Dear guppy of doom (and any others interested in responding),
I loved your recent response about modesty. I've been thinking a lot about how to raise my daughter with a healthy concept of modesty and I really want to train her to think about modesty as it pertains to herself rather than others.
You've obviously thought a lot about this and I'd be very interested to know how you'd explain modesty to your (hypothetical) daughter. How would you frame it? What would you be sure to say? What would you be sure to avoid saying?
Oh boy, I have a lot of thoughts. I think the main ones can all be summarized by this one Friend article: "Modesty means..." I can't express how much I LOVE this article. It's so perfect! It's what we need to be teaching everyone in the world and in the Church about what modesty means!
In case you don't want to read it, I can copy basically the whole thing for you: Modesty means...
- not bragging or showing off and accepting compliments kindly.
- showing reverence and respect for ourselves and other people’s bodies.
- wearing clothes that cover our bodies properly and fit the activity.
- Be sure to be kind instead of judging others for the way they dress. [<- THIS ONE IS SUPER IMPORTANT]
- It's not about boys. I cannot say this loudly enough. Being modest has nothing to do with how boys view girls or helping boys have clean thoughts. Because that's not a woman's responsibility. Just as we women need to learn to control our own thoughts, boys need to control theirs. I had a mission companion who thought it was okay to wear typical "immodest" clothing because "I'm not beautiful so men would never be tempted when they see me. And if that's the only reason to be modest, then why should I even bother? I could be naked and no man would bat an eye, so I might as well wear [fill in the blank]." So not only was the clothing she wore a reminder of her low self-esteem, but she thought her body belonged to men, and the only reason she could decide what she wanted to wear was because no man wanted her.
- Modesty should not be attached to how others view you. It's between you and God. (Of course, this can mean radically different things to different girls. Some may think that, judging on what some teachers in primary or YW teach, women only exist to marry and bring babies into the world, so God's view of them is biased due to that. Since we model our heavenly relations off of our earthly ones, some who have difficult or nonexistent relationships with their earthly fathers may think God views them differently than girls who have good relationships with their fathers. Basically, be aware of your audience, though having a good and open relationship with your daughter should help you know how she views God and how she thinks God views women.)
- Teach your sons as well. What we need to be teaching boys in the Church is that physical and sexual attraction is normal. If you see a girl wearing a low cut shirt, it's normal to be turned on. You don't always have control of that. But you do have control over what you think after that. You can hum a hymn. You can think of a funny joke. But don't feel shame or guilt over that human reaction, because it's that shame that will cause lasting damage. If a girl is wearing something that turns you on, it's neither of your faults. Don't tell her to change. Too often we teach boys in the Church that it's acceptable to tell a woman to change if she makes you feel uncomfortable. But the problem with that thinking is that it leads to the belief that women need to control men's thoughts, not the men themselves. It's what leads to rape culture, it's what leads to "she was asking for it," it's what leads to "I couldn't control myself so it's not my fault." I've already quoted this, but it's so important here it is again: "We are not teaching boys to acknowledge, appreciate, and move on. We are teaching boys to panic that the way a girl or woman is dressed is going to cause them unwanted sexual feelings. We are teaching them to feel shame over their normal physical response. Shame creates a nasty cycle that makes them more likely to notice and be aroused by women’s bodies, which makes them feel more shame." Until we teach boys that a woman's modesty is between her and God, we will always have men who think they can dictate what women wear.
-guppy of doom