Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Modest

There has been a video floating around Facebook about modesty.

I watched it.

I agreed with it.

I reposted it.

Here it is if you are interested.

On the flip side, I have seen criticism of this video, some saying, in a sarcastic tone, that, gee, maybe we should all dress in burkas, and others saying that men should just learn to control themselves and women should just wear what they want.

I also have gotten into heated discussions about nursing uncovered in public, and the arguments ranged from not being ashamed of bodies to nursing women having more rights than other folks.

I have felt it necessary to express my opinion on all of this, since, I feel, they are interrelated.

First things first:

Modesty.

I grew up wearing short-shorts. It wasn't because Mom handed them to me and said it was okay, but because my legs grew faster than the other parts of my body, and Mom couldn't keep up with my growth spurts. And, let's face it, I had nice legs. I had no problem running around in my little cut-off jean shorts all summer long, and considering I lived in New Mexico (and before that California) it seemed to be the way to go since it was so blasted hot.

Now, Mom didn't wear short-shorts. And I noticed. Mom wore tastefully chosen clothing that went to her knee, shirts that covered her body, and she never said a word to me about how I should dress, or that I should dress like her. She just went about her merry way, wearing what she was wearing (she did, however, tell Emily how to dress and took her shopping often since Emily insisted on running around in old, ratty Depeche Mode shirts, and anybody who saw Emily wanted to take her, throw her in the wash tub, scrub her on a wash board, ring her out and then dress her in something figure-flattering...well...no, I guess that was just me...).

During one of those hot, New Mexico summers, I decided to stop wearing short-shorts. Along with the example of my mother inspiring me to change, it was also because I realized I was drawing a lot of attention.

Now, you should know that it was the GIRLS who noticed my shorts. No boys made mention of my attire, but I'm sure they noticed. Hard not to. I mean...I was not much else but legs.

But because attention was drawn to what I was wearing, I started to think about what I was wearing.

I had been taught to be modest all growing up, and now I was thinking about it, for myself.

I decided to turn my knowledge into action, and I stopped wearing those cut-off jeans.

I wasn't ashamed of my body. That's not why I stopped wearing the shorts. But I had the beginnings of what it meant to respect my body as a divine creation.

I still don't wear shorts, but only because I don't like the fact that I'm fatter than I used to be and I pretend that I'm skinnier while I am shopping and end up buying clothing (including shorts) that are too small, and then my fat roll hangs over the top of my clothing, and sitting down becomes uncomfortable. So I wear skirts.

But that's not the point.

Let me give you a description of what I wear (on days when I actually change out of my pajamas...what? Pajamas are awesome...).

I wear skirts and shorts (*snort*) that go past my knee, shirts that cover my shoulders, back and chest. My friend Andie said something a year or two back about wearing tight clothes and that it makes one look fatter, and, as a consequence, I try and steer away from tight clothing.

Does this mean I dress like a bag lady?

Heavens, no.

I think that dressing like a bag lady just as disrespectful to the glorious human body as immodest, excessively tight clothing are.

And that it was this whole modesty thing hinges on for me: 

Respect.

I read another article posted by a friend on Facebook about how we shouldn't dress to accommodate others.

I have to disagree, and I'll tell you why (and this is where nursing in public comes in).

If I dress in a way that makes another uncomfortable, and I know this, and do it anyway, that totally goes against everything I believe.

I believe in loving my neighbor.

I believe in doing no harm to another.

I believe in being kind.

I believe in putting the needs of other people above my own (though I am still trying to be better at this).

I believe in the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The Ten Commandments are based on how should we treat others, and how we treat each other was so important that God made them commandments. Don't take people's stuff, don't take people's lives, don't lie to people, respect your parents, etc. The whole Gospel of Jesus Christ rests on thinking of others.

In the Bible, we read this in Matthew 22:

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt alove the Lord thy God with all thy bheart, and with all thy soul, and with all thycmind.
 38 This is the first and great acommandment.
 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt alove thy neighbour as thyself.
 40 On these two commandments hang all the alaw and the prophets.
According to Christ, everything hangs on how we love God, and how we love our neighbors.

That's pretty clear.

So, doing something I know injures another, or not caring if I do, is completely against my belief system as a Christian.

I dress modestly because I respect my body. It is a gift. It is miraculous, beautiful and wondrous. There is nothing so majestic in all of creation. I'm not ashamed. In fact, I'm probably a little too enthralled with my body as I prance around the bathroom before my nightly shower, but I digress...

I dress modestly because I respect those around me. I don't know how each and every individual feels about the human body, and what they may or may not like to see, or how much, but I know the basic guidelines of general respect and I'm not going to unveil my body just because I feel like it. I stop and think how it would make others feel. Does this make me a doormat? No. Not at all.

I'm also not going to pull my breast out in the middle of the mall and feed my baby.

Now, before you get all worked up, just listen...

Breastfeeding is a wonderful, beautiful, practical thing. The female body was created by divine design to bring forth children, and to have the means to feed those children. It is natural, normal, and awesome.

But, let's be honest...these boobs are my boobs. I don't feel like sharing them with other people. Again, I'm not ashamed. You and everyone else just don't need to see them. My body isn't a play ground, or an amusement park that anyone can just go to. It's a temple. It's sacred. And I'm not going to show it just because I can or because covering up may be inconvenient. And I know that there are people out there who would be disturbed if I didn't cover myself.

A few months ago, I hashed this out with another person. She seemed to think that nursing women trumped everyone else and their feelings. She saw no problem whipping out breasts to feed babies, whenever and wherever, and everyone else would just have to deal with it. And she also felt this was appropriate in church.

Church.

Yeah.

 I'm sorry.

That's not okay.

Church is a place of worship. It's a place to think about God and get your life in order. It's a place of peace, and deep thought, meditation and contemplation. It's a safe place.

It's not a place to make a point.

It's not a place to trample the feelings of others because you are breastfeeding and that's more important than anything else.

NOBODY is superior to another. We are all equal before God, so disregarding the feelings of those around you is completely inappropriate. What right has anyone to be so selfish as to distract from the worship of others? Is that Christian behavior?

No.

It's not.

There is a room set aside in my church building  for women to see to their babies. It's called the Mother's Lounge. It wasn't built to shame women into hiding themselves. It was built for convenience, and comfort. There are rocking chairs, and a diaper bin. The one in my building even has a sink. It's awesome. And there are speakers in the ceiling so I can listen to what is going on during the meetings. And I can feed my super noisy, sucking, snorting, loudly-pooing, crying baby without worrying that my one-man show is distracting my fellow worshipers.

Now, I have heard that people have shamed women into leaving meetings, sending them teary-eyed into the bathroom to see to their children. Shame on them.

The roll of a mother is a sacred duty, a holy office. Don't make women ashamed of their bodies or breast feeding. That is not how we should treat each other.

BUT...

Breastfeeding women should also be respectful. Not everyone is as comfortable with the human body as you may be (and, I'll be frank, I really don't want to see you or anyone else, besides my husband and bathing babies, naked...).

Mutual respect, people. The people of God are of "one heart, and one mind." No one trumps another.

That is how civilized cultures operate.

Consequences

Now, I have heard people say that men should just grow up, get over it, stop being gross, lustful, depraved, disgusting, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, when it comes to women's bodies.

That's a tad unfair.

Men were programmed this way. They are attracted to the female body. It's how it should be. God designed things this way, for His divine purposes.

In appropriate circumstances, as on a day to day basis of interaction, there is nothing wrong with the fact that men are visually stimulated by women. It's not bad. It's just how things are. It doesn't make them depraved or disgusting.

Men have this soft spot for women, and it's a good thing, too, for the propagation of our species. Don't ask them to be different. Don't demand that they change who they are just to accommodate you. You wouldn't want them to do that to you, would you?

So, when I hear women say that they should be able to dress how they like, or reveal their bodies while breast feeding, or wear strategically placed triangles held together with string to the beach, and men should stop being disgusting pigs, I take exception to it.

You cannot change the consequences of your actions.

You cannot expect gravity to just take a day off when you feel like jumping off a balcony.

You cannot expect men (or women) to not look at your body when you parade it before them.

You cannot demand different consequences.

You CAN NOT.

Pornography is a thriving industry for a reason...

So, if some man lustily scopes out your body while you are running around in your triangle and string concoction, you cannot turn a lip up in disgust and lay all the blame on him when you have offered him such an eyeful so readily.

Neither can you change the fact that some will want nothing to do with you when you dress in a way that makes them uncomfortable.

When I was in high school, there was a panel held in our stake (the equivalent of a dioceses, I believe). It consisted of young men who honestly talked (anonymously) about how they felt about how the young women dressed.  It was eye-opening.

They talked about how certain styles of immodest dress stirred up improper thoughts, and how they didn't want to think of the young women in this way, and how they were more able to keep their thoughts where they should be when the young women dressed modestly. The astonishment of the young women was across the board. We had no idea that how we dressed effected the young men so, and all of us girls were pleased that the young men respected us enough to want to have pure thoughts towards us, and, though anonymously, were willing to tell us so.

How we dress does effect men. I went out with a young man, who was trying to live his life properly, and be a good person, who changed his whole attitude towards me when he saw me in a swim suit.

Did that make him gross?

No.

Another young man in college, who had no romantic interest in me, suddenly became very interested in me when I showed up to a 70s-theme party in extremely tight, Neapolitan ice cream striped bell bottoms.

Was he gross?

No.

Well, maybe, but I'd like to think not.

It goes the other way, too.

When we dress modestly and beautifully, we earn different attention. We act differently, too, depending on what we are wearing.

In the Book of Mormon, some of the righteous were described as "comely and neat." That didn't mean they dressed like hobos. They had fine silks, and linens, and other fabrics with which they adorned themselves.

And so it should still be.

Our bodies are sacred. They are temples. They are beautiful, and should be respected and adorned tastefully. They are a gift, and we should treat them as such, and those around us with the utmost respect.

4 comments:

Katscratchme said...

As far as my clothing choices, it ended up that marrying a respectful, loving and patient husband is what made me want to dress more feminine. He didn't mind so much when I was wearing the baggy, boyish clothes, but he was quick to compliment me when I chose something that was obviously more flattering. I eventually took that positive feedback and wanted to multiply it, so I wear very little that could be considered boyish, now. ;)

The Mrs. said...

I agree! The only thing I have a problem with is in the church children are subjected to the whole "nothing that would show your magic underwear" rule. Sorry, my 5 year old niece hasn't covenanted to wear magic underwear so stop judging me and her if she wears a sundress that shows her shoulders. There's just too many people who assume everyone should have to wear shirt that cover the shoulders and shorts that go to the knees, and publicly judge them if they don't, even though they have no reason to do so. End rant. :)

Trillium said...

Comment to “The Mrs.”:
Your ‘rant’ [your word] about people who “judge” your 5-year-old niece for wearing a sundress or short shorts was a bit off topic. And, it seems to me that your condemnation of those you perceive as doing this “judging” reveals your own penchant for judging.
Additionally, using slang terminology in regards to that which is sacred to others, displays a certain hostility rather than love of your neighbor.
I thought Shydandelion’s argument in favor of modesty as an act of reverence for her body and an act of thoughtfulness and respect for others’ feelings was eloquent.

Katscratchme said...

I think it is important to note here, for those who are not aware: The LDS church does have modesty standards in place that have been referenced multiple times, both in the original blog and in the following comments. What I think hasn't been addressed is that those modesty standards do not exclusively apply to those who have made temple covenants. Yes, the covenants made in the temple include promises to wear modest clothing. However, just because a parson has not made those covenants, does not exclude them from respecting their bodies and those around them. Modesty is not a new concept, dreamed up by those of the LDS faith. Standards of modesty vary around the world and in and out of cultures. (Even within the church to some degree.) I don't bother myself with wondering if others are judging me or my children's dress. I do my best with what I've learned and believe.
That being said, my five-year-old daughter does occasionally wear sundresses or shorts that may be considered a bit too short during times of hot weather. I try to keep her dressed as modestly as I decide is reasonable, I.E. she is not allowed to wear a bikini.
I do as my mother did and lead by example. There will come a time when my daughter will be making her own covenants and if she is already accustomed to dressing modestly, the transition will not be difficult in any way.

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