A Daughter Talks to Her Father about Modesty

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A Daughter Talks to Her Father about Modesty

Postby natman » Fri Oct 17, 2014 3:26 pm

My Daughter Talks to Her Dad About Modesty
Gary Thomas

http://www.garythomas.com/my-daughter-t ... t-modesty/

My youngest daughter Kelsey is strong-minded, as a college editor-in-chief (which she is) needs to be. That has led to some fascinating discussions on what it’s like for a 21 year old woman to sit in evangelical churches. Rather recently, she challenged the way modesty is often handled in local churches. In a follow-up email, she added some thoughts that I’d like to share with you (with her permission), to start the discussion on the best way we can teach this important biblical principle to today’s generation.

Dad,

So I never really got to finish my thoughts on why I thought the way the church has approached modesty in my experience is harmful. I pulled out a few thoughts from my journal and added to it here. This is really long, so if you make it all the way through I will be grateful.

In all honesty, there are some things that as a man you will never be able to understand.

You don’t get whistled at walking down the street. You don’t experience the feel of men’s eyes helping themselves to your body on a regular basis. You don’t get cat calls walking out of a coffee shop that only get worse when you put your head down, ignore them, and walk quickly. I’m sure you’ve had a girl whistle at you a few times in your day, but the fact is this isn’t a constant reality for you. And for me, and most women, it is.

I can’t think of the last time I went more than several weeks without receiving an unrequested comment or call from a stranger about my body. What you then, as a man, also probably don’t know is that it makes absolutely no difference how we dress. The type of comment might change (“why so covered up, pretty lady?” is as offensive to me as whistling at my sundress), but the frequency doesn’t. Men are able to objectify women with little provocation. In some cultures, seeing a women’s hair or ankles is considered tempting and evocative. Men can undress a woman with their eyes whether she is wearing a bikini or a burka.

The world tells women on a regular basis that they are objects. If they dress “modestly” and are virgins they’re called a prude. If they wear slinky tank tops and sleep around they are called a slut or whore. Either way, women are objectified and considered a sex object.

When women are constantly having this degrading message beaten into them all day out in the world, it would be wonderful if they could come into a church and find refuge from objectification. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Growing up, I went to my share of modesty talks and was told it was my responsibility to cover up my body so that I did not lead boys into temptation. I went to a private middle school that walked around handing out oversized (and smelly) t-shirts to girls supposedly not covered up enough. I have a vivid memory of sitting between Willy Hanson, who was sporting a cut-off, and a girl in a spaghetti strap tank top, when the head of the school came in with her bag of t-shirts and made the girl put one on and completely ignored Willy. In high school I got a rash from having to wear a shirt over my two-piece swimsuit at a church camp while all the guys were allowed to run around without a top at all.

This way of approaching modesty gives women the exact same message as the rest of the world: your body is a sex object. You are a sex object. Your body is dirty and needs to be covered up.

Telling women to cover up for men holds women responsible for men’s lust. And that’s rape culture. It’s no large leap from that to telling women it’s their fault they were raped because they were wearing a short skirt.

My freshman year at Baylor, I went to a seminar for all freshman women on basically how to not get raped. The whole time I was wondering why the freshman boys weren’t forced to go to a seminar called how to not rape girls. And you know why? Because it’s seen as my responsibility. It is my job to cover up my breasts so they don’t lead men to lust, and it is my job to not attract or flirt with a man in case this leads him to have sex with me against my will. At their nature, these two responsibilities are not such different things.

I dress modestly because I have known my entire life that I am loved and I have worth and I am valuable, but it is increasingly rare for women to grow up with an intrinsic sense of self-worth like I did (thank you!). Far more beneficial than telling girls to put on a t-shirt to cover up their bodies is to tell them they are loved. They have worth. They are valuable. They are more than a sex object. Because the world isn’t telling them that.

It is even more crucial for men to hear the same thing: Women have worth. They are valuable for far more than their breasts. No type of dress gives a man license to objectify a woman. It is men’s responsibility to change the way women are talked about and looked at by men.

Basically, I believe the church is objectifying me as much as the world. Yes, the church is giving women a different solution: modesty as opposed to parading their bodies around for men to enjoy. But a different solution is not good enough. It’s time the church stopped obsessing over the length of my skirt and changed the message all together.

This is me (Gary) again. This post is already pretty long, so I’ll refrain from making any other comments except for this short one: what Kelsey hits on that the church might be missing is that whenever Paul addressed relations, he spoke to the men first. He doesn’t tell wives to submit to their husbands until he tells husbands to become sacrificial living martyrs for their wives. Have we missed this with our youth? Have we made young women (rather than young men) bear the burden of dealing with lust?
SON-cerely,
Nathan Powers

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Re: A Daughter Talks to Her Father about Modesty

Postby JimShedd112 » Sat Oct 18, 2014 8:41 am

Nat, thank you for finding and sharing this discussion between Gary and his daughter Kelsey. I honestly don't have any answers but I do agree with her everyone, even churches and church members, do try to put the responsibility for controlling lust upon women and never on males which, of course, is totally unfair.

Is it the unknown which drives men to lust. That is, no matter how fully covered or skimpily dressed the fact there is something hidden from view which drives men to want to see the unknown and even lust after it? Would full nudity, after the initial shock and accompanying rude and lascivious behavior, solve this issue? I guess we'll never truly know but I do know men should be held accountable for their own behaviors toward women and the old "boys will be boys" attitude should be replaced with one of accountability ("you are responsible for your own actions and will be held accountable for those actions"). Respect for women should be taught from a very early age to all young boys and reinforced throughout their adult lives. The fact an attractive, or not so attractive woman (beauty is in the eye of the beholder) dresses in a certain fashion or goes fully nude does not make her fair game for boorish behavior on the part of her male counterparts.

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Re: A Daughter Talks to Her Father about Modesty

Postby jochanaan » Sat Oct 18, 2014 7:21 pm

JimShedd112 wrote:...Is it the unknown which drives men to lust....
It would seem rather that, if a person tends to lust, s/he will do so no matter whether the object of his/her lust is known or unknown. And lust can just as easily be for one's own spouse, in that a man might lust to hurt her, force her to do things she doesn't want to do, or otherwise violate her will. (It can work the other way too.) In other words, the desire to possess that is commonly called "lust" in today's verbal usage comes from inside a person, not from any element of his/her surroundings or the object of one's current fixation.
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Re: A Daughter Talks to Her Father about Modesty

Postby Petros » Sun Oct 19, 2014 12:10 am

fo tru - compare the young Petros, brought up in a right-thinking family that carefully shielded their eldest son from toy guns, finding sticks that could serve as handguns and in one instance holding an instument distributed through the school - name forgotten, but a small plastic fipple flute of sorts - by its cloth case to emulare a firearm.

The appetite is inside, not a response to what is outside, and it will often find its way out.
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Re: A Daughter Talks to Her Father about Modesty

Postby Ramblinman » Sun Oct 19, 2014 9:41 am

There is a difference between fixed staring that would make anyone uncomfortable and the almost unavoidable appreciation of women who are remarkably beautiful.

(quoting Gary Thomas's daughter) "You don’t experience the feel of men’s eyes helping themselves to your body on a regular basis."

I was pleased with much of what this young lady had to say, but I wonder if she has been so long a victim of lechery that she has become hypersensitive to the most innocent appreciation of her beauty. What constitutes "helping themselves to your body (visually)"?

I believe that men must be polite and discrete as they observe women (certainly not staring), but the fitness of the human race depends in part upon the almost instinctive appraisal of a woman's fitness to reproduce. Healthy skin and hair, curves, full hips and shapely breasts are the rudimentary indicators of a woman's prospect to help us carry on the human race with vigor. Women certainly do the same thing with us and Miss Thomas as much as admitted that.

Of course we could take this necessary viewing to the point of rudeness. No need for that!

If physical fitness were the only criterion that men and women used to consider a prospect for marriage, it would indeed be "objectification". But it would also be wrong NOT to consider health and vitality in selecting a mate, with the exception of marriage later in life where children are not a consideration.

And what of the sheer beauty of a lovely young woman or handsome young man? Is there no more room for the artist in us? Again this is no excuse for the artist not to take great care to avoid making a beauty feel self-conscious.

Yes, I do wonder if this poor girl is a bit paranoid at this point due to so many bad experiences.
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Re: A Daughter Talks to Her Father about Modesty

Postby JimShedd112 » Sun Oct 19, 2014 7:46 pm

Your point, in my opinion, is well made Ramblinman but I assumed she was referring to more than just the appreciative look from a man admiring her beauty and more directed toward lecherous stares, crude wolf whistles, and even inappropriate comments directed at her and others.

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Re: A Daughter Talks to Her Father about Modesty

Postby prairieboy » Sun Oct 19, 2014 10:03 pm

Ramblinman wrote:Yes, I do wonder if this poor girl is a bit paranoid at this point due to so many bad experiences.


I thought that her main point was that maybe the world is this way, but that inside the church it should be different. While I agree that it should be different everywhere, that is not likely to happen soon. However, to have this type of sexist blame shifting happening in the church, being taught from the pulpits and to the youth groups, is so very wrong. And these men and women believe that they are serving God in this. Personally I have never observed it, but I know that it happens, a lot. For those that don't know Baylor is a Baptist "Christian" university. This type of dishonoring of God's creation, and the blame shifting that is being taught, is something that the teachers will have to answer for some day.

I think that the scarier aspect of this teaching, and others like it, is the legalism that it promotes. Change the behaviour to change the inward man. Completely contrary to the Bible.
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Re: A Daughter Talks to Her Father about Modesty

Postby nudie66 » Tue Oct 21, 2014 8:10 pm

I must admit, even my church (a non-denominational Charismatic) will put reminders in the Sunday bulletin during the summer, directed at the ladies to be careful of what they're wearing, so as not to be a source of "temptation". Yes, there are women at church who dress VERY modestly, and there are those who show off plunging cleavage. But I agree with the original post: it is the men's responsibility to control their thoughts, words, & actions - that responsibility should not be placed on the women. Those printed reminders always seem out of place to me, because it's everyone's responsibility. Do you ever see notices in your church bulletin reminding the ladies to hide their purses and pocketbooks? I've never been tempted to steal from an exposed wallet, and I've never been tempted to have sex with a church member with exposed cleavage. Sure, you see it, but you choose what is right - to show respect, whether it's their money, their skin, or anything else.

And then there is the twist of being a Christian nudist. I am comfortable being around other nude people, and also if I am the only one nude (modeling for an art class, for example). I have modeled for a college class where the majority of the students did not even show up, because they knew there would be a "naked model", which was a completely foreign idea to them. I'm sure they were raised to "avoid temptation" by not even looking at a nude person. They probably never considered the fact that they would've had absolutely no lustful thoughts while drawing me, a male model who was 25 years older than them, LOL. It was simply their reaction to what they were taught about what modesty is.

In reality, though, I don't believe modesty is about clothing. What is the opposite of modesty? Isn't it extravagance? Although I am a social nudist, I live modestly, not extravagantly. I can be nude around others, and still be humble. To me, modesty is the type of attitude you express, not the type (or amounts) of clothing you wear to cover your skin.
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Re: A Daughter Talks to Her Father about Modesty

Postby natman » Wed Oct 22, 2014 12:07 pm

Nudie66,

You are right on the money with your definition of "modesty".

I have a hard time relating to men who would become sexually excited over seeing a woman's cleavage. As a young man, I would help my mom prepare to breast feed my younger siblings, so I saw breast being used for the purpose they were designed. I also helped my mom bath my younger siblings by undressing them and handing them to my (nude) mother in the bath tub, where she would wash them and then hand them back to me to dry off and get ready for bed.

I think that if more people witnessed mothers breastfeeding their babies, fewer people would get sexually excited about seeing mere cleavage or even an entire breast.
SON-cerely,
Nathan Powers

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Re: A Daughter Talks to Her Father about Modesty

Postby Ramblinman » Sat Oct 25, 2014 3:02 pm

natman wrote:...I think that if more people witnessed mothers breastfeeding their babies, fewer people would get sexually excited about seeing mere cleavage or even an entire breast.

Makes sense to me! :like:
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Re: A Daughter Talks to Her Father about Modesty

Postby Walking Bare » Sun Dec 28, 2014 6:23 am

Late reply,

Please thank your daughter for her insight.

I must agree that it is we guys that need to be called to accountability.
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Re: A Daughter Talks to Her Father about Modesty

Postby Petros » Sun Dec 28, 2014 10:23 am

Surely it takes two to tango [which if I could - it is to laugh - dance is one dance I would dance].

If a % of the male population is aroused by painted earlobes, a % of the female population [from deliberate choice or involved male insistence] will paint their earlobes and another % [from deliberate choice or involved male insistence] will conceal their earlobes.

AND if a % of the female population is aroused by painted earlobes, a % of the male population [from deliberate choice or involved female insistence] will paint their earlobes and another % [from deliberate choice or involved female insistence] will conceal their earlobes.

And so fashion and flaunting and prurience and modesty spin in the tango called time. [I woke up late this morning, it affects moods and prose].
The truth, the stark naked truth, the truth without so much as a loincloth on, should surely be the investigator's sole aim - Basil Chamberlain
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