"Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that's the whole art and joy of words."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Modesty, Feminism, Sex-Crazed People, and the Lord. (Yes, seriously)

There, I said it. A highly-connoted word to grab your attention.
This post is sort of under the umbrella of this particular f-word. I suppose you could hashtag#feminism if you felt particularly youthful and snappy.
I love, love, love that I belong to a part of American history that has benefited from the efforts of women with gumption who fought for women's rights, who gathered their voluminous skirts up and demanded national recognition as equal partners in the life of our country through the ability to vote and hold public office. This was 93 years ago, people. 1920.
Which of us would say that, well, how nice and cheery of the ole ladies, but I don't really care if I'm treated as an equal in my country. In fact, being discriminated against for my gender doesn't bother me and doesn't agitate my other declarations of freedom in my nation?
Um, none of us.
But let me point out that attaining equal rights for women to vote and hold office, to be admitted to universities or any school, to be offered a job in any field, to walk on whatever side of the road we find lovely, to wear pants or shorts if our hearts desired it, to author texts that move nations, to suit up in military armor... All these things do not make us men-haters, do they? Does being a feminist -- someone who enjoys her rights equally alongside of her male counterparts, because she knows that nothing about being a woman makes her less than any man -- necessitate her to a position of superiority over men?
First of all, let us make sure that feminism hasn't pushed us into a new, critical, wounded discrimination against men. There's past deeds done, and there's present battles being fought, but raising ourselves as superior above our men is the same evil we fought off decades ago.
(Now, if you want to see where I'm going with this blog, please read these two blogs and come up with a nice statement of comparison: http://givenbreath.com/2013/09/03/fyi-if-youre-a-teenage-girl/ and http://www.imperfecthomemaking.com/2013/07/what-our-daughters-and-sons-need-to.html. one positively influenced this post, while the other encouraged me to speak up right away in a not-so-positive way)
And SECONDLY, and if you read nothing, READ THIS PART, being a free woman in this nation celebrates our liberation from oppressive, rape-culture, female-blaming societies. So listen here CONSERVATIVE women, evangelical women, moms, wives, good Christian girls, girls who aren't Christians but know good morals when they see them and can tell the difference between a swimsuit and a piece of string:

Telling women to be modest and "cover up" because if you don't, men will see and stumble into sin, and bad things may happen to you in their minds or in real life, this is a return to an unliberated nation, a place that does not value women equally, realize their awesome potential and their incredible differences from men, or allow them to be free in speech, voting, dress, etc.
Telling women to be modest because that's what good girls do or that's what the Bible says (legalistic) or because men can't handle it and will sin (blaming) does not protect women, or encourage us, or even honor us. It dehumanizes us into threats, sex objects, items to be dressed accordingly.
Well-intentioned women groomed me in my 6 years of teen Sunday Schools, retreats, and Wednesday nights (whatever these were called) into a walking, breathing crisis. I could, at any moment, cause a brother to sin. I needed to dress accordingly and embrace modest dress to avert this crisis.
(for those of you wondering, my parents are off the hook. they encouraged modesty, but never laid guilt or cause on me for another's actions)
Wait, you say, wait a second. Aren't we suppose to do things for the good of others? Doesn't Paul boldly declare that he will NEVER eat meat offered to idols (something meaningless to him --hey, meat's meat!--, but confusing and possibly spiritually threatening to others) if it might cause one of his friends to stumble and take the spiritual backslide? Um, yes, he does say this. And it's glorious.
But how do we women apply this to our modesty? I'll never wear a bathing suit again if seeing some of my appendages causes my brother to fall. I'll never wear pants again. I'll never wear shorts again. I'll never wear short-sleeved shirts again. I'll never wear my hair down again. Wait, I'll never expose my hair again. I'll never expose my skin again. Wait, I'll never let them see my beautiful face again, if it causes them to fall. I won't even leave the house.
What do we have? Oppression, rape-culture, objectification.
(rape culture, by the way, is at its most basic point a culture's mindset that the victim of rape encouraged or brought on her attack because of her, shall we say, alluring qualities. it is her fault she was raped; she was asking for it.)
Study I Corinthians 8 for a few minutes and you will find multiple things at work. But there is a lovely verse about bearing your own responsibility: "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak." Good, good. It is a good thing to watch out for each other. Note, please, that the "weak" he's referring to are contextualized as new believers in a pantheon-worshipping society who are faced with uncertainty about what to do with food that pagan priests offered to pagan idols -- is it defiled?
But let's give Paul the generalizing factor that we allow Scripture to have, and stretch this passage to mean that women ought to mind what they wear for the good of their weak, easily sinning brothers. Indeed, let us uplift each other, but let's not make this the reason for modesty, please! I know what scripture says, but scripture is living and breathing; it's not interested in handing out tickets for Scantily-Cladness In the Presence of a Man (or Woman). We can dress modestly with others' well-being in mind once our heart has been shaped to do so for GREATER reasons than this!
Indeed, Paul, just because something is allowed doesn't mean it's good. We shouldn't strut our stuff because it's the year 2013 and we can anything we want: see through shirts? barely-there shorts? leggings as pants? We can even wear high-waisted mom-jeans, aqua-colored jackets with shoulder pads tossed over a tucked-in tank top if we want to (the horror!)!
We do have the freedom. But 1980s fashion aside, we should watch what we wear. Not for the benefit of our sex-crazed men (I'm coming back to this, just a second), but because we are made in His image, we are beautiful, we are lovely, and we ought to honor the Lord with our hearts.
If our hearts say we do not need the Lord to satisfy, but rather need the satisfaction of the admiration of our physical bodies, or the attention of men, or the eye-popping effect of our near-nakedness to make us "whole," to give us worth, to achieve cultural beauty -- we are broken. It is a heart issue, modesty. First, foremost, always.
That's the whole point of this blog. You can stop reading now if you want.
But I said I'd return to sex-crazed men, so here I am. Men, you are not victims of women's indecency. You are not dependent on women to keep your thoughts clean. You are not reliant on the decisions of others for your own actions!!!! Be free, men, of this, your own victim mentality, instilled in you by the well-intended but wrong mentors of your hormone-saturated youth. Men, young and old, need to be taught and reminded that they are also made in the image of the Creator God, and they each have a heart that longs for satisfaction in the Lord. Women are not free from sexual sin because of gender; men are not entrapped in sexual sin because of gender.
But each of us ought to seek to honor the very real, very living God with our thoughts, our bodies, our actions. "Return to me!" God says. "Love me!" He says. "Need ME!" He says. He made us for this very purpose, to find pleasure in and to delight in Him.

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