Simcha Fisher speaks sanity

Simcha Fisher speaks sanity June 1, 2013

to a culture that whipsaws between dressing women like pop tarts and weird control freak Christian males with masculinity issues who want all women to dress like extras from Little House on the Prairie. I think she needs to expand her Pants Pass…

Leaving the house, little two-legs?  Not without your PANTS PASS!

…into a whole line of Simchawear[TM].
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  • tom b

    Seems to me that men who want to control how women dress so they won’t be tempted do not understand personal responsibility for sin. They sound like Adam. The woman you gave me gave me the apple, so it is your fault and her fault that I sinned. If I look at a woman with lust or treat her as an object, the sin is mine no matter how she dresses or even if she is nude. She my be sinning against modesty, but I would be the one responsible for my own sin. There are stories of saints tempted by nude women, often arranged by the devil or by family or “friends”. If those saints were able to avoid sinning, I should too and if I do not it is my failure. I can not say it was the woman’s fault or that it is God’s fault for making her attractive.

    • Dave G.

      No. The sin might be yours but she would be no less culpable. Tempting someone to sin is no small matter. And the Church seems to err on the side of modesty in this issue. Probably for a reason.

      • Elizabeth517

        I am all about modesty. But do have some compassion for the confused, anxious young women of our time. Surely they get a few points off culpability for having the relentless message drummed into their heads from the time they’re 3 years old that their worth is determined by their hotness? Where every strong, smart woman in every movie they see also must look like a supermodel/stripper? Etc, Etc….

        • Dave G.

          I sympathize with them as much as I do with men who struggle with lust in the same culture that has told them the only thing that matters is how often and how early you get laid.

          • Alias Clio

            It is often difficult for women to know what kind of clothes are likely to set off men’s lust-alarms, as another women writer has illustrated above in some detail.

            What makes the whole discussion more complicated is that some of the men who ask women to wear skirts appear to prefer them because skirts make women, in their eyes, look more feminine/attractive. That’s all very well, but wearing skirts has nothing to do with modesty and looking more feminine might be more likely to provoke lust than to disarm it.

            Often, the very young women who are the most likely to induce lust when wearing immodest clothes are also the ones who least understand how their dress might affect men. (Of course, there are exceptions.) Have some mercy on them and don’t judge them too harshly.

            Finally, I doubt that the most egregious of immodest young women are liberal/ progressive types, as some people in this thread seem to think. Young “hipster” women often deliberately de-sex themselves; whatever their faults, they are seldom immodest in dress.

            • Dave G.

              At the end of the day, this is about preferences, about things conditioned by one’s upbringing, one’s culture, one’s generation. We can disagree of course. But please, for the love of heaven, never confuse our own ‘it’s OK to wear this not that’ as anything other than a completely personal viewpoint shaped by our own set of influences, and certainly not one that carries some form of moral weight over someone else’s viewpoint. There are probably a hundred subjects packed under this one topic, far more than simply dismissing one group or another does justice to. At best, if there seems to be a final ground, the Church appears to prefer to err on the side of modesty. And that’s probably where we can leave it if push comes to shove.

      • Andy

        Dave – if I can’t control my lust, probably it makes no difference how the woman is dresses. Fashion through the years ranged from complete coverage to what we have today. The burka which totally hides the females says “men cannot control their lust”. To say that how a women dresses makes her. culpable for my lust says the saw thing.
        The church says we are to control our an appetites and not rely on someone else to do it for us.

        • Dave G.

          If you can’t control your lust, that’s one thing. If you can’t control your addiction to alcohol, that’s one thing. But if a person insists on walking around you, waving a bottle of booze in front of you and saying, “Mmmm, Whiskey, whiskey, whisky…drink up!”, then they are also a bit culpable. And same Church that tells us to control our appetites also warns against tempting people to sin (remember the recent debates – tempting people to sin can come in a variety of forms).

          • Andy

            Controling alcohol is the common comparison for controlling lust, tet alcoholism has a physiological component, whereas lust doesn’t. I think that the argument that the women shouldn’t tempt us is merely saying I am not able to control myself. I would like to. believe that with prayer and the God’s help I can control myself.
            I also do not see the recent debates which seemed more to revolve around telling lies in anyway connected to what a woman wears.

            • Dave G.

              Lust doesn’t? We’re programmed to be sexually attracted to members of the opposite sex. It’s more physiological than anything. And in our culture of ‘get laid, get laid often, get laid now, get laid now and often’, it’s doubled the temptations that are already there. Again, it’s up to us to control our appetites, but it’s also up to other not to tempt us. It’s not some weird idea. Tempting others to sin is bad stuff. As for the lies, it came down to the debate about the sin of tempting people. Tempting people can come in many forms, not just by lying. In terms of fashion, it’s pretty much a cultural preference if you get down to it. But a woman who deliberately dresses provocatively to entice men into sexually desiring her as a sex object is doing what it is, and tempting others to sin or to have sinful thoughts recalls talk of millstones and necks and the bottom of seas.

              • Andy

                what is tempting or provacative to one is not the same for another. what one woman sees as provocative dress may be culturally normative to another. the fact that culture leads to a “get laid” mentality does not negate the need for us to control our own appetites. blaming others for our responses to me only removes my culpability.

                • Dave G.

                  Sure it doesn’t, though some suggested that our ‘dress sexed to the hilt’ culture aimed at girls somehow minimizes the culpability of girls. Perhaps they’re wrong, too. But you seem to be missing that rather large and ancient admonition against tempting others to sin that actually could, in some cases, apply to women just as much as men. Sorry, but first, this discussion shouldn’t have happened anyway, at least the way it did. We’re talking about, just as you say, cultural and generational preferences. Suggesting our cultural and generational preferences are better than theirs, especially if we drag the Faith into it, seldom goes anywhere good. But with that said, I merely point out that if a woman dresses a certain way because she prefers it, OK – within reason (same for guys). But if a woman dresses beyond just trying to be attractive to presenting her body as sex object to tempt men, then she’s culpable in her own way. The man still has his job to do in resisting, but the woman is at fault in her way. It’s traditional Christian. It’s in the Bible. Tempting others to sin (even if it’s just tempting those rascally men) is bad.

  • wlinden

    Um, how do women dress like Pop Tarts? In vanilla icing?

    • Rebecca Fuentes

      With sprinkles.

  • Just One Man

    Meh, the world doesn’t need more snark. Yes, you have to be modest. Yes, it’s difficult sometimes. Offer it up already and don’t take it out on men for wanting you to dress the way Church tells you to.

    Like Chris Rock said when people make a big deal out of taking care of their kids, “What do you want, a cookie? That’s what you’re supposed to do!”

    I much preferred the tone of approaching modesty with an attitude of self-sacrifice found in this article:

    • Rebecca Fuentes

      The frustration doesn’t come from not wearing bikinis. It comes when the question is, “Are knee-length shorts modest? Are any shorts modest? Are straps modest if they cover my bra and don’t show cleavage, or are sleeves mandatory? Are sleeves mandatory if I am wearing a lacy, crocheted shawl over the wide-strap dress?” There’s a lot of different answers to these. I have no desire to wear a bikini (I’m 6 months pregnant, I don’t even want to be seen in a swimsuit this summer. I want to hibernate in my nice cool basement, but someone has to grocery shop, and I need to wear clothes for that.) Some things are so obviously immodest there is no need for discussion on it. Then there are men and women who assert that the only way for a woman to be modest is to wear ankle-length skirts, sleeves, and shirt up to the neck. Or the commentators on Simcha’s article, who say that Catholic women are all immodest and should be wearing burkas like the Muslim women.

    • Bill

      Oh for crying out loud. Stuff like this trends awfully close to misogyny. It’s a bizarre characteristic of some devotees of the faith, like anti-Semitism in traddery.

      It’s a reaction to progressives extreme desire to conflate equality to sameness that some traditional men go way the other way and sort of take women down a peg.

      To me, it’s just like the looney leftist. It’s a kind of psychological disorder that overemphasizes one’s perception of justice and order.

      • Just One Man

        It’s far from misogyny, you can ask my wife about that. She feels exactly the same way.

        Let’s flip the tables for a second and pick another Christian duty like women have in dressing modestly like, say, men acting like men and protecting women and children. Women are perfectly right to want men to act virtuously and courageously and I wouldn’t begrudge a Christian woman writing a blog post calling on men to stand up and be men for their families.

        But it seems like every time the modesty debate pops up and a man pleads with his sisters in Christ to do what they ought to be doing in terms of dress, Simcha blows a gasket and loses no time telling men exactly where they can shove any concern over modesty cause they’re not the boss of her.

        I find that distasteful. I like the attitude of the woman in the post I linked to above which takes on modest dressas a sometimes sacrificial thing she does with joy for the benefit it brings the men in her life. What’s the benefit in getting all snorty about it like Simcha does?

        • Michelle

          Okay, now that I’ve just scribbled out a much more blistering response, I’ll take a deep breath and write one I can post:

          Modesty is not just about clothing choices. It is about discreet behavior in general (says so right in the CCC). It is also a virtue for men to strive for. So perhaps rather than lecture women on what they should be offering up, you might want to focus on the beam in your own eye, JOM.

          • Alias Clio

            Yes, some discussions of modesty seem to miss the fact that it does not merely concern refraining from the display of the body (which is a form of boasting, when the body is fresh and youthful), but also involves refraining from other kinds of self-advertisement.

      • Dave G.

        Hardly. It’s a person whose ideals about fashion and dress are as culturally and generationally informed as Ms. Fisher’s, Mark’s, yours or mine. We begin crossing lines when we assume our personal preferences and the powers of heaven and hell are somehow related.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    Is there some sort of Catholic collective mind? I’ve just been thinking the whole skirts/pants/modesty/femininity issue through, and lo, Simcha posts on it. Several of the younger women in our homeschool community are choosing to only wear skirts, some due to finding (long) skirts more modest than pants, and obviously more feminine, but also to avoid wearing “men’s clothing” or falling into the “androgynous trap”.
    Mark, what is the Catholic answer when someone throws the Mosaic law at you? Specifically, Deuteronomy 22:5–A woman shall not wear an article of clothing proper to a man, nor a man put on a woman’s dress; for anyone who does such things is an abomination to the Lord, your God.
    When I point out that we don’t follow the Mosaic law due to the new covenant, the reply is that God doesn’t change, so things labeled an abomination, even in the Old Testament, are always an abomination.

    • Alexander S Anderson

      Well, if the person quoting Dueteronomy is talking about pants, the first thing you should point out is that the ancient Hebrews wouldn’t have considered pants masculine or feminine, because none of them wore pants.

      • DeirdreMundy

        Also, it’s not like we’re buying the pants in the menswear section. And no one would mistake a woman in pants for a cross-dresser.

        • Exactly. The point isn’t “this article of clothing is for women, and this one for men, and both can wear this but not that, and these are the rules for all time.” After all, a kilt is just a skirt with a different name. I dare anyone who nitpicks this issue to tell a Scotsman he is violating Deut. 22:5 by dressing like a woman.

          The real issue is, I suspect: are you dressing in a manner so as to genuinely appear to be a member of the opposite sex (and it’s not, say, Halloween)?

    • Jordan

      Doesn’t it also say not to cut your hair and to sit in a tent away from everyone while you’re on your period? As usual, Simcha makes a good point, but I’m really getting sick of the fact that making such a simple point like that is even necessary. It literally is just the billionth answer to the “Lord, the woman you put here with me, SHE gave me the fruit” argument. Blaming women (especially the ones making a good effort to be modest, but not break their backs to cover your sins because it’s not their responsibility) didn’t work in the garden, and it will not work for any man on Judgement Day.

      • Rebecca Fuentes

        Yes, I brought that up, but so far, there a lots of laws in Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, but relatively few things labeled an abomination. Most everything else I’ve found labeled an abomination is still considered sinful (sodomy, sorcery, etc.) I recall reading somewhere that the problem with cross-dressing was not the actual wearing of the clothes of the opposite sex, which could be done for purposes of humor, etc, but with portraying oneself as the opposite sex, intending to deceive others by cross-dressing. But I can’t remember the source. I’d like to be able to intelligently counter the idea that women can’t wear pants/shorts/t-shirts/anything once considered menswear without being immodest, unfeminine, and trying to usurp the God-given position of men as the head of the household. I find that trend alarming and not very healthy, but it’s hard to have a discussion about it when the opening statement is: it’s in the Bible, so there!

        • Marthe Lépine

          Unfortunately, I do not have the time right now to do much research and give you links, but I think that Mark has written good material about “Bible only” and “Making sense out of scripture”, as well as the reasons Catholics are not using literal explanations from the Bible, and you might find some answers there.

          • Rebecca Fuentes

            I was pretty sure he had. I was hoping he could point me toward a book or article (google is not help much, neither is bing; I’m probably using the wrong search parameters). It’s one thing if women feel like a certain mode of dress is appropriate modesty for herself, it’s another when it becomes “all women must hold to my standard.”

            • Marthe Lépine

              Try going to Mark’s Web site; I easily found it by googling his name.

              • Alias Clio

                Is anyone telling men today that they ought to adopt the men’s clothing of the New Testament in order to adhere to its notions of gender-appropriate dress? No? Didn’t think so.

                Until I see Catholic or Protestant Christian men of today wearing the robes and beards of the First Century, I’m not going to worry much about their fashion advice to women. You might try some form of that argument on them. It’s doubly ironic, in that they DON’T wear such clothes, and in that such clothing would be considered effeminate today.

                • Stu

                  I think you are conflating modesty with style. Men and women can both wear modest, contemporary clothing.

                  • Alias Clio

                    Indeed they can, Stu. But Mark’s indignation was originally aroused by *men* who conflate modesty with style, and who appear to think that women can only be modest in longish skirts and loose blouses.

                    • Stu

                      And I tend to be on that side of things. But I fail to see why long skirts and loose blouses aren’t contemporary and of course, modest.

                    • Alias Clio

                      They aren’t always practical, if one is doing something active like vacuuming or running after toddlers. Loose blouses that cover one’s arms and neck are certainly not cool enough for some climates. Depending on one’s figure, such clothes may not be flattering: wearing long skirts requires some height to look good, and loose blouses may overwhelm petite women of any height.

                      Skirts and blouses made out of linen or cotton, which is usually necessary for coolness, require ironing, which is a time-consuming nuisance for busy wives/mothers – and also hot work. Capris, shorts and t-shirts made out of cotton knits blended with stretchy fabrics don’t need ironing much.

              • Rebecca Fuentes

                I now have enough reading material for the summer. Awesome!

    • MarylandBill

      No one wore pants when Deuteronomy was written. The issue is not, and cannot be pants, nor can it be skirts since kilts and the like are recognized as being men’s clothes. I think rather it needs to be defined culturally. In our culture, cut and color are probably better indications of whether an item of clothing is a woman’s or a man’s. As far as I am concerned, pants and skirts are just fine as long as they are reasonably modest.

  • Marthe Lépine

    Unfortunately, in my experience, sometimes the more a woman is covered, some men will find it even more exciting to try to imagine what is being hidden and might be even more tempted to lust than normal men… It seems to me that the burka is as much an expression of objectifying women as a bikini: both extreme seem to me to suggest that women are only objects.

  • I think I’m too much of the porn-post-skirt generation. I find a skirt to be far more sexy than pants, maybe because I don’t see women wear them often.

    But as a man of a certain shape (I’m in shape, Round is a shape, isn’t it? What do you mean I can’t wear a belt and keep my pants up anymore?) the two pieces of advice I’d give to women struggling with this issue this summer are:
    1. Loose is better. Loose is more modest, AND more attractive, for the kind of attraction you actually want.
    2. Forget the malls, this generation of fashion designers has lost any idea of modesty. Shop 2nd hand instead- 20 years ago fashion designers still had a little bit of sense, and with the GI generation dying at 10,000 people a month, Goodwill and Value Village have more inventory than they can handle.

    • Marthe Lépine

      Loose is much cooler too.

    • MarylandBill

      Are you seriously suggesting that women under the age of 60 look for clothes amongst women who were in their 80s or 90s when they died? I am about the least fashion conscious guy on the planet (along with about 85% of the rest of men) and even I know that is not going to fly.

      • if they respect tradition more than fashion, why not?

        If all they want is the fad of the moment, then yes, today’s fashions are simply against modesty.

  • StudentOfStThomas

    know this is the internet but the world needs less snark, stereotyping,
    and angry rants on this subject and more sober, objective and Catholic
    discussions of the virtue of modesty rooted in the actual teachings of
    the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Like this

    • Rebecca Fuentes

      This looks like a great resource. Thank you for the link.

      • Dan F.

        a quick glance reveals it to be a cultural based regurgitation of every bad argument around this issue that has already been addressed in this forum (as well as others). Remember that a Nihil Obstat only means that nothing in the book directly contradicts Church teaching – not that the Bishop endorses the book or that it makes good arguments. There is a lot of room in the tent for exploration of issues – not all of those explorations go in helpful or positive directions.

  • Momster

    I wear a bikini. I only take off my sheer beach cover-up if I’m alone on the beach or off away with my husband. Most of the women wear bikinis here. Moms get creative with accessorizing them with other garments in order to appear more discreet and elegant. I’m just tired of the cult like mindset. When will people stop being so controlling and hateful? Did it ever occur to them that with their strict rules they are objectifying women? – -Or that it will drive a wedge between husbands and wives? Crushing people’s sense of self worth if they don’t look a certain way, and threatening them with hell-fire is a serious offense. When I feel attractive, I act attractive. Frumping women down has a deleterious effect in the bedroom. Did THAT occur to Mr. Controller? Ask any breastmilk sodden mother how “up for it” she feels when she’s wearing the equivalent of a bed quilt.


    My favorite true quote from about twenty years ago, after I had bought myself some very sensible closed toe shoes in my new campaign for greater sobriety in clothing: (my husband, with a look of shock and horror on his face)

    “What are THOSE?? NUN SHOES? NONE of this?? NONE of THAT??!”

    • Dave G.

      When will people stop using the term hateful for disagreements over ethics, fashion, pizza toppings and any one of a thousand different subjects that are often nothing other than opinions and culturally influenced preferences?

      • momster

        Dave, the vast majority of us want to quietly promote the cause of goodness and discretion in the way we comport ourselves. There is however a *hateful* minority that make noise and drip contempt in their speech toward women who are either ignorant and in need of good example, or Catholic women who approach the issue differently than they do. They love to quote O.L. of Fatima, and relish the word “judgement”, but I don’t think it occurs to them that what they are saying and doing is Hellish.

        • Dave G.

          Perhaps they are every bit as conditioned by their culture, their upbringing, their generation, and their personal preferences as you are or as I am. Heck, they may be inclined to ask ‘just how much better is the world since we started saying it’s OK to reveal more skin?” There is an argument there. As for attitudes, those can be every bit as cultural, and even a matter of opinion. Remember, most people say what you said about them about the Catholic Church in general. Contempt in speech toward women? Ignorant? Sexist? Why, that’s the Catholic Church all over. Of course we know better, but we must be careful about applying such over the top ‘it’s evil, it’s hate, it’s the mouth of Hell!’ to everything under the sun, as if our own very culturally, very generationally conditioned opinions have a monopoly on what Jesus would have really liked if He was out and about today. As Catholics, we ought to draw a thick line between personal opinion and Good and Evil. Not easy to do, but it should be a main priority, especially if we make a habit of teaching what the Church teaches.

          • Dan F.

            which world? The western world or the pacific island world?

            the evil is in the objectifying – it falls under the prohibition to ‘have other gods before Me’ and ‘making graven images’ commandment.

            • Dave G.

              Let’s not pull the old ‘it’s all cultural’ gibberish. Each culture has its own views, and there is such a thing as tempting others within the cultural context. I’m sort of shocked at how reluctant Catholics seem to be when it comes to discussing the whole ‘tempting others to sin.’ It may not just be in a lying context at all. It may be there’s more to it than that.

  • Momster

    Oh, and I’m expecting my ninth child. Actually it is my 16th as I’ve suffered two fetal demises and six early miscarriages. My oldest is turning 26. A tan covers a multitude of war wounds.

  • LSpinelli

    Late yesterday afternoon, I went to an auction house in South Jersey, taking care of business for The Husband. It was 95+ degrees outside and fairly humid.

    I wore a tank top and Land’s End bermudas. That’s modest in that kind of heat.

    Did I get stares? I sure did. Was I courting them? NO.

    Heck, I could have been wearing an oversized sweatshirt, and I’d still get the dang stares. Happened years ago, but still. I looked like (to me) a frumpy slob, and men were staring.

    So since I can’t control what sets off some random guy somewhere, I’m sticking to being comfortable.

    • Heh. For what it’s worth, the last time I got stares and catcalls, I was wearing a full ankle-length skirt, boots, a heavy wool coat, and a hat. Make of that what you will, Modesty Police.

  • kirthigdon

    I certainly agree with Dave G. that fashions are culturally influenced and are not subject to the kind of absolute standards applied to such things as murder, abortion, adultery, etc. The CCC also takes this position. But in my personal experience, it is far more often women rather than men who try to critique or control what other women wear. At least in contemporary times women pay a lot more attention to dress of either sex than men do. Male “controllers” amount to a handful of fashion designers and self-appointed moralists.
    Kirt Higdon

  • Andy, Bad Person

    Has Rule 34 rendered the modesty debate impossible?

  • Noah Doyle

    Well, I’m glad that Simcha is speaking sanity, because the comboxes sure aren’t.