Thursday, June 20, 2013

Modesty, it's an Attitude

Here I go. Another post riddled with my silly opinions. However, guess what? You don't have to agree or even read.

So it seems that the discussion of wearing a bikini and modesty in particular is a hot subject right now (at least in the Mormon world). A few weeks ago, I saw this floating around Facebook and decided to read it. I found that I was very irritated with what I read.

Sure, the author made a few good points. However, the main point I just could not get on board with. This is what first irked me:

 So why don’t you just wear a bikini, you ask? Why? Because I am making a sacrifice for the guys around me. 

Her reasoning for avoiding a bikini was to make a sacrifice for men. It does not bother me that she chooses not to wear bikinis. That's fine. I, personally, do not feel comfortable in a bikini unless I'm just laying out to read a book, and even then, I'm really picky about what kind of bikini I will tan in. So that doesn't bug me. What bugs me is how modesty often becomes something that is all about dress, all about women dressing modestly, and all about women dressing modestly to help the men keep their pants on.

Modesty is personal. It should be about much more than dressing a certain way to get the stamp of approval from others. I choose to dress modestly for myself, and my personal choices of modesty are just that: personal. It makes me feel more confident in my actions and behaviors. For me, dressing modestly helps me focus more on my soul and my mind. Not only that, but I feel that it directly strengthens my relationship with my Heavenly Father (this post might get kind of LDS specific, so sorry if my references confuse anyone).

I found the following on my church's website:

Modesty is an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves. Instead, we seek to “glorify God in [our] body, and in [our] spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:20; see also 1 Corinthians 6:19).

This also brings up the point that modesty comes down to much more than just dress. Modesty is humility; being humble in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. Therefore, if you choose to dress a certain way yet ridicule and judge another for the way they dress, I don't think you are showing very modest behavior (just my personal opinion). Dressing modestly and then turning around to say, "Look how so-and-so dresses. What a skank," is NOT a good example of modesty. You are not glorifying God when you do this, you are glorifying yourself by tearing another down and putting yourself above them. Judging others is not a good path to modesty. It's something I am much too guilty of and I am working on it. After all, it does me much more harm than the people I waste time judging. Also, how someone else chooses to dress has zero affect on my own modesty. It's really none of my business.

Another point in the post that bothered me, was the comparison of women to cake:

 I think we can all agree that as girls, exercise is important to us. We want to stay healthy and are often working on getting fit. We work out and stay away from carbs or sweets. We use all of our willpower to not eat the chocolate cake on the counter! Now, let’s pretend that someone picked up that chocolate cake and followed us around all the time, 24/7. We can never get away from the chocolate, it’s always right there, tempting us and even smelling all ooey gooey and chocolate-y. Most of us, myself included, would find it easy to break down and eat the cake. And we would probably continue to break down and eat cake, because it would always be there. Our exercise goals would be long gone in no time.
This is how I imagine it is for guys. Girls are walking around all the time with barely any clothes on at the beach or pool! Guys can never get a break from it, even if they’re trying to see past all the bodies to find the smiles and personalities within the girls.

First off, who says we stay away from carbs or sweets? Pass the chocolate cake, please. But in all seriousness, this metaphor made the feminist in me want to gag. I do not want to be compared to ooey gooey chocolate cake. I am a human being with feelings, ideas, dreams, and desires. I do not want to be compared to something that will be drooled over and devoured unless I hide my body. I hope and pray for women and girls out there that your reasoning for modesty is not because you think your body is shameful or tempting. Sadly, I think this idea often gets tied to modesty. However, it is quite the opposite. In my own life, when I have chosen to cover up, it helps me feel more beautiful and I have gone to new heights in respecting myself and my body. It makes me feel like a person and not a sex object. However, if you are covering up in order to "protect the guys" or so "people won't look at you a certain way", you are still turning yourself into a sex object. Just in a different way. You are thinking, I must cover up because my body is a bad thing that should not be desired, rather than, I choose to cover up because I want my mind and personality to be desired along with my body. So I guess my main hope with modesty, is that we choose to live it because it makes us feel like better and happier people, not because we feel shamed into doing it, thinking our bodies are bad things. Taken from For The Strength of Youth pamphlet, regarding modesty:

Your body is sacred. Respect it and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show that you know how precious your body is. 

After reading the article that I saw being reposted by many of my friends, I thought to myself that maybe I was being silly. Perhaps I was getting worked up about something that was really no big deal at all. So that night, I had Brian read the article, without telling him my thoughts on it. When I asked what he thought, he answered,

"I'm kind of mad. This makes it sound like men have no control. We can be accountable."

Then I suddenly had this new perspective. Not only can these certain ideas about modesty be degrading to women, but men too. Let's give the guys some credit. Besides, I have a feeling any guy who has dirty thoughts about the girl wearing the bikini will have the same dirty thoughts about the girl wearing the one piece.

Like I already mentioned, this is just my own opinion and maybe I am bat shiz crazy. I would love to hear opinions and thoughts on the subject. I really do find modesty a fascinating subject.

Other articles regarding this same subject I've seen floating around:

The Evolution of the Swimsuit

Men, Sex, and Modesty

I really enjoyed both these articles. While I don't agree with everything said in them, I thought they were both very well done. So, what say ye? What does modesty mean to you?


  1. I agree, wholeheartedly. A lot of modesty discussions put off the impression that men are mindless and dictated by their sex drive and it's all the girls' fault if he has impure thoughts. Neither men nor women are a piece of meat. Sure, dressing modestly helps out the situation but I don't cover up because I'm afraid some boy is going to have sinful thoughts. I cover up because I understand the divinity of my body and the respect I deserve. In marriage and serious relationships, you care about someone so deeply and you're attracted to them so fully that you could get your jollies off of a nightgown. Bikinis and modest dress aren't the end all be all for abstinence.

    Oh boy, I got carried away. In conclusion: I agree with you. Like, a lot. Ha.

    1. "Sure, dressing modestly helps out the situation but I don't cover up because I'm afraid some boy is going to have sinful thoughts. I cover up because I understand the divinity of my body and the respect I deserve." ---Perfect point, Samantha. I couldn't have stated it better.

  2. My thoughts are as follows: as a child I took my shirt off whenever I pleased and am very comfortable doing so when ever wnd where ever still to this day. I enjoy mowing my lawn without a shirt as to get my tan on I m trying to say I am comfortable in my skin. As for women doing us "men" a favor there is no favor like you said if a man is going to fantasize about you you just as well be naked it won't change what he is thinking. Also a freind of mine once tole me this " I was sitting on an optional beach and wanted to rent some chairs and a table so I turned to the topless woman next to me and asked her where exactly to pay the man. Through out the rest of the aftet noon I couldn't help but notice thst I wasn't checking out the topless or nude women but the ones that were covered up because I like to wonder" this goes along with saying a dirty mind is a dirty mind and almost saying the nore covered up the more there is to think about. Ok enough about that. The second thought that comes to mind was told to me by a preisthood leader "satin will put bad thoughts in your head all day long it is your choice weather you entertain them or not. Also things such as your haircut could be inmodest if you are using it to get a rise. So I beleive modesty is in the head and morals of me myself and I if I am comfortable then I am modest .

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Tyler. I have really appreciated getting feedback from guys on this topic.

  3. pretty thought-provoking post; I haven't given "Modesty in language and behavior" much thought before. I'm glad you quoted Brian's opinion about the article. My husband shares the same and I appreciate him for showing me a different (certainly loftier) point of view. The concept of modesty in dress sure gets tricky - a person can stand her own ground pretty easily, but then children come into the picture and opportunities of interacting with peers/youth groups. Then, modesty takes on different dimensions. I am thankful for guidelines, such as your quoted references.

  4. i wholeheartedly agree with you! I feel uncomfortable when I don't feel covered up enough, and it's not at all because I think some guy is looking at me and having fantasies. It's simply because I don't like having that much exposed. And like you said, I feel closer with my Heavenly Father when i'm modest. It always bothered me that people place the modesty issue all on guys' shoulders and basically say if something bad happens that "it's the girl's fault because they didn't have enough on and then didn't stop them." Like your husband said, guys have accountability, too! And contrary to popular belief, guys do in fact have control over their own thoughts. Ha. Plus, all of the reasons stated in the article have everything to do with what others think of you and not enough of what God thinks of you, and, most importantly, what YOU think of yourself. I liked what you said about being modest in other ways. I never thought about it like that. Anyway, I'm all over the place. Love this Kelsey!

  5. I love this post so much! I had a conversation with Josh the other day about the modesty issue, how it's pushed so hard on girls but in all the wrong ways- all about objectifying girls and not teaching them why the Lord would want us to show respect for our bodies. Maybe teaching the sex object route might seem easiest and would make the most sense to young girls, but teaching them to gain their own testimony about modesty and their body being a temple is so much more lasting, precious, and empowering.
    And why does everyone want to victimize the man? Poor man, he can't control his bad thoughts so we must tell girls that it's all their fault. Really?? Why belittle men like that? They are not weak and powerless! Josh was really insulted by that as well.

    And great point about how judging the way other girls dress is not modest. Very well put!

    And seriously. I want some of that cake too.

    1. Thanks, Bethany. I feel the same way. Perhaps the sex object route seems like the easiest way of teaching modesty but I definitely think it's also the most harmful. I love what you say about teaching modesty in a way that is lasting, precious, and empowering. It definitely should be ALL of those things! Love!

      Let's eat cake.

  6. I agree with a lot of what you said:

    Modesty in clothing is more than an issue of showing skin and not showing skin. This is getting very much down to "spirit of the law" stuff, but it goes back to what you quoted about "drawing undue attention to ourselves." Wearing clothes simply to get compliments, joining clothing fads to fit in, trying to dress "cool" for attention...all in way or another could be immodest, with the connotation of immodesty as being "not humble." Regardless of what kind of skin is shown, I am much more put off by a girl that is clearly trying too hard to look "hot" or "cute" or whatever than a girl that just dresses within themselves and their personality.

    Second, I think we need to be careful when using the term "dirty mind." This always makes me think that a man who lets his imagination wander or who experiences lust, like, has some permanent condition. Like, one type of male has a "dirty mind" but can occasionally control them to have clean thoughts, and the other male has a "clean mind" but may occasionally let it slip. And those are the only two kinds! Ha ha. How about, we all just have a mind, we are all fighting the natural man and just trying our best! Let's differentiate between "a sin" and "sinner." I've looked at girls dressed modestly and had inappropriate thoughts. I've looked at girls dressed immodestly and haven't thought anything. I've looked at girls dressed immodestly and thought nothing at all. I've had inappropriate thoughts not looking at a girl at all. It is what it is. Let's stop assuming all men are in some kind of predetermined rut.

    1. Anonymous, I wish I knew who you were because I appreciated your comment. You made some excellent points. I know I am often guilty of thinking too much about the clothes I put on my body. What can I say, I like pretty colors and patterns. However, there are much more important things to focus our time and attention on.

      I also love your input on the dirty mind bit. I have always been upset with how modesty becomes this huge responsibility on women, and often makes us feel like the problem. I always felt it was degrading to women. However, I see more and more how these views are equally degrading to men. You are right, we are all human and we will all have inappropriate thoughts at one time or another. And I am sure as a woman, I have lustful thoughts just as often as some men (gasp!). We just need to learn we are all responsible for our own thoughts and be supportive of one another (not pick women apart for dressing a certain way and not point fingers at men for thinking a certain way).

      Thanks for your comment!


Make my day. Leave a comment.