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why I don’t like the term “modesty”

As I was walking home from dropping off my daughter at school yesterday I stopped to pin up my hair and thought to myself how I need to get in to get it thinned because it’s getting really thick again. This thought let me somehow to think about all the religious sects that have rules about women’s hair. Which then led me to think about the concept of “modesty” in general. And as I pondered all of these things, I finally figured out why I can’t stand the typical conservative Christian teachings about women’s appearance that go on all over the world in youth groups and Bible studies and women’s ministries every week…the whole point of these “lessons” teaches girls/women that our bodies do not in any way belong to us.

We are taught not to wear certain things, TO wear certain things, not to do certain things with hair and accessories and makeup - why? Because of men. Because our bodies exist for the purpose of sex. We are supposed to cover them up properly to keep men turned off and unveil them properly for our husbands to turn them on. According to some high profile teachers in Christianity, the way we women look can make or break our husband’s integrity and even define his ministry. We can lead men to look at porn and “fall into lustful thinking”.

What’s that message again? Your body is not your own. It belongs to society, it belongs to the men and everything you do with your body needs to be with the men in mind.

So, I’m just gonna say what I think about that because, well, that’s the kind of mood I’m in. That’s sick. And for Christianity to perpetuate this is even more sick.

We need to be teaching our girls healthy ego when it comes to their bodies, healthy self identity and individuality. We need to teach our girls who they are as unique creations of a loving God and the beauty of their whole person. I truly, honestly believe that if we do this properly, we will not have to have all this talk about modesty and lessons on “how not to dress like a prostitute” that serve only to bring oppression, shame and dysfunction.


  1. Geoff — October 10, 2007 #

    It seems to be the way that the church works when we miss the point. Rather than object to the claim that the culture makes (in this case - “a woman’s body exists to be a sexual object”), we go in to harm avoidance mode, and as a result manage to support the assertion we ought to be fighting.

    Certainly has me thinking, as always from you Makeesha!

  2. Mak — October 10, 2007 #

    then I’ve done my job hehe.

    you know, to be honest, it was one of those things that always bugged me and I wasn’t sure specifically why and then it hit me - because they’re making it all about the man! OHHHH!!! yes, that’s it!

    anyway, thanks for your comment geoff - - it’s very true that we do that in most religious systems I imagine.

  3. Tia Lynn — October 10, 2007 #

    When I was fifteen, I went to work at a camp in Kentucky with my youth group. Kentucky in July is HOT and HUMID. The girls were required to wear “long shorts” that come down to the middle of the calf, and shirts with sleeves that came down to the middle of the fore-arm, and everything baggy, so we would not “stumble” anyone. However, the boys walked around in wife-beaters and some were shirtless. It’s as if christian culture believes only men are sexual creatures and that a woman could never have a “lustful” thought at the sight of the man. I wonder if women started playing the “stumbling card” on men and restricted their clothing and hair…I wonder how that would turn out? :)

    I’ll be honest. I don’t think christians should be walking around like hoochi mamas..but i think the better approach to achieve that end would be to teach women to embrace their bodies and respect the beauty of the human body, and the problem would take care of itself. All this nonsense about hair in a bun, wearing socks with stockings and skirts down to the floor, with clothes two or three times a girl’s size is just ridiculous.

  4. Mak — October 10, 2007 #

    I agree Tia, I am CONVINCED that that is true…all things being equal of course. And obviously I’m speaking to the heart of the matter, the marrow of this issue… the nuances don’t escape me I’m just choosing to let them be what they are and speak to this deeper matter instead.

  5. Jonas Lundström — October 10, 2007 #

    I see your point, but I wonder, wouldn´t it be possible to turn this argument upside down? Actually, some feminists (for example Ruether if I remember rightly) has argued that women have to be sexually appealing because of the patriarchal structures. Almost every woman I know (Sweden) wear jewelry and the like, but it seems totally acceptable for men not to wear this. Why? If women have to wear special things to feel accepted, like you explain, shouldn´t this also be applied to jewelry etc?

  6. Steve Sensenig — October 11, 2007 #

    As a man, I completely agree. I’m tired of hearing women made to feel like it is all their fault if a guy “stumbles”. As far as I’m concerned, it is men buying into the very fashionable “victim mentality” in our culture.

    I, as a man, need to respect a woman for who she is (especially if she is a sister in Christ) and not force her to be my conscience or protection.

    Does that make sense? Good post.

  7. Steve Sensenig — October 11, 2007 #

    Another comment was coming in as I posted mine. When I said I agree, I was referring to the original post.

  8. Mak — October 11, 2007 #

    Jonas - In my original post I’m referring more to the rules religious institutions put on women related to modesty. The problem I have with it is that they whole concept of modesty in this context revolves around the men. The lesson that is taught is this “what you do with your body is not about you, it’s about the men”

    I don’t have a problem with “modesty” in general (although I would rather use a different word), I just have never heard it spoken of outside this context.

    Now, I see how what you’re saying can relate to this (because it comes from failing to instill in women healthy identity), and often does - but here’s where the subtle difference comes in as far as I see it.

    I as a woman with a healthy ego (healthy enough as far as I can see anyway hehe) can choose to wear certain clothes, do my hair a certain way and wear certain accessories for my own satisfaction and also to bring pleasure to others (like my husband) or even draw attention to myself in the way I desire. The way I do this is going to involve my context - (in America, “sexy” is going to look different than in Africa), my personality, the situation, etc.

    I DO think that much of the “rules” of society are created patriarchal constructs but many of them have also just been adapted into our cultural psyche and aren’t necessarily “bad” - they just “are”.

    I see this as a different issue than the modesty issue within religious institutions (fundamentalism in particular)

  9. Ryan — October 11, 2007 #

    Preach it, Mak!

    A woman’s body is not a light switch.

  10. Mak — October 11, 2007 #

    Thank you Steve, yes, makes total sense.

    Thanks Ryan, good metaphor - - or is that bad metaphor? hehe

  11. Jonas Lundström — October 11, 2007 #

    Mak. Good clarification. And I agree with you. I think. Still, sometimes we can be too quick to judge “fundamentalists”. If a hutterite (anabaptist) woman wear a (I can´t find the word, but the thing on the head) and the hutterite men don´t, then we assume that they are oppressed. But if an “english” woman wear make-up, and not the men, we think that she is just freely expressing her true self. But are we judging rightly?
    When I have said this, I want to clarify that I still like your criticism regarding fundamentalist religion. Keep it coming.

  12. Mak — October 11, 2007 #

    yes, I see what you’re saying.

    I can only speak of my experience with fundamentalism within Christianity in the narrow scope of where I’ve been.

    I’m not sure I would judge the Hutterites or Amish as oppressed necessarily but the attitudes that lead to those sorts of “laws” within ANY community CAN BE oppressive. And Hutterite and Amish men have clothing rules too. From my understanding, their clothes rules have more to do with humility and simple living. I’m not a big fan of any of those sorts of “laws” but I’m not including them in my generalizations necessarily.

    I do understand your point about makeup and jewelry. Thanks for the feedback :)

  13. Anna — October 11, 2007 #

    I see what you’re saying, but I think the truth remains - our bodies our NOT our own. We have been bought with a price, and we are to glorify God with our bodies. That includes how we portray ourselves to others. Like it or not, we have an affect on others, and we can serve them through modesty. I also believe that modesty is empowering to women, not stifling when it is done in the right way.

    (came here through “all said and done”)

  14. Mak — October 11, 2007 #

    Thanks for your thoughts Anna. Welcome.

    I do believe we can glorify God with our bodies but I disagree that doing that and “serving others through modesty” is a healthy approach.

    I also believe that “modesty” is a contrived concept and we have to accept it as such if we are even to have a healthy view of it. the HOW of defining modesty is for a whole other post though. For example, on your blog, many would say your profile picture is immodest and flirtacious to the point of being “wrong”. Many would say that shirt you’re wearing is immodest. They would define them that way as seen through the lens of the man - not through the lens of you and your body belonging to you.

    …but really, that cuts to the heart of my post, I personally reject the notion of defining modesty in terms of what we wear and how we do our hair. I reject any idea of modesty that sets up law that serves to generate shame.

    I am fully convinced that if we start with the heart of identity, we as women will present ourselves externally in a way that glorifies God and respects the other…but that MUST be defined by the woman and God, not by men and society or church institutions. We cannot start with end and work backward creating laws to modify behavior if we hope to do it well.

    The point of my post was to point out that the reason church leaders start with the end and create behavior modification rules is because there is a sinful (meaning, corrupted by the sickness of sin), deep seeded belief that a woman’s body does not belong to her (or her and God if you prefer) but to men and society….which is why the rules are created.

  15. Christy Fritz — October 11, 2007 #

    i think the idea we are helping someone out by dressing a certain way, ends up being self-serving… or at least it did for me…
    the only issue here IMO is finding security and identity in who we are in christ… that will produce a humility in spirit that will take care of any “issues” including how we may choose to dress.
    i’ve dressed a certain way ( which some, including my older brother found to be immodest )for attention and security. i then got all legalistic and dressed another way (skirts to my ankles and such) for the same reasons… to help myself feel better…i loved the idea that i could do something to help someone else not stumble. but guess what, that’s just not true, we all make our own decisions regardless of others. i’m not saying we don’t have influence but it’s a fine line before you start thinking you are responsible for someone else’s behavior. that’s just not true. that is the game we play,at times, i think when we are insecure, no matter which gender.
    how we dress is really never the issue… i totally agree, the focus always needs to be the heart.

    i was never more sure of that till i faced my judgemental attitude about how women dress at our new church. i still fight it. it has taken me a while to jump off the modesty bandwagon, and get my vision clear.
    thnks for your thoughts.

  16. Tracy — October 11, 2007 #

    I just stumbled upon your blog and say a big AMEN to what you wrote. It is something I have often thought about and you expressed it very well.

  17. Dianne — October 11, 2007 #

    Yeah good thoughts here. The over-emphasis on modesty makes me nervous, because it’s another way for a woman to put a “notch in the tree” so to speak, something they can point to as proof or something. Been there done that and I realized it was a problem when i found our women within our institution focusing on what other women were wearing. Modest was not enough. Skirts to the ankles were not enough, they had to be full. Culottes were not enough, they had to be pleated like a skirt. Shirts without writing were not enough, they had to be . . . you get my drift. So it became a hierarchal way of measuring separation. So far from the heart of the issue - which is the heart. If people are focusing on the heart, listening to God, etc. and valuing who they are in Christ, this stuff will take care of itself.

    Oh yeah, and I also realized that no one EVER stopped me in a mall while I was wearing my goofy long skirt and tennis shoes with socks and asked “What must I do to be saved?”!!

  18. Dan Brennan — October 11, 2007 #

    Hey Mak,

    I loved this post.

  19. Paul — October 11, 2007 #

    Thanks Mak, I think that this is worth pausing on - in a recent report that says 20% of teenage girls self harm because they feel unattractive there is a whole bigger question of what is a helpful and healing message to women - parts of the church don’t have it, most of our western world doesn’t have it either… we have so distorted our image of what it is to be a woman that people are literally hating and harming their own flesh…

  20. Geoffrey — October 11, 2007 #

    Great post and discussion. It all hits the right points. I wish I could do this kind of thing . . .

  21. Tia Lynn — October 11, 2007 #

    Hey, I changed my URL to:


  22. Mak — October 11, 2007 #

    Thanks everyone for your comments. I appreciate the feedback and stories and encouragement :)

    I also think this transcends the idea of “modesty” being a heart issue - - it is. But it goes deeper than that. WHY do we want women to be “modest from the heart”? THAT’s the motivation I’m feeling uncomfortable with. It’s kind of hard to articulate.

  23. Mak — October 11, 2007 #

    welcome Tracy!

  24. Ashley — October 12, 2007 #

    Thanks, Makeesha..this is such an important point! It’s terrible to grow up feeling your body is a shameful, sin-causing thing. On the one hand, obviously, I’d like to not do anything overtly sexual and inappropriate that would cause my male friends to be uncomfortable…

    …but at the same time, I can’t be responsible for those who have greater than average trouble with their thought lives. If I made myself accountable for everyone else’s problems, I’d be too weighed down to live in freedom myself. It *feels* like a boundary issue. I can’t make myself responsible for struggles that just don’t belong to me.

  25. Ashley — October 12, 2007 #

    Mind if I link this post? :-)

  26. Mak — October 12, 2007 #

    thanks Ashley, I agree about the boundaries issue. But I have to come back to the original point - it’s not about “them” anyway.

    now, don’t get me wrong, I think America is too individualistic in many ways but we’re individualistic in the ways we shouldn’t be and not communal in the ways we should.

    no need to ask, you can link any time

  27. anon — October 12, 2007 #

    No doubt women have been and are oppressed in the name of Christianity, but I think your vine might be swinging the wrong direction on this one. The “fix” is not to insist that the woman’s body “belongs” to her, but to remind married women AND men that their bodies really belong to each other. That seems to be Paul’s contention in 1 Corinthians 7 (v4 and context). Single or married, female or male, the body belongs to the Lord. For the married this means they have yielded authority to each other.

    Too often Christendom has oppressed women and not required anything of men. Both of these are great evils remedied not just by teaching women the “beauty of their whole person”, but by teaching men and women alike of their identity in Christ and their responsibility (including in their bodies) to their Lord, His church, and each other.

  28. Mak — October 12, 2007 #

    Anonymous LOL…well done with the play on words, too bad you keep yourself anonymous so you can’t get props.

    I would not disagree that married people should keep in mind their mutual responsibility to exalt the other above him/herself and to be mindful that they are, as individuals, one with Christ and together one with Christ (there we go with that mystery thing that we see in the trinity). However, I think it’s irresponsible to make a blanket teaching without proper context and warning that women and men should yield their bodies to the other - - many abuses have taken place using that as an excuse.

    My point actually still remains and as far as I can tell is not at odds with yours necessarily.

    Paul’s contention, if taken in the Spirit instead of as a “letter of the law”, does not point in any way to condoning an attitude that speaks to women’s bodies as if they belong to men and to society.

    Also, keep in mind that I’m speaking to the whole of society, not just Christians. To tell those who are not Christians that their bodies belong to Christ would not only be ill advised but errant. I’m also not speaking to married people exclusively and even if I were, my point would still remain. Do I dress a certain way because it pleases my husband? yes but not at the exclusion of my own style and tastes. If my husband talked to me about a certain outfit and explained that he didn’t like it and why, I probably wouldn’t wear it…because I love my husband and I know that he doesn’t objectify me to the level that most of society does. That’s a totally different thing than what I’m talking about.

    This is sort of an initial “a-ha” moment so if I’m unclear I apologize.

    We as Christians have a responsibility to be light - not light under a basket (inside the walls of church) but everywhere. I encounter girls and women constantly in my daily life - the question is, how am I incarnating Christ in the area of empowering girls and women in their identity.

    Thanks for the comment, but for the record, I get a little irritated with anonymous posts…I let this one through but it’s my general practice to delete them esp. when they break the rules and use false emails.

  29. Dan — October 12, 2007 #

    This does have quite the implication for missology too. That is why i am an advocate for sending missionaries to african and south american tribes and teach the women to cover themselves up regardless of their 1000 years of cultural wears. If they are having their breasts hang out, no wonder we need to go spread the word….. right…. because all those men will stumble….
    Oh wait, that’s right this idea of dress is a cultural construct and isn’t nessessiarily a biblical construct. Possibly we should look at the context that Paul was writing and not the letter of the law.
    I am amazed at some of the implicit disregard to your original point that this idea of modernity places the blame of Men’s thoughts and actions on women, and not looking at the root issue of why we have created a culture, and endorsed it, that absolves men of responcibility and views women as objects to be bought and sold, and dressed up as one’s own little Barbie doll and all in the name of “modesty.”
    But thankfully, Paul knew that the Ancient Near Eastern dress code was long skirts, head coverings, and nothing lower than the neck-line.

  30. Mak — October 12, 2007 #

    LOL yes indeed dan

    I like how you put this:

    this idea of modernity places the blame of Men’s thoughts and actions on women, and not looking at the root issue of why we have created a culture, and endorsed it, that absolves men of responcibility and views women as objects to be bought and sold, and dressed up as one’s own little Barbie doll and all in the name of “modesty.”

  31. Nicest Girl — October 12, 2007 #

    Good post. ^_^ It is important for women to grow up knowing that their bodies belong to them (I’ll omit the religiosity since it varies) and not the men that surround them. It is not a woman’s fault if men can not contain themselves and women should not have to alter their daily lives (sometimes to the point of absurdity) so as not to make men “uncomfortable”.
    It’s always good to see that there are other ladies out there coming to this realization who will raise their girls without the “your body is shameful” schtick. ^_~

  32. Isaac — October 12, 2007 #

    You don’t like the term “modesty”.

    What about the concept? You got a problem with that too?

  33. Mak — October 12, 2007 #

    that question feels combative but I’ll answer it because the question behind the tone is valid.

    yes, actually I do have a problem with modesty as a concept as it has been presented to me in an american conservative evangelical context…because again, as I said in my original post, the concept revolves around what women need to do in regard to appearance BECAUSE OF MEN. It’s the giving away of a woman’s body to men and society that I have a problem with and making religious rules from that place of objectification.

    and again, emails addresses on comments need to be valid please.

  34. Dan — October 12, 2007 #

    So i just realized the reason that I don’t walk around with my junk hanging out is because I don’t want women to stumble and nothing to do with the fact that I just don’t like to walk around with my junk hanging out. It has nothing to do with it isn’t attractive, and appropriate as dictated (wow, that’s freudian) by social norms of western society that it just isn’t appropriate.
    So why is the endorsed “modesty” of evangelical Chistendom different. It isn’t about social contract with the larger culture, but it is taught that Women have a magical control over my actions, emotions, feelings, psyche, and thus as victims of objectification are the culprits too.
    Hmm… I think i will take responcibility for my own actions, thoughts, and beliefs and stop blaming the victim.
    Since when was blaming the victim the “Christian” thing to do?
    So yes as a man, I have issue with the term “Modesty” and the false and demeaning concept that my Church has unfortunatly forced on the wonderful women in our Fold and out of the fold.

  35. Dan — October 12, 2007 #

    oh, and by “Church” I mean the western evangelical Christian Protestant Church, as that is who I identify myself as. Just wanted to clarify that about my comment above.

  36. Mak — October 12, 2007 #

    well spoken dan, very well spoken.

  37. Isaac — October 12, 2007 #

    So again, the instruction of the Apostle is trumped by “how it has been presented to me in an american conservative evangelical context”.

    Gotta tellya, that doesn’t seem too bright as a justification for disobedience.

    I pity your daughters.

  38. Mak — October 12, 2007 #

    I’m not really sure how to respond to that Isaac. So I guess I’ll just let it stand on it’s own merit. I also want to warn you that since you are using an invalid email I will from this point on block you from commenting until you use a valid email…and if you persist I will ban your IP.

  39. Dan — October 12, 2007 #

    I am saddend to see that this thread has gotten to the evils of personal attacks. What hatred can be spewed by claiming to “pity” one’s daughters. There is no excuse for that blatent vile pejorative even when one disagrees with someone’s point of view. You ruin any credibility you may have. Please learn some respect. The internet may have a level of anonminity, but that does not give free license to hurl unwarrent personal and evil insults, and all the while claiming to represent Christ and Paul’s true intent. Please don’t hurt the message of the Kingdom anymore with your hurtful comments!

  40. Dan — October 12, 2007 #

    Those that have made it this far on the thread my be interested in Godwin’s law. Here is the wikipedia article.

  41. paul soup — October 13, 2007 #

    What a great post [and comment trail]. You’ve been prolific since the Gathering as well :)

    Mak, I agree with your post and its implications, yet as a father still know I’m going to struggle with my daughters’ level of whatever-we’re-going-to-call-this, when they get a couple of years older. I need some insight.

  42. Mak — October 13, 2007 #

    paul - the real implications of philosophical theory is always a bit startling isn’t it?

    Well, I can tell you what we PLAN to do with our girls (because right now the biggest dilemma we have is “can I wear my princess dress to the market?” or trying to explain why it’s important to wear panties under a skirt.)

    We already talk to Shayel about who she IS - regardless of what others say, who IS Shayel. Which in turn lead to conversations about how what she does, how she treats others, and yes, what she wears reflects and communicates this understanding…how she can use her clothes to tell a story, her story.

    We have done this a little already and it’s amazing how she “gets it” already.

    I have no intention of saying “you can’t wear a mini skirt because it’s immodest” or “you can’t wear a bikini to a mixed gender pool party because it will cause others to stumble”

    but your kids are older than mine, I’m sure you have more experience than I do even.

  43. Chantel — October 13, 2007 #

    I linked over from Lindsay, and have to say this is an amazing post! I can’t wait to delve into your blog more!

    I have a couple of things:

    The first is that we have robbed girls and women of their joy. How many birthing women have I seen/talked to/read posts from who are ashamed of their bodies? They don’t come out and say it usually, but it shows up all over the choices they make in the way they deal with their bodies. They would rather drug it up and not see it/feel it/know it. While one half of society seems to say “cover it up lest you cause others to fall” the other half seems to say “let it all hang out so you can be valued” and I think they both miss the point by a mile. Our bodies are amazing! Once I began to get into the study of midwifery I was amazed at the beauty God has given us. The perfection. I feel awe when I see my body, not shame or ugliness or sex.

    The other thing I thought of reading your post and the comments was that men are being cheated just as much as women. When Christianity teaches us that our bodies are wicked and wanton lest we cover them, we not only tell women that their bodies are sinful and wrong but we also teach men that very same thing. We should be teaching men to honor women and the miracle that is the female body rather than further sexualize it.

  44. Mak — October 13, 2007 #

    welcome chantel and thanks for the high praise. I hope you do stick around :) And you’re right, this is important for men as well.

  45. Dianne — October 13, 2007 #

    Is perhaps the question one of identity and where do we find it? And more importantly, how do we encourage a sense of identity in others?

    And for a sense of balance, how often is this so-called “modesty” idea addressed in scripture? Seems like Paul had a whole host of way more important things he seemed bent on imparting to his converts than the modesty issue, yet entire congregations focus on that kind of thing.

    And you’re right - in the end - what does a woman believe about herself? And if we want to use the “you are not your own” line of thinking, that has to go way beyond just the ideas of “adorning” the body.

    I’m interested in this topic because for so many years I had to be an enforcer of “rules” and teacher of “modesty” that I was having growing doubts about, and wondering what we were really saying to teen girls about their bodies . . . to me it seemed shallow and unhealthy.

  46. Mak — October 13, 2007 #

    dianne - yes, I think we have to answer that question.

    I agree with our out of proportion attention to certain things above others - - we do that a lot in Christianity. Mostly I think leaders focus on the things they can control, the things that they probably don’t have a problem with.

  47. Amy — October 14, 2007 #

    Great post.

    About a year ago I was taking pictures for a “rites of passage” ceremony at our church.” The speaker gave encouragement to the young men to be God’s warriors, to win the world, be servant leaders, Godly me and general encouragement for how they led their lives. When he moved on to the young women, he noted them as princesses of the Kingdom and spent the remainder of the time telling them it was their responsibility to keep God’s warriors from stumbling and sinning, including details of appropriate lengths and level of tightness.

    To me this addresses what Makeesha is talking about. The young women were never encouraged to serve God, but to serve the men around them. I believe in modesty, but not as prescribed in this situation nor in most of conservative churches I’ve been a part of. When the focus becomes serving and protecting people rather than serving and protecting a relationship with God, we’ve missed the point.

    Makeesha, I’m a fellow Denverite. We should get together one of these times.

  48. Mak — October 14, 2007 #

    Amy :) hi! You’re in parker? do you know James Mills with the Emergent Cohort there? I think he’s in Parker.

    Anyway, we’re in Fort Collins, a little far away but we occasionally make it down that way. We need to connect with lots of folks there so we might just make a day of it sometime before the weather gets nasty.

    Thanks for your comment, your story does indeed illustrate my point. The attitude that a woman’s body exists purely for the man is disturbing to me. That story makes my stomach turn.

  49. Amy — October 15, 2007 #

    Yes, I’m in Parker. It’s quite the trek from For Collins, but a couple of us are putting together an emerging women’s gathering for Nov. 16th. It will be in Broomfield, which is closer at least!

    I haven’t participated in the Emergent Cohort yet. I’d love James contact info if you have it. I need to jump in there!

    The experience made my stomach turn as well. Yuck!

  50. Mak — October 15, 2007 #

    yeah, I heard about the Nov. 16 thing. I’m looking forward to it.

    the denver cohort site is knowtown.com I’m pretty sure Jame’s info is there.

  51. Lynn — October 16, 2007 #

    If you and I hung out together, and I confessed to you that I have tried and failed to keep lustful thoughts away, would you be willing to change the way you dress around me? BTW I’m a girl, so you wouldn’t be doing it for a man.

  52. Mak — October 16, 2007 #

    That’s sort of a loaded question. First of all, this isn’t necessarily about men so much as it is about boundaries and ownership of one’s own feelings and issues as well as inappropriate use of “law” in a religious context…but primarily it’s about how women’s bodies are viewed by society at large.

    I actually also take issue with typical ideas and teachings about “lust” so you’d have to define that for me. If you were a close friend and you confessed to me something like this “when you wear short skirts, it causes me to think about you sexually and no matter how hard I try or what I do it’s still there” I may or may not stop wearing short skirts when in your presence, it would depend on a number of factors.

    I certainly have no problem giving up a perceived freedom for the benefit of the other (I’ve done it on many occasions) but that’s an issue that is very specific to situations and an across the board behavior law can’t be made of it.

    I’ve never had that happen nor heard of that happening so I really don’t have a framework from which to answer…esp. since I don’t dress “provocatively” in my general wardrobe by any stretch of the imagination anyway. But there again, it depends on how you define provocative.

  53. Pingback - Link: On Modesty at Trying to follow — November 14, 2007 #

    [...] Mak writes a great post on the topic: Which then led me to think about the concept of “modesty” in general. And as I pondered all of these things, I finally figured out why I can’t stand the typical conservative Christian teachings about women’s appearance that go on all over the world in youth groups and Bible studies and women’s ministries every week…the whole point of these “lessons” teaches girls/women that our bodies do not in any way belong to us. [...]

  54. Pingback - all said and done » Starred: October-November — November 19, 2007 #

    [...] Why I don’t like the term “modesty” - Makeesha/Swinging from the Vine [...]

  55. Christa Taylor — November 21, 2007 #

    Dear Makeesha,
    I love how you aren’t getting stuck in the typical conservative mindset. You sound like a “crunchy con” (see the best-seller by Rob Dreher).
    As a modest-clothing designer I can and do appreciate your perspective on the issue…

    We should talk further.

    Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving,

  56. Mak — November 21, 2007 #

    thanks Christa, your clothes are beautiful. Although, I would argue that you’re simply creating beautiful, flattering, feminine clothes that are keeping with trends - “modest clothing” to me is not much unlike “christian music”. I look forward to checking out your designs further.

    As for crunchy con, I’m not a conservative (politically speaking), I’m a moderate-liberal so I wouldn’t really fit that label although I’m grateful for what they’re doing to revise and revitalize the Republican party

  57. Lucy — December 3, 2007 #

    I agree with you that, in general, women are taught to be modest purely for the benefit of men. This is far too extreme. Whilst I do agree with women and men being taught to dress modestly (in moderation), I feel that the church fails to help us understand exactly why. Whilst researching these topics recently I came across an article that explained that men are much weaker than women in giving into lustful temptations and sinful thoughts. I can only assume that this is where the teachings and beliefs that women bodies are something to be ashamed of stem from.

    I did find though, a much more correct and satisfactory answer. That is, that women were given the gift of beauty by God (:D), and it is in a sense a precious gem that we should protect and honour and we should command respect and honour for. Also the fact that when women become pregnant, God touches the new life in the womens body and gives him/her a soul, making our bodies sacred in a very special way and very close to God, and to dishonour that by encouraging sinful looks, thoughts and actions is very wrong.
    There is a great book called “The Privilege of Being a Woman” by Alice Von Hildebrand which explains a lot- you can get a copy from Southwell Books. Also an article I found to be quite helpful can be downloaded at - http://www.catholicmodesty.com/modestreading.html#anchor_1042. Its’ the one called ” Those who serve God Should not Follow the Fashions”,


  58. Shelley the Find Your True Beauty Girl — December 9, 2007 #

    Check out this modesty survey filled out by over 1600 Christian guys. It’s not exactly research, but it gives an idea of what guys consider to be modest.



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