The ongoing modesty debate...

I must admit, a lot of these arguments about modesty have made me uncomfortable, because I haven't been able to completely agree with any one argument.  So I decided to take a step back and look at what modesty means to me and how I can raise a family that upholds values of modesty.  I turned to the sources I trust the most: Scriptures, "For the Strength of Youth", plus a couple of talks from prophets or apostles.  The most common argument lately has been spreading like wildfire through your internet browsers, so it won't be news to you.  "Men have the ability to see these images or these 'scantily clad' women and control their thoughts.  Wear whatever you want!  You aren't walking pornography.  Men can't blame you for anything."  I agree with certain aspects of this.  I completely believe that men are more than helpless creatures of vision.  But.... (and this is so so critical to me) Women (and some men) are fighting so hard to remove photo-shopped images from the media, get rid of pro-anorexic websites and "thinspo" because it negatively effects our minds.  It "makes" us believe we aren't good enough.  It "pushes" us to be something that we aren't.  This is such a double standard to me. 

While I agree that both men and women have the ability to be confronted by these things and choose to turn away from negative thinking and actions because of them, I think women have really downplayed the fact that what they wear does indeed send a message just like a ridiculously photo-shopped magazine cover sends a message to women.  We have the ability (regardless of our gender) and help to overcome these negative lines of thinking, but these messages that are being sent (knowingly or not) are not helpful.

I am not writing to tell women how to dress or judge them for their choices.  My purpose is to point out that the way you present yourself (including dress) does send a message.  "For the Strength of Youth" says: "Your dress and grooming send messages about you to others and influence the way you and others act. When we are well groomed and modestly dressed, we can invite the companionship of the Spirit and exercise a good influence on those around us."  It does not say that it forces people to act certain ways or think certain thoughts, but it does influence.  If you decide to sport a bikini at the beach, you will be looked at differently then someone who is trying to be more discreet.  Dressing to show more of our bodies is not just about ourselves. Everyone we come in contact with sees that first.  So the notion that it is only our own business is naive to me.  Another quote from "For the Strength of Youth" reads: "Never lower your dress standards for any occasion. Doing so sends the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval and that modesty is important only when it is convenient."  I believe that.  Dressing immodestly is a way to gain attention and approval (I realize I may receive backlash from this, but this has been my experience with every girl or woman I know, myself included.)  Again, we are in a battle to promote healthy positive body image for women and girls for generations to come by helping rid the world of these negative pictures and negative messages that we are bombarded with.  I am very much at the front of that line because those unhealthy messages about body image influence me negatively.  So I hope that we can understand modesty in the same light.  That it may not ever force someone to think or act poorly, but it DOES influence.  

On another note, I am happy to share that my ideas of modesty have really grown through this conflicting time.  The LDS culture is infamous for teaching modesty in a way that may not be uplifting.  I get that.  I don't think that we need to shame girls into covering their bodies.  Our bodies are wonderful and beautiful.  I don't believe that girls have to be modest because boys can't control their thoughts.  I think I have more than one or two articles of clothing in my own closet that don't live up to the standard that I have set for myself based on my beliefs and love for the Lord.  Modesty is far more encompassing than the way we clothe our bodies.  It is a state of behavior that portrays through our dress, speech, and actions.  The courage someone has to act modestly in all areas of life is really astounding to me.  It is something I aspire to achieve and will continue to work towards. 

In conclusion (finally, I know...) here are some of the best scriptures I read regarding modesty in dress.
**Foretelling the Second Coming when "the Son of Man shall acome down in heaven, bclothed in the brightness of his cglory" (D&C 65:5)
**The counsel "And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of acharity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and bpeace." (D&C 88:125)
**When Christ visited the Nephites "And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they asaw a Man bdescending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe" (3 Nephi 11:8)

When our clothing draws attention to worldly approval or noticing different aspects of our bodies, we cut off the ability to be clothed in that which is most important and draw attention and respect to Heavenly Father.

Christ, in all of His humility and perfection appeared simply in a white robe, but shone brighter than the sun.  

That is beautiful.


Sara said...

This is perfection. Perfection! I love you.

Brissa Christensen said...

You said this beautifully and, like Sara said, perfectly. THANK YOU!!!

mathistown said...

I saw your reference to this post on Instagram and just wanted to say THANK you! I have been grappling with this subject as well and appreciate your study and articulation so much. And very much agree.


LaurenDaniel said...

Spot on! How you dress yourself says a lot about how you value yourself. If you sell yourself short on the outside what does that say about the inside? It probably doesn't even come close to resembling the amazing person you are/will become.

Mel said...

I completely agree! I've had exactly the same feelings and been conflicted over the two sides of the argument. Your conclusions were stated beautifully and matched my feelings perfectly. Thank you for sharing.

kylee said...

yes, just yes! i love this so much! especially because there is so many negative blog posts and articles related to gospel doctrine. it's so nice to see a positive one, one that stands up for the true doctrine.