Growing up in the Christian church, I heard many conversations on the topic of “Modesty”. Typically, girls were told to not be a “stumbling block” for boys. We were told to respect our male friends and not give them reason to lust after us. Then we were asked to throw a shirt over our bikini at pool parties, to wear a tank top under our v-necks to cover up the cleavage (if we were blessed enough to have some at 14, of course), and to buy a shrug or shall to cover our shoulders if we should wear that cleavage-covering tank top on it’s own. For the most part, I accepted this for what it was.
When I was a young teenager, too young to drive, our Christian homeschool group had a “Formal”. A prom-esque event. I was so excited! My mind was filled with thoughts of shopping for a beautiful dress! The one I chose was a blue cocktail length dress, with straps about an inch thick. I loved it. It made me feel beautiful and grown up.
But the rules were clear. No showing your shoulders. We wouldn’t want the boys to get a little frisky by seeing any shoulder skin on their female counterparts.
I was unwilling, however, to murder fashion and buy an unnecessary “shrug” that would ruin my dress. ESPECIALLY when my father was completely approving of my dress choice! So I said….. “No”. I wasn’t going to cover my shoulders.
Then all hell broke loose. I was a hussy and my mom was worse for raising a hussy like me! She got a call from a bunch of ladies who proceeded to tell her that she was “raising her daughter IN the world and OF the world”. (Some women later apologized for the ambush, and they were entirely forgiven… mostly because my mom understands that Jesus was more about forgiveness, than he was about covering shoulder skin.)
So a few of my girlfriends and I had a night on the town and left the shoulder-covering “formal” behind us. We had a blast and ate at a fancy restaurant.
Unfortunately, the “shaming” that I received was not as easy to leave behind. See, when I am blamed for the sin of men lusting- how can I not feel shame?! My shoulder skin makes men lust. Lust is sinful. Thus, I caused the man to sin.
Sadly, my story is not unique.
See, what’s really going on is boys are handed little to no accountability, girls are denied that THEY might have sexual thoughts or feelings too, and shame is the name of the game.
Then we have viral Facebook posts. And viral YouTube videos that call girls/women out. Modesty, modesty, girls. Boys are “visual creatures”. Cover up, cover up, cover up! Our boys can be half-naked at the pool, but you make sure you t-shirt is on over your bikini. And it better not be white! This isn’t a wet T-shirt contest! Don’t you know you’re causing their minds to think lustful thoughts?! Cover up.
I am equally upset with our Western culture at large for objectifying women as I am with the Christian culture for objectifying women. Each culture makes women the sum of their parts. And I’m sick of it.
Girls are more than their breasts. A western culture exploits them, a Christian culture shames them.
Let’s teach our girls to respect THEMSELVES. To know they are worth more than a hot shot and sexy pose. Let’s make sure girls know that if a boy only likes her because she puts sexy photos on Facebook, dump him! There are better guys out there!
Let’s tell our girls (just like we’ve been telling our boys) that they aren’t perfect virginal creatures that will never think of sex until their wedding night when they become tigers in the bedroom. Let’s remind them that they are visual creatures too. And they shouldn’t objectify men either.
Let’s explain to our boys that they aren’t victims of their gender. That they are capable of being civilized human beings who don’t lust over every girl who shows shoulder skin.
And ABOVE ALL ELSE, let’s not be a culture of SHAMING!
I really do believe that the parents, pastors, and leaders who are calling for this Female Modesty Revolution have the best of intentions! Especially the parents who see a hyper-sexualized world and want to protect their littles. Even though I’m not a parent, I REALLY DO UNDERSTAND!
I am just suggesting that there may be another way. A way free of shame. A way that suggests that since both males and females are made in the image of God, as our faith upholds, we are worth more than objectification.