And another issue: Modesty

Recently there have been a lot of posts about how Mormons view Modesty. Even from fellow Mormons, it seems there is a broad misconception out there. I can't find the article I read the other night, but the general gist was this: Women in the church are confused, because we are supposed to dress "sexy" enough to get a man, but modest enough to get a man who is a nice, worthy priesthood holder who doesn't like girls who dress immodestly. Apparently, us girls are lost and confused because we just don't know how to walk the fine line between beauty, and the ugliness that is modesty.
I was pretty surprised at what a big deal it was. I don't claim to be perfect, but the church's guidelines for modesty, unlike a schools or workplace, have always been very clear. After you go through the temple, it's even more simple: cover your garments. It's like drawing with a connect-the-dots. It really doesn't leave much up for discussion.
Let's go back a little bit here and let me just say: I get it. I get the pressure that we are supposed to dress a certain way to "be hot". However, that pressure does not AT ALL come from the church, it comes from the world. And the thing is, we know it's true. Despite anything you believe, no one is comfortable when they are dressed immodestly. You feel exposed. You feel like you're on TV and everyone is watching you. You feel like you need to keep "fixing" yourself (pulling your shirt down, fixing the sleeve length) because you're so uncomfortable.
All of this is general knowledge, but last year I uncovered a new layer to modesty that I had never understood before. Caleb and I were at a drive-in getting some food, and our waitress came over wearing short shorts and a low-cut shirt. I didn't think much of it until she leaned over to talk to us, and her shirt fell, leaving little to the imagination. This was obviously not the first time something like this had ever happened to me, but it was the first time since I'd been married. The second it happened, my blood started to boil. Now don't get me wrong, Caleb is NOT the type to have looked, and when I asked him about it later he had no idea it had even happened, but I was still so angry with the girl. Suddenly, she wasn't dressing to keep herself cool at work. She wasn't dressing to impress her friends, her boyfriend, or other boys. She was, in that moment, dressing for my husband's attention. Suddenly, all the times in my life that I had heard I should dress modestly came rushing back: is this what I was doing every time I stepped outside showing a little too much skin? Whether we intend to or not, when we dress in the morning, we are dressing, specifically, for each and every person we see that day. For our friends, our families, strangers in the store, other people's husbands or boyfriends, people we see at work, little girls who look up to us. And they are all looking at you and whatever you are exposing because you're putting it up on a pedestal for all to see.
There is a thing in Child Development studies that happens in Young Adults called Imaginary Audience. Remember in Middle School feeling like everyone was watching you all the time, when really everyone was too focused on themselves to notice anyone else? Well when you dress immodestly, you get that same feeling, except this time, your audience is anything but imaginary.
I wasn't a girl who liked to wear short shorts, as I just never felt confident enough in them. But I still remember arguing that tank tops weren't that bad, who cares if someone sees my shoulders? And all my mormon friends were wearing short shorts, so why not me?
I thought I understood. We've all heard the reasons. But that day was the day I realized the ultimate one for me: I don't want other women dressing to catch my husbands attention, and I don't want attention from anyone but my husband. So despite what that article said, No girls aren't asking for it when they dress a certain way and get treated a certain way because of it. We all have the choice. But I think it would have changed my mind to realize what I was actually doing when I dressed that way and stepped out into the world every day.

1 comment:

  1. I want you to come speak to our Young Women, you have a wonderful gift of expressing yourself in such a wonderful way and I find myself agreeing with it all!