I just read an article about the mayor of a small town in Oregon who was recalled after photos of Her Mayorship in lingerie showed up on Facebook. She hasn’t apologized, instead defending herself by saying that she used to lifeguard in a string bikini that revealed a lot more than those photos.
This is a woman who so doesn’t get it.
I saw one of the pictures. A 40-something woman with washboard abs posing on a fire truck in her undies. She’s probably right in saying that she was exposing less than most bathing suits. But most women wouldn’t wear a lace bathing suit to a firehouse. Bathing suits are generally made of spandex, worn at the pool or on the beach, and associated with swimming. Lace lingerie is generally worn in bed, and is associated with – well, you get the idea. Not exactly mayoral.
After I wrote two articles about porn, a few of you were indignant that I would focus so exclusively on what is essentially a male sin, while ignoring the female responsibility to dress modestly. I wasn’t “ignoring” modesty, any more than I am, in writing this article, ignoring the rise in tax evasion. It’s just that I only get around 1000 words here, and I can only write about one thing at a time.
And Her Honor the Mayor has reminded me that it’s about time to address the subject of modesty.
A lot of women don’t “get” the need for modesty. I didn’t when I was younger. I figured I didn’t have a problem with what men were wearing, so why should they have a problem with what I was wearing?
But then I started talking to guys – good Catholic guys who were striving to live chastely. And they told me what it’s like to be a normal, visually-oriented male who loves God and wants to respect women. They said they wanted to see a woman as a person – a unique image and likeness of God, created for her own sake. But if that woman was dressed in such a way that certain “parts” were exposed or accentuated, those “parts” would scream out for attention. “Hey, look at me! I’m a part! I’m a fun part!!” They said it can be very distracting, to say the least.
As I’ve said repeatedly, men are wired differently than women are. That visual orientation doesn’t just kick in when they’re viewing “erotica.” It kicks in when we average everyday women attempt our “Sex in the City” wardrobe imitations in our average everyday lives.
As women, we like male attention. There’s nothing wrong with that. God made us that way, to draw us together and impel us to marry and give ourselves to each other and propagate the human race. But, from a very young age, we fail to distinguish between the various types of male attention. There’s “loving” attention and there’s “using” attention. When we dress to accentuate our personhood and our “selves”, we hopefully attract the attention of good men who are interested in us as individual, unique persons. When we dress to accentuate our “parts”, we attract the attention of – well, let’s face it, we attract everybody’s attention. But the ones who respond, who approach us and flatter us, are generally the men of less than honorable intentions who are primarily interested in gaining access to those “parts.”
I expect there are more than a few women out there who are feeling more than a little bit defensive right now. “What right do men have to tell me what to wear? I’m my own person. I can wear anything I like. I’m not going to be controlled by men.” Look, this isn’t about being controlled. This is about being loving. I think a lot of our brains have been infected by the extremes of feminist thinking that make us believe life is a war between men and women, and that if we’re not constantly on guard the big bad men will return to control us again.
This is not what life in Christ is about. We’re supposed to be here to love each other, not to oppose each other or suspect each other or control each other. Men are our brothers in Christ, and we all have a duty – in Christian love — to help them to live lives worthy of Him. So maybe that involves some sacrifice on our part (if relinquishing our plunging necklines is really such a big sacrifice). Men are more vulnerable to visual sexual temptation than we are. For us to deliberately place that visual sexual stimulus in their field of vision just isn’t a loving thing to do. Imagine you were on a diet, and somebody kept waving chocolate mousse truffles under your nose. You’d kind of resent that, wouldn’t you? You might even assume they were out to sabotage your diet.
Besides, it’s really in our own best interest to dress modestly. How would you rather men look at you? “Wow, what an interesting attractive person. I’d like to get to know her better.” Or “Wow – I’d like to have a piece of that!”
The problem with modesty is that it can be difficult to formulate exact guidelines. That’s because each woman is different, and because different circumstances call for different levels of modesty. Flat-chested chicks can look perfectly modest in styles that would make better-endowed women look like stark raving hussies. And an outfit that wouldn’t raise a single eyebrow on the beach could be wildly scandalous when worn in a church. This is what our friend the Mayor didn’t understand. What might look appropriate in spandex at a pool isn’t quite so demure when it’s done in lace, draped over a fire truck and broadcast over the internet. Especially when you’re the mayor.
Wow, there are so many other aspects of modesty that I’m “ignoring.” Does dressing modestly mean dressing “dumpily”? What exactly constitutes modest attire? How do I determine what’s modest and what isn’t?
But here comes that 1,000 word goal line. How about this? I’ll let you all digest this and vent your outrage in the various forums. (I know “forums” is not the plural of “forum.” But my spell check doesn’t agree with me, and you wouldn’t know where to go for a “for a,” which is the only way Word will let me do it.) And then I’ll come back next month and revisit the issue.
Because if a primarily male subject gets two articles, it seems only fair that a primarily female topic should get two as well.