Sunday, October 16, 2011
I have issues with the Mormon ideas about and attitude towards modesty. I don't have issues with modesty itself, mind you. If I have a daughter, I certainly don't want her dressing like a hooker. But I don't want her to feel as if she's a slut if she wears a bikini to the beach like many other women, either. Modesty is a societal construct. If humanity was without sin, as it was before the fall, we'd all be naked. It wasn't until after they sinned that Adam and Eve felt shame for their nakedness, because sin had already begun to pervert sexuality and identity as male and female. The idea that God is offended by our bodies is ludicrous. Societies also change. What was immodest a century ago would certainly not be immodest now. Even Mormon standards of modesty have changed, as evidenced in the garments no longer looking like long johns. In "The Miracle of Forgiveness," I remember reading Kimball vilify women wearing shorts because showing her legs gave men temptation. Now plenty of Mormon women show off their calves. Different societies have different standards of modesty. There are many cultures today, usually in warmer climes, where women expose far more of themselves than is acceptable in America, and it is not wrong or wanton or inappropriate or anything else. There will always be perverts who see every bit of exposed sin as sexual, but if we were to always worry about that, we'd still be dressing like Victorian ladies. Part of my problem with Mormon modesty is that, because they are so behind societal standards, what is not sexual in society is sexual amongst Mormons. A girl in a bikini, exposing forbidden parts, becomes a sexual object, even if it is subconscious, yet society finds a woman in a bikini on the beach in summer perfectly natural. Men who would see her sexually would probably do so were she in jeans and a T shirt too, unless they are seeing her that way because she is being immodest in their eyes and therefore making herself a sexual object. This also means that a father or brother who have views on modesty that make socially acceptable dress sexual may see their own sisters and daughters as wearing something sexual and as making herself a sexual object, which can be terribly uncomfortable for both parties for whom that was never the intention or desire. If they saw her summer dress or bikini not as immodest but as socially normal, seeing a female family member dressed that way would not be a matter of dressing sexually anymore. I also strongly believe that modesty goes beyond a certain cross-cultural standard, as the Mormons would seem to believe. First of all, there isn't really a cross-cultural standard. And secondly, someone can meet the standard and be completely immodest and immoral in other ways, while someone can fall below the mark and be modest. For instance, a girl who never shows cleavage, leg, tummy, or shoulders could be extremely unchaste, whereas a girl simply wearing comfortable socially acceptable summer clothing and wanting a tan can be very chaste. I also believe there's a time and a place for things, mostly determined by the culture. For instance, I'd never wear short jean shorts to an interview for an office job or a bikini to church service. Both are inappropriate for those situations. But, neither of those things would be out of place on a beach. Similarly, I would probably not wear slacks and a button up shirt to a casual get-together with friends, but I'd wear it to a formal job interview. There's plenty of things to take into account with modesty, and as I said before, I definitely support modesty. Some things to consider are culture, setting, and perhaps who one is with, if wearing something in particular will be a problem for a certain person even if it wouldn't normally be for that setting, although I would also say that we shouldn't be so overly sensitive to that as to create more problems with modesty (such as making cultural norms sexual) and therefore ultimately hindering instead of helping. I certainly don't want my daughters to dress like sluts and be treated as such or my sons think women who dress and act like prostitutes are good dating material. But I also don't want to make women wearing bikinis out to be such a bad thing and then have my husband be uncomfortable if he sees any daughters we might have in a bikini. I don't want any potential sons to see a girl in a summer dress out at a street fair one summer and se he as a sexual object because they think she's immodest when really she just wants to look cute and feel comfortable. I strongly believe that is just as bad as immodesty.