LDS thoughts on Modesty

LDS thoughts on Modesty August 15, 2015

Last year I published three articles on the virtue of modesty:  the first deconstructing the rhetoric surrounding it in terms of the feminist theory of the “male gaze”; the second on modesty and humility, challenging one traditionalist interpretation of modesty; the third on the im/modesty of mixed gender wrestling.  (I guess this is a topic which interests me a lot.)  This particular round of posts was started by a video posted by Kyle Cupp  entitled “Virtue makes you beautiful“, a video produced by and featuring a group of young Mormon men.

So I guess I am bringing things full circle because I want to share an article I found from Meridian Magazine, an LDS oriented publication.  The article is entitled “The Costs of Misunderstanding Modesty“.   Though written by and for Mormons, I think it is a valuable contribution to our Catholic discussion on modesty.

Though it does not mention the video directly, it challenges the assumptions implicit in the video (see Kyle’s excellent analysis) and more generally makes a strong critique of most discussions of “modest dress”.   She makes five main points; here I want to highlight the first two:

1) When we reduce the concept of modesty to what females wear, we are reinforcing the very thing that modesty is supposed to help avoid: the sexual objectification of women’s bodies.

2) Overemphasizing modesty can unintentionally teach that girls are responsible for boys’ sexual thoughts and behaviors.

For me the money quote that really caught my attention is the following:

A woman dressing in a way that a man views as sexually provocative may have an influence on him, but only he is responsible for his behavior.

I think this is an important distinction and I want to keep this in mind should I ever discuss “dress as communication” as I did in one of my posts.

Finally, the author gives 10 tips for talking about modesty, and thoughtfully summarized them in a handy graphic:


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  • I would also add “Talk about the other areas of life where modesty is important.”

    It’s sad that we think of modesty primarily in terms of sexuality and ignore its other meanings, ie humility. St. Therese said that God is far more forgiving of sins against purity as opposed to sins of pride, and yet we hear far more about the former than we do about the latter.

    I also especially love number 5, “Notice when you are judging another person’s level of modesty,” and number 8, “Teach the cultural context of modesty.”

  • Mark VA

    Regarding the “money quote”:

    It seems to me that a mature heterosexual male should ignore that which he perceives as provocative in the opposite sex. Just leave it alone, keep you wits about you, and remember Šárka:

    It also appears that the American culture, having tasted certain social pathologies, is beginning to move away from the so called sexual liberation, which began in the 1960s. I think this is a welcome development, if it means that a balanced modesty, but not prudery or excessive patriarchy, is being reconsidered.

    Somewhat tangential: Oxford Mississippi is not far from Alabama – I think William Faulkner is a great read on this subject: