Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How the Modesty Myth Harms Women

Danielle, who blogs over at From Two to One, has a great post today about how the modesty myth harms women. She writes:

Preaching that modesty is the new sexy isn’t counter-cultural; it’s adding fuel to the fire of telling women and girls that all that matters is how sexually available and attractive they are (or aren’t).  This is false....

Similar to the purity myth, the modesty myth teaches that covering women up and teaching them to be ever on the lookout for tempting their male peers (and even non-peers such as older men, friends of one’s father’s, male relatives, pastors, and teachers) is actually promoting respect for women and their bodies while restoring healthy relationships between men and women. Another big fat false. 

Read her whole post here. And be sure to check back throughout the week as she continues to explore ideas of modesty in a Christian context.

Source: Kevin Ohlin via From Two to One

7 comments:

  1. I recently previewed a video on sexuality I was asked to show my students (all girls, 9th grade, Catholic school). One of the thrusts of the video is that "if you want to be treated like a lady, you should look like a lady and act like a lady." Um, wtf? So if a woman doesn't dress according to certain standards, that justifies disrespectful male behavior? Seriously? Then the man in the video said, "I'm a man, and my sexuality is so visual! If you tempt me with your belly button you trick me into thinking of you as a sexual object." Ugh!

    I'm all about dressing modestly, because it's more comfortable for me. L will often complain that he can't see enough of my body, to which I reply, too bad! It works both ways--dress how you want! B-)

    Bex

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  2. Ugh. That is ridiculous. I think this idea of "but I'm so visual I can't help it!" is hugely problematic. It's the same logic that gets used to justify rape. And no matter how many times people (mostly men) say this is actually showing respect for women, saying it is women's fault when we're treated like sex objects, instead of putting any of the blame on men themselves for thinking of women as sex objects, is ridiculous.

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    1. Yes! I write about this later in the week, as well. I think that theory also harms men because it tells them they are really only the sum of their sexual urges. Also, what if men aren't as visual as their partners? Then are they not manly enough? It's just yet again another tactic used to control women's bodies.

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  3. I have a story that I tell semi-frequently in discussions about being socially "controlled" and having my voice taken away.

    I started developing secondary sex characteristics really early. What this meant was that I got boobs when I was 8 and in 3rd grade. During recess one day, my high school principal pulled me aside and informed me that I would have to start wearing a bra because I was "distracting." At the time I didn't really think about how this was doing violence against me, but I remember being very upset about it. I think I mostly just didn't want to wear a bra.

    But what I think about now is what the context was like. I am a very aware person, and I know when people are paying attention to my body and when they are not. I knew when the boys noticed my boobs, and it wasn't in 3rd grade. In 3rd grade, the only person who might've been aware of boobs as more than just a body part that girls have and boys don't was my male teacher.

    Sometimes I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and tell my principal, "Why is another person's distraction my problem?"

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  4. Katelyn - Thanks for sharing your story! I think it raises the problem of how women and girls are consistently shouldered with the responsibility of managing other people's distractions/issues/sexualizing tendencies. Also the idea of who gets to define what is "sexual" or "immodest." I raised this issue on Danielle's blog, that one of the biggest problems for me with modesty culture is that it is rarely women themselves who get to define it. But rather men.

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    1. One of my solutions is for older women to serve as mentors to younger women, especially those in their pre-teen and teen years. The women would come together and discuss which types of clothing we were to attract other's attention mainly, rather than wearing because it makes us feel good or because it's our style. The teens learn that it's about self-worth, personal style, but not about "preventing their brothers in Christ from sinning." One of my biggest issues with how my camp taught modesty is that the leaders (male and female, but mostly male) would say X article of clothing is distracting and immodest, so don't wear it. But oftentimes, the high school students themselves didn't find it all that distracting. So the hyper-focused attention on that type of clothing, even if it wasn't meant to be immodest, became attached to either being modest/pure or immodest/wanting sexual attention.

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  5. I am Catholic, and what I take modesty to mean is tht men and women should not act or dress in a certain way with the intention of causing lust.

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