Jesus Freak: I am a Christian mom who was raised in a fundamental Christian home. I have questioned my beliefs and have come to love myself and God on my own terms. I'm raising my kids the same way.
Modesty is such a hot button topic in the Christian community. I know from personal experience how much modesty and purity are crammed down the throats of every churchgoer, starting from a young age. While this may seem like a platform that makes sense to prevent horrors like teen pregnancy and STDs, it doesn’t. Glossing over the realities of sex and blaming serious issues, like sexual assault, on women for the way that they dress is never the answer.
As always, the conservative Christian modesty doctrine may not ring true for every church, but it is something I have been taught. Most people who have attended youth group in the past are likely to agree with this Reddit comment:
I actually caught a lot of flack at church growing up for pointing out that in the girl's youth group we learned all about how to say no and when to stop situations from getting to sexual and the boy's youth group never had a lesson on the subject. Modesty is about holding women accountable for male sexuality, someone please tell me how this isn't misogynistic.
It would only make sense that this doctrine is often conveniently supported by Christian men. After all, if women are blamed for the modesty issue, then Christian men get off the hook. Again, this does not apply to all Christian men.
However, some Christian men embrace the modesty doctrine fully, expressed in spiritually-laced sexist statements like this:
You may be shocked to learn that the comments above were all posted by the same man. I personally am glad that he is not in my social circle as his “Christ-like” manipulation of women is almost too much to bear. In my personal opinion, it is one thing to want to control women through the way they dress; it is quite another to pretend that God has sanctioned it.
Even worse is the clear double standard in the above poster’s social media posts. From his limited point of view, all of the responsibility lies on the shoulders of his “Christian sisters” to keep their legs to themselves and find Godly motivation in the way they dress. I’m even more sickened when he asks if Christian women would feel comfortable standing in front of Jesus in their clothing. This is judgmental, patronizing, and demeaning. God couldn’t care less about the clothes on your body compared to what is in your heart.
The ever-popular Christian modesty doctrine is further described here:
Modesty taught me that my first priority needed to be making sure I wasn’t a “stumbling block” to men. Not being sexually attractive was the most important thing I had to consider when buying clothes, putting them on, maintaining my weight (can’t have things getting tight!), and moving around (can’t wiggle those hips, or let a little knee show). Modesty taught me that what I looked like was what mattered most of all. Not what I thought. Not how I felt. Not what I was capable of doing. Worrying about modesty, and being vigilant not to be sexy, made me even more obsessed with my looks than the women in short shorts and spray tans I was taught to hate.
When you argue that what’s modest and what isn’t is a valid concern for women, you tell them that their appearance matters most. You objectify them. You tell them that whether or not you are sexually aroused by their actions or their dress is more important than anything they want to do or wear. You tell them that they must, at all times, be thinking about you when they are making decisions about their own lives. That’s arrogant. That’s immoral.
I agree wholeheartedly with the final blogger’s assessment of the Christian modesty doctrine. Teaching young women to be modest from an early age may seem like it has value, but it is damaging at the core level. Women who are shamed for what they do or do not wear may never understand their worth; they will continually seek outside approval from others, especially men, to meet a “good” or “pure” standard.
We can’t ignore the more obvious issue that comes from enforcing modesty on young women in the church. If the unthinkable were to happen, like sexual assault or rape, it is often insinuated or even blatantly blamed on the woman. If she had been more modest… If she had covered up… If she hadn’t been so suggestive… If she had been dressing like a woman of God…
This line of thinking is disgusting. Any man or woman who even attempts to blame a sex crime on a woman because of her physical attributes or the way she was dressed is flat-out wrong. To anyone who abides by this line of thinking, I have to ask you: Would you feel comfortable saying that if Jesus was standing right next to you? The double standard has to stop.
(Image: Piotr Marcinski/Shutterstock)