A Modest Proposal

modesty
Hot modesty babe sez: Please come train me, Christian Soldier.

Quit obsessing over what women wear.

If we don’t cover up enough, we’re slutty temptresses who cause you to “stumble.” If we’re too covered up, we’re symbols of fundamentalism, and our bodies are just one step on the path to destroying churches and instituting Sharia law.

Women’s bodies are politicized enough as it is. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s awfully sick of women’s clothing choices being used as a bat to beat other women over the head with.

First, “modesty.” It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that I find the modesty movement deeply troubling in the way that it assumes the female body to be shameful, and puts the onus on women to prevent men from regressing to their supposed “baser instincts” — as if men are animals who will go around sexually assaulting women if they catch a glimpse of a knee or a collar bone. This week, Kyso points us to yet another modesty gem from The Rebelution (yes, them) which encompasses pretty much everything that’s wrong with the organized “modesty movement” — primarily that it allows men to own and control women’s bodies. Let’s delve in:

Girls are in a tough spot when it comes to modesty. They are called by God to dress modestly, but because they aren’t born with the same “visual nature” in their sexuality as guys are, it is difficult for women to spot where modesty begins and ends. Where are the boundaries? What trips a guy’s trigger, and what doesn’t?

Women don’t have the same “visual nature” in their sexuality as men? Right. What turns chicks on is a soft caress, “I love you,” and a bouquet of $100 bills. Or something.

As guys, we complicate it further by carelessly sinking to our own lowest levels sexually. Our visual nature first forces God to call women to modesty, depriving them of their freedom to define their own style of dress.

At least he’s honest that they’re depriving women of freedom.

While that is frustrating in its own way, their real frustration comes when we only pay attention to the girls in our youth groups that dress hot, while ignoring the ones who dress modestly and chase after God. We expect the women to protect us from our own visual nature by dressing modestly, while doing little to rise above that nature ourselves, allowing them to be penalized twice over for our nature

This is the point where I expect him to say, “So, young Christian males, get it together and quit making women bear the burden of your guilt-ridden sexuality.” And then…

Who can blame the girl who throws up her hands and snaps, I’m through worrying about this modesty thing! Their eyes are their problem, not mine! I certainly can’t blame them as long as we are being so lazy about it ourselves. We must take care of our own responsibilities first by disciplining our eyes and our minds to line up with scripture if we expect our women to line up in modesty. We are men. We must lead in all this.

“[I]f we expect our women to line up in modesty.” In other words, we’re the fuck-ups, but because we’re powerful fuck-ups, we’re going to force women (who are by nature our property) to behave in a certain way in order to please us. That behavior will not, in fact, decrease the number of nights we cry ourselves to sleep after being naughty, naughty boys who google “hot girls in action” and then touch ourselves in the bad place, but it will allow us to blame those temping girls for forcing us to sin. Everybody wins, right?

Now, let it be clear that when I say these guys are “fuck-ups,” I don’t mean that I think they’re fucked up for being physically attracted to women. In my world, sex and sexual feelings are pretty normal, so if straight 15-year-old dudes are attracted to 15-year-old girls, ain’t no problem in my book. I’m characterizing their view of themselves as somehow deviant for having perfectly normal sexual desires and urges — a view that I find pretty sad, but wouldn’t care about if they weren’t trying to project it onto everyone else. If you think your hard-on is a sign of Satan, repent away — but don’t blame me (or the girls in your youth group) for your shit. I feel a little sinful when I watch that scene where Brad Pitt first appears in Thelma & Louise — but I realize that Brad is not personally responsible for what goes on in my pants.

But before I get distracted, let’s continue:

And that is what I love about the Modesty Survey. It allows guys to take some responsibility and leadership. We can honestly help train our sisters in Christ about where those boundaries lie and, hopefully, as we think through the issue ourselves, we can begin to stand up as men by joining the Rebelution against low expectations. Expect more of yourself sexually. Begin by honoring those girls around you who are dressing modestly and who are focusing as much on their inner beauty as their outer apparel.

In case you didn’t catch it the first time, allow me to reiterate: We can honestly help train our sisters in Christ. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I tried to train was my dog (and he’s still really bad, so that didn’t even work). You don’t train people unless you think of them as slightly sub-human. Which, at this point, should be pretty self-explanatory.

But it gets better: Kyso braves the comments elsewhere on the website and finds this:

A young lady, regardless of your relation to her, can be a stumbling block/temptation to a young man. Sort of a disgusting thought, but men, if not walking in the Spirit everday, can be wolves.

My younger sister, 14, is just recently becoming more of a young lady. It was not too long ago that I (for the first time) had to bring up her dress to her. It’s not a question of incest. It’s a question of instinct. I could probably think for a moment and realize that it’s my sister, but why be put in that position in the beginning?

A girl is a girl. My sisters look like girls, and therefore they are potentially a temptation. Just because I have a relationship with them does not mean that their womanliness physically can not stir up wrong thoughts.

Even my Mom can attract my attention if she isn’t careful.

Um.

I have no problem with perverts. Perversions can be great things. Perverts make the world go ’round. Most of us, I would guess, are a little pervy. But I think incest is a fair place to draw the line (along with animals, poop, and dead bodies, but that’s another post). If you’re checking out your mom and your 14-year-old sister, you have more things to worry about than what the girls are wearing to youth group meetings. And if a dude you go to church with is turned on when his mom wears anything more revealing than a frilly blouse under a floor-length denim dress, the fact that he’s staring at your tits probably has very little to do with your choice in clothing. As Kyso points out, “THERE IS NOTHING, NOT ONE SINGLE THING, THAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP A GUY WHO OPENLY ADMITS THAT EVEN HIS MOM CAN DO IT FOR HIM.”

Yes.

On the opposite side of the same coin are the people who are offended because women are too covered up — primarily because they’re covered for the wrong reasons. And “the wrong reasons” usually come down to (surprise, surprise) being Muslim.

As I was getting ready to head home from my Sunday swim, I heard a loud voice from a man stating that he needed to speak to the manager about dress code. I picked up on it, but didn’t really give it too much thought, until I heard him yelling about “that woman over there” who was wearing the “burkini”, the gist of what he was saying seemingly being that it was inappropriate. What the hell is that? The burkini? I could feel a rising indignation at the man’s audacity in singling me out in this way. Who had died and declared him the pool police? There were several lifeguards on duty who had seen me swimming there over the previous six months, and none had objected to the swimsuit. It’s been nearly a year since I moved to Oxford, and frankly, I had had enough of the anti-Muslim rhetoric in British political life. Now that I was in the middle of it, I refused to stand on the sidelines.

Read the whole article — the author does a pretty good job of dispelling the notion that Muslim women who wear the hijab are passive and oppressed. She’s pretty badass, and definitely aggressive, which I can certainly appreciate. And the article makes it clear that the problem with her bathing suit wasn’t that it was dangerous — the problem is that it marked her as “other” in Oxford. And that it specifically marked her as Muslim. And that Muslims are relatively acceptable punching bags these days, especially at the hands of conservatives whose objectionss to Islam are more about racism, xenophobia, hegemony and religious dominance than actual offense at headscarves or wetsuit-like swimsuits.

But here’s my favorite part of her piece:

Looking back, what disturbed me the most about the debate was that my very identity was reduced to a cluster of cliches about Muslim women. I was painted in broad strokes as an oppressed, unstable Muslim woman. I was made invisible, an object of ridicule and debate, with no opinion or independent thoughts. The fact that I had dedicated the past 10 years to working on women’s issues on a global level, led a delegation of American women into Afghanistan in 2003, and put my life on the line in Iraq struggling for women’s constitutional rights were clearly beyond anyone’s imagination. The part of my life where I had the opportunity of meeting leading women from Queen Rania of Jordan to Hillary Clinton was erased.

When I chose to wear the headscarf nearly 15 years ago, I promised myself it would never hold me back from my two passions: travel and sport. Neither my mother nor my sister had worn the headscarf, and my family raised us with the gift of freedom of choice. To this day my sister and I enjoy the outdoors, each never giving a second thought to our choice of dress – her bikini or my “burkini”. It strongly disturbs me that I was disregarded as an individual, and demeaned to a one-dimensional stereotype. For many of those involved in the debate, the fact that I covered my head and my body seemed to make them forget that I had a brain.

And that’s what differentiates her from the “Rebelution” crowd — she makes her clothing choices for complex, personal and religious reasons, but feels no need to shame or judge women who don’t take the same path. She also doesn’t see her clothing choices as somehow defining who she is intellectually or personally.

That isn’t to say that what we wear has no political implications. It does, and I don’t have a problem with discussing the various issues with modesty, the veil, bikinis or miniskirts. What I do have a problem with is men exploiting women’s bodies as tools to promote political and religious ideologies, and using women’s clothing as a barometer of personal morality.

Let’s quit using fashion as an excuse for misogyny, and perhaps instead turn our focus to the misogyny of those who think they have a right to tell women what to wear.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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45 Responses to A Modest Proposal

  1. LauraJMixon says:

    THANK YOU. Well said!

  2. zuzu says:

    As Kyso points out, “THERE IS NOTHING, NOT ONE SINGLE THING, THAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP A GUY WHO OPENLY ADMITS THAT EVEN HIS MOM CAN DO IT FOR HIM.”

    There once lived a man named Oedipus Rex
    You might have heard about his odd complex
    His name appears in Freud’s index
    ‘Cause he looooooved his mother.

    Ahem. Sorry. Had to get that out.

    The problem with all of this is that there is just no way for women to win. If you try to be modest, there’s always someone who will point out that you’re not modest enough. If you wear a headscarf, someone will come along and demand you take it off. Women as political footballs for men to work out their issues with each other and with themselves.

  3. prairielily says:

    You know, Muslim women don’t have to wear hijab in front of their male family members, because sibling attraction is UNNATURAL.

  4. slythwolf says:

    You know, I love* how this concept of men’s “visual” sexuality, which women “lack”, means we have to look like perfectly made-up fuckdolls for them all the time–all of us–and they can be ugly slobs and still expect sex.

    *If by “love”, you mean “hate”, and I do.

  5. Bitter Scribe says:

    I’m characterizing their view of themselves as somehow deviant for having perfectly normal sexual desires and urges…

    That’s basically how a lot of religious folks work. They take perfectly normal, ordinary human urges and feelings and turn them into something shameful. If you’re sexually aroused, you’re a pervert. If you’re hungry, you’re greedy. If you’re bored by an interminable sermon, you’re lacking in Teh Spirit. Etc.

    As for the guy who was turned on by his sister and mom (how old is he anyway?), at least he’s honest about it. The Madonna/whore complex, at least according to one theory I’ve read, is rooted in that reaction. When a boy reaches puberty and starts to get aroused by mom, sis or any other inappropriate female, it’s more than his conscious mind can bear, so he starts dividing all females into “good” (untouchable) ones and “bad” (arousing) ones.

    Most guys manage to get past that distinction. Some, as I think most people who come to this site realize, do not.

  6. AllyeCat says:

    What a great post. Thanks!

  7. twf says:

    Zuzu is a Tom Lehrer fan!

  8. Linnaeus says:

    Zuzu is a Tom Lehrer fan!

    Smut!
    Give me smut and nothing but!
    A dirty novel I can’t shut
    If it’s uncut and unsubt-tle

  9. Hugo says:

    I’ve said my piece on this many times; it is to your eternal credit, Jill, that you keep wading back into this.

    I’m laughing, though. Good post.

  10. DAS says:

    They take perfectly normal, ordinary human urges and feelings and turn them into something shameful.

    That’s exactly the problem — to a Christian (in spite of Jesus talking about knowing them by their fruits) especially, thoughts can be sins, not just actions. If these people simply believed that extra-marital sex or such were a sin, then, obviously, they would know “well, I can think this about X, I just need to resist temptation — and that’s my responsibility”.

    But who among us has not, as Jimmy Carter put it, “lusted in our hearts”? And if you really believe that even catching a glimpse at a hawt gal and your mind drifting to even thoughts of “yawza” is a sin, well then it can’t be your fault you’ve sinned, but hers for “tempting” you.

  11. Hugo says:

    DAS, I don’t think that’s fair. As a Christian, I do think thoughts can be sins (this is not unique to Christianity, but is found in the Abrahamic tradition — it goes back to the final commandment, the one about “coveting”), but I don’t blame the object of my sin. You’re right that many Christians (and Jews and Muslims) have made that mistake, but it isn’t inherent in the theology.

    Sin, as discussed by most theologians, is not “noticing someone hot.” It’s allowing one’s mind or eyes to linger on someone with whon you are not in relationship. If I daydream about having super hot sex with my wife all day long, that’s not a problem. If I daydream about having sex with my wife’s sister — or my colleague — that’s a problem.

    I have no patience with the modesty boys. I accept their essential premise, that we are called to self-control; I disagree with their conclusion that the objects of desire are in any way part of the problem.

  12. blucas! says:

    If God didn’t want us to marry our cousins, he wouldn’t have made them so hot.

  13. Roy says:

    Jill, I should have sent you a copy of the pamphlet from one of those modesty groups. I sent a copy to Sheelzebub over at Pandagon. It’d make your toes curl. It’s mind-blowing, what some of these people think. Women don’t own their bodies- men do. Women’s bodies were presents from God, to men, and women are just entrusted to care for them.

    From the pamphlet: “A woman uses her body appropriately when she seeks to delight her husband with it. Her breasts etc. are gifts from God to her husband, which she has been entrusted to care for. If a woman withholds them from her husband or if she offers them begrudgingly, she sins.” Which is why it’s, you know, a sin to be immodest around other men- because you’re giving them the pleasure of a gift meant exclusively for your husband.
    *vomit*

  14. syfr says:

    SQUEEELLL! Another Tom Lehrer fan tagging in. I only know about 4 of us, total, in real life.

    Jill, this is a good post; you pull together the threads about both sides of “modesty” and emphasize that women-are-not-footballs, which so many people seem to think we are.

  15. Isabella says:

    I get the impression that religious people who think their natural sexual desires are sins spend more time obsessing over sex than people who accept that they’ll feel sexual desire from time to time (and that “from time to time” can be pretty frequent when you’re a teenager).

  16. Stephanie says:

    Well, we could just go back to when seeing an ankle would have been considered by these people to be a “stumbling block”. For people who think like this, it doesn’t matter how women dress;’ it’s their existence that is the real temptation.

  17. DAS says:

    Sin, as discussed by most theologians, is not “noticing someone hot.” It’s allowing one’s mind or eyes to linger on someone with whon you are not in relationship. – Hugo

    You are right, of course … after a certain point certain thoughts do become sinful. Coveting is one example. Leering, as we all tend to agree here in feminist left blogostan, is another example. And this level of obsession clearly is either under the control of the thinker or, if not, a psychiatric condition needing treatment.

    But it seems to me that the fundie crowd does consider “noticing someone hot and the mind drifting to thoughts of sex” to be sinful. Of course, c.f. Isabella’s comment, if your goal is trying to avoid obsessing about sexual matters, e.g. continuously thinking about sex with someone with whom you are not in a relationship, obsessing about thinking about sex is the worst thing you can do. It does seem to me, though (knowing a few quasi-fundie Christians), that they really do think that the mere thought of sex is as sinful as the act itself — so of course, a woman showing an ankle is a stumbling block to them, as it might cause them to think, however, briefly, about sex.

    And that theologians wouldn’t consider a sin doesn’t mean much: these are people who don’t really pay much attention to the details of Christian theology. I’m sure you’ve noticed, e.g., how the supposedly uber-Catholic Bill Donohue is a de facto docetist (which is a heresy) and how many fundies have some rather bizarre Christological ideas unsupported by any educated theologian.

    To be fair, though, I should of clarified of whom I was speaking. I apologize.

  18. Zuzu…

    oom-pa-pa…

    …maybe we’ll knock off a squirrel or two
    while we’re poisoning pigeons in the paaaaaaark

  19. Hugo says:

    Thanks for the clarification, DAS, you’re certainly correct about the odd theologies of many spokespeople for the Christian right!

  20. Nomie says:

    Get in line in that processional
    Step into that small confessional
    There the guy who’s got religion’ll
    Tell you if your sin’s original
    If it is, try playin’ it safer
    Drink the wine and chew the wafer
    Two, four, six, eight
    Time to transubstantiate!

    …although these modesty whackjobs are probably born-again fundies, not Catholic. But whatever!

  21. Kyso K says:

    That day’s worth of Modesty Survey recap was so great. In addition to letting guys know that the first step in taking responsibility for their thoughts was letting the women know how exactly they could best take responsibilty for the boy’s thoughts, there was also a rather defensive response to the idea that they do a parallel survey for guys, which amounted to “Well, we’d love to and if God wills it and we have time and stuff, uh…maybe next year.” It was hilarious.

  22. Nomen Nescio says:

    it is to your eternal credit, Jill, that you keep wading back into this.

    similarly to how Hercules was given credit for doing king Augeas that little favour.

    ditto on the laughs, too.

  23. JW says:

    Our visual nature first forces God to call women to modesty

    Force the who what now? These little jesusy boys are “forcing” their god to do stuff? I may have missed that chapter and verse, but I kinda thought–according to them, anyway–god was The Almighty. “Male and femlae created He them,” right? So god created males to be so easily visually stimulated, so easily “stumbled,” that he has to hamper females to compensate? Does not compute.

  24. Tobes says:

    Okay… soooo creepy. Unbelievable creepiness. This tidbit from them stood out: “Sort of a disgusting thought, but men, if not walking in the Spirit everday, can be wolves.” A veiled threat against the bad whores who fail to fall in line with the modesty plan. If you don’t dress modest, you’ll be raped by the evil wolves… but it’ll be your fault.

  25. Rosasharn says:

    I see they’re continuing the “men” and “girls” thing.

  26. Neko-Onna says:

    Wow. The boys at Rebelution must have a pretty low opinion of the intelligence level of their readers. I had to chuckle at the “Approaching the Results” how-to-read-statisitics bit. And they say homeschoolers are so advanced!

    In reading through the survey, you might have trouble finding a single item of clothing that someone, somewhere, doesn’t have a problem with. So where do we draw the line?

    Yeah, really. Where DO we draw the line? Ironically, they make fun of Burkas in the same paragraph, but you’ve gotta believe the “modest” dress they are so keen on would have to resemble that. That isn’t terribly surprisng from the folks who posted such blogfare as “Ruining Our Lives with Fun” and “A Lesson From The Vikings”.

    Oh, and I’m sad to report that God never once called me to be modest. God never calls me at all, as a matter of fact. Should that worry me? Is it because I’m not hott enough? ‘Cause I could definately start lifting my skirt to my knee a little more often when I step over things, or start wearing “suggestive” sweathshirts with words printed on the …boobie area… Oh, there I go again *sheepish grin*. Why can’t I get it through my Original-Sin addled head that being ignored by the Big Man is a sign of His deep and abiding love?

  27. mythago says:

    The problem with all of this is that there is just no way for women to win.

    From the point of view of the Rebelution boys, that’s not a problem–that’s a solution.

    Gavin de Becker talks about how a common strategy used by (human) predators is to keep the victim off-balance with a mild insult that she then works to disprove. This is intended to get the victim to comply and to establish control. The modesty freaks are doing the exact same thing with their no-win game: controlling women by making fear of men’s disapproval (and, not so subtly, violence) their central concern. Since women can never ever get it right, there is no way for them to say “There, I no longer have to worry about offending the Lord / being raped / tempting a man, now that my dress is modest and Christian.”

    It’s the paleo-Christian version of being an asshole to get girls.

  28. little light says:

    Oh my–and then–and–augh. augh. augh.

    There’s a common thread I’ve seen here, and elsewhere. It’s the “this is the way my brain works so it’s how everyone’s brain works” thing.

    “I lust after my sister and mother. I mean, what guy doesn’t? They look like women, right? I mean, every guy must notice his teenage sister is hot at some point–we’re just restraining ourselves.”

    “I (and this was–God, can I find the interview? Fred Phelps? One of the superfundie politicos? anyway, this is a close paraphrase) grew up on a farm. And you know, when you’re young, you want to have sex with everything that moves. If it’s got a warm hole, you want to put your dick in it.” (interviewer splutters.) “Look, son, you just don’t understand because you didn’t grow up on a farm. You’re just a citifed snob. Everyone does it.” (more sputtering, actual managing to ask The Question.) “Yes, I had a special relationship with one of the donkeys.”

    “Don’t all men desire other men? We all have that sinful desire. There’s just those of us who can resist it and those who can’t. Any ‘straight’ kid could be tempted by hearing about homosexuality.”

    There’s this notion that everyone has the hidden desires these guys do, and they’re just not honest about it, and that some people are just weak enough not to resist sinning. It reads as so…desperate, from the outside. ‘It must be everybody. Everybody must feel this. And I should prevent anyone from having it, because I can’t. Because it’s wrong.’
    Not everyone finds their siblings and parents hot, kiddo. You know? My little brother is a heck of a hottie, but I don’t ever, ever think of him sexually. I never had any sexual feelings for my mother as a growing boy. I’m sorry.

    “I can’t resist attempting to jump on and hump everything that moves without massive constant effort and telling myself that all desire is unnatural and sinful. Can’t you? Isn’t it just that they need to cover up, because we’re all this way, and it’s just the way boys are?”

    I know some really, really horny boys. And even they manage just fine.

  29. Michelle says:

    The only thing that will be achieved if girls follow these instructions is that the standards for what’s considered modest clothing will shift, and boys who are surrounded by girls who show nothing but a bit of ankle will be aroused by a bit of ankle. Or their own mother.

  30. antiprincess says:

    we are the folk song army, every one of us cares…

    ready, aim – SING!

  31. Moira says:

    Which reminds me, I need to steal the Tom Lehrer vinyl from my grandmother at some point. And acquire a turntable.

  32. Starfoxy says:

    Mythago said:

    The modesty freaks are doing the exact same thing with their no-win game: controlling women by making fear of men’s disapproval (and, not so subtly, violence) their central concern. Since women can never ever get it right, there is no way for them to say “There, I no longer have to worry about offending the Lord / being raped / tempting a man, now that my dress is modest and Christian.”

    I think the women for whom these things matter feel this in a rather substantial way, and can tell, at least on some level, that it is needlessly cumbersome. I read through several comments from women that preceeded the modesty survey results. Most of them had a tone of immense gratitude that they were finally going to nail down what ‘dressing modestly’ means so they wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore. I have a strong suspicion that most of the women who were initially excited for the survey results to come out were bitterly disappointed that *nothing* was nailed down at all but is instead more vague than before.

  33. Morningstar says:

    Absolutely fantastic post, Jill.

    Love it.

  34. Morningstar says:

    I am curious about one thing though, and maybe you’ve already explained your position in previous posts:

    How do you reconcile your tolerance of hijab with your belief that the modesty movement “puts the onus on women to prevent men from regressing to their supposed ‘baser instincts’ “?

    Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with voluntary hijab either, but how do you evaluate it as something other than putting the “onus on women”? Isn’t there some sort of onus implied with the hijab (and in fact, with any modesty movement)?

    Is it just with the way these Rebelution guys have phrased their goals/concerns?

  35. Alex says:

    There may yet be some good to come from these modesty weirdos. For one thing, we coudl totally co-opt the phrase ‘stumbling block’ as some awesome slang fro attractive clothing. Sample conversation:

    “Do you like this dress?”

    “I love it. It’s a total stumbling block.”

  36. Elizabeth C. says:

    I showed this to my boyfriend and he said, “They should make a magazine for them called Stumble with their moms and sisters in suggestive poses. . . like, you know, standing. Or sitting.”

  37. preying mantis says:

    “and this was–God, can I find the interview? Fred Phelps? One of the superfundie politicos? anyway, this is a close paraphrase”

    The mule-fucker is Neal Horsley, an anti-choice whackjob/terrorist. I think he was on the Alan Colmes show when he started insisting that anyone who grows up on a farm gets around to fucking animals at some point in their youth.

  38. little light says:

    That’s exactly the one, preying mantis, thank you. I had the interview linked in a blog post somewhere and didn’t want to go digging.

    Morningstar, it’s a pretty easy reconciliation. “Modesty” is value-neutral, as far as I’m concerned, and I think as far as Jill’s concerned. The problem is movements to make it obligatory. If a woman wants to cover her body or expose it, that’sher business and her right. If someone else wants to force, coerce, or shame her for doing so–either to convince her to cover up more or to get nakeder–that’s where we get into problems.

    Therefore, women choosing modesty, hijab or otherwise, is their business. Women being told they have to or it’s their responsibility to in order for men to not behave like drooling degenerates, not okay.

  39. Keely Rew says:

    Gavin de Becker talks about how a common strategy used by (human) predators is to keep the victim off-balance with a mild insult that she then works to disprove. This is intended to get the victim to comply and to establish control.

    I’ve seen this advocated as a useful technique in dating books. *shudder*

  40. Beta says:

    The thing I’m curious about is how the religious people who put together the modesty survey feel about women being “forced” to wear the hijab?

    Perhaps this is not the normal feeling but I personally know a very religious person who constantly goes on and on about how women (except he always says girls) dress nowadays. While in other conversations he denigrates the Islamic religion and talkes about how they (said in a menacing tone) make women wear the hijab.

    Have you run across this belief in other people, or is this guy exceptionally obtuse? Personally I lean towards obtuse because I have explained that the religion does not force them to wear the hijab it is generally their choice. However if it not a choice I agree that it most definitely sucks!

    And now for more Tom Lehrer!!

    Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics
    And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
    And the Hindus hate the Moslems,
    And everybody hates the Jews.

    But during National Brotherhood Week,
    National Brotherhood Week,
    It’s National Everyone-Smile-At-One-Another-Hood Week.
    Be nice to people who
    Are inferior to you.
    It’s only for a week, so have no fear;
    Be grateful that it doesn’t last all year!

  41. firecracking says:

    Morningstar, it’s a pretty easy reconciliation. “Modesty” is value-neutral, as far as I’m concerned, and I think as far as Jill’s concerned. The problem is movements to make it obligatory. If a woman wants to cover her body or expose it, that’sher business and her right. If someone else wants to force, coerce, or shame her for doing so–either to convince her to cover up more or to get nakeder–that’s where we get into problems.

    little light: Of course, I agree that it’s a woman’s business and right to wear what she likes, and so I would support the right of any woman to voluntarily wear hijab. But I’m not entirely sure that “modesty” is as value-neutral as you make out. As far as I can see, the concept does imply that there’s an onus on a woman to keep her body hidden from men. Modesty, it seems to me, is mostly about not attracting sexual attention from men – it’s not the man’s responsibility not to look, it’s the woman’s responsibility to not present a temptation to look. So inherent in the idea of covering up your body for religious reasons is the implication that it automatically stirs up lustful thoughts in men… and therefore you have to change your behaviour. Which seems to me a fundamentally dodgy concept. (Though I am not saying this is the reason why all Christian women who dress “modestly” do so, nor am I saying it’s why all Muslim women who wear hijab do so).

    Is this sort of “don’t present temptation to your brothers in Christ” idea found in any other area of sin? That isn’t meant as Christian-baiting, I’m actually interested. I’m trying to think of an analogy but can only come up with analogies that imply women are like money, so I will perhaps not make them.

  42. Lorelei says:

    What I want to know is where the fuck is Rebelution’s, uh, leaders? Or whatever they are? There are men on their website saying that they’d easily rape a woman, and it seems that no-one’s coming out and say, ‘Hey, listen man, relax, you can’t just up and rape someone because of the way they’re dressed, that’s your business,’ or something, ANYTHING.

    what the fuck..

  43. syfr says:

    Moira, there’s a box set of 3 CDs with a lyrics book of everything, and I do mean everything, that Tom Lehrer has recorded, including some that were not released on albums, like some of his work for the Electric Company TV show.

  44. PG says:

    Oh, the conservative idea that Muslim women have no right to live in Western society while adhering to traditional dress is hardly new, nor peculiar to the UK — it surfaced in the U.S. some time ago.

  45. little light says:

    firecracking, I think we’re just crossing wires a little. “Modesty” as you define it, I definitely don’t see as value-neutral. If you’re covering because you don’t want to “incite people to sin,” or because you’re taught to see your body as shameful, and so on, I don’t see that as value-neutral at all.

    At the same time, I think there are other motivations for covering up. I know that, culturally and due to body-image and public comfort levels, I tend to show less skin than a lot of women my age. It’s not because I see immodest dress as in any way immoral or shameful–honestly, I barely blink at full-on nudity, for other people. When it comes to my own clothing, though, it comes down to personal comfort level. I get blushy.

    I guess that’s what I was getting at–that there might be enough potential motivations for “modest” dress that the fact of covering up, or nonrevealing clothing, can itself be value-neutral. It’s the values we build around these signifiers that get to be problematic.

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