Saturday, June 8, 2013

careful girls!

don't wear a bikini because a boy might mistake you for a tool!

i've often avoided voicing my opinions about modesty. mostly because i know it's a controversial topic, and also because the conclusions i've made about modesty are... complex. but then this video started floating around facebook. and i'm like... no. and here's why:

there are two main problems i have with the way modesty is taught today.

1) whenever the 'weakness of the male mind' is used as a reason to be modest.

2) whenever invisible lines are put on a women's body to define what is modest and what is immodest.

i will only be talking about numero uno today, because this conversation sort of exhausts me.

(before anyone bites my head off, let me just say i have no problem with the principle of modesty in the Gospel. but i believe we could improve the way it is taught and discussed by tradition in the Church.)

almost every time modesty is brought up in conversation, the topic of men's minds is brought up. PROBLEMATIC. i know the facts. i've heard the statistics. i've been told over and over that the male mind is a creepy place where sexual thoughts run rampant - and the men can't control it. it's how their brain works! these are facts! according to this video, it's science! PROBLEMATIC. but i'm not even going to go into that right now--that's a post of it's own.

i am going to explain why the 'male mind' is not an answer for why women should dress modestly. at all. ever. women should never dress modestly for the sake of keeping the male mind clean. and i don't even think teaching that women should dress modestly for the sake of being respected by men is good either. women should dress modestly for themselves, and for Heavenly Father. period.

why is this important? why am i bothered when the 'weakness of the male mind' is taught as a reason to be modest? i claim that teaching that the 'weakness of the male mind' is a reason to be modest is harmful to women. because it loses track of what modesty is really about. it often results in women constantly wondering 'what will people think when i wear this?' or 'will so-and-so think i'm a whore if i dress this way?' or 'will i cause him to think dirty thoughts?' and it can make women self-conscious about their automatically-sexualized bodies. it places responsibility on women to keep men's thoughts clean and it can make them feel pressure for the sins of others! this mindset can distract one from remembering what modesty is really all about. modesty is really about treating your body like the sacred gift that it really is. that's all.


  1. The study he sites has a glaring issue. The images were often show for a fraction of a second, frequently with the faces cut off. How often does that happen IRL? Never.

    As a male, that just last night went skinny dipping with a mixed gender group, I can say that "sexual, tool, accomplish a goal" thought process maybe shows up for a glimmer of a second. Maybe. And that's before the rest of your brain kicks in and says "Everybody in the water! It's swimming time!" And the thought never comes back.

  2. Bravo, Lydia. You'll love these lines, too, from Elder Holland. He's talking about chastity, but they're applicable to the modesty discussion you mentioned, too:

    "In this matter of counterfeit intimacy and deceptive gratification, I express particular caution to the men who hear this message. I have heard all my life that it is the young woman who has to assume the responsibility for controlling the limits of intimacy in courtship because a young man cannot. What an unacceptable response to such a serious issue! What kind of man is he, what priesthood or power or strength or self-control does this man have that lets him develop in society, grow to the age of mature accountability, perhaps even pursue a university education and prepare to affect the future of colleagues and kingdoms and the course of the world, but yet does not have the mental capacity or the moral will to say, "I will not do that thing"? No, this sorry drugstore psychology would have us say, "He just can't help himself. His glands have complete control over his life--his mind, his will, his entire future."

    "To say that a young woman in such a relationship has to bear her responsibility and that of the young man's too is the least fair assertion I can imagine. In most instances if there is sexual transgression, I lay the burden squarely on the shoulders of the young man--for our purposes probably a priesthood bearer--and that's where I believe God intended responsibility to be. In saying that I do not excuse young women who exercise no restraint and have not the character or conviction to demand intimacy only in its rightful role. I have had enough experience in Church callings to know that women as well as men can be predatory. But I refuse to buy some young man's feigned innocence who wants to sin and call it psychology.

    "Indeed, most tragically, it is the young woman who is most often the victim, it is the young woman who most often suffers the greater pain, it is the young woman who most often feels used and abused and terribly unclean. And for that imposed uncleanliness a man will pay, as surely as the sun sets and rivers run to the sea."

    from "Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments”

  3. I think that this conversation is really important and you stated your thoughts beautifully!

  4. I agree with Mrs. Thomas, I think this is a very important conversation that needs to keep being brought up. It is something that has bothered me since I was young. We really need to teach our society the truth on this topic, and I think you did a good job of explaining it.

  5. I've had problems with the way modesty/chastity is taught for SO LONG. Thank you for writing this! Brilliant!

  6. Bravo! I've been having some discussions with family members about this recently (not always so pleasant). In my experience, whether a man thinks of a woman as an object or not comes down to him and has nothing to do with what she's wearing or how she's behaving, AND it's different for every man.
    But you're right, more importantly the discussion should be about each woman's relationship with herself and with God.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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  8. preach. i agree wholeheartedly. i actually just had a convo with my bf about this the other day as we were driving back from lake powell (a trip in which i brought both a bikini, tankini, and a one piece). i believe it is a personal decision contingent on your relationship with your body and what you believe... not hinged on the workings of the male mind. personally, i think there is a time and a place. and there is a way to be classy without being trashy. and in turn, a way to be sexy without showing as much skin. that said, it's the "culture" of judgement that i absolutely hate. to put someone else down because of a personal decision is the worst. and it's this said "culture" that causes such thinking. case in point: the other day i was with two of my male co-workers at a soccer event. a mom was watching her son and just so happened to be wearing a tennis skirt and sports tank top. my co-workers proceeded to ask me if i'd be one of "those moms" still in her "short" workout gear at 3 in the afternoon (to which i replied i would). when one went on to point out that "of course" she wouldn't be wearing a wedding ring... i cut him off right then and there telling him to please shut up. he did. these guys are two mormon, return missionaries who are great people and wonderful friends, but they've been severely mis-taught. well, not mis-taught, but wrongly surrounded by such a culture. missing the true principles of modesty and rather relying on the invisible lines you touched on. and because of that, they turned to labeling this mother (coming to watch her son play soccer mind you, and probably after a kick ajax tennis match) as a slut of sorts. right. on that note, something my bf pointed out in our conversation was for him to have grown up in Utah, not exposed to many girls in bikinis, it was something he definitely had to learn for himself. I have another friend who was debating whether or not he wanted to continue dating his girlfriend because she wore bikinis. I appreciated that he said it was a personal thing, that for him, he didn't view her differently, he only wondered if he wanted that the mother of his children. They are now engaged (woot!). It made me realize that us girls need to aid in educating our brothers and our boyfriends. Yes, pornography (may i jump to conclude that this is the root need for modesty in women?) for men is an everyday battle, it's not something you just "don't have a problem" with. but to eradicate the standpoint that women are temptresses just for being created with breasts is something we will have to fight against and reteach our children. i know that our divinely created bodies are beautiful. they are things to be respected, taken care of, and well-clothed. and i know that the majority of men and women in the church believe this... hence not all are pricks about invisible lines. it's now about changing the paradigm in which modesty is viewed. but you already knew that.

  9. i did not intend that comment to turn into such a discourse, you just hit on the branch of a topic i care very deeply about :)