Today I read a somewhat popular/viral blog post about Modesty and Mormonism. I agreed with a lot of the points that the female writer had (we should never blame women for men's thoughts etc) but by the time I had finished glazing over the comments I realized we are missing the biggest point on the subject.
You can never be completely modest, and it encompasses so much more than clothing.
The concept of modesty has been warped to mean cap sleeve shirts and horrid knee length shorts. If you search the For the Strength of the Youth pamphlet, modesty is only mentioned once and it ONLY deals with clothing:
"Immodest clothing is any clothing that is tight, sheer, or revealing in any other manner. Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back. Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance."
Can we also notice that it doesn't give specifics for lengths? Why have we decided so black and white that it is the knees?! And, why are there no details for men? Why not mention low riding pants or wearing sleeveless shirts (and if you are guilty of those 'awesome' muscle shirts, just stop, they are not your friend).
The issue is, modesty is part of every aspect of your life.
Since this post is about Mormonism and modesty, the Church's definition is:
Modesty is an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves. Instead, we seek to “glorify God in [our] body, and in [our] spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:20; see also 1 Corinthians 6:19).
If we taught this definition of modesty we would not focus just on how women dress. We would talk about having a modest home (which let's be honest, maybe we don't because this is Utah where people love big hair almost as much as their big house), a modest attitude--modesty as a tool to glorify God. We would talk about a hundred things BESIDES clothes. And, if you think about it this way, modesty is something that you are always striving for. When you dwell on it being only clothing you stop thinking about it once your closet is full of "modest" options beacuse you are now a "modest" person.
Modesty has become a discussion on clothing that has also somehow morphed into sexual discussions which are quite possibly the most damaging thing that I listened to as a teen. I had lesson after lesson about how girls not only have to dress modest to stop boys from having impure thoughts but that they have to stop all unwanted/improper advances. This was a constant lesson, a lesson that said, "guys always want your body and are constantly thinking of sex, you are the gender that has no sexual desires. Your job is to keep the men in line until it is time to get married and then make babies."
Because of lessons like this I had a very twisted and horrible dating life. I always felt that I was not supposed to make advances and should wait for boys to be interested in me rather than it being an open discussion from both interested parties. Even when I was dating someone I never felt like I could initiate anything--even if we had kissed before and were clearly "an item" it was always the boy that should make the move. This broke me. I was in terrible after terrible relationship where boys treated me like I assumed I should be treated. I didn't actually acknowledge this was a huge problem until I was 25! I had been 'dating' for almost a decade!
In my opinion--that of a woman who went through 6 years of Young Women's and 10 years of Relief Society--we need to stop worrying about hemlines and simultaneously sexualizing and desexualizing our women. We need to teach independence, empowerment, and self respect. We need to teach that sex is not something to be feared but something we WILL all want. How can you expect people to have a healthy sex life when you teach them for years that it is the worst sin, that is until you have that marriage license in hand. Here's a noble thought, maybe we would encourage sex ed/health to be taught at home and not so heavily in church! We need to teach the basic, very basic, aspects of Christianity. We need to accept everyone and stop asking about their sexual history or orientation. We need to stop staring at the women in shorter skirts and be grateful they showed up. And most importantly we need to teach our men to respect women, regardless of how they look or their past, and not perpetuate rape culture.
Think of all the things we could teach if we spent those hours teaching about God or Christ or being a good Samaritan instead of drilling girls about which swimsuits are allowed at girl's camp and how to avoid the "door step scene" (I seriously had this lesson, because we were also apparently not supposed to kiss...) or the varying degrees of kisses (there is this super weird fruit analogy that is forever burned into my brain about the degree of french kissing) or talking about necking which NO ONE knows the definition of as a teen (or ever).
We need to strive to be modest.
We need to strive to be kind.
We need to teach the things that actually really matter.
And we need to stop giving a damn what other people are doing, wearing, or saying as long as it does not directly affect us. (and for that one guy that is going to comment: "but a woman dressing immodestly DOES affect me" i would say, unless her boobs pop out of her scantily clad shirt and physically accost you, if you avert your eyes you will be just fine, she did not actually hurt you.)