Ooookaaay. Here I am again. Calmer, more collected and armed with facts rather than simply anger. I’ve done research, sooooo much research. I’ve read articles on both sides of the argument. (I wanted to puke at a few.) So as promised in my last post here is the new revised rant on modesty culture.
The heavy burden of keeping men’s minds pure that women are made to shoulder is utter crap. Please let me elaborate before you roll your eyes, mutter something about women wearing tight clothes in church, then clicking on the next cat video in your queue. I’m not saying women should wear clothing that barely covers their nipples in church. Of course not. That’s ridiculous. Be respectful of the Gd you’re coming to worship. Be respectful of the social situation you’re in whether it’s church or a funeral, visiting someone’s home, or in a business meeting. However, being respectful of your social situation is completely different than shouldering the morality of half the population of the earth.
Dressing according to a set of rules will never stop another person from lusting or not lusting. Dressing according to a set of rules will not prevent a person’s mind from dehumanizing you. And that’s what lust is. That’s how the Bible defines it (no, really). Feeling an attraction to someone isn’t lust. Lust is the self-serving sexual desire that reduces a person into an object that is only meant for your pleasure.
I’ve heard people talk about women dressing modestly so they’re not a stumbling block for men in the church. I’ve also heard the same people tell women to dress modestly so they’re not a rape temptation. This equates good men with rapists. And I’m pretty sure, no matter their mindset, that’s not what they intended to imply. Nevertheless, that’s what you say when you reduce men to sex-craving monsters who can’t control themselves unless a woman is covered head to toe in a burlap sack. Oh and by the way, rape is not a crime about lust or sex, it is a crime of power, a rapist’s power over their victim. Either way, isn’t it pretty offensive toward men to imply they can’t handle themselves so they have to leave it up to the opposite sex to be their moral compass? I know there’s plenty of guys out there who see women as people and not as evil, seductive temptresses who are only here to guide them away from the true path by showing a bit of shoulder. But there are also plenty of people (men and women) who will blame a woman for how she’s treated because of the clothing she’s wearing.
*Side note: I am aware there are many statistics about female on male rape. I’m definitely not pretending that doesn’t exist. I’m also not going to pretend that there aren’t homosexual people in the world to which the whole of this post need not apply. For the sake of this argument though I am focusing on modesty culture which is primarily marketed towards females (and promoted by heterosexual males) and it’s connection to rape culture.
Now let’s throw some statistics on this bonfire shall we?
15% of sexual assault victims are aged 12-17
288, 820 people aged 12 or older are victims of sexual assault each year on average
Does anyone think the 12 year olds included in these statistics were dressed immodestly and caused their attackers to think impure thoughts thereby leading to the assault? Good god I hope not.
Ah, but then there’s the counter argument. Time to pull out your Bible kittens. We’re doing some digging.
1 Timothy 2:8-10 : I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness–with good works.
I desire, not Gd commands. These are human words giving advice. Yes they are inspired by Gd. Yep, totally awesome to keep yourself set apart from the world and distinguish yourself from the godless heathens. However, this is not a commandment given that, if broken, will prevent your soul from being received into heaven. Paul ( the apostle and author of 1 Timothy) is saying that when you do good things you’ll look good. There’s a whole sermon in this verse I’m sure, but what it boils down to is that Gd did not say to women wear formless sackcloth or else eternal damnation awaits you.
And here’s another that goes along the same lines as 1 Timothy 2:8-10 above:
1 Peter 3:3-4 : Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in Gd’s sight is very precious.
Can we agree that this is talking about placing more stock in vanity than in Gd? It’s about placing your looks above being a good person of faith. Also it doesn’t specifically call out women, so why don’t we lump men in with these modesty rules?
And another verse:
Romans 12:2a : Do not be conformed to this world…
If we look at the rest of the verse though we can see this is speaking more to the mind of the Christian than the modesty of women->
Romans 12:2b : but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of Gd, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
There’s an interesting survey of 1600 Christian guys that was nicely summed up in this article. The questions were submitted by Christian girls and some of the answers are startling to say the least.
It starts with questions about whether mini-skirts and halter tops are immodest. Not surprisingly 93.1% and 73.5% respectively agreed that these items of clothing were immodest. It slowly gets more shocking. 47.5% say wearing a strap (for your purse) across the chest is immodest. (Dear god, I just want my hands free.) 38.8% believe tights with polka dots or other designs draw too much attention to a woman’s or girl’s legs. (Wait what? I love polka dots, screw you.) Then it makes my jaw drop. 74.9% say the way a girl walks can be a stumbling block. 56.8% say a girl stretching can be a stumbling block. (I’m tired and I’ve been sitting in an office for 10 hours. I’m going to stretch no matter who’s around.) 76.5% say seeing a woman’s chest bounce while walking or running is a stumbling block. (Okay, my boobs are big. They’re gonna jiggle unless I duct tape them down.)
I think what this survey points out more than the desire for Christian men to have Christian women behave modestly (or their definition thereof) is that we aren’t teaching our men to see women as anything more than an object to be desired. We have hips! Yes there’s boobs too. My god, I have a butt! Does anyone really think men will see me as a bland rectangle if I dress according to whatever rules those same men make up? We need to teach young men that their minds are their own responsibility. Policing women will not make men lust less. Training men to see women as separate beings, not responsible for men’s morality and not as a vessel to carry the boobs or butt or ankles or hips that they desire, will create a more humanistic view of people on the whole.
Here’s an interesting food for thought question: Do we make modesty a god when we emphasize it so much we stop focusing on the more important teachings? When women are policed to the point of worrying about how they walk in front of a man it starts restricting everything they can do. Does Gd really sanction controlling women in this way?
Modesty culture teaches women that their body is only good for one purpose: to turn someone on. It teaches young women they need to stay hidden so only their husbands will see that bit of shoulder or waist that is obviously so alluring to every other man on earth. If it is a girl’s responsibility to make sure a man doesn’t stumble by what she wears doesn’t the opposite hold true: that it is a girl’s fault if a man does stumble? She must have done something to provoke it like wearing a shirt that was cut just a tad too low or wearing shorts that were way too high. If we normalize the thought that a woman can cause a man to have lustful thoughts simply by what she’s wearing then aren’t we also encouraging men to blame the clothing when they take advantage of someone?
How about this? Instead of teaching women that the morality of all men lies in their hands, we teach men that women are people and not seductive pieces of meat? It’s not that hard.
Yes, dress appropriate for the situation. No I would never wear a bikini to church just like I’d never wear a ballgown to a business meeting. I will always respect the culture and social situation that I’m in. But I’m also not going to let someone dictate what I wear based on a man’s reaction.