Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Modesty, Femininity, & Feminism

I have few "soapboxes" but this definitely is one of them. I saw the bulk issue during my college years because I was living in St. Augustine doing youth ministry. It caused many problems: trying to get the girls to dress modestly when all they wanted to wear, especially 10 months out of the year, were bathing suits and tank tops.

The problem, I have learned, is not with the clothes you wear, the length of your skirt, and how many fingers-wide your tank top strap is. The problem lies in the heart and the motivation for wearing what we wear. I was given a CJ Mahaney sermon to listen to by Veronica Greear about the "Soul of Modesty" - you can find it here. I started listening to it before I left the church parking lot; and God had convicted me deep in my heart by the time I reached the red light (first couple minutes of the sermon which was mostly Scripture). Modesty is a matter of the heart, not necessarily of the closet.

How this whole blog entry came about today was by an article I read today in the Southern Baptist Texan, a newspaper out of Texas. One of the things Penna Dexter said was "Christian women and girls unwittingly undermine their testimonies by the way they dress." How true! Some of our girls are learning how to dress by watching the teen stars on television - and yes, this even occurs in our churches and youth groups. Modesty is about: a gentle and quiet spirit, not letting the outward appearance take control or define our inward spirit. If we want the world to see what Biblical Femininity is - the first thing they are going to see is how we dress. Now, I'm not saying we have to wear skirts that cover our ankles, long sleeve shirts in the summer time, and never wear a bathing suit. I am saying think before you buy an outfit. Think what this might say to a lost and dying world, or to younger girls that you are trying to mentor. Moms - think what your daughters are seeing every time they watch you get dressed to go somewhere. What are you modeling? I had a friend of mine in college tell me once, "It doesn't matter. I could wear a long sleeve shirt and jeans and guys would still lust after me." That isn't modesty. It is about the heart - and then that is reflected in the wardrobe.

One of the things that impressed me most in the Pastor CJ's sermon mentioned earlier (he preached it to his own people at Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, MD) was his emphasis on the Dad's being the head of the household, the spiritual leader, even in what their daughters and their wives wear (see 1 Tim 3.4). This is not widely seen in families today. Dexter said, "mothers hold the purse strings and have the final say regarding their daughters' clothes." Why is that? Do Dad's really not care how young men are looking at their daughters? Do they not care what their daughters' and wife's clothes say about them as a father and a husband? Dads - please, we want you to be the fathers God created you to be. If you don't have time or desire to go spend the afternoon at the mall: review everything that is brought home (most girls love fashion shows, especially when they are on the runway), go through catalogues or the Internet stores with your daughters before they go, teach them what is and isn't appropriate of young Christian girls, train them up (Prov. 22.6).

Last, what does this say about feminism. Dexter talks about the impact of the sexual revolution: "girls are victims of this corrosion. So is a society that once benefited from the virtue of its women. But we no longer encourage that virtue, and the sexual revolution of the 1960s that claimed to empower women has fueled a full-blown sexualized culture." She went on to talk about the positive changes that are seen in some aspects of culture that this might be changing. It might be changing, but we've got a long way to go.

A couple of things that might make the change more wide spread:

1. Dads - please love your wives and daughters (and God) enough to know and care about what they are wearing - teach them about modesty and how looks matter to guys. Girls don't see the clothes the way guys see clothes. Protect us - we want that.

2. Women - learn to look at yourself in the mirror before you walk out: are bra straps showing, can you see through your skirt or blouse, when you bend down, can you see down your shirt? All these are important questions. And think not only "do I look cute in this outfit" but "how am I going to honor my brothers (in Christ) today by this outfit". Think unselfishly!

3. Churches - be the CJ Mahaneys and teach about this in your youth group, college group, from the pulpit. Don't leave clothes and apparel just to the GAP window dressers and Britney Spears Bratz Dolls. They aren't cutting it. They are teaching our young girls the wrong way to dress. This is what's happening with those: "The doe-eyed, midriff-baring doll was dressed in cheap pink-and-black lingerie and looked as if she should be dancing round a pole.
"It’s one of the BratzBabyz!" the little girl burst out. "She’s called Sugar and I want to be just like her!" This was at a 4-yr old birthday party.

4. And as with anything - be modeling the grace and glory of God in what you wear and how you wear it.


Anonymous said...

Great thoughts! Although I do have to say that men are let off far too easy in this teaching. It has been my experience that women will always search for affection/attention they are not receiving at home. When you talk about Dads, I think it is important to remember that the issue has much more to do with whether or not they are checking wardrobes. It has everything to do with being a caring, respectful, and attentive husband and father. When women are shown their worth from people in their life aside from sexual interest, I believe they will live accordingly.

However, I am a guy in all this. I recognize that I may be horribly off base.

Thanks for the word to chew on.

-Rob Stone

Mike Hall said...


You are so right. I like cooler weather just because. As I have gotten older, however, I have begun to really like cold weather if for no other reason people are forced to wear more clothes. It can be very difficult to eye bounce away from a girl who is jogging in a revealing outfit when they are coming at you from both sides. I can't wait for it to get really cold so I can see how nice the landscape around here really is. By the way, I posted on this same subject on my blog Click Here.