Thursday, 15 December 2011

Some Continued Thoughts on Modesty

Thinking back to prior posts about modesty (like this one), I thought this blog post and article on modesty (both by the same author) would add to the discussion, particularly with regard to how teaching modesty through the eyes of men objectifies women. Enjoy. Here is a teaser:

"[Modesty] also defined my relationship with men as one of predator and prey. It was my job to hide from men so that their sex drive would lie dormant, like a sleeping wolf. But if that wolf ever awakened, it was not because it had been sleeping for a long time and its circadian rhythm kicked in, or it was just naturally hungry. It was my fault because I had done something to “bait” the wolf. Just by being visibly female, or by moving in “unladylike” ways. You cannot consider women full human beings unless you recognize that their lives do not revolve around the male sex drive."


Nancy said...

I think that this is a really interesting issue, especially as it is emphasized in the Young Women's Program and Relief Society. Can we live without a specific teaching on the modesty of women? Do we think modesty will ever be de-emphasized? Do you, the author of this post, agree wholeheartedly with the links you pointed to, or do you have criticisms of those ideas as well? Interesting topic.

Monica said...

I actually wanted to post this without a lot of commentary on my part to see what kind of discussion it generated (I also wondered if anyone would read it since no one has posted anything on here in a while). :-)

I actually do not agree with everything the author says. I also think that the blog post is a much better discussion than the article. This woman grew up with some unfortunate misunderstandings about modesty that have really not been a positive thing for her.

That being said, I do feel that modesty and teaching modesty is an important thing to do. It is something that God has asked us to observe. What I actually liked about this perspective was that it addresses the problems with teaching modesty solely as a response to men. I don't think that is something that is helpful, or true, and I feel that it justifies improper male behavior and takes accountability from men for control over their own thoughts and actions. That, I think, is a problem. Teaching modesty solely from that perspective (or even mostly from that perspective) objectifies women and skirts the accountability of men (and also, I believe, treats men as lusting animals who have no control, which is also extremely disconcerting).

I DO think we need teachings about modesty, but not solely for women, and not from this perspective. As my sister put it so well, when Adam and Eve were found naked in the Garden of Eden, God clothed them to cover their nakedness. He didn't say to Eve, "Cover yourself up so he doesn't look at you!" He clothed both of them, treating them in exactly the same manner. This clothing applied to both Adam and his wife.

So, I suppose my question would be, what is the appropriate way to teach modesty to both women and men? How can we avoid emphasizing negative messages to women by continuing to reinforce that the reason for modesty is based mostly on the male sex drive? Or does anyone else see this as problematic? How would any of you teach modesty to men?

Nancy said...

I think we receive some mixed messages about modesty. I was driving through Salt Lake City this summer and saw a sign for a clothing company called "Sexy Modest". I might be wrong, but I think that sexy and modest are opposites. I often hear teenagers in Utah say (or write on facebook "Modest is hottest", and again that seems to be a contradiction. What is modesty? What is the important essence of modesty that should be the real guide? I've been thinking about this question a lot recently and I'm not sure I have the answer.

Courtney said...

I really appreciated the insight of this blog post on By Common Consent:

I feel conflicted about modesty and how it's taught in the church, as mentioned in the post and your comments, Nancy and Monica, it is harmful to women AND men. A woman's modesty should not come from protecting a man from his carnal brain, and men deserve much more credit than to accuse them of fits of lust upon seeing a bare shoulder. It causes me to wonder what the importance is of modesty, and I have come to consider it as more of a personality trait. I'll admit I'm not sure what the purpose is of modest dress (I do recognize the importance of respecting one's body and not using your clothing/body to get attention) when it comes to needing shoulders covered and wearing pants to the knee. I think we can all agree it is possible to dress immodestly even if your shoulders and knees are covered. So perhaps we need to get off the dress code specifics and focus on what actions exude modesty and what attitudes show respect for our bodies.