I highly recommend the blog post When Suits Become a Stumbling Block. It’s brilliant satire. I get the joke all too well.
The comments section, on the other hand, was so jarring to me that I found it impossible to just click away and go about my evening. Instead, I did something that I generally consider absolutely useless and borderline insane. I commented on a public online discussion board. Not because I expected anyone to be persuaded by my comment or even read it. Just because my adrenaline was pumping and my fists were clenching and I had something to say about the cult of modesty.
But I had no words to communicate the irreparable harm inflicted when little girls are taught that their bodies are a dangerous threat to religious piety, that they are only worth as much to their future husbands as their degree of bodily “purity,” and that they are deserving of whatever comments, leers, and unwanted touching they get if they wear revealing clothing. I had no language expansive enough to express the psychological damage inflicted when little boys are taught that appreciating the female form is something to feel guilty about, that women who dress in a way they happen to find provocative are to “blame” for their sexual thoughts, and that they themselves have no responsibility to control their wandering minds and hands. Women are the gatekeepers of morality, after-all. Women are the ones who must needs cover themselves to prevent men from struggling with everything from lust to cheating to sexual abuse.
All I could really say is that it seems ironically sex-obsessed, doesn’t it? It seems undeniably dysfunction-producing. And – albeit unintentionally, I hope – it seems to support rape culture in the worst, most blasphemous possible way. By sanctifying it in the name of a god I don’t even recognize when invoked to support these attitudes. Growing up in an evangelical youth group, I’ve witnessed first-hand the scars this cult of modesty imparts. I’ve witnessed the way it unfailingly alienates people who would otherwise be involved in Christian community. It saddens me to realize that this toxic perspective is still circulating in the church. Especially when it could so easily be erased.
What if we taught boys how to co-exist peacefully with their sexuality, recognizing the difference between thoughts and actions? What if we taught girls that their bodies are deserving of respect, regardless of what is or is not covering it – regardless of what acts it has or has not performed? What if we removed the over-emphasis on sexual abstinence and taught both to see the other as fully human, inherently valuable under any circumstances?
Wouldn’t that be the truly Christian stance? Not a fixation on modesty, but on unconditional love?