A reader over at the Register…

struggles with scruples.

  • Marthe Lépine

    Mark, you have probably noticed that the combox back at the Register has turned into a discussion of what really constitutes modesty. Since I am the first to comment here, I would like to throw the ball and see what happens. I myself would not wear a bikini, and I have a brand new tankini waiting in a drawer until I have a chance to do a little 2 inch seam because I find it a little too low cut. But that’s me. I would never dare judging women by what they wear.

    A long time ago, when I was still in a convent high school for girls, and much too young to be there (since later I was only 18 when I graduated with my first university degree), I was kind of annoyed to hear one of the nuns claim that girls were responsible for the sins of boys or men committed while looking at them. And later in life I realized that some men will lust at women no matter what they wear (and appear to be even more stimulated to lust the more a woman is covered up – they like to imagine what is hidden.) Of course, at the time, if a single young woman got pregnant, it was always her fault… and it did not seem that the responsible boy even deserved to be criticized. That often gave rise to forced marriages that I wonder if they were even valid, since one or both young “parents” was coerced into marrying.
    I have also noticed, in my life, that even if a woman was wearing something that, strictly speaking, was not particularly modest, she sometimes could “get away with it” because her demeanor was so dignified that it did not bring attention to her clothes.
    Nowadays, some “customs” have changed, in my opinion for the better, and also in my opinion thanks to feminism. Now it is mostly recognized that women are not responsible for a rape simply because of the way they dress. And rape does not need to be committed with violence on a dark path to be rape; there is something called “date rape”, and it includes any situation when a man overpowers, either physically or through psychological manipulation, or the extreme of putting drugs in a woman’s drink. The man who grows several extra pairs of hands once the lights go down in a movie theatre is now considered as guilty of sexual assault. The man who constantly insists, over and over again, to have his way and eventually wears out a woman’s defenses is not seen as guilty of sexual harassment. In Canada at least, sexual assault is defined as anything imposed on a woman against her will, even if it is only showing her something she would not want to see from across the street. In my opinion, this is a proper application of the idea of “consenting adults”.
    The idea that a woman is responsible for an assault because of what she wears is now strongly rejected, and with good reason. Of course, to me it does not free women of having to show some common sense, but a man is responsible for his own thoughts and actions.
    That said, I am also of the opinion that always putting the emphasis on the women’s clothes is in fact tacitly accepting that men and boys do not need to practice much discipline. When I went to high school, in Montréal, there were still separate schools for boys and girls, so I don’t know what was being taught to the boys, but from what I have seen of the behaviour of some boys – even in my own family – I wonder if they received a teaching that was as guilt inducing and strongly worded as what was told to the girls!
    On the other hand I will admit that current fashions (although the word “fashion” is really misleading since it really means, in practice, what the garment industry, often or overwhelmingly run by men, is going to try to push on consumers in a particular season) certainly over-sexualize women, and at an earlier and earlier age Even feminists are strongly concerned! And, unfortunately, many people nowadays are practically brainwashed by the constant advertising they are forcefully exposed to (such as up to 24 minutes of commercials per hour of TV viewing, and ever-present ads practically in every direction we turn our eyes outside of home) and are not always trained in critical thinking sufficiently to not be influenced by the messages specifically created, sometimes by people trained in psychology, to make people feel that they just have to have, or have to wear, what is being noisily pushed on them, from electronic gadgets to clothes of doubtful appropriateness.
    But, coming back to an earlier argument, insisting that women should always wear clothes that stand out for being overly designed to hide a woman’s body, is actually encouraging men to see women as objects, just as much as if the clothes were immodest. In my opinion, it also teaches men that lost is just natural, and that a woman who allows any part of her body to be visible is just asking for that kind of attention. I have once read, somewhere on the Internet, an interview with a moslem religious leader who candidly admitted that men were weak, but instead of talking about educating them, said it was up to women to hide themselves. In my opinion, this is actually saying to men that they are allowed to do anything and then blame the women. And just look at the “respect” shown women in muslim-dominated countries!
    I would have more to say, but I do not have time right now. I will continue as I expect to have to reply to a very large number of negative comments.
    By the way, an opinion about clothing given by someone in the Vatican in 1930 is being quoted, and someone said it was “Magisterial” thinking that still should be applied to the letter. I would appreciate it, Mark, if you commented on this, since I have serious doubts. As to the other often repeated quote from Fatima, you have explained before that it was private revelation and that we were free to apply our own “prudential” thinking – is that correct?

  • Marthe Lépine

    I made a typo, where I mention sexual harassment in relation to a man who grows more hands as the lights go down. I wanted to say such a man is NOW seen as guilty of sexual harassment, but my fingers hit the “t” and it reads “is not seen as guilty…”, which of course is the opposite of what I want to say.
    Another typo: “teaches men that lost is just natural…” should be “teaches… that LUST is just natural…”
    At the end, I meant “prudential judgement” but could not remember the correct word on the spur of the moment.
    Sorry about all this, it’s just that I attempted to write before my first coffee of the day!

  • Kate

    Marthe – You ought to write an article about this, I find your thoughts so reasoned and readable!

  • Marthe Lépine

    Thank you, Kate. I would love to write an article – but I don’t know how to go about finding someone to publish it. I have thought about writing my own blog, and I started the process but have been too preoccupied lately with lack of work and money to put the time into learning how to actually get it going. Please pray for me.


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