Monday, May 7, 2007

But What About the Men?! Modesty Issues

Warning the following is riddled with holes from sarcasm bullets and may contain instances of TMI. Reader discretion is advised. :) (I feel like this should be a sound clip in that sexy voice Fox now uses for the viewer discretion is advised message.)

In some ways, I'm a prude. Please, please, please, my fellow young women, don't come to class with a light swimsuit cover-up on -- your metallic bronze bikini is distracting me! Save it for the appropriate context -- the pool. Of course, the last time I was wearing a dress, I think I managed to scandalize a handful of elders and a coterie of church ladies. It was a nice brown halter-top number. (Yes, there was a reason to be formal -- otherwise my frumpy self would have been in dress pants and a button-up shirt.) Of course, I also suspect that the church ladies thought my roomie was my girlfriend, as there's been a nice cloud of suspicion floating about me for some time. Buying that dress took overcoming six years of active programming to cover my shoulders and back. (I had the same battle with wearing sleeveless tops -- I nearly called someone to celebrate the first day I made it through a whole day wearing one.) Actually, I hate the term modesty. I like appropriate. Dress appropriately for the situation. (If the situation is a nudist colony, I don't care what you wear.)

Yep, so I found a link to a "modesty survey" conducted by one SBC-ish group, the Noble Institute, and endorsed by none other than Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary -- yah! Having a fascination with such things, I wandered through the survey.

First, I would like to award some fellow, age 26, an award for the best misuse of "feminine mystique."
The way a woman can move, the looks she can make with her eyes, gestures she can make with her hands and poses she can adopt, all of these can add to the 'feminine mystique' that thing which can make a woman very alluring and even seductive.
The feminine mystique does not refer to some aura of mystery about a woman designed to entice the boys, but to myths about a particular version feminine fulfillment, especially those linking female fulfillment to husband, children, and occupation: housewife. Thank you, try again.

Second, pray tell, why should I pick my undergarments based on what guy's want? I don't choose the undergarments based trying to be sexy or trying to be modest. I like comfortable for me. So yeah, if I feel like wearing a halter top bra (unlikely) or if I need to remind my bra strap that its supposed to be on my shoulder not my arm -- get over it. (65.4 percent of the males interviewed agreed that a girl adjusting a bra strap was a "stumbling block.")

Third, the lovely text responses on how skirts are more modest than pants because they are more feminine I shall sigh at, shake my head, think how western-centric it is to associate pants with manliness, and be happy that guys agreeing with that are in the minority. No, brain, no, stop it, you can't go on a rant about the catch-22 of if, as a chick, you pay absolutely no attention to trying to dress attractively you're accused on frumpiness and wanting to be a man.

Fourth, why did they even need to ask if bouncing bosoms when a woman is running or jogging is a "stumbling block"? Furthermore, no, there is not nessecarily a lot that can be done about that and kudos to the fellows who commented that they recognized that. Sports bras help, but any lady with larger breasts is going to have to wear two sports bras at once (yes, many, many girls do this). And to the lovely specimen of humanity who decided to use that question as an opportunity to comment, "General tip: Uncomfortable bras probably weren't designed to be uncomfortable, but rather to attract guys," when was the last time you went bra shopping? I wanna know. Obviously you've never tried on a push-up bra, otherwise you would know the things, while obviously intended to mimic the large bust society holds in such high regard, actually aren't uncomfortable. The really tight sports bras that you need to get everything anchored down for no bouncing -- those suckers aren't comfortable, trust me. Push-up bras, not so much. Anyway, the only males I'm taking bra shopping tips from are drag queens, please fax a copy of your creditentials.

It's not even that everything in here is unreasonable. (It's just way more fun for me to mock those that are.) See through clothing that isn't layered is not high on my list of appropriate garments for most occasions. Same goes for showing your underwear (and that goes for both sexes, thank you very much). And if I could do cartwheels, I might do a couple, because I'm delighted that the vast majority of the respondents said that the ultimate responsibility for whether or not the sinned lay with them and not with women. Applause for the respondents!

But -- why do all of these organizations feel the need to focus only on the potentiality that a male somewhere might become arosed (or to break down some heteronormativity -- a female)? Why that phrasing? Wouldn't it make more sense to focus on young women as individual people and frame the idea of appropriate/modest dress in terms of self-respect and self-determination.

Also, I'm not a guy -- surprise! -- but do guys ever get tired of being told that they are just completely out of control and are going to start thinking of sex at the smallest thing -- like the two seconds it takes a girl to slid a finger under her collar and return a bra strap to the proper place on her shoulder? I blame Augustine and his public baths passage from The Confessions. But then, I blame Augustine for a lot of things.

And why is it that apparently only males experience sexual desire? Seriously, I realize that it is correct generalization that males think about sex more than females, but it isn't like women never experience lust. Why don't the men have to work to make sure they don't become a stumbling block for the women in SBC philosophy land? I could totally come up with some rules. No longer, curly hair fellows. And definitely don't run your hand through it in public, because that just calls too much attention to your curly hair. Please, no nice suits -- I'm a hypocrite but, guys dressed to the nines -- hot. Of course, I find guys in grunge get up hot as well. And if you could, stop it with western style shirts. I don't know why I like them, but I do. So, it'd be a great help to me if you would quit with it. Or at least, you know, like test shirts out first to make sure that they don't bring out your eyes. Come on, if I'm supposed to work hard so fellows don't lust, shouldn't they put forth some effort so I'm not tempted to lust! (See, doesn't this sound ridiculous when reversed?)

Basically, I'm sorry that males have been programmed to see females as sex objects. I'm sorry that females have been programmed to adorn themselves as sex objects. I do understand that many girls dress in order to provoke a sexual response from males. But encouraging or even putting girls in "modest" clothing, does not even begin to get to the heart of the issue. And certainly not when the message is phrased in a way that focuses exclusively on the potential to cause a male to "sin."

And now for something completely different: French Press + Good Coffee = Happy Metra.


belledame222 said...

you know, i wonder if anyone ever suggested to the poor lads that the best way to avoid "stumbling blocks" might in that case be to, say, -never leave the house.-

or turn on the TV. hey, idle hands are the Devil's Playground--you know, there must be a -lot- of chores around the house those nice young men could channel all those lusty energies into...

WordK said...

The survey results could also be filtered by whether the respondent was home-schooled, went to a public school, or a private school. The shifts in percentages were quite interesting.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

(Here from Belledame's place.)

I know quite a few men who have serious issues with the societal assumption that they're uncontrolled sex maniacs. Most of the ones I know personally who have expressed an opinion on the matter.

Mind, I also once encountered (on a message board) a guy who not only thought that all men were uncontrollable sex maniacs, but who refused to accept women saying differently because clearly their partners "had them fooled" and who refused to accept men saying differently because clearly they were keeping up the act of being decent human beings in order to get more wimmins.


I think the issue is complicated. I do not think men are uncontrolled/uncontrollable sex maniacs. But that is not to say that there are not powerful sexual impulses that can suddenly surprise me from time to time.

On the other hand, I do not lay all the responsibility on women either. Women play a part, to be sure, but ultimately I am always responsible for my own actions.

Perhaps this is one of those things which like sex itself takes two to tango, both working together to not tango might prove useful. Sensitivity all the way around seems wise to me. But I would never blame a woman for my sexual misbehavior, or if I did, it would not change the fact that responsiblity rests with me.

I hate to complicate things further, but I really wonder how much of this is "empire" conditioned. "Empire" is a loaded word for me, to unpack it further, if you wish, see my blogs - not least Soundbites & Subversions. Basically I am saying "society makes us do it" and with sex in particular it is as much about powerplays as it is about either procreation or pleasure.

We market ourselves sexually looking for high bidders etc. Both men and women. What drives our impulses, desires and behaviors from a societal standpoint? And is that all the fault of one sex or another?

I don't have answers to these questions, and perhaps they could be posed better for that matter. But I feel sure the "empire" approach would illuminate things that are otherwise very hard to see.

Great post. I am loving your blog.

Jesus is Lord!

WordK said...

dw3t-hthr, hello, welcome! Thanks for commenting.

MG, I think you're definitely onto something with the idea of social/empire conditioning being more at fault than either sex. I think that the way society teaches people to interact with members of the opposite sex is much more of problem than "fashion." Fashion -- immodest, inappropriate whatever term is preferred -- can reinforce a pre-existing problem but it's the symptom, not the actual disease.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

It gets even more obvious if you look at the assumptions about this sort of thing from different times and places.

I want to say it was a Victorian-era belief that women, as The Emotional Sex, were more primal/animalistic and thus unable to resist their passions, and thus needed to be kept in hand by a member of The Rational Sex, who would of course be able to keep the relentlessly sexual woman in hand (as it were).

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Addendum/correction: after chatting with a friend who's a Victorian-era buff, the irrationality of women in that case did not include sexual hunger.

We've since gone off into a discussion of medieval beliefs about human sexuality ... Eden and temptresses and such.

WordK said...

At some point in the wonderful world of human philosophy, I'm pretty sure women were portrayed as the sex-mad gender. But I'm feeling too lazy today to go look it up.