disturbing than the original post.

      1. It…flabbergasts me. I can’t think of a good response other than to viciously point up to the gifs I posted.

        I just can’t believe that someone said that.

        Well, I guess I can believe it. And that makes it even worse.

  13. Oh my flipping fuck, I need to stop reading the comments: “…I actually conclude that it is the woman who most often has the problem. The problem is called “control”. It pleases her immensely when heads turn, especially if they are good looking, have status, power and are supposedly “holy”. She knows that in most cases, she could seduce these men if they could get by with the seduction, and it gives her power. It, to me, is no less than the power a male rapist exerts, which experts declare is more about the power than the sex. It is control at its finest.

    I can’t even.

    But I do look forward to your take down on this.  I’m sure you will handle it much more eloquently than I would.  I often listen and read those I don’t agree with for a multitude of reasons. Usually I end up yelling or swearing or venting to Mr. Nonsense about it all.  Writing a 7 page response sounds much more productive. :)

    1. That was the bit that made me froth at the mouth. SERIOUSLY COMPARING WOMEN’S DRESS TO RAPE? What the ever loving fuckery fuckerson.

      I usually dress “modestly.” But I hate the idea of modesty. Especially when it’s lobbed against women, as if women must always be responsible for the actions of men. FUCKERY FUCKERSON.

  14. I’m really looking forward to reading this series! I had to stop reading the comments on that blog because they were making me so upset.

    I would be interested to find out where the author of that blog draws the lines of “modesty.” Sure, some consider too much cleavage and leg to be indecent in her community, but in other parts of the world, showing your ankles, arms, hair, and face are too provocative for the public eye. The logic for covering up those parts of the body is basically the same as what she is saying, that women have a responsibility to keep men from going astray. I think that when presented with the burqa, for example, many writers with her point of view would probably protest that it “goes too far” in trying to protect modesty – but really, what’s the difference?

    1. I think there is a big difference between pursuing modesty because you believe your body is something private, and not for public consumption, and modesty to somehow save men from themselves. To that end, I don’t think it really matters what part of yourself you want to cover, just why you want to cover it. If it’s about maintaining a certain level of privacy about what your naked flesh (or hair or whatever) looks like, that’s fine. But treating men like walking penis children with no impulse control while simultaneously placing the blame on women for every crime committed against them is super shitty.

      About the only thing that I get a little iffy on is veiling your face, but that’s just because it interferes with communication. At the same time, I’ve never been an part of a social group related to veiling, and I never feel like I have an authoritative leg to stand on with that.

      edited because I realized I was missing a rather significant letter n.

      1. Exactly. I’m more or less a “modest” dresser because I’m personally more comfortable that way (knee length/longer skirts, long pants, minimal cleavage, etc). And I’ve told others that my body is not public property — it is “invitation only” (referring both to who sees what, who touches what, AND to asshole politicians who want to control my body). But I can’t control what other people think when they see me. I can’t, and I won’t change who I am or what I am comfortable with to keep from offending others. If my slutty shoulders inspire a bout of masturbation in a stranger? Well, that’s on him (or her).

        I’ve heard the “women have control over men, and dress slutty because they want to seduce men” argument extended to teenage and younger girls. By religious fundamentalists. I have exactly zero patience for that bullshit. Men have self-control, and can (and damn well SHOULD) be able to think about how they’re acting with regards to women and girls and not just Follow The Almighty Penis.

        1. I went to an art college and so nudity and sex have become two very separate issues for me* (or maybe two issues that are very distinct but have some overlap? Venn diagram style?), but I still respect the idea that each person gets to control how they present themselves to the world, and that includes how much of their skin they show and when and how they show it, for pretty much any reason other than protecting men from their penis. I can comfortably get naked in front of people I don’t know very well in a non-sexualized context, but I can’t wear jeans and a tank top to church without feeling underdressed and inappropriate. I don’t like to wear two piece swim suits. There’s nothing wrong with setting boundaries, just don’t make it about controlling the actions of other people some how.

          *The natural side effect of staring at naked people for six hours a week while your brain is mainly occupied with problems like “What shape is the shadow on the left thigh,” or “How far apart do I make the shoulders?”

      2. Opifex, I definitely agree with you. I kinda meant what is the difference to writers with this point of view, or what kind of difference would writers like K draw when presented with even more conservative opinions of modesty than her own. That’s what I get for writing a comment at 2am!

        I have several friends that wear the burqa because it gives them the freedom to wear whatever they want underneath and go to school/work/etc – and I think that’s great. It’s a really cool take on being empowered. I also know women that didn’t want to wear the burqa and had to, because of social reasons and what the community would think, and that really sucks. I absolutely agree that it should be about your personal understanding of modesty.

        (Although, I also had one friend tell me that she wore the burqa because it was like an extra umbrella during the monsoon season… at least she’s practical!)

        1. Ah, gotcha.  Yeah, I’ve run into a woman who wouldn’t wear pants, but who looked down on women who wear headscarves, and that is really so very strange. I think that part of the problem is that seeing others practice modesty differently than they do starts to unwind their narrative a bit. If those women who cover more of their bodies than they do can look on them and say they dress immodestly (when clearly they don’t), what does that mean about when they look down on the tank top wearers of the world? At some point you might just start deconstructing this enough to realize that the amount of skin a woman shows or does not show isn’t actually a big deciding factor in her morality.

          1. I refuse to wear pants because they are so unforgiving.  Gain two pounds, and they are a prison.  Lose two pounds, and your buttcrack is showing.

            SLUTS IN SKIRTS 4LYFE.

            1. She was all about good Christian women not wearing “men’s” clothes. I maintain that I buy only women’s pants, and so no problems. I do love me a good skirt though.

  15. Since I was bored a bit last week, I decided to read some Internet comments (yeah, I know…) on a few posts on Yahoo!. The articles themselves were about several different women; some missing, some who were in lawsuits, some had done something ‘newsworthy.’ But in every article, the comments had the same tone: she’s a whore. Much of it had to do with any form of autonomy that these women had ever exhibited; she went out by herself, she wasn’t wearing a bra, she wore a tank top, she went to a bar, she left the house without her husband, etc. And because of their wardrobe and ability to leave the home without a male escort, they were now deserving of not just slut-shaming, but of crimes to be committed against them (including, in the missing person case, possibly murder). I think sometimes modesty is taken to this extreme measure that it equals good, virtuous people, and tank tops wearers are guilty of crimes committed against them because…well, because it’s another easy way to blame women for existing.

  16. Reading modesty blogs is one of my favorite internet frustration activities.  The whole idea is just so RIDICULOUS.  Beyond the fact that I have to change my behavior to keep someone else from committing a misdeed, I think it treats men as infantile and stupid.  A man can’t see legs in a miniskirt without wanting to divorce his wife?  Are we really going to tell each other that men are so moronic and base that they base all of their decisions on how much skin can be seen?  The whole worldview makes me cringe.  Looking forward to this series!

      1. I feel like encouraging “modesty” in kids is different, though, because it’s less about “wearing xyz style is slutty” and more that kids are already being sexualized way too much.  Modesty for (non-fundamentalist) kids is less about wearing long pants/skirts/long sleeves all the time to protect the rest of the world from the fact that children have skin and will one day be sexual creatures, and more about keeping them kids. I think of modestly-dressed kids and imagine clothes that they can run around in, wear to school, and that fit properly — pants or shorts, shirts, things like that. And avoiding thongs for elementary school kids or pants with “juicy” on the ass.

    1. Seriously, the whole worldview makes me feel so uncomfortable! Although I think you and I have something in common as far as having “favorite internet frustration activities.” I need to adopt those phrases.

      I hate the idea that men are these slobbering, witless, uncontrolled monsters. I have fairly frank discussions of sex with men and women from time to time, and I’ve never met one of these men who is so obsessed with breasts that he can’t function in the real world. Actually, strike that. I do know one guy, but everyone knows he’s a perv. I’ll get to this in my series, but I really do think that Christian men have been told that arousal = lust, and therefore, arousal is sin. It’s a huge problem in the church, because they’re basically being told that a natural biological reaction is sinful. Trying to control it is like trying to control the fact that you get hungry every day.

       

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