The Ugly Side of Modesty

Pop your blood-pressure meds, kiddos, because I’m about to take you on a carnival of terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad gender relations, according to one conservative Christian website.

We have to start by talking about “modesty.” In my opinion, the teaching of modesty to teen and preteen girls is one of the most toxic and divisive aspects of Christian culture. It can have life-long implications in the way that women dress, act, and feel about themselves, as well as their understanding of how to interact with men. It comes from pure, unfettered patriarchal nonsense that reinforces the idea that men are slavering goons, hapless at the sight of a tantalizing shoulder or waist. It is the woman’s responsibility to mitigate mens’ desires by covering up all of their “problem bits.” (Oh, and no need to worry about same-sex attraction. That doesn’t exist, don’tcha know!)

But which parts should they cover up? It’s not always clear cut. Hair? Breasts? Legs? Feet? Shoulders? The suggestion of undergarments? Butts? Thighs? Smoldering glances?

For those outside of Christian culture, this is a laughable non-problem. Um, hey, guys, don’t you know that people are attracted to wildly different things and you can’t possibly create a standard that crushes every salacious impulse in every conceivable instance? Also, not every guy is a sex-crazed maniac like you think they are.

But if you’ve grown up with Christian dogma, especially if you’re male, you’re probably familiar with “stumbling blocks” (a.k.a. “Anything that might possibly be considered a sin that I might accidentally or purposefully engage in”). The “stumbling blocks” vary from denomination to denomination but, in general, the idea is that any activity that takes your focus away from God is a potential sin.

At the top of this list of stumbling blocks in large, unfriendly letters is: The Female Body.

In order to get young Christian women to comply with this unnecessary modesty, there’s an obvious method: Start indoctrinating them young. Really, really young.

Take an adolescent or a teenager, preferably with already-skewed body image issues, at a time when they are physically transitioning from childhood to adulthood, and heap on the shame and guilt. Tell them how sinful their body parts are. Tell the girls that they need to reserve the “gifts” God gave them for the man that He selects to be their husband. Failure to do so means giving away “a piece of themselves” to random, stumbling men. Then, tell them how easy it is to cause men to stumble, to force them to be hyper-vigilant in their Quest to Be Non-Offensive to Everyone.

That brings us to SecretKeeperGirl.com.

Geared towards girls as young as eight, SKG is an organization that promotes devotional books and a tour to sell those books created to help mothers bond with their daughters through a sleep-over, lock-in style event complete with worship sessions and a fashion show. The whole organization hopes to instill the value of dressing modestly in a way that will “stick” with the girls for the rest of their lives.

So, what constitutes modesty in this particular breed of Christianity? Let’s tour a few screenshots from the website’s “Truth or Bare” section, a guideline for helping young girls decide whether or not their outfits are modest.

Oddly enough, for a group pushing very hetero-normative and gender-essentialist (“men are men and women are women!”) concepts, this breed of Christianity — the one I am familiar with — has no problem putting girls in clothing from the men’s section, nor would they care that the design and cut of said t-shirts would be totally unflattering to female bodies.

Naturally, there is no blurring of gender lines for men whatsoever in the church. Any man displaying feminine characteristics or clothing could expect a quick and thorough praying-for, and, at minimum, a stern rebuke from the church elders.

First off, what creepy grandfather is looking up an eight-year-old’s skirt? It is no coincidence that the person making the imaginary judgment call here is male. (With incestuousness tossed in just for good measure!)

Second, longer skirts and shorts do not grow on trees.  It is not particularly viable to tell an 8-year-old to just go “buy longer shorts!”

Third, why not just teach them not to sit cross-legged while wearing a skirt? It seems to me that overhauling a wardrobe is the least efficient way of dealing with a “problem” that can be solved by sitting in a different position.

Ah, yes, the “bend over and touch your knees” directive from the days of Christian yore. Are you receiving a spanking with a wooden spoon? Are you checking to see if anyone can see any part or suggestion of your undergarments? Or something more… sinister?

Beyond the creepiness of this little ritual and the level of obsession one must have to ensure that nothing ever shows ever, it’s also just bad fashion advice. FYI, while wearing thin fabric, wear undergarments that are close to your skin color; unless you’ve been dipped in bleach over and over again, wearing white underwear with white trousers will show through just as strongly.

Oh, no! Not only do these eight-year olds have to worry about their intoxicating bellies, Grandpa’s opinion on skirt length, and creepy rituals involving ass-gazing, they now have to worry about potential modesty issues that are not even current realities.

To be clear, this has nothing to do with peer pressure, purity, or an individual’s empowerment: This is about control. There is no sane reason that an eight-year-old should be worrying about whether or not their potential future cleavage is showing when trying on clothing. Advocating this kind of insanity only creates paranoia and concern over the nebulous, constantly changing, unseen forces that dictate “modesty.”

This is the culture I grew up in and I know the kind of damage it causes later in life. I am living proof of how destructive it can be and how long it can take to recover.

Even reading the website was difficult for me, since, at one point, I was the girl that this website wanted me to be. I don’t remember being indoctrinated this young with these beliefs, but I painfully remember being the girl who never visually fit in because of the clothes I wasn’t allowed to wear. During my middle school years, where blending in is a huge benefit, being forced to wear dowdy and ugly clothing seemed to add insult to injury; not only did I not choose my style for myself, I also was forced to wear clothing designed for women more than twice my age (and size).

At a current 5’9″ and 125 pounds, XL sizes ought to never grace the inside of my dresser, but huge t-shirts were a staple of my wardrobe, due to concerns that they might “shrink in the wash” and become immodest (again, paranoia over potential immorality and sin). Since I have always been tall, shorts were a practical impossibility, unless I wore boys’ athletic shorts, under these modesty requirements. Spaghetti-strap tank tops were not allowed in my house. It made for many hot, humid Indiana summers spent indoors. I was ashamed at how my wardrobe made me feel. At a certain point, more comfortable clothing elicited more panic and shame, once the ideals of modesty were well-enough ingrained.

The result of this forced, visual separation, instead of empowering me by allowing me to realize my “inner beauty,” made me feel insecure and unattractive. Here I was, a pre-teen, keenly aware that I should be developing my own sense of personal style, only to have it smothered by the ideals of my parents’ church.

So, why does this all matter? Some random contributor on Friendly Atheist is bitter that she didn’t get to dress how she wanted to in middle school… so what?

Well… lots of reasons.

From my perspective, it’s not so much about the clothing itself — it’s about a choice, a choice that is granted to boys and taken away from girls. Not having a choice means not being able to dictate or even participate in the discussion. There is no way to fight against purity culture while immersed in purity culture, and the psychological damage extends far beyond the closet. The eight-year-olds that are targets of this and similar campaigns have no idea and no ability to see the damage being done. This information is being presented to them while they still lack the cognitive ability to think critically. That’s not an accident.

This isn’t really about the grudge that I carry when I go shopping. It’s about me hating what I see and feeling dirty in certain clothing without rational basis. It’s about me learning to fear the “power” in my chest, legs, and shoulders. It’s about me being told that parts of me are so wrong they must be covered. It’s about men like my husband being taught to distrust women for the “sinfulness” they carry due to inherently being attractive to men.

Issues like this one are what make me wonder what the hell people are thinking when they claim that feminism has nothing to do with atheism. Is it a perfect cross-over? Do all of the issues perfectly align with one another? No, of course not, but neither is any issue that we discuss at all in the atheist movement. We don’t talk about just “atheist” issues; we already know why we don’t believe in the supernatural. Just like anything else, the subjugation and the subordination of women is driven, primarily, by irrational religious belief thus making it a topic of concern for atheists.

As atheists and humanists, we generally oppose harm done to others (I hope), particularly at the hands of religious belief, but more broadly by irrational beliefs in general. The good news is, the damage isn’t permanent. It can be undone, with some time and effort, but that effort is stymied with the constant assertion that these aren’t issues that are “atheist enough” to be talked about within our community.

I am an atheist, and I am a feminist, and I am coming to your online community with more than a few scars from my religious past. There are lots more people, men and women, just like me, who bear similar scars. The question is, will this be the kind of community worth joining, or will we have to look elsewhere for support and healing? Will our concerns and stories be welcomed, or spurned and judged as not atheist-y enough to warrant inspection?

I hope I don’t have to look elsewhere. I hope you’ll let these issues be part of our conversation.

About amanda

Amanda is a pie-baking, music-listening, lindy-hopping, yoga-doing, power-tool-wielding feminist, atheist, and wife. She divides her time equally between cooking delicious things, trying to make nice with the house cat, and ranting about religion.

  • Anon

    Frankly if a person is looking at an eight year old girl sexually I think there’s a bigger problem than whether her teeshirt rode up a bit too much or whether her shorts were too short.

    I also find this topic amusing since I’m lazing around in low hanging pj bottoms an a small strappy top which bears quite a bit of my ‘intoxicating’ belly and my grown up, ‘immodest’, stumble-inducing, and frankly pretty awesome cleavage. And I couldn’t give two hoots.

    • flyb

      “Frankly if a person is looking at an eight year old girl sexually I
      think there’s a bigger problem than whether her teeshirt rode up a bit
      too much or whether her shorts were too short.”

      Exactly. The people who wrote these “fashion tests” obviously don’t realize just how creepy they are. Not to mention the people responsible for posing those young girls for the photos. shiver

      • Gareth Huxtable

        No, they recognise the sexual element involved all right, it’s what they’re taking advantage of! Best analogy I’ve heard so far; It’s the ego’s equivalent of rape.

    • Nick

      It’s because the men are so pent up, sexually, they become “sex craved maniacs”. Then they think all men are as crazy as they are.

      • Stev84

        If they’d only allow them to masturbate. But no, that’s a grave sin too.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

      But Anon, that’s just it. There are creeps out there. What’s wrong with trying to protect our children? 

      I had a friend just the other day who was at the neighborhood splash park and actually caught a guy on her phone camera. The guy was hiding in the shadows of a facilities building up the hill a ways and it was obvious that he was a) video taping children b) Didn’t want to be seen. 

      Fact, there are creeps out there. While we cannot protect our children from every threat, I don’t think we need to have them advertising or inviting them in either.

      • Pisk_A_Dausen

        Do you really think someone looking to harm children will go out looking for those with immodest clothing? They will look for those not being watched, for those easy to take.

        As for the guy taking pictures: The main harm caused in this case was that the parents were creeped out by his behaviour, and possibly that the pool felt less safe to visit afterwards. But if the children had been “modest” (since they were at a pool, I’m guessing they weren’t fully dressed), would the parents have thought “oh well, at least he didn’t get any future cleavage in his pics”? Would it have been less creepy then, would the children have been more safe?

        • http://conuly.dreamwidth.org/ Conuly

           They will look for those not being watched, for those easy to take.

          No, they look for those they can easily manipulate. In general, that doesn’t mean the kid is “not being watched”. It means the kid is under their supervision and they’re in a position of trust.

          That’s why 90% of molested children are harmed by family members, usually parents but also grandparents, uncles, cousins, or older siblings.

          • Pisk_A_Dausen

            Definitely true, I just based my answer on the situation that was given (potential creep who was a stranger, in an outdoors scenario).

        • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

          I’m not really concerned about snatchings, since that is rare.  But you would be BLOWN AWAY by the number of pedophiles who troll public places just looking at girls.  Looking and taking pictures.  And the people who design clothes for girls are insane.  Seriously, high heels and thong underwear for the under-five set. Find a mother of such a girl and ask her for her opinion on “prostitot” clothing.  Every mother I know has examples.

          Little girls should not have to do theses demeaning fashion tests, but honestly, based on the clothes that are available, they really should.  Why should a ten year old girl have to raise her arms to make sure that her belly doesn’t show?  Why does a designer make belly shirts for ten year old girls?

          • http://twitter.com/Arachne110 Arachne

            My kid shows her belly when she does cartwheels, I’m not about to tell her that her prepubescant body is tempting men and she needs to cut it out. 

            Seriously though? The “sexy clothes designed for kids” and “don’t show your belly because it is a stumbling block” are both sides of the same coin. Both are subtly or not so subtly telling young girls that they are primarily a sexual object and that girls should show it off, or cover it up based on what someone tells them. 

            We can do better than contribute to this garbage. 

            • Sally0

              I am constantly dismayed by teenage girls dressing in skankwear & bragging about how sexy the are or how unsexy some other girl isn’t. They seem to think their only power lies in their sexuality. Doesn’t matter if the “unsexy” girl gets straight A’s & accepted to the best university: the “sexy” clique always feel superior, as well as basking in their own ignorance (like Jaywalk All-Stars).

              Sure, you look good NOW, but trust me – it don’t last. Grooming your brain may be less fashionable, but it’ll get you further than the inevitable single parenthood you’re headed for.

              • dcardona

                “They seem to think their only power lies in their sexuality.”

                I wonder where they get that idea? Could it be a culture that tells them their power lies in a sexualized body?

                One camp yelling, “Show it!” and the other yelling, “Cover it up!”

                P.S.
                Ever think sexy girls might do homework? Or that they might be lesbians; or not want kids; or have an awesome boyfriend because they, themselves, are also awesome? You have bought into the lies as well. Stop them, don’t propagate them.

              • Nic

                Excuse me? There are plenty of women who are single parents and not because they fit  into your “slut” category.

                Go fuck yourself.

          • http://conuly.dreamwidth.org/ Conuly

              But you would be BLOWN AWAY by the number of pedophiles who troll
            public places just looking at girls.  Looking and taking pictures.

            Before we discuss whether or not I should care, I have to ask: Do you have any actual statistics on this? Or are you just making it up? Because, quite honestly, I’d be surprised if any study has been done on this phenomenon.

            (That doesn’t mean you’re wrong, it just means that I’m not going to accept it without some form of proof.)

          • Deven Kale

             

            But you would be BLOWN AWAY by the number of pedophiles who troll public
            places just looking at girls.  Looking and taking pictures.

            And the real question is, if they’re just using their eyes and not their hands, what harm is it really doing? Even if they take a picture, go home, and masturbate to it, what harm has been done? None? Then why should I even care at all?

            Now if the guy starts getting all creepy and my daughter comes to me with a complaint about him, or I happen to notice him being more than a little suspicious, then I’ll confront the guy in a manner appropriate to his actions. But just looking? Meh, I couldn’t care less.

            • AHicks74

              Deven, it’s outright creepy the way some adult men look at young girls even little girls.  My Husband and I noticed a guy at a local park/splash pad who was really eyeballing the girls. 

              He didn’t act on it, but it just made your skin crawl.  And yeah, when it’s YOUR little girl he’s gawking at, it can really make you angry. 

              But who knows what his story was, maybe he just lost a daughter, went through a bad divorce…you just don’t know.  You can’t assume that single men at the beach, park or playground are automatically pedos.

              • http://twitter.com/ThundalArchsys Thundal Archsys

                 If you honestly have a problem with the desire, which is natural to some extent, and also have a problem with him prevention the action, I really have to wonder how to classify everyone else…

          • AHicks74

            I have to agree.  Just look at the styles and designs of swimware for little girls.  They have bikinis for 0-3 month BABIES! 

            I struggle every year to find a swimsuit for my little girl, that has her look like a little girl and not a woman.  She is only 5, she doesn’t and shouldn’t dress like a young woman who is 20 years older. 

            • Guest

              Diaper changes are a heck of a lot easier. Unless you think that bicinis are somehow less modest than *just* wearing a diaper?

      • Stev84

        Irrelevant, as that’s not the point of the whole modesty thing.

        Modesty is intended to prevent boys from having sexual thoughts. At least that’s what they claim. In reality it doesn’t work of course. They put such a focus on what could possibly be arousing that they only emphasize it and cause people to become more obsessed with sex and skin. In Victorian times, showing leg was considered highly scandalous. The same thing is happening here. It’s why some Muslims ended up with burkas

      • Anon

        I think you missed my point.

        My point was that if somebody is looking at a child with a sexual intent (like videotaping them at a waterpark) then that person has a serious problem. The problem does not lie with how short a child’s teeshirt or shorts were or what swimsuit they were wearing. The problem lies with the adult.

        People who want to sexually take advantage of children are going to want to do that whether they are running around in a teeshirt and shorts or a long sleeved top and ankle length skirt.

        I’m also more than slightly disturbed by your last sentence. So a child who was wearing a bikini or an ‘immodest’ teeshirt and shorts would be classified as ‘inviting’ somebody to molest them would they?

        • Cosmati

          This is absolutely true. Furthermore, its one thing for these perverts to be gawking at a child but who they will  ACTUALLY prey on is children with some type of emotional vulnerability,  whether it be low self-esteem or parental neglect… Soooo, speaking of low self-esteem,  kids who are constantly brainwashed with these messages that reinforce negative body images, are doing nothing more than cultivate low self-esteem. Cue the “grooming” mechanism molesters engage in: making their victims feel “special”; allowing the kids to wear something they are “not allowed” at home, pretending to “teach” the child about sex. The biggest issue is, since the topic of sex is such a taboo in a Christian household, parents are immediately rendering a child incapable of defending him/herself from a predator.

      • http://conuly.dreamwidth.org/ Conuly

        But Anon, that’s just it. There are creeps out there. What’s wrong with trying to protect our children?

        You’re assuming that by dressing modestly (whatever that means) your children will be “protected”. You’re assuming that this is something in YOUR control. Worse, you’re assuming that of those children who are harmed, it’s their fault, or their parents’.

        None of these things is true. Somebody who is attracted to children may be, for all we know, MORE attracted to them when they ARE covered up “like kids”. Or it might not matter one way or another. Or they might take a “whatever I can get” attitude.

        I had a friend just the other day who was at the neighborhood splash
        park and actually caught a guy on her phone camera. The guy was hiding
        in the shadows of a facilities building up the hill a ways and it was
        obvious that he was a) video taping children b) Didn’t want to be seen.

        Videotaping parkgoers isn’t a crime. You don’t really know WHAT his motivation was. Maybe he was in the shadows because he didn’t want to be in the sun and the angle was better. Maybe he wanted to hide because he’s been dinged for filming his own kid before and thought, hilariously, that moving further away (that’s what zoom is for) would help him avoid that problem.

        Or maybe he IS a creep. I fail to see how your kids are harmed if he never talks to them or touches them in any way. Sure, it’s creepy, but if he’s getting his kicks without actually molesting any child, well, I’m perfectly happy with that situation.

        And really, what would you suggest? That children never wear bathing suits in public? That they never go to the playground?

        How about you teach them that their bodies are their own, that if they’re raped or molested it is NOT their fault, that they can go to you with problems WITHOUT being shamed?

        Fact, there are creeps out there. While we cannot protect our children
        from every threat, I don’t think we need to have them advertising or
        inviting them in either.

        Fact is, the vast majority of pedophiles target children known to them, typically family members. Worrying about what’s “out there” isn’t helpful, because the guys “out there” aren’t going to hurt your kid.

        • Guest

           “How about you teach them that their bodies are their own, that if
          they’re raped or molested it is NOT their fault, that they can go to you
          with problems WITHOUT being shamed?”

          This! A thousand times – and it is the direct opposite of the “modesty” teaching – when I was molested at 9, I spent *years* telling myself that I had brought it on by being immodest and accessible.

          • http://conuly.dreamwidth.org/ Conuly

             I’m sorry that happened to you.

      • Ibis3

        *This is classic victim-blaming. Kids should be able to play in a splash park without being concerned that they might attract the attention of paedophiles. Having an adult keep an eye out for voyeurs and reporting them to police is the answer, not making all the children cover up.

        *Instead of teaching girls to wear burqas (because that’s where this mentality has to lead), and boys that they are sex-crazed monsters, they should be taught that sexual attraction is natural for both boys and girls, not something to be ashamed of, but that they have to always be aware that the people to whom they’re attracted are *people* and don’t want to be sexually objectified. Having sexual thoughts and fantasies is normal, but treat other people with respect and always get consent before acting on your sexual feelings.

        *No matter how “modestly dressed” a child or woman is, you aren’t doing anything to protect them from people’s fantasies. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2012/06/a-picture-is-worth-1000-words.html

      • Miss_Beara

         “I don’t think we need to have them advertising or inviting them in either.”

        Hooray for victim blaming! :-P

      • The Other Weirdo

         From all the reports I see on the news, it’s guy at home or the neighbour next door or the teacher in the classroom or, you know, your priest,  that you have to worry about, not some random dude with a camera futzing about in the bushes.

      • Baby_Raptor

        Get a taste of reality, lady.

        For one, the kind of freak who is looking to harm children isn’t interested in what they’re wearing…They’re just interested in the fact that the kid is a kid. Letting your daughter wear normal clothing isn’t going to encourage it. 

        Two, paranoia like this is no reason at all to damage your foals by indoctrinating them with crap like the above. And I speak from experience there…I grew up in a home that taught stuff like this. The damage this kind of “modesty” and the crap that accompanies it causes is irreversible.

        Three, by blaming it on what your kid is wearing, you’re excusing yourself of the responsibility you have to be a parent. Those freaks who are looking to hurt kids are gonna go after the ones left alone; the easy target. Not the one who happened to wear a V neck, or who showed a little skin while playing. 

        Most child molestation cases happen by a relative or close family friend. Someone the kid already knows and trusts. What the child is wearing isn’t going to change that.

        It’s good that you’re concerned, but think a bit before you act. 

      • LifeInTraffic

        Way to blame the victim and take the onus off the person doing the victimizing. If one child was victimized by this person, would you look at her clothes and ask yourself “gee, I wonder if she had it coming?” Because that’s the only way policing how an 8-year-old dresses in order to not “tempt” a child molester would make sense.

        A rape victim doesn’t “invite” rape, no matter how they are dressed. A child doesn’t “invite” a predator, no matter how they are dressed.

      • Patterrssonn

        Perhaps your creep got his ideas from looking at this website.

    • Stev84

      It fits right in with the purity craze where fathers obsesses over their daughters’ virginity and then go on dates with them at “purity balls”

      • LesterBallard

        Fathers own their daughters, remember.

        • jean

          that’s a lie!!

  • dorothy30

    powerful story. I think you’re in the right place for support. I didn’t grow up in this ‘purity culture’ but this gives me some insight into the damage it does to those who live it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=34408484 Krystal Cox

      I did grow up in that culture and ran from it as fast as I could once I moved out of my mothers house. I’m 25  and just now am becoming comfortable in wearing a swim suit in public w/out covering up with a large t-shirt. Just to give others another firsthand insight to her story. It can be that intense.

      • cocoabrioche

        Heck, I’m 65, and just started buying t-shirts in a ‘small’ without long sleeves (5’2 and 110lbs….)
        I thought that I had put my fundie upbringing behind me, even got past the bitterness about it, but the influence is always there.  The emphasis on covering girls is creepy and hyper-sexualized.  Maybe a first step in excusing incest and rape:  it was HER fault because of the way she dressed.

      • Ginger

         I grew up in this culture, too. Not only did my mother go shopping with me to approve my clothing until I got married, I was required to get approval for each outfit before I left the house. That is, a shirt that was fine when I bought it may not be acceptable if worn with a particular skirt, or I may have gained weight since I bought it, making it unacceptable.

        If my parents were on the fence about whether or not to allow something, I was required to ask my younger brother for his approval; the logic being that he was a teenaged boy, and if there was anything tantalizing about my clothing, he would notice it. As humiliating as this exercise was for me, it was shameful for him as well to be forced to examine his older sister’s body and make rules about it. He still apologizes to me for participating in things like that. This system is absolutely harmful to the men, women, boys and girls involved in it.

        • Pascale Laviolette

          Wow!  What a terribly awkward framework to have to live through… Being a teenager is hard enough.  Makes me really appreciate how much freedom I really had growing up.

        • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

           That bit about your brother.

          Ugh. Just … ugh.

          Sorry you had to go through that.

          TRiG.

      • Baby_Raptor

        I did too. I got out a bit earlier than you did, but I’m right there with you in still feeling the influence. I left 8 years ago and am just now comfortable wearing sleeveless shirts. And I was raised in Texas, where it’s 100+ degrees most of the year. 

    • Onamission5

      I grew up in a somewhat less rigid form of this so-called purity culture, but I still got the message loud and clear as a child that males were primitive, simplistic, reactionary and unadaptable, and it was up to me as a girl to take full responsibility for any of their behaviors or feelings because they couldn’t be held responsible for themselves. The disservice that attitude does to both boys and girls is incredibly socially damaging. It fails to challenge males to mature emotionally as people, and it places upon females the full burden for solving any and all interpersonal problems within the community. Not only that, but it assumes strict gender and sex dichotomy when reality is, not everyone is (or should be) straight and cis. The strain that puts on developing relationships is so disfunctional. It’s no wonder many children raised that way run fast and far, and then struggle for balance the rest of their lives.

    • amycas

       I grew up in this and it’s the reason I stopped going to Sunday School in 8th grade. The teacher was insistent about bringing up this topic at least once a month. I knew there was at least one girl in the group (other’s didn’t know this) that had been abused in the past, and the teacher kept going on and on about how girls need to cover up to keep the boys in line. She even used the “some clothes are more inviting” line. *Shudder*

  • Hibernia86

    Pretty much every Atheist agrees that religion harms women. The debate in the Atheist blogs is about women’s issues in the rest of society. Sometimes the women’s issues brought up are both factually accurate and something to be concerned about and sometimes they not factually accurate and exaggerated. But I think the reason why you’ve been seeing the push back from some men is that there has been a big increase in discussion of gender issues as they apply to women and little to no discussion of gender issues as they apply to men. The men feel that this is a bias way of looking at things. They feel that if it is so important for society to get rid of female gender stereotypes, then why aren’t male gender stereotypes receiving the same attention?

    • 1000_Needles

      Really? A “what about teh menz” in less than five comments?

      To quote from the Feminism 101 blog: “What it boils down to is this: Men, not women, need to be the ones creating the spaces to discuss men’s issues.”

      In other words, it is bullshit that every time a woman wants to discuss a women-specific issue, the discussion get derailed by men claiming that their issues are being ignored.

      The atheist community is totally capable of having discussions that focus on men’s issues, but NOT at the cost of ignoring or hijacking discussions on women’s issues… something your comment threatens to do.

      • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

        It’s not about “men’s issues” versus “women’s issues” and trying to make it about that is just reinforcing the old gender divisions that are the problem we’re trying to solve. It’s usually the same issues that harm everyone, and the same solutions that we need to work towards, together, to solve them.

        • 1000_Needles

          Women suffer disproportionately more than men with issues such as rape, ‘modesty’, birth control, and sexism. That’s why they’re called women’s issues, and that’s why they deserve to be discussed in a women-focused context.

          • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

            It doesn’t matter who suffers more. There’s no advantage to anyone in excluding anyone – this is not a zero sum game. We do better for everyone when we deal with the whole issue together.

            A women who feels she has to interrupt her career to care for children is helped by the exact same actions that help a man who feels that he can’t stay home with his children without being seen as unmanly. It’s the exact same problem.

      • Hibernia86

        I’m sorry, but while it is true that women face more gender issues than men, people should not get angry every time a man speaks about gender issues. We would be glad to comment on blog posts directed to male gender issues on this blog BUT THERE AREN’T ANY. I mean, once in a blue moon we get thrown the male circumsicion issue, an issue I personally don’t feel should be at the top of the pile. If you want to talk about male gender issues, there could be discussions on the draft or the death penalty sentencing as it applies to men and women who commit similar crimes. But we don’t see that anywhere on this blog while we do see plenty of women’s issue posts recently.This blog has begun posting issues that have nothing to do with religion but do have to do with women’s gender issues. There is nothing wrong with that, but we shouldn’t get surprised when men start to wonder why the posts are completely one sided when it comes to gender. While women might face more gender issues, from the look of the blog it makes it seem like men face none and they are getting annoyed at that suggestion.

        And no, we should not have all women’s issue posts be written by women and all men’s issue posts be written by men. Everyone should be discussing gender issues for both genders. There is no reason why women should only discuss women’s issues or men should only discuss men’s issues. Gender equality means dealing with gender stereotypes as they exist in society for both genders.  

        • Stev84

          The modesty crap actually affects both. It’s certainly true that girls have it far worse there and have the bigger negative long term effects. But boys get settled with some baggage too. They are told that they are only defined by their sex drive and basically that they can’t control themselves. Then they are inadvertently conditioned to treat just about anything as arousing. And to top it off they aren’t given an outlet to release their sexual tension.

          • Kodie

             I was going to say that too. Boys and men are portrayed as being uncontrollable sex fiends. Rather than the religion confront this as their responsibility, it lies with those who are in position to tempt them. The message goes to both boys and girls. However, boys do have a bad reputation; it is girls’ responsibility for taming them. All they are taught about boys is that they are horny. And to save themselves up for a horny boy. I don’t think that sets up a healthy relationship. Why do girls get so much crap for being led by their emotions? That’s not entirely true, but boys get, well, first presumed for being a container of pent-up horniness, and not even being called on to contain it by containing their emotions. I don’t think all boys are like this, not all the time, but being told you are makes you be! Just like the OP has been scarred by her experience while young, boys carry that to adulthood as well.

            As for 8-year-old girls to be concerned about their modesty or purity at a young age, it’s not that they are inviting, but that once they do have cleavage, it’s kind of a sudden thing to say, you can’t wear things that were innocent on you as a child. From what I understand of the magic Mormon underwear, it’s basically a measuring stick. You wouldn’t want your underwear sticking out, so clothes that cover it up are considered modest enough. Jewish girls, toddlers, wear skirts and not pants (actually a lot that I see wear leggings under their skirts if it’s cold), and they always cover their toddler knees. You have to dress as if you’re already a woman to take away that hard line of “you can’t wear that anymore, your body is suddenly attractive to sexually arousable boys or men.

            And sure, for all that, they marry impractically young and pump out a thousand babies. Apparently “purity” really means purity of the beliefs and the children. Controlling the youth to fall into a situation they can’t get out of easily and saddling them with responsibilities before they know themselves keeps them from being able to find their way out.

          • Marguerite

            Indeed. As I’ve said before, read Joshua Harris’ awful “Sex Isn’t the Problem (Lust Is)” for a horrifying explanation of how fundamentalist attitudes toward sex warp men. He talks about how he can’t even have a lingerie catalog in the house without calling his friends for help with his “lust,” nor watch typical movies and commercials. He basically encourages men and women to shun the real world and hide away, and seems to think avoidance of anything that might spark the slightest arousal is normal and healthy. It makes me feel terrible for all the young people who are being brought up to loathe themselves for normal sexual responses.

            • Marguerite

              Pardon me; that’s “Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is).” And I swear I’m not getting paid for mentioning it. It’s just the most horrific thing I’ve read on the topic so far, and it’s stuck with me, sort of like a wart on my brain that just won’t go away.

        • CelticWhisper

           Thank you for being a fellow voice of reason on this.  Hemant posted a while ago that if people “can’t handle” the gender-relations articles, they can leave.

          To me, it’s got nothing to do with the articles and everything to do with the accusations and flaring tempers in the ensuing discussions.  I was ready to trout-slap someone the next time I heard “what about teh menz,” which is just as dismissive and scornful to male people as religion’s obsession with submission has been to female people, and accusations of agendas, speaking from privilege (unfalsifiable), “creepiness” (which is, again, unfalsifiable and thus unscientific, having no place on a skepticism blog) and political correctness leading people to be hesistant to speak up.

          This is important shit here – a solid, specific example of how religion seeks to control lives – and yet people act like children in these discussions, slinging blame and condemnation like candy at a halloween costume parade.

          So yeah, thank you for being civil and admonishing others to do the same.

          • Hibernia86

            You’re welcome.

        • Guest

          It’s not just the men. I am an atheist, a woman, and NOT a feminist. I believe we should be focusing on human issues, not women issues. Sexual abuse is bad for everyone. Even if fewer men suffer from it than men… one is too many, right? Why does it have to be about female sexual abuse, or female modesty? Why can’t it simply be about bettering humanity?

          • Guest

            Even if fewer men suffer from it than women*

          • Hibernia86

            I think people have different definitons for the word “feminist” and judge each other negatively based on their own definitions rather than the definition that the person making the comment used. But I agree with you that we should be focusing on helping others regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation.

        • http://timothy.green.name/ Timothy (TRiG)

           

          Everyone should be discussing gender issues for both genders.

          Agreed. And many feminist bloggers do indeed discuss men’s issues. Example.

          And, in this specific post, we’re discussing women’s issues. Which you say we should all discuss.

          So why the fuck are you derailing the conversation onto your pet subject?

          Sheesh.

          TRiG.

          • Hibernia86

            Because there ARE NO posts on this blog that deal with issues that specifically affect men. How am I supposed to comment on them if they are never posted?

             I brought this up because the author of this post specifically asked about why there had been some argument over the posting of non-religion related gender issues on the blog. I was explaining that there is nothing wrong with posting about women’s issues if you want, but if you only ever post about issues that affect women and never about issues that affect men, it comes off as bias. Yes, women have historically faced more problems than men and still do to some degree today, but that doesn’t mean that the only gender issues in the world are the ones that affect them. If the gender related posts are all about one gender, it really does give the wrong impression, purposefully or not.

            I think if it were common to see different posts on different gender stereotypes that affect different genders, then people would be fine with it and there wouldn’t be a problem. But now we seem to have gone back to not talking about any non-religion related gender issues at all. It is a shame we can’t discuss it in an orderly way between people who are friends, but unfortunately that is the nature of internet blogs in that random people will pop in to make short comments without having the full discussion.

      • Hibernia86

        Also, Amanda was the one who brought up the issue of how the discussion of gender issues should fit into Atheism. Read the end of her post. I was simply responding to that.

      • CelticWhisper

        That is not what is happening here.  Disregarding the dismissive and manipulative nature of the phrase “what about teh menz” (Yes, what about them?  People are people, period, and it is not wrong to express concern for any segment of the population.), what Hibernia points out makes sense – problems exist on both sides.  She’s not talking about hijacking this discussion – this discussion is already what it is.  She’s talking about an overall comparative dearth of content dealing with sexism against male people.

        We can’t change the past – those wrongs have been committed, people have suffered for them, and just as there is no repairing it, there is no excusing it either.  However, we have the option to change going forward.  Rather than recriminations and guilt, rather than throwing around unfalsifiable and unscientific words like “agenda,” “creep,’ “privilege,” and “feminazi,” I think we can be more constructive in these discussions.  The abundance of gender-relations articles that have no ties to atheism (this one is not an example), while they do seem out of place on an atheist blog, are not about to drive me away from this site.  The lack of civility in the associated discussions, however, is.

        What it boils down to, to me, is this: we have a segment of the population (female people) who are subjected to a loss of choice or sovereignty or agency compared to another segment of the population (male people).  This represents a lack of perfect equality and is thus intolerable.  Rather than trying to point fingers and lay blame for it, we need to identify (not necessarily even fully explain, at least not right away) the cause and remove it.  In this case, it fits in with the atheist theme of this blog  – the cause is religious dogma.  Kill the superstition, remove part of the problem.

      • The Other Weirdo

         

        To quote from the Feminism 101 blog: “What it boils down to is
        this: Men, not women, need to be the ones creating the spaces to discuss
        men’s issues.”

        If that’s true, why are there so many posts on men’s blogs about women’s issues? Should these discussions be limited to women’s blogs? And here I thought feminism was about equality and caring for one another.

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      Indeed. Individual claims and arguments should be dealt with on their own merits. Often we see that someone who identifies as a feminist will say something very silly, and then try to shut down reasonable criticism by characterising anything less than full support as misogny when it’s really nothing of the sort.

      There’s a risk that those discussions might leave people like Amanda with the impression that the atheist community is full of rabid sexists who wouldn’t support them over an issue like this, and I don’t think that’s the case.

      • Hibernia86

        I think this is a good point. While it is important to discuss issues pertaining to the actions within the Atheist community, we should not try and demonize ourselves. Most people in our community are welcoming and friendly. By painting a broad negative brush on ourselves, we only end up being less welcoming to women, not more.

      • Brian Worley

        Hah, Ewan, I read Needles and Hibernia’s posts before I had to leave to drive my girlfriend to work, and was composing a response in my head to post when I got home. It’s similar to yours. 

        I’d add: Hibernia, it doesn’t work if you just say “Why aren’t you talking about me?” It’s not that you’re a man, it’s that you’re changing the subject. Have something to contribute that relates to modesty? Add it! A feminist perspective from a male could add valuable insight! On the other hand, if you have something else related to being a feminist male (or atheist, or waffle-lover, or fine art aficionado), start a discussion! Start a group! Start a blog!Needles, I’m mostly with you, on this. But I wouldn’t dream of starting a group just for feminist men… sounds both hyper-ironic and oxymoronic (Really sorry those rhyme, incidentally). The problem here, as I see it, isn’t that Hiberia is asking for a male perspective , it’s that he’s changing the subject entirely.  Women _have_ suffered entirely more. I would contend, though, that if a person has something valuable to add, s/he should be welcomed to add it, and have his/her statement considered, and his/her anatomy should not be grounds for whether or not the statement is welcome. To add to the original topic, this was a great article. I definitely got the message of “women are temptresses, and you need to stay away from them” throughout my childhood, and it’s a deep injustice to both men and women. The fact that women are supposed to be blamed for _having_ anatomy is bullshit, as is the way many men in roles of power have tried to shift the blame for their actions onto women. My upbringing came with a metric ton of BS regarding gender, gender roles, and the dangers of sex. It left me with a pretty paralyzing fear of relationships with women, and I had some pretty major difficulties in normalizing with the rest of the secular world, once I was out in it. Again, great article :) 

  • Mandie

    They left something out of the underwear one: If you’re
    worried about panty lines, just wear a thong!
     

    • Stev84

       Better: go commando

      • eonL5

        Eww.

        • http://conuly.dreamwidth.org/ Conuly

           How is it “ew”? Your butt is still covered with clothing, nobody can see it – who cares?

          • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

            It means that parts of your body with very high staph and coliform bacteria counts are rubbing all day against fabric that often can’t be washed in hot water.

            It also means that sensitive parts of your body are rubbing all day against fabric a lot less soft than the typical undergarment.

            • Kmmarcha

              I wear and buy thongs, in fact that’s all I own, and if you’re willing to spend a little more, there are 100% cotton thongs.

              • The Other Weirdo

                 Now I have a visual I can’t get rid of. Great! Now I know how those poor, benighted Christians must feel, with all these impure and evil thoughts(you know, the purely natural ones) flying about in my head.

                • golfie

                  Would it help if I suggested Kmmarcha is a bloke – just trying to help lol.

                • Oi!

                  N-o-t   h-e-l-p-i-n-g

            • eonL5

              Exactly. And I don’t wash my pants each time I wear them. Unlike undergarments.

            • Jice

              I’ll bet you think ‘girl parts’ are stinky, dirty things.

              • Oi!

                Er, *your* prejudice is showing. Try re-reading the parent comment.

            • http://conuly.dreamwidth.org/ Conuly

              Those same parts of my body are rubbing against fabric that I’m not GOING to wash in very hot water (that’s why they’re called “delicates”) no mater WHAT I wear.

              As far as soft goes, it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Even if it does to you, that doesn’t make it “ew” if I have a different opinion on the subject.

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000888026081 Portable Weirdness

               LOL! You’ve never worked outdoors in high temps, I take it? It gets up in the 100′s here in NC in the summer, and sweat stains. You don’t go out in expensive dry cleaning. I don’t wear anything to work in that I can’t wash in hot water with Oxywash or Bleach if needed! On the soft side, to help avoid heat rash I also don’t wear fabric that can’t breathe or doesn’t dry very quickly. Even cotton underwear has spandex fiber in it, but my nice soft cotton shorts don’t. Are you sure you’ve got it nailed?

      • Nicole

         Yes.  Commando is a lifesaver!  In the desert in which I live, I’ve discovered that commando is infinitely more comfortable outside in the heat and makes it easier to walk, run, and do heavy work. My other solution, naked, only works at home for some reason . . .   -_^

    • eonL5

      Ow.

    • amycas

      Thongs are evil too.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/HXMGJONKJJ35BYMNFHNGXMXH2U Mary P.

    Although I didn’t grow up in the purity culture, my school experience with my mom’s idea of modesty parallels yours.

    By age 19 when I was working and buying my own clothes the “rebound effect”, was obvious.  I wore super-tight clothes with high heels and only styles that screamed, “I am sexy!”.  It was ridiculous, and it took years for me to be confident WITHOUT making men spin their heads.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gwydionfrost Daniel Parker

    Amanda, you need to stop this quixotic quest of yours. (You’ll never be able to make nice with the house cat unless you renounce your atheist beliefs and worship it as the deity that all cats think they are.)

    That being said, more power to you!  I had some uncomfortable moments reading that “primer” for pre-teen sexualization angst, and was curious as to when they were going to suggest a burqa. Oh, wait… that one was covered by the other radical sects.

    You know– the Bible gives even better advice to solve this “issue”– in fact it repeats this several times (See Matthew 18:9; Mark 9:43-47): 
    And if thy eye causeth thee to sin, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell-fire.
    So, how come they aren’t advocating blinding 8 year old boys before they begin the long torturous road of becoming the hell-bound pedophile grandpa that the website creator seems to be so familiar with…?

    In fact, why is it that these passages are the ones that the folks who write those ‘guides to what the bible actually means’ get the translation of:  “It cannot be supposed that Christ intended this to be taken literally.” and “which is not to be understood literally; for no man is obliged to mutilate any part of his body, to prevent sin, or on account of the commission of it; this is no where required, and if done, would be sinful” …yet, everything else MUST be taken literally…?

  • http://mamamara.wordpress.com/ Mara

    Wow. I didn’t grow up in a culture like this and I didn’t realize how lucky I am.

    It’s going to suck finding clothes for my daughter as she gets older, because from what I can tell, teen girl fashions include one of two options: dress them in the kind of “modest” stuff described here which make them look ugly, or dress them in clothing that would fit in well in a red-light district.

    I don’t want my daughter to look frumpy and ugly and I want her to develop her own sense of style, but I don’t think it’s anti-feminist for me to want her to cover at least the majority of her breasts and butt in public! I’m not staring up her skirt or worrying about the tiniest accidental exposure but when she’s standing up, I’d like her butt to be mostly covered and that’s hard enough to find in clothing for a seven-year-old.

    • Kari Lynn

      What they said here about guys tshirts isn’t totally inaccurate. They do have deep vnecks, but they are longer and you can put a cami underneath. I just buy a size smaller. They can be very cute.

  • http://twitter.com/bnt0 brian thomson

    I stopped reading at “future cleavage”. Seriously?

    I mean – I’m a guy, and I know that my eyes are sometimes attracted to a “flash”, before I get a chance to figure out what I’m looking at. Animal, vegetable, mineral, whatever – if something catches your eye. you look first and ask questions later. It doesn’t mean anything – it’s just an artifact of my ancestors’ existence on the plains of Africa, hunting for antelope hiding in the long grass.

    It would not be an excuse if I was to behave badly, but it never gets to that point, since I was brought up to respect women and to think before I do anything. These Bronze Age types need to learn that they are not the slaves of their eyes. If you think you see sexuality, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually there.

    • Negathle

      You’re a *human.  Both genders have that ability (or lack it) to notice “flashes”.  Don’t segregate yourself!

    • http://gulliblestravelsdma.wordpress.com/ D-Ma

      ” I stopped reading at “future cleavage”. Seriously?

      Me too!  I scanned the rest, but I just couldn’t take it anymore! 

      I wasn’t subjected to the modesty thing until after I got married.  My husband picked out most of my clothes and I was usually covered from my neck to my toes. 

      As for being attracted to a “flash”, it’s human nature.  I’m a woman and have no same-sex attraction at all, but when I see cleavage, or midriff, or thongs hanging out of the tops of jeans it’s hard not to notice.  It’s like a train wreck.  I know I should look away, but I can’t. 

      • EivindKjorstad

         Why “should” you look away ? Sure, if you ogle or stare at someone it’s impolite and if taken to extremes can even be harassing, but is there some reason you “should” avoid glancing at somebody ? Why ?

        • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

          Well, in the case of the post, it’s because the girls in question are seriously underage.

          But second, it’s because staring at people is considered rude.  Especially men obviously staring at women’s secondary sex characteristics.

          • Stev84

            There is a difference between “looking” and “staring”. Just noticing that someone else is attractive isn’t a problem. Doesn’t mean they deserve to be ogled or stared it.

          • Tinker

             If a 14 year old girl dresses like a hooker, can a man be blamed for looking at her like one?

            Me, I am the opposite. I am not attracted to makeup, tattoos, high heels, skirts or ‘stylish hairdos’. I am attracted to women. I admit it, I see a pretty girl and I look. I have a difficult time not looking. It does not mean that I will do anything about it. After all, young women may look good but they are not usually someone that I would want to get close to. I have met some exceptions, but not as an intimate thing more as an intellectual thing.

            My wife of 8 years only wears makeup when she feels she has to and never for me. She only wears ‘stylish’ shoes when she has to, she knows that I find it more attractive when she is comfortable. She does have her vanity in her beautiful, long hair but she doesn’t do anything special to it, and definitely not for me. She knows that I would cry if she got one of those ‘makeovers’ that they do on the daytime talk shows and came home with a ‘stylish’ do.

            • Onamission5

              Yes, he can, because he’s in control of his own actions.

              • The Other Weirdo

                 Yes, he is. Except, I’m not sure you’re understanding how this works.

                You’re walking through a mall. You see a flash of something. You take a closer look. You see the skirt, the shoes, the lingerie top, the lips so red they’re practically radioactive. You shrug. Just some attention whore, or a plain whore. You take an closer look. Shit! Probably 14 years old. Oh, well, I guess I know what she’ll be doing with her life. You move on.

                Just because you see someone as a hooker doesn’t mean you’re going to treat them as one.

                • amycas

                   “Just because you see someone as a hooker doesn’t mean you’re going to treat them as one.” Wow, slut shaming. How exactly does one “treat a whore?”

                • The Other Weirdo

                   Are you seriously going to tell me that if you see a guy acting in the stereotypical skinhead manner with a couple of swastikas on the forehead thrown in for good measure, that you are not going treat him the way he obviously wants to be treated?

                  Does this mean I’m advocating automatic violence for skinheads or instant rape for sluts? Of course I am not.

                  What it means is that perception  is often more important than actuality. We can argue where it should be that way, but there is no denying it.

                  Of course a slut has it easier than a skinhead. All she has to do to project a different appearance is put on a different wardrobe. A skinhead is stuck in his persona.

                • Patterrssonn

                  I guess it’s your idea that if a woman dresses sexy that must mean she’s a slut (whatever that is) that’s more than a little creepy.

                • amycas

                  That didn’t answer my question at all. I asked: How does one treat a whore/hooker/slut? It has nothing to do with perception or skinheads, for that matter. The comment about “instant rape for sluts,” for which you commendably are not advocating, suggests that you think women who “dress like sluts” are at a higher risk of being raped or sexually assaulted. Do I need to copy pasta the other comment I made about how what a woman wears has no bearing on her risks of begin raped?

                • Patterrssonn

                  “attention whore”? WTF is an attention whore?

  • Fargofan

    “Future cleavage”? So they have to hide what they don’t have yet?!

    • Piet Puk

      ” Mommy, what’s a cleavage?”

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

    So then why do schools have dress codes? Why don’t we all just run around naked to begin with? I guess it’s classy to run around dressed like a slut? 

    I for one do NOT want to see some dude’s pants sagging down doing the prison sag so I can see his 3/4 of his boxers or thongs poking out the top of someone’s low riding jeans or someone’s bra cup sticking out the top of their tank top. 

    I completely understand that the fashion/modesty police can take it too far and we can sit hear and argue about the motivation for modesty, but come on. A person can’t just “hang out there” in public can they? How is that appropriate? Think about public transportation? I’m pretty sure if you were sitting on the subway and I was standing in front of you that you wouldn’t want my business all up in your face would you? 

    • Stev84

      You just go from one extreme to another. Which is so typical in religious societies. Yeah, young teenage girls don’t need to dress overly sexy to school. But going right to the other end of the spectrum isn’t helping. It creates huge issues with their body image and self-confidence.

      There is a middle ground. But these kinds of Christians can’t see that.

    • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

      Schools have dress codes in an attempt to create a uniform learning environment for all students, regardless of socioeconomic bracket (that’s the idea, anyway). 

      “I for one do NOT want to see some dude’s pants sagging down doing the prison sag so I can see his 3/4 of his boxers or thongs poking out the top of someone’s low riding jeans or someone’s bra cup sticking out the top of their tank top. ”

      Fine, then don’t look. The thing you have to understand is that your personal preferences about modesty stem from the same anti-sex attitudes that believers have, and, above all else – it is your personal opinion and you have no right to impose YOUR standard of dress on ME.

      “A person can’t just “hang out there” in public can they? How is that appropriate? Think about public transportation? I’m pretty sure if you were sitting on the subway and I was standing in front of you that you wouldn’t want my business all up in your face would you? ”

      I ride the CTA with relative frequency. I actually enjoy the wide variety of clothing choices I see, and the clothing itself doesn’t make me uncomfortable. I have the ability to look away if I see something that makes me uncomfortable; there is no requirement that I MUST stare and be disgusted at someone’s “prison sag”.

      The difference is that the people on the CTA are, presumably, adults, and they got to CHOOSE their outfit that day. These modesty standards are being imposed on small children who don’t even understand the reasoning behind them. Surely you understand that there was a line crossed, but it crosses at the point where YOUR personal preference begins to dictate someone else’s decisions, rather than achieving a compromise of sorts (like a school dress code). Placing these expectations on eight-year-old girl isn’t going a “little” too far; the line they crossed is in another galaxy!

    • LesterBallard

      When I ride the bus, I worry a lot more about personal hygiene than I do how someone dresses. Apparently, there are many people who are deathly allergic to soap and water. 

      • Anon

        Or if they’re wearing a lot of a scented deoderant/cologne/perfume/have smoked recently which makes me cough violently.

    • http://conuly.dreamwidth.org/ Conuly

      Can we NOT throw around women-shaming words like “slut”?

       ” A person can’t just “hang out there” in public can they?”

      I don’t see why not. Naturalism for all! Let’s embrace the clothing optional lifestyle!

    • Dan

      Momma J, way to totally miss the point of the article.

      • Yukki

        Dan the point is modesty is much preferred to a lot of the fashion that is out there the fact that people here seem to want teenagers to dress in provocative ways says a lot about their own perversions they don’t want rights for teenage girls, they want to gawk at them does the word juicy across a young girls butt earn her any kind of respect — from self or others?

    • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

       I don’t have a moral problem with public nudity, but it would introduce some hygiene issues that would need to be addressed.  There’s a reason that most naturalist communities have a “towel rule” for all public seating areas.   Otherwise a stranger’s skid marks might end up on the bus seat instead of hir underwear.

      Then again, always carrying a towel would appeal to my inner Douglas Adams…

    • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

      Really?  That’s what you got out of this?  Observing the damaging effects of religious “modesty” training means Amanda wants women to dress like “sluts”.   Wow.

  • Stev84

    1.) Sexualize literally every body part and action
    2.) Then hypocritically claim that secular society is overly sexualized
    3.) Forbid people to have any sexual thoughts and feelings whatsoever (this isn’t really modesty but purity, but they two often go hand in hand when taken to such extremes)
    4.) Forbid masturbation so that people don’t have an outlet
    5.) Wonder why they turn into sex-obsessed freaks

    • amycas

      6.) ???
      7.) Profit!

    • Duke OfOmnium

      Forbidding people to have sexual thoughts is like telling them not to think about polar bears: the very fact of the injunction guarantees that you will violate it. 

      Of course, few people associate polar bears with sex.  I do, but I’m really strange.

    • http://www.facebook.com/StevenL.Brock Steven L. Brock

      you do realize this article is about young girls right……….

  • LesterBallard

    Thanks for fucking up my day. Patriarchal motherfuckers.

  • Tim

    “future cleavage”  – that is seriously fucked up.  Cover up what you haven’t got!

  • EivindKjorstad

    Amanda ! I hope we can do better. In your excellent essay, you pre-emptively defend yourself by responding to imagined comments dismissing your concerns as irrelevant or off-topic. I sincerely hope you don’t actually receive any such comments.

    It is entirely obvious why the indoctrination you describe is a problem, and the problem is symptomatic of the problems that exist in religions. Teaching children to be ashamed because they are normal human beings is an evil thing to do, yet it lies at the very core of Christianity, you’re a sinner from birth, and nothing you could do could ever make you good enough, therefore you need to constantly beg for forgiveness, forgiveness for the ultimate sin: the sin of being human.

    Being human also means experiencing sexual attraction. There’s nothing wrong in that. You’re supposed to learn to treat people with respect, even when you find them attractive, but this is not, contrary to religious belief, a particularly tricky thing to learn.  I don’t know what’s worst. Female bodies are universally considered shameful dangerous things that must be hidden by these folks, but male attraction is considered a uncontrollable dangerous beast that *must* be kept away from even the slightest temptation lest it stirs from it’s slumber and commits some atrocity.

    Your perspective is very much welcome, I enjoy reading about your experiences, and learn something new every day. These issues are not merely “atheist enough”, infact they’re among the most important issues facing us today. Your post also illustrates that so many of the problems we primarily associate with islam, exist in similar form among conservative Christians.

    I hope you’ll be part of our conversation. I hope we’ll be friends. I hope we can support you, and all the countless others who suffer under the idea that being human is *sinful*.

  • jdm8

    I suggested in a thread elsewhere that asking a friend “do my panties show?” is a gateway to sexual experimentation.

  • Brian Worley

    >
    We would be glad to comment on blog posts directed to male gender issues on this blog BUT THERE AREN’T ANY.<

    Hey! You! Write it! Submit it! Start a blog! We want you to!

    • Sarah

      achilleseffect.com and goodmenproject.com

  • Sindigo

    How can pointing out which parts of a girl’s body are potentially sexually attractive one by one not serve to sexualise them?

  • LesterBallard
  • http://conuly.dreamwidth.org/ Conuly

    Third, why not just teach them not to sit cross-legged while wearing a skirt? It seems to me that overhauling a wardrobe is the least efficient way of dealing with a “problem” that can be solved by sitting in a different position.If they’re going to be obsessive about “modesty” I’d definitely rather they restrict what their children wear than restrict what their children *do*.Telling your kid “throw some leggings under that skirt, it’s a little short” is, I think, infinitely preferable to “you can’t run, bend over, sit cross-legged, go on the jungle gym, or do much other than sit in that skirt”.

    • Stev84

      From what I’ve read, they police both dress and posture. I’ve read accounts from women who were criticized for the way the way sat or walked because someone found it too arousing.

      • http://conuly.dreamwidth.org/ Conuly

         I concur. It’s actually a little frightening that, if anything, the site seems almost moderate compared to a lot of the “modesty” talk you find among certain religious groups.

  • brian zeiler

    I’m an atheist (more like anti-theist) but as the father of a 4-year-old girl, you better believe that she won’t be dressed like a runaway prostitute when she’s 13 like the girls at the malls.  This has nothing to do with religion or body self-image or feminism.  It has to do with the fact that scantily clad girls will put themselves in the crosshairs of older boys and men who have intentions that aren’t exactly in the best interest of the girl.

    This has nothing to do with self-image in women. It has more to do with men being predictably obsessed with sex and protecting daughters from the way we recall acting at a young age…

    • Stev84

      I also find it silly that some 13 year old girls look they’re 18. But there is a middle ground here. You can tell them to dress a certain way without shaming everything about their bodies. You can forbid them from wearing mini-skirts while still allowing other type of short skirts.

      The problem with the modesty stuff as practiced by these Christians is that it immediately goes to the other extreme. If you focus too much on modesty and dress, all you do is sexualize everything people do. You can end up sexualizing a bare arm or leg and have people obsesses about that. Ultimately it creates the very problems you try to prevent if you take it too far. In addition to a long list of other issues you didn’t think about.

      • Sagrav

        Yeah, there is definitely a middle ground.  If we obsess over the clothing that young girls wear, we do risk turning every damn part of their bodies into a sexual taboo (and nothing makes a repressed dude hornier than a taboo that he’s trying desperately not to think about).  

        On the other hand, there really is a lot of children’s clothes these days that seems designed to turn tiny children into sexual objects.  Last year, I was in some fast food joint, and I saw a girl who couldn’t have been older than seven of eight who was wearing a pair of pants with the word “Juicy” printed on the butt.  “Juicy”.  On a kid’s butt.  I could actually feel my blood pressure rise after seeing that.  That kid’s mother thought that those pants were appropriate for her child.  I could barely believe it.

        • The Other Weirdo

           South Park, years ago, did an episode on this exact topic, in their famously over-the-top manner. Even had Paris Hilton as a role model for young girls.

    • EivindKjorstad

       Strange then, that societies where there’s less of this bullshit has *higher* average age of sexual debut, and vastly *lower* rates of teenage pregnancies. Your map doesn’t match the terrain.

      There’s a *huge* distance between every top where you can see belly when arms are extended straight up being considered sinful, and being dressed like a “runaway prostitute”.

      The two women I’ve known who *did* dress extremely provocatively, and behaved to match, where both women who where recovering from parents pulling -precisely- this bullshit on them.

      Your comment doesn’t show much respect for men -or- women. Women would, if given freedom, dress like runaway prostitutes, meanwhile men are “predictably obsessed”.

      • brian zeiler


        Women would, if given freedom, dress like runaway prostitutes”.  Nice generalization of my position.  

        I think all teenage girls go through a phase where, if they feel like they’re attractive to boys, they enjoy the extra attention from dressing provocatively.  I think it’s fine to look pretty and even “respectfully-sexy”, but going too far sends an unintended signal to men of almost uncritical acceptance and encouragement of sexual advances.  When the wrong guy is around, this can spell trouble.  As a father, one of my duties is to prevent harm to my daughter.  Dressing in a way that invites sexual advances is something I will prevent.

        I don’t think teenage girls intend to send this signal.  What I’m saying is that boys will erroneously perceive a signal that doesn’t exist and wasn’t intended.  Horny boys can be dangerous to a young girl, both short-term and long-term.  I’m not going to apologize for protecting my daughter.  It’s all about finding the right balance between protection and suppression.  You can’t give a young girl carte blanche, nor can you put her in a burka.

        • Kodie

          I think it’s fine to look pretty and even “respectfully-sexy”, but going
          too far sends an unintended signal to men of almost uncritical
          acceptance and encouragement of sexual advances.  When the wrong guy is
          around, this can spell trouble.  As a father, one of my duties is to
          prevent harm to my daughter.  Dressing in a way that invites sexual
          advances is something I will prevent.

          I don’t think teenage girls intend to send this signal.  What I’m saying
          is that boys will erroneously perceive a signal that doesn’t exist and
          wasn’t intended.  Horny boys can be dangerous to a young girl, both
          short-term and long-term.  I’m not going to apologize for protecting my
          daughter.  It’s all about finding the right balance between protection
          and suppression.

          Anyone ever think of opening up their mouths and talking to their children or listening to what their children think? Using words like “unintentionally” and then speaking of a father’s duty to prevent harm, you might consider having a dialogue about what a daughter knows or doesn’t know, without fear or blame or shame. Most of the time, I hear parents can’t say anything to their kids or express concern because the kids will do the opposite, or they will internalize the wrong message, or rebel, or be incredulous to what a fuddy-duddy grown-up knows about their lives. Making a daughter more aware and educated about her surroundings – protecting herself – (I don’t want to get in a “blame-the-victim” scenario), but most of what we don’t know and go along with, being too trusting, getting a rush from someone’s approval even if he is a bad guy, they are parts of growing up and learning experiences too! A healthy minded girl will make the choices she wants in what to wear and what feels comfortable to her. A repressed or scared girl will have body issues or self-esteem issues relating to whether more boys like her than all the other girls at any cost.

          Sexuality is a process, pops. A trial and error and not something you turn on when you get to be 18. It’s not something you dress one way when you’re 13 and another way when you’re 17 and another way when you’re 21. It’s a slow revelation, not a particular outfit you wear or someone tells you not to wear. Besides modesty is fashion. If you can’t explore your avenues when you’re 13, if people are still dictating what you can’t wear when you’re 17, you’re not even going to know what looks good on you when you’re 25 or 35. I assume you want a healthy daughter who becomes a healthy adult, not a stunted distrustful one who wears the adult equivalent of Garanimals because you were only trying to protect her. Letting her mind grow and setting the stage for open communication, accepting the idea that a 13 year old girl is impressionable to the fashions of her 17 year old “cool” neighbor is something you might talk about rather than trying to steer. I thought the idea of raising children is to make adults, a lot of what I hear is backward talk – attempting to control children for as long as possible through external means, like their clothes, or like not talking about birth control as if they won’t feel sexual themselves if they never hear of it, and then unlocking the front door and letting them be adults suddenly and unpreparedly. It starts early, I mean crushes and feeling kind of funny about boys, seeing if they look at you when you look at them, and maybe kissing or even saying “i love you” because the feelings feel real, and so on through the years. It’s a growth process, not something that can be protected by clothing.

          • Pascale Laviolette

            Well said — I agree entirely.  Make your daughters aware of the reality of growing up as a woman, without fear mongering; and teach your sons that women deserve respect.

          • eonL5

            hehheh: “adult version of Garanimals” — that’s what I prefer to wear, 95% of the time. (not that that has anything to do with any of this)

            • Kodie

               I have a narrow category of what I feel comfortable in. I would say that’s not necessarily a modesty thing, I wear a lot of styles comfortably, but patterns and bright colors make me feel like my clothes are wearing me, and I don’t exactly dress like a “guy” but I think I dress mostly with the ease that guys do, and feel physically comfortable in my clothes, if that makes any sense. No pulling, no itching, no pinching, and no standing in the mirror wondering if I look ok. I could vary it up a bit but I don’t want my feet to hurt, and I don’t want people staring at me because I look like I can’t dress myself. So I do stick to my comfort zone. Pretty much because I was restricted as a teenager from going to extremes, fitting in, working it out, and I have 2 experiences in middle school where one, my red pants split, and two, my friends made fun of me for wearing turquoise pants. From there, I might have tried to dress “nice” when I had a job later after college, and my mom thought I picked old lady dresses! I didn’t have an idea what looks “nice,” or young, hip, stylish, while still dressing like a professional.

              What kills is that, well, I’m tall, and I started out pretty thin – anything should have looked marvelous on me, and I didn’t have the confidence to go for it. I’m not the fashion-and-makeup-obsessed sister of the house, I’m fairly much defined by my personality there, like, totally not fashion-or-makeup-interested, and I’m not looking for anything.

              When people criticize how I dress now, when they say they’d like to see me dressed up or wearing skirts, I cringe. I’m not here for you to look at, to please your eye, for you to get a look at me, or for you to tell me how to display my assets. I don’t feel that I dress for modesty as much as people would suggest that they should be able to see my legs whenever they want. I don’t not wear skirts so people can’t see my legs, but because I hate wearing skirts. So, “dressing modestly” does not keep the attention away. Guys can be pigs when you’re dressed modestly and invite themselves to urge you to show more of your skin so they can look at it.  Which is gross. I’m not some pent-up sex fiend who needs the attention of men to feel validation, I’m not covering up to punish men or myself of anyone, I’m actually finally comfortable the way I choose to dress (which is not always very covered up, by the way, depending on the setting and the weather). It’s as if I can never please anyone, pleasing myself isn’t good enough for anyone else. I don’t dictate that everyone should choose to dress like I do if they want to be more colorful or decorative, if that’s what makes them happy and they have a sense of fashion that is part of who they are.

              I think parents of young daughters they intend to cover up ought to know, modesty is not a magic shield against predatory men. Also, teenage girls can feel sexual stirrings under those clothes and take them off. It’s not like a chastity belt, so if you really want, you’re going to have to lock them up. Or talk to them and keep the lines of communication and trust open, and not try to “dress” the problem, which is their bodies, their dirty innocent bodies, which they can’t change that it changes. Leads to body image problems, sexual dysfunction, eating disorders, and a warped fear of wolves on the prowl. What are you doing for their brains? Stunting them with the narrow focus of piety and not able to handle the world around them if they are saving themselves for marriage so a man can protect them pretty much as soon as they leave your house.

              (Sorry about the long reply for the simple comment).

    • amycas

       “It has to do with the fact that scantily clad girls will put themselves
      in the crosshairs of older boys and men who have intentions that aren’t
      exactly in the best interest of the girl.” No, this is the exact teaching that made me stop going to Sunday School. This is what they tell girls. Men and boys have self-control, just as much as women do. The way I dress does not “cause” men or boys to do anything to me. Teach your girls how to recognize respectful behavior in men and boys (or girls, if they swing that way). Teach them that no matter what they wear, they have a right to their own body, and nothing they could wear would make it ok for anybody to hurt them. Men are not slathering animals with zero self-control. This includes sexual predators. If anything, sexual predators have more self-control, because they choose their victims based on availability, not on what the victims are wearing.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    The only way to make these tests appropriate is to replace the images of the young girls with pictures of overweight old men.  

  • Alan Christensen

    The sad irony is that the more of the body they try to hide, the more areas that become sexualized. 

    • Stev84

      Take a look at pictures of Muslim women with a full face veil. It really makes the eyes stand out. Eyes can look very attractive by themselves. It’s the reason the burka was invented, so that is covered too.

      • Alan Christensen

        And yet, I saw a photo of two guys leering at a burka-clad woman, no doubt imagining what was underneath. Hubba hubba! Twain said that nothing was ever made less desirable by forbidding it.

  • JWH

    Is it really that bad to teach both men and women to dress modestly?  I.E.  No reason to flaunt your stuff all the time, and nobody likes a braggart.

    • Stev84

      The problem is entirely with the way they do it and that they go way too far about it.

      If it were just some generally advice about how maybe people should think about how they dress, that wouldn’t necessarily be bad. But they have all these extremely detailed rules about what is allowed and shame and bully people into obeying them. It has nothing to with “teaching”. It’s pressure. They even create peer pressure where girls get told by boys and other girls that they’re not dressing modestly enough and then get heaped with guilt from them too.

      Also, they never tell boys to dress modestly. For these people, girls don’t even have a sex drive or sexual thoughts. Boys can run around shirtless and no one cares that it may sexually arouse girls.

      • JWH

        Also, they never tell boys to dress modestly. For these people, girls don’t even have a sex drive or sexual thoughts. Boys can run around shirtless and no one cares that it may sexually arouse girls.

        Fine.  I’ll get this started:

        Test 1:  Raise and Praise!

        Target question:  Am I Showing Too Much Belly?

        Stand straight up and pretend you’re about to praise Jesus … or catch a long-bomb in the endzone.  Either way, your arms should be up in the air!  Are you exposing a lot of your belly?  If so … then you’ve got some covering up to do!  Save it for home!

        It might not seem a big deal, but think about it.  Either you’re going to work out and have rock-solid ribs someday, or you’re going to drink too much soda and eat too much pizza!  

        If you’ve got those rock-solid abs, you’re going to make Steve Carell very uncomfortable!  And we don’t want that.  Besides, your wife will want to keep them all to herself.  And you promised them to her when you got married!

        On the other hand, if you had too much beer and pizza, then you’re going to have a gut.  You’re going to look all roly-poly.  That’s really cute on a panda, but we don’t like to look at people who look like that!  It’s kind of disgusting.  You’ve seen your Uncle Lou in his speedo, right!?  Do you want to look like him?  Didn’t think so!

        Solution:  Get a nice, button-down Oxford shirt and always wear a tie and tuck in your shirt.  People won’t be intimidated or disgusted by your belly.  But people might think you’re an actuary.  

        • The Other Weirdo

           

          Solution:  Get a nice, button-down Oxford shirt and always wear a tie
          and tuck in your shirt.  People won’t be intimidated or disgusted by
          your belly.  But people might think you’re an actuary. 

          There’s not need to go overboard. There are plenty of things men(and women, too; have you see what some of them wear?) can wear to hide the gut that’s not stupid-looking and won’t cause projectile vomiting within a 10 km radius.

  • Tainda

    And it always amazes me how they totally ignore girls being attracted to boys in the same way.  I tell ya, when I see a hot guy with some nice pants on there are thoughts in my head that would make a man blush lol

    I would hate to live a life with fear of my own sexuality.  

    • Onamission5

      Oh, it’s not ignored, it’s just not considered to be quite as serious of a problem, because females are not thought of as sexual, but rather as sexualized. There’s the whole admonishment about looking at boys “with lust in your heart” being sinful, but it doesn’t go too far beyond that until the girls reach a state of puberty at which it becomes unavoidable to acknowledge that they’re physically matured. Then the body shame gets ramped up to 100 decible proportions. The idea that teenaged girls may think about and want to try sex as much as their male counterparts isn’t really considered because the whole culture is about shame-sexualizing them on the outside and guilt-infantalizing them on the inside.

      At least in my particular, rather narrow and sheltered experience.

  • http://twitter.com/moother moother

    eeeewwww religion is creepy

  • Kodie

    While sexuality is healthy and part of growing up and changing bodies, yadda yadda, “fitting in” with what the other girls wear is swinging into the other end of gender socializiation. Boys who dress like men – be it a suit or cargo shorts and a t-shirt, are “ok”. Girls who dress like grown women are kind of a travesty. They are being sexualized, and attuning to the male gaze as early as possible. Being overly cautious as these religious people are to suppress the inklings of sexuality, pre-marital sex, teen pregnancy, things they are trying to stop BY CHOICE OF OUTFITS ALONE, is overboard. But dressing so your underwear sticks out your fashionable low-riders, or having your cleavage hanging out is not necessarily ideal either. Children who get a choice what to wear often have no ideas as to their own modesty. Yes, people are looking. I have a friend who freeze-frames the scene in “Willy Wonka” where the girl’s panties show, while she is just dancing and singing and being a (snotty) little girl. He’s over 40 and it’s his favorite part of the movie. He blames biology.

    Girls should feel healthier about their bodies, not shame, but not like they have to be sexual for anyone to like them or notice them. Boys are made to feel like nothing better than animals for sex, but they never really have to think or stress about their clothing choices hitting the right mark. Of course, teenage years do bring about leanings toward something “different” than what a “typical” guy wears (the aforementioned suit or t-shirt and shorts), and boys take a lot of flack for diverting from the usual, but in most of these cliques, the girl version is to be sexy. Guys don’t seem to worry about being too sexy, unless of course they also are trying to attract the attention of males.  It’s a guy world – a guy has to notice you, and if you don’t give him what he wants, he can find someone who does. Is it any better to have little girls with no cleavage wearing a bikini? Some people think little girls have no chest and nothing to cover up, but a bikini covers that up and also sets up a young girl’s mind to behaving older than she is, and young people tend to emulate their older classmates, siblings, cousins, and neighbors. I wasn’t raised religious, but I still had body issues. I am tall, and I’ve always been tall (though not always as tall). My mother passed on her issues – to slouch, to wear flat shoes, and possibly dress from the men’s department to find clothes that weren’t too little to cover our bodies. I always had to cover up my chest – when you’re a girl, you’re always going to be a girl, and boobies are boobies even if they’re not there. How else are you going to transition to adolescence and not know to cover them, or feel extra shame for having to cover them up suddenly while boys never have to?

    I’m not necessarily advocating modesty or shame, but complaints about modesty wrecking your sense of fashion, while all the other girls are dressed to compete for the attention of those horny boys you heard about, I really don’t know what’s worse. It would be nice if people could have healthier attitudes from the get-go instead of have to be warped so.

  • Sheree Winters

    I grew up in this kind of
    environment and it took me YEARS to get to where I could be comfortable
    with my body again, and not try to hide because I might make a man “sin”
    if they looked at me. I was scared to move to music or give out hugs
    lest a man look on me in lust. I hated myself for so long because of the clothes I was forced to wear – as you said, clothes well beyond my years, and felt ugly, gross, etc. Fortunately, my self-esteem has finally recovered
    but it took many years of patient friends to help me cope with the after
    effects of such brain washing. Gah! Religion does indeed poison
    everything!

  • slantrhyme

    So the only thing a young female can wear is an insulated space suit? 

    • http://www.michaelbolton.com/ pcloadletter

      Hot.

  • Sarah

    Here, here!

    Many moons ago I worked at a Christian Bible Camp. I distinctly remember teenage me being told off by a male counsellor because after hours of working in the sweltering heat my sinful bra strap had poked out from under my shirt and didn’t I realize how tempting that was to all the unmarried men at the camp?A friend of mine who worked there had breasts on the larger side and already followed the xl men’s shirts rule of style, but the wife of a newly married couple told her that she was worried my friend was tempting her husband into adulterous thoughts. The poor girl spent the rest of the very hot summer wearing *three layers* of men’s shirts (and you could still tell she was female). Apparently it never occurred to the wife that her husband could take some responsibility…

    • amycas

      I had to wear a shirt over my swim suit at Christian camp (and it was a one piece just like the rules said). 

      • Feminist and Proud of it

        as did I.  I still remember that day – being completely freaked out by the ‘male’ counselor chastising us girls for tempting the boys.  I hadn’t even filled out yet!

        That was the beginning of the end of my belief in christianity and their intolerant god

    • Dustin

      Of course he can’t! Dont you know, anytime someone has “impure” thoughts, it’s the girl’s fault! Fucking disgusting.

      My girlfriend used to go to a fundie church, and the pastor’s son came into her. They were caught kissing and SHE had to publicly apologize to the congregation for tempting him. This is why I occasionally write blogs against “slut-shaming.” it’s YOUR bodies, girls. No one should judge how you dress.

      • Nick

        Did you mean to say ‘came onto’ her, mate? The way you’ve written it has a very different meaning….

  • The Other Weirdo

     The truly fucked up thing about all this is that, while it’s being presented a feminist problem, it really is nothing of the sort. By sexualizing girls at such a young age in the eyes of the boys in the same community, they perpetuate the very problem they hope to solve. By putting the onus entirely on the girl, they fail to teach the boys(who will eventually grow up to be men) to treat women as human beings as opposed to demons out to tempt them into hell, demons that must be chained and controlled and–soon enough–covered from head to toe in a burlap sack.

    This isn’t about the girls, it’s about the boys, and their need to be properly raised. By utterly failing in that respect, they are forced by their beliefs in irrelevancies to teach ridiculous things to girls instead.

    If they are worried that a flash of a shoulder or a knee or–God forbid–a white panty will cause every boy within visual range to be immediately and irredeemably damned to hell because they don’t know how to properly deal with girls and women, then they need to sort out the boys and the problem will go away within a couple generations.

    The problem is that these adults–men and women–don’t really understand their own sexuality and are incapable of seeing beyond the immediate issue: boys having impure thoughts and thereby going straight to hell. Sad, really, but not a feminist issue since they can’t see past the dress codes either. We thank them for bringing this to our attention, but unless they’re planning on sending missionaries into Christian communities to talk the savages down out of the trees and into modernity, I don’t know what they expect us to do about it.

    And WTF is it with all the lipstick those girls in the photos wear?

    • Stev84

      I did a “WTF” on the second picture too. The lipstick is ridiculous on that

    • WhateverLolaWants

      I agree with you about the effect this has on boys, but I don’t see why you’re rejecting the feminist framing. What you’re saying is actually quite feminist. I think it’s implied pretty heavily (and stated outright by many commenters) that this damages and demeans boys, while at the same time giving them an excuse for misbehavior (“they can’t help it!”) This is a feminist issue, an equal-rights-in-general issue, a religious-abuse-survivor issue, and an atheist issue. Some parts will resonate more with certain people.

      Basically, I think the reason this is worth discussing includes the fact that they think “impure” thoughts condemn you to hell (the cruelty of their theology), but it is also worth discussing how they censor (and censure) female behavior and shame their bodies. That’s bad enough, and even more egregious for its unequal application (focused almost solely on female bodies.)

  • Corey Henderson

    Great post. As a male, I have my own suite of scars left over from my fundamentalist upbringing. I don’t have to wrestle with a bunch of body issues. I don’t feel ‘lucky’ about that, per se, but I agree with you 100% that people who have been damaged by religion should find the support they need in the atheist community. 

    In my experience (again, male) that support is not there. Atheists don’t have things set up so that potential escapees like us can find a way out, nor find support once we do get out. It needs to be there for me, but more importantly, it needs to be there for women; because women have many of the same challenges I do, plus the nefarious extra issues due to programming like this.

    Seriously… great post! 

    • Stev84

      I guess for a lot of atheists this stuff is just too alien to relate to fully.

      There is support on the internet though. There are tons of websites and blogs dealing with spiritual abuse. It’s almost scary how many and the stories are all more or less the same. Some are written from an overtly Christian perspective, which tends to be annoying. But others are written by Christians without being too big on the god stuff. And some are written by atheists.

    • Onamission5

      Corey, this is why I love Vikki Garrison’s blog NLQ. She is an atheist who left the quiverfull movement and her blog is a safe space of sorts for other religious abuse survivors, male and female alike, to sort out their programming scars. One does not have to have survived a quiverfull environment to make use of her resources. For me, it just helps to read the stories of others and feel some validation after a lifetime of being told it couldn’t have been as bad (or even sometimes as good) as I thought it was. I don’t know if you have checked NLQ out, but she recently moved here to Pathos and I thought I’d make a recommendation.

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nolongerquivering/

  • Savoy47

    According to their stories god did not put clothes on Adam and Eve when he made them.  After Eve ate the apple that got them kicked out of Eden not wearing clothes became a problem.  

    • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

      Which kind of makes you wonder, if they take everything else in the Bible so literally, why aren’t they telling their congregation to avoid eating apples? Evil fucking fruit.

      • Stev84

        It was a special magic apple. Not all apples are like that

        Also, technically the Bible doesn’t specify that it is an apple tree. That’s a later artistic interpretation

  • Charon

    I’m not dismissing your concerns, but have a different perspective on this.

    You were clearly harmed by this, as are a lot of other girls, and that’s awful. Yes, girls should be helped to be more comfortable with their bodies, and no, they’re not responsible for controlling the lascivious thoughts of everyone around them (and no, lascivious thoughts aren’t always bad, either!).

    But. (You knew there was going to be a “but”.) Girls need help – not controlling edicts, but advice – on how to deal with the fact that during puberty they suddenly go from a state where no one cares what they show to suddenly ~half the population really caring what they show.

    The “over & out” test? Twice in recent years I’ve had to point out to female friends that their shirt completely fell open when they bent over. These women were not aware this was happening, and did not want it to happen. If it was intentional, then more power to them – I certainly enjoyed the view (men really are kind of sex-crazed maniacs). But it wasn’t intentional, and it was embarrassing for them.

    Your extreme distaste for this site is understandable, but also a little blinding. Small example: “Third, why not just teach them not to sit cross-legged while wearing a skirt?” Reread what the site actually said! That was for shorts (which is a position many people wearing shorts do sit in). The skirt position was completely different, and again a position many people wearing skirts do sit in.My conclusion:Complete obsession with modesty – badCommanding everyone to follow the same fashion rules – badEvangelical Christians – often creepyTelling girls some basic rules they can follow so once they’ve passed puberty guys won’t stare and drool if the girls don’t want them to – maybe not so bad

    • Dev-null

       Apparently 5 paragraph breaks the is maximum, as everything after that is condensed into one silly paragraph. Ah well.

      As for the “guys are sex-crazed maniacs” thing… a lot of us are. Though I differ from conservative Christians in thinking that it’s largely our own responsibility to control that. Though I not infrequently wish humans had estrous cycles so the rest of the time I could focus on other things  :)

    • Tainda

      I don’t think she is saying let girls wear whatever they want and parents shouldn’t care how their daughters are dressed.  I had to monitor what my daughter wore when she was a teen.  I just didn’t do it to the extreme that some religious groups do and I didn’t make her think that her body was dirty or something to be ashamed of.  That’s the problem here, women are taught that their own bodies are disgusting, “sinful” and something that should be totally hidden.

    • Bo Tait

      I would ask, why did your friend feel so embarassed? Why did she not want that to happen?  Isn’t that what’s really being discussed? 
      I can understand telling them their clothing is revealing and they react with a “whoops, thanks,” like when you tell someone they have something in their teeth.
      But when someone feels shame/embarassment over a small slip-up you gotta wonder why the strong reaction?

  • Gus Snarp

    I’m not usually one to point out that not all Christians are the same, but they’re not, and here it’s a bit of an issue in terms of effective communication. Assuming that anyone who grew up with Christian dogma knows about “stumbling blocks” is a mistake. I grew up with Christian dogma, but my Methodist church never used that phrase, and all through Sunday school and confirmation classes, modesty was never mentioned. Even as a teenager when I got sucked into a Southern Baptist youth group, no one ever talked about modesty or stumbling blocks. I never heard the stumbling block term until I started reading atheist blogs. I don’t know what denominations or sects use this terminology, but it’s far from standard Christian dogma, broadly speaking. All Christians believe demonstrably false things, and this isn’t about what Christians in general believe, or claiming there are good Christians and they’re all being lumped together. I’m unconcerned with that, mostly, but I think in this case a little specificity helps us to understand who we’re dealing with better. I’m more curious to know where this “stumbling block” language and mentality come from. I envision it coming from a “modern”, perhaps non-denominational church that is trying to be hip while also moralizing excessively.

    Also, I wanted to make a comment not involved in arguing over what’s acceptable for young girls to wear. Which I assume is what the rest of the rapidly growing comment threat is about.

    • Dan

      I grew up in Baptist churches throughout the US and have heard the term stumbling block thousands of times. My wife grew up in Pentacostal churches and it was also used there. I think it’s alot more common than you think.

      • Gus Snarp

        Well, I’m not surprised to hear that it’s used in Baptist and Pentecostal churches, but that’s still just two denominations, and similarly evangelical and fundamentalist denominations at that. I’m not claiming it’s not common, I’m just saying that it may not be part of any general Christian dogma, and that I’m more curious about whose dogma, specifically, it is. Now I’ve learned that it at least crops up among Baptists and Pentecostals, so I thank you for that additional information.

        • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

          That’s the problem, though – there is no singular “Christian” dogma to refer to, so every discussion has to be prefaced with “my Christian understanding was/is”. 

          It makes every discussion about Christianity so damned confusing and difficult…one might even be compelled to think that they planned it that way! :)

          • Gus Snarp

            Well, yeah.

    • Bryan

      For the record, I grew up in a United Methodist church and I heard the phrase “stumbling block” all the time.

      • Gus Snarp

        Who knew my parents managed to find liberal churches. Was yours one of the Methodist churches that is also opposed to mixed couples dancing? I met a woman from Kansas who was from one of those churches and was stunned to learn that the church I grew up with was supposed to be opposed to dancing. My mom came from a small town in Nebraska and the church just up and changed denominations one day and suddenly everyone was Methodist. She went to a youth retreat with some other Methodist churches where she learned she wasn’t supposed to dance. This did not go over well, since there was really nothing else to do in her town except the church organized dances.

    • Gus Snarp

      OK, so now I’m beginning to wonder if this “stumbling block” business is more of a recent development? Say in the last twenty years? Or at least becoming more commonplace in the last twenty years?

      • Onamission5

        Maybe becoming more common place? I was raised in the burgeoning movement that is now called dominionist by some, and the phrase stumbling block was quite commonplace, used for anything that could be  interpreted as temptation to do wrong, from accidental flirting to speeding to doubtful thoughts. So I was around it my whole youth, more or less and was under the impression it was a commonly used phrase in christiandom, at least outside of catholicism.

      • Kodie

         According to the internet, it’s in the bible.
        Romans 14:13
        13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

        Matthew 16:2323 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

        • Wild Rumpus

           “According to the internet, it’s in the bible.”

          Ohhhh, thank you for this!  THIS I am going to use.

        • Dan

          Thanks Kodie, this is the passage I was going to quote.

      • sceptinurse

         I heard it continually in the Baptist church I was involved in in the 70′s and it never went away or changed in the years I was involved in religion.

    • amycas

       I grew up in a Methodist church. It was discussed, numerous times, including in confirmation classes.

    • absent sway

       I think I encountered it in both Baptist and Evangelical churches.

  • Charon

    It also occurs to me that women suffer from fashion even if they’re not from conservative Christian backgrounds. I had a female friend in high school who liked wearing big baggy clothing. I don’t think society approved – did she suffer because of this choice (wearing clothing you call unflattering)?

    And I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen girls tugging on shirts, shorts, etc. that they were clearly uncomfortable wearing. Tugging a shirt continually doesn’t help the fact that it’s too short, but maybe she felt she had to wear it because that was the fashion, or that’s all they store offered.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Emma-Duncan/100002406599265 Emma Duncan

    “criss cross, applesauce?”

    • Tainda

      That made me laugh out loud

    • Gus Snarp

      Rhyming phrase often used with very small children to get them to sit on the floor in the expected cross-legged fashion. In my youth we called it Indian style, a phrase no longer used for obvious reasons. Also known as tailor sitting.

    • http://conuly.dreamwidth.org/ Conuly

       Preschool and elementary teachers are overly fond of rhyming cues for their students.

      Criss cross applesauce has widely supplanted “Indian style”, which is just as well.  You also hear phrases like “One two three, eyes on me” or “Easy peasy, lemon squeesy” if you spend any time at all listening to teachers talking to their classes.

    • amycas

       “Spoons in the bowl!” lol

  • Kyle

    Ummm, I think they were supposed to pretend that they were looking at their grandpa in the mirror, not that it was their grandpa looking at them. Who wants to see grandpa undies or thighs? 

    Sorry, they weren’t making a commentary about grandpas looking at 8 year old girls, nice straw man though.

    • Onamission5

      No, they are supposed to pretend that the mirror is Grandpa, and to look at themselves as if Grandpa is seeing what they see in the mirror.

      Having gone through a similar form of this “modesty training” myself, I can attest that the OP got it right.

  • anon101

    The atheist community
    actaully deeply cares about the issue of modesty. That’s why atheist
    convention have introduced codes of conduct that include measures
    against to revealing clothing.

    • Wild Rumpus

       …and talking to each other on elevators.

    • amycas

      Which conventions would these be? I read the sexual harassment rules, and i don’t remember seeing anything about “modest” dress.

  • Carmen

    This is absolutely not limited to Christian culture.  Try going to any Hasidic Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn sometime.   Women may not wear pants, must cover knees and elbows, and no cleavage.  Women are not allowed to sing where men can hear them, cannot shake a man’s hand, and photos of women are usually prohibited (remember the Hillary Clinton photo flap)?  And generally men and women are separated during all public events.  Women who go to temple sit behind a wall or in the balcony where the men can’t be distracted by them. 

    Also as some commenters have mentioned, modesty rules are quite prominent in many Muslim cultures.   Finally, there are a lot of Christian churches that do not enforce modesty rules like this though they might have some more subtle messages. 

  • dcardona

    I knew the gendered slur, “slut,” would come out sooner or later. Let’s think about this for a minute. What’s a slut? Presumably a woman who has a lot of sex with various partners? Will someone please tell me what’s wrong with that? Also, wearing sexy clothing *might* indicate a woman is looking for sex, but if – as a culture – we didn’t view sex as transactional or a zero-sum game and instead gave each human respect and agency of choice, then who gives a shit what anyone is wearing? What we’re really seeing here is a conflation of presenting a certain type of appearance with
    advertising for sex/a sex uniform. That is f*ed up and a symptom of a damaging system which
    gives rise to both sluts and prudes.

    Or perhaps the problem comes into clearer relief when I call them Madonnas and Whores. Christian religiosity affects our whole culture, people! To say the misogyny of Christianity is separate from the misogyny of the overarching society in which we live is to reveal yourself as a shallow thinker.

    Finally, for people afraid of kids “dressing like sluts,” please remember these girls want to dress like their role models and if we tell women that being sexy or attractive is their #1 priority, that message trickles down to younger and younger ages. This is why stuff like this is a serious social issue.

    • The Other Weirdo

       You mean apart from the ever-present dangers of unwanted pregnancy and all the angst that goes with it? Well, there’s the possibility(probability?) of STD. Of course, this applies to men as well as women.

      As for dressing sexy, there’s a time, a place, and an age.

      • dcardona

        You mean the dangers that are mitigated by sexual and reproductive education, comprehensive health care, safe sex methods, consent, and birth control? Gosh, we should really get moving on those things.

        As for time and place, please provide an example we can discuss.

        I agree about the age. What I’m saying is that younger and younger girls are feeling the social pressures that grown women are feeling in this area. It is a natural, trickle-down effect. We are punished for complying with the ever-increasingly sexy beauty standard (slutty) and punished when we do not (frumpy). The solution is to throw out the current standard and the current ideas about sex. Manner of dress ought to be considered separate from sexuality.

        • The Other Weirdo

           Yes, because it’s always 100% effective. That’s not even the point, however.

          Who is punishing you? Are you publicly flogged in the town centre for being slutty or frumpy? Is it just words you’re worried about? Do your friends ostracize you for being either? Get thee better friends.

          All I am suggesting is that there is no need to be a slut, as the term is commonly understood. No need to be a sheltered virgin till you get married at 44 either, of course. And don’t think for a moment that I’m only talking to women here.

          As for time and place, if you don’t know what’s appropriate for any given situations and you’re an adult, then I’m not going to write a book here just to explain it. If you’re an adult, then that’s what grownups are for, to teach you.

          That doesn’t mean that what’s described in the OP is any way appropriate or acceptable.

          • amycas

             “All I am suggesting is that there is no need to be a slut, as the term is commonly understood” Again, slut shaming. There’s nothing wrong with having sex. There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of sex. Stop slut shaming-men and women (since you claimed you weren’t only talking to women).

          • dcardona

            Are you purposely being dense?

            Well-known social punishments for dressing “slutty” include being blamed for your own sexual attacks; not being taken seriously because “slutty”=”dumb;” being propositioned as a first contact with random people on the street; being called derogatory names like “slut” when the name caller knows nothing about you but your appearance; having it assumed that there’s something wrong/abusive about your past.

            Social punishments for dressing “frumpy” include being assumed to not be interested in sex or possibly a lesbian; not being taken seriously because “ugly”=”dumb;” being told to dress better; being called derogatory names; or how about cases like bus driver Karen Klein (the video of her verbal abuse has been taken down from YouTube); having it assumed that there’s something wrong/abusive about your past/you are weird.

            They are two sides of the same anti-woman coin.

            Again, I ask you what is wrong with having a lot of consensual sex with different people? You say nobody needs to, and maybe that’s right in some ways, but why couldn’t a woman want to? Why do you get to pass character judgement on someone’s private behavior which harms no one?

            If you give an example of a time and place we could discuss it, if you don’t give one then we are limited by your generality. Time, place, and age are all relative. Look at the images in the original post. As recently as the 70s those girls would’ve been breaking dress code and we all know only sluts and hippies (drugs! free love!) wore shorts! If you’re such a skeptic, lay out your ideas so we can all see them. Perhaps we could then talk about the fluidity of culture and how the people have the power to change it; as many are trying to do now in the area of “modesty”.

          • Patterrssonn

            No when you use the word slut you really are only talking to women. Just like if you used a racial slur against blacks you can’t claim you meant white people too. And your attitude towards women’s sexuality is creepy as fuck.

  • minerfa

    ‘Purity culture’ is not just damaging to girls but also to boys. I remember one incident at church camp back in the day that made my blood boil even at the time. Boys and girls had separate swimming pools surrounded by VERY HIGH FENCES. The girls typically wore whatever they wanted since they didn’t have to worry about tempting the boys. One day one of the girls sustained an injury and had to leave the swim area to get medical treatment. This involved (UH OH!) leaving the protection of the fenced-in swim area in her bikini. She was ok, just needed some bandages from the nurse, but some of the male counselors saw her while she was going to the infirmary. In a later ‘devo’ talk, one of the counselors that had  talked about how he saw a girl in a bikini which made him ‘feel sick to his stomach.’ It infuriated me because it was such a backhanded way to shame that girl who had done nothing wrong, but it also later made me angry that men were being taught that a woman’s body is something sickening, to be hated and feared. Of course, maybe the guy was gay, but I’m sure even gay guys are not ‘sickened’ by the female body (well, most of it anyway).

  • Verimius

    I don’t know why they’re beating around the bush. They should just tell the kids to wear an abaya or burka.

    • eonL5

      Give it a few years. They’ll be there soon.

  • Laura

    Hi Amanda,
    I came here through
    a link in a pagan friend’s website.   I am sickened and saddened at the way a church treated you
    and the way you were made to feel about your body.    

    I am a Christian, but please don’t automatically assume that I am like
    others who have hurt you. I have attended Secret Keeper Girl events with my
    daughter and have read most of Dannah Gresh’s books.  You stated, “This is the culture I grew up
    in . . . I painfully remember being the girl who never visually fit in because
    of the clothes I wasn’t allowed to wear.”  It’s awful that you were treated that way, but
    Secret Keeper Girl is nothing like the culture you describe.
     It teaches that modesty doesn’t have to be about drab, baggy clothes,
    floor-length denim skirts, long-sleeved swim dresses, or the like.  SKG understands that girls want to look cute
    and fit in, and that there’s nothing wrong with that.  That’s why they give suggestions to take
    today’s trends and find ways to make them more modest while still looking cute:
    for instance, wearing a longer cami or tank top with low rider jeans.  The SKG events include a fun fashion show,
    and the kids (who aren’t even models, just regular kids from the area) look adorable. 

    A Secret Keeper Girl event is fun! They affirm
    to girls that their bodies are indeed beautiful.  They learn that sexuality is not something dirty
    or to be ashamed of, but rather something beautiful that God created. They
    learn about the ways that media and pop culture distort the female body (Barbie’s
    unrealistic figure, airbrushed/Photoshopped pics in magazines, etc.) and that
    they don’t have to conform to anyone else’s ideal. 

    I am not here to preach to you or change your
    mind about modesty.  It is a personal
    choice that we have made for our family, and I am content to live and let
    live.  I will say, however, that what led
    to my decision is not only what I have read in the Bible about modesty, but
    what I have seen in the world that confirms the scriptures.  Before I became a Christian, I dressed like a
    skank.  Even though I otherwise led a
    straight life – good student, no drinking or drugs, etc. – I attracted a lot of
    unsavory characters, which led to a lot of abuse and pain.  Thankfully, my life turned around when I
    trusted Christ.  I married a man who respects
    my body and my mind. 

    I’m not saying that modesty will protect
    every girl from sexual abuse.  Yes, there
    are creeps out there who will rape a girl wearing a baggy sweatsuit.  But my thinking is, why tempt these
    people?  It’s like saying, if someone
    really wants to break in the house, they can kick in the door, so why bother
    locking it?

    Again, I am truly sorry for the abuse you have suffered
    at the hands of church people.  That kind
    of thing absolutely makes my blood boil. 
    I pray that you find healing and peace.

    • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

      “I’m not saying that modesty will protect every girl from sexual abuse.  Yes, there are creeps out there who will rape a girl wearing a baggy sweatsuit.  But my thinking is, why tempt these people?  It’s like saying, if someone really wants to break in the house, they can kick in the door, so why bother locking it?”

      This is classic victim blaming, and it’s the only piece in your entire misguided-but-well-intentioned comment I will address, as it is so long. 

      First, you are ignorant of how sexual assault and rape works and statistics surrounding it. Rape is not caused by clothing; it is caused by RAPISTS. Clothing is NOT an invitation to rape or assault or otherwise advance sexual impulses, and it is individual like you who engender that idea in the mind of young children. YOU are the one saying that rapists and sexual predators are in some way “lured” or persuaded by provocative clothing (which, by the way, I entirely reject your definition of “provocative”, since it also includes body parts that will develop IN THE FUTURE), which someone justifies the attack. Bullshit ideas like this entirely discount the fact that many women are raped by someone they know and trust, and frequently in normal, everyday street clothes like jeans and t-shirts. There is no correlation whatsoever between what you are wearing and whether or not you will be raped; there are just too many other factors involved to make that connection.

      If someone leaves their door unlocked and someone breaks in, they are not at fault for the robbery that occurs. IT IS THE FAULT OF THE PERSON THAT COMMITTED THE CRIME. Period. Entirely. The end.

      Lastly, I do not give a flying copulation about how much fun you have in these SKG sessions. The fact that you have “fun” at SKG events doesn’t mean that you are right or justified in your beliefs. I don’t care about fun – I care about truth, and the truth is that many, many people are incredibly harmed by the very message that your are teaching them. You have to take responsibility for that as much as you take responsibility for the positive moments and fun times that you have with the girls, and the fact that you resist that is indicative of how oblivious you are to the problem. 

      You created this problem of girls being told that their bodies are bad, sinful, and wrong. Stop trying to weasel out of the responsibility of finding a solution for the people you have harmed.

      • Laura


        If someone leaves their door unlocked and someone breaks in, they are not at fault for the robbery that occurs. IT IS THE FAULT OF THE PERSON THAT COMMITTED THE CRIME. Period. Entirely. The end.”

        I couldn’t agree more.  Likewise, girls/women are NEVER to blame for getting sexually assaulted.  

        However, there are those who dress provocatively in order to advertise to males that they want sex.  Why would we teach our impressionable girls that it’s a good thing to emulate that?  That is utter foolishness.

        • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

          Because if they do want sex, it’s presumably helpful to signal that, otherwise, no sex.

          I’m not sure this is particularly complicated.

        • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

          “Why would we teach our impressionable girls that it’s a good thing to emulate that?”

          Because some girls like to have sex, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s up to you to be a parent and decide when that will be appropriate; again, clothing does NOT determine either your desire for sex or an invitation to assault or rape.

          There is a middle ground between allowing your pre-teen daughter to walk around in fishnets and mini-skirts and forcing them to cover up their potential cleavage.

          I guess I just don’t understand how you don’t see that placing so much emphasis on modesty at such a young age actually sexualizes girls (hence everyone’s horror at the “grandpa” test) rather than protects them from it. Your program teaches 8-year-olds to be hyper-conscious of EVERY part of their bodies, including parts that do not currently exist. How is telling an 8-year-old that “bellies are intoxicating” (thus inferring that it has a sexual power of some kind) any better than the mom who buys sweatpants with “JUICY” on the butt?

          • Laura

            The whole point of teaching them while they are young is twofold:

            1 – To expose the hypersexual culture around them (images in the media, Barbies, etc.) and give them tools to deal with it as they get older.  Sexuality should not be considered dirty or 
            something to be feared. As girls grow and mature into young women, they can learn to handle their budding sexuality in a healthy way.  Knowledge is power.2 – To prepare them for when their bodies go through puberty.  SKG discusses the female body in a way that communicates to girls that their bodies are beautiful.  It is important that they learn to accept and love their own bodies.  Many girls become so self-conscious during puberty, and laying a foundation that their bodies are “wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) is empowering and can help them through what can be a difficult transition in life.   And again, the target age is 8-12; puberty is right around the corner for many of these girls.  

            “How is telling an 8-year-old that “bellies are intoxicating” (thus inferring that it has a sexual power of some kind)  . . .”

            This is the biggest difference in what you believe and what I believe.  Most of the people in these comments seem to believe that if they simply declare that immodest dressing has nothing to do with sexuality, then it magically won’t.   I understand that we are talking primarily about children here, but even though children should not be viewed sexually, they are getting messages from the culture around them that dressing scantily = sexy.  When one of my girls was 4, she put on her sister’s training bra and a pair of panties, then stuck out her little chest and strutted around, widely swinging her hips from side to side. This is a child who is growing up in a house with no TV.  We cannot deny that these influences and messages are out there and are pervasive, heavily influencing our girls.

            Some seem to believe that a woman should be able to bare her breasts and buttocks and not be seen as any more sexually inviting than one wearing an oversized, baggy dress.  If this were true – it’s sad that it’s not – then there wouldn’t be entire industries built around advertising with and selling the female body.  I saw a billboard the other day that was advertising auto parts.  It had a buxom, curvy women in a bikini on it.  What do bikini-clad women have to do with auto parts?  Women’s sexuality is being used to sell everything these days.  We cannot just deny it.  

            • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

              “Sexuality should not be considered dirty or something to be feared. As girls grow and mature into young women, they can learn to handle their budding sexuality in a healthy way.”

              You mean, by teaching them that their body parts (and future body parts, which I note you have avoided addressing) are “intoxicating” and that they should “save” them for their future husbands? By covering them up, wearing layers, and reminding yourself that Grandpa might be able to see your undies while looking up your skirt?

              You have a very interesting definition of what you consider “healthy”. Your control over what women and girls ought to do with their bodies and their clothing is no different than sexualizing them on billboards and commercials; the only difference is that one side is saying “show it off!” and the your side is saying “cover it up!”

              The right way to correct this problem isn’t to control how women and girls dress; it’s fixing the root of the problem – objectification of women – so that women and girls have the freedom to dress as they please. You perspective is anti-feminist, and is fundamentally the same argument that religious people use to require women to wear, say, burqas, plain, floor length dresses, and/or head coverings (depending on the religious affiliation).

              If you really believed that girls were “fearfully and wonderfully made”, and created in the image of God, you would encourage them to wear what felt most comfortable and most empowering to the individual (while teaching them the expectations that the world has for certain contexts – fancy dinners, school, job interviews, etc.), rather than imposing blanket-standards of dress on an entire population. I don’t see any “wonder” in the way this organization works; I only see “fear”. 

              • Kodie

                 Yeah, your body is so wonderfully made, any man would want to grope any part he can see. If he can’t see your intoxicating belly, he will want to slobber on your ear. If he can’t see your thighs and daydream about your panties, he just can’t get enough o’ your sessy ankle. Elbows! Why they look like buttocks if you bend your arm just so.

                Pretty much going to have to cover up that mouth, because. Because. I’ve heard that men don’t care what you wear or what hole they can stick it in, and mouths are on the short list.

    • amycas

      ” I’m not saying that modesty will protect
      every girl from sexual abuse.  Yes, there
      are creeps out there who will rape a girl wearing a baggy sweatsuit.  But my thinking is, why tempt these
      people?”

      This is victim-blaming. Predators do NOT choose their victims based on how cute and sexy they dress, predators choose their victims based on opportunity. Seeing an “immodestly”-dressed woman does not cause men to suddenly be unable to control their faculties and “tempt” them to rape or sexually abuse women or girls. Rapists are responsible for raping, not what the victim was wearing, not the victim’s sexual history.

      The house analogy fails because what you’re saying is that: locking the door (making the house less available)= dressing modestly
      unlocking the door (making the house more available)= not dressing modestly

      When in reality, how you dress has no bearing on your availability to a sexual predator.

      locking the house (less available to burglars)= making sure children have strong support systems and know they will be believed if anything happens to them; setting up guidelines so that teachers/pastors/other adults in authority positions are never alone with one child at a time to prevent the adult in authority from abusing their authority–all of these actions make children less available targets to predators

      When I worked in preschools, we had these rules. Suspected abuse was always reported. You can do it anonymously. Reporting procedures were strictly followed. No adults were ever left alone with one child (many preschools keep video footage of their rooms as a proxy to this rule). If only one child needs to go on a bathroom break, then you take another couple anyways, or you get another available teacher to go with you. This is to protect the child and to protect the worker from false allegations (children’s perception of events can be very distorted).

      unlocking the house (more available to burglars)= failing to follow proper reporting policies for suspected abuse; failure to provide strong support systems to children; failing to insist that adult in authority not be left alone with any child

      • Laura

        “locking the house (less available to burglars)= making sure children have strong support systems and know they will be believed if anything happens to them; setting up guidelines so that teachers/pastors/other adults in authority positions are never alone with one child at a time to prevent the adult in authority from abusing their authority–all of these actions make children less available targets to predators . . .”

        This, and the remainder of your comment, are excellent.  I couldn’t agree more.  Likewise, girls/women are NEVER to blame for getting sexually assaulted.   I am highly selective of who my children are allowed to be with.  They are homeschooled, but attend many programs and activities.  I know every single adult and child that they come in contact with.  Very, very few adults have my permission to be alone with my children.
        “When in reality, how you dress has no bearing on your availability to a sexual predator.”

        Maybe not for a child, but I’m talking about teens/young women.  As I stated, when I was that age, I attracted some really creepy guys when I dressed in tight, revealing clothing.  Many first dates began with the guy immediately driving to a secluded place and assuming that I wanted sex.  

        There are those who dress provocatively in order to advertise to males that they want sex or are selling sex.  Why would we teach our impressionable girls that it’s a good thing to emulate that?  I’m sorry, but that is utter foolishness. 

        • Deven Kale

           

          There are those who dress provocatively in order to advertise to males
          that they want sex or are selling sex.  Why would we teach our
          impressionable girls that it’s a good thing to emulate that?  I’m sorry,
          but that is utter foolishness.

          I personally wouldn’t say it’s foolishness. Those women are actually good role models for teenagers, as an example of how not to dress every day. But, if they actually want sex, and want everybody to know that’s what they want, then they’re also a good example of how to get that message across.

          In my case, I will soon be teaching my daughter that clothing sends a message, and the type of clothes she wears will generally let others know how it is she wants to be treated. If what she wants is to be respected, then she should wear respectable clothing. If she wants to be left alone, dress like an emo. If she wants to have sex, then she should dress provocatively. If she wants a gang-bang, then she should dress like a total whore. But even then, even if she’s obviously dressed up for sex, she should expect anybody willing to oblige her to at least ask for permission before jumping between her legs.

        • amycas

           “”When in reality, how you dress has no bearing on your availability to a sexual predator.”

          Maybe not for a child, but I’m talking about teens/young women.  As I
          stated, when I was that age, I attracted some really creepy guys when I
          dressed in tight, revealing clothing.  Many first dates began with the
          guy immediately driving to a secluded place and assuming that I wanted
          sex. “No, for anybody. You can even study what the majority of victims or sexual assault and rape were wearing when they were assaulted. Most of the time, it’s sweats, pajamas or just normal clothes. Most victims are assaulted in their home (or a familiar home) by somebody they know. So, in reality, for people of all ages and genders, what one wears has no bearing on your availability to a sexual predator. Predators determine who they will assault/rape based on whether or not they will be caught, not based on whether or not they think their victim is “dressed provocatively.” Hell, according to this thing, if your stomach shows when you raise your arms you’re dressed provocatively.Do you think those dates saw how you were dressed and thought ,”Wow, I’m gonna ditch those plans we had because I’m totally sure that the skirt paired with spaghetti straps means she wants to have sex in my car.” Sex does not equal rape, so even if he did think you wanted sex, if you say no, then he has the obligation to stop his advances. That is what we should be teaching. And if this is the type of person who is gong to rape you after you say no to sex, then they were probably planning to drive to a secluded area for this purpose regardless of what you were wearing. Should we instead teach women to never get into a car with a man? Even if they’re on a date together?
          “There are those who dress provocatively in order to advertise to males
          that they want sex or are selling sex.  Why would we teach our
          impressionable girls that it’s a good thing to emulate that?  I’m sorry,
          but that is utter foolishness. “If a girl dresses a certain way because she’s looking for sex, then so be it. It’s up to her would-be partner to find out for sure (you know, by asking) if she really wants that. Sex does not equal rape or sexual assault. Dressing for sex does not equal dressing for rape. Why can’t we teach boys (or really, just everybody) that the only way to prevent rape is for rapists to stop raping people? Yes means yes, and no means no. Don’t have sex unless you are getting enthusiastic consent from all parties. Why must we keep pretending that the line between rape and sex is some sort of misunderstanding based on what the victim was wearing. It doesn’t matter what the victim wears, if the victim doesn’t give consent, then it is rape, not sex.  Since it’s pretty clear that wearing “provocative” clothing does not increase a woman’s chance of getting raped, rather than teaching girls and women that they should police what they wear, why don’t we just teach everybody that they should have enthusiastic consent before engaging in sexual activity with anybody? If anything, the things that increase a woman’s chance of getting raped would be: being related to a rapist, accepting a drink made by a close friend or acquaintance, jogging, being elderly, being disabled (physically or mentally), being a survivor of rape or sexual assault plus a number of other factors that are virtually uncontrollable by the victim.  It is not up to the victims to end rape and sexual assault; it’s up to the perpetrators.

          • amycas

            What happened to my paragraph breaks? Sorry about the wall o’ text.

    • Wild Rumpus

      Thank you Laura for this!

      I can’t believe that of all the comments on this thread, of all the atheists with their theories and projections, I agree most with the Christian who has actually experienced the program.

      I am an atheist and a humanist and I have a beautiful baby daughter.  I understand that sex exists, I understand that my daughter is a sexual being, and that she will have to eventually experience and sort out her own view of sexuality.

      I am also her guide and teacher, and I will teach her “modesty” as I understand it.  This article really has a lot of practical suggestions for how girls can dress modestly and yet trendy in the fashion that many girls find appealing.

      I understand that many girls and women like to dress differently.  If you’re a girl that likes short hair and flannel shirts, go for it. 

      Sexuality isn’t a sin – it’s a great power that we all have.  If you don’t think you’re particularly sexy, then use your other superpowers as a human being to achieve what you need to.

      • Laura

        Thank you, Wild Rumpus.  It’s funny; many of the things we covered in the Secret Keeper Girl events could be seen as pro-feminist.  For instance, that girls have control and power over their own bodies, and that they don’t need to look to other people for affirmation that they are beautiful.

        Your daughter is blessed to have you for a mom!

  • SecularHumanist199

    This seems to be all about girls, but won’t help the young boys when the priests come calling…

  • Brian P.

    I usually deconstruct women’s fashion magazines not too differently.

  • a pastor

    I’m so sorry you have been so hurt by organized religion.  please do not clump all Christians under your umbrella, because actually most protestants would agree with you.  we in the ELCA believe that we are all one in Christ and there is no longer male, female, slave, or free.  In God’s eyes we are equally loved and made good in God’s image.  we are called to set people free from guilt and shame.  I also have frustration with “christians” who use fear to get people to do what they want and hold people captive, because that is not God’s message for us.

  • Fortuna Veritas

    Wait, what?  What kind of person thinks religious persecution of women lacks worthiness as a discussion topic?

    That’s just bizarre.

  • christine

    Where can I go for ideas on how to remedy my thoughts? Growing up in the church I have horribly skewed views of bodies. I can’t even look at women or men in movies with out being ashamed. And it’s ruining my relationship with a boy who’s never been churchy. I want to be able to watch sex in movies and wear average clothing like everyone else with out the horrific shaming i feel inside. Help?

    • Stev84

      Don’t take this the wrong way, but have you considered therapy? I’m just saying it, because from from what I can tell a significant number of women who write spiritual abuse blogs seem to have tried it.

      There are plenty of blogs that from people with similar upbringings and emotional baggage:
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/
      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nolongerquivering/
      http://phoenixandolivebranch.wordpress.com/
      http://ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com/
      http://baptisttaliban.blogspot.com/

      There are further links on many of those sites

      • http://www.shadesthatmatter.blogspot.com asmallcontempt

        Thank you for the links! That’s very helpful. 

        And, to Christine, I would certainly try and seek help or counseling in some way if that is possible – I’ve found there are many issues that I have difficulty working out on my own, and there is no reason whatsoever that you should feel pressure to do it alone or feel shame for seeking help. 

        Not everyone leaves religion with trauma, but many people do…while your situation is tragic and I can empathize, never let anyone tell you that it ought to be “easy” or you should just “get over it”. Seeking professional help might be the best thing you do for yourself!

        I wish you the best of luck. :)

  • Fortuna Veritas

    …I wonder how many girls end up getting socially ostracized because their peers think they have a mental handicap as a result of the bad advice that this and similar things dole out.

    Might just be me, but I remember experiencing a vague sense of unease or that something was just off when I was around an acquaintance who dressed by these sorts of rules and other children with egregiously mis-sized clothes.

  • RCW

    I feel that teaching your child to be modest can really damage them if they get the wrong message. Fortunately for me, my Christian mother gave me the right message while teaching me to be modest. She taught me to dress modestly, but attractively. I feel great about the way I look. I feel pretty when I go out in public, even though I don’t show much skin. My mother also taught me that there is a time and place to be slutty. She gave me my sexiest underwear for my bachelorette party. I definitely strut my stuff for my husband and feel no shame. 
    So yes, I think she gave me a good message about sexuality and modesty. But I am probably one of the few who got a good message. 

  • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

    Girls, your body is dirty and shameful.  Cover it up!  Check 1,000,000 times a day to make sure nothing is showing.  It’s your fault if some guy looks–or worse. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnnaElizabeth0 Anna Kaiser

    This article describes my adolescence perfectly! I used to be so disgusted with men for being so gross and so upset that I couldn’t be comfortable in my own skin without “sinning”. Seriously, they used to crank up the air conditioning at church just to make sure that women were covering up enough! I’m so glad that I stumbled across feminism at 16 because it made me feel so much more comfortable with myself and with men (it make me LIKE men haha).

  • Alchemist

    I’m the mother of an 11 year old daughter, and I have rules about what sort of clothing she is allowed to wear. And yes, the word modesty does feature in those rules.
    However, in our case modesty DOESN’T mean covering everything and certainly not covering things that have yet to develop! (how insane is that?!)
    For us modesty means not wearing age inappropriate clothing. It means that we cannot see her underwear during normal activity, such as walking down the street. When she climbs trees and pulls handstands I expect we may well see underwear, and I don’t care a bit, she’s a child and deserves to spend her childhood free of adult concerns.
    What I don’t allow is a micro-mini skirt with make-up and heels.
    I believe the test that should be applied asks ” Is this outfit age appropriate?” it may not be appropriate for a girl of 10 or 11 to wear make-up and high heels, but I’ll be damned if I can see why a kid should need to wear a t-shirt over her swimsuit.

  • absent sway

    I was raised with this overreacting modesty culture, too. The burden placed on women for policing men’s sexuality is absurd and really can be painful, but like other religious traditions, YMMV. I was mostly relieved when I was younger to have a religious excuse for not displaying my body. I felt incredible pressure from our larger sex-and-celebrity-obsessed culture to look hot and display myself as much as possible for the approval of others, and here was my ticket out of that unwelcome game. It did come at the cost of occasionally worrying about whether my dancing (shame!) and clothes were immodest, but in the end I guess I balanced the expectations of church and pop culture to a workable result. I got teased for my clothes for a while, but I can honestly say that that was mainly an economic issue. It’s interesting to look back on it as an adult and to realize that the emphasis on sexiness and modesty are two sides of the same coin.

    • Stev84

      Those churches are equally sex-obsessed. Just in different ways. And it least in the real world, people can deal with their sexual urges – either by themselves or with others.

  • Wkdkween

    I grew up in the 50′s-60′s, I don’t remember any modesty issues similar to the ones you are talking about. In school (public) there were some standards and going to Church, but at home, well it’s what was fashionable at the time. In fact, if you look at some of the old beach movies of the time, they wore short and tight clothing. No one said they were immodest. I think that “some” religions teach this, but not all. Don’t lump all religions together. There are some worse than others. But I will agree, it’s a control issue

    • amycas

      I don’t think she ever said “all” religions. She’s specifically talking about a certain segment of Christianity. Of course, we can all agree that there are many religions and denominations within those, that teach similar ideas about modesty.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=627436091 Caitlin Smith

    Amanda, I loved this article, and I could totally relate! As an ex-mormon, not worrying about wearing “modest” clothing is one of my new FAVORITE things! I always told myself it wasn’t a big deal, but it WAS: I can see that now. It has changed my self image so much. After I left the church I was able to achieve my fitness goals and I think a big part of that was because I FELT better and more attractive and I was less stressed.

  • anonymous

    I grew up in this kind of household and I can personally say all Amanda said is true! I grew up not being allowed to wear any kind of “impure” clothing. Even today, as an adult with a child of my own, my mom still directs me to “pull up” my tank tops because she can see a hint of cleavage. My mom is a good person and I love her, but I will never put my daughter through that. 

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      “my mom still directs me to “pull up” my tank tops”

      And what do you say in response?

  • http://www.dittymac.blogspot.com/ Virginia Llorca

    Well, if the majority population and officials in Dearborn, Michigan have their way, it’s burkha time.

  • Zodem1

    This is ridiculous. Claiming being modest is about control? Who do you know has personality issues because they couldn’t wear all the “trendy” clothes their friends did? I have grown up in an environment that encouraged modesty and I never had an issue fitting in. I looked for friends on the basis of their quality as a person, not their clothing. I had no issue getting friends or fitting in. What is wrong with caution either? You claim that being modest is stupid since you don’t know who will be attracted to what body part and there is no way to cover all the bases and why should you have to? Well even if you can’t cover it all, why does that mean you shouldn’t try? I know this is a starkly contrasting comparison and not nearly as light hearted, but that is like saying you don’t need to wear protection when going into a gun fight. “Oh, I can’t possibly know what vital organs their bullets will kill me with, I mean, they could go for my heeeart, my luungs, my stooomach, my liiver, my braaain… So if I don’t know which organ they will aim for, what’s the point in protecting myself at all?” The point isn’t to go for paranoia, it is to make sure they are conscious of the fact that some people can stumble. Not that everyone will and that it is theeeir fault if they do and that their “innocence is gooone” because of it… So yeah, I do not agree whatsoever and I believe you are creating your own stereotype of what a modest christian is and using this false idea to base your facts off of. Ironic, no? 

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      “some people can stumble. Not that everyone will and that it is theeeir fault if they do”

      There’s a huge amount of just plain wrong wrapped up in your comment, but I’m just going to pick out the two most egregious errors:

      - Liking, wanting, and thinking about sex isn’t ‘stumbling’. Sex is a good thing.
      - If other people are afraid of ‘stumbling’ then it is up to them to walk carefully, not to force you to run your life for their benefit.

    • http://conuly.dreamwidth.org/ Conuly

       Did you just compare “getting dressed” with “going into a gun fight”?

    • Kodie

       I like to wear pants. They are comfortable and practical. Possibly for “modesty” reasons, I consider them practical – depending on the work I have to do, you can bend down and no one can see your crotch like they could with a skirt. The choice of shoes that goes with pants tends to go along the same value of comfort and practicality, all while appearing professional at an office.

      Meanwhile, I have been told by male co-workers that I would look better in skirts. You can’t cover up your legs to protect people from thinking about them, or even verbalizing to your modest daughters that they think they should be able to look at them. I had an ex-boyfriend who was obsessed with skirts. He explained that one time, on a windy spring day, and all the girls in their skirts, they blow up in the wind and one of them wasn’t wearing underwear. He could never stop hoping to see that again and just the thought of skirts, long or short, was a turn-on for him. I’ve had another ex-boyfriend who couldn’t stand my white cotton underpants. It’s not that they were immodest in fit, it’s that they were white, and cotton. I did have other styles and colors of underpants, it’s just that I’m not allowed to have anything he doesn’t like or wear anything I want for a specific reason I had. So, yeah, even if you are walking around being comfortable in your skin, wearing whatever you think is flattering and yet modest, comfortable, practical, for whatever reason you are a self-interested woman with your own reasons for your own choices, people will criticize you, predate you, knock down what makes you comfortable. They are thinking about all the parts you cover up, no matter why you choose to cover them up. Even as other people are making fashion choices which please them more, they will act like a victim if you don’t comply, if they can’t get you to change what you’re wearing for their personal pleasure.

      I have understood this modesty thing to affect men in ways that once your daughter is married to one of them, they will similarly think that her body belongs only to him! And not to her! Wear what makes him feel comfortable, wear what makes him not jealous of attention you might get from other men. Show your legs, don’t show your legs, wear tight shirts, don’t wear tight shirts, your underwear is too ugly, your hair should be long, your hair should be up, you know I hate that color, you wear too much black, you dress like your mom, you dress like a man, you would look better in heels, why does it take you so long to pick out an outfit – come on! Loosen up and dress like a lady – whoa, too slutty wanna bang? “No”? What a bitch!

      Modesty is a no-win situation if all you are setting someone up is to feel bad about themselves and to please others and… no matter what a woman does, it still comes down to them policing men’s sex drive or being responsible for a man’s pleasure, even to fulfill her husband’s priorities for her, as if she is a child. Filling the brain with all sorts of messages of shame and external validation doesn’t leave room for self-esteem and confidence and how to navigate toward one’s own goals in life. Who is the “stumbling block” here?

  • Valerie Bostock

    Boy, can I relate! This is, in many respects, how my teens and early 20s played out. My parents didn’t force it; at the time I chose to adopt this standard of modesty (I was 14, heh, what did I know?). But I can relate. This was very on-the-nose.

    I have a little girl and I’m going to do my best not to raise her to have issues with her body and her clothes. I still dress conservatively but the only real “rules” my girl has for clothing are that she needs to wear shorts under her skirts – she’s 6 and never remembers to keep her skirt down, so we don’t want undies displayed for all the world to see – and that she doesn’t wear her “under skirt” shorts on their own (they’re quite tight). She dresses herself and when we go clothes shopping she picks out pretty much everything we buy. I teach her that her body is very special and that certain parts are private…I never mention “saving it for your husband” or tell her that her body is “intoxicating”, because frankly that’s a super-creepy thing to say to a little girl. I want her to own whatever sense of modesty she has as she grows up, to make these choices for herself, to pick her own style…not to have the hangups and the fears that I have. To this day I still can’t bring myself to wear anything that hits me above the knee or that shows my shoulders or back.

    I’m still a Christian – but I want to take a different approach with her. And with my son, too, because all this purity and modesty stuff is harmful to boys as well, but that’s another topic altogether!

  • Jojosamyg

    God gave us freedom it’s not all christian’s fault that your dad didn’t let you have your own decisions and every second I don’t think about god it’s not a sin I’m just not getting closer to him every day of my life and BTW god did not make evil evil made itself god uses unfortunate people as an example to all of us to thank him for every day we are fortunate

  • Jojosamyg

    The church can’t force you not to do something I’m Coptic orthodox and I think the catholic religion is making dogmas on it’s own when they aren’t righteous enough to make the decision but anyway why would you care for the choice of wearing what you want if people ridicule u for not dressing up a certain way then that means they don’t like you for who you are and if push comes to shove the only person I’d need in my life is god because he isn’t shallow like the people who physiologically tormented you when you were little and I know god exists because I come from Egypt and you can mock me all you want for commenting but in Egypt there are usually martyrs everyday from the Muslims because their book says kill people who aren’t Muslim or ur not Muslim so technically radicalists dont exist anyway I see or hear a MIRACLE every month and when Christians put it on YouTube all u do is rant on it but there are some u can’t explain and I dare u to look at them

    • amycas

       Am I the only one who read this rant as if it was all said in one breath? Punctuation. Use it.

  • http://profiles.google.com/goblinbabies Sara Waldecker

    So when I breastfeed my daughter without a cover, the way the Madonna is portrayed in thousands of images, I’m simultaneously breaking a HUGE Christian modesty rule. How hypocritical of them.
    Maaaan, where’s my burqa when I need it…

  • http://www.facebook.com/gwydionfrost Daniel Parker

    …I always thought it interesting that the very same people who are adamant about humans being the pinnacle of God’s Creation and design, being… you know… IN HIS IMAGE, are the same ones who insist that the human flesh is dirty and shameful and should be hidden. Now, seriously, which is it…? ‘Cause I’m thinking the mixed message is confusing folks.

  • Janet Lee

    This piece struck uncomfortably close to home. This was, essentially, my childhood. Looking at every picture taken from high school dances, its only too easy to see how uncomfortable I am: how this dress is not something I would have decided upon had I any say in the matter. In fact, just about every picture is a testament to how uncomfortable I was in my own skin. This hasn’t been easy to shake. Modesty regulations intended to impart self-respect achieved the exact opposite and self love and reclaiming my sexuality has been a difficult ride.

  • Chris Hostuart

    And in other news…

    Do you know why Baptists don’t have sex standing up?

    It might lead to dancing!

  • Omnigroove

    It’s not that men are goons. It’s that the female body is itself a sin. Let’s not forget who ate the apple.

    • http://eichefam.net Paul

      You can’t be serious.

    • Lil_tashbrown25

      Then let’s remember who accepted the apple from her.

  • Chaplainamy

    I am a Christian and I agree with you.  Men and boys need to be responsible for their own thoughts and feelings.  Telling women and girls what to wear is controlling.  I also think that in our society, and this is unfortunate, and I wish it was different, clothing does signal certain things to other people.  We are judged by are clothes, by our language and lots of other things.  I want my daughter to dress in what ever way is comfortable for her and I want her to be aware that other people may interpret how she dresses in a way she may not like.  She has to make choices about that and about how she wants people to react to her.  I don’t like this but find it to be true also.

  • Danielle Horsley

    It’s not just Christianity it’s Muslim too. 

  • Ahicks74

    As a Mother of a 5 year old daughter, I have noticed that fashion trends for small and/or young children have a more mature cut and/or style.  I first noticed this when I bought my then 1 year old daughter jeans and all I could find were “skinny” jeans, for a BABY!  Stupid as it was, I bought them anyway.  Put them on my daughter and she sat on the floor and cried because she couldn’t move her legs, sit comfortably let alone WALK  in them.  

    Some tips are good, raise your hands if your shirt goes up to your ribs, then yes…it is too small.   I have instilled in my daughter self esteem and respect for her body, but not in  a “sexual” sense, but to be strong and healthy.  This article makes it seem like every little girl should consider themself a piece of meat and be openly paranoid about how they look, move, dress, etc.  It’s just sad. 

  • AHicks74

    My question is also, when did we lose the focus of parenting off from our Sons?  I also have a young son (9 years old) and my Husband and I CONSTANTLY tell him that he respects all people, boy/girl or man/woman.  When a girl says, “No.” she means “No.”, girls are not to be gawked at or drooled over.  Why and when did the focus move from giving the boys/men some responsibility of their thoughts and actions to forcing the girls to so paranoid about the way they look because it might entice the boys?  Blame the girls because the boys are having “improper” thoughts.  I don’t get it…

  • quirkeegurl

    Excellent post, I think it certainly warrants discussion by the atheist community. It’s clearly harming girls and probably boys, too.

  • Kaydenpat

    “Bellies are very intoxicating and we have to save them for our husbands!”  Had to laugh when I read this.  My fat belly is certainly not intoxicating — probably not even to my hubby.

    Sounds like the Christians in this article and those Amanda grew up around are no different than the Muslims who demand that women cover up in burqas because otherwise men just cannot control themselves.  It’s a sad commentary on men, not the women they seek to cover up.

  • RebeccaSparks

    I’m late to the party, but here’s my $1.25.

    Modesty discussions do reflect aspects of control and victim-blaming, and are frequent in Christian and other conservative religions, though I would not say”For those outside of Christian culture, this is a laughable non-problem.” Look at this discussion and see how many blithely throw “slut” and other shaming words around, and the sexualization of women and girls (even little girls) in media.  Modesty and hyper-sexualization are flip sides of the same coin, and I don’t think that it detracts from your analysis to acknowledge it.

    Also, It’s easy to miss with the way it’s written up, but your pointThird, why not just teach them not to sit cross-legged while wearing a skirt? the text says, “If you’re in a skirt, sit in a chair with your legs crossed.” 

    Interesting discussion of how modesty and body image. I always felt that my body issues stemmed from being nerdly and bullied, or perhaps being a physically early bloomer and a mentally late bloomer (and creeped out by older men staring at me when I was a tween), but maybe church modesty had something to do with my issues after all :).

    (edited because somehow someone’s profile got plugged in my comment o_O?)

  • Lucretiaborgia

    I am very torn by this topic.  I’m a feminist and an athiest, but I’ve also been a middle school teacher for 20 years.  I totally agree, it’s creepy to get 8 year-old girls to worry about if they are showing too much future cleavage or not. I went through 13 years of Catholic school and it took me years to get over the whole modesty thing and enjoy my body.  But I see pre-pubescent girls dressed in extremely over-sexualized ways, too.  The boys can wear their big t-shirts and comfy cargo shorts, and the girls are in skin tight jeans and tiny tops. The boys can explore their whole personalities and the girls are relegated to seeing themsevles simply as “sexy” and “attractive”.  I do not know the answer.  How do we make young girls see themselves in a way that promotes their health and self-confidence, without the crazy modesty controllers AND without the over-sexualized media image-makers getting into their heads?

    • amycas

      Treat them the same way we treat boys now. It seems that boys are often treated as the “default” human setting, but girls are the special setting and should be treated differently.

  • Martin

    Let me just say, as a Pastor who has two daughters, that I totally agree with you. The modern day, north American, Fundamentalist obsession with this is dis functional and counter productive. I believe that God (atheists can change that to “if there was a God of love, surely …”) wants to boost self-esteem and human worth, not crush it.

  • Lfmcaulay

    That was a great article. Weirdly I’ve just converted to Christianity after a long time as an athiest, I escaped all the indoctrination as I was raised agnostic & the Christianity I belong to is feminist and liberal and totally against so much of what is touted as Christian. I’ll fight the battle from inside religion – shoulder to shoulder with anyone else who wants to fight the way we allow mens fear of our power to dominate the way we live our lives. With love, thanks for sharing your words x

  • Catherine

    “It’s about me being told that parts of me are so wrong they must be covered. It’s about men like my husband being taught to distrust women for the “sinfulness” they carry due toinherently being attractive to men.”

    Good news – this isn’t the view of Christianity at all! A woman’s sexuality and the sexual attractiveness of her body are INHERENTLY good. NOT sinful in the slightest. 

    That’s the reason her body is reserved for marriage and covered except for her husband’s eyes – Precisely because it is SO good and mysterious and beautiful. To give anyone free access would cheapen just how special and amazing it is. 

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      Ugh, how sickening. How can people not realize how utterly dehumanizing and misogynistic this belief system is?

  • http://www.facebook.com/charity.qualls Charity Qualls

    Oh man Amanda! I hail from similar origins. Sucks so hard, doesn’t it?

  • Lilydavid

    Fair enough – but why don’t you go after Islam, Judaism, Sikhism and Hinduism too?

    Unfair to tarnish all Christians with the same brush – they aren’t all extreme like this!

    • Kodie

       Why don’t we go after minority religious beliefs that don’t tend to dictate how modern Western people dress? Why are you so protective of Christianity? If some Christians are like this and you’re not, we’re not talking about you, but if you disagree with those who promote shame and blame on the female from a young age, then you should agree with us on this point, and point it out whenever you see it, and want to diminish its popularity and effect on society. You know, the society where Christianity is a majority?

  • ktbatheist

    I was raised with fashion comments like this, purity rings, the whole nine yards. As an atheist I see through all of their arguments for modesty and try to remind them that the Muslims they regard as oppressive require the same of their daughters but they can’t see the connection. Now I see my sister, 11 years younger, being subjected to the same lies. It makes me sick and breaks my heart but besides expressing my opinion respectfully, I can’t maintain a close relationship with my family.  

  • XxisabellexX

    thar is sooo meny thing abowt modesty u Do Not get.
    1. modesty is  abowt honoring god with what we wear ,are bodys belong to god thar are meny meny verse in the bible that say so and we shood obey them
    2. be modesyt duent mean wearing close that are to big or are not the girls clothing it means not showeing off your body in a in morel way , here a exampel  insed of waering tights and a relly tight shirt wear a par of jeans that are not skin tight and u can wear a fitted shirt but it shoodent be reviling.
    3. as chrishtian  its are job to be exampel to those  who dont under sand
    4.its good to start at a young age in modesty ,say your at the beach and a 15 year old girl is wearing a modest swim suet and a  year old is wearing a bikiny what exampil will that set 4 the fucher.
    5.u said that dressing modestly will lower a preteen or a teens confedens thats a lie, some girls yes, but not most , im 14 and i know a lot of uther   girls that are prowt of being modest . 

    • Pisk_A_Dausen

      How about setting a good example by learning how to spell and displaying a minimum of intelligence and reading comprehension?

      “modesty is  abowt honoring god with what we wear”

      You’re on an atheist blog. God’s opinion doesn’t have much sway here. Nor does Santa’s.

      “thar are meny meny verse in the bible that say so and we shood obey them”

      [citation needed], not that it changes the above.

      “not showeing off your body in a in morel way”

      What’s immoral (or did you write moral? you didn’t actually write either, wth is “morel”, a fruit?) about “showeing” off your body? Does it mean someone is going to get horny? Well, brooms make some people horny. It’s a natural urge. Does it cause rape? No rapists cause rape, and you can’t avoid rape by covering up at any rate, ask any “modestly dressed” rape  victim.

      “as chrishtian  its are job to be exampel to those  who dont under sand”

      I don’t see an example worth following when I see burqas or any other dressing style aimed to control women and instil shame in them about their bodies and sexuality, and/or fear of male sexuality.

      “say your at the beach and a 15 year old girl is wearing a modest swim
      suet and a  year old is wearing a bikiny what exampil will that set 4
      the fucher”

      Not sure what example either will set for the fucker… fuchsia… seriously, what the hell is this??? Spell check suggests “cheerful”. But please enlighten me. When I see people in swimsuits of any kind, I don’t see “examples”, I see people enjoying a day on the beach. (And don’t try to counter with “WHUT IF THAR R AWL NEKKIDZ WIF THERE BODY’S AWL NUT COVRDZ WIF CLUTHS”*, I’m European, I pretty much expect a certain % of naked people when I go to the beach.)

      I only wore only a bikini bottom / swim shorts until I actually had something to cover up above the waistline. Society failed to collapse despite my sexy sluttish 1-year-old (and older) hot body being uncovered like the whore of Babylon that I was at that age. (Maybe you meant to have a number before the second “year old”, but then again maybe I don’t care.)

      “will lower a preteen or a teens confedens thats a lie, some girls yes,
      but not most , im 14 and i know a lot of uther   girls that are prowt of
      being modest”

      How about people get to dress how they like without being slut-shamed? You can dress modestly, and find your strange pride in that (they’re just clothes…), and other girls can wear their jeans and not have you looking down your nose at them? How about you don’t sacrifice the confidence of “some girls” at the altar of your imaginary god? Is that a deal you can live with?

      I’ll give you a shiny, shiny spell checker if you agree.

      * Dear FSM that sentence hurt to write…

  • Mccb_484

    What do you mean by “I’m a feminist”? There’s nothing feminine about women trying to be like men and being ashamed of their womanhood. 
    I’m a woman and I love to be modest. Modesty wasn’t emphasized in my childhood very much and almost all of my environment encouraged to wear revealing clothing. But I choose to be a modest 21 year old today because when I’m modest men look at me in the eyes and don’t objectify me. They don’t treat me according to whether I’m “sexy” or not. When I wear a long skirt, men respect me and don’t compete with me like I’m another man. Because I’m not another man. I’m endowed with different abilities and gifts that compliment men’s abilities and gifts. Feminism has worked so hard to twist what is naturally wanted from women into something to be ashamed of. I’m not ashamed to be a woman. I’m not ashamed of my body. I’m thankful for it and I think that it is an immense gift and power given to me. But I won’ t be irresponsible with it to the point of loosing the power and harming others. I’m also not ashamed of wanting to devote my life to my future children. You speak of modesty like it is a terror. But, coming from someone who strives to be modest out of love, not condemnation, modesty is a liberation from our animal drives and calls us to treat others with human dignity no matter if they’re sexually appealing or not. 
    Modesty uplifts sexuality to its purpose, that is, to see and experience the wonder of the other. This serves to respect them as a fellow human person. Immodesty only inhibits the passions from being controlled and redirected to a higher cause than an “itch”. 

    • sceptinurse

       Someone has drunk deeply of the koolaid.

      There is nothing wrong with modesty. There is a problem with brainwashing girls and women into believing that they are only good for meeting the needs of men and raising children. Teaching them to be excessively modest puts the responsibility for mens behavior on the woman rather than keeping it on the men where it belongs.

      Modesty has nothing to do with treating others with dignity. Most of the excessively “modest” (read religious) people that I have known are even more afraid of the “other” than the general population.

  • andrea

    we live in a society where well over 50% of babies (that are allowed to be born) are born out of wedlock and near certain poverty. Where sex is demeaned and sexting is a teen sport…. sex can bring on lifelong diseases and have deadly consequences. Adults can make their own decisions but our children are being sexualized from birth by perverts who come in under the guise of trying to help their self image. Sex education for the few who needed it is now sex education to enlighten young people into better ways to have sex and not get a disease. This has PROVEN to be nothing more then a primer for encouraging young people often pre-teen kids to experiment with something only an adult should be considering. The consequences of sex are not about poor body image or a bad reputation, they are life and death. THIS IS NOT ABOUT CONTROL…. ITS ABOUT SELF-CONTROL!!! teens don’t have it and most of you young males are glad for it… the shame should not be on the young people it should go to the adluts who promote promiscuity for their own pleasure and at the cost of so many millions of dead babies and people dying of AIDS or living in a quiet hell of herpes or some other disease they have to hide from others…. please consider what you applaude and why you demean those who would teach children common sense and promote modesty.


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