So, it's been a week. Like, an up in arms, on my soapbox, do I really have to address this kind of stuff, week. Things have happened to get my feminist/humanist/Christian self all out of sorts. Shall I tell you about? Of course I shall.
If you are a moderately regular reader of this blog, you'll already be aware of some of my views on modesty and female sexuality, and how very frustrating I find it to live in the sort of culture that I do. Attendant to those views are my issues with the way we establish roles based solely on gender here. It's difficult and tiresome to always be the one swimming against the current, and I'm not joking when I say that sometimes, i wish I could see the world the way some of these people do, because I think it must be a lot easier.
So, what got me bothered this week? Well, let me tell you.
The first thing was a talk given by one of the higher ups in my church about modesty and sexuality. Don't get me wrong, I agreed with much of what he said. But there was as certain section that just raised my hackles. And, of course, it was about modesty. It's always back to that. Female modesty. We are OBSESSED with it.
Here is the quote that made me very discouraged...And the linky, if you want to read the whole thing-
The Lord's Standard....
Really? I mean, REALLY? Are we still here? Have we not gotten beyond this line of thinking? I'm so bothered by this.
Now, before you ask, what has me bothered...let me tell you. First, is the focus on women only. Women are not the only immodest creatures in the world, trust me. Second, is the OBVIOUS implication that the way a woman (or girl) dress is the reason men and boys have naughty thoughts. And lastly, that a girl gets the kind of husband she dresses for. Wow. Just...wow. Oh, the poor young man who is trying to be pure and the naughty, horrid girl who is preventing him.
Anyway, the whole thing had me bent. I'm sarcastic and hot tempered and I rant on my blog, so I am going to link you to a wonderful post about it, in which the writer is much more level headed than I am, and addresses my points.
Modest is not Hottest
There are a few points in there that don't particularly describe me, primarily the fact that I've never been uber-modest. Modest, yes, but not super modest. And modest for one reason, and one reason only. Me and the respect I have for my SELF.
So, I posted both articles on FB and the response was about what I had expected. Then one of my friends posted the second link and the conversation took a rather different turn than I had expected. A very, very good turn, if you ask me.
So, the gentleman who reposted the article is a friend of mine from college. I've known him for a longtime and he is a wonderful human being. Hopefully he won't mind being quoted on my blog...
He says this.
There's another point that I hadn't realized until about a year or so ago. Which is that both "modesty" and "virtue" have nothing to do with sex in their original definitions. We've sexualized them. Modesty is simplicity and moderation... freedom from vanity. Virtue is moral excellence, goodness. Nothing about sex in either one until we put it there. It's like we're fetishizing moral behavior.
We've sexualized the word "virtue" until it's become synonymous with sexual purity. Which becomes a problem for anyone who has been violated or who perhaps has gone down a side road on their journey to redemption.
I think we equate desire with something bad. It's not bad. And women feel it, too. We program young women to think that they aren't affected by visual stimuli, but that's not what the science is. So they end up getting sideswiped by something that they aren't even aware is a problem.
One of the things I wanted to mention is about this idea that the way that a woman dresses and lust (as expressed by forcible sex--which is a whole 'nother conversation for a different day) are somehow connected. They aren't. In countries where burkas are required as standard dress for women, rape is a huge issue, and I'm not sure how you could possibly cover up more than they do. Whereas in some European countries that are very lax about their dress (even going so far as to come to the door naked), rape is much less of a concern. Practically nonexistent. And here is where I need to be careful. Rape is a huge problem. It's also statistically an issue for far less women that the issue of feeling that they are somehow responsible for the way men feel about them. That's nearly universal. And that attitude is one that can create in women a vibe which predators can sense, and a mentality on which they can feed. Anytime a woman's dress is linked to a man's carnal nature, as if one naturally follows the other, we are telling our daughters two things. One, that they are (even in a small way) accountable for the actions of others. Which I see as patently false. Two, that men are base and evil. We aren't. Yes, we can choose to be so, and perhaps many do. But women are just as capable of strong sexual desire. And the problem with thinking that women don't have desires is that we are telling them (without meaning to) that they aren't supposed to. So they feel either that this desire makes them an aberration when they feel it, or they cram those desires down to the point that they can't feel it at all. Which keeps them from having a healthy, open sexual relationship with someone when the time comes. There's so much more that I want to express, but my words feel so inadequate. The main thing, I think, is to really listen to the women around us.To really try to empathize with what they're feeling. They're telling us that they feel marginalized, more and more as the years go by. So what would happen if we trusted that they aren't just overreacting? What if we didn't just dismiss the concerns as if they should just "get over them". I'm not saying that you're doing that. I've just seen WAY too much of it from many men who think of themselves as kind and loving people. We need to step up and be better.
The last part is the part I really love, and directly addresses part of what has bothered me so greatly in the past.. "What would happen if we trusted that they aren't just overreacting?" Because, I can't even tell you how many times I have been told that, that I'm overreacting. That boys will be boys. That men are just visual creatures and if I don't want those kind of remarks, I shouldn't dress the way I do. It would be different if it were a once in a while thing, but it isn't. It's a barrage. ALL THE TIME.
I signed up on a dating site, you can check out my other blog if you want some stupid dating horror stories, but one of the things I was told, by more than one guy was that one of my pictures was the one that was inviting the sex comments. INVITING THE SEX COMMENTS. It says, RIGHT ON MY PROFILE, that if you are trolling for sex, this is not the place to find it. I took the pic down. Sure enough, the sex comments decreased. BUT, and here's the kicker. The dress I was wearing was not immodest. Not at all. It was fitted, yes, but not tight. Knee length. Sleeves. High neck. Yep, I'm curvy. And I have red hair. I see no reason to hide or change these things. God gave me this body, and it's a rather good one. I like it, I respect it and, while I don't feel the need to flaunt it, no more do I feel the need to hide it.
Once upon a time, when I was previously in the dating pool, I met a guy at church. One night, he decided it would be fun to try and get it on with me, and he wasn't gentle. Fortunately, he was a small guy and easily fended off. As I showed him the door, he turned to me and said, "you shouldn't have been such a tease." What? "That outfit you were wearing at church, you were advertising." And then he left. I was horrified. Could I have been sending that message? Could it be MY FAULT that he thought it would be ok to do that? I thought back to what I had been wearing, and fortunately, realized, that HELL NO, it wasn't my fault. And, in case you wondered, I was wearing a burgundy ribbed turtleneck sweater, an ankle length black skirt and black knee high boots. I was covered from neck to toe. The only skin showing was my hands and head. So, no, don't tell me the way I was dressed was the problem.
No, kids, the problem isn't me. And the problem isn't the girl in the bikini. Or the girl in the burqa. Nope. The problem is the person having the immodest thoughts.
Now, I have a degree in Costume Design, so believe me when I say that I am aware that clothing can evoke a certain reaction, as a designer, I use that fact to tell a story. BUT, that being said, YOU are responsible for YOUR reaction. Your impure thoughts are not my fault.
Here are a couple more comments from the Facebook thread-
Here's the thing: many women don't care what you think of what they're wearing and that's just the direction that we should want our daughters (and sons) to be headed in. I had a visceral reaction to your "changing attraction" diatribe but I'm going to try to make my response direct and short. Self-assured women wear (and do and say and eat and...) what they want for many complicated reasons, but I'm GUESSING that it has very little to do with "the *effects* provocative clothing has" on you and what you might think of them...
And this one-
I dress modestly. But I do it for myself and God, as a sign of respect. If I were to think of men and their reactions to my body as I dressed myself, I would be objectifying myself. And if I were to objectify myself everyday while I got dressed, it would make it very easy to accept men objectifying me--in fact, I would expect it.
That's really what it boils down to. It isn't about anyone else. And stop marginalizing my anger at it. It's real. This attitude is so incredibly destructive to women and men. Girls AND boys. Let's stop objectifying our girls, shall we?
And, as a small reminder, though perhaps men are more "visually stimulated" than women, as a general rule, you can in now way expand this to mean that women are not visually stimulated. A well put together, fashionable man will make me want to stare, every single time. And possibly have carnal thoughts. Not because HE'S being immodest. That's on me. Every time I have those thoughts.. Women and girls have sex drives. If we didn't, well, that would be a big problem. We do. And I'm tired of being made to feel that not only should I not have one, but that I'm also responsible for the fact that his goes into overdrive when I wear a cute purple dress...