About three years ago, Mrs. Amy, who hosted "Clothesline Alley", had an excellent post on modesty. While it is from her point of view, I wanted to rerun it here, and intersperse my thoughts about this as a man. Here goes...
In recent weeks, I have shared several interesting email and phone conversations with several dear bloggy buddies on the subject of modesty and these conversations inspired the bit of writing I am about to share. My intention with this post is not to debate modesty standards, but to share a glimpse into why I have come to accept my certain standards for myself and what exactly modesty means to me. :o)
Modesty is such a loaded word it seems, with many definitions and assertions swirling around about how it looks or what it means. Living in one of the most decadent and sex obsessed cultures the world has ever seen, modesty is an especially interesting topic to me, both for discussion and for living out as a religious conviction. All around me women parade around in all sorts of undressed states and hardly an eyebrow is raised, but once the hemlines start dropping and the necklines become actual necklines rather than 'bust lines,' that's when the tempers begin to flare and the questions will be asked.
You know, if there is one thing that REALLY PISSES ME OFF, it's hypocrisy! I hate it! I hate it even more when those practising it do so with a straight face and see nothing wrong with it! Such is one of my common gripes with modern women and feminists (really the same thing in 99.9999% of cases).
These immodest, scantily clad women will bitch & moan if you say anything about how they're dressed; don't you dare judge me! That's their cry anyway. However, when someone like Mrs. Amy exercises HER right to dress in a more modest fashion, these same hypocrites will give her grief for doing so! WTF?! They don't want anyone saying anything to THEM about their dress (or lack thereof, I should say), yet they'll turn around and give ladies like Mrs. Amy grief for exercising her right to choose what she wears & when?! Come on!!!
Here in the West, we believe women to be nothing more than objects to be put on display for the enjoyment of the public's feasting eyes. We find the notion of a Muslim woman choosing to wear hijab, in accordance with her faith, to be a terrible abuse inflicted upon herself, yet celebrate the gross unveiling of ourselves, in bikinis on beaches, as we put what should be private on display for all to see. Nothing is sacred here or held in the dignity that it really ought to be. Flesh is exposed without a thought in the world. Sex is used to sell everything. Hardly a soul thinks twice before divulging secrets that should best be kept in the marital bedroom, solely between husband and wife. We argue that this is our right and privilege, as if having the legal right to choose our own clothing and topics of conversation somehow makes it appropriate to drop our behavior down to the lowest common denominator where no propriety or morality exists. Our culture is in complete disarray when it comes to such a precious and delicate possession are our dignity and modesty and I can't help but feel we are all losing out because of this.
You know what gets me? This has to do with hypocrisy again. If a woman were to strip down to her bra & panties, then walk on the street, she'd get many looks, and perhaps get into trouble as well. However, the moment you take those same undergarments, and paint them in a myriad of bright, flashy colors, why that's okay! The same women who wouldn't be caught dead walking down the street in their bra & panties have no compunction about doing so in a bikini-okaaaaaay. What is a bikini, other than a bra & panties painted in bright, flashy colors? Am I the only one who sees the inconsistency here?!
Then, there's the matter about how feminists rail against the objectification of women. "What about my mind, you pig?" was a popular, feminist battle cry in years past. However, these same feminists fought against modest, women's apparel, and made it appear to be a crime against women. Come again?! It's The Patriarchy's fault that women are abused by having to cover up-waaaaahhhh! It's abuse of women! Let women bare all, then they'll be empowered! Uh, when you uncovered women and bared their wares, as it were, you did precisely what you professed to be fighting against: you objectified women-f*&#ing hypocrites! Then again, what do we expect from modern women & feminists?
God knitted together the bodies of us all, made in His image; fearfully and wonderfully we are made. Our bodies have the power to run, to dance, to jump for joy. We can sing songs of thanksgiving, kneel down to pray on our knees, and clap our hands to the music. With our bodies is the power to do great things and in our minds the ability to ponder many noble ideas. Unique to the female form are a couple particularly splendid powers: the ability to be partner with God in Creation as we grow new life in our womb and nourish our babies with mama's milk and also the power endowed in the female form to ignite a man's passion for us, which is a great gift when this man is our husband, but very problematic when he is a man with whom we have no such business sharing such things.
That's because, when this beautiful gift is given to many men, the woman truly belongs to no one. When she has sex with many men, she bonds (thanks to oxytocin) with many and belongs to no one. She cannot become 'one flesh' with her husband. Is it any wonder why divorce has been skyrocketing since the sexual revolution? When a woman finally does marry (after tens if not hundreds of sexual partners), she cannot bond or become one with her husband. She cannot give herself to him, because she's given herself to every other Tom, Dick, and Harry.
That's why modern women are such damaged goods. You can see it in their faces and especially their eyes. One guy on Mancoat used a crude, yet accurate expression to describe this: the thousand cock stare. It used to be that only career prostitutes had this look; now, it seems as if the vast majority of women do, and they sport it at ever younger ages!
I remember how I was out riding last summer. It was a nice, summer day, so I took the long way home from work. I cruised through College Hill, which is in Easton, PA. That's the neighborhood in and around Lafayette College. Anyway, I was crusing down the street when I noticed a party going on at one of the houses. I remember seeing a young woman in her early 20s wearing a short, black dress like the ones you'd see at a nightclub. This woman, though she was beautiful, already had that look! I have to tell you that not only was it sad; it took away from her beauty. Seeing her with that 'thousand cock stare' took away much, if not all, of her allure for me.
Our culture has a firm grasp on this last power and a clear understanding of how to use this power very well. The gift that is female beauty is twisted and perverted nearly everywhere you look. Here in America there is hardly a place to escape the stares of lusty buxom babes on billboards or even the well-lined lips of the Bratz baby dolls. We tarnish the eyes of our children, tempt our young men already struggling with lust as is, and taunt the idea of God ordained marital intimacy, all to exploit His wonderful gift and sell, sell, sell.
Sex is used to sell everything! I remember how years ago, when Chevrolet was doing its "Heartbeat of America" ad campaign, the first ad of the series closed out. It showed the silouhette of a guy and a gal in a Corvette convertible, and there was subdued, sexy music playing in the background. The man puts a lip lock on the girl, the top goes up, shielding the couple from view as the scene faded to black. The not so subtle message was this: guys, get yourself a Corvette, and things like this will happen to you! I could go on, since it seems almost every ad targeted at men uses sex to sell the product; I won't, because I'll be here till next month if I do.
In this upside down world, to object to such exploitation of sexual expression and the female form gets you labeled as insecure, unenlightened, and many less than flattering names. To object to the undressing of women in some circles will now even get you branded as a "misogynist" as it's apparently a woman's empowering right to be a harlot, either in looks or behavior, and quite possibly both. Apparently we ought to celebrate the freedom the Sexual Revolution, abortion on demand, and the birth control pill have offered us, celebrating with joy the removal of the shackles of decency & responsibility that were once dreadfully placed upon the "fairer sex."
What was good is now evil; what was evil is now good. I seem to remember a Bible verse in which the Lord expressed His displeasure over such balderdash. Ah, but God is just a tool of The Patriarchy to subdue women-waaaaaahhhhh!
I used to wonder about modesty myself. "Why on earth would I want to oppress myself in such ways?" I thought to myself, but then one day I woke up. I realized that there was an alternative to tugging on my knee length skirt I felt very uncomfortable in. Rather than pull on my hemline in some desperate attempt to make my short skirt seem longer, I could wear a longer skirt and so my journey into modest dress began. As I let go of the power I had to entice men with whom I had no business trying to do so, the first lessons of modesty's power were ones I learned with great surprise. When I put on my shield of cloth, I suddenly had self-respect and the freedom to move about without worrying that I couldn't move this way or that way without some inappropriate flash of skin happening due to my former clothing that was far too lacking in fabric. Slowly I began to change, dressing with more fabric and comfort in mind.
People treated me markedly different after I began to wear clothing becoming of a young woman and I began to see the world in a strange new light, as well. Gone were the days when I thought being comfortable in my skin meant showing lots of skin and instead being able to let my character, opinions, and ideas shine became my prime way of expressing myself. I wasn't just my physical attributes any longer, defined solely by my youthful body, but a person who had more to offer the world than just mere outward beauty. I learned much about my dignity and worth as a woman and a Child of God as my slavish need to follow the trends of my culture subsided.
I've noticed the same thing. When I dress up, people look at and treat me differently too vs. when I where more casual clothes. People DO perceive you differently, no question about it. I'd like to relate a humorous story at this point...
I used to go bicycling along the Jersey Shore. When I did so, I wore my helmet and a bright, orange safety vest. After all, I wanted the idiot vacationers to see me! When the tourists were on vacation, their minds were often on vacation as well, so I wore a vest that Ray Charles could have seen. Yeah, I wore a helmet, but that doesn't mean I wanted to USE it!
One night, I was out and about and these girls asked me for directions. I had to tell them that I wasn't from around there, and that I couldn't help them. They reacted with surprise; they thought that I was a cop! I told them that no, I wasn't a cop; I wasn't riding a mountain bike (bike cops ride of choice), didn't have a radio, nor did I have a badge or name tag. Why did they think I was a cop? Because I was wearing the safety vest that cops often wear while directing traffic, that's why! Because an element of my attire was associated with cops, I was presumed to be one myself. Just goes to show you that how we dress DOES influence others' perception of us...
Shortly afterward, I became a wife and an exciting new aspect of modesty came to be understood in my mind. This fact being that my beauty is my husband's treasure, for his eyes only, not to be advertised and exploited out in public for all to see. His adoring gaze is the only such gaze I should enjoy, the only one that is godly and appropriate for one who claims to follow God. Being my husband's wife was a wonderful gift from God and not something I should be mistreating and abusing simply because my culture finds such expressions to be acceptable and many times celebrated. What's private should be kept private or else it will lose its magic, its sparkle, and its specialness. The fires of passion within marriage should be well-tended, not allowed to be blown out to go looking for admiration elsewhere.
Fires that aren't well tended have a nasty habit of becoming wildfires; wildfires have a nasty habit of being very destructive...
Now, quite a few years into my modesty journey, my standards of dress have changed drastically from what they once were. My daily uniform consists of long flowing skirts that hit my ankles, tights & socks that cover my legs, and closed toe shoes that hide my feet. My long loose shirts have necklines that show nothing beyond my neck, with sleeves that go past my elbows, if not past my wrists. And my hair stays hidden under a beautiful tichel, hat, or other such headgear each and every day. Only those with whom I would share my deepest secrets, my greatest hopes, my darkest moments are those I literally "let my hair down" with.
It's interesting to witness people's reaction to my dress, especially those who knew me before, those who have seen my hair and know what my natural hair color is. There are a few who think I've lost my marbles, others who have come to understand and even respect my choice, and those who applaud my efforts to cover up in our sexed up world. The reactions from strangers are also intriguing, with many questions asked of me on a regular basis. The inevitable "What religion are you?" but others are always leave me a bit taken aback. The assumptions that my husband must be an evil tyrant type or that I am somehow teaching my daughter to be ashamed of her femininity are among those. It's a sad time & place to live in which submission to the Creator's will from as far back as the Garden, and self-respect is mistaken for oppression.
Unfortunately, it's only religious people who make an effort to dress modestly anymore. That's why you get that question.
I always answer the critics, with thoughtful answers expressed in kindness and perhaps such conversations might even open a few minds, particularly when it comes to our children. Far from being a danger to my precious daughter, I find my choices for her wardrobe and mine to protect us from the harmful exploitation society wants to force upon us. It is my hope to impart to Peapod the knowledge that her body is beautiful just as God made it, that lovemaking within the bounds of marriage is a beautiful gift, and that for others to respect her, she must first respect herself and the dignity God has given her. These are the same lessons I would strive to teach to my son, if we were ever so blessed. If a person wants to be respected, they need to be someone worthy of such treatment, not one to indulge in questionable behavior or to dishonor themselves or others with their choices. If a person makes the choice to act in less than the best ways, they should not be shocked that nobody thinks very highly of them.
Mrs. Amy, you said something deep right here! If a gal wants a prince, then she must comport herself as a princess-duh! One thing that pisses me off to no end about modern women is that they want, demand, and expect to have Prince Charming while forgetting that Prince Charming wants someone who is a Princess! Do they really think that Prince Charming wants some bitter, angry, used up, disease ridden whore? These chicks dress like whores, then they turn around and cry about being TREATED like whores?! Come on! See my previous story about the bike vest, then come back and talk to me.
I know that for me, as a guy, if I see a woman clad in a nice, feminine, yet modest dress, then I'll view her as a lady, because she's comported herself as one. However, if I were to see her in something provocative and slutty, I' NOT going to think of her as a lady! I'll think many things of her, but I won't view her as a lady, nor will I be inclined to treat her like one...
I want Peapod to know that she doesn't need to use her body to prove anything to anybody, nor does she need to feel pressured to conform to the vain & trivial pursuits of of our youth culture. Her mind, her character & virtue, and her talents are what she should be offering to the world and the areas on which the world can judge her by. Her beauty, however, that is to be held in high regard and saved for somebody special, the man she will (God willing) marry one day. She is worth more than being used and abused by someone who does not truly care about her, just as we all are, regardless of what the norms in modern day America might be.
So, strange world I live in, call me backward, ashamed, and weak. I would rather use the power my body has for the goodness my God had in mind. I am not your property society at large, nor do I want to be a stumbling block for the many religious men whom already struggle enough in our world full of lusty temptations. Truly they do not need even one more woman to add to the unfortunate mess. I am a daughter of the King, my husband's wife, my child's mother, and a woman who sees her value and worth simply in being who she is, and not just a pretty picture on which you can all cast your eyes.
Man, that's good stuff! Too bad more women don't understand that; too bad more women never, ever learn what this fine, young lady, Mrs. Amy, has learned; they'll never, ever get it that, if you want Prince Charming, you must first comport yourself as a Princess-duh! One thing I often wonder is why can ladies like Mrs. Amy figure out what should be obvious, yet the vast majority of women never get this? Why is that? Either it's because Mrs. Amy is special and smarter than your average chick (she is), or the vast majority of women are screwed in the head and are incapable of figuring out this little thing called cause & effect? I'm not sure. Until next time, this is MarkyMark signing off...