Nothing Sacred: Physical Immodesty

I live in a culture of immodesty. I grew up here.

When we hear the wo

rd “modesty,” we usually associate it with the way a woman dresses, but it does not just manifest in the way we present our bodies; it has bled into the emotional and verbal realms of who we are as individuals as well. It leaves me wondering: Is anything sacred? In this article, the first of three, we will be looking at physical immodesty.

We need a change of perspective. I don’t want to keep hearing about why the girl on the cover of Maxim is there. Who can really know the answer to that question? However, I can tell you the message it sends to many young women: that if they can appeal to someone’s sexual appetite, they will, in turn, be beautiful and desirable. Dealing with why women are marketed the way that they are is a very complex issue that deserves attention, but what I’d like to focus on is the woman as an individual.

Instead of analyzing why a woman dresses more provocatively, it is worth investigating why a woman does not. It is a popular argument to interpret a woman’s physical immodesty as freedom—that it is evidence of her ability to embrace her own sexuality and be proud of her body. The consequence of this perspective is that it sometimes suggests that modesty is a symptom of shame. I would have to argue that modesty makes a woman no more ashamed of her body than asserting nakedness makes her strong in her identity. An attitude that says “this is my body; it belongs to me” is, in fact, a practice of embracing sexuality on a very real level.

When this debate arises, as with anything that includes grey areas, we feel the need to make very clear rules, particularly for teenage girls. How much skin is too much? How many inches from the knee? How tight is too tight? While we believe there should be some definitive lines in this area, (which will be discussed in future Darling articles) sometimes it’s hard to chisel out a formula when the heart of the issue should be the intent behind how we dress. There should be “modesty lines” for every woman, yet some of the smaller lines may differ from one woman to the next dependent on body type and other physical factors—but the key question is whether a woman is allowing herself to be objectified or objectifying herself.

What is challenging about this question, is that just like the girl on the Maxim cover, no one can answer that question for anyone else. After we have accepted that, we can move on to the next hurdle which is something we have all been guilty of. If we really want to see women walk in freedom from objectification, then it is imperative that we stop chaining women in our own judgment. Division only further alienates us from the people that we are called to love and accept. It is not our responsibility to tear down a woman that thinks differently than we do. Culture will never change that way.

Ask yourself if you consider your body and your sexuality sacred. If the answer is yes, then ask yourself how that reality changes the way you treat it. Speak truth about worth and identity to the women that you have been given the privilege to call friends and family. This is the precious seed that has the potential to grow into redefining modesty in a culture. The physical beauty of a woman is to be celebrated, respected, and awed, but more than that, it is to be valued. It is a gift for who she has given it to.

In the next article of this series, we will take a look at how the concept and practice of immodesty affects our speech, and in turn, our relationships.

 

Image via allureofsimplicity.com

Adrienne Sandvos is a writer, student, and lover of world culture. She and her husband reside in Northern California, where they work together as documentary filmmakers focused on human rights issues.

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