Thursday, March 29, 2012

A couple of weeks ago the wonderful Christine Marietta shared this amazing article with me. It details all the ways the modesty doctrine negatively affected the author. From making her afraid to work out lest doing a squat cause an unwanted erection in a nearby male, to contributing to her eating disorder. It is a very interesting read regardless of where you fall on this issue.

The author also wrote another amazing article on how the modesty doctrine hurts men as well. I can't claim to know how men are affected by all of this, but I think she makes some excellent points.

As a teenager I completely believed in the modesty doctrine. I bought all of my clothes two sizes too big. When that didn't stop men from yelling about my ass from their cars, I began to dress like a man. I thought I was doing it all right because there was no possible way to discern a single curve in my over-sized In-and-Out t-shirt and basketball shorts. The truth is, this didn't stop the yelling either, no amount of, "modesty" was ever enough. Then I suffered from my own eating disorder. I watched as my curves slowly disappeared, thankful for a moment, and then quickly back to grabbing handfuls of, "fat" wishing it would disappear as well. Like the author says, the only acceptable body was a sexless one.

Then one day I decided to give up. I began to wear what I wanted, which is still on the conservative side of dressing. For the first time I felt that my body, my mind, my spirit, and the other aspects of me were attractive and enough. The judgment and opinions of others lost the power to define myself and my body.

I will leave you with this quote from the author, "The modesty doctrine is a game that no one ever wins. It perpetuates fear and contempt in men. It oppresses women. It needs to stop"



  1. Sierra raises an important point, namely, that the focusing or prioritizing of on one thing over all others (in this case, body image) makes can actually make that thing an idol - one that is worshipped to the severe detriment of the devotee. What makes the worship of body so noticeable (over say, the worship of intellect) is that everyone else, including yourself, can see the effects. You can't escape a mirror, you can't hide your own body.

    This "body doctrine" (I would say "body dogma") singles out physical appearance as more than a component of a holistic Christian life, it MAKES IT your entire Christian life. This means that Christianity becomes nothing but a discourse around sexuality, physical appearance, how things "look" on the surface etc. It truly is an idolatrous, dangerous, and heretical dogma.

    But I think that the worship of body is similar to the worship of any other one thing. A Christian community might single out what music one listens to, or what political party one votes for, or what foods one can eat as THE most important thing. All of these isolated dogmas miss the point that those these things are important, they are only healthy within the context of a holistic Christian life.

    What I mean is that I truly believe that modesty is important. But the REASON it is important is because it pertains to and serves a doctrine that it is much higher than it, namely, the doctrine of love. Love is the one doctrine in which all Christian doctrine and dogma are rendered Orthodox: The way we dress, the songs we sing, even the people we vote for - these are to be done and understood in the context of charity, that is, selflessness.

    What makes Sierra's story (and yours, for that matter!) so tragic is that the notion of modesty, which is indeed important, was isolated from the notion of Charity. Why are we modest? Because we love our brother's and sisters. Because we don't want to selfishly flaunt our bodies to men OR women, because our bodies belong to the Lord.

    And of course, the same can be said of men. Men cannot blame females for their sex drive. First of all, it's natural - there's no way to avoid being sexually attracted to people, all "covered up" or not. Men need to understand that valuing women based on their appearance is objectifying, selfish, and primal. It is not loving in the least.

    What we wear, how much we work out, how much we eat and how much makeup we put is rendered meaningful by our motives. If our motive is charity, there is great freedom, even if that means covering up. If our motive is selfish, there is great slavery, even if that means wearing virtually nothing at all. What we wear and how we look is not as important as why we wear and why we look. I think true bodily freedom comes when our body's serve us, not the other way around.

  2. Sorry, that last line sounded kind of dualistic. I meant "I think true bodily freedom comes when SEX serves us, not the other way around".

    Or in other words:

    "The moment sex ceases to be a servant it becomes a tyrant". -Chesterton

    Woof. Too much blogging for me today!

  3. Good thoughts Aric.

    I have discovered that for me, "modesty" (it almost feels like a bad christianese word to me now) comes naturally when I am at a healthy place mentally. I can't speak for all women on this, but when I removed the notion of service from it, the service somehow came naturally. What I seem to keep learning over and over again is that when I have faith that God will continue to help me grow and change, he will also help to supply and shape my motives along the way. When too much time is spent second guessing and searching my motives no forward progress is made, and sometimes it causes me to go backwards.

    So while I agree that motives are important, I think if we have our heart in the right place they will change and grow and influence our actions to change and grow. I don't see this freedom given to people often and I feel it is an important freedom in order to inspire true growth in people.

  4. Kaelee,
    We need to talk! Your words mirror many of my thoughts. I don't think Jesus is at all afraid of your desire to know the real truth about sex and all that stuff. Our recoveries seem to parallel in some ways.
    Excited for us both.