We spent the morning at the beach trying not to get burned. I think we were successful at keeping Baby M pink and not red. It helped that he wanted to lay on a blanket with a large burp cloth over his face and sleep for a good portion of the time. Sounds pretty great, right?
When we got home, I checked Facebook, and a friend had posted an essay about “Men, Sex, and Modesty.” The gist is that men need to control their thoughts and get used to the idea that women around them will dress immodestly so we shouldn’t put all the burden on women and their attire when it comes to addressing the problem of male promiscuity. Valid point. The world it pretty far gone when it comes to the modesty issue, and I hope I speak for a lot of parents when I say I hope to teach my son to control himself regardless of what influences he encounters in the path of life.
That said, it doesn’t excuse us (as women) from making some efforts in the direction of personal modesty. At the same time I saw the article on men and modesty, I saw a video about the evolution of swimwear.
The video highlights research that shows a woman’s modesty does have a neurological impact on the men around her and that immodesty does lead to the objectification of women. Knowing that wouldn’t you want to be modest for yourself? Just because other women are being objectified doesn’t mean we have to contribute further to the problem, or worse yet, personally become objects.
Some people choose to disparage modesty by taking remarks like the following out of context: “Being a guardian of virtue means you will never text words or images to young men that may cause them to lose the Spirit, lose their priesthood power, or lose their virtue.” (Elaine S. Dalton) These people want to focus on the fact that women do have some ability to control how they are perceived by men and suggest that men should be entirely responsible for their perceptions of women. But Elaine Dalton continues: “It means that you understand the importance of chastity because you also understand that your body is a temple and that the sacred powers of procreation are not to be tampered with before marriage. You understand that you possess a sacred power that involves the holy responsibility of bringing other spirits to earth to receive a body in which to house their eternal spirit. This power involves another sacred soul. You are a guardian of something ‘more precious than rubies.’” (Elaine S. Dalton)
There is no singular reason to be a modest woman. It’s true that the way women dress does have an effect on men. It’s also true that dressing modestly sends a message of confidence and self-respect. Modesty is about garnering respect from others and respecting yourself. It’s about realizing that your body is capable of bringing new life into this world and that is a sacred thing.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not taking my fashion cues from the pictures of Mormon young women in the conference edition of the Ensign.
But, I do respect these girls who are making efforts to be modest. I respect that a large body of young women (and their mothers and leaders) are making a difference in the world. Every time a woman dresses modestly she proves to the men around her that modesty exists, that women do not have to be objects, that there are women to date who respect themselves enough to dress modestly. I can’t overstate the importance of simply knowing that these qualities are out there. Too often I talk to friends who say they wish they could live some level of a traditional, conservative lifestyle. Maybe it’s that they want to wait until they’re married to have sex. Maybe it’s that they want to be married before cohabiting. But whatever it is, many of my friends look at the world around them and say, “I don’t see anyone who will live that life I want with me.” They don’t see other men and women waiting until marriage for all these things, and so they don’t think it’s possible. If we want to live in a world where women are viewed as people and equals rather than objects, then we have to prove that modesty is out there. We have to show men they don’t have to settle for less-than-modest because modest does exist. And we do that one woman at a time.