Can Modesty Make a Comeback?

showImage This is an exceptional talk given on bikinis and modesty and dignity. A must watch: CLICK HERE TO SEE IT.

“Brain scans revealed that men who were shown pictures of scantily clad women…responding to the photographs as if they were responding to objects, not people.”

“When men viewed images of women in bikinis they often associated with first-person action verbs such as, “I push, I grab, I handle.” But when they saw pictures of women dressed modestly, they associated them with third-person action verbs such as, “She pushes, she grabs.” Analysts at the National Geographic concluded that bikinis really do inspire men to see women as objects, as something to be used rather than someone to connect with. So, it seems that wearing a bikini does give a woman power, the power to shut down a man’s ability to see her as a person, but rather as an object.”

“Modesty isn’t about covering up what’s bad, but about revealing dignity.”

Watch the video talk here.

Love, SM

A little aside: In sharing this video I am not advocating that men aren’t responsible for their thoughts and actions, of course they are, no matter what a woman chooses to wear. However, I believe it is a loving act to try and dress in a way that helps a man see a woman as a person rather than an object. I’m saying, how we choose to dress is certainly a worthy consideration.

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  • Beth WIlliams

    Amen! I think for far too long now women have dressed way to scantily. Now even men are doing it by wearing “drop pants”–pants that fall below midline and show their underwear.
    I love the old fashioned ways of dressing and do it still today. Never have and never will I wear a bikini. Wish more young people would adopt the dress modestly lifestyle. Call me an Old Fashioned Girl!

  • http://www.sonyamacdesigns.com/ Sonya McCllough

    I love the YOU tell it like it is!

  • Sarah W.

    I really appreciate that the speaker is addressing this important topic! Very well put!!

    It does makes me sad that she choose a dress to wear that shows her cute little figure quite well. She is talking about the bikini and how it effects men which is right on. However what we wear in general effects men and so it is very important what we choose to wear and even how we carry ourselves. I often ask myself when dressing is this pleasing to Christ or pleasing to self and my own body image. I am not trying to pick apart Jessica’s dress…she looks very good but it does show her body off quite well which to me is a double standard message. She is speaking her heart out to many young girls on a very important topic I would think she would want to wear something that shows she can dress cute and fashionable without calling attention to her own body.

    • Maggie

      Are you kidding, Sarah??

      What is a woman to do: wear a bag because she has an hourglass figure?

      Or maybe she should gain a few pounds so she doesn’t have a “cute little figure” anymore?

      Guess what: women have bodies of all shapes, and there is nothing to be ashamed of, living in the bodies we have been given.

      This is what I find so appalling about the extremely conservative “teachings” of some people on the concept of “modesty” — that somehow, we have to be ashamed of our bodies, or consider them evil, or a downfall to men.

      While I agree we our cloth-to-skin ratio should be practical and none too revealing, I honestly see NOTHING wrong with this woman’s dress. She is beautiful, and she deserves to be comfortable in her body and in her completely reasonable clothing choice without people like Sarah laying judgement.

      Oh, and God forbid someone with some real curves (big breasts or hips) wear clothes that are flattering for her. She must hide in a reinforced draping of material so that she does not provoke the sexual desires of men around her.
      Perhaps more responsibility needs to be placed on men for the sexualization of women. Why does it always come back to placing blame on women, in a Christian context?

      • Sarah W.

        Dear Maggie & Sisters in Christ,

        I am sorry if I upset you so much by what I said. I do not feel like Jessica’s dress was appropriate for her speaking on dressing modestly. Yes we all have different shapes and sizes and I do not feel like we are to hide behind bags. But we as women have a lot of power over men by the way we dress, talk, walk, act etc. I just think we as women need to be very careful.

        That is totally fine if you do not agree with me.

        I am assuming you are a Christian…it saddens me that we as Christians cannot discuss and even disagree on something without attacking and acting like the person that disagrees is the enemy.

        We must remember that as Christians we are on the same team. We are sister’s in Christ. There is a Spiritual battle going on. We MUST remember this.

        We (as Christians) must treat each other with love and respect even if we disagree with each other.

        I was not judging Jessica for her outfit…as far as I know she probably has a better relationship with the Lord then I do. I do not need to judge her because she is already judged by the Creator and King. But I think as Christians and just people in general we should be able to express our opinions and comments…isn’t that what blogs and community message boards are for? Yes you will always have people being rude and nasty out there in this world but I challenge my sisters in Christ to be different, set apart, and holy. To speak with grace and love even if it is just through a screen on the computer.

        I hope that this message is taken with love and grace. WE ARE IN A BATTLE, LETS FIGHT TOGETHER DEAR SISTERS IN CHRIST!

        Love,
        Sarah Winn

      • Suzanne McClendon

        I agree with your last statement here, Maggie, that responsibility needs to be placed on the men for how they view women.

        I also think that, if they love a woman, they will do all they can to be making sure that she knows it rather than being so entertained or excited by the scantily clad females out there.

  • keltrinswife

    Well said Sarah! Be blessed:)

  • Cassandra Dorman

    Love this young woman. Very informative and inspiring video. I’ve been inspired on many occasions to speak to young teens and girls about modesty and she’s right – it is a challenge. :) I just bought a GREAT dress for a wedding last night that is so cute and so retro (white with navy blue micro polka dots) 1960s summer dress. Modesty IS possible with fashion… I love that this girl is fresh, smart, and challenging the cultural norm. Fantastic.

  • angi

    Sarah, I rarely comment but I felt I needed to on this post. As a mom of 4 boys, 3 of whom are older teenagers, I want to shout it out that the lack of modest does affect them. I see my boys over and over again trying to “avert their eyes” all during the daily lives, at work, at the mall, at homeschool events, even at church. I teach my girls that although a boy/man is responsible for his own thoughts we, as sisters in Christ, should help them along by not intentionally wearing things that will cause them to stumble. I also tell them that they need to dress to impress their daddy and brothers, not other boys.

    But I also think it’s important that we don’t become judgemental in our attitude towards other women and what they wear. When my older daughter was little and she would see someone who dressed differently than us and would make a comment, I’d say, “That’s not appropriate for us.” I really want my girls to think in terms of appropriate and not appropriate not good and bad. For instance, I thought Jessica’s dress was cute…on her. She’s thin, it was loose and not form fitting, there was no sagging at the arm pits to see into the dress. But that dress would be completely immodest on me. I’m very busty and that bodice would have accentuated that, there would have been sagging in the arm pits – I’ve never found a sleeveless shirt/dress that I could wear. If I saw her talking to my boys or husband I would not feel a need to help “rescue” them as they would not have to keep looking away.

    • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

      Great advice!

    • dontwastethecrumbs

      Angi, One of your lines was spoken by our pastor during a Q&A before summer starter when someone asked if it was “wrong” for a woman to wear a biniki. His response, “as sisters in Christ, we should be mindful of what we wear because our actions could cause others, your brothers, to stumble.” That alone made me re-think so many thoughts about clothing. Thank you for sharing! ~Tiffany

      • Suzanne McClendon

        It isn’t just the men immodesty causes to stumble. It can cause a great deal of grief to the women in their lives for this constant parade of flesh to be around their husbands, especially when the women in their lives may not have the bodies of 20-somethings anymore and are dealing with health issues (such as menopause or worse) that they can’t do anything about.

        It can set up a competitive, angry, jealous spirit in the woman, whether or not it is causing the man to lust. It can make the woman in his life feel like she is lacking and not what he really wants (regardless of what he says to the contrary) because this other woman is showing him a better body than she’ll ever be able to have. Logic would have him preferring the younger, toned body to the one wrecked by time and hardship. It can affect trust and security in the woman, all of this in addition to giving the man a visual for lustful thoughts.

  • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

    sarah, i know you have a heart for women and for holiness, and i admire that a great deal, but i found this video to be profoundly troubling. some men will objectify a woman no matter what she wears, and this video further normalizes objectification and shame. women are people; it’s impossible for us to use our “powers” to cause men to dehumanize us.

    upholding dignity is a worthy goal and conversation, but as long as we’re saying and living like men are animals and women are objects instead of all of us bearers of the imago dei, there’s not a thing a woman can wear that will get us there.

    • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

      What are your thoughts on the study that was done?

      What role do you think modestly plays in the life of women (and of men)?

      • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

        i don’t know a ton about the study, but this article (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/02/090216-bikinis-women-men-objects.html) says that the sample group was only 21, some of the photos were of headless torsos/breasts, and that the men who objectified those disembodied images “scored higher as ‘hostile sexists’—those who view women as controlling and invaders of male space.” a cute one-piece is unlikely to make a difference to a man who is predisposed to disrespect and objectify women.

        i am uncomfortable when we pathologize male (or female) sexuality and make rules based on aberration and disfunction instead of creating an ethic that accounts for resurrection, freedom, renewing the mind, and an incarnate God who creates our bodies and calls them good.

        modesty in scripture often relates to not showing off one’s wealth, which we rarely discuss. i will certainly have conversations with my own daughter about dressing in a way that honors God, others, and self, but i wonder if this is best wrestled with privately. universal modesty rules weigh like chains, and i don’t think we’re called to bind others to to the specific ways we discern God leading us.

        • http://www.likeawarmcupofcoffee.com Sarah Mae

          I absolutely agree that there shouldn’t be universal modesty rules because that can get legalistic real quick. I do think the woman in the video started a great conversation, and I’m glad people are discussing the topic. The fact is, we live in a world where there is, as you say, aberration and disfunction. So we should be aware of it and consider it. We are not responsible for the choices or reactions of other people, but we can do what we can in this fallen place to bring hope, and love, and grace. Sometimes those things show up in how we dress.

          Thanks again for weighing in, you write very poignantly.

  • bigguysmama

    I have two girls who are in their early 20s. It was important for me as a MOM to make sure my daughters knew the value of modesty for themselves and for the male population around them. On the flip side, I’m also a MOM of two boys who are 14 and 10. I believe it is also my job as the parent to teach my boys that women aren’t objects and to “bounce” their eyes and ask the Lord for his help in this area. Satan would like nothing more than for my boys to fall into making females objects.

    Personally, I believe it all starts with the parents. Typically, kids get their cues from us. God has put them in our care to direct them. If we don’t train them up to care about causing another to stumble, then that will be on our heads as parents.

  • Carole W

    After reading all the previous comments, I am brought back to something God has been trying to teach me for quite some time now: it’s not about the “rules.” The whole thing about freedom from the law, and what I (in my small, un-seminary-ed mind, anyway) believe is part of what caught at the Pharisees, is that for some of us, it’s SO. MUCH. EASIER. to follow rules than to follow the Spirit of God in each situation. But that is what He’s called us to do, now that He has fulfilled the law.

    So, how can we be free (to dress as we choose, to not view our bodies as “dangerous” to men, to not feel guilt at being attractive or wearing something that’s not a burlap sack) and, at the same time, act rightly toward our brothers who might stumble? This is a tricky line to walk, and can be a slippery slope both ways, whether into legalism and judgment or into self-love and self-promotion.

    In any given situation, in any given group of people, God Himself is the only One who knows whether any men there are struggling with their views of women (or whether other women are struggling with their views of themselves or their husbands). We should not assume all (or any, really!) men are animals, incapable of controlling their own thoughts. At the same time, we should not assume that there are no men around us who are struggling in that area. It is not wrong of us to dress nicely. What is wrong, I believe, is for us to refuse to acknowledge the possibility that how we dress might affect our brothers and sisters in Christ.
    The definition of what is “modest” is cultural, personal, and even situational. There are men in Brazil who don’t bother a second look at bikini-clad women, and men in the middle east who avert their eyes when they see a woman in pants and long sleeves. I have friends who feel more modest in skirts than in pants, and friends who feel exposed and immodest in skirts (even the longest ones).
    So where does that leave us? Without clear-cut rules to follow, I am (sometimes) sad to say. But we know that God cares how we affect His other children, and we know that what we wear can affect them, so I believe we can be confident that He will guide us if we want Him to. We will not all look the same. But we can all love each other in this family of Christ, even through our wardrobe choices.

  • Zoe

    I’m kind of mixed on this. In someways I feel like we should try to dress modestly because in many cases it forces men to look at us like people, but it is not our job to be responsible for men. They need to change themselves. I think the best we can do is call men on it and not respond to guys who objectify us.

  • Zoe

    I think we should expect men to treat us how we treat them. I find abs attractive when I see a man with them and I do admit that sometimes it sways thoughts on them. I mean, it’s okay to be attracted to the opposite gender. However you really don’t see women sexualizing men based on their appearance.