On modesty and Christian culture

I’m going to open this post with a description of a scene from Mistresses.  

Not too long ago an episode aired that featured a moment where Joss--one of the series' main characters--was is in an elevator along with a woman and her son.  The son--a boy of about 10--was staring. Joss was wearing one of her infamous short skirts. The mother decided to make a comment.

Mother: Get a longer skirt.

Joss: Get a taller child.

Christians, I think the time has come for some of us to get a little taller. Let’s elevate the level of our discussions regarding modesty.

Yesterday I read this article. Although written by a man, the bulk of the author’s argument focused on women. I was bothered by what I read, and sent the people at Her.meneutics a tweet. They responded politely. However I wondered if they understood why I was upset. Hence, this post. I felt the need to elaborate on my perspective.

Firstly, the article told me nothing new about the so-called battle that human beings face concerning modesty. In fact, it managed to reinforce old stereotypes.

We all have impulses that, left unchecked, could run us into the ground. Some days I feel like eating ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But I know what would happen if I tried. Like it or not, whether you're talking about diet or physical attraction, the need for self-discipline is a part of life. The use of scripture in essays on modesty does nothing to disguise attempts to blame women for (some) men’s immaturity.

A few passages from the article irked me:

I'm going to encourage my daughters to dress appropriately because modesty is  the loving prerogative of the mature.  [Later on, modesty is referred to as] the loving prerogative of the strong.

Samantha wrote a post where she expressed her concerns about Mr. Chin’s diction. I share a few of her sentiments.

What is Mr. Chin trying to say about those who do not dress modestly? Are they immature and weak? On one hand I believe Mr. Chin had good intentions. I think that he probably wanted to inspire readers to take the high road and be more careful regarding the way they dress. However, the words that he chose also have the power to condemn those who do not meet his criteria--whatever said criteria may be.

Still, for many people, the bodies of others are tempting and cause them to think about that person in an objectified, sexualized light.

Here’s the thing about lust: Everybody is attracted to somebody. Everyone has a “type” or trait(s) that they consider sexy. And who knows what it takes to turn on a stranger?

Also, let's get down to the nitty-gritty of the matter. People have fetishes. They can be turned on by the most unlikely things. Meanwhile, I have no intention of not wearing flip-flops lest I run into a podophile.

When individuals obsessively consider the comfort of others, they risk displacing their own.

You see, in the sinful weakness of the male spirit, men often see the beauty of the female form and transform it into something base and soulless.

Look. I’ll admit it. I think that everyone should realize that when they dress, depending on who they are around, they risk being sexualized. Yet the range of what constitutes risqué attire can be a very slippery slope. (See my response to the previous quote.)

Furthermore, it is not a woman’s fault that perverts exist. If a man lusts after a woman to the point where he chooses to objectify her, that is his problem.

[On being mindful of modesty:] I see it as a gesture of Christian love, like someone turning down a cold beer for a Pepsi, all because they know that their friend is struggling with alcoholism.

How are women people supposed to know whether or not a man an individual is “struggling”? On one hand, I might not feel comfortable wearing shorts around someone knowing that he might try to assault me.

On the other, if a man is prone to getting turned on at the sight of a woman's bare legs...Well...

I almost hate to have to bother saying it. But getting turned on is like sneezing and laughing. It happens.

***

Early in his article, Mr. Chin quoted a segment of the Bible. A portion of his chosen passage caught my eye:

The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them...Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.

(emphasis added)

I could easily interpret that text to support my argument. I could very easily say that those who dress conservatively should refrain from condemning those who do not. After all, “God has accepted them.”

Ultimately, I think that there are serious problems with attempts to impose modesty-related rules. There seems to be an emphasis on manipulating people's emotions through the use of hyperbole and impractical suggestions. I also notice that women are given constant reminders to beware of their “weaker brother(s)”. Instead, why not encourage people to take responsibility for their sexuality--a term that encompasses not only their orientation, but their urges?

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