All summer long, my FaceBook news feed has been full of modesty articles. They are usually well-written pieces advocating for women to think about how they dress and strongly encouraging them to cover up more. I've seen so many come through my news feed, shared over and over and over again by my friends. I kept reading them, hoping that someone was finally going to provide a different take on the issue.
Sadly, I didn't find that to be the case.
So although it's the end of the summer and swimsuits will soon be tucked away, I want to provide my perspective on it, because I feel like half of the issue has been completely disregarded. If you are wondering what my take is on it, it's this:
I don't agree with the modesty argument.
Now, before you get your panties in a wad (because we all know that bunching is visible from the outside of your pants and that is way too suggestive), please let me explain.
I have two little girls and two little boys. I'm a mom who loves her children fiercely and would do anything to protect them. Indeed, I already have. Because my kids are quadruplets, our doctors told us to abort at least two of them. Instead, I chose a painful pregnancy, hospitalized bed rest, and a month-long labor over taking the easy way out. And I would do it again to protect them. If someone intends to hurt one of my children, I will take them out. And I don't mean to dinner.
I also read the news. Everything from stories about kidnapping victims, to underage sex trafficking, to the rape camps in different parts of the world. I'm not oblivious to what happens out there. But I still take issue with the idea of modesty that is being circulated by Christian conservatives. And I am one. Go figure.
Here is why: The modesty issue is a double standard, with women being the victim.
Like many young girls growing up in a Christian home, I used the fingertip rule when buying shorts, I "pinched an inch" on either side of my bust when trying on shirts, and I even voluntarily wore only skirts for awhile when I was a teenager. Why? Because I was told that modesty was an issue that women needed to take seriously. After all, guys like looking at women, so we needed to make that as difficult as possible. Hide those sexy knees!
But as I've become an adult woman, I've realize that the argument used to make women cover up is flawed. The common verse associated with women dressing modestly is from 1 Timothy 2:9-10. It says, "I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God."
The modesty argument goes like this, "God tells women they need to be modest. Why? Because guys are turned on visually, and if women aren't careful, they will cause them to stumble." And often on the heels of that is offered the statement that if a woman is raped, kidnapped, sold into the sex slave trade, or cheated on by her boyfriend/husband, it was her fault (or in the case of being cheated on) another woman's fault. She failed in being modest and that is what caused her to be targeted. The word "victim" isn't used. "Victim" is a word for people in the wrong place at the wrong time. Clearly, if a woman is sexually assaulted or physically beaten, it comes down to what she was wearing and the sexual attitude that most certainly went with it.
And that makes me angry. As both a woman and as a mother of girls.
Why aren't the men being called to account on the modesty issue? Telling a woman that the responsibility lies solely on her shoulders is both untrue and unbiblical. The Bible flat out states that men should guard their eyes in Matthew 5: 28, "but I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
Even the wayward woman in Proverbs 7 is said to entice a man into her house. She didn't go out there and drag him in after her! Verse 22 says, "He followed her." That means he walked into her house by his own choice. And yet, if this same scenario played out today, under current modesty standards, the man wouldn't be held responsible because the woman suggested the liaison.
Are guys turned on visually? Absolutely. It's often said that women are supposed to be careful of causing men to stumble because of that. Yet the passage they are referring to in 1 Corinthians 8 actually has nothing to do with modesty. It's about food. And it is directed to both men and women regarding eating meat sacrificed to idols. While I think it can apply to many different scenarios, saying it's about modesty and directing it at women is taking the verse out of context.
Are women turned on visually? Absolutely. The idea that they aren't is ridiculous. Show me a teenage girl who hasn't said, "Whoa, he's hot!" God created us to be sexual beings. To love and be loved. To enjoy each others bodies, and actually have fun while doing it! (see the entire book of Song of Solomon if you don't believe me!) Think about it: If only guys were "turned on", we wouldn't have any babies. (Okay, there might be a few, but I know that *I* didn't enjoy being pregnant!)
If modesty is only a woman's responsibility, then rape doesn't exist. It can't. How can a woman prove rape if she was "asking for it by how she dressed?" And what about just plain old lusting after a woman? The same Bible that has 1 Timothy 2:9-10 also says in 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." Guys, I think your excuses just hopped the first train out of town. Or how about this one from 1 Corinthians 6:18, "Flee from sexual immorality." There are no caveats to that command. No excuses for either sex based on what the other person is wearing.
Do you see where current modesty standards make no sense? There is no mutual personal responsibility!
So it's not that I have an issue with the modesty argument. It's that I have an issue with where the modesty argument stops in Christian culture today. I love my girls, and I want to protect them from sexual predators, teach them to look forward to their one-day-husbands, and show them how to dress stylishly while still leaving a bit of mystery. But I also love my boys. For them, I want them to know that the modesty issue isn't one sided and that they have just as much responsibility to protect themselves and the women around them by guarding their thought life.
Here is what I think the modesty argument SHOULD look like:
Women: Leave a little mystery. It's more fun for everyone that way! And be aware that images of men can turn you on too.
Men: Take responsibility for protecting your own eyes and hearts. And be aware that women are turned on by what they see as well.
Christians: Learn to love and respect each other regardless of the actions of the opposite sex. You ultimately get to have a conversation with God over the choices you make here on earth. Pointing at the other gender isn't going to get you off of the hook. (Hey, it didn't work for Adam and Eve, and they tried it right at the beginning.)
I am disappointed by the way the topic of modesty is handled, and hope that someday, the very people who profess to love everyone will realize that a one-sided modesty argument makes for a population of victimized and silenced women.
What do you think? Is too much responsibility for modesty left at the feet of women? Or do you think the standards are fair?
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