There has been a good deal of pushback lately against “modesty culture” and the troubling trend of religious circles blaming young women (and their clothing choices) when men are sexually aggressive. I really appreciate that women, and especially Christian women, are refusing to buy into the idea that women need to cover up so that men can maintain control of their urges. It’s a poor view of both men and women to assume that a lack of modesty leads to loss of control, and it also perpetuates a rape culture in which the victim is held responsible instead of the perpetrator. If we want our boys to be more respectful of women, WE SHOULD ADDRESS IT WITH THE BOYS. But it does prompt the question: what responsibility do women have when it comes to modesty? My friend Sharideth and I were discussing this very thing the other day, and I asked if she would post some thoughts. Here’s what she had to say:
But there is glitter on your boobs!
I could wear a burkha and still wouldn’t be able to hide my boobs. When you’ve got curves like mine, there is no modest enough. Ever. I’ve never been super popular with the faction of my faith who believes the responsibility of causing men not to stumble face first into motorboating lies solely on the way women dress and carry themselves. Which is a steaming pile, of course. Not only is it impossible for me to completely conceal what my mama gave me, I don’t want to. Which means I also have to be cool with it when men notice. There are bloggers and activists out there doing amazing work against the modesty culture that causes women to carry around so much shame when it comes to their bodies. Christian feminists are so necessary to move things forward in the church. I’m here to talk about the other extreme. A friend of mine went out to bar one night to hang with buddies as 20-something guys are prone to do. It was so packed, someone probably got pregnant just by osmosis. There was a girl with what could only be described as aggressive boobs standing right next to him. Now when I say aggressive boobs, I mean a low cut shirt shirt that stopped at the nipple line, push up bra (probably, based on his description) and glitter body lotion. Yes. She had glitter on her tits. And he noticed. Duh. My friend is a pretty nice guy. Not one to drool or make a scene over even sparkly cleavage. But he got caught looking and the girl went nutso. Called him out for being a skeeze. Let me say it again. She had glitter. On her tits. What she did isn’t an act of female empowerment. It isn’t a roundhouse kick to rape culture. She set a trap and blew a gasket when my friend fell into it. Hell, I would have fallen into it and I’m a straight woman. It happens more than you might think. Maybe not with glitter and nearly nipple, but it happens. And it is profoundly unfair. I’m all for being proud of your body and carrying yourself with confidence. I try to teach my own 15 year old daughter how to do that everyday because I believe confidence in women is the single best defense against abuse and being taken advantage of in just about any situation she could encounter…and I want her to terrify boys so they leave her alone. Confidence is also is an excellent weapon against shame. Shame being one of the main things my Christian feminists friends are kicking soundly and repeatedly in the groin. Praise Jesus. But when a woman wears revealing clothing, then gets angry when men notice, that’s not cool either. It makes her a hypocrite. Please save your hate mail for the end and hear me out. When a woman goes after a man for noticing her deep v, that’s shaming him. Trading shame for shame is not a win for womankind, my friends. A woman can wear whatever she wants. More power to her. What she can’t do is expect men not to notice. Most men can regard her charms then move on. If she wears a micromini and claims to not want a reaction from men, I’m going to straight up call her a liar but I’m not going to call her wrong for wearing it.
Let me be clear. I am not saying wearing revealing clothing is an open invitation for men to grab you. You could wear a Frederick’s of Hollywood little bit of nothin’, walk down the middle of the street and that still wouldn’t give a man the right to touch you. This isn’t that. What I am saying is that if you are going to wear what could be legitimately called “suggestive”, then just own it. Most men can appreciate the way you look and not lust after you, but don’t shame them for their appreciation. If one comes on too strong or inappropriately, then by all means, have at him. Hard. But after you grind his nether bits into dust remember that empowerment comes from knowing your own worth and taking ownership of it, not from making others smaller. Men are responsible for their own thoughts and actions. I don’t want to diminish that reality in any way. But women need to be fair in the way they choose to engage men; be it with clothing or attitude. Women can wear whatever they like. I’m just asking that they not treat all men like predators when it gets noticed. Okay, now you can send the hate mail. _________________________________________________________________________________________ Sharideth Smith blogs at A Woman’s Guide to Women: A Blog for Men, where she doles out relational advice with a heavy dose of sarcasm. You can find her on twitter at @Sharideth. And just for fun . . . (profanity warning):