How Modesty Made Me Fat

by Sierra

This isn’t a story about how modest clothes allowed me to “let myself go” and conceal a growing figure. It’s not even a story about how wearing modest clothes kept my self-esteem at rock bottom and thrust me into a too-close relationship with Ben & Jerry. It’s a story about how modesty doctrines impacted my mind, in ways that had real, negative effects on my body. Modesty was one of the reasons my defining relationship with my body became whether or not I was “fat.” Modesty was one of the engines that pushed me into a full-blown eating disorder. It’s not just a dress code: it’s a philosophy, and it’s one that destroys young women, mentally and physically.

Modesty taught me that my first priority needed to be making sure I wasn’t a “stumbling block” to men. Not being sexually attractive was the most important thing I had to consider when buying clothes, putting them on, maintaining my weight (can’t have things getting tight!), and moving around (can’t wiggle those hips, or let a little knee show). Modesty taught me that what I looked like was what mattered most of all. Not what I thought. Not how I felt. Not what I was capable of doing. Worrying about modesty, and being vigilant not to be sexy, made me even more obsessed with my looks than the women in short shorts and spray tans I was taught to hate.

Modesty taught me that I was always on display. There was no occasion in which it was acceptable to be immodest. Not the beach, not at the pool with friends, not in my own backyard (sunbathing was out because a neighbor might glance over and see me). This took my normal self-consciousness as a teenage girl and amped it up to an impossible degree. I once had a bee fly down my (acceptably loose) shirt and, in flailing around to get it out, had a family member comment that I’d just “flashed” my own grandfather. I was horrified for the rest of the week. That’s not normal. The normal order of priorities is getting dangerous animals out of your clothing first, and then worrying about making your own relatives perv on you second. Not so with the modesty doctrine. I should have let it sting me, apparently. Getting stung was the lesser risk.

Modesty was not just about dress. It was also about moving like a lady. Knees together, butt down, breasts in, arms down. It is impossible to get physically fit while adhering to ladylike movements only. You might be able to run, but only if you wear two sports bras to keep anything from jiggling inappropriately. You certainly can’t do anything with weights. In college, I had the chance to join a horseback riding team for a couple of semesters. I soon realized that staying on the horse required starting some kind of fitness regimen. In the gym, I found a couple of hip abductor/adductor machines that were handy for building the thigh strength necessary to grip the horse. The problem? I was so embarrassed that somebody might walk in front of me while I was on the machine with my legs spread that I started going to the gym the moment it opened in the morning and avoiding exercise when men were present. In this instance, modesty was literally keeping me weak. Eventually, I grew comfortable enough with my own body to exercise without worrying about other people happening to look at me. Now, I do an exercise routine that would have scandalized my old self: squats, deadlifts, and barbell rows. I have so much more energy and my mood is so much improved – plus, I can move my own furniture! But I couldn’t have got to this point without dumping the modesty doctrine. Because I couldn’t concentrate on hauling iron while worried that some perv behind me might happen to glance my way and pop his gym shorts. That’s not my job anymore. I’m not responsible for men’s souls, because I no longer think of myself as an object to be looked at and evaluated.

Backing up to before I got to college, modesty contributed to my eating disorder. How? Because I noticed that the best way to keep men from staring at my ass was not to have one. Ditto boobs. The skinnier I got, the less womanly I looked, and the more “modest” I felt, until I was 25lbs underweight. I was perpetually “fat” in my own mind – because in my own mind, the only acceptable body type was an androgynous one – one that could not possibly provoke a man to lust. I’m sure I don’t need to explain why that was a bad thing.

Modesty taught me that I was a decoration. Everything about my life was governed by whether or not a man was watching. How I moved and what I ate or wore all depended on the male gaze. Modesty taught me that nothing I did mattered more than avoiding sexual attention. Modesty made me objectify myself. I was so aware of my own potential desirability at all times that I lost all other ways of defining myself. I couldn’t work out or get fit without worrying about attracting men. I couldn’t relax my eating habits for a moment lest my shirts start to pull a little in the chest. I couldn’t grow like a normal human adolescent because staying slim and sexless was the biggest priority in my world.

When you argue that what’s modest and what isn’t is a valid concern for women, you tell them that their appearance matters most. You objectify them. You tell them that whether or not you are sexually aroused by their actions or their dress is more important than anything they want to do or wear. You tell them that they must, at all times, be thinking aboutyou when they are making decisions about their own lives. That’s arrogant. That’s immoral.

When you argue that modesty is just a “debate” that must be won by those whose arguments are strongest in the abstract, you ignore the fact that the “debate” has consequences you don’t have to live with. Women have to live with the consequences of modesty debates. Those debates impact every sphere of their lives: work, play, even their own health and wellbeing. If you think that, as a man, you can somehow argue “objectively” about what women should or shouldn’t wear and “win” a debate fair and square, let me remind you of a few things. If a man “loses” a modesty debate, nothing about his life changes. If a man “wins” a modesty debate, nothing about his life changes. But if a woman loses a modesty debate, the entire fabric of her existence changes. If a woman loses a modesty debate, she has lost whole areas of freedom in her life. She now has more things to worry about not doing so that men will not get aroused. There is no such thing as an “objective” argument in which the stakes are astronomical for one side and nonexistent for the other. Furthermore, by even accepting modesty as a valid area of concern for women, you have accepted a premise that defines women by their looks and objectifies them. Women have already lost the moment a modesty debate begins.

Modesty made me “fat” because it defined my relationship with my body in terms of appearance. Not action. Not gratitude. Not the joy of movement. Just appearance. It also defined my relationship with men as one of predator and prey. It was my job to hide from men so that their sex drive would lie dormant, like a sleeping wolf. But if that wolf ever awakened, it was not because it had been sleeping for a long time and its circadian rhythm kicked in, or it was just naturally hungry. It was my fault because I had done something to “bait” the wolf. Just by being visibly female, or by moving in “unladylike” ways. You cannot consider women full human beings unless you recognize that their lives do not revolve around the male sex drive. Modesty is a philosophy that dehumanizes. It incites constant fear and vigilance in one sex while excusing the other of all responsibility. It’s immoral.

Comments are also open below.

Sierra is a PhD student living in the Midwest. She was raised in a “Message of the Hour” congregation that followed the ministry of William Branham. She left the Message in 2006 and is the author of the blog The Unspoken Words: A Non-Prophet Message.

Read all posts by Sierra!

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

  • Kelsey

    This piece of writing resonated with so intensely, thank you for being so eloquent in describing this concept. I too have had body image issues and 5 years of my life were occupied by very disordered eating and the similarities in your story are very striking, especially since I have a completely different background than yours. I agree with you entirely about the ‘modesty debate,’ and how “women have lost the moment a modesty debate begins.”

  • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com KR Wordgazer

    Wow, so hard to live your life on eggshells, because your body isn’t your own, it “belongs” to men and is defined by what men think of it. “Modesty” makes women into sex objects far more than than the bikini-wearing it despises– because a woman may wear a bikini because she’s happy and comfortable swimming that way, without reference to what men think– while
    “modesty” like this can never be about anything else but what men think.

  • Lauren

    I do think modesty is a valid concern fo a Christian, but this coersion that you went through is going at it backwards. We don’t have a *right* to have other people making our walk easier. If a girl walks by in a bikini and a man lusts after her, that’s his sin, and he answers for it. However if the girl were to choose, freely, to wear something that would make it easier for him to avoid temptation, that would be a kindness on her part. He should be duly grateful that she is helping him out, and she should get credit for it – not guilt trips and blame for times when she doesn’t do it.

    The same standard should apply to guys. If a guy is walking around shirtless, that’s his right – but if he were to choose not to, it would be a kindness towards his Christian sisters who are trying to avoid sinning in their hearts.

    It is still about the way the opposite (and sometimes same) sex percieves you – but it should be a matter of sincere consideration for others and their possible struggles, coming from a position of freedom to choose your own actions regarding your own body. Modesty should be a voluntary act of generosity towards those who may be struggling, not a coerced behaviour used as a weapon against one and only one group (women). It’s like taking something that was supposed to be a gift and stealing it to be sure you get your hands on it – it’s twisted, and it’s missing the point.

  • sossajes

    as i was reading this i was struck by the similarities to secular culture with its emphasis on the display and consumption of women’s bodies, and how they are not truly owned by the women who inhabit them, but rather there for the pleasure of men.
    “Modesty taught me that I was always on display”… “modesty was literally keeping me weak”… “Modesty taught me that I was a decoration. Everything about my life was governed by whether or not a man was watching.”

    I can relate to all of these, despite coming from a fairly secular, culturally Irish Catholic background. it wasn’t just modesty for me though, it was fear of being shamed, harassed, or assaulted for my body (not an unreasonable one either, as they all have happened to me).

    i began reading your blog (and several others in the CP/QF survivor community) because i was fascinated by how different the CP/QF life was from my own, but as i read more i realize that there are many similarities to my own life and experience. they may have had a different reason and rationale behind them, but i believe they all relate to placing a gender above another, and prioritizing that gender’s wishes, whims and ideas above all.

    thank you so much for this insightful essay. and congratulations on reclaiming your body! it’s yours to move and dance and enjoy. you are an inspiration to me.

  • Hannah

    I feel like this is extreme modesty that not very many people really practice anymore. I’m Christian, too, but this seems unbelievably extreme

  • Christine

    I think that part of what is so horrible about such an abusive definition of “modesty” is that it leaves no room for a more healthy modesty. If you’re in a mainstream culture, then you’re going to think that all calls for modesty are that messed up, and avoid it.

    I think that your insight about how the extreme “modesty” called for by some of the Christian groups is essentially the same as the mainstream – turning women into just their bodies – is really interesting. It makes a lot of sense to me (and is terrifying).

  • Rebecca

    Yes, where is the balance in all this?

    Perhaps it depends in part how modesty is defined. It does seem to me that this is in part culturally driven, and might depend on the situation. What seems appropriate for me to wear at the beach would not be so at the office? In some cultures, it is considered normal for woman to lay bear their entire torso, but would this be a good thing and ever acceptable in our culture?

    Is there a difference between healthy discretion, and being uncomfortable, even obsessive about our own bodies, and feeling that we need to hide and deny being a woman?

  • Paula

    This is definitely an extreme version of modesty – and I’m a pretty conservative Christian. No bikinis, etc. There is a balance. I’m leaving a comment just to say – this was definitely written from a woman’s perspective… a woman who probably hasn’t had a man be completely honest with her about how their brains are wired (well, 90% of men). Men STRUGGLE with this every day. I know some very devout Christian men who have confessed their struggle with pornography. It shocked me – and I hope I haven’t been a stumbling block for them.

    Modesty is a reflection of our hearts – our modesty doesn’t consume our thoughts, it is a reflection of them.

  • melissa

    I can’t even say how moved I am by this article. I have been 100% legalistic in this area as a Christian for many years now. I put restrictions on myself, believing it is my duty not to be a tempter, and I severely judge the outside world, especially Christians, for provocative dress. It is difficult when you have a husband that struggles, and you blame the other women for his problems. This article may have not only saved my life, but most importantly my 8 yr old daughter. The photo above even looks like her, & I may have destroyed her life if I had not read this. I have honestly never heard this perspective as a Christian woman before. It was an instant awakening reading this. I am overwhelmed with sadness that I may have created this women I am reading about in my own daughter, because I do already push her & address her about her looks, because I do not want her to be a temptress. I cannot thank you enough for this article! I must save it for years to come, & has to be the most impacting thing I have ever read! God bless you Sierra, & I would love to hear more of your story!!

  • Lauren

    It was written from a woman’s perspective, but the one-sided regulations she was living under weren’t exactly from a balanced perspective either. There are many women whose sex drives are extremely visually focused, yet these groups don’t seem to harass young men about their shirts being too tight, lest they be a temptation to women. Struggling with temptation is a cost of being human; we all have our temptations, and quite honestly, I think many of them are harder to keep a lid on than lust, for both men and women. If you are struggling, and other people take note and help you out, good for them – but if you demand it of them all you’ve done is compound the first sin by refusing to take responsibility and harming your fellow Christians in the process.

  • Ona

    “There is no such thing as an ‘objective’ argument in which the stakes are astronomical for one side and nonexistent for the other.”

    I am tattooing this inside my brain, for use at a later and yet unspecified date. Thank you.

  • http://delesmuses.blogspot.com/ Jenny

    Yeah, sounds a lot like my experience…The modesty movement has created a bunch of women obsessed with not looking like women.

  • http://www.gregdonner.org Gregory Donner

    Excellent article! We will forever have to strive for balance in a world that is aggressively promoting a porn and “everything-is-about-sex” culture through every possible means available. As men and women, only mutual respect for each other and complete honesty with ourselves and before God will allow for a world where modesty–not legalism–naturally thrives.

  • http://therealrebeccadiamond.com Rebecca

    “Your body is not your own! You were bought with a price!”
    Sermon after sermon after sermon.
    It didn’t give me an eating disorder – I have PCOS, and I struggle with being overweight even when eating an immensely healthy diet.
    But those false messages about modesty have given me many concerns with losing weight. I’ll never forget complaining about a pervy manager who kept trying to feel me up, and being told by a pastor “well of course he’s going to do that! You’ve lost weight, you’re attractive now.”

    Thankfully, I’m married to a man who realizes that a man’s sexuality is just that – a MAN’S sexuality. Whether or not he looks and lusts has nothing to do with the woman’s attire.

    One of the saddest things I’ve ever seen is the church I attended (briefly!) that taught that girls as young as 4 had to restrain their long hair and wear it braided, or in a bun, so they wouldn’t seduce adult men. I’m not sure I have words to describe just how very wrong that is.

    If “modesty” kept people from sin, then the same God who could describe in excruciating detail just what to do with pimple a vs. pimple b would sure have bothered to make a note somewhere, right? :P

  • http://marriedat12.blogspot.com Dina @ married at 12

    i find it sadly amusing that people think this level of modesty is extreme. growing up my mom had to wear a face veil at times. i was raised to believe that if even a glimpse of a married woman’s hair is visible demons will possess her soul. my own children wear long sleeves, ankle-length skirts, etc – but i do not expect my girls to cover their hair until they’re married and i certainly wouldn’t get angry at them for lifting up their sleeve to get a bee out or scratch and itch or do dishes! there is such thing as modesty that is not fanatically obsessive. it’s not the level of modesty that’s a problem (we don’t do bathing suits, but that doesn’t seem to be hurting any of us any) but the obsession and fantasticism with which it’s enforced.

  • http://www.virtuousgirlhood.com RJ

    Wow. I truly do feel sorry for you. Growing up in your family must have been hard. With that aside, my own family is not like that.

    While I dress modestly, I have choices as to what I wear. I wear knee length skirts, jeans, yoga pants, pants, capri’s, shorts, tops, what normal teens wear just more modestly. I’m in pants 95% of the time and it’s rare that you will see me in a skirt unless it’s something dressy or for church.

    I struggle with an eating disorder, but it isn’t because of modesty. It’s because I felt fat. I felt like I needed to lose weight and I didn’t.

    My parents are strict, but they could be ALOT stricter.

  • LiberalJesus

    Men are not animals. Stop actingly like their penises are stronger than our minds. I’m extremely offended by this. You know awful people who were raised to not respect women and to let their hormones take the responsibility for their actions and thoughts. The Taliban has women covered completely but that doesn’t lower the number of rapes and I can assure you it doesn’t lower the number of “lustful looks.” Btw, what the hell is wrong with a lustful thought that isn’t followed through? The biggest issue here is thought policing, in my opinion. Just because I look at you and think “hey, she’s pretty” doesn’t mean that I’m going to hell. The paranoia men have to deal with feeling like they are violating women with their THOUGHTS is a whole other messed up side to this issue.

  • LiberalJesus

    This is a fantastic article. I think there’s a real revelation here requarding our “rape culture” as well that blames women for assaults because their skirts were too short or their jeans too tight (or, god forbid they had something to drink!) Somehow we’ve given men all the power and none of the responsibility. They make the decision and head the family but if they stumble it’s the woman’s fault?? Yeah, makes perfect sense. If a rich man walks down a dark alley at night and is mugged, how many people jump up in arms over it not being the mugger’s fault because the man was obviously asking for it? But we do this to women all the time. A woman is raped when drunk and its her fault, not his for leaving a woman who is obviously intoxicated alone. How little respect do you really have for you sons? You can scale it down from assaults to “sinful” thoughts and it stays the same. You are responsible for your own actions and treating one gender like they are too stupid/animalistic to control themselves is wrong and opens the door for all kinds of abuse to go on. Thank you for this! It is so true. Your value is just as high no matter what you have or don’t have on.

  • madame

    Liberal Jesus,
    You’re right, and I think there is a huge difference between noticing the beauty of person’s body and lusting after it. Further, there is a difference between feeling aroused and acting upon this feeling.
    In my opinion, this whole modesty thing is missing the point because it fails to teach men that women are not objects, and it fails to teach women that they have full ownership of their bodies until they decide to give it to someone else (just as men do!).

    I’m a woman and I’m a lot more attracted to men who are properly dressed than men running around in speedo shorts! Yes, I am visual, I just prefer a covered beautiful body.

  • madame

    Lauren,
    A struggle with pornography is all about viewing women as objects. Pornography is not real sex and doesn’t portray real people with real feelings, so a man who is struggling with this should be examining his views of women rather than expecting them to cover themselves up when they are around him.

    On the topic of modesty, I’d much rather teach girls to dress with self-respect. They don’t have to display every inch of their beauty. They should stay warm in winter and comfortable in summer. But above all they should dress in a way that makes them feel happy and comfortable. Most of those girls and women dressed “modestly” look uncomfortable and draw way too much attention to themselves. If you want to see modesty, go to a school event and you will see dozens of modestly dressed moms in clothing that lets them just be without worrying about getting some flowing skirt caught in a door, or not being able to chase the toddler fast enough for fear of exposing herself or tripping over a long skirt!

  • madame

    Sorry, Lauren, my reply was to Paula!

  • amberson

    So, I really resonated with your story as well. Before I went to college (and a little during college, and some since) I have struggled with eating disorders and I have a background that emphasizes modesty. I think that you have every right to have those feelings, especially because many people emphazise modesty as a “rule” rather than something that is respectful. I think dressing modestly is something that maintains being who you are, while not drawing attention to what you look like. What happened was probably at a young age for you, it got perverted in your mind (and by perverted I simply mean that it morphed into a whole new meaning that was not the original intent). Because of this metamorphosis of meaning in you, “modesty” became your obsession, your nemesis, and your way to have a form of control. For me, my need for control came from a similar place, I needed to maintain my “good girl” appearance, which included always being someone others looked to for anything, an example of modest living, as well as someone who had her life on track. The pressure I then turned on myself- not because anyone was making me- cause me to turn to an eating issue… I thought if I was sly enough to get away with that, then I could fool the world into thinking I was practically perfect.

    The thing is, we all pervert something we are taught as children, that is how we function, and then we have struggles, and we face up to our fears and come out having grown and learned. The problem is not teaching “modesty”, but rather HOW we teach it.

  • AR

    Interesting and well written.
    I would like to add that women are also continually faced with the need to appear attractive to men. It need not just be about hiding from men – but also being skinny in a desirable sort of way

  • http://therebelution.com/modestysurvey SavedSista777

    I see where you’re coming from Ms.Siera, and i understand why you did the things you did, but i can’t help but feel that you weren’t being modest for God, but was modest for men (to please your family in particular). Yes the bible does say that we aren’t to be stumbling blocks, but the bible doesn’t say that we aren’t to still appear feminine. In fact the bible wants us to appear feminine, which is why it says that a man shouldn’t dress as a woman, and a woman shouldn’t dress like a man.
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a distinguishable figure, just as long as every single curve isn’t enhanced and exaggerated by what you are wearing.Most rules for modesty differ from person to person, due to body shapes and sizes, and you shouldn’t have been ashamed of your body. God created you beautiful so that you could please the mate he created for you, if it is his will that you mate.
    I am very happy that you aren’t starving yourself anymore…but remember to ALWAYS honor God(in ALL that you do emotionally, mentally, and physically). I am earnestly praying that the Lord speaks to your heart and lets you know what is acceptable dress and what’s not. Pray about it, and be modest out of your love for God.
    ~be blessed! (prayin-4-U)

  • Shea Joy

    I’m sickened by the comments of the women who just aren’t getting it. DROP THE WORD MODEST FROM YOUR VOCABULARY. This is not a word applied to men; the concept is inherently oppressive. All this about what you do or don’t wear is just disgusting. Seriously, I could just throw up. Wear what you like, be comfortable, don’t judge others, and move on to something much more important. Be a good person with a big heart. You are responsible for your own behavior and so is everyone else.

  • Erin

    I have big boobs and parents/religion who preached against not making them overt. I developed a slouch to make them less prominent. Years later, the slouch has been nearly impossible to get rid of. I have awful posture and probably always will. Thanks, “modesty.”

  • Bill Mayes

    modesty is not a virtue. it is merely another way to keep women from experiencing life and accepting demeaning ‘values’ as good. stay hidden or break out. those are the two choices. modesty is the means some men use to keep women feeling like property and the excuse some women use to never step out and experience life.

  • Bill

    the problem i see is so many women on this board still hold onto silly variations of the religion. religion is slavery and it demands these women defend it one way or another rather than accept reality. It’s so sad that rather than accept reality so many just find another brand of the slavery to hold.

  • Amy Ruth Blue

    I agree. I’m not afraid or men, or women. I have breasts and hips and an a**. ALL WOMEN DO. If I appear attractive to someone, yay; I have NO problem with that.

  • Madamoyzelle

    Yeah, Shea Joy. Say it, sister!

    In the Catholic church, there are women who became martyrs because the refused to have sex with some man.

    In fact, there was a story told about a young woman in the 20th century who refused to give in to a rapist, and therefore she was murdered.

    This was taught to girls as a good thing.

    I have only recently come to realize how horrifying that teaching is. It also occurred to me–where are all the male saints who were martyrs for virginity?

    Why do I think priest would die laughing about that?

    For Catholic men in prison–are they taught that giving in to rape is a mortal sin for which they will go to hell? If not, why not?

    And why is religion so sex-drenched?

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  • Kimberly

    My 12 year old daughter went to a pool party with her youth group and was asked to wear a tank top if she were wearing a bikini. She wore a top but it’s not a revealing bikini. I was telling my husband that I considered myself a conservative girl but really. I’m mean don’t want my daughter to dress like she’s asking for it but I think telling her to completely cover up doesn’t give her the message that she is fearlessly and wonderfully made either. I figure if teen boys and grown men are going to check her out regardless. There are 12 year old girls that clearly want that attention and dress to get it. I just think there are areas of gray and as parents we need to find them without making our girls feel condemned. Sorry for ranting!

  • WendyW

    Interesting article. Although I have always believed that a girl should dress in ways that are not provocative, the extreme modesty practiced by many families always gave me the “willies” for reasons I could not articulate. This article does a great job of explaining the extreme end of the spectrum. When my own daughter was growing up, my standard was to cover what MUST be covered, to make the effort to not look like a slob or a slut, and simply not be the most immodest one in the group. I figured that as long as someone else was wearing less, my daughter would not be the one getting ogled. To force a girl to wear a “modest” swimsuit (the ones that look positively Victorian!) in public, or full length denim skirts on hot days, is to invite ridicule and does not benefit anyone in any way.

  • Mary

    This is a tricky one. As someone who has RUN a youth ministry, I have asked the same thing of my girls (though the people who ran the youth group before me made the girls were dark-coloured t-shirts and shorts over their swimsuits, so I figured I was going easy on them!). I’m not sure what to think of it now… I feel like I did it mainly because if I did not, the parents of the young boys would be offended that I allowed bikini-clad girls to run around in front of their sons! You make a good point about accidentally teaching them that they are not fearfully and wonderfully made though. What would you suggest?

  • Madamoyzelle

    Have the parents told their sons not to ogle the girls?
    Why is it ok for them to ogle?

  • Madamoyzelle

    To take this further–
    What? The males are sinless in their ogling?
    Sin is only the females’ ?

  • Madamoyzelle

    If some males have such a hard time dealing with female bodies, then perhaps those males should stay home and avoid sin. After all, they are the ones who become “unleashed in their desire.” Not the females!

  • MommySaidThis

    I’m sorry for your experiences. I can understand the way you view modesty, given the way it was explained/forced on you. I’ve had a different experience. I believe in dressing modestly, not for others, but for my own benefit. It is a choice for me and a way to show respect for the gift God gave me, my body. One doesn’t have to expose themselves or wear tight clothig to be ‘free’ and have an enjoyable time, as others have implied. I dress comfortably.. I am truly shocked by most of the comments here. Saying that any form of modesty is wrong seems closed minded and could do just as much damage as forcing someone to be modest.

  • Former Catholic

    The girl who was murdered because she refused to have sex with a field hand was St. Maria Goretti. The book about her life was on our long ago Catholic School girls’ recommended reading list (I certainly hope they don’t still recommend it in Catholic elementary schools). It was gruesome. She was stabbled multiple times and her death bed scene went like this: a cluster of priests standing over her getting her statement of forgiveness for that monster out of her before she died. Another Virgin Martyr: the highest calling aside from nunhood for good little Catholic girls, I guess.

    Now here’s something scarier. My sister is on the medical staff of a prison hospital for the criminally insane. She says the sexual preditors there especially like magazines (if they can get them) that cater to the patriarchy movement. The articles about how women and girls must submit and obey men seems to somehow reinforce their own twisted views on women. My sister told me that one time she was talking with one of the prisoners who had killed his girlfriend by stabbing her over forty times. In prison, he had “gotten religion,” however, which made it possible for him to finally forgive her for whatever it was that made him murder her.

    Just pray those men never leave the prison system and join a patriarchal church.

  • rose

    thanks for this article. its the first time someone has articulated my experience in such a nuanced but straightforward way. i was raised in the church of god holiness movement… which meant skirts past the knee (no pants or shorts ever), no mixed-gender “bathing” ever (e.g. swimming), long, uncut hair, no make-up (only harlots wear it!), no jewelry (a manifestation of vanity… even wedding bands), nothing sleeveless or cap-sleeved. the test of whether something was appropriate involved trying it on in the dressing room and performing various activities like bending down, reaching up high, sitting, etc. to see where the hemlines would fall. i’ve been out of that church for 7 years and still struggle with the predator/prey mindset. even as i earn my phd and go onto the academic job market, i’m consumed with the fear that my body speaks louder than my intellect. and despite my education and knowledge of the systemic oppression of women, i’m stuck with the recognition that since so many people buy into the culture of patriarchy and the modesty doctrine, for them it does.

  • Candice

    Everyone should wear exactly what they want to. It’s really none of your business if I look “slutty” or not, because I’m not asking you for your opinion OR your penis. My parents gave up on telling me how to dress ages ago. From the time I was 9 all I wanted to wear was crop tops and short shorts and 12 inch heels…and I am saving myself for marriage. I don’t care who looks at me and I’m not going to be offended by your looking, but the minute you tell me how you think I should look one of my “hooker heels” will be straight up your ass.

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  • Memo

    This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard!

  • Memo

    Thumbs up!

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  • Lauren

    Care to expand?

  • Maria

    I agree! I also beleive that the sin on they woman (or man’s) part occurs when they purposely dress to sexually attract the opposite sex.

  • Leah

    @Candice: PREACH IT GIRL. :D
    I would probably be considered somewhat “modest” by most secular standards, although in my miniskirt and snug-fitting sweater top and sky high hot pink heels i am wearing right now, i would certainly be ever the harlot in the QF eyes…I do freediving and professional mermaiding, and i will not wear any swimsuit besides a bikini. I don’t wear them to get guys to look at me–my husband looks at me plenty–i wear them because it feels right, and i can swim a LOT faster with less fabric dragging behind me. In fact the only stares i get are from little kids who want to know how Ariel got in the swimming pool when she’s supposed to be at Disney World.

  • http://helpingandhealingwords.blogspot.com/ Atara

    Fantastic!!!!


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