You may have heard about Hugh Hefner dying. With his death came the debate about whether he exploited or empowered women. I was going to write about what exploitation and empowerment mean, but I’m going to change my topic some. I’ll probably write about exploitation some other time. Today, let’s talk about modesty.
(This is kind of long. If you don’t have time to read every word, you can skip to the take aways. Skip down to the horizontal line, you’ll see some things in bold, for the highlight.)
I hate modesty talks. I honestly do. I had never experienced one until I was in college. I never realized how significant of a topic it was, or rather is, in the Christian community until then. I grew up Christian. My mom didn’t want to wear revealing clothes and to me that sounded like a mother who cares.
So, in college I first heard a modesty talk. It was just brush upon when talking about something else. Other times I heard it, it was overhearing someone else. It wasn’t until reading articles online or watching youtube videos that I heard the full version.
For those of you who haven’t had to witness one, in a nutshell, the typical modesty talk, which I loath, is “women need to watch how they dress so that they don’t make men stumble.” People are moving away from this reasoning, but I have come across so many young people who hold this view. The thing is, this view is harmful. This view seems to go hand in hand with the view that victims of sexual assault were asking for it because they wore a short skirt or something.
What the topic of modesty should be about is respecting yourself. I don’t think you need to cover every inch of skin. That sounds extreme to me, but if you want to do that, cool. I’ve heard people debate whether bikinis can be worn when you’re trying to live modestly. What I think is that there is too much focus on the clothes and not enough on what is going on inside.
I read a post which talked about how purity is more important than modesty. In other words, what’s in our hearts and minds matters more than our clothes. I agree with that. In the end, our insides are reflected by the things we do and what we wear.
Let’s look at 1 Timothy 2:9-10, “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.”
These verses don’t say cover everything. And everyone has their own interpretation of what respectable apparel means. It honestly takes too much energy to debate whether short sleeve shirts and shorts are respectable attire when running errands or not. Your clothes should reflect who you are. When you go to work, you dress for your job. If your job is messy, you probably don’t wear a suit. If you’re a lawyer, you probably aren’t defending your clients in shorts and flip-flops. And in your downtown, you shouldn’t dress like someone you’re not.
Don’t worry about if it’s designer or not. Don’t worry about styling your hair like [insert celebrity here]. What you need to ask is, “Is my attire in line with what I believe? Do I feel like I’m dressed respectable?” And you need to be aware of where you are. What is appropriate at home might not be at work or at church.
I’ve been talked to a few times about my shirts. Let me start by saying, my chest is not small. I went to grad school at a Christian university. We had to video tape some of our counseling sessions to present to the group. The place were I did my practicum and part of my internship had cameras in the room, pointing down from the ceiling. From the camera’s view, it seemed like you could look down my shirt. You didn’t see any cleavage though, I had a shirt on under it. From the view of anyone who was face to face with me, you couldn’t see anything unless you were standing over me.
When my group saw the view, the professor and about half the group started lecturing me about how I was dressed inappropriately. They kept making suggestions or what I should do and talked over me as I tried to talk. It destroyed me. It didn’t help that I was already self-conscious about my chest. No one used the word modesty. No one mentioned making anyone stumble. I understand dressing appropriately at work. The thing is, they “attacked” much like those modesty talks do.
This is what I want you to know about modesty. You cannot make someone stumble. I pulled up some articles concerning modesty and in one a woman asked men to give her their opinion on modesty then posted what they wrote. I had to stop reading because most emails thanked women, since they helped the men not stumble. If a man “stumbles” that means that he needs to check his heart and mind. It is not my responsibility to make sure no one lusts over me. Sorry, I’m too bust doing the things God actually wants me to do.
God cares more about your heart than what you wear. God wants you to proclaim who He is in all that you do. He wants you to not be of the world. He tells us to come as we are. That means wherever you are physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually…wherever. He’s not going to turn you away because you’re wearing a mini skirt.
The term modesty has become such a trigger word. I hate this term almost as much as I hate the modesty talks. This term wasn’t meant to be something used to berate others. It wasn’t meant to be something so negative. I saw articles about how modesty is empowering, and I think it can be. It’s your choice and you have control of your body. But the way the term has been used over the last few decades, it’s been starting to be seen as more oppressive.
The discussion of modesty doesn’t just effect women. Most of the modesty talks address those of us whose sex is female. But think about it, there are boy growing up being taught that girls are to blame for them lusting. That’s just one thing, but to learn more about how this topic can impact men read, The Lies Modesty Culture Teaches Men.
Respect yourself and God. If we all respect ourselves and our beliefs, this whole thing would be less painful. Let you actions, words, and dress reflect what you believe and who you are. You don’t have to conform to someone else’s definition of modesty. You don’t have to conform to society’s standards of beauty. Be you.
I’ll talk to you lovelies next week.