I have four daughters, and the topic of modesty comes up fairly often in our home. My daughters seem to have an innate desire to dress like the girls around them, and are frustrated with me when I tell them they don’t get to wear the same clothes as some of the other girls wear. Since our conversations on modest dressing are so commonplace, and my daughters aren’t satisfied with the usual answers, I have thought a lot on the subject in an effort to better explain my feelings on modesty to them. Granted, I am a male, and certainly don’t understand the female mind, but I have noticed a few things that highlight to me the value of modesty.
I often hear women discuss how discrimination against women still exists in our society. I hear of glass ceilings in the corporate world, of pay inequality, of societal discouragement for women to pursue certain jobs, such as engineering or programming. As a man, I have struggled to understand what these women were saying, as I didn’t readily see anything that would cause such results. However, something hit me one day as I sat in a continuing legal education course, bored to the point of nodding off numerous times.
I work as an attorney in Utah, and the attorney field is still dominated by men. There are women attorneys, and there are no visible barriers to a woman being an attorney in Utah, but there are not a lot of women attorneys here. I am most often reminded of this point as I sit in continuing legal education classes, where I am surrounded by other attorneys and can see how the majority of attorneys are men.
At this particular course, I was extra bored by the topic and was not really paying attention to what was being said. Instead, I started looking around the room, taking a moment to actually look at the people around me. When I took that moment, I started thinking about the type of practice the person might do, where they might live, etc. As I thought about each person and what it was about the way they looked that made me pre-judge them as I did without knowing anything about them, I suddenly saw a significant difference between the men and women in the room.
A woman was presenting at the moment, and she had just taken over after a man had presented. The two were very opposite in the way they dressed. The man was greying, balding, had a beard, wore his pants high, and had very basic clothes on, just a simple button up shirt. His hair went many different ways, and he didn’t appear to care too much about the way that he looked. He had worn his button up shirt and slacks, and appeared content that he had satisfied his obligations as a presenter. I looked around the room, and saw a room full of similar looking men. Many were overweight, had ugly hair, no hair, or patches of hair, had moles, many (including myself) hadn’t shaved, and most just wore a polo shirt to the course, but all of them looked perfectly content and not concerned about their appearance.
The woman presenter, on the other hand, had every piece of hair perfectly sculpted in some type of do around her head. Her hair was dyed to all be the same color. She had perfectly applied makeup, and wore some type of tight fitting business jacket and short skirt which exhibited her model figure, as well as high heels. By far, she was dressed and looked far superior to any man in the room.
But then, I noticed something troubling. ALL of the women attorneys in the room were dressed the same. While some were heavier than others, they all had well done hair, well done makeup, and all dressed in a way that highlighted their body to the fullest extent possible for their build. As I watched the women, I saw their hands repeatedly fix even the slightest deviation of hair, and saw them work to hold themselves in a position that always best highlighted their body.
While I have always known that women tend to be more concerned about their appearance than men, I had never thought through possible reasons behind that. However, as I sat in that continuing legal education course, something struck me that I had never realized before. Something about these women, I suddenly realized, felt bound and obligated to appear as sexually pleasing as they possibly could, even though they were in a ‘professional’ work environment, while nothing compelled any of the men in the room to feel the same obligation.
Since that time, I have thought a lot about our culture’s push and demand for women to always appear as sexually pleasing as they possibly can. To me, our culture’s demand is so strong that it appears to mentally and emotionally enslave many women. While it may sound outlandish to some, I do believe that, as a general rule, many women are mentally and emotionally enslaved, used, and mistreated, and sadly, women themselves embrace this type of abuse as they accept the lie perpetuated by society that their individual worth is tied to their ability to appear sexually pleasing.
To me, it appears many women have invisible chains controlling the way they think and act. As an example, many women I know quite literally cannot walk outside without trying to look perfect. They would die being seen in public without makeup on, or without their hair done. They appear to be enslaved to an unforgiving and constant master of trying to look sexually pleasing. When I drive to work, I see women driving while finalizing their makeup and hair. When I go to the store, I see women exhausted from shopping for hours on end trying to find a piece of clothing that perfectly fits all of the curves on their body. Women are depressed when they get pregnant as their belly grows in size, and they are depressed when they have their baby because they retain some additional weight. There is a difference, of course, between seeking to look good and seeking to look sexually pleasing, and while some women simply want to look good, many appear to be driven to always look as sexually pleasing as they can.
I have had to wait – a lot – for women to get everything about their looks perfect before they are willing to leave to a destination. From early on in life, I knew girls who spent hours each day perfecting the way they looked. Girls starved themselves, refused to get an ice cream cone, or exercised endlessly trying to maintain a perfect figure. Something was driving all of these women and girls to spend their daily energy and emotions on their looks.
From all appearances to me, most everything in many a woman’s world revolves around the way she looks. She is happy when she feels beautiful, and depressed when she feels ugly. Thin women suffer depression because another woman is thinner, or because another woman is thin with a bigger bust. In other words, women feel depressed when they don’t satisfy the ‘master’ of appearance, and it seems that very few women are content with the way they look – all because there is always someone with a more perfect image.
On the other hand, most men seem content with the way they look. They are ok with bad hair days, they are ok with a potbelly, and their self-worth generally doesn’t rise or fall on how they look. Because of this difference, I begin to think on where the ‘master’ that drives a woman in this way comes from, and why it generally doesn’t impact the man like it does the woman.
As I reflected on the women at the continuing legal education course I attended, as well as other women I have met, all of the reasons to me, ultimately, pointed back to one ‘master’ that demanded women always appear as sexually pleasing as possible – the human male.
Males, throughout history, have often done what they could to keep females in an inferior role. Women weren’t allowed to vote, own property, attend school, etc., and they had to fight and work to overcome the inferior status imposed by the males around them. Now, women have found a place where the law treats them equal with men, but inequality still persists, meaning that the source of inequality comes from something besides the law.
One significant source feeding the inequality is the difference in how we, as a culture, view and value a woman and her body. Our culture says the more sexually pleasing a woman can appear, the higher value she has in society.
Think of what this really means though. Why is appearing sexually pleasing such a big deal? I’ll tell you (and I’m quite certain on this as I am a male). It’s because men consume sexuality through what they see. Certainly, there are many different levels of sexuality, but at its foundation, male sexuality starts with what they see, and what a male sees contributes to many other levels of male sexuality as well (think of the power of pornography, all consumed through sight alone).
So, men may have given up the power to keep women away from jobs, to keep them from voting, etc., but men have maintained some serious powers still – the power to compel women to be their eye candy, the power to constantly have their sexual appetite fed through what they see, the power to make women feel that the sum total of their self-worth is found in their ability to be a sexual object.
As I pass some women on the streets or in the halls, I notice something. If I look a woman in the eye, many instantly look away, turning their head away from me. Somehow, many women are trained to do this, from the most educated in society down to the most humble of us. I grew up in a rougher part of town, where gangsters, or wannabe gangsters, roamed. It was well known that avoiding eye contact was a sign of inferiority, and I spent my time on the streets maintaining eye contact with each wannabe gangster I passed. Because I could maintain eye contact, they knew not to mess with me, and I never had any problems. People who avoided eye contact though were easy targets for them to harass or pick on, as the avoidance of eye contact signaled to them some type of recognition of inferiority.
When I watch other males walk by a female, I often see them establish eye contact for a quick second until many a female invariable turns her head away from the man. The turning of the head then gives the man a quick second in which his eyes scan the woman down and up, as the turning of the head seems to be an open invitation for the scan to take place. If a woman maintains eye contact, however, things are awkward for the man because he is not used to his scan taking place while under the direct watch of the woman he is scanning, and often the scan never occurs when the woman maintains eye contact.
This practice ultimately makes me feel more that women are treated as sexual objects by men. Why is there a glass ceiling, pay differences, and lingering inequality? While I don’t know all of the reasons, one contributing factor is that some part of a man, even if just subconsciously, views a woman as a sexual object. The woman’s body is simply there to gratify the man’s sexual appetite.
Now, I’m not saying that all men are sexual monsters or that all men consciously think of these things. But, I am saying that some part of a man, even if only a small part that he doesn’t consciously recognize, looks to a woman to feed his sexual appetite, an appetite that always begins with a scan – with a judgment on how sexually pleasing the woman looks that day. And, when the level of sexually pleasing looks is the foundation of the evaluation of a woman, equality will never be built or achieved since the male brain separates objects and individuals in the hierarchy of importance. If a woman first has to pass a sexually pleasing test in the man’s mind, she will, first and foremost, always be an object, with her individuality only second to that.
So, to get to the power of modesty. Dressing immodestly feeds the male perception that woman are sexual objects, valued only if they appear sexually pleasing. Wearing a shirt that reveals a lot of cleavage focuses the natural instincts of a man on the cleavage alone and feeds the ‘object’ mentality. Many women I know want to be seen for who they are. They want to be valued for their skills, their mind, and their individuality, as they should be. Yet, they fall prey to the lie of dressing immodestly, making it so that men only see what is skin deep, making it so that men only see them as an object, and making it, ultimately, so that they feel compelled to maintain a sexually pleasing look at all times.
I read an article a little while ago with a theme along the lines of “I never knew a bikini could hide so much.” http://chastityproject.com/2015/10/i-never-knew-a-bikini-could-hide-so-much/ The point of the article was that when women wear bikinis, people can only see their skin. Men only see a sexual object, not an individual. When so much skin is showing, people don’t see the individual, they don’t see the brains, they don’t see the heart. Simply put, immodesty blinds us to seeing the true person inside.
As people though, we are more than just a physical body. We have depth, and fulfillment in life will only come from reaching the depths of who we are and having others recognize the beauty associated with the depth inside each of us. Immodesty significantly reduces the chances of reaching that depth, as it keeps attention on the surface, attention on the object part of who we are.
Why don’t I simply tell men to stop looking at women as objects? I do, and men certainly have a role to play in treating women appropriately. However, men are hardwired to view the sexuality associated with women. It takes serious work and effort on a man’s part to escape the natural inclination and thoughts produced with sexuality. Some men work hard on this, but others do not. Some try to avoid it, but for those that actually try, when they are tired, sad, mad, or otherwise not feeling their best, they will often give in to their natural passions, especially when women all around them are offering it for viewing.
In other words, the natural man encourages a man to view a woman as an object, as an inferior, and something for his gratification. Nature simply gives man the natural passion to consume sexuality through his eyes, and it is certain that there will always be men who take no effort to overcome their natural wiring. Since that reality exists, if we, collectively as men and women, want to overcome that more base part of the natural world, we should stop feeding it. We should remove its pull. If women want to wait for men to simply learn to conquer their natural passions, women will be waiting an extremely long time for things to change. No man is incentivized to change when he can feast daily on sexuality, until he reaches a point that it has ruined his life and his family’s life. There is no reason to wait for such consequences associated with objectifying women to come though, and we should start now to stop feeding the problem.
So, why do I encourage my daughters to dress modestly? Because I want them to know that they are more than their body. I want them to know that they don’t have to fall prey to the mental and emotional enslavement of always feeling compelled to dress as sexually pleasing as possible. I want them to know that they truly are equal with every man out there, and that they do not have to live a life feeding a man’s sexual appetite. I want them to be free from the chains of depression that haunt women whose self-worth rises or falls on their appearance. In short, I want them to enjoy the power and fulfillment associated with being seen as an individual.
To me, modest dressing means power. To me, looking a man in the eye and not looking away means equality. I truly want my girls to be free from the flood of sexuality that so negatively impacts women and feeds men. I’m honest about the realities of how men view women, and I want my daughters to understand that they can feed the problem, or they can reject the chains (originating from men) that demand they always appear sexually pleasing. I want my daughters to be seen as more than an object, so I encourage them to dress as more than an object. Modest clothing conveys confidence, modest clothing directs attention to deeper and more meaningful parts of the individual, and modest clothing helps break the chains that leave women depressed and used in our country. In short, there is a real power in dressing modestly, a power that betters individuals, families and societies.