Don’t Teach Girls To Be Modest; That Sexualizes Them

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A couple years ago, I wrote a series defending the belief that women and girls should dress modestly.  I thought that modesty was good because it was considerate of others, allowed women to be treated with more respect, and accented femininity.
Don't teach modestyBut, according to opponents of humility in dress, modesty actually sexualizes girls.
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It’s always baffled me how some could make such arguments. Modesty is the exact opposite of objectifying!

On Facebook, some of my Christian, homeschooled, friends were sharing this article, (don’t waste your time reading it) which explains how modesty apparently sexualizes, specifically, through the banning of leggings and yoga pants in schools.

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There are several very poor arguments and assumptions made in this post which Christians should never buy into.
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Here are three of them.
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1. Your comfort is more important than the comfort of others:

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The article makes the point that the our own comfort is more important than the comfort of others. The article states that, “Girls clothing is not and should not be responsible for boys’ behavior.” This is a true statement, however, the article goes on to argue consideration of others should not be a factor in determining what to wear. I find it troubling that Christians are buying into this line of reasoning.

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Those who defend the wearing of yoga pants always claim that their reasons are solely based on comfort. While I highly doubt that’s the only reason for many woman, that is still not a good reason.

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We don’t have a right to do whatever we want if it harms other people. (1 Corinthians 8:13)
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I don’t like waiting in long lines. Those are very uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean I have a right to cut to the front of the line. I would be satisfying my own comfort at the expense of others. This is wholly unloving, and a display of immodesty and arrogance. It’s pure narcissism to believe that your own comfort is more important than others.
This idea completely contradicts the teachings of the Bible.
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“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” – Colossians 3:12

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” – Matthew 23:12

“Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.” – Proverbs 11:22

All of these verses, and more, point to the fact that we should not merely do what pleases us, or seek to draw attention to ourselves at the expense of others.

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2. The only alternative to immodesty is baggy pants:

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This idea is just ridiculous on several levels. I’ve heard many homeschooled Christians make this objection to modesty, and the article does as well: “Traditionally ‘cute’ clothing for young women is notoriously restrictive and often painful.” No, that’s false. Traditionally, ‘cute’ clothing was not restrictive. That is still not the case today. There are many modest alternatives to yoga pants that still look nice and aren’t excessively baggy. In fact, there are even many fashion blogs and websites today that deal with only modest clothing. Here is one example.

Second of all, this article is making the argument that looking “cute” is again, more important than other people. As the article says,

“Keep in mind that loose or baggy clothing for girls is neither “popular” nor “attractive” and even borderline socially unacceptable. Professional women: would you show up to the office in a baggy pantsuit? No? Then why would these girls show up to school in baggy jeans? Lycra and Spandex make for supremely comfortable pants…it’s not about looking “sexy.” It’s about comfort.”

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Professional women would not wear yoga pants to the office, or a job interview, and yet, apparently many are beginning to adopt the idea that yoga pants go with everything—including professional attire. Yoga pants are not classy or nice or cute—they are exercise clothing, like sweat pants. Yoga pants don’t look nice. In fact, the definition of “cute” is, “attractive in a pretty or endearing way.” Yoga pants are not pretty, or endearing, and they are only attractive to those who like to enjoy the view of your legs and rear-end. You would not say a person wearing yoga pants is “well-dressed.” It’s actually rather sloppy.
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The article also seems to be arguing that we should encourage the wearing of yoga pants because they are “popular” and “attractive”. “Keep in mind that loose or baggy clothing for girls is neither “popular” nor “attractive” and even borderline socially unacceptable.”

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I find it interesting that most liberals push for individuality, and following your heart, while here this article is arguing that the social pressure to conform is just fine, and should be adhered to. Don’t ask girls to dress modestly, because then they won’t fit in. How horrible! A lot of bad things have been popular in the past, and are popular right now. In some societies, eating people was very popular. If cannibalism came back into style today, should we go ahead and join in? We should never seek to do what is popular. Instead, we should seek to follow Christ and do what is good, right, and true. It is possible that something which is popular can be good, but we still should not participate merely because something is popular. While I don’t expect non-Christians to understand this concept, it’s shocking to see many Christians adopting these ideas too.

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Also, we should never dress for the purpose of attracting others, especially the opposite gender. That is purely manipulative and fits the definition of immodesty to a T, which is the trait of being vain or conceited. Rather than trying to draw attention to ourselves, we should seek to draw attention to Christ through modest behavior and dress. Dressing to attract, again, is an expression of narcissism, since we are trying to put all of the focus on ourselves.
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Please, don’t let your self be controlled by the whims of the culture. Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean you should too. Don’t be a mindless drone.
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It’s so ironic that in our culture we preach that everyone should “be themselves” and “follow their heart,” but we also make sure that everyone conforms to their same “self” and that everyone’s heart follows the same thing—self-worship. Additionally, there is nothing attractive about yoga pants, unless you want to attract guys who are purely interested in you for your legs and rear-end, which brings me to my final point about this article.
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3. Showing off sexual parts of your body isn’t sexualizing:

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This part of the article made the least sense to me. It’s claiming that covering up the sexual parts of one’s body…is consequently sexualizing them…but revealing clothing is fine and innocent? What?
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The article claims that, “I think what we’re hearing online is girls expressing that the strange, inconsistent enforcement of the dress codes is sexualizing them against their will…Until [the idea that yoga pants should be banned] changes in schools, I highly doubt the more mature, serious variations of unwanted sexualization — street harassment, sexual assault, and victim-blaming — will ever fully disappear.”
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No, just the opposite is true. The idea that women should show-off the sexual parts of themselves is what has led to these more serious issues. Displaying one’s self as a sex object conflicts with the idea one is not actually a sex object. The article claims that, “Female bodies are not public art. They are not for your viewing pleasure,” and yet the article believes that women should be able to show off and draw attention to different parts of their bodies.
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That’s like putting up a billboard that says, “Don’t look at me,” or wearing a T-shirt with the words, “Don’t read this sentence.”Billboards are built to be seen, words are meant to be read, and tight clothing (or no clothing at all) draws attention to the body. That’s just a fact.
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Modesty doesn’t sexualize a person, it reveals their dignity. Modest dress draws attention to a person’s character—and who they are. Hopefully, such modestly dressed people are seeking to live for Christ, which means Christ will be revealed through their dress.
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On the flipside, wearing clothing that exposes or draws attention to parts of the body that are sexual, do sexualize a person. By definition, this is true. Only in a world so warped by the influence of Feminism do we get the idea that being modest sexualizes someone. Immodesty objectifies women, not the other way around.

The article would disagree, however, because the writer claims that, “Everybody wears leggings and everybody has butts. And there is nothing inherently sexual with either of those things.” That is just incredibly naive, and I don’t think I need to go into explaining why this is so.

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Are there cases where modesty can be taken too far and turned into legalism? Yes, of course. That can and does happen. Anything can become legalism. The Biblical command to love others can become legalism, but that doesn’t mean we should do away with love, but it seems we have no problem doing away with modesty at the first rumor it has led to legalism.
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Philippians 2:3-11:

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

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This passage creates a stark contrast with those who despise modesty. The article I have been referencing seems to have no notion that we should count others as more significant than ourselves, or that we should look to the interests of others rather than our own. And yet, so many Christians have easily bought into the cultural idea that we are so much more important than everyone else that we should be able to do and dress how we want without a care about how it might harm or impact others. It’s our “right,” we say. We talk a lot about our “rights” in America, but you don’t hear people talking so much about our duties or responsibilities, such as our duty and responsibility not to harm others. Granted, if you are not a Christian, then it would not make sense to have duties (or rights for that matter) but as Christians, we have no excuse.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:3-4 

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Even though Jesus was God, He did not consider His comfort or interests as more important than others. He made Himself a servant. How much more should we seek to serve others?
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This is the core of modesty. It’s not about what you wear, it’s about the heart. Do you really care more about others than yourself? This article from the Huffington post (which is a great authority and Christians should definitely turn to it for wisdom [sarcasm]) clearly reveals that the anti-modest are champions of narcissism, not humility.

5 Comments

  1. This post was wonderful Reagan! I really enjoyed reading it. Thank you for so clearly stating the truths of God's word in the way that you did. You always hear people saying that modesty is a heart issue, but it seems like so many people don't define what they mean any further. Thank you for doing that. (oh, and thanks for the link to our blog. :D)

    Your Sister in Christ,

    Brigid
    the Middle Sister and Singer

  2. Very true and clearly stated!
    I liked your analogy of waiting in line not being comfortable yet rude to do otherwise. Even in mathematics, it has been clearly proved that all are helped the most not when each looks out for himself but when each looks out for everyone else. But that aside, God commands us to do all things in love and love will endure discomfort for the sake of benefiting others!
    It was distressing to read a post like that; to think that people actually believe that makes me sad, but we can pray!
    Thank you for standing up about this anyway; I really enjoyed reading your article!

  3. Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it! And thank you for so effectively showing that being immodest or looking like an “ugly fashion disaster” aren't the only two options girls and women have when it comes to clothing. I was happy to share a link to your blog. 🙂

    Stand fast,

    Reagan

  4. Thank you! Yes, I agree. It is sad how so many–including Christian homeschoolers–are buying into these unbiblical ideas. Hopefully they will come to see the light.

  5. Thanks for this post on what shouldn't be but is a very controversial topic in our culture today. I pray that this truth encourages many. I'm visiting from the blog link-up. Blessings!

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