I don’t believe in a “one size fits all” kind of modesty

Random thoughts on clothes, church, and capoeira pants. You have been warned.

Warning addendum: brief mention of thoughts concerning rape culture and people not wearing clothes in the end. Some words not entirely kid-friendly.

After seeing some blogs by Christian ladies who promote the idea of dressing modestly, I began to think about the western mainstream idea of modesty. Obviously, in the southern parts of the US it often seems to come along with dresses/skirts instead of wearing jeans. (As it does in many parts of Europe, though less pronounced where I live – here you might e.g. encounter Muslim girls wearing high-heels and leggins together with a headscarf!)

When I was a teenager, my mother’s rule was “no spaghetti strap tops and no shorts when singing in the church choir”, which I accepted at that time. After all, it’s not that strict, the weather rarely got hot enough to wear such items, and even now I’m still more or less adhering to this rule – but in our church people seem to be okay with seeing spaghetti strap summer dresses worn at church, so I wear them when I feel like it.

In some parts of Africa, showing your knees is considered far more scandalous than going about topless, as far as I know. And when I went to Zanzibar I decided to mostly keep knees, shoulders, and sometimes even my head at least loosely covered (I wouldn’t ever wear a tight headscarf, not my cup of tea) when walking in town – both for protection from the heat and to show respect to the culture (and be respected in return), as well as for countering the image of the sinful westerners who don’t really believe in anything anymore. (The picture with the giant tortoise in the right side bar shows an approximate version of my daily attire there – with the scarf down – , though I wore the shoulder free Indian dress shown in my avatar once or twice as well ).

I don’t believe in a “one size fits all” kind of modesty. The definition of it can be very different between cultures, and even subcultures.

In church and university I dress differently than I do when playing sports. I wouldn’t go to church here in a really short crop top and might even facepalm at the sight of an only butt-length dress worn to deliver church news on the podium, while standing in a gym hall during a capoeira workshop in my (still pretty covering) sport’s bra to try on a t-shirt or happening to see some of the guys in their boxers is no big deal for me, because different subcultures within one city can be wired very differently! Eventually you will have to respect people even if you can see through their white pants that their underwear has very manly pink stripes or if you can feel something squishy when a girl happens to slam into you chest-first, because if you allow yourself to become distracted by silly stuff like this you might catch a kick in your face by accident, so some basic self-control should be a matter of course regardless of your sex and orientation.

I don’t believe that there is only one kind of modesty, because times and places have different ideas; climate zones play a big role in the development of traditions and norms as well. There’s a nice quote about the bible and European women wearing pants in The Mists of Avalon, by the way.

And it’s for everybody to decide for themselves how far one want’s to walk on either side of the fuzzy line. If someone thinks they need to wear a skirt to be a good Christian, okay, I can respect that. You want to force me to follow your example because you believe I will go to hell in jeans? Nope, I don’t think so, please respect my choice and belief. And don’t tell me that my jeans-clad ass will attract more sinful thoughts than your skirt-wrapped one and that it makes me a bad person. The more you cover yourself, the more sensual the remaining parts of your body will become in your subculture, so don’t be surprised when in a decade or two your church decides to reintroduce veils. The way a women decides to dress is never an excuse for a man’s action. There’s a not so little thing called “rape culture” and “victim blaming”, you know? Even if it’s not physical rape. I don’t think lusty gazes in church are to be seen as a woman’s fault – men are very well capable of self-control! – , though I believe that some modesty for both genders is in place in service – wearing swimming trunks or a bikini is not advisable apart from a beach side service. Looking at nice human bodies is not bad in itself – it’s what we think and make of it that can become something good or bad.  As I said, it’s a fuzzy line to walk.

And yes, I’ve even heard of Christians who go to nudist beaches. Again, a subculture that may seem a little extreme to some people, but if inside these places and subcultures people decide to respect each other no matter how scantily clad, it’s not my place to judge them or their faith. So please don’t judge mine when I decide to wear a tight black top with a pair of stretchy jeans or when I exercise with the guys in an oversized men’s t-shirt instead of wearing make-up like some people think is necessary to be “a good Christian lady” (true story, the internet is full of weird ideas.) Goodbye and thanks for all the fish ;)

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One thought on “I don’t believe in a “one size fits all” kind of modesty

  1. I could not agree more! And it is so difficult to define that line when rearing a child; I told my daughter that I could very well be wrong, but that I would have no respect for myself if I did not do what I truly believed at any one time. That was the best I could do.

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