It is strange that modesty is the rule for women when what they most value in men is boldness. —Ninon de L’Enclos
Modesty is a topic that tends to get my dander up, so to speak, because I see it misapplied and inappropriately mandated and used as a bullying weapon far too often. Modesty has been used to shame, to subjugate, to imprison, and to deny rights to women for centuries and that we continue to put up with such nonsense leaves me angry. There are three specific instances that are raising my blood pressure this morning, even though not all recent.
In fact, the first happened a couple of months ago. Kat, as you may or may not have noticed, has relatively small breasts. We’re both cool with that. They have their advantages, one being that she doesn’t typically need to wear a bra. In some cases, wearing a bra can even be painful. So, she doesn’t. However, during a performance review at work a couple of months ago, she discovered that one of her co-workers, not a client or anyone of authority, but a co-worker had complained that sometimes the shape of Kat’s nipples are visible beneath her clothing. Normally, we call such an attitude petty and let it go.
Then, this past Saturday, KTLA meteorologist Liberté Chan was going through the morning weather report when morning news anchor Chris Burrous, a man whose own hair style was stolen from a 1950s evangelist, handed her a sweater during the live broadcast because, “we’re getting emails.” This is just so incredibly foul one has to see it for it to be believed.
Chan, who know that those who complain lose their jobs, laughed off the whole episode and Burrous later apologized, but neither is sufficient to excuse both the behavior and the reasoning behind it.
Finally, we published an article yesterday, Life Isn’t That Bad, and shared it with a few friends who expressed feeling a little hopeless about all the bad news in the world. In one instance, a woman, who is not a mutual acquaintance, commented: “Smart message. Terrible blouse.” I had to drop back and take a look at the article. I chose yesterday’s imagery because of Ella’s smile, not what she was wearing. Turns out, she’s wearing a sweater, not a blouse, and had chosen to leave it unbuttoned, daring to show some cleavage.
Modesty is a big thing among many religious zealots and in certain parts of conservative culture as a whole. Some entire countries demand that women dress modestly and provide for severe punishment if they don’t. Even the Puritans who inhabited the English settlement at Jamestown held some pretty tyrannical views. Mandatory modesty is global and a part of everyday life for many.
There’s just one HUGE problem with all this forced modesty: Everywhere you see it, without exception, it is being done in an attempt to shame, dominate, subjugate, and objectify women. Women are not told to cover up because doing so empowers them. Women are not told to be modest because it gives them more authority. Women are not told to be modest because it helps their voice to be heard.
No, women are told to be modest because they are “distracting,” which demeans them to being nothing more than shiny, pretty objects. Women are told to be modest because their dress style is “inappropriate,” which means someone is shaming them. Women are told to be modest because “only your husband should see you like that,” which is both dominating and subjugating. Every time women are told to be modest, in inference is that they are doing something wrong, even if all they are doing is existing.
What especially sickens me is that this disempowering nonsense is being taught to young girls from the moment they first learn to dress. There is an absolutely disgusting movement among conservative evangelicals called Secret Keepers. I was concerned the moment I heard the name, because keeping secrets is a tool used by rapists, specifically child molesters who are trying to keep their victims silent. “Secret Keepers” immediately sounds to me a group of children who have been molested. What it is, though, is a movement designed to impress girls as young as eight years old with the concept that their bodies are not their own and that modesty helps keep them “pure” for their eventual husbands. Get a load of some of their nonsense:
Bellies are very intoxicating and we need to save that for our husbands!
Lean forward a little bit. Can you see too much chest or future cleavage? Your shirt is too low.
It all depends on whether God has chosen to bless you with breasts or not.
There you go. Already, girls are being told that not only are their bodies not their own, but that they are little more than objects to be possessed by husbands and that their budding sexuality is distracting. Where this leads, ultimately, is the concept that victims are responsible for their own rape. They were “asking for it” because of how they dressed, or how they walked, or how they otherwise were sufficiently immodest.
We already have more than enough trouble combating the pervasive rape culture that has dominated our society for centuries. Women everywhere need to know that they can wear whatever they hell they want, where and whenever they wish, without being placed in physical danger. Women, and young girls, need to know that they can stand up for themselves and their ideals without the threat of violence against them.
Furthermore, women need to know that they, at the very least, have the same right to be dominant, to be forceful, to be bold, to be adventurous as any man who ever lived. If that boldness means one needs to take off their shirt to make a point, go for it. There is absolutely NO reason women should be shamed for doing exactly the same thing that we encourage men and boys to do.
I know there are already countless articles on this topic all over the Internet, so I won’t go on at length. Those were just the things stuck in my craw this morning.
Ultimately, though, I’m looking forward to the day we can view something like the video below as just another weather forecast. Fair warning, if you’re viewing this at work you probably do not want to scroll down.