A group of bloggers, including myself, have teamed up to participate in something we have termed ‘The Modesty Panel’. We all felt very strongly on the topic of modesty and what it means for women all over the world. Understandably, we all have varying opinions - opinions that relate to different aspects of life, depending on where we’re from and the varying lifestyles we lead.
The other bloggers participating in the project are:
- Abreast Abroad - Shana
- Corporate Curves - Tina
- Off the Rack - Leah
- Stares bad. Breasts Private - Darlene
Modesty is a controversial topic, especially as everyone has a different idea of boundaries, and where to draw the line. Some might argue that there should be no boundaries, and that’s an opinion I can very easily understand. However, having said that, I do draw boundaries for myself, and would also do so for my children. This is not to say that I feel I could judge others on what they wear, and of course I would never succumb to any prejudice that I may have. In fact I would do my level best to both understand and accept someone else’s choice to wear what they want and what they feel comfortable in, and question why I might have reacted with a certain prejudice to begin with. It’s the same with any controversial topic, whether it’s politics, religion, or something else, everyone should be entitled to their own beliefs and to embrace their own choices. I love that all my friends and acquaintances are different – the world would be a very boring place if we all believed the same thing – the same can be said about modesty.
I’d like to try and articulate my own thoughts and feelings on the topic of modesty, but at the same time remind anyone reading this that these are just my thoughts, based on my own experiences and culture, and this is no way reflects how I feel about others with different opinions.
While I was born in the UK and live here now, I spent a large portion of my childhood living and attending school in The Netherlands. These two cultures are very different particularly in terms of modesty. In the UK, we can be quite a prude bunch. I have a lot of that in myself; ignoring my own feelings for the sake of manners and civility, making snap judgements about someone who does not act in what I deem to be a ‘proper’ manner, not wearing a certain piece of clothing because it could be considered inappropriate. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, even to me, but this has a lot to do with my upbringing in this country, and the way my parents taught me to behave. At the same time, I have a bit of the Dutch in me too; I wholeheartedly do believe in speaking your mind when it comes to something significant, and not dwelling on what others may think of you, and I do believe we should be allowed to wear whatever we like without judgement. It is only through working on myself as a person that I have come to embrace the good aspects of both these cultures. In my perfect world, there would be a lovely mixture of these qualities brought together to create a place where people are respectful and polite, yet confident and individual, all while being kind to your fellow (wo)man.
Speaking of embracing individuality, there has been a large amount of controversy lately surrounding school dress codes, particularly in the USA.
I’m going to list a few topics I have read about recently:
- Cheerleaders from a school in Omaha were told their skirts were ‘too short’, and they could no longer wear their uniforms – despite the fact the school had purchased these uniforms for the girls themselves.
Well the first thing point out is that the school really has no right to kick up a fuss about uniforms that they had previously deemed appropriate. This implies that once the uniforms were seen on the cheerleaders, it was only at that point (with their curves and feminine figures) that they were apparently no longer acceptable. What a terribly damaging thought for a young girl, to feel that her own body turns a previously appropriate uniform into something completely unacceptable. We all have different body shapes, and the same piece of clothing can look completely different on one person to the next – does that mean some people shouldn’t be allowed to wear the same clothing as others?
– The Principal of a school in Minnesota sent out an email to parents telling them that girls wearing leggings with a t-shirt instead of a long jumper, was inappropriate attire to wear at school. He claimed that the legging material was ‘too tight’ and distracting for other students.
This is bizarre. These girls are not even showing skin, they are wearing leggings. Now, while I myself wouldn’t choose to wear leggings without a skirt over the top, that is just my personal choice. These girls obviously feel comfortable with what they’re wearing, and as they’re not even showing skin, only shape, I cannot understand where the issue lies. Boys need to be taught that the female form can be both sexual and non-sexual depending on the context. Even if a boy was to be caught off guard by his hormones, it is the parents’ job (and the school’s job as well) to teach children what is and isn’t appropriate behaviour – hormones are something we all experience and learn to keep under control when necessary.
– At a school in Michigan, a girl arrived one day wearing a pink & black pirate costume – the Principal informed her that she looked like a ‘porn star’. The student asked what a porn star was, and the Principal explained it to her informing her that ‘all men watch porn’. Needless to say, the girl was shocked to learn that that was what she looked like.
This is not the way for a young girl to learn about pornography! If the Principal felt she had to say something, there are countless better ways to explain about modesty other than relate it straight back to porn. The implication is she looked like she wanted to have sex, this does not promote confidence in young girls – it is one of the worst kinds of ‘slut-shaming’ and can only result in feelings of guilt and humiliation. Why didn’t she discuss the choice of outfit with the student? Why didn’t she ask what she liked about wearing the pirate costume and why?
– Possibly one of the worst cases: At a school in Ohio, students were told to remove t-shirts that had the pro-gay rainbow image on the front.
This perhaps veers slightly off-topic, but I mention it because it shows how hard these schools are trying to crush individuality out of their students. Individual opinions are no longer acceptable, there seems to be just ‘one’ opinion that is encouraged. Some of these children are even being punished or suspended – what does that teach them? That having your own opinion or belief is wrong? Then it’s no wonder these children grow up so confused and unable to embrace who they really are.
One particular area of modesty which can cause some very heated discussions is about women and girls showing ‘too much skin’. This has been talked about a lot in the media, and it usually goes hand-in-hand with ‘slut-shaming’. This then creates a direct link with rape culture, and the idea that a woman can actually be blamed for a rape because of what she chose to wear. Again, we all have our opinions of what clothes show too much skin, and there will always be people who choose to dress more modestly than others, but that should never affect how the person is treated. Accusing someone of being a ‘slut’ based purely on what they are wearing or what they look like, is a very sad by-product of our society, where it is assumed a certain image will provoke a certain reaction. In my opinion this is the very significant fact that needs to be dealt with - it is society as a whole that needs to change, not women and their choice of clothing.
While I’m not keen on (for example) those tiny shorts that are pretty much just underpants in a more fancy material, or tiny crop tops that barely cover more than nipples, it is a fact of life that there will always be someone somewhere wearing clothes like that, and that is their choice.
Now, I personally feel a lack of clothing being worn in school isn’t really appropriate, and that has nothing whatsoever to do with boys being ‘distracted’ or other people’s opinions. The only fact of any significance is that school children are young. Young girls are sometimes under the impression that having more skin on show is a way to make themselves more attractive to the opposite sex (and a lot of this stems from what we see in the media). This is another aspect of modesty that is often ignored; the reasons why a young girl might choose to dress in a certain way – that to me is another very concerning point that needs to be addressed. I am all for people wearing whatever they like, but not at the expense of their self-respect. Girls and boys need to be taught that they should dress for themselves, not for anybody else.
This brings me to talk about one of my favourite campaigns; Beauty Redefined.
Beauty Redefined was created by twins Lindsay and Lexie Kite. They spend a great deal of time and effort trying to change the way we view ‘beauty’ and writing brilliantly informative articles to back-up everything they say. They discuss the way media thrives off insecurity, highlighting the fact that these unrealistic messages aren’t going anywhere. They talk about how educating ourselves and those around us is the key to fighting back against the media, and learning that there is so much more to us than just the way we look.
It is clear that modesty and the topics that accompany it, is something we should actively be talking about and dealing with. The good news – lots of bloggers and people all over the world are seeing the light, standing up for themselves and trying to spread the word, and this can only be a good thing. As long as we continue to fight and make ourselves heard, we stand a real chance of making a difference. Not just for ourselves, but for the next generation as well.