• equalist

    Wonderfully well written, and while I’ve always been against the insistence on modesty based on the question of how one defines it (particularly considering the fact that what is modest to one is horribly slutty to another), I’d never actually sat down and thought about the objectification of women in relation to modestly.  We always hear how the women wearing short skirts, or low cut tops are objectified in today’s society a merely objects for men to enjoy viewing, but no one speaks of how claiming that the woman is in control of the man’s sex drive and is therefore responsible for ensuring that she does nothing to arouse him treats women as objects as well.  In reality both views assume all women’s bodies are simply pornography for men’s pleasure with no other purpose.  Her legs are for staring at, not for running or walking, and purpose of the long skirts of “modesty” is to render them nonexistent.  Her breasts are not created for feeding her children, but created only to arouse men’s desire, and a “modest” girl should always hide any trace of them, again to create the illusion that they don’t exist.  Breaking down each part of a woman’s body this way, when “modesty” insists that she must be covered and shapeless, as if her form itself doesn’t exist.  Her body isn’t allowed to exist, because if it exists, it is tempting to a man.  In reality this mindset is degrading to both women and men.  The degradation of women is obvious in this, but it’s degrading to men in that it treats them as simply animals with no control over themselves. 

  • joan2

    It’s funny how the concept of “modesty” is most harshly applied to adolescent girls and young women when they are at the height of their fertility. If a 40-something woman wears a low-cut blouse, there’s not the same shock and outrage as when an 18-year-old dresses similarly. It seems that because they are young, fertile and presumably virginal, our society saddles them with the burden of maintaining their own virtue and the virtue of all the men around them. It is a war no woman can win.

    Fortunately, once you reach your 30s and 40s, it’s like nobody cares anymore what you do and wear. It takes a lot of the pressure off. When I look back at how stressed I was all the time in my teens and 20’s, I regret how much time and energy I wasted both trying to maintain an image as a “good girl,” while still being attractive and trying to ward off any excess pounds. I should have spend those years really applying myself in school and the workplace instead of obsessing over my appearance. That’s two decades I’ll never get back again! Oh, well…

  • meadowgirl

    thank you for sharing this story. i never really considered “modesty” other than i found that women practicing it seemed sad about doing so. seeing someone inside of it & the reprecussions has educated me. just wow, wow. glad to know you’re getting out there and lovin’ life.

  • heathen57

    Well written and interesting article on a subject that should have been buried with dishonor long ago.  Something left over from a time that damaged all.


    It is my opinion that this concept is nothing more than a way to shift the blame onto a girl or woman when they have no self control.  “I’d like to have sex with her, and that is her fault for having a body type I like.”  I fail to see how a woman’s looks could affect a man so much that they can’t either control it or look away.

    In a perfect world (IMO) human adults could walk around naked and we could admire each other, not only for the beauty of the human form but have enough maturity to go beyond that into personalities.

  • starrsitter

    This.  So completely this.  Also, so much more eloquently than I have ever been able to explain to people.  Thank you.


  • teryn

    I disagree with this. I don’t disagree with the very real emotional damage you sustained from pressures. I acknowledge that to the fullest. 


    But I don’t think it’s fair to blame it on modesty. Being modest didn’t make you feel that way about yourself. Pressure from your family and surrounding social circles did. They put you into that frame of thought, and I am very glad you freed yourself from it! But it’s not the modesty itself. Being modest didn’t do this to you.


    Everyone has natural insecurities, and yours were exascerbated by your family. I think you channeled it into blaming the clothes you felt forced to wear and the mindset you WERE forced to hold. But don’t blame the modesty itself.


    I am modest by choice (no really, I am), and I have always felt blessed by it. I don’t judge others for the clothes they wear–it’s their body, so it’s their choice. And they are just clothes.


    And, really, what your very well written piece is saying, is that the mindset behind that particular modesty you endured it what damaged you. Look at it again, and you’ll see it’s true. It wasn’t the clothes. It was the pressure.

  • crowepps

    Modest clothing is that which does not reveal or emphasize the figure.  Baggy, concealing clothing in dull colors intended to make girls and women unattractive enough so that men don’t focus on them.  The ideal is for women to be self-effacing, and take care not to draw the eye,  wearing camouflage good enough so that men look right past them and don’t notice they exist.

    The whole PURPOSE of setting up modesty codes is to establish social signals that set to one side the compliant, obedient ‘good girls’ uninterested in sex and uninteresting to men, and highlight the rebellious, disobedient ‘bad girls’ who it’s safe to attack and punish for their lack of subservience.

    Modesty is about girls and women hiding the fact that they’re female as much as possible.  Modesty is about women and girls covering up their bodies so they look genderless.  Modesty is disguising oneself in hopes of passing unnoticed, and is mostly useful to rapists, who claim their victims weren’t plain and dumpy enough and aroused lust, and so should bear all the responsibility for the attacks against them.

    And yet it proves to be impossible to be modest enough.  In Saudi Arabia, modesty demands women completely disappear.

    Saudi women may be forced to cover up ‘tempting’ eyes

    Saudi women with sexy or “tempting” eyes may be forced to cover them up, according to a spokesperson for the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the news site Bikyamasr reports.

    Bikyamasr quotes a spokesman of the Ha’eal district, Sheikh Motlab al-Nabet, as saying the group has the right to order women whose eyes seem “tempting” to shield them immediately.


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