Saturday, August 11, 2012

Moral Purity - Modesty is What We Wear, Right?

I read a blog recently about modesty.  I wasn't too surprised by this blog as I had seen these thoughts elsewhere, but I was surprised still.  Surprised that it is still out there and that women are still buying it hook, line, and sinker.  The blog post included a long checklist for dressing modestly.

I want to approach this carefully so that no one stops listening before they hear what I want to say.  This post will only have part of what I believe, so hang in there before you object.  I believe in modesty.  You may not believe I do by the end of this post, but let me assure you that I do.  But I think there is a lie hidden in posts like the one I read that is damaging to us women.  My husband firmly agrees with me - he's more adamant about it than I am.

The post talked about the typical things - hem length, skirt tightness, neck length, fabric choice, slits pinned shut, attention drawing colors, etc.  Near the end was a point to double check that your purse wasn't making you immodest by the strap lying across your chest and "accentuating your breasts".

Sigh.  I guess if I wore a purse with a strap, and it lies between my breasts and shows that indeed I have two breasts...instead....  instead of what?  An inner-tube wrapped around my chest?  I do have two breasts, as well as two ears, two kidneys, two arms, two eyes, two ovaries, two lungs.... basic biology 101.

I think women have swallowed the lie that they are responsible for the thoughts in men's minds.  With that comes a deep shame for our bodies.... because we believe that if men have a wrong thought, we (our bodies) caused that.... and we caused men to sin.

I used to believe that.  Wouldn't have put it in so many words.  Didn't completely know I believed that since I didn't think through it, but I did.

I've said before that I have lived all over the world in different cultures.  That has given me a unique ability to see different things.  Let me share some of that.

If you carry the "dress decently, and you won't cause men to sin" theology to its extreme, you will get something similar to a religion that completely covers women - so that only the eyes, or at times not even the eyes show.  I've lived in that.  I lived in it for years, and I dressed decently to their standards.  I acted decently, too - eyes down, no smiling, no contact or conversation with men.  You'd think in that situation, men's minds would be completely controlled - nothing causing them to sin.

(To all those working in those cultures, believe me, I can hear your snorts!)

I also lived in an almost opposite culture.  (My parents likely didn't know about this, so don't blame them.... ) but when my mother was sick in bed for several months, I was often cared for by the mother of my best friend in the village.  A wonderful family who took good care of me.  On bath days, she would take me to the river with her daughter.  Many families marched single file to the river.  My friend's mom stripped us down, scrubbed us with rough soap and then a rock to get all the dead skin cells off us, washed our hair and tied it in a knot on the top of our heads, smacked us playfully on our butts and told us to go play while she washed our clothes.  We played all morning in the beautiful sunshine and nothing else while our clothes dried, and then she brushed out our hair and redressed us for the trip home.  We weren't the only naked kids playing in the river.  Several families washed together, men gathered at one end of the river clearing and women at the other, neither troubled at all by the sight (from a slight distance) of naked people of the opposite gender washing.

I have both been wearing nothing but sunshine and been covered from head to toe with only my eyes peeping out.  I have been both only two short years apart (and no great change in body shape between to blame the difference on.)  If the "if we cover, we don't cause men to sin" train of thought was correct, men would have been struggling at the river bathing time and not one man would have taken a second look when I was covered to the eyeballs.

The opposite was true.  No one bothered us, no one stared, no one said anything at the river.  And I spend my whole "covered" life enduring the pinches, comments, and dirty stares of men whose thoughts were not the slightest bit controlled by what I was wearing. 

I felt more decent naked than I felt covered.

Ok, I'm not endorsing nudity, really.  :-)

But I am saying we need to stop and think what we believe.  Anytime we take responsibility for another human's thoughts, we are taking more weight than we were ever asked to carry.  And we ignore truth - that God created man - male and female - and blessed us and called us good.  I - yes, me, my body with two of many things - is good.  I've carried the shame of taking responsibility for men's thoughts long enough.  That is not my weight to carry.

What is mine to carry is my own thoughts.  They are enough to be responsible for.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Recently I was the victim of an attempted abduction. I was wearing men's knee length running shorts, an old, ratty running shirt, stained shoes, a dirty, knotty pony tail, and no makeup.

I came to realize the some people are skuzz buckets and what I wear has nothing to do with it. Old women who are shut in get raped. Women in burkas get raped. What do all of these instances have in common? Not what the women are wearing, that's for certain. The common denominator is a sicko. Nothing we do (or wear) is going to change a sicko.