Raise your hand if you are the mother of a girl and you have trouble finding modest, non-sexy clothing for your child. I hear you.
My daughter is in a cotillion class where she is required to wear dresses that come to the knee. Good luck finding those. Not that there’s anything wrong with dresses that hit higher than the knee. I own a few myself. But cotillion involves dancing, and if a girl’s underwear is in danger of showing when she raises her arms over her head, maybe the dress designers ought to leave a little more fabric below the waist.
Modesty is a tricky thing. It varies from decade to decade, from culture to culture. An outfit that we’d consider conservative on the beach would raise eyebrows in church.
As a mother, I know I will soon have some of those “You’re-not-leaving-this-house-wearing-that” conversations. But in some parts of our culture, girls are encouraged to say, “Don’t tell us what we can wear. Tell the boys to stop staring.” I intend to do both, thank you very much. I’ll tell my daughter what she may and may not wear. (To some degree. I’ll pick my battles.) And I’ll tell my teenage son I better not catch him ogling young women.
I caught an article on this by a syndicated columnist recently. She wrote that women should be modest in order to engender male restraint. Something about that phrasing bothered me. One little word stuck in my craw.
To engender means to produce, to give rise to. The writer implied that female modesty produces male restraint. As if males cannot restrain themselves if women are immodest. Both statements are false. Many modestly-dressed women have been raped. And men are not knuckle-dragging Neanderthals at the mercy of testosterone.
Now, as the mother of a male teen, I do have a request for teen girls. Please don’t make it harder for my son than it has to be. But more importantly, girls, respect yourselves. You are made in God’s image. You are a woman of great value simply because you are human.
Perhaps that’s not what you’ve been told. If you’re female and you’ve been on planet Earth any time at all, the culture has told you that you must be pretty and thin to have value. And have straight teeth and flawless skin, and at least average-sized breasts. And nice legs. If you’re a woman, you know the laundry list. And you know that there’s an underlying, “Or else” clause. You must look like this, or else no man will want you.
Since you’re reading this web site, you probably expect me to way, “That’s a lie.” Know what? I don’t care so much about what men want. I have no problem with a woman looking her best to catch a man’s eye. But I do have a problem with the mindset that says, “Your value is in your looks.”
I’m not going to tell you that you’re beautiful. You may not fit the mold of what our culture calls beautiful. But the bottom line is this. You have value because you are God’s creation. Made in God’s image. Redeemed by Christ. So have modesty because you respect yourself. And respect yourself because you’re worth respecting.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. If you’re a woman of a certain age, you remember a song that spelled it out. Aretha Franklin made it famous in 1967. The song’s a bit dated.
But the idea – and God’s image – are ageless.
Wendy Herrmann Smith is a 40-something mom of two. One kid she got the old fashioned way and one by adoption. Wendy writes adult Sunday School curriculum which is not as boring as it sounds. She can barely fill up an A-cup bra, and that’s okay. Really. She blogs at www.beautybattlefield.blogspot.com. Read Wendy’s other posts here.