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Modest is hottest?


This article on modesty is excellent:

Many discussions of modesty, from diverse cultural or religious perspectives, revolve around the idea of keeping sinful and unholy female bodies and body parts from the gaze of others — particularly men. This privileges the male gaze, in a backward sort of way, and puts females at a disadvantage for being the ones in control of what others think or feel when seeing their bodies. When we speak of modesty strictly in terms of covering our bodies from the sexual gaze of others, we are keeping the level of discourse at the shallow waters of women and girls as bodies alone. We have very little control of what other people think when they look at us. If we are teaching the girls in our lives that the primary objective of modesty is to keep themselves covered so boys and men don’t think sexual thoughts about them, then we are teaching girls they are responsible for other peoples’ thoughts and they are primarily sexual objects in need of covering. No girl or woman’s body is sinful, and no one should be taught that.

When we judge girls and women for the skin they are or are not showing, we are minimizing them to their bodies and repeating the same lies that females are only bodies in need of judgment and fixing. We are even perpetuating the shame-inducing belief that female bodies are sinful and impure, and must be covered to protect boys and men who can’t be held responsible for their thoughts or actions.

You can read my previous thoughts on modesty here:

photo source

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Julia 10 October 2012, 1:26 pm


    the link (I hope it works) leads to an article written by social psychologists from ULB (Brussels) on perception of sexualized male and female bodies, both by men and women. In this experiment, women presented in a sexualized way where perceived like objects, while men were not. what is not in this article (but I attended a mini-conference where the according data was presented) is that contextualization (e.g. presenting a Bikini-model as a graduate student who posed for the pictures in order to raise funds for a good cause) changes the perception of exactly the same pictures. My (completely unscientific) conclusion to this is: every person has the duty to make the effort of getting to know (at least superficially) the person in front of them before mentally judging the person on the basis of appearance. Also, it is quite possible that this is a learned process. We always see women presented as and with objects in advertising, hundreds of times per day, from the first day of our lifes. to me it is not suprising that we learn this association, but it does in no way mean we can’t fight it, or that we are not personally responsible to modify our behavior (towards women). And (to conclude my endless comment) it shows, in my opinion, that women are not those responsible for how they are perceived, other than preventing themselves to judge other women based on their appearance.

  • Sara 10 October 2012, 1:28 pm

    Oh geez, this is a very serious issue. I can’t even begin. I have had issues with “modest dress” at work, where a co-worker told me not to wear heels because it attracts the attention of male co-workers. I was floored! Heels are work-appropriate, I was following the guide-lines for work, why can’t the guys follow simple respectable guide-lines socially? I don’t feel like I should restrict what I wear because a bunch of guys can’t control themselves. It sucks knowing that they will look at me if I wear heels, but it angers me more that *I* was the one told to do something about it, and the men were not told to stop acting like pervs.
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  • Beauty Redefined 10 October 2012, 6:47 pm

    Thanks so much for the shout-out to our post! This modesty issue is so important right now and we’re thrilled to be part of the conversation. Thank you for your support! It means the world to us.

  • Lorena 31 October 2012, 5:37 pm

    This is always an interesting topic.
    I personally think that you dress the way you feel and the way you want to dress.
    Now, I do think there are limits and dress codes to be followed according to locations.
    For example I would dress differently to house of worship than to a beach party…
    It depends on many factors but at the end i must agree:
    You cannot control what others may think of you because of what you wear.
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