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Tuesday, 18 September 2012

From men to women on modesty: "My greatest temptation... was in church".

Kristine Cranley has an excellent article on the blog, which is a group of Catholic students from Texas A and M. Smart kids.

She asked men about modesty and her article is revealing in many ways. To be honest, I am tired of fighting the modesty battle with Catholic women, and even some priests who do not want to deal with this serious problem and it is serious. Leading people into sin is sin. One good priest I know said it was a terrible thing to see girls dressed as they are. But, this needs to be said from the pulpit.

Read what Kristine writes here. You can follow the link to the entire article.

I’ll never forget my shock when in college a friend admitted to me that he found it difficult when women wore white shirts to Mass because you could often see one’s bra straps through them. I had never thought to check! I thanked him for the information, and thanked God I wasn't wearing a white shirt at that moment! 

Or when my own brother discretely told me that my smashing new white pants were … well … see through. “When girls wear white pants” he informed me authoritatively, “guys check”. 

Or, perhaps most embarrassing of all, the time a man asked me to stop wearing ‘midriff shirts’ to Mass. I was too embarrassed to admit I didn’t know what a midriff shirt was. (I have since googled it and am quite certain that I have never owned a midriff shirt, but my pants that fateful day had been a little loose and fallen below my shirt line, and he had noticed). 

Too loose. Too tight. Too low. Too high. Who teaches us about these things anymore?

I thank God for the men who have been courageous enough to share with me the ways my clothing has affected them. Certainly we are all responsible for guarding our eyes from what might cause us to sin. And yet I’m confident that most of you ladies reading this desire to help our brothers in Christ to live purity of heart, just as we are grateful when they help us to do the same. But how are we to learn to love each other well in this regard?


Why Modesty?
First of all, I want to assert that the reason we dress modestly is NOT because our feminine bodies are bad or ugly or intrinsically ‘occasions of sin’. Simultaneously, it is NOT because all men think about is sex, or that they are incapable of looking at us without lust. Rather modesty involves speaking the truth with our bodies. While women are generally aroused through emotional warmth or physical touch, men are aroused through visual stimuli. Whether we intend to or not, revealing too much of our bodies sends a message that we are sexually available to them. As one young man recently explained to a group of women here at St. Mary’s,“there are two steps to having sex. Taking off one’s clothes and actually having sex. If someone is already half undressed, it’s difficult for one’s mind not to go to the second step”.

But meanwhile, the world seems ‘hell-bent’ on destroying in women a proper sense of what is and is not modest. Has not modern day fashion slowly desensitized us to exposing almost every part of our body that can possibly be exposed? One style may show off more and more of the leg, another the chest, the navel, the back, etc., so that slowly we’ve become increasingly comfortable with having any or every part of our bodies revealed to the public. Is it possible to wear any less clothing than a string bikini? Even being clad in solely our undergarments would cover more than many swimsuits do nowadays. 

It is true that norms of modesty do shift somewhat from culture to culture. There have been cultures where women have never worn shirts and therefore their being topless was not considered sexually suggestive for the men in their society. But question of importance for us today is what message do our outfits, in our present culture and day, send to the men we are blessed to know and love?

Survey Says
Personally, I have found the responses given on the ‘modesty survey’ extremely enlightening in this regard. This survey anonymously interviewed men seeking to live chastity on their views regarding women’s clothing. Their answers were astounding. The following is a sample of some of the survey questions, followed by the men’s responses (emphasis original):
  • Girls can dress attractively without being immodest. 98% agree/str. agree
    • Age 20 - I actually had a T.A. in one of my classes who was a beautiful woman who dressed modestly, and I had trouble paying attention to anyone but her! Her clothing never caused me to stumble and never once did I have a physical reaction to her. Instead, my heart warmed (maybe even fluttered a few times hehe) and it just made me smile. There's also a young woman from my home town who I've known for some time who has MASTERED this art. She is just gorgeous....wait, I'm rambling.... sorry. But see what I mean? The women who dress modestly AND attractively leave a much longer lasting impression on men.
    • Age 20 - There is a huge difference between being beautiful and being hot. Beauty is being attractive for who the girl is as a person. Hot is being attractive as nothing more than sex appeal.
  • Showing any cleavage is immodest. – 70% agree/str. agree
    • Age 40-49 - I find it totally distracting. It's EVERYTHING I can do to keep my eyes on her eyes when cleavage is showing.
    • Age 22 - Why? Why must you? What is your reasoning for doing it? You can be fashionable with out doing it, so why?
    • Age 20 - This is the biggest thing which causes me to fall.
  • Immodest clothing is not a problem (for you) when a girl in your own family wears it. – 21% agree/str. agree
    • Age 24 - Maybe I am alone in this, but my "Hey! Female skin!" radar doesn't stop to check DNA first
    • Age 16 - I radically disagree. It does not matter if the girl is my sister or not, it is still an assault on godly beauty, and my chastity. You see, what lust (and the whole industry that is producing all the magazines you see at the grocery store and worse) does, is it takes away the personhood of the object of lust. So then, immodesty in a mind surrendered to evil turns the woman into a thing -- it removes personality, true beauty, being made in God's image, and leaves only a thing that satisfies evil desires. Therefore, because of how destructive lust is it does matter that my sister and my best friend dress modestly.
  • Bending over so that cleavage is visible down the front of the shirt or dress is a stumbling block. 90% agree/str. agree
    • Age 16 - Um... Yes. That image usually sticks in my head for weeks.
    • Age 21 - I cannot agree stronger. This is a big one for me. It would appear some shirt are MADE to do this. I appreciate it when girls hold there hand to their chest as they bend over. It demonstrates not only a respect for themselves, but also to me.
  • General comments to women
    • Age 24 - Sisters in Christ, you really have no concept of the struggles that guys face on a daily basis. Please, please, please take a higher standard in the ways you dress. True, we men are responsible for our thoughts and actions before the Lord, but it is such a blessing when we know that we can spend time with our sisters in Christ, enjoying their fellowship without having to constantly be on guard against ungodly thoughts brought about by the inappropriate ways they sometimes dress. In 1 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul presents believers as the members of one body - we have to work together. Every Christian has a special role to play in the body of Christ. That goal is to bring glory to the Savior through an obedient, unified body of believers - please don't hurt that unity by dressing in ways that may tempt your brothers in Christ to stumble.
    • Age 26 - In high school, the place of greatest temptation toward lust was my church. Girls wore things to church that they thought were fashionable and dressy, but they would not have passed the dress code at my public high school. Church should NEVER be a guy's greatest source of temptation, in any way. Please, be especially careful when picking out your dress clothes for church, and make sure they are modest when sitting and kneeling (if you kneel in church), not just standing in front of the mirror. 

In summary: cleavage, tight pants, short shorts, the infamous ‘midriff shirts’, exposed backs or bra straps: all these things compromise the grace-filled beauty of our feminine presence to our brothers in the Lord.


Lorraine said...

The last time I dared to bring this topic up with someone in the parish I was told that I should be grateful that young people are there at all - no matter how they are dressed.

It is hard to talk "modesty" to a generation (or two) that has lost all sense of shame.

Supertradmum said...

Lorraine, good for you and the same thing happens to me when I dare to bring this up to young people. I just cannot understand the blindness and the hostility

inara said...

This is such a problem everywhere ~ young women seem to think that just because they have fabric covering their skin, that they are dressed modestly. They don't realize that they would look exactly the same in silhouette if they were naked, and therefore, they pose the same temptation to others.

I think this is partially due to women not understanding male concupiscence & what a struggle it can be, as well as not being educated in women's responsibility, out of charity, to avoid being an occasion of sin by her dress & behavior. Western culture has enshrined relativism & so if my clothing (or lack of it), provocative posture, suggestive talk, etc. is cause for someone else to stumble, it is their problem, not mine.

The movement to attack the church & the world by corrupting women has thoroughly succeeded (and this was an intentional strategy). We have fallen so far that even our priests have bought into the lie & will no longer defend the honor of women, because 1) they do not see clearly what is at stake & 2) they fear the aggressive backlash that will inevitably occur if they challenge women on this. I know you have dealt with examples of this in your combox ~ the force of the defensive response is so shockingly irrational & prideful, it can only be demonic.

The Church, in its wisdom & desire to protect souls, has given us the Papal Decree on Modesty, along with the Standards of Dress for women that were distributed with it. This is still the mind of the Church, though after several decades of trying to enforce it, Her voice has been drowned by the tidal wave of "modern" thought. We need to ask for the assistance of Padre Pio, who was a staunch defender of modesty & didn't care a whit who he offended by demanding adherence to Church teaching on this subject. Remember, he refused to hear confessions of women who were wearing pants, skirts above mid-calf, or low cut blouses! (and he was right to do so, of course, because how could they claim to be contrite while dressing themselves in a manner inconsistent with Christian modesty, humility & charity?)

I was one of "those girls" when I was young and I can tell you ~ I was clueless. I listened to the voices of the world, because there were none to challenge them. I have been searching for a champion for this cause among priests for several years now & have yet to find one. The Church threw in the towel 40 years ago & the Prince of this world pounced. We must pray for courage for our priests to address this clearly & without apology. If they do, I know hearts can be changed. Sometimes people have to get angry before they wrestle themselves into obedience ~ but they'll never do it if no one presents them with the truth to wrestle with.

Anita Moore said...

This puts me in mind of a time I was getting into my car at a convenience store, and I overheard this girl complaining to her boyfriend: "Did you see that clerk?? He was totally staring at my a**!!!" On and on in this vein. Her whole outfit might have covered as much as 12 square inches. Had it been opportune, I might have said, "And you went to so much trouble to cover it up, too." That clerk in the store was staring at just exactly what she WANTED people to stare at. And then she complained when they did.

And it's true: women do dress immodestly at Mass. There is just no place for Daisy Dukes at Mass. Once I even saw a little second-grader in a very slutty-looking First Communion outfit. Who would have thought that a child could look like a miniature streetwalker in a white dress and white veil? Yet it can be done, and I have seen it. Shame on her parents.

When we women dress up at Mass, then maybe we'll be able to stop the men wearing shorts and flip-flops to the August Sacrifice.

As to the "we should just be glad they're here!" mentality, I thought it was brilliantly captured by Paul Nichols a few years ago over at Catholic Cartoon Blog:

Lorraine said...

Anita, that's a good cartoon. Sometimes I don't know whether to laugh or cry...

Emily said...

Hey, just a note: You can wear white shirts, you just need the appropriate bra that can't be seen under it, as in an ivory/nude color. Then you shouldn't have a problem.

Also: showing "any" cleveage is immodest: what does that mean? I mean, if you're wearing a tailored shirt, you're going to see that the woman has breasts. Do you mean no suggestion of them all? Because I'm not even sure if that's possible.

Supertradmum said...

Cleavage means something specific. You can look it up.