I am posting again a bit early, but I’m too riled to wait until next week. I haven’t thought about the topic of modesty in a pretty long time. Since leaving fundamentalism, it hasn’t intruded into my decision making process when I look through my closet in the morning, and I no longer run in the circles where it comes up as a casual or formal topic of discussion. And it’s been nice!
But I think it’s time to visit the topic, even though it doesn’t play a major role in my life right now, because some asshat made the mistake of commenting in a conversation with me that it’s “easier to see a woman as a whole person when she dresses modestly.” That man should be thanking his lucky stars that knees can’t reach groins through the Internet.
Hang on tight, because I’m pissed and I’m going to blow this shit out of the water.
Modesty is just another form of objectification.
It’s just another form of the patriarchy attempting to reduce women to their body parts.
It is not about respecting women. It is not about protecting women. It is not about teaching them to value themselves. It is ENTIRELY based in preserving male privilege and propagating the pathetic myth that men can’t control themselves and women, therefore, are responsible for men’s thoughts.
I’m going to go even further than that and say that the principle of modesty is the foundation of rape culture and objectification. The assumption that women need to cover their bodies in order to get respect from others or to have self-respect for themselves is what makes people think it’s okay to say that a woman’s dress contributed to her rape or sexual assault. It’s the assumption that women’s bodies are always sexual when exposed that makes people think that exposing _____ amount of skin means she’s there to be looked at or used for sex or that she wants to have sex. And further, it’s that assumption that an exposed body is a sexualized body that makes people think it’s okay to degrade and objectify women who have exposed their body, without regard to the reason for the exposure.
Modesty isn’t just another way of reducing a girl to her body parts. It is the way of reducing a girl to her body parts. The obsession of covering or uncovering a woman’s body is the same obsession. And it comes from the same mindset—that women are there for men, either as temptresses or toys. Either way, her body isn’t there for her. It’s all about how it looks to someone else—specifically some other man. Her body loses its function as the vehicle through which she lives and instead becomes the measure of how others determine her virtue.
And there is no winning!
Modesty teachings range all over the place. I used to get emails on modesty when I attended Bob Jones University. Everything was a “stumbling block.” Pants drew attention to the butt. Skirts drew attention to the butt. nude hose made legs look sexy. Colored stockings made legs noticeable, thus indecent. Bare legs made guys think of sex. The only “safe” option was to not have legs!
Oh, it is such an effective way of keeping women confined. It’s such an effective way of keeping them feeling guilty for their bodies, ashamed and hyper-aware of every aspect of it. It is the perfect method of reminding them that their primary function in life is sex-appeal.
How convenient to put the responsibility on women to be viewed as human beings.
How convenient for men to be told they can’t control themselves when it comes to sex. It’s so much easier to believe it’s uncontrollable and to blame someone else for the prejudice, superiority, and privilege than to admit that one is prejudiced, views women as inferior, and is too fucking lazy to fight against the culture that reduces women to body parts.
But newsflash! My humanity isn’t determined by my dress! Walking out the door butt naked shouldn’t in any way diminish my personhood to anyone.
I don’t have a problem seeing a guy as a lesser person because he’s shirtless. And before we get into the “but men are visual and wired to view women that way,” let me just remind everyone that I’m attracted to women too. I’m attracted to the exact same body parts as men. And I’m very much a visual person in my attraction. But I don’t have a hard time remembering that a beautiful girl is a person, EVEN IF SHE’S DRESSED IN NEXT TO NOTHING! I don’t stop seeing her because I see her cleavage!
It’s time to stop focusing on what women are wearing and take a good hard look at the cultural mindset that allows men to think of women as “less than.” In the end, if, like this guy, you have a hard time seeing me as a whole person, it’s not my clothing that makes it difficult for you to view me as a whole person; it’s your prejudice that makes it difficult for you to view me as a whole person. And that isn’t my responsibility to change. It’s yours.
My world doesn’t revolve around men. When I get dressed in the morning, I’m not thinking of men. I wear what makes me happy or what serves my needs, regardless of whether someone else likes it or not. If I wear shorts, it’s not to get a guy’s attention. If I wear an ankle-length skirt, it’s not to “protect” a guy’s mind or prevent him from thinking about me. I dress for me and no one else.
Show a little modesty, guys, and stop thinking that everything to do with my body has something to do with you.