Deborah

Deborah is K-12 educator who nurtures a healthy interest in reading, writing, running, ethics, mystics, and interfaith dialogue.

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  1. Julie M. Smith says:

    I thought the article was a mess in that it linked some social movements (i.e., the return to feminine, sweet, demure girls) to modesty and proceeded to say that modesty was bad because the other stuff was bad.

  2. madhousewife says:

    Ditto Julie M. The author has grossly oversimplified the arguments of the so-called modesty movement types. Of course, their primary argument rests on the premise that men and women are essentially different, which is a subject many feminists aren’t willing to engage. It’s much easier to accuse people of wanting to control women.

  3. Deborah says:

    Julie: I had a similar reaction. She doesn’t do justice to her initial question: “What is it about the growing ‘modesty movement’ that makes me so nervous?”

    My own random thoughts: Any secular *marketing movements* that explicit link themselves religious values make me nervous (example: the ads on Meridian’s homepage).

    However, Shades (run by Mormon women/mentioned in the article) fills a practical need for some LDS women (e.g. it hides garments and thus extends one’s wardrobe) — but could easily be worn by my 8th graders who like the layered look. They don’t link physical “modesty” to specific gender roles. It sounds like some of the other companies she notes do just that, though I haven’t looked at their website to fact-check it.

    I’m a big fan of cute clothing that I don’t have to tug; and I hate seeing young girls in over-sexualized clothing. But I grimace when I hear about stake/ward sponsored modesty fashion shows — which seem to be pretty common in the West. (It’s even one of the project options in Personal Progress.) Beyond basic principles, we shouldn’t be in the fashion business in Young Womens. Modesty is about far more than clothing styles. (Of course, maybe I had just one to many make-up/clothing activities in YW where I was left feeling awkward and ugly.)

  4. Caroline says:

    I liked this part:

    “It’s not a lack of female modesty but a sense of male entitlement that leads to sexual violence. And the idea that we women can change men’s behavior by changing our clothes is not only disconcerting, it has been debunked. As millions of women know all too well, no one ever avoided a rape by wearing a longer skirt.”

    I like this too, but have some questions:

    “And therein lies the problem with so much of the modesty movement. Scratch the surface, and what’s supposed to be good for girls reveals itself to be all about the boys: dressing in a way that doesn’t over-excite them…..”

    I think there could be truth in this (just think of Oaks’ walking pornography comment), but I think she’s ignoring the fact that dressing immodestly is often all about the boys too.

    So either way, one can interpret it to all come back to the men in the end.

  5. AmyB says:

    “many of the problems we hear about today — sexual harassment, date rape . . . are connected to our culture’s attack on modesty,”

    This type of thinking is so damaging. The book “Reading Lolita in Tehran” was an eye-opener for me and debunks this myth. It contains stories of men who would drive around as “modesty police” and basically harrass any women who may have accidentally shown an ankle outside their burqa or happened to be wearing nail polish.

    The unattributed Laurel Thatcher Ullrich quote was a somewhat ironic juxtaposition in the text!

  6. tracy says:

    What Julie said. And I bought the Dangerous Book for Boys, and intend to read it to my daughter, too. Good stuff in there.

  7. Deborah says:

    “[I] intend to read it to my daughter, too”

    (that’s what makes you so cool)

  8. Anonymous says:

    I think it makes great points. Men’s sexuality is their own responsibility. It shouldn’t be women’s responsibility to help them with self-control. A defense of modesty should be made on its own terms, not just because it helps men.

    Madhousewife, plenty of feminists are willing to engage gender essentialism. They just don’t agree with it, or don’t think its implications require that women and girls restrict their behavior in this way.

  9. Tatiana says:

    I see a lot to agree with in the article. The talk of modesty bothers me a lot too. Because it’s so one-sided, targeting girls instead of boys, because it is always couched in terms that make girls responsible for mens’ thoughts and actions, and because it’s SO HIGHLY DEPENDENT ON TIME, PLACE, AND CULTURE. What’s modest to me may be highly immodest to you. With whose standards should I comply? Why do I suspect you think deep down that I really ought to comply with yours? I guess that’s the biggest reason, because all this modesty talk is coercive, seeking to impose on girls standards that they don’t feel or share. To me, when you put a burkha on a 10 year old girl, you’re oversexualizing her. She should be free to run around and play, to be a child. Aren’t you doing something akin to the same thing true when you cover her shoulders or bare midriff? Something bothers me a whole lot about that.

  10. Deborah says:

    So Tatiana and others — what do you see as the spiritual/theological basis of modesty? It seems like one of those terms that has taken on too limited of a scope. Morality, in church speak, is often simply synonymous with chastity. Reverence is too often reduced to sitting quietly in church.

    And modesty is paired with clothing styles (for girls).

    But modesty also mean temperate, moderate, humble. Can we link these, as women, to thoughts about outward appearance that does not have to do with boys and sex — since from bikinis to burkas, men will sexualize women? Could broadening the term help boys find a personal connection to this concept? Can we rescue the term modesty from a discussion of hemlines?

  11. Ann says:

    I liked the same things Caroline did.

    The problem with the church’s rhetoric on modesty is that it is linked with submission. Modesty is equated with being feminine, demure, a daughter of God, a worthy vessel to bear priesthood leaders of the future (OK, I made up that last one.) It’s far too much about suppressing sexuality and far too little about asserting your value aside from your sexuality.

    I was impressed by Ohana Wwimwear’s marketing slogan – “Get back into the water.” Dressing modestly lets women get into the action. The church might get a lot further with its modesty objectives if they were couched in these girl-positive terms.

  12. madhousewife says:

    plenty of feminists are willing to engage gender essentialism. They just don’t agree with it, or don’t think its implications require that women and girls restrict their behavior in this way.

    This is what I mean by not engaging the subject. They dismiss it as either an illusion or as inconsequential, in which case it may as well be an illusion. The point is not that modesty-in-dress protects us from rapists and sexual harrassers, but that sexual modesty (which will entail modesty in dress to some extent, though there is obviously a wide variation in standards among individuals and cultures) facilitates the type of relationships with men that women prefer. Specifically, it encourages monogamy and it encourages men to engage women respectfully.

    Obviously, a rapist can choose a “modestly” dressed victim or an immodest one, and the clothing of the victim is most likely irrelevant to his determination to rape her. Just like a decent man would treat a woman respectfully regardless of what she is wearing. That is not the point. The point is that our sexually liberated culture benefits men almost exclusively–and encourages and rewards male behavior that women don’t want.

    Obviously men’s sexuality is their own responsibility. But so is women’s. The point is that a culture of modesty (where sexual modesty and restraint is expected of both sexes) is empowering to women (who prefer monogamy), whereas a culture of immodesty empowers men (who don’t prefer monogamy). It’s not about men liking sex more than women do. It’s about the different ways men and women experience and desire intimacy.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Women dress for other women primarily, I always thought that’s what social science has taught us, so it’s not “all about the boys”. Anyway, with this in mind, I think modesty is great for making those women who are less attractive feel less ashamed/undesireable.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Whatever, madhousewife. I’m well aware of the arguments, I just don’t think men and women can be smushed into two narrow categories and treated as if they are all the same, behave the same, and want the same things. Also, I don’t think it’s really true that men treat women better with modesty. Differently, but not necessarily better. And thirdly, gay people: they exist! Your model doesn’t account for them.

    If we’re so excited about modesty, let’s do away with diamond engagement rings and SUVs.

  15. matt thurston says:

    “But modesty also mean temperate, moderate, humble. Can we link these, as women, to thoughts about outward appearance that does not have to do with boys and sex — since from bikinis to burkas, men will sexualize women? Could broadening the term help boys find a personal connection to this concept? Can we rescue the term modesty from a discussion of hemlines?”

    Very well said, Deborah!! Please be the first to take up your own challenge…

    So are hemlines irrelevant, or just a piece of the overall modesty puzzle?

  16. Deborah says:

    Matt: That’s a good topic for my post next Tuesday . . .

  17. Just says:

    Very shallow, poorly organized article IMO…

  18. madhousewife says:

    I just don’t think men and women can be smushed into two narrow categories and treated as if they are all the same, behave the same, and want the same things.

    Of course not. Just as they can’t be smushed into one big category and treated as though they are all the same and want the same things. But I appreciate you engaging me with the “Whatever.” Nice to be humored.

    I don’t know why anyone would assume that general differences between the sexes equals comprehensive sameness within a given sex. But whatever.

    I’m also aware that homosexuals exist. In fact, it’s one of the reasons I’m convinced of the essential differences between men and women, especially vis a vis sexuality. Lesbians tend to have long-term, monogamous relationships far more than gay men do. (NOT that gay men are incapable of long-term relationships, but long-term monogamy is not the rule with gay men.)

    But as it happens, most people are not gay. Again, the modesty issue is not about dressing a certain way so men will treat you better. It’s about having a certain attitude toward sexuality and having standards for men that *correspond* with standards women have for themselves. I guess I shouldn’t bother with further exposition, as you’re well aware of all the arguments and simply reject them. I can dig that.

  19. Janna says:

    I’m into clothing from companies like Shade and Shabby Apple because, as one reader indicated, they provide a practical and fashionable option for garment wearers. I also appreciate that they don’t pontificate too much on the websites about the reasons for their design choices.

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