Originally uploaded: 18th December 2018
So one night at a youth debrief, it was brought up that we probably need to talk to the girls about modesty. * Take note it was just the girls * Why? Because one of our girls came to youth wearing her bra over her t-shirt. One of the male youth leaders pointed out that he noticed a lot of our male youth stared at her because of this and that when we talk about sex and relationships we need to include a talk about modesty. A female youth leader then agreed - as did a majority of the youth and emerging leaders - and said that it’s important because when she was a youth she didn’t recognise that how she dressed interfered with her Christian brother’s faith.
I’ve heard it before, I’ve been brought up by the notion but when I heard it on this particular night the thought lingered and made me feel uncomfortable (this is in no disrespect to the people that said these things but I just disagreed with them and wished I had said something rather than sit in silence). I was disturbed because it seemed that everyone was concerned about the boys rather than the girl – and I know for a fact she was only doing it to be fashionable.
If you still don’t understand why I was so shocked let me say it again in plain terms. They were basically saying that a man’s faith is in direct correlation with how a woman dresses. A man will fall into sexual temptation because a woman dressed a certain way. Not because he wants to or is thinking about it but because of the woman. Therefore it is her Christian duty for the sake of her Christian brothers to dress with modesty.
Two issues I have with this: 1. If we do take this logic as fact we are minimalizing and overly simplifying men by ignoring the cognitive and emotional aspects that do come into play when responding to stimulus (for my psychologists think behaviourism and Pavlov’s dogs). 2. We are putting way too much pressure on women to dress in a way that is appropriate and most of the time these standards, for the church especially, are set by men.
The effect of these issues are damaging. For starters it seems that the church is praising and acknowledging male sexuality and disregarding women. But also it seems that we are feeding into rape culture. This seems extreme but how many times have we heard the excuse of ‘if she didn’t want it, then she shouldn’t have dressed like that.’
This is a societal issue as well an issue within the church but for the sake of this blog post I would like to focus on the church. Growing up as a young woman, we are already self-conscience of our bodies so it can be crushing when someone tells you to cover your arms or not wear that top because your bra strap is showing.
I believe in wearing what you feel comfortable in and for me I feel comfortable in a baggy hoodie and some leggings. But sometimes I want to wear a denim skirt and a crop top and I shouldn’t have to measure the length of my skirt with a ruler, worried that if it were a millimetre too short I would be the reason why my Christian brother stumbled in his faith.
I do believe we should teach our girls about modesty but not in a way that is condemning. I believe we need to uplift our girls and teach them that they are daughters of the most high God. That they are beautiful and that their bodies are beautiful in whatever shape and size it comes in. I believe we should teach our girls to dress in a way that is comfortable for them and not to impress boys. I believe we should teach our girls to dress in a way that reflects that they are valuable and amazing and that there is more to them than what meets the eye.
However, I also believe we need to re-evaluate the way we teach our boys. We need to teach them to not look at girls as sexual objects but as equals. We need to teach our boys that they cannot use girls as scapegoats for their lustful thoughts and to take responsibility for their thoughts and their actions. Lustful thoughts do not merely occur because of a woman’s chose of clothes. There is a thought, there is a choice, there is an action. But what we forget to teach our boys is that there is a consequence. Teach them about the consequences.