Thursday, October 9, 2014

Modesty, That Hard Battle

I'm just going to say it. I have struggled, and I still do struggle with modesty. I wore a tube top on my honeymoon, and unfortunately I have the pictures to prove it. (Stinkin pictures!) During the early years of marriage, I sometimes donned a tight, short jean dress that I can't believe I ever wore out in public. And even now I must confess that my favorite everyday look is a simple, brightly-hued tank top with a pair of  dark jeans.


What is so ironic about my past and present clothing choices is that there is nothing I hate so much in mainstream media as the constant glorification of immodesty. I absolutely despise ridiculous commercials with fully attired men gawking at women in string bikinis - worse yet if the women are giggling like idiots. I am furious that it is always women's bodies that are used as advertising bait for everything from alcohol to fast food to vehicles.

I do my best to turn these commercials as quickly as possible. My daughters should not be exposed to these cardboard cutouts of our sex or feel compelled to compete with flimsy portrayals of womanhood. I am upset that my 12-year-old son is bombarded with these cheap (because they are so very easy to come by) but alluring images as he watches anything from a football game to a sitcom. If I am not careful, all my sons and daughters will be slowly inculcated into a culture of progressive immodesty by a bombardment of redundant and insidious but attractive messages.

So I turn the channel as quick as I can, and likewise I turn the radio in the car when songs about hot girls in tight jeans or short dresses at a drunken party come on. (My kids all like country music, but the aforementioned lyrics are a common problem with the formulaic genre aptly dubbed "Bro Country" by a music critic.)

Women have always been judged more based on appearance than men. I know that. I also know it is the reason why so many of us struggle with modesty. An unhealthy competition among the female sex has been praised and an unhealthy appetite in males has been encouraged by all forms of media. And we pay for it in the ways we treat each other based on these appearances.

The last thing I want to do as a mother and wife is to speak one message while projecting another. I do not want to be a hypocrite. It's a hard battle. We none of us want to be frumpy or plain, but we also, I sincerely hope, do not want our cleavage or bum ogled by every weak male who passes by or to scandalize others with our "daring" wardrobe choices that rival the outfits of music video performers.

This has been brewing for awhile in my mind, and today I read some very interesting takes on modesty, and I thought they hot the nail straight on the head. They are from a Christian perspective, because I don't think modesty is valued very highly in the secular sphere, as is pretty obvious.

Modesty is an Opportunity to Love examines how modesty shows love and respect for ourselves and others, including the men in our community. Jennifer Fulwiler also wrote about how it improves female friendships in Modesty Helps Women Be Friends. That last one is spot on. Lies I Tell Myself About Modesty is perfect to share with daughters or young friends who are fighting to retain their dignity and freedom on this important issue.


  1. Well, this post puts me in very deep water, perhaps even over my head. I admit that I ogle my wife's form upon every opportunity. Her beauty, however, though indescribably important to me, is not really why I love her. And I also confess that when she goes out in public, especially when I am not with her, modesty is a paramount consideration.
    Other than that bit of personal observation, I am utterly unqualified to comment.

    1. Of course, it is something else between husbands and wives. I am more likely by far to wear a "sexy" outfit while out on a date with Matthew. The issue here is more about how we project ourselves to others every day, about how we dress as a norm. In example, it should never be my goal to get other men other than my husband to notice me.

      In general, I think girls - very young girls, too - are being pressured by media images to be as immodest, as "sexy" as possible. That is not healthy.

  2. Hillary, I think we have had this conversation before! I believe your husband's behavior has more of an impact on your children's sense of modesty (and becoming behavior between men & women) than your dress--which BTW, I have never found immodest! My father never watched beauty pageants when we were growing up, and told us that he thought they were "meat markets". He also detested the movie "Pretty Woman" because he thought it glorified prostitution. He was also the one who told us that if we were going to wear a dress we had to sit like a lady. That's not to say that he didn't appreciate an attractive woman, but I felt he was aware of the messages he was sending to his children and modeled respectful behavior for us. (written in haste from Camille)

    1. I think both our dads did a pretty good job, and so I think you're right. Fathers are the most integral part of the equation. I also think your dad had some excellent points.

      For a comment written in haste, you did a marvelous job! Thanks for taking the time, because I think your point of view added a great deal, my friend!


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