Thursday, June 20, 2013

Modesty, and what other bloggers have to say about it.

This is a blog post that I thought I'd never write. I am really nervous about writing this but also excited to share my thoughts and feelings on the subject of modesty and what it means to me as a Latter-Day Saint (Mormon). It's a novel, so brace yourself. 
 I came across this video on facebook yesterday and found it very interesting. Give it a watch. 
Alright, so people either love this opinion or absolutely hate it. I agree with what Jessica Rey says about dressing modestly, that it isn't about "hiding our bodies" but "revealing our dignity." Now, this doesn't mean that I believe that all women and men who dress "immodestly" have no sense of dignity. The studies/statistics about men in this video make me really sad. I wish that women were not sexualized so much by others, no matter what they're wearing. 
Everyone has their own definition for modesty, and that's what this blog post is about. 
I have read several blog posts about modesty, and I love reading about it, even if I don't agree 100% with all of the opinions. There is a popular slogan amongst LDS teenagers and women, "Modest is Hottest!" I grew up quoting this motto without a second thought. Then, last summer, I read this blog post by Chandra of MoMoMod . The title, "Why I don't think modest is hottest" intrigued me. Chandra is of the Apostolic Pentecostal faith, and I was not familiar with their definition of dressing modestly. I  loved learning about this definition and what she had to say in this post:
"I see what people are trying to do. Let’s make modesty popular! Let’s make it okay for young girls and ladies to think modest clothing is okay! Let’s change the idea that modesty is frumpy! Let’s combine modesty and sexy! You can be both!
  1. Modesty is not popular and it will never be popular. Call me pessimistic but the world is only going to get worse. Here is my biblical proof: Matthew Chapter 24 We live in a world that promotes immodesty. People scoff at the very idea of modesty.
  2. Modest clothing is okay. However, the way I see it personal standards  and convictions regarding modesty must come by way of revelation, prayer, and communication with God. I know there are a few people who dress modestly without any attachment to the Bible, but most people dress modestly out of respect for God. If we want to encourage modesty, encourage Bible reading and prayer.
  3. Dressing modestly doesn’t have to be frumpy; I’m a firm believer in that idea. But why associate modesty with a worldly term? Since we are a chosen generation, I don’t think He called us to be hot. He called us to follow His Word–even when it’s not popular to do so..." 
    If you read Chandra's post, make sure to take a look at the comments too. There are a lot of good points and some debate in there as well. Some people interpret the "hottest" in "modest is hottest" as popular, instead of sexy. Which totally makes sense. But I think the slogan was made up because the two words rhyme :) 
    There seems to be a lot of comments, discussions, and debate about blog posts that focus on modesty, actually. I think that's what I love about these posts; reading everyone's opinions in the comment section. 

    Another blog post that got me thinking about modesty is this one by Elizabeth of Delightfully Tacky. She is one of my favorite bloggers and I agree with this VERY MUCH:  
    "...Emphasizing modesty tends to villainize men. It paints men as sexual beasts who are unable to control themselves if there's cleavage in their immediate vicinity. While I do know that teenage boys are definitely struggling to come to terms with a flood of hormones and overwhelming sexual desire, when we tell them that it's not their problem to overcome- rather it's the woman's problem to cover up- it tells them it's not important to develop the ability to restrain their eyes and thoughts. It also feeds the lie that men are only interested in your body, and tells girls that their most valuable asset is their bodies, despite the fact that dressing modestly is supposed to take the focus off of their bodies, which it certainly can."
    I think that this has become a problem in Mormon culture. I was always told to "cover up, to help the boys not feel so tempted!" I guess I didn't think anything of this either. I now believe that we need to have serious talks with the young men of the church about restraining their thoughts, just as much as we speak with the young women about dressing modestly. If I ever have sons, I will make sure to do this.  
    Also, I love that Elizabeth wrote this:
    "Modesty can create a space where judging immodest girls is okay and paints them all as sluts or sexually promiscuous. It places low value on them automatically because there's no way 'immodest' can be painted in a positive light. It is a negative word by design. Girls who dress modestly can start to acquire a sense of superiority and look down on the 'slutty' immodest girls.  And really, what does that accomplish, other than creating pain, anger, and separation? Does that attitude make the 'immodest' girl want to listen to the opinion of the 'modest' girl and become more modest? I'm going to guess that if you feel judged by another person, you probably want nothing to do with them, much less sit and listed to them talk about how you need to change your ways and be more modest like them. When an environment of judgement is created, relationships are broken and open discussion is almost impossible. When we approach one another with respect and seek understanding, doors are opened."
    I could quote this entire blog post, but I'll spare you! (but seriously though, go check it out.) 

    Of course, I immediately read through the comments of Elizabeth's post and found yet another enlightening blog post that someone linked to. Heather of Women in the Scriptures writes about her time living in Amman, Jordan in this blog post
    "I had several opportunities to talk to two of my Muslim friends, both of whom wore the hijab by choice, about why they wore it and why they dressed so modestly. One friend explained to me that the reason she wore a hijab wasn't because she was expected to or because she thought men couldn't control themselves it was because she knew she possessed sacred power. She covered herself because her beauty was for her husband and she didn't want to misuse her power or to waste it on any man walking by. She also liked it that the veil drew men's attention to her face and not to her body. Another friend explained to me that she wore a hijab because she had made promises with God and that her veil was an outward symbol of her inward commitment to Him." 
    I feel that Mormons have a similar goal in dressing modestly as Muslims do. And like Muslims, Mormons have garments that help them to keep promises they've made with God as well. Unlike Muslims, though, these garments are not meant to be seen. I've had a hard time trying to think of how I'd write about this particular subject, so I am going to rely heavily on quoting the official LDS website as well as a blog post by Alycia of Crowley Party. This post, titled Bikinis and Diet Coke: a Long Post About Mormons, has received over 140 comments! There are many subjects adressed within this post about the strange behavior of us Mormons, including the donning of temple garments:

    "Garments are the basis of where dressing modestly in the Mormon Church comes from. Garments have many purposes to us, they are a reminder of the promises and covenants we make in the Temple. They are also a way for us to remember to keep our bodies modest. We believe they are sacred....
    "Garments are for those who have prepared themselves for the temple, and are living their lives a certain way to be able to attend the temple. Not all members of the Church have gone through the temple, which means a lot of members don't wear garments. Being a member of the Church does not mean you have to be temple worthy, however, it is the goal. Typically you go through the temple before you get married, or you go through before you serve a mission for the Church. 
    "Garments come in different cuts and fabrics etc. to fit what a person likes. They go to just above the knee, and cover the small cap of your shoulders. Those who wear garments should always have them covered by what they are wearing. You are not supposed to 'alter' your garments to suit the needs of what you are wearing. It can be obvious when some people do this, but how you wear your garments etc. is between you, God, and twice a year your bishop when he asks you if you are wearing them appropriately to renew your temple recommend.
    "You will see Mormons who wear them, Mormons who don't, Mormons who don't wear them appropriately - at the end of the day that is just how someone is practicing their religion. Everyone is at a different stage in their faith."
    The church website says this about the temple garment: "The garment provides a constant reminder of the covenants made in the temple. The garment should be treated with respect at all times. It should not be exposed to the view of those who do not understand its significance, and it should not be adjusted to accommodate different styles of clothing. When worn properly, the garment provides protection against temptation and evil. Wearing the garment is an outward expression of an inward commitment to follow the Savior." 

    So. This is the reason you will never see me wear shirts without sleeves or short skirts/shorts, unless I'm engaged in the "3 S's": Swimming, Sports, or Sex (*chuckle*). 

    Hopefully that wasn't too awkward to read, and hopefully I didn't offend those of you that wear the temple garments. 

    If you've spent a decent amount of time in the blogosphere, you may have noticed that there are a ton of Mormon bloggers! Like, why? (I have a few theories on that, but let's save that for another time.) I have found it helpful to connect with other people of my faith through blogging and have found a real sense of community with fellow Mormon bloggers. I think a lot of us like to share our outfits because sometimes it is a challenge to find modest clothing. Shopping is always a challenge, as Bri of The Secret Life of Bee explains: 

    "I love clothes. Creating outfits is a fun form of expression, but I have been asking myself why I want to share them with others. It wasn't until last week when I was wandering between the racks at Forever21 that I realized why I share my outfits. As I picked up what felt like the millionth dress with practically no bottom (seriously ladies, how do you sit down in those? The answer is you can't) I sighed to myself and thought, 'It's almost impossible to find cute, modest clothes these days.' Thus resolving my internal conflict. However small my voice may be, I want to shout hoorahs to modest clothing and show that it is possible! It's possible to feel pretty and to love your outfits with sleeves. It's also possible to buy modest clothing without spending $70 on one item...(I'm lookin' at you Shabby Apple...) If you are reading this and have had similar feelings of helplessness in clothing stores, I hope that you will know you are not alone! You are not the only person frustrated by the limited choices. Let's help each other out and not compromise our standards." (source) 
    Blogging has definitely reinforced the idea that I am not alone in this hunt for modest clothing. I have been able to get lots of fashion advice from fellow bloggers with the same/similar standards. For this, I am so thankful for the internet! What an awesome tool it is. 
    Thanks for reading! It was a lot, but maybe you learned something new! 


  1. Wow! Beverley, this post is so insightful! Thank you for having the courage to post this.
    I've heard the term 'modest' thrown around a lot, and never given it much thought until lately, so thank you for sharing your personal thoughts & opinions on the subject, and for sharing what other bloggers have said about it, too.
    You've got a beautiful heart that shines through your writing (and your photos!) - keep it up, girl!

    1. Carley, this is the sweetest comment. Thank you!
      My heart was beating pretty hard as I started to type up this post, not knowing exactly what I would say at first, but it got easier! Thanks for giving it a read :)
      xo, Beverly

  2. Growing up in a predominantly atheist environment in Australia the whole 'modesty' thing is quite alien to me. I also find it super interesting to read about, even though the concept of dressing for the sake of modesty could not be less important to me. With that being said I'd say I dress 'modestly' by most standards. This is because of what I find comfortable only. I think people should just wear what they're comfortable in, regardless of how they will be perceived by others. Obviously it's not always that simple when religion is a factor. Interesting post! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for giving it a read! And you're welcome

  3. Oh Gosh! I enjoyed this post so much; I feel like it brings up a lot of really good points concerning what the true meaning and intention behind dressing modestly should be. I'm especially happily surprised to find that I'm not the only person that was irked by the phrase "Modest is hottest." The first time I heard it I thought that it was a super cute way to try to promote dressing modestly but at the same time I just couldn't get past the utter dichotomy of the phrase. I also agree that there needs to be a change of focus, or at the very least, an equal focus and teaching men and young boys to control their thoughts and trying to keep their minds clear; otherwise the majority of the pressure to remain pure falls on the girls and can perpetuate this notion that women are only worth their bodies.

    1. The phrase certainly is an oxymoron. I'm glad you enjoyed reading! And yes, let's bring all of the focus off of the girls when it comes to modesty!

  4. Loved this video and this post. Thanks for sharing!

  5. First off, my sister gave me that shirt so I have no idea where it came from lol. Sorry! But, my thoughts on this are as follows...
    I am one of those people that disagrees with that video lol. While I completely understand what the study says, I do think it jumps the gun a little bit with the whole, "men are viewing you as an object when you wear a bikini!" I mean, granted that part of the brain did light up, but I think that maybe that's the same part of the brain that lights up when a man sees a woman he thinks is attractive, or when he sees his wife in lingerie. I understand what they are saying, but I do feel like it's making men seem like these monsters who aren't going to listen to a word we say if we are wearing a bikini. Or, like if we wear a bikini we are immediately no longer humans in their eyes: we are simply objects. Yes, wearing a bikini makes men focus on your body. However, I highly doubt they forget we are humans with emotions and dreams and feelings. I thought that was a little bit of an exaggeration. I also think it depends on the bikini. I've seen some pretty skimpy ones, but I've also seen some tasteful ones. So, those are my thoughts for that video.
    As far as modesty goes, I feel like this "power" people talk about isn't taken away because men are viewing you as an object. I feel like the power is more like a freedom thing. I feel like it's the attitude of, "everyone else at my school is wearing jeans and t-shirts, and this dress is short, but I like it and I think it's cute so I am going to wear it, even though the society I am living in doesn't think it's modest."
    At least that was my opinion in high school. I agree with that girl who said that we take all the blame, with the whole, "don't tempt the boys thing". I agree that you should teach your boys to just ignore it, because we can't control everyone in this world we live in.
    I don't know. I just think in general this world is too sex based.
    If a girl dresses immodestly, it's not because she's trying to be "hot" for guys. And if guys view her as an object, well, that's their problem for being a pig. It's not her problem other people can't control themselves. I think for the most part it's just about who you want to attract. I don't know if any of that made sense, but I guess in a nutshell I'm just trying to say that I agree with that one girl. The men of world are the ones who have a problem if they can't handle seeing a girl in a bikini, not the girls.

    1. Yeah yeah! It is so unfair for the women of the church, "taking all the blame." Plus, the world is full of double standards. Ugh.

    2. p.s. I agree that the statistics in the video are a bit over the top and exaggerated

    3. Yes! I totally thought this video was a little ridiculous. I'm Mormon, I dress modestly to cover my garments but I wear bikinis and I don't see a problem with that! And yes, please teach the boys to not be creeps haha it shouldn't be all on the girl's shoulders...

  6. I have SUCH conflicting views on this topic that I'm pretty much an oxymoron, haha. On the one hand, I agree with Emily with the fact that our culture is way too hyper-sexualized and automatically turns everything into a sex object. I agree with her in the stance that, just because a girl puts on a bikini or a short dress, it does not mean she's doing it to turn herself into an object. She might just like the darn piece! Our culture is so transfixed with the male gaze to the point where we make it "ok" (like, oh, yea it exists, it's our duty to deflect it!) and puts all the responsibility on the woman not to attract it. When really, we should be reminding the men the male gaze does NOT need to exist and they should just stop being pigs. It's as simple as getting some self control. My senior thesis was on this so I can rant about this for hours and hours, haha!

    But then on the flip side...I don't enjoy dressing immodestly haha. Like I want the option to be there without being immediately turned into an object, but I personally prefer the longer clothes just based on my style.

    But either way, this was an AMAZING post and I really enjoyed learning more about your religion! I've never really looked up the beliefs of Mormons so this was very fascinating. Thank you for taking the time to put this together :)

    xo Marlen
    Messages on a Napkin

    1. Yes to everything! I'd be interested in reading your senior thesis!

    2. I can totally email it to you if you want! Just give me your email address :)

  7. Less is more is out. I would much rather be classic then sexy any day. Love this post.

  8. p.s. i tagged you in a blog post to answer 11 questions and then tag 11 other bloggers and blah blah. i definitely did not do all that i was supposed to, but i tagged you if you would like to participate:)

  9. Great post, Beverly! I like that you included a variety of inputs, which I think is helpful in any 'controversial' conversation.
    I especially like what you quoted from Elizabeth, about how sometimes being a modesty warrior can cause girls to shame other girls. I was actually just telling a friend about how when I was younger I judged and shamed the girls in my grade (who weren't even members) for wearing halter tops, because I was taught such strict modesty. Shaming others is definitely not the way to go, when girls shame others it's a problem.

    As per the video, the study she cites is flawed, it was never peer reviewed and the pictures of the women shown had their heads cropped off. Have you seen this post?:
    It does a great job at critiquing the video, while still respecting the message.

    Thanks for sharing your insights and contributing to the conversation!

    1. Holy crap that blog post is great!! Thanks so much for sharing it with me! And my oh my, that study is very, very flawed. Ugh.

  10. I loved that post from Alycia because I shared so many of the same views with her! And I'm totally with you Bev, they need to teach the boys some self-control not just make the girl's feel like it's all their fault if the boys are looking at them in that way. So dumb. And I love having other Mormon bloggers around too because seriously it is so hard to dress modestly sometimes!


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