okay babes. can we talk about this word? please?
purity culture, which is a whole massive discussion that can’t be contained in just one blog post (though I made a decent effort here), is rife with the sub-culture of a twisted view of this word “modesty”.
church youth groups are constantly talking about it, from the old catchphrase “modest it hottest!” (let’s all just admit this one was poorly thought through) to the more recent rise of the Great Yoga Pants Wars. for some reason, people are completely obsessed, to a likely unhealthy extent if we’re honest, with modesty.
from the wildly inappropriate comments regarding my body & sex life I received while I was pregnant, to the damnation of the vast majority of swim suits (and often the people who wear them), to suggesting women are to blame for their own objectification, to the brushing off or blaming of sexual abuse victims, to the repulsion with a woman breastfeeding while not hidden in a corner… as these few examples show, so much of the evangelical community is disturbingly obsessed with female bodies.
I think it’s time to destroy some modesty myths here, because beautiful woman… you are not a liability.
modesty is an objective set of rules that determines what you should wear in order to keep men from lusting after you.
modesty is a subjective, situational, fluid construct that has everything to do with YOUR intention, and has absolutely nothing to do with men or their own sin, because someone else’s sin is not something you are held accountable for. I think we can all agree that wearing a wedding dress to a funeral is inappropriate… but if you’re a bride, it’s expected. modesty is the same, in that what is and is not appropriate varies by situation. wearing a bikini is 100% inappropriate if you’re going to a work meeting; wearing it to the beach because it is comfortable is a different story. in some indigenous tribes, women go completely topless, and no sexualization occurs because of it.
by dressing immodestly, you will make men lust after you, which is why some men choose to rape and assault.
firstly, what is and isn’t modest is subjective (remember those bare-chested indigenous gals?), not just from one country to the next, but within countries, religions, denominations… even individual churches. one guy might be turned on by cleavage but not care if someone’s stomach is covered, while the guy next to him might feel exactly the opposite. some people have a thing for feet. or eyes. or necks. you just can’t make everyone happy, and you’ll never be dressing “modestly” according to everyone’s standards.
secondly, the countries with the highest rates of rape are countries where women wear burkas. pretty sure a burka is “modest”. lust is 100% on the shoulders of the person lusting. not on what someone else does or does not wear.
teaching modesty is for protecting the purity of both men and women.
teaching modesty (as defined in the first myth) is taking the easy way out for men while heaping shame onto women. if a man lusts, he can simply blame it on the fact that “she was dressed immodestly”. can you imagine growing up constantly fearing that something about your God-given body would spiritually take down the people around you if you didn’t cover it up enough? can you understand the shame that drives into the heart, and the damage that does to a woman’s understanding of herself? fearing that who you are is just a deep, evil temptation waiting to leap out from inside? never feeling comfortable embracing the body you were given because it might be perceived as wanting to be sexy? this is what our teaching of modesty has done to women.
oh, woman, please hear me:
you are much more & far deeper than your physical body…
…but your body should be something you embrace & celebrate.
yes, it holds incredible power…
…power to run, leap, sing, preach, heal, serve, shoulder burdens, birth new life.
if you have been assaulted or raped…
…you are not at fault. you are a survivor. you are a warrior.
you are not a liability.