Disclaimer: the views and opinions of this blogger do not represent the attitudes or thought processes of all men and women
(anyone who claims to understand and represent all women is a moron).
“It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.”
Do nothing that may cause your brother to stumble. That’s the focus whenever women’s modesty comes up. However, the perpetuating “modest is the hottest” mentality tossed around in our church culture is something I have had a bit of a struggle as of late. Now I am not insinuating that I want to dress promiscuously or support others that do so. I think there is a reason that the Duchess of Cambridge, formerly Kate Middleton, is so widely praised throughout the world for her appearance, which is sophisticated and elegant but not scandalous.
That hat, the dress, I’m in love.
My problem with how our Church culture treats feminine modesty is that it’s all about the boys.
A little personal perspective.
When I was an undergraduate, like so many other woman, I had an inaccurate body image. Even though I was a few pounds overweight, my height and build compensated for it, yet I never saw myself as skinny, fat, or particularly attractive. In my opinion, I was OK. My clothes of choice were unisex T-shirts and a size too-large pants and shorts from the men’s department. I thought it was gross if I showed any skin above the knee because of my pale skin and big thighs. I had a nice hourglass figure but not a pretty face.
That all started to change when I got into grad school. Thanks to a hectic class schedule, physically active jobs, and more commitment to exercise I began to lose weight. Between a physically fit physique and being in a committed relationship with a man who constantly reminded me how beautiful I am (not that your view of your appearance should be based upon the opinions of another) to combat the skewed opinions in my head, and most importantly, I was more mature and experienced. All of this culminated in my having more confidence and more respect for myself and my appearance. I no longer wanted to wear shapeless shirts and baggy jeans, I am proud of my body and I don’t want to hide that.
I became more interested in feminine pieces, I started buying more dresses (but this may have more to do with the fact that the man in my life doesn’t think a suit and tie is “fancy” and I needed to keep up), the only things that didn’t change were my love of shoes and jewelry.
But with dressing nicer comes the issue of balancing the very subjective line of modesty. What’s modest enough? What’s too much skin? At what point is figure-hugging OK and not skin-tight? I mentioned Kate Middleton earlier (let’s be honest, who frequently refers to her as “the Duchess” on the internet?), no one would consider her dress scantily, yet the Queen requested that she start wearing her hemlines two inches longer (and who’s going to say no to the Queen?).
A woman’s clothing choices become even more complicated when a woman gets married, because now she not only wants to dress in a way appealing to her but also respectful of her relationship with her husband.
“Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman, ‘ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
A wife’s body belongs to her husband, just as the husband’s body now belongs to his wife; both should have a say in how each other presents themselves. Some outfits I like, my husband doesn’t want me to wear because he thinks that they’re too close to crossing the “immodest line” and draws too much attention to my body (although Colt does tend toward the overprotective side of things). Of course, he is OK if I wear them at home, but seeing as I subscribe to this mentality. . .
It doesn’t help that women and men are wired differently. A woman sees an attractive man, she gives God a mental high-five on His good work and moves on with the day; a man sees an attractive woman and his mental thoughts tend to get more “creative” if he’s not careful. I could dress in a long-loose dress that hides my figure, and a man could still be tempted by my appearance; I could wear a Burka and a man might still be caused to sin.
So this pressure our church culture puts on us women to dress modesty, lest “we cause a brother to stumble” can be overwhelming, especially when it seems our attempts are pointless and unfair (as I tell my hubby whenever he starts to balk about something I wear, he has few limitations upon his appearance compared to us girls). However,
A beautiful woman who rejects good sense is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.
We would be wrong to not recognize that men are bombarded everyday with scandalous and racy images deemed acceptable and innocent by our society, and we would be loathed if we did not attempt to lessen some of the temptations via our apparel.
But boys, it’s on you, do not forget that. The Christian women in your life can only do so much (and they should only have to do so much), the ultimate responsibility is on your shoulders.
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
-1 Corinthians 10:13
So remember to “bounce” your eyes and guard your thoughts, but also remember to thank the women in your life that are making sacrifices for you every day. There’s a reason you hear so much about “yoga pants” and people going on “leggings are not pants” tirades—they’re comfortable but also bum-hugging and sometimes revealing. There are shirts that are cute (guys, just so you know, that’s a big factor) but their neckline dips in the awkward not-showing-cleavage-unless-someone-is-taller realm and a tank underneath ruins the effect of having the shirt in the first place. Every day, women choose something that’s not as comfortable, maybe less stylish or less flattering. It may seem trivial, but it’s annoying and frustrating; so men, say thank you, because we’re making our daily choices more difficult to make your daily walk easier.