I ran across this article on Facebook: Modesty: I Don’t Think it Means What You Think it Means. And while I encourage you to read the article for yourself, this excerpt triggered some memories.
“While popular culture tends to disempower women by telling them they must dress to get men to look at them, the modesty culture tends to disempower women by telling them they must dress to keep men from looking at them. In both cases, the impetus is placed on the woman to accommodate her clothing or her body to the (varied and culturally relative) expectations of men. In both cases, it becomes the woman’s job to manage the sexual desires of men, and thus it is seen as her fault if a man ignores her on the one hand or objectifies her on the other. Often, these two cultures combine to send out a pulse of confusing messages: “Look cute … but not too cute! Be modest … but not frumpy! Make yourself attractive … but not too attractive!” Women are left feeling ashamed of their bodies as they try desperately to contort around a bunch of vague, ever-changing ideals. It’s exhausting, really, dressing for other people.” Rachel Held Evans
I have felt that struggle of dressing for other people and feeling guilty and ashamed while at the same time feeling like I didn’t do anything wrong. And I didn’t…
The summer before my senior year of college, I signed up to be a summer missionary. Overall, it was a great experience, and even though it was 12 years ago, there is still one memory that I don’t speak of often. During the week of VBS, the senior pastor and associate pastor were out of town and another male member of the staff was left in charge. And two separate times that staff member spoke to me inappropriately and if you must know, I was wearing a baggy VBS t-shirt and shorts or jeans.
When the senior pastor and associate pastor returned, I told them what had happened and then a whirlwind of drama ensued. The director of the missionary organization came to meet with us, we were given the weekend off, our parents were allowed to visit, and the staff member was let go. And I was left with a hand written statement to use as necessary and all these unresolved feelings.
I had befriended some other college students working at the church, and they invited me to the college group gathering and I went. I remember the house we met in. I remember being overcome with emotion and stepping outside, I remember a kind lady sitting with me and praying with me and telling me that it wasn’t my fault. And then I think I shoved everything down and finished my missionary assignment.
Life went on, I graduated college; I got married to man who does value and respect me; I have two children; I post pictures of my outfits on this blog; I’ve moved past it.
But then, I read articles like the one mentioned above on modesty and it all comes flooding back; or I volunteer at VBS at my church and flash back to that VBS 12 years ago; or I hear a story about an inappropriate thing a man did to a woman that I am supposed to laugh at. And it reminds me that that hurt is still with me. That it breaks my heart that men still behave badly towards women and laugh at it.
And it astounds me that people want to focus on how a woman dresses. I am no expert, but in my experience that didn’t matter. My baggy, high neck t-shirt didn’t save me.
“The truth is, a man can choose to objectify a woman whether she’s wearing a bikini or a burqa. We don’t stop lust by covering up the female form; we stop lust by teaching men to treat women as human beings worthy of respect.” Rachel Held Evans
Please read her article. It’s worth your time.