Monday, 5 May 2008

Further musings on modesty

In the way other left wing/feminist people read the Daily Mail, even though it physically pains them to see that people think such garbage, I occassionally read Brio. Brio is a magazine geared at teenage christian girls, made by Focus on the Family (James Dobson et al, chief protectors of the sacred nucleur family). Today I came across this gem of an article and thought it was worthy of further thought:

The article starts out with an image of a girl wearing a tight top, she feels uncomfortable, but shes going to wear it anyway because she thinks it'll make a guy like her. Now, to clarify before I start, as a christian and a feminist, I don't think that anyone (especially any woman) should be pressured into wearing something they don't want to. If this hypothetical girl feels pressured (as teenage girls often do) into wearing something that makes her feel uncomfortable then that is AWFUL and shouldn't happen. The media in particular has a lot to answer for in pressurising young girls to sexualise themselves.

Now me and the author of this article would probably agree on this, its where she then takes her ideas that I begin to have a problem with. My first problem is this line:

"Ladies, the biggest thing guys struggle with is controlling where their eyes go. It’s just the way God wired them. While we respond to kind words and a gentle touch, guys respond to what they see."

Now, I don't expect a journalist to provide evidence or references the way an academice would, but this woman clearly feels no need to provide any evidence AT ALL for her statement. Does she have any evidence that men are more visually 'wired' than women? Untill I see any evidence I'm afraid I don't buy it. Yes, our society expects men to be visually stimulated and women to be more stimulated by 'romance', but that doesn't mean its in our biology. Has she considered the affect that our upbringing, the books we read, the films and TV shows we watch, our experience at school, our friends, our culture, our religions all have on what we consider normal? Is it our genes telling us that women like hearts and flowers and men like naked pictures or is it Hollywood?

What purpose would God have for making men more visually stimulated? I can't think of a single valid reason, anyone have any thoughts?

Lets look at another quote:
"Did you know that you can attract certain guys with the clothes you wear? It’s true! Look around your school or even your youth group. Usually, the girl whose modesty is lacking is surrounded by guys who treat her with disrespect. Ever wonder why? Well, whether we know it or not, we’re sending messages with the clothes we wear."

Well, lets start with where I agree. We do send messages with the clothes that we wear. This can be positive, expressing our cultural identty or inviduality. It can also be negative, for example, if I wear high heels I may be sending out an unwanted message that I'm willing to limit my physical abilities in order to be attractive. (Not sure thats what shes getting at though :-) ) However, the woman is taking all responsiblity away from the men in question here. She states that the boys at the youth group treat the girls who dress immodestly disrespectfully but she doesn't challenge this. This seems to be the behaviour in the article that needs to be challenged, not the clothes the girls wear. Why do the boys think they are ALLOWED to treat girls who show some cleavage with disrepect? Where are these messages coming from? I guarantee that its not coming from the gene pool!

"A low-cut shirt says, “Hey, look at my body!” and attracts a guy who does just that. But a modest outfit says, “I’m saving something special.” "

This is really odd actually. I assume the 'something special' here is virginity, but does the author realise that having a cleavage, and showing it, doesn't actually mean that you're having crazy wild sex? Is it possible that you just think your breats are quite nice and that lower cut tops are more flattering? Or is that just too out there!! Again, low cut tops can be a quest for attention, which is sad, no-one should have to wear a particular kind of clothes just to get people to be interested in them, but there are other reasons! And if it is a quest for attention then whose fault is that? The girl in the story or the fact that everything surrounding her is telling her that she defined by her face and her body?

Ultimatly, the author this article is suggesting that we do exactly what she is telling us not to - dress with boys in mind. Thats what this comes down to. If you dress sluttily (she doesn't say it but she might as well) you're doing it for boys attention, if you dress modestly, you're doing it to 'protect' them - again, its all about the boys. Do these people even stop to consider that perhaps it would be more healthy just to stop dressing for the boys? Her suggestion is that instead of showing skin to get guys to like us, we dress modestly to get guys to like us. Has the author considered that 'getting a guy' may not be the ultimate aim in life, that there are actually other things to focus on?

And, as always in modesty talk, this woman falls into the same logic that the rape myths come from. We as women control mens sexuality by what we wear. If men are affected by this, and choose to rape us, it is our fault, for not considering them when we got dressed. Its so dangerous, but so subtle that most of us don't see it.

The article ends when the girl realises that God thinks that she is beautiful. At first glance this seems nice. And I am absolutely behind the authors view that women (and men and children) should be defined through God and not through what other people think of them. However, has the author stopped to consider that perhaps its a problem that being beautiful is imperitive anyway? Its much more radical, and much more true, to say that, whatever our society may say, beauty doesn't really matter. 'Inner beauty' is an unnecessary concept, as the characteristics that make up this idea, such as intelligance, kindness, sense of humour, or whatever, are good on their own. They don't need to be described as beautiful to be good. Does this make sense?

The author is right, young women in particular are often looking for approval in how they dress, looking for people to tell them that they are beautiful. However, her solution is wrong. The answer is not to cover it and be beautiful 'in Christ'. They answer is much more counter-cultural than that. We need to realise that God did not creat us to 'BE beautiful' God created us to DO, to live, to be active, and in doing so to worship Her/Him. Lets be really radical, and realise that while we don't have to live up to the standards that Hollywood sets, we also don't have to live up to the standards that Brio sets.

1 comment:

Feminist Avatar said...

This message really bugs me for the same reason it does you. I hate the way that it removes all responsibility from men for their actions, and ultimately for their relationship with God. It only allows women to be defined through men, rather on their own terms. Plus, it leads to form of Christianity that focuses on the legalistic, on performing certain behaviours, rather than on a relationship with God. It also leads to greater and greater extremes of behaviour, so women dressing modestly means long skirts and high necks (until we are practially in league with the Burka) and never leaving home female (as is practised by some Christian sects).