07 December 2011

My Take on Modesty

This blog post made me happy*, sad, angry, defiant, and a whole host of other emotions. I especially empathized with her plight. But I'm a woman, so why wouldn't I?

Here's the thing. I'm okay with teaching modesty. I think it's important. I'm not okay with modesty lessons that teach women to feel like this writer did. That? Is unacceptable. As the blog author notes in a follow-up; defining modest isn't easy...because it's always in terms of someone else. I'll let you read what she says. But this quote is awesome:
"Just teaching girls to cover-up is a cop-out. Covering or uncovering isn’t the issue. The issue is why we do what we do. What’s important is to fight the idea that women are objects to be looked at, and that message is reinforced, not combated, when we teach the modesty doctrine."

As for me:

Growing up, I got the LDS perspective on modesty. I heard the "men are carnal, and if they see your ankle, they'll react like it's 1805**" lectures. I heard all of them, and my already twisted brain latched on to them to some degree. I don't blame any of my body image issues on the modesty talks. It wasn't their fault; I was already a bit messed up on that account.

However, thanks to my parents, those lessons never stuck. Ever.

We were only bought modest clothes. (Except for our shorts, but YOU try finding modest shorts when you have freakishly long legs like my sister and I have! Haha.) Why were we only bought modest clothes? Because of the Temple. From a young age, my parents made the Temple a central goal for us. Why buy clothes, then, that we would just have to modify or throw away when we went to the Temple? It didn't make sense.

What this resulted in, when I did go through the Temple 3.5 years ago, was that I did not own any clothes that I couldn't still wear post-Temple covenants. All of my clothes were still appropriate. I was proud of myself, for that fact. I'd been warned by friends that my wardrobe would drastically shrink. It did not.

The other thing my parents did well -- without realizing it? -- was that modesty was also encouraged as self-respect. It was never about "men are carnal animals that you're responsible for" it was always about me. My self-worth and my self-respect were at the forefront of the teaching.

Even my brothers were encouraged to be modest. My mom never understood how it was okay for men to wear sleeveless shirts, but not women. My brothers weren't allowed to wear tank tops. They weren't allowed to wear shirts that had no sleeves. And they wore undershirts under their white shirts (because, those are, in fact, see-through, fellas! Hate to break it to you.) so that they were equally modest.

In my house modesty was for everyone, not just girls. And it was never about the other-sex's response to what we wore. I never felt that if I tried to wear a tank top my parents would chastise me with "you look like a slut in that, go cover up."

(To be quite honest, my sister and I walked around our house in jeans and our bras as we got ready in the morning. Why? Because, you try getting ready in a HOT bathroom fully dressed. And as long as we're in full-disclosure here: when we would change in front of everyone, we did get in trouble. "You're brothers/dad are here!" Yeah, and if they're staring at me..that's gross...and not my problem. They just didn't look. They didn't want to see it. It's called respect...at least in my family it is. Oh, the immodesty stories I can tell***....haha...someday...someday....)

I'm glad I had such an open/honest family. It saved me from the worst of these lectures (and so much more!). And to be fair, this isn't LDS specific (clearly!). I've heard these discussions in other religious and non-religious circles. It's an epidemic that needs to be stopped.

The way I dress does not make me the person to blame for your inability to behave/keep your thoughts in check. The way I dress is up to me, and the image I want to portray to the world. In other words, if I want people to think I'm a hipster, I'll dress like one. If I want to be taken seriously at work, I'll dress professionally and not casually. Etc. That's it.

I love clothes. I love playing with them and changing the way I look by changing my shirt. It's fun. Dressing in the morning, should be fun. You should look at yourself in the mirror and think "Damn! I look good." Without even a smidgen of regret for looking good. Because you have a right to love yourself. And that includes loving the way your clothes look on you.

*******The original blog post is great, and I'm not trying to minimize her experience or anyone who had similar experiences, just trying to offer my perspective and my experience.*******

*Happy because my parents were awesome and counter-acted problems. So I was happy that I had a good family, and then sad that others were so negatively effected by these types of lessons.
**The Shins - Turn a Square. Look it up. Love it.
***They're really great, and mostly involve me...so they're not going to be full-disclosure on other family members.

1 comment:

Brother Smyth said...

I agree that modesty is as important for guys as it is for girls. A deacon wearing a Looney Toons tie while passing the sacrament might be considered immodest, because something about his appearance draws attention away from what people should be thinking about. Wearing that tie in a different situation may not be immodest.

If you look at yourself in the mirror and your eyes are drawn to something that stands out as not in place with everything else, there's a potential for immodesty.