...and Then I Wore Pants

8:00 AM

Yesterday I wrote about how I got over modesty issue #1: what the Bible says about modern modesty issues. (Answer: nothing directly.) Since I'm writing about modesty in relation to causing men to stumble, it made sense to ask my boyfriend what he thought about the controversy. I asked if I could interview him. He said, "Tell them an open back is fine, and the front can be cut as low as it can go, but anything not covering the ankles is unacceptable." Then he started explaining how giant spiders in the police force could stop crime. Translated, this means, No way are you interviewing me. 

I'll carry on without him.

I last left off saying that I started developing the desire to wear something other than skirts and that I didn't believe the Bible said wearing pants counted as cross-dressing. But I still refused to wear pants because they outlined my form, and my form would cause men to stumble. (Poor Bailey. I actually thought guys paid attention to me. Sadly, I was misinformed. They liked me only for my brain, not my body.)

The issue got complicated when I learned that not all men felt the urge to objectify women. Not all guys lusted after bikini-clad girls. "Why?" I asked these seemingly aberrant creatures. "Why does a woman baring nearly all not cause you to stumble?"

"You just don't think things like that," these noble creatures told me. "It's not a big deal for a girl to show skin. I grew up around women in bikinis, women in tank tops, women in pants. I don't even notice." One guy really blew my mind: "Guys know that women have legs, too. You don't need to hide them."

I initially felt like the entire internet problem of modesty -- the passionate YouTube pleas from struggling guys, the open letters to sisters in Christ -- was a big con. Did people tell these sheltered Christian boys that they would and should struggle with a bikini-clad beach girl? Did this entire issue arise because guys pulled their sons aside at the beach and said, "Son, you see that bikini-clad beach girl? That's immodesty. Don't ever marry someone like her"? (Fun fact: I learned the word "clad" from all the stuff I read about modesty. It usually was modified by "bikini," as demonstrated above. You can't say "bikinied," because it's not a word, but bikinis are a euphemism for immodesty, so the modest is hottest gurus needed a hip adjective: "bikini-clad." Moving on.)


How many twisted ankles did it take for high heels on the beach to go out of style?
Photo Credit
Come to think of it, my lifeguard brother only mentioned the Bikini Problem once -- to complain that certain body types maybe don't look super flattering in a two-piece. Come to think further, I never personally met a guy who told me he struggled with how the women in his church or public school dressed. It was anonymous males on the internet who wrote anonymous open letters that went viral among conservative Christian girls. It was women who condemned women for baring their knees and shoulders. It was other girls who cheerfully repeated, "Modest is hottest!" and retold stories of how guys opened the door for them when they wore skirts. (Guys never held the door open for me, and I wore skirts my entire life. I'm still bitter about it, as you can see.) In fact, guys allegedly indeed thought modest was hottest. I think the guys around me missed the memo. They just thought I was frumpy.
Erich, do you like the way I dress now?
Yes. Unless the right answer is no. Maybe? You're always pretty!
Getting serious, I realize that this issue does not arise purely from a female conspiracy to make women conform to standardized jumpers. From the small sampling of family and friends I know, no guy has mentioned their lady friends' clothing choices as a stumbling block. Nonetheless, the internet tells me that many men indeed do struggle with this problem. What do we do about those brothers in Christ?

We teach them to guard their eyes. 

Austin Carr puts it in a way I never heard explained before: "Lust is a choice, not a reaction." If a guy gets short-of-breath because a gorgeous girl walks by, he needs to know that feeling attraction does not equal lusting. That's a reaction. If a guy turns his head to watch that gorgeous girl and imagines some things that he should not, that's lust, and that is solely his problem. As I mentioned in "The Very Last Modesty Article Ever," men find different articles of clothing more of a stumbling block than others -- one man admitted that a pretty skirt makes a woman more attractive to him than jeans do. Instead of trying to reduce a woman's wardrobe to clothes that no man can ever lust after (i.e. you can't), we need to teach our boys to deal with lust. Lust is a choice, not a reaction. Even when faced with straight-up porn, a man must still discipline himself to turn away and choose purity of thought.

This thinking led me to wearing pants, tank tops, shorts, skinny jeans...everything that I currently wear now that I did not wear back in the day lest I cause anonymous males on the internet to stumble. It's not that I went on an anything-goes shopping spree. I just no longer dress to avoid causing men as a general category to lust after me. "Men in general" and their struggle with lust is not my problem. It's theirs. After a lifetime of conditioning myself in the modesty culture, that sounds harsh, but it's true. That's not to say I run around naked with no consideration for other people. I dress for good reasons, some of which involve other people's opinions...and I'll tell you all about it tomorrow!
Erich, seriously. Have you noticed that I dress differently than when you first met me? 
Yeah. You went from grandma-style to odd-fashioned.
Your turn! What do you think of the idea that it's solely a guy's responsibility to guard his eyes?
Do the guys in your life think differently than the guys I know? 

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23 impressions

  1. Yes. Yes. Yes. As someone else trying to figure out such things (I buy my own clothes now. I'm an adult. What is modest?) and transitioning I relate to this so much. I used to be even more "modest" than my mom required. Honestly, she was pretty lax. But being involved in the whole online Christian modesty debate, and also reading Brio and Suzy mag, modesty was something I considered nearly every time I dressed. And it still is to a point. It's a habit.

    My Christian employer comes from the strain of thought that basically anything attractive or unique is immodest/bad and should not be worn for work so that complicates things as well. (And then my boyfriend tells me he likes how I dress for work. While I feel restrained in skirts and dressy sweaters. Mind blown) At the moment I still wear swimming trunks and rash guards for swimming, and only knee ish length jeans (partially because I'm lazy and shaving above the knees is something I've never had to do). But branching into tank tops and skinny jeans and kneeish length skirts has been interesting. Sometimes I think modesty culture should just be renamed guilt culture, though I know its' founders had good intentions. Anyways, all that to say that I relate to what you've been discussing lately, a lot. Also, I'll add as a side note, that I have occasionally met guys who have talked about the modesty struggle in person. But, like you, I wonder how much of it is because they are told they should struggle here.

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    1. It's good to find someone likeminded on this issue! It really DOES get complicated when guilt and people's opinions get all mixed up in something that should be pretty simple. I'm sorry your employer and boyfriend don't understand where you're coming from. I'm so grateful for a super flexible boyfriend who supports my style and my understanding of modesty. I change my mind and style so often that if he wasn't cool with my opinion, it'd be super frustrating!! If you haven't chatted with your boyfriend about this issue, I'd encourage you to do so! It's always interesting seeing this discussion from his perspective. :)

      Hahaha! I sooo relate to not shaving above the knee. -.- It's SUCH a pain. Even with super short legs. :P

      On the guys who actually express struggles: I'm sure that there are guys who genuinely struggle with this. But I'm also pretty sure that most of the guys I've heard talking about how hard it is when a woman dresses "immodestly" are either homeschooled or come out of this modesty culture where they're told this is a problem. A lot of public schooled or more "liberated" homeschooled guys really don't care about this issue, aren't taught to honor more "modestly" dressed women over girls in other clothes, and don't struggle with it at all, even if they've struggled with pornography. And then there's that guy friend with the pin up girls calendar in his room. >facepalm< Some guys give license to their lust because they've never been taught to control it. Some guys give license to their lust because they're told they SHOULD feel turned on by a girl in shorts. It's tough.

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  2. This is a very interesting topic :) I have been told by a guy I know that he values women who dress modestly and that it is difficult for him to have pure thoughts when girls don't dress modestly. So for me it is not just anonymous men on the internet ;) and on the topic of men opening doors for girls... I had guys open the door for me when I worked at a factory and dressed like everyone else, male or female (jeans, work boots, safety glasses, work-issued unisex t-shirt) lol.
    Honestly, my modesty standard is this: I will dress in a way that shows respect: first of all respect for myself, because my body does not belong to other people and so I don't want them seeing too much of me. I am a private person so I would rather cover up and keep my business to myself. and second, respect for other people, who may not want to see a person strutting their stuff while they are trying to go about their day to day lives.
    And I agree, each person is responsible for his or her own sin. But we are also to walk in love and not cause others to stumble in any area of life.

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    1. You've got a really balanced opinion this, Justine. Love it! My personal convictions about modesty are also about respect in the two areas you mentioned. I try not to dress to offend, but if I haven't been given guidelines or reservations, I'll feel more freedom in how I dress. (I still keep my business to myself too. I don't anybody seeing that!) More on that tomorrow!

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  3. I think your very last post on modesty was the way I found your blog in the first place, Bailey. It was about 3 years ago and I was thinking really hard about these kinds of things at the time. My sister sent me a link to your post right when I was thinking of writing my own post on modesty. http://appetiteofliving.blogspot.com/2012/05/hookers-heroines-boys-girls-and-where.html

    I used to be SO self-concious about how I was being perceived by men. If I wore a tank top, I felt very scandalous and felt like all men's eyes were on me, possibly lusting after me. If I bent over and my shirt rode up even a tiny bit, I'd be worried everyone was staring at my butt or bare skin.

    Now I really don't give a rip. I'm trying to not care what other people think of me in life in general, and I think my clothing choices are a part of it. I ALWAYS bought clothes with everyone's opinions in mind...my mom's, my dad's, my friends, random men...now I just want to feel like I'm buying clothes that I alone want to wear. Because of that, i totally wear yoga pants. In public. And i have a big butt. I honestly don't care because I like the way my big butt looks in yoga pants and they are freakin' COMFY! I also wear a bikini. Maybe I don't have a perfect bikini body but I honestly don't care what people think when they see me in it because it's none of their business. It's my way of reveling in my freedom, and it makes me feel confident when I wear it. And it's not like I'm the only one wearing a bikini at the pool, so I don't exactly stand out or bring attention to myself. Unlike the days when we wore our modest swimsuits that covered EVERYTHING.

    I haven't asked my boyfriend what he thinks I should be wearing because honestly I think he'd answer almost exactly like your boyfriend. He thinks I'm pretty and he's probably still going to want to hug and kiss me even if I was wearing a gunny sack from head to toe.

    So I'd say in a nutshell, my modestly standard is this: wear what I want, and try to guage my "appropriateness" more along the lines of the social situation rather than the people.

    I say this because when I was a senior in high school, I wore long skirts to a part time job at an eye clinic but I did not dress professionally enough...instead of business attire, I was wearing khaki skirts. Not appropriate. Modest, yes. But not appropriate.

    And I love the point you made about teaching men to guard their eyes because I think a lot of young men that grew up in the skirt culture feel guilty for appreciating a woman's beauty. It's ok to think girls are pretty and to notice that. It's not ok to think that women are only around for your enjoyment or that you should entertain or act upon impulses that could use or harm another person. But noticing a pretty girl is perfectly natural. It would free up a lot of guilty men for them to realize the difference between appreciating beauty and objectifying women. And women in the modesty culture can TOTALLY objectify men. Case in point: pride and prejudice nights where all your skirt-clad friends are oogling over Mr Darcy aka Colin Firth.

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    1. I don't find Colin Firth attractive. And I don't like that version of P&P, anyways. ;)

      I love the points you're making!! Some thoughts inspired by yours: I totally agree that appropriateness is an important part of making thoughtful choices in dress, especially if one of your principles is to respect other people. I love how said to gauge appropriateness according to the social situation rather than people. Ironically, social situations tend to be a little more black and white -- and singular -- than everybody's varying opinions!

      I think we girls spend WAY TOO MUCH time thinking about what other people will think about our clothes. I go to a pretty small school, but I see a large diversity of dress and undress. Unless something is super conservative or super skanky, I really don't notice what people are wearing right off the bat. If you ask someone their opinion on your outfit, sure, they'll probably have lots to say about its modesty or immodesty. But the average person you walk past really isn't going to notice or care -- not even the guys. We scrutinize what we wear for other people's sake, but those same people probably won't even notice. What a waste of energy!!

      You know how girls in the purity culture sometimes feel shame for crushing on a guy and equate that with emotional impurity? I think that's the same with guys: nobody teaches them that it's okay to find a girl cute. That's just normal!

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  4. OK, had to comment on this one. While our friendship has been entirely internet based, I hope I count as a little more than just an anonymous web dude, Bailey. :-D

    So... first off, I heartily agree that men need to take responsibility for their own eyes, minds, and hearts, and have no right to pull an Adam and say "it was the woman."

    That said...

    When I saw the picture in your article, I looked away instantly. That's how I've been trained to react to pictures of women who are revealing parts of their body that it isn't my business to look at. Thighs, in this case.

    I think. I didn't hang around to make sure.

    I am so happy and blessed that my parents trained me to "bounce my eyes" from an early age.

    And I think it's a real bummer when I have to bounce my eyes off of my sisters in Christ.

    So. While I agree that it is wrong to saddle Christian girls with a boatload of guilt and modesty rules, I greatly appreciate it when my sisters in Christ respect me with their dress.

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  5. Too many words to put it all in one comment... thanks for bearing with me. :-D

    I think I would make a distinction between dressing attractively and dressing immodestly/reavealingly/whatever you want to call it.

    Guys are going to have to deal with attraction regardless. Unless girls go around in shapeless suits of armor with vocal transformers to completely hide their gender, attraction will be there. I think it's good for girls to look well-put-together, stylish, feminine, act in Godly ways- indeed, this will *make* them attractive. Frumpiness is not a virtue.

    That is different, I contend, from a girl revealing things that should belong to her husband. To walk around in a bikini is to walk around in the equivalent of underwear. For some bizarre reason we are OK with that around bodies of water, but would be shocked by it anywhere else. And, honestly, it doesn't matter if it "makes guys stumble" or not. It matters because I don't see how that kind of attire can be squared with Scripture.

    So I guess what I'm hearing in this article that bothers me is that it seems you are almost saying none of that matters- that God has nothing to say about revealing form and feature in the way we dress.

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  6. Also, I would like to add that it is awful hypocritical for the church (not you, Bailey- you aren't doing this) to go around condemning girls for tight jeans while the guys at the church volleyball function are out there shirtless, with their tan and toned abs and biceps and pects glistening in the sunlight. Um... >.<

    Which brings me to another concern- it almost seems that you are saying "our brothers in Christ can take a hike" as far as this issue is concerned. While I am all for calling men to responsibility, I don't think it is best to do so by calling girls to stop caring about the eyes and hearts of the men around them.

    And this isn't a double standard, either. If an athletic guy is wearing two shirt sizes too small all the time around a bunch of girls... or if a Christian brother is always spending one-on-one time with young women he knows, baring his soul, listening to their deepest concerns and troubles... these guys also need to be thinking about the temptations they may be instilling in the hearts of these girls, *even though the girls are responsible for how they deal with those temptations*.

    To say "well, that's their problem" is to shirk the responsibility we *do* have and to miss an opportunity to love.

    So if you're saying "it's not a sin to wear pants," or "men are responsible for their eyes," I'm right there with you. Amen. Preach on. I'm not interested in adding 1st and 2nd Modesty to the Bible.

    But it's a good thing to encourage girls (and guys) to be covered. That is clearly Biblical. How it looks in every instance isn't our job to define. But that it should look like *something*- it is our duty to proclaim that.

    And then we start looking at principles. "If hundreds of Christian guys are asking me to stop wearing mini-skirts, should I reconsider?" "Does my Under-Armor muscle-shirt really count as Biblically "covering," or is it more like painting my skin a different color?" "Do these pants which define every contour of my legs really honor God and my future husband who is the only one who should be looking at every contour of my legs?" "Does this Speedo really count as clothing?" And so on.

    My fiancée's modesty, or covered-ness, honors me.

    So regardless of whether it makes guys or girls stumble... why would we want to reveal private areas of our body and put our flesh on display for those around? What does God have to say about that?

    And if hundreds and thousands of Christian guys are appealing to girls to consider them in their clothing choices... maybe there's an opportunity to love, there. Should guys control their minds? Yes. Does that absolve women of all responsibility and free them to dress and act like the Proverbs 7 woman? Of course not.

    I believe all Christians should wear clothes, defined in a Biblical fashion. The Biblical purposes of clothing are two, that I know of- 1. To cover nakedness (Genesis 3) and 2. to make gender distinctions ("It is a shame for a woman to wear a man's clothing").

    Whenever our clothing fails to do either of those things, it is no longer Biblically appropriate attire.

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    1. You definitely count as more than an anonymous web dude, Gabriel! Thanks for sharing! If you get a chance, I'd love to hear your thoughts on my principles that I laid out in the blog post after this one, where I go into more detail about how/why I specifically dress.

      I get what you're saying. I really do. And you're definitely a guy that takes responsibility for his thoughts, which is awesome. I respect that. I don't want to change your views, per se, because I think your heart is in the right place. Believe it or not, I actually agree with your two Biblical purposes of clothing -- to cover the shame of nakedness, and to celebrate gender distinctions.

      We only disagree on what counts as nakedness. :) The Bible doesn't say. Adam and Eve obviously covered something, so we know that running around completely naked is probably out. I say "probably," because I believe clothes were given for our own benefit to cover the shame we feel when our nakedness is exposed -- not to prevent other people from viewing us as we are. There's nothing wrong with naked bodies. Bodies are great and good. But as fallen humans, we naturally feel shame for our nakedness. It ends up being a good and necessary thing because in this fallen world, clothes actually do protect our private parts from being viewed by people who shouldn't see them AND they enable us to go about our work of being human without getting sunburned, scratched, etc.

      What counts as nakedness varies from culture to culture. You grew up being taught that thighs are private parts. I disagree, which is why I felt 100% comfortable posting the picture of those girls in cute, modest (yes, modest) swimsuits and high heels. You have the freedom to look away if you believe thighs are immodest, and you're right to not violate your conscience by looking.

      Modesty as the feeling of shame when exposing one's nakedness is a universal human thing. The definition of nakedness -- i.e. what CAUSES that shame -- varies from culture to culture. In some cultures, women can go topless but would never expose their thighs; in their culture, it's thighs, not breasts, that are sexually stimulating and private. In our culture, well, sometimes anything goes, but it's pretty prevalent that for a woman, bikinis cover what's considered private in our culture. Not saying I'd personally wear a bikini.

      Same thing with guys. I don't care if guys run around shirtless while playing Ultimate Frisbee on the quad or wear their skin-tight Underarmour shirts. I used to care, but that's because I was told to care. But my definition of nakedness does not include guys going shirtless. It's actually weirder for me to see guys in short shorts than entirely shirtless, just because I'm not used to that. (Aaaand because short shorts on guys looks RIDICULOUS. But anyway. :P)

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    2. You asked why it's okay for girls to wear bikinis on the beach but it's inappropriate to wear their underwear out in public. It's actually not the same thing to most people at all. That's how cultures work. Cultures develop varying levels of appropriateness and inappropriateness. Bikinis are worn on the beach, underwear is worn in the bedroom or under clothes. Bikinis don't have to be sexual in nature, underwear probably is. That's the cultural context. It would be totally inappropriate for a woman to wear a bikini to class or a guy to go shirtless to church, because those are not the proper contexts to wear such clothing (or lack of clothing, as it were ;)).

      The one thing where I strongly disagree is how you kept saying that a woman's body belongs to her husband.I strongly believe a woman's life and body is NOT defined by any man or how any man views her (beyond the fact that not all women marry or even want to marry). Her body belongs to Christ and herself. If she marries, both the husband's and wife's bodies belong to each other mutually.

      I'm fine with people seeing my thighs or the contours of my legs. I'm a human, I have normal anatomy, I'm awed by how beautiful and functional God created my body. I respect that body and the God who made it by NOT revealing what I believe to be nakedness, but that's a decision I've made to honor God and honor my body, not to honor a future maybe-existent husband who currently has no claim over me. I also think it's not inherently wrong for guys and girls to pour out their hearts to each other and encourage each other. Wisdom, not hard-and-fast rules, determines how to act in each particular situation regarding both interactions with the opposite sex and matters of dress.

      Having said all this, I'm not going to show up to your house in my shorts, because that's absolutely unloving and unfair to you. I respect your conscience and your convictions. In that case, I have no problem and indeed do consider it my responsibility to dress in such a way that does not cause you to struggle. But if you ran into me at Walmart while I'm shopping in my shorts and yellow t-shirt, I think that's an instance where you would need to show love, respect, and self-control. Which, because you're a man of character, I'm absolutely confident you would. :)

      Hopefully that makes sense? I know we probably won't agree, but please comment if I've been unclear or if you have anything else to add!

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  7. I keep wanting to comment on these posts, because I have lots (*cough* LOTS) to say about this whole topic...but I also seem to have a befuddled little brain that can't put my thoughts into words presently, so I'll spare you all from my attempt. ;)

    I'll just say two things: Really enjoying this series of posts and all the discussion on it.
    Also, I met Gabriel last week, and he was pretty cool. ;) Plus, he randomly said hi to me one afternoon when I was feeling lonely. *nods*

    (P.S. I miss you! We should talk again sometime soon.)

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    1. Amy, we definitely need to chat again! I'll try to call your tomorrow night while I'm sitting desk. I'd love to hear your thoughts, befuddled or not. And I've just missed you too. I've just been INSANELY BUSY for the past few weeks.

      You meeting Gabriel has furthered his not-random-anon-internet-dude status. ;)

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    2. Unfortunately, I'm going to be busy all of tomorrow and Saturday, so call whenever you like, except for those days. :) No problem, totally understand that being-crazy-busy stuff!

      Haha, yeah, figured it might- thus why I brought it up. ;)

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    3. Whaaaat? :'( Well, then. I think I'll be less busy next week, so I'll try to call then! Keep your thoughts fresh in your mind and enjoy your weekend! :D

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    4. Dawwww... didn't realize you were feeling lonely. Hope my random "hi!" managed to brighten your day a bit. :-)

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  8. Gotta be quick 'cuz redeem the time.

    1. Thank you. (Non-anonymous-web-dude-status achieved. Huzzah. :-D)

    2. OK... clothes were given to cover our shame, not to prevent others from seeing us as we are... so... if a nudist can run around in public without feeling any shame... is that OK? #honestquestion

    3. This is beginning to sound like relativism to me. Nakedness is whatever a culture defines it as. Yet, as the Gospel has progressed into the earth, we have seen a general principle that paganism leads to the removing of clothes and Christianity leads to the putting on of clothes. Is this accidental? Should we tell the naked savages to stay naked but just lose the savage bit?

    4. In the past I would have thought "Wow! Those are modest swimsuits!" In the past, I would have gone swimming shirtless with a bunch of other teenagers. Now, I look back on that and I'm like WUT.

    5. Our cultural definition of appropriate attire has gone from newspaper to postage stamp over the past few hundred years. Is there a reason for this progression? Is it a good thing, or a bad thing, or an amoral thing?

    6. Short shorts on guys look VERY ridiculous. Preach.

    7. I would content that context is a very good rule of thumb when it comes to the style or class of clothing, but not when it comes to what should be concealed or revealed from a moral or ethical point of view- that would be relativism. If it is inappropriate for someone to reveal a given part of their body publicly in one place, so it is in every other place (with the obvious exceptions of doctor's office, bathroom, with their spouse, etc.). So your argument is spot on regarding tuxedoes and overalls, but I don't think it's as solid regarding bikinis and prairie skirts.

    8. The woman's body and the man's body belong to Christ, and, in marriage, to each other. From a sexual/nakedness standpoint, our bodies should belong to either no one or to our spouse. That's what I'm meaning.

    9. I agree with your "not inherently wrong" statement. It's the principle of the thing. :-) Three cheers for wisdom.

    10. Honestly, there are a bajillion things that are a higher priority than modesty. A lost girl in a bikini needs Jesus way more than she needs a dress. But that doesn't mean that she doesn't need a dress. (I'm using the dress as an example, not a legalism.) Once she is clothed in Christ's Righteousness, Christ's Righteousness will lead to a change in her clothing. Are there Christian girls in bikinis who love Jesus? Absolutely! Will they ever change? Maybe. I don't know. That's between them and Christ. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't matter, or that God is silent on the issue.

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  9. Re: your latest article:

    Well... quick thoughts.

    You mentioned that a woman's body should be celebrated and should not be seen as primarily sexual, but sexuality is part of the fact that it is a woman's body. It's a wonderful, beautiful thing; it's not something to be ashamed of- and that means that it's also not something to try to separate from her identity.

    I don't think anyone is arguing that wearing a skirt makes a woman a woman, but rather that it is an external sign that she loves being a woman and wants to make it obvious. What does a cross-dressing man do when he wants to look like a woman?

    If celebrating a woman's body involves revealing her body, as with the photographer you mentioned, then I plan to celebrate one woman's body for my whole life, and have no desire to celebrate any others, by God's Grace.

    If celebrating a woman's body means appreciating her health or strength or beauty or the fact that she does indeed have a body that is shaped femininely and not masculinely, then amen, hallelujah, praise the Lord! But does that really have anything to do with whether or not she should be displaying her body in certain ways?

    I'm not ashamed to show that God created my muscles, either... insofar as I can do so modestly. Is this really addressing the issue? I think everyone from Botkin to Bailey agrees that woman can show their curves. The question is *how* to do so wisely and within Biblical fences.

    Clothes were made for the body. Amen. Still not sure if this is really addressing the issue, though... martial artists have been doing amazing things in loose, flowing, total-body garments for years, so modesty and functionality are certainly compatible whatever your definition of modesty is! :-D

    I'm all for wearing what's comfortable so long as we don't let our feelings of comfort override Biblical principles of clothing... which again brings us back to the main issue.

    I mentioned my response to number 5 above- appropriateness is great within Biblical bounds, but this still doesn't really address our question- what are those Biblical bounds?

    And then there's Number 6. Amen, amen, amen. Dress to love.

    So I guess my main question for you is... I think all of those principles work well within the context of whatever we think it means to dress appropriately, but they aren't telling me what you think it actually means to be covered, or what the Scriptural principles in that regard may be. So... what are those principles?

    Gotta go...

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    1. You raise great questions, Gabriel! I don't have answers to everything. I have particular principles for myself, but not particular principles for everyone in general. I honestly don't know what to do with nudist cultures (or even American nudists...trust me, I've tried, and then I stopped, because I just couldn't understand why anyone would want to run around naked EVER). I don't know what a purely Christian "culture" looks like, especially in terms of clothing. I don't think the introduction of Christianity will lead to universal agreement on what's modest.

      My hesitancy comes from the fact that Bible has very, very little to say about modesty. Besides the original clothing of Adam and Eve, a verse in (I think) Leviticus about not coming into the temple without proper underclothes, and Peter's prohibition of women dressing lavishly, there's like NOTHING about modesty. There certainly aren't particular principles for particular items of clothing or particular cultures.

      You really like principles, Gabriel. :) I do too. I grew up giving myself lots of rules and focusing on the principles. But the Bible rarely gives us particular principles. I don't see a clear principle of what it means to be covered, for instance. I only know that I'm supposed to be covered, to glorify God in my clothing, and to love others even in my clothing choices. That's it. I'm not trying to be relativist; I'm just trying to be honest with what Scripture is saying or not saying.

      How I choose to apply those universal principles does look different from how you apply these universals that we ironically agree on. I'm comfortable with that. Hopefully that answers your main question about principles. :)

      As to a few others things you said....I think nudist people are nuts. I don't have a reason why I think this. I just do, because I think it should be a natural human trait to be embarrassed by revealing one's private parts. Just being real. :)

      There's a lot of factors as to why fashions are changing and especially being more revealing. The feminist movement, for instance, the inclusion of WOMEN in this modesty discussion, the consideration that women's bodies are more than marriageable/sexual material. (Plus, have you seen the P&P movies?? Women's fashion way back when had some seriously extravagant cleavage going on. I'd much rather wear my skinny jeans than most Regency-era dresses!!)

      And you're right that there is obviously a sexual component to nakedness...but then again there's not. I don't cover up because I view my body as sexual; I cover up because I view certain areas as private. Sexuality is an important component to a human body, but I don't think nakedness should automatically equal sexuality. Maybe that's just me. I think it's more about the context of that nakedness and how you present your body that determines if it's sexual or just naked.

      I really appreciate this respectful discussion. Your questions always get me thinking and refining my own viewpoint. Thanks!

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    2. I always enjoy talking with you, too, Bailey. :-)

      And the ladies in P&P- exactly. They are immodest, and it isn't appropriate. :-)

      Christian principles may never lead us to The Ideal Outfit, but they do/should/have always lead to a clothed populace. Paganism, feminism, humanism, they all lead to a worship of sexuality, destruction of rules of proper sexuality (i.e. marriage), and the glorification of the human body... publicly... in the nude. Viz. Michelangelo's "David." Incidentally, this is immodest in another sense- the focus of the viewer is drawn to the body instead of to the face/personality/personhood/soul of the person... which in a Christian should be a reflection of Christ.

      And, frankly, even if we're talking about wisdom issues here, to deny that wearing a Speedo will change the way I am viewed, the things people notice first, the sermon my personal aesthetics preach- that is to deny clear realities of Creation. There is attire that distracts and attire that reinforces.

      And the idea that men will be naturally prone to think and feel certain ways by the clothing of the women around them... couldn't be truer. Sure, they are responsible. But let's be honest with how things work, here. Song of Solomon doesn't use the language it uses because it's just normal language that should be shameless public discourse... to the contrary. God designed these things to be wonderful... in secret.

      Where does Scripture advance the ideas that you are stating here? Women are of course more than marriageable and sexual material. But they are not less than that (nor are men, for the record), and encouraging them to dress as if that was not a factor is to deny the reality of how God designed the world to work!

      I think you might be reasoning yourself into oblivion on this, honestly... you mention the need to be covered... but... from the premises you've given here, it seems to me that nudism would be the highest form of what you're arguing- or, if not, at least a perfectly acceptable lifestyle according to preference and if it doesn't "bother" those around you.

      I think the Scriptures spend little time giving details about modesty because it is assumed throughout Scripture. Passages like Leviticus 18 (which uses nakedness as a synonym for sexual interaction) and Isaiah 47 (which, incidentally, identifies the baring of the thigh as a shameful thing to do) which talk about the shame of nakedness lose their meaning in light of the hermeneutic you are exemplifying here. The virgin daughter of Israel should just be proud of her body, get comfy revealing herself to Babylon, and move along in her Christian liberty. (Meant as playful sarcasm, not insulting sarcasm. :-)

      I am all for liberty in the area of specific applications, but though you say you agree with me on the principle I fear that your rationale here is really upholding the principle only in name, with the long-term consequence of rendering it toothless and meaningless.

      I don't mean to keep arguing if you're tiring of the discussion. I would, though, like to see more Scripture for this idea that the female (or male) body is or can/should be separated from its sexuality and appreciated in a platonic way.

      Everywhere I turn in Scripture seems to assume the contrary.

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    3. I don't really have a ton to say, other than I disagree without being able to put my finger on it in a way that'll convince you. :) Just one comment about nakedness/sexuality:

      Lots of people appreciate the naked body in a platonic way. And lots of people interact with the naked body in a platonic way. Artists, doctors, mothers breastfeeding, people in locker rooms, a dad changing his baby's diaper. What are we to make of this? Are they all sinning?

      I'd say no. The naked human body is a beautiful thing that should be appreciated and understood. Is it inherently sexual? Kind of, but it is human nature that's intrinsically sexual, not necessarily the body inherently. When a doctor examines a woman in order to heal her, she is not a sexual object to him. He can restrain his human sexuality because it resides within his nature, not inherently in the body of woman he's examining.

      I think the modesty culture gets this wrong: men cannot have any other response to the naked female form but a temptation to lust. Which simply isn't true. Many Christian artists painted females in the nude to celebrate innocence, show the redemption of the human body, just to glorify God and His creation. I know you can't do that, but others can. I'm a little shocked that you throw Michelangelo into a non-Christian category. Though his nude art often caused controversy, Michelangelo celebrated the human form to glorify God as the creator. He wanted to portray and view the naked body in light of redemption, where we aren't twisted by lust. In the real world, yeah, lots of guys struggle with lust upon immediate interaction with nude art. They should stay out of art museums, then. :)

      Humans can control their sexuality, even men. And they can control them enough to appreciate nudity in the the proper context. It's like the Song of Solomon. I feel awkward reading it. I'd feel awkward if it was preached. That's some intense sexual imagery going on there. :P Yet it was written about and included in the canon of Scripture to celebrate sex as a picture of unity between God and His people. The proper response to the Song of Solomon is not to get turned on and not to rip it out of the Bible. It's to appreciate sex's beauty in its proper context. I don't mind if people talk about sex, as long as they discuss it respectfully.

      As to your question on pornography, yes, the producer of pornography is sinning. He is debasing women into purely sexual objects for the intended purpose of men's lust. There is no beauty, respect, or proper context in that. This fits exactly into my argument that context, context, context is key in interpreting dress and undress.

      Here's a couple articles that changed my mind about nudity in art and celebrating the naked human form: http://artworkbyannarose.blogspot.com/p/ever-since-graduating-from-hillsdale.html

      http://pastordavidrn.homestead.com/files/ChristianPerspectiveNudityArt.pdf

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    4. Well, thanks for the thoughts and the discussion. :-)

      One thing I want to clarify, though- whether or not men (or people in general) will struggle with lust over fill-in-the-blank is largely irrelevant to the broader point of my proposition, which has to do with the Biblical perspective on covered-ness, even regardless of causing others to stumble.

      Song of Solomon I think probably does have pictorial references to the marriage of Christ and the Church... but I think it is first a celebration of sexuality within marriage... which is kinda my point. :-)

      Also, many of the things you list as people who appreciate the body platonically- my question would be, how did we get there, and is it Biblical to remain there? It may be accepted artistic practice for the artist to create nude art (and I'm not sure how we can distinguish that from pornography without being a bit dishonest, but you might be able to help with that), but that doesn't make it right. It may be culturally normative for a bunch of dudes to shower together after the big game, but how did we come to that conclusion?

      With that said... I am happy to continue this discussion as you have further thoughts, but don't want to press your patience. :-)

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  10. Oh, and... quick question... the person who views pornography is in sin (I assume we agree on that). Is the person who produces it also in sin? (Curious to hear your response.)

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Hit me with your best thought! I'm very interested in your unique perspective. If you'd like to discuss things in private, feel free to email me! :)