Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Modesty: A Subjective Model of Piety

Everyday I am reminded that I have breasts and a vagina. As if not being able to find an oxford shirt that buttons up appropriately isn't a stark enough reminder. I have to endure the ogles, the stare downs, the cat calls, the lip licking and winking of the many men on the street who think I am a female on display for the sole purpose of pleasuring man. As if I am in some sort of eye candy fashion business I am told; "Smile honey, more men would approach you..." 

Yet, the very idea of smiling to strange men on the streets elicits the horror of more unwelcomed attention. "Well, hunnie when you dress like that you are asking for it...". Today I am going to analyze this very thought. The thought that because I choose to wear a hip hugging (or short skirt or sweat pants or Mu-Mu) outfit I am asking for invitations from strange men to comment about my body.
Modesty: A Subjective Model of Piety
Let's get one thing straight. Modesty is subjective. What was immodest in 1815 is now the standard in 2015. 
For instance in the 1811 book, Mirror of Graces, the author ("a Lady of Distinction") advised: "In the morning the arms and bosom must be completely covered to the throat and wrists. From the dinner-hour to the termination of the day, the arms, to a graceful height above the elbow, may be bare; and the neck and shoulders unveiled as far as delicacy will allow."
Full floor length skirts were a must and according to Cornell University Professor, Charlotte Jirousek; "women were pushed back into a more modest role, befitting the "weaker" sex, often described as delicate, fragile, and decorative" (Kind of like today's ideology). 

According to fashion blogger, Delores Monet, In 1915, hemlines rose to mid-calf and traditionalists complained of immodesty. By 1918, skirts grew narrow again and hemlines fell to below the calf. WWI allowed women greater freedoms in apparel. By participating in wartime activities women had a new fashion trend, "Sportswear" which allowed romper-like bathing suits and skirts over pants to be worn for activities on the beach or skiing. 

Fast foward to today, 2015. Women wear short shorts, skirts, see-through dresses and low hemlines. Rihanna wore a mesh dress on the red carpet, while most of us can agree this is immodest. 
I'm pretty sure someone outside of our privileged bubble of western society who is not batting an eye.
Because modesty is subjective. 
Who in the world would think being naked under a mesh dress isn't immodest?

These woman, their people, this remote society and clan of African, Pacific Amazon ethnic groups are naked on a daily basis and no one bats an eye.

Why? Because women in these societies nakedness is not fetishsized. The more naked an ethnic group is the more moral and strict they are in matters of sexual intercourse. Modesty for these groups of people are laden in traditions of cleanliness, health, food and survival. 

Dr. Marylnn J. Horn says; "Complete nudity in itself is not erotic. It becomes so only when proceeded by or contrasted to a state of dress. In this limited context then, all clothes become somewhat immoral, if we define immorality as inciting sexual interest. Habitual nakedness may indeed be capable of elevating man to a higher mental plane..."

My daily struggle is that women are expected to be the ones to take actionable steps towards addressing the violating lustful thoughts ave urges of men. Society pegs and labels women as sex objects for the viewing and satiable pleasure of men. Men equate viewing the female body as sexual in nature. Hmm...I find it funny that women in remote ethnic societies like the Amazon, can run around the jungle with their breast and vaginas out yet no man it's ogling or cat calling or even bats an eye--think about it....

We live in this culture that fetishsizes the human body (especially women) therefore we must conform to its ideas of modesty so that we can be accepted and participate as a productive member in this society.

My point in pointing out these issues is so that we can recognize the hangups and incongruities we have on modesty and attempt to fix our mentality. 

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. -1 Peter 3:3-4
I get that. I hear you Lord. As a Christian woman I am ever seeking oneness with Jesus in all aspects of my life. I would pray that my counterpart is doing the same. But all throughout my Adventist life Ive had a pious finger pointed at me. Telling me to cover up so I dont cause the "fall of man" or "incite lustful urges". 

But what about: 

For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. -1 John 2:16

What about men praying to quell their lustful urges? Why isn't our message geared equally--if not tilted more to self denial and control of men's minds? 
The modesty message that is unproportionately been geared towards women is not working. Every year fashion gets a little more hedonistic. You cannot control what women choose to wear, but you can thwart the lust in your mind. You're going to have to deal with it.

Stop reinforcing the supposed immodest apparel with your actions and attention. There's an idea that christian men want a modest, makeup free, natural woman, buuut who are you giving your attention to? 

Women are temptresses...seizing the opportunity seduce men
Rarely is this true

Some women, like me, are experiencing the curves of their changing bodies and don't know how to dress for their new bodies....
Some women don't have money to buy new clothes....
Some women dont think its a big deal
Some women want to feel sexy....
Some like the attention...
Some come from families in which this style of dress is acceptable.
Some women do not want to conform. 

Whatever the reason may be we need to take control of the only being we can posses--our minds. 

I have 2 pieces of advice....
Ladies be more aware of your image and the culture of the people in your surrounding social life and mimic the greatness you want to be perceived as.

Men, focus your thoughts and come to the realization that you are a pawn in a sinful scheme of the distraction of man's hearts from God.

We may not want to conform but sometimes being an adult means doing things we don't like.

Let it Marinate...

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