It’s summer time. Time for the big swimsuit question.
As a woman who used to swim in athletic shirts and an athletic top to ensure proper modesty, i know what the modesty teachings are. However, I don’t agree with them anymore.
I feel that modesty culture demeans and harms both men and women, promotes unhealthy thoughts, and operates based on stereotypes and misunderstandings.
I’m posting links to some posts on the subject, along with highlights, and my thoughts will follow.
There’s been this post about modesty and The Bikini Question making the rounds, and it feels very rape culturey. Defeating the Dragons explains how it promotes rape culture, as well as how futile it is for a women to try to dress in a way that certain men won’t objectify her.
But, this article, like every other article I’ve read on modesty, emphasizes that it a woman’s obligation to help protect men from our bodies. It’s our duty to make sure that we make it possible for men to forget that we’re a woman– which is, frankly, impossible. I don’t care how loose your clothes are– if you have T&A, there’s no getting rid of it, there’s no hiding it.
emily joy allison talks modesty and purity culture in her new post about How To Be a Lady:
LET’S GO AHEAD AND TIE A WOMAN’S CHARACTER DIRECTLY TO HER CLOTHING WHY DON’T WE. Yeah. That seems like a good idea. Also let’s shame women who’ve been disrespected or mistreated by men by making them think it must have been their fault somehow for wearing the “wrong” clothes and attracting the “wrong” kind of men. And to top it all off let’s pretend like Christian men do (and should) actually treat women better who “appropriately cover themselves.”
Another good post about the problems for both men and women inherent in modesty teachings: “Modesty, Body Policing, and Rape Culture: Connecting the Dots.”
Shaney Irene has this post about Why The Modesty Survey was a Bad Idea (for the record, Shaney, I forgive you. i’m thankful that you are writing against it now.)
In offering a platform to over 1600 guys, many of whom shouldn’t have been given it, we lent legitimacy to some very dangerous ideas.
Many guys admitted to losing respect for girls who didn’t live up to their ideas of modesty, feeling “disgusted” or “angered” by these same girls, and even going so far as to say, “…she loses her right to ask guys to stop looking at her like something to be had…you are asking to have guys stare at you.” The word “cause” in relation to guys’ lust also made a frequent appearance.
and now for my thoughts:
I feel like the biggest problem with the modesty culture is the confusion between lust and attraction. i never once have heard anyone make a distinction. It’s as though it’s a sin for a man to notice a woman is attractive.
Look, people. i’m visual. And the dude who plays Thor is attractive. I noticed. That’s not cheating on my husband. that’s not me wanting to rape the actor. That’s just me, noticing a very attractive guy is attractive. I’ve seen men that were so attractive, it makes me blush. For real. It doesn’t mean i’m lusting. I am not fantasizing. I wouldn’t ‘do’ anything with him.
But there’s nothing wrong with me or the guy, if i notice he’s attractive. If I start having sexual fantasies, that’d be objectifying and mentally unhealthy.
Here’s a big secret: women can be visual, too. I’m more visually oriented than Luke. And there are a lot of guys objectively more attractive (and by that I mean, with really ripped abs) than him. it’s okay. i still find him breathtakingly handsome and i love him more than anybody. He’s the only dude i intend to ever [expletive deleted] with. But I’m gonna notice Batman’s biceps. And it is okay. And anything beyond that is my responsibility to deal with.
The flipside of that is, if a guy sees me in a bikini and notices i’m attractive, or more likely, notices i am very curvy, there is nothing wrong with that. I am very curvy. No suit is gonna hide that.
If he ogles me – and I have been ogled while dressed modestly before and my young and frightened response was to dress rather more frumpily and blame it on my ‘accidental immodesty’ – that is all on him. It’s not my job to try my hardest to dress in such a way that people will treat me with respect; and as noted in many of the blogs above, it does not work; oglers are pretty much oglers. As far as keeping a man from sinning – him noticing I am a woman isn’t going to ‘make’ him sin.
And if a woman judges me as a slut because i’m a curvy woman in a bikini, that’s all on her too.
So much for my opinions on modesty culture in general, now for the chocolate cake analogy in the post, which many people think is wonderful. I found it a problematic analogy. It made me angry that a woman enjoying herself at the beach – happening to bare a midriff rather than not (perhaps because she can’t find a well fitting one piece or tankini, perhaps because she likes how she looks, who knows) is considered the same as following a dieter around with something tempting.
I am a person, dressing for me. It would be more like if i ate a cake at a cafe and you walked up and shoved your face into it and ate it all up, and blamed me for you stealing it, because i should be tempting you with my cake in public.
Unless I am deliberately and provocatively and obviously flirting with someone, he has no reason to think my clothing is an invitation to him. (and even then he still wouldn’t have any right to touch me without a clear verbal invitation or permission).
I am planning to go to the lake this summer, and i will be wearing my bikini. partially in protest, but mostly because it’s flattering, comfortable, stays in place better than any suit i have, and will allow my body to get some sun, and there’s really no reason for me not to, if i’m comfortable in it.
Dianna Anderson is joining the bikini club too. (For the record, i have another suit i’ll be wearing when we go to the in-laws to swim, out of courtesy to their beliefs and because i would be the only one in a bikini, and i’m not comfortable with that.)
Other posts about modesty:
• Sarah over the Moon wrote a post about modesty today too, responding to another post about modesty from a bit of a different angle than the first, but the points about the problems and inequity of translating clothing into ‘messages’ still stand. worth a read
• Here’s a post from one of my favorite bloggers, Libby Anne, about the problematic chocolate cake analogy, focusing on chocolate cake’s inability to consent, and the lack of clarity as to what the anologue to eating the cake is: attraction? Lust? Rape?
• Bookworm Beauty, “The Only Thing My Double D’s Ever Got Me Was Kicked Out of Church”
• Adipose Rex, “Women Aren’t Cake, Part 2: The Cake Is a Lie”
Comment section: am I missing any good posts in my links? did you read the bikini article? do you have a cute new swimsuit you’re excited to wear? i got a polka dotted tankini for everydays, and a black bikini, with full cups and gathers in the fabric, for the lake.