It was packaged and presented to me as an introspective thing.
Modesty is not about the outside appearance; it is a matter of the heart.
I encountered this perspective of modesty four years ago and, immediately, I was a fan. I saw this as an opportunity of personal growth in my faith and as a human being, exploring womanhood with an inquisitive mind and an open heart in the context of an Infinite God who created me. But as modesty began to unravel itself before my eyes outside of this God-and-me relationship, it was something else entirely. In this context, my mind, heart, and all other faculties that speak to my human existence are absent.
Instead, I am an exhibition to be judged by the masses, serving as a litmus test for being a potential “stumbling block” to my male counterparts. On my shoulders rest men’s potential to lust and the sex drives of all of the men that I will encounter during my lifetime. These men have their own perceptions of what is “alluring” as shaped by their upbringing, cultures, and biologies, all of which don’t look the same by virtue of their individual personalities. My body is now a minefield and I ought to be careful of what I wear lest the threads that encase my person set off what was meant to be dormant.
Here, male sexuality is seen as something that is uniform, neat, orderly, and easily understood, only being aroused by some exposed flesh. Here, men are weaklings and ravage beasts simultaneously, completely at the mercy of the clothing I wear since they have zero personal responsibility. After all, “men are visual and women are emotional.”
Here, everyone swears that there is a fine line of dress code that will work for everyone. Yet there are situations where a curvier girl or woman wears the same outfit as their less curvy counterparts and she is now a “stumbling block.” Yet the Bible has no guidelines for length or cut of any part of an article of clothing so I suppose wearing a potato sack is the way to go.
As reality would have it, I am not an exhibition. I am a person, a woman to be exact. And this might be surprising to some but most women have sex drives. And it would be nice if, in Christian circles, conversations regarding sexuality and attraction did not exclusively cater to men. It would be nice if the loudest conversation regarding female sexuality was not a woman’s ability to be a stumbling block.
As reality would have it, men are not inevitably savages. They are human beings fully responsible for their actions. Perhaps, it is the second look that really determines where the heart of a man lies but if a man does objectify a woman, that is his doing. To have a woman responsible for a man lusting after her sounds a lot like a woman being responsible for her own rape. I will not stand for either of them. Clearly, the conversation regarding male sexuality and their attraction needs to be reformed in the church.
As reality would have it, human sexuality is complicated. Saying “men are visual; women are emotional” and calling it a day over simplifies and overgeneralizes sexuality and attraction. It is also inaccurate. Visuality and emotionality are spectrums, not boxes. Neither are they mutually exclusive. Perhaps we should be more versed in human sexuality before we make blanket statements.
Attraction is not a bad thing. Finding someone alluring is not a bad thing. It’s what you do with it. At least I think it is. And I do realize that, as a Christian, how I dress is supposed to be God-honoring. As such, my refusal to wear certain things when it comes to modesty comes from a place of conviction, not shame and guilt as imposed by others. I also realize that modesty does not look the same for everyone who practices it as it is also shaped by our personal tastes in dress, body types, and the cultures we inhabit.
So what is modesty? Is it an introspective thing or is it the shaming of women in the church for wearing certain things and catering to not making the diverse men they will encounter stumble? The more that I think about it and the more I explore, I realize that…
What is modesty to you? Is it a concept that needs to be reformed/better understood? Or is it a concept that needs to be thrown out entirely?