A Christian Feminists’ Take on the Modesty Debacle

5 Nov

Hello Friends! Greetings from the Muhlbaier home! We’re now a happy family of five (three humans, one canine and one feline), all of whom are currently sharing my sleeping space. Therefore, any crazy typos or poorly constructed arguments can be blamed on my perpetual state of sleep deprivation. And yes, I’m going to be blaming a lot on that for as long as possible.

In the last couple years, the whole modesty issue has bubbled up and then fizzled out a couple of times. On one side you have people like the Duggars. The women in that family wear skirts knee length or lower, cover their shoulders, avoid any tops remotely low cut, etc. The even wear swimsuit dresses. I am happy to say the men in this family also practice modesty by always wearing pants (not shorts) and shirts. They believe that nothing should be worn that would cause another to lust or draw attention to the body instead of one’s countenance. And then there is the other extreme which says women should be able to wear whatever makes them comfortable and happy, and men should just learn to control themselves. Women, they believe, are not to blame for what goes on in a man’s mind. They are reacting against a culture which says women who dress provocatively are asking for sexual harassment or assault.

So who is right?

I think they both are.

From a Christian Perspective

There is only one person responsible for the decisions I make or the thoughts I entertain: ME. Men are completely capable of controlling what/whom they look at, what thoughts they allow to linger in their minds, and the decisions they make with regard to their sexuality. The expression “boys will be boys,” is utterly ridiculous. It excuses bad behavior, and, frankly, it demeans men. Men are more than capable of being self-controlled human beings. When we act like they’re not, we do them a disservice. I don’t worry about my husband committing adultery or lusting in his heart when we go out into public and a woman is scantily clad. That’s because I trust in my husband’s ability to control his actions and his thought life. If he commits a sin in that department, the responsibility is his own.

That being said, Christians are called to love one another and do everything we can to help each other grow in holiness. Sometimes we can love our brothers best by covering up. Men are bombarded with hyper-sexualized images on television, the internet, and advertisements every single day. If men are prone to lust (not being a man I cannot say if that’s more the case for them than for women), then the Christian man has to be on guard all the time so that he can control his thoughts and (it goes without saying) his actions. We love our brothers well when we dress in such a way that allows them to freely enjoy our company and friendship without being on “lust prevention duty.” I’m not saying we all need to wear a mu-mu, but common sense and a little fabric can go a long way.

From a Feminist’s Perspective

Women should be able to wear anything or next to nothing without fearing assault. Period. I was very touched by the #yesallwomen twitter campaign. It did a great job revealing the common experiences of women in the western world where sexual harassment and assault is common, and the fear of sexual harassment and assault is universal. The world shouldn’t be like this. And the way a victim dresses in no way excuses the criminals who harmed her. I dream of a world where mini-skirts don’t elicit violence, and where I don’t have to talk on the phone and put keys through my fingers every time I walk through a parking lot after dusk.

At the same time, people take notice of what we put forward. As an ardent feminist, I want women to be noticed for their minds, spirits, gifts, talents, and character. If a woman walked up to me in an outfit that revealed more of her body than it covered, I guarantee I won’t be taking notice of her intellect. That’s not because I’m a sexist big or a lusty man. It’s because I’m taking stock of how she has presented herself to me. Like it or not, the way we dress says something about us, especially in the workforce. Perhaps it shouldn’t- but it does so we have to deal with reality. I see many women (especially college-aged women) who have beautiful bodies and they dress in such a way that those beautiful figures are totally exposed. Naturally, young men flock to them (who wouldn’t?). But are these guys attracted to their minds or their behinds? Probably the latter. I also cringe when I see dozens of photos with booty shorts and midriff bearing tank tops, because I know future employers will go to these social media sites and look at everything that’s public. I know that because I’ve done it myself as an employer. So my appeal to women on this front is to dress attractively, but in such a way that people will be attracted to more than your body.

So there’s my take as a Christian and a feminists. What do you think?

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