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The yoga pants witch hunt: missing pieces of the modesty conversation

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It’s getting to be that time of year again. You know, the one with all the articles about women’s modesty and how we should be dressing to prevent men from sinning, and are bikinis reallyokay?

I have waited several years to write about modesty, because I know it’s a hot topic and people tend to feel very strongly that their way is the right way. And you know what? You’re entitled to your opinion. Whether you rock a floor-length denim skirt or short-shorts, rock on my friend.

But there’s 3 things I keep missing in our conversations, on both sides, that I’d like to talk about.

 

1) Modesty culture has no boundaries.

Reading and listening to conversations about how someone else’s sin is my fault gives me anxiety like you wouldn’t believe. Why? Because there is no male responsibility in modesty culture. There is very little accountability for the way a man chooses to look at a woman, because the woman is responsible for the outcome.

What else does that sound like?

“You made me beat you.” “You made me get angry.” “You made me break up with you.” A classic sign of irresponsibility is putting the responsibility of our emotional well-being on someone else.

(For clarification: it is also our responsibility to make sure we are not a threat to the safety of others. A woman should not have to dress a certain way to protect herself. If you think you may be teetering on the edge of making some bad decisions, it is your job to take the necessary precautions.)

The argument with this is “why cause your friend to stumble?”, and I think that’s a great thing. Yes, let’s do what we can to help out those we love. But when that attempt at prevention causes you personal anxiety, fear and stress, therefore causing you to stumble, it’s only making things worse. If this is about community supporting one another, let’s all do our part by taking responsibility of what’s ours to be responsible for, and not put unnecessary pressure on each other to take care of us.

Once you become an adult, your well being is your responsibility. Male or female.

 

2) Pressure. Pressure. Pressure.

This whole modesty thing puts an insane amount of pressure on women. There’s no biblical standard for what is considered modest – in fact, the Bible only refers to modesty as wearing inexpensive clothing, not hiding your sexuality.

What’s unacceptable in New York is acceptable in Los Angeles, what’s acceptable in Chicago is unacceptable in rural Indiana. Women are harassed when they’re not wearing enough, and ostracized if they’re wearing too much. Whether we like it or not, there is not a one-size-fits-all (pun intended) rule for what women can and cannot wear. So keeping up with the latest “acceptable” and “unacceptable” when all we want is to just be comfortable is completely exhausting.

Believe it or not, most women I know don’t put on yoga pants to flaunt anything or taunt anyone – they’re widely sold, not too expensive, flattering (confidence boost!) and seriously the most freaking comfortable things I have ever worn. Not to mention they stretch. God bless ’em.

 

3) Modesty culture shows a routine disrespect for men.

I could write an entire blog post about just this point (hey who knows, maybe I will one day), but for the sake of your attention span I’ll keep it brief.

When women are taught they must manage the emotions and desires of men for them, it really says men will never have the capacity to be your equal emotionally. Men will never learn how to listen instead of fix (which, by the way, is not a male thing but rather a coping mechanism for someone who doesn’t know how to sit in emotional discomfort). Men will never learn to remain interested in your thoughts and emotions while you’re sharing your heart with them – that’s just too much to ask. And if they can’t do those things, they definitely can’t control their lustful thoughts when they see a girl in a bikini at the beach.

Dear reader and friend: are you sure you want to encourage this belief? Are you sure you want the message you send to your daughter, niece, or friend be that they will never find a partner who can actually do life as an emotional equal? That they must always manage the emotions of their husband?

My entire life my brother went above and beyond most boys his age in emotional maturity, and as a result many of his friends growing up were girls. And you know what? I spent years trying to convince my brother that bikinis were sexually tempting, and he was the one who talked me out of it. He offered women respect when I only gave them judgment.

It’s time to let go of the yoga pants witch hunt, and instead offer people respect. Kindness. The benefit of the doubt. Regardless of what they’re wearing.