Before you get defensive, offensive & keep your girls away from me, hear my heart.
I don't hate modesty, I hate this huge campaign to make our girls more "modest". Yes, shorts have become shorter, yes companies are selling riskier underwear to younger girls, and yes tween girls are wearing things that are considerably too sexy. But, the constant force feeding of the word modesty to teen girls by women generations older, is leaving me so irate. If I read another conservative Christian blog out there telling girls to wear bermuda shorts, I will scream (or cuss under my breath). Wearing more clothes is not the answer to this modesty issue.
Why do I say I hate modesty? For the better part of my upbringing, I was taught that being modest is about keeping hidden. It's about hiding things so your brothers in church camp won't stumble. It's about making sure your shorts are finger tip length or longer (good luck if you have long legs and arms). Modesty is about making sure you wear a t-shirt all summer when your male counterparts can walk around shirtless or your tank top strap is 2" wide.
I was a tomboy. Anyone who knew me between the ages of 8-12 knew that I wore my male cousin's hand-me-downs. I was more comfortable in the shorts found in the boys section & shirts that I could swim in. It was a battle for me to find church clothes, because I didn't like dresses or skirts (jeans were not allowed). I didn't wear those because I was trying to be modest, it was because I didn't want anyone to see my body.
I never felt comfortable wearing "sexy" clothes. Some Saturday nights, I went to a dance club in 7th grade, called 141 (don't ask-- and if any of my Middle School classmates read this remember this club, yes I am talking about THAT one). Somehow I convinced my father that going "clubbing" on a Saturday night when I was 13/14 was necessary for my well-being. Here's the deal. The only thing sexy about what I wore, was the eye glitter from hot topic. I remember specifically an outfit I wore once, and it was kids gap linen shorts & and earth-tone spaghetti strap. Better yet, one time this club had a foam party. All my friends wore bikinis (creeps me out now). I didn't get that memo, so I wore my favorite speedo one piece. TOTALLY HOT-- not. I felt out of place. Due to the fact I was late to the puberty party all my friends were at, I didn't have a whole lot to show.
When I finally started shopping for summer clothes in the girls section, my legs had decided to grow 3" longer in one year. My single dad and I finally figured out the juniors shorts sizing system (a battle all its own) and I bought shorts that fit me. And they were cute, or so I thought.
Yes. Those were THE shorts I bought with my dad. And you know what at the time, I didn't think anything of the length. I finally was feeling confident enough to wear shorts that weren't worn by boys who rode skate boards. But, at church camp -- it was against the rules & my grandma hated them. My poor camp counselor had to deal with my bad attitude. I thought it was hysterical how many people hated those shorts. But I was growing into my legs & confidence in my slowly changing body. The only message I got was, cover yourself.
The more I was told to cover myself, the more uncomfortable I was with wearing clothes that fit properly. I wore jeans that were a few sizes too big and was allergic to belts (seriously, I am allergic to nickel) , so I rolled them up (the saddest day ever was when I finally grew into those jeans). It took me a long time of being around friends who wore bikinis before I ever felt confident enough to wear one. Of course, the first time I wore one it was borrowed & of course my grandma was mortified. She talked about modesty, and wearing a one-piece, and how inappropriate it was to wear a bikini.
Meet my grandparents. See the lady with the amazing leg muscles, rock hard abs -- that's my dad's mom! Look what my grandma is wearing! Ok, my point of posting this picture isn't to call her a hypocrite, but its to point out the fact that she was confidently wearing that bathing suit. What I find awesome about this picture is that both my grandparents are wearing bikinis! Hah. Yes, I have a speedo wearing Italian grandpa.
Right now, I am a twenty-six year old who, for the most part, dresses classy/sporty/trendy. I don't label my style as modest by any means. I would label it as confident. My biggest issue with this whole message of modesty is that we fall short at building up confidence. How can we expect our girls to feel good about body image if we keep telling them to hide it?
For me, when I feel insecure I wear things that would get the most attention in the wrong ways. When I feel confident, I am less likely to be swayed by what the world calls sexy and stick to what makes me, me. Confidence leads to modesty. If girls can become more confident in themselves, we wont look for attention by having what we think others want to see on display.
Stop telling girls to cover their body, when you haven't told them to cover their heart & mind. I feel like we can not separate the symptom of immodesty from the heart issue. We need Jesus. We need to place our confidence and worth in him. We need women to start building proper self-esteem & encouraging our little sisters to dress with confidence. Simply covering up will not make modesty happen.
What I needed to hear when I felt like the attack was only on my clothes:
- You are enough. Proverbs 31:1
- Your insecurities are valid.
- You are called to be confident. Esther
- Your worth is not based on appearance.
- It's not about the clothes.
- You are a role model.
- You are not alone. Isaiah 43:1-3
I was running for student council re-election for my senior year of high school. I was running against an adequately popular guy. Being on student council was fun and the only time you had to speak publicly was at the election assembly & before a meal at a dance. I was totally nervous about not winning this race. As I sat in one of my science classes, one of my male classmates said I should wear a skirt for my election speech. In the back of my head I knew I didn't own any kind of skirt he was referencing to, so I made a special trip to the mall to purchase a new mini skirt. Again, if any of my former classmates read this, yes - I am talking about the time when Ashley wore a mini skirt and spaghetti strap with a denim jacket up on stage. Needless to say, administration was shocked. I had been campaigning all year to get a bible club in our public school, and now here I am indecently dressed in front of a captive audience. I didn't win the election, and I probably lost respect, but what I did hear from my principal was he couldn't believe that I was the same girl trying to start a bible club.
I needed to hear that I was a role model. I needed to hear I was meant to be confident, that my worth in that election wasn't based on appearance. I needed to hear that my God made me. I needed to hear that it's ok to have insecurities. I needed to hear that Esther had to be confident in order to do what was right. I needed Jesus.
Let me say that I don't have this all figured out. My opinion is just an opinion. I respect the message others want to get out by placing emphasis on modesty. But if working with students has taught me anything, the more we focus on the behavior, the less they feel we are interested in their heart.
My challenge to myself, don't hate the word modesty. Also find ways to help build confidence in my friends and little sisters that results in a change of heart that results in a want to dress modest.