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.