Introducing the Modesty Talks

I’ll never forget the first time I wore a sleeveless dress to work.

I pulled off my jacket like I was voluntarily giving up my shield in a medieval battle. I looked around the office out of the corners of my eyes to see if anyone noticed. I sat hunched over all day and went to the bathroom as infrequently as possible. I was definitely dehydrated that day.

But I did it. I had been taught my entire life that immodesty basically puts you on a sex path to hell, and I’m not alone. Much of mainstream Christianity — particularly the more fundamentalist sects — is prone to teaching young women that their worth lies in the eyes of men and that the actions of men are caused by women dressed in anything other than a potato sack, it seems. And society reinforces that role, using women’s bodies at will as temptation, punishment, reward or incentive. Women, we are taught, are here for the pleasure of others, and when something bad happens the consequences lie with them, as does the blame.

Years after leaving the church I was raised in, I wore a tank top for the first time. I felt free. But I’m still working through the issues caused by being compared to a cupcake with its frosting licked off, or a piece of old chewing gum, or any number of other metaphors and similes that tell young women that their value only exists in their so-called virtue. Without that, they are useless.

And still, in 2018, more than 11 years after I graduated from high school, teenage girls are being shown in every direction they look that they aren’t good enough, or pure enough, or whatever the fucked up standard of the day is.

With that idea in mind, I decided to start The Modesty Talks, in which I’ll examine current events and broader themes related to sexuality and the patriarchy, with the ultimate goal of empowering people to understand the role sexism has played in their own lives and overcome it.

We’ve certainly made great strides, but there’s a long way to go. I won’t stop talking for as long as people think it’s OK to catcall women on the street, schools are shaming teen girls for wearing tank tops and courts are letting rapists walk free. None of us should.

2 thoughts on “Introducing the Modesty Talks

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  1. What is really intriguing is it seems to be getting worse. I was a teenager in the 80’s in Utah and we wore tank tops and shorts that didn’t come to our knees all the time. We owned bikinis (granted, most only wore them to lay out in their backyards), some would wear them to the local pool or to the beach on vacation. This constant shaming wasn’t as harsh. I do remember the licked cupcake lesson but I don’t remember hearing it a ton (thank God, what a horrible object lesson.) I always wondered why a church that professes you can repent of your sins thought this was a great comparison and basically told you repentence didn’t really work in the case of a sexual sin if you were a woman. I have no idea what the guys were taught. We didn’t obsess if a skirt came to our knees and my prom dress was off the shoulder without having to modify it or wear a stupid shrug. Women actually had items of clothing that didn’t work with garments once they were married. Now 2 year olds are being dressed like they are wearing garments. When did this hardline insistence that shoulders and knees will drive men wild and to uncontrollable action come about?

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    1. That’s a really interesting perspective — I was born in ’89 and remember kids my age still wearing tank tops, etc, during the summer. But I remember a very distinct shift around the time I hit middle school … I hadn’t really thought about that.

      I’ll dig into it and try to track when everything went off the rails. My guess is (as is so often the case), some GA made a comment in conference that took on a life of its own in the worst way possible.

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