Today I will discuss the first two points of The Modesty Myth:
- Modesty seeks to police – and control – women’s bodies.
- Modesty negatively affects men, too.
5. Modesty seeks to police – and control – women’s bodies.As an athlete in high school, I used to train year-round. That meant that come my week at camp, I’d have to wake up in the early morning to run half-mile circles around the campgrounds. I’d often finish at the lake, watching its stillness as I stretched and prayed.
“I saw you running this morning,” a much-older male leader said one day.Next time, I thought to myself, I’ll make sure I stop running if I see anyone. That way, if my sports bra is losing its elasticity, I won’t cause someone to lose their battle with lust. Or even better yet, I’ll run only in the girls’ section of camp instead of the co-ed sections. Basically, that meant only running up and down (more like climb) an enormous sledding hill – not an easy morning jog. Soon thereafter, I stopped running in the mornings.
“Oh, really?” I responded inquisitively, not realizing that I had been seen.
“I was in the [building by the lake].”
He followed-up with something along the lines of “You must be really dedicated to stay in shape like that.”
“Yeah,” I said shyly, feeling embarrassed and ashamed for some reason.
Yes, this experience was uniquely mine, but almost every woman in the world has experienced unwanted attention and/or contact of some degree. One in every three women in the world will sexually abused in her lifetime. Of college-aged women, at least one in five will be raped, most often by someone she knows and even dates. Countless girls and women are harassed on the street, bullied on the playground, and discriminated against in their workplaces and schools. And this starts even before puberty hits, before girls even transition into womanhood.
As a result, women and girls adapt to misogynistic culture in both everyday and drastic ways. A girl may begin to wear shorts under her skirts since the boys in her grade have been reaching under her friends' skirts. A girl may not go for a run before after sunset out of fear of being attacked. A woman may call a friend on the walk home from a party so she'll be expected at a certain time. A woman may wear baggier, less form-fitting clothing so as to not attract attention to herself. All of these efforts cannot prevent unwanted attention or contact. Only the person thinking about harassing or assaulting or dehumanizing a woman can prevent these actions from happening in the first place.
|example of one of the questions in the Rebelution modesty survey|
Over a year ago, The Rebelution designed and launched a survey of some 1,600 teen and twenty-something young Christian men about modesty, clothing, and women's bodies. It may not have intended to painfully legalistic (even walking a certain way was a "stumbling block"!?), but the result was an exhaustive, highly-detailed list of (im)modest clothing, behavior, even just being. Sociological Images looked into the survey, and as usual, gave some spot-on criticism of this misguided, if not staunchly sexist, survey:
“Modesty is something pertains to only girls and immodesty is something that guys get to define. This may be even more pernicious than women’s constant self-monitoring. It erases women’s own desires and the sex appeal of men’s bodies, leading women to spend all of their time thinking about what men want. By the time they do have sex, and most of them will, they may be so alienated from their own sexual feelings that they won’t even be able to recognize them.” (emphasis mine)
6. Modesty negatively affects men, too.
The author of the her.meneutics article, Sharon Hodde Miller, concludes: “"Modest is hottest' is foundationally human-centered,” and I would argue man-centered, “Whereas biblical modesty is first and foremost centered on God.” Flowing from this man-centeredness are the following ways in which The Modesty Myth hurts men. (Note: I am indebted to Sierra at No Longer Quivering for these points. For a longer explanation of each of these points, I highly recommend checking out her post. Number four is added by my husband.)
- It teaches men to be afraid of women because their sexual power is too great to be resisted.
- It teaches men to despise women and hampers their relationships.
- It teaches men to be afraid of their own bodies.
- It teaches men to internalize that they are only the sum of their sexual urges.
- It teaches men to control and criticize women in order to protect themselves.
- It teaches men to be paranoid about their sexual orientation.
- It teaches gay men that they don’t exist.
As one friend described based on her experiences at a Christian summer camp:
As soon as we got out of the pool, girls were expected to make sure they were covered up with a towel. There were not similar rules for boys. Lifeguards or camp counselors blew whistles at girls who were not adequately covered up, and instruct them to do so...Additionally, in assuming that all campers were heterosexual, it placed no onus on the boys when it came to either their modesty, or their purity of thought. In fact, by blowing whistles at girls who were not covered up enough for the camp's standards, it actually probably drew more attention to the girls, and insinuated that they sought sexual attention from the boys.