I saw this post on Facebook last week and I’ve been mulling over a rejoinder ever since. There is so much wrong with it that at first I thought it was too much to even bother with*. Plus, I’ve been over and over the modesty wheel. I’ve written snarky, insightful, and downright hilarious posts about the modesty war. There’s not much more I have to say about it.
Except, dammit, there is. I’m fecking done dancing around this issue and trying to point things out gently. Enough is enough.
Dear Christian Men of the Internet: STOP TRYING TO CONTROL WHAT WOMEN WEAR.
The “modesty” battles have become poisoned through and through. They started (perhaps) with something good: a genuine concern about increasingly revealing fashion trends of the 21st century. Perhaps, long before the days of the internet, the men involved in them even had a valid complaint. I mean, here were these men in the early 60’s who grew up with women wearing stuff like this:
and then all of the sudden one day the female half of the country got out of bed and put these on:
I can totally imagine these poor men, utterly bewildered, stammering out requests for pants. I can totally imagine the way they must have felt their honor and virtue being shamelessly attacked every time they left their house. I can totally imagine that must have been super, super hard.
But that was fifty years ago. These 20-year-old men walking around with the albatross of YOGA PANTS around their necks must have forgotten that the world of their early toddlerhood was dominated by this:
Classes full of women dressed exactly like this were held in glass-front, ground-floor buildings on busy streets. Ask your dad how much time he spent battling against the pervasive, lust-inciting influence of Jazzercise. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Oh, what’s that you say? None? None? But how could he possibly have kept himself from the daily, hourly temptation of lust if he didn’t do everything within his power to get those girls to cover up already, for the sake of his immortal soul?
The same way men have (and have not) for centuries: self-discipline.
But you don’t understand, I can hear you protest. Men in centuries past weren’t faced with such pervasive temptations everywhere they turn!
You’re right, they weren’t. And you’re right, I don’t understand. My husband can try to explain it until he’s blue in the face, but I still won’t really get the way men react to visual stimuli. That doesn’t mean I’m not sympathetic…I am. The thought of my husband being tempted several times a day by the skin-tight leggings of a co-ed who’s 10 years younger than me and 4 children more nubile makes me furious. Fast-forwarding a few years and imagining my son in my husband’s place breaks my heart. But I cannot change the world beyond our door.
They will be tempted. They will succumb. They will also overcome.
Trying to eliminate the threat of yoga pants one blog post at a time is a complete, utter, and ridiculous waste of my time. I can’t fight that battle for them, nor should I. My job is not to eliminate the threat. My job is to help them grow strong enough in virtue to face it on their own two feet.
It’s not a mark of virtue to admit to a woman that you can’t control your lust when she wears yoga pants. Asking her to change her attire because you either cannot or will not change your behavior does not signal strength of character. If my husband came home and confessed that he could no longer teach classes because all the girls in his classroom wore yoga pants, I’d tell him that he’d better close his eyes and think of England while giving the lecture, since our kids have this pesky need to eat.
If my son said to me what the men in the post said, this is how I would respond:
“If you can’t handle working out at the gym because all the girls wear yoga pants, stop working out at the gym. If you can’t handle the yoga pants on the barista at the coffee shop, buy a coffee maker and make your own. But at some point, you’re going to have to figure out how to handle it, because this is the world we live in. No matter how difficult or unfair it is, you still have to be virtuous. It may require heroic effort. Do it anyway.”
I know it sounds harsh. I have this crazy addiction to sugar. It’s impossible for me to resist. When I try to resist it, I can hear it in the pantry, see it on the shelves of the grocery store, imagine it in all its ice-cream-and-cookie-with-brownie-crumbles glory.
Sometimes I cry because I’m fat. The women of yesteryear, who had to work all day for their food, didn’t have Food, Inc refining sugar and carbs by the truckload to sell dirt cheap to housewives like me! It’s not fair. Sugar is just everywhere. And it tastes so good. My body is programmed to respond favorably to sweet things and to crave them. It’s literally a battle against my body to abstain!
Again, I hear you protest, that’s not the same thing!
You’re right, it’s not. Sugar isn’t a person with a soul. Sugar actually is evil, through and through. That makes it a lot different.
The girls in yoga pants that you can’t stop lusting after are people. They probably shouldn’t be wearing those pants, but you can’t force them to stop. I can just ban sugar from my house; you can’t ban women from your life. At some point, you will have to find some way to live at peace with women and our dubious clothing choices, or you will forever be a slave to lust. Women will truly become your enemy as you try with increasing desperation to control what we wear so you are not forced to grapple with controlling yourself. You will hate us in the end, but no more than you will hate yourself.
*Never fear, gentlemen, I’m not here to unfairly demonize you and give Jazzercise Girl a free pass. There really was too much to handle in a single post, so tomorrow I’ll be yelling at the women.