I Have Something to Say About That…

Thoughts from Author Jenny Proctor

Dear Young Women of the World: Your modesty isn’t about THEM

18 Comments

IMG_2056I have a daughter who is 9 years old. She’s a beautiful girl–happy, vibrant, full of love. She loves to play outside and pick on her brothers and walk around the house in my high heels and fancy scarves. She is all girl, and I love her for it. Occasionally, I see glimpses of her womanhood, growing closer as she grows older, and I’ll be honest. It scares the hell out of me. It scares me because there is a battle raging in our world–a fiercely brutal, demeaning war that has the potential to rip the value and sanctity of womanhood to shreds. It exists in the magazine covers that objectify a woman’s body. It exists in the filthy, shadowy corners of pornography. It exists in court rooms where defense attorneys suggest that a woman who has been raped was “asking for it” because of how she chose to dress, or what she chose to drink. 

I have a message for my daughter, and for all young women, everywhere. How you treat your body–how you dress, how you behave yourself–it isn’t about men. Your body is not to be owned, or used. You are MORE than something to look at, something to lust after. You, all alone, are important enough, valuable enough, powerful enough that you don’t have to think about what a man might think when you look at yourself in the mirror. Your value is not connected to the opinions of any boy.

I’ve heard it said before that a young woman should consider what her clothing choices mean to the young men around her. Is it fair to wear something revealing if it will tempt and torment? Do you want the young men around you to have impure thoughts? Worse yet, do you want a young man to get you drunk and in the hazy and forgetful shadows of alcohol, violate you, both body and soul?

Let me bold. You are not responsible for the thoughts and actions of boys or men. If they misbehave, it is NOT YOUR FAULT.

Don’t misinterpret my meaning. Every woman has a responsibility to protect herself. The sad truth is that we live in a world where people will take advantage. If you dress or behave like you do not value your body, or recognize your worth, you will tell others, by your clothing, that you are looking for a certain kind of attention, the kind of attention that doesn’t value your body, or your worth. By doing so, you cheapen yourself, and disrespect those men around you that are trying to do the right thing, that are trying to respect you. But that still doesn’t justify the poor behavior of others. Not one single bit.

Just like you, men both young and old, have a brain. They have a choice every morning when they wake up and look in the mirror. They can decide just like you, how they are going to behave. They can choose how they are going to treat women. And good  men–Godly men–they choose to respect and reverence the women in their lives. They choose to rise above the pervasive ideas that society sells, the idea that a woman’s body is simply an object, something to own, or conquer.

Sex is a funny thing. At the right time, in the right place, with the right person, it is powerful beyond words. It unites a man and woman together in one of life’s eternal rhythms–a blending of heart and body that elevates and lifts and strengthens. On the flip side, it can be turned into something cheap, something tawdry and worthless, a carnal act meant only to satisfy in the moment, then be forgotten.

My dear daughter, (and all daughters) don’t ever forget that you are MORE than a worthless moment. You are a powerful creature, not because of how your clothes fit, or how much skin you choose to reveal. You are powerful because you are a woman–because you have so much to offer this world. You are strong–a vessel of life and love that can and will do amazing things.

When you get dressed in the morning, I hope that you will choose to be modest because you know what you are worth. Because you don’t feel the need to buy into a society that sells sexuality–that tells you the size of your jeans or the size of your breasts are what define YOU.

You define You.

GOD defines YOU.

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18 thoughts on “Dear Young Women of the World: Your modesty isn’t about THEM

  1. I’m all teary. This is all kinds of beautiful and when the time feels right, I will be reading this to my daughters. These can’t have been easy words to put together, but you have crafted something powerful, something RIGHT. Something that proves your own words, that we are vessels of life and love.

  2. I’m reposting this Jenny for all my Young Women to read. Thank you!

  3. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

  4. I could agree more if you had written “How you treat your body–how you dress, how you behave yourself–it isn’t ONLY about men” rather than “How you treat your body–how you dress, how you behave yourself–it isn’t about men.”

    The whole point of Paul’s “weaker brother” argument is that our actions, though innocent as to us, are sinful if those actions cause a “weaker brother” to stumble. Young women–and more mature women, too–need to know that 1) Men by design are often visually-oriented 2) Men do notice when a woman dresses in a way that accentuates/flaunts her body and 3) They should not adopt a manner of dress that causes a “weaker brother” to stumble into lust.

    The above does not mean that a woman who is raped “asked for it” by dressing provocatively nor does it mean that a rapist is absolved of guilt because “I couldn’t help myself–the way she was dressed screamed that she knew she was hot and she was begging for it!” Women do not get dressed thinking “I’d like to be raped today.” Some do get dressed thinking “This blouse and skirt make me look HOT! I hope some cute guys notice it.” A woman who chooses to dress provocatively, rather than modestly, does bear responsibility for causing a weaker brother to stumble, just as a person who chooses to drink alcohol while in close proximity to a “weaker brother” recovering from alcoholism bears responsibility for tempting the alcoholic to stray back into drunkenness.

    “Your body is not to be owned, or used.” Actually it is–it is owned by God and is to be used to bring Him glory. Its sensual abilities and aspects bring Him glory through sex in marriage, not through flaunting it in public. Young ladies need to be taught to dress like ladies–not “ladies of the night”–for “public consumption.”

    “Your value is not connected to the opinions of any boy.” Or any other woman.

    “I’ve heard it said before that a young woman should consider what her clothing choices mean to the young men around her. Is it fair to wear something revealing if it will tempt and torment? Do you want the young men around you to have impure thoughts? Worse yet, do you want a young man to get you drunk and in the hazy and forgetful shadows of alcohol, violate you, both body and soul?

    Let me bold. You are not responsible for the thoughts and actions of boys or men. If they misbehave, it is NOT YOUR FAULT.”

    See what I wrote above. I disagree that a woman can make choices regarding her dress without considering the effect it will have on those around her. Her choices do have consequences in others’ lives. Her choices do not justify a man’s wrong choices, such as committing rape by force or by plying her with a drink laced with a “date rape drug” and then taking advantage of her inability to resist.

    The Bible is clear that we do make choices in a vacuum–we live in relationship with others, and, second only to loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. You do not love your neighbor by tempting him to commit adultery in his heart. You do love him by considering his weakness as you dress yourself.

  5. Should have been “The Bible is clear that we do NOT make choices in a vacuum–we live in relationship with others, and, second only to loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. You do not love your neighbor by tempting him to commit adultery in his heart. You do love him by considering his weakness as you dress yourself.”

  6. A.J., Thanks for your comments. I think you make a lot of really great points, particularly where you identify that value is not connected to the opinions of a man, or any woman. Even though my daughter is young, she is often influenced by the opinions of her friends–how they dress and behave, what they think of how she dresses and behaves, so this is a very important point to remember.

    I agree that we don’t live in a vacuum, and we must consider the effect that our actions have on those around us, which is what I tried to address when I said this:

    “If you dress or behave like you do not value your body, or recognize your worth, you will tell others, by your clothing, that you are looking for a certain kind of attention, the kind of attention that doesn’t value your body, or your worth. By doing so, you cheapen yourself, and disrespect those men around you that are trying to do the right thing, that are trying to respect you.”

    It was actually after I originally published my post that I went back in and added the last portion of that paragraph because I wanted to recognize the point that you made–that there will be those that are affected, and that needs to be considered. But it’s a dangerous line, I think, to imply that a young woman bears a burden of responsibility of “helping” a young man maintain pure thoughts. Should it be considered? Sure. But it shouldn’t be the main reason that a girl chooses to be modest. Furthermore, where is the line that determines what will tantalize a man, and what won’t? I remember once, when I was a teenager, my mother bought me a beautiful black suit. The skirt was just barely above the knee, and had long sleeves, and a modest neckline. While it was form fitting, it was not too tight, or too revealing. It was not, by any stretch, an inappropriate outfit for me to be wearing. Yet, one Sunday after I wore it to church, an older gentleman approached my mother and told her it was highly inappropriate for me to wear it, that it might be considered “suggestive.” How is that fair? I was modestly dressed, perfectly covered, and yet, I was still held accountable because one person’s thoughts ventured where they shouldn’t? Are women to wear burlap sacks, or perhaps just turtle necks and long skirts to make it easier for the men to keep their minds out of the gutters?

    I realize this isn’t what you are implying, so forgive what seems to be like me, throwing a little tantrum. The point that I want to make is that I want my daughters, and all young women, to choose to be modest because they respect who they are, because they recognize their value to God and because they do not want to cheapen themselves, for their own sake. Not because we have a burden of responsibility to help men be pure.

  7. A.J., Forgot to say that I appreciate you contributing to the conversation. One thing I’m sure we can agree on is that too many young women are struggling to understand their inherent worth, and relying too much on society’s view of beauty and sexuality as opposed to God’s view of beauty and sexuality. The more we can talk about it, as parents, teachers, church leaders, and friends, the more likely it is that things will start to change.

  8. Fantastic article, Jenny! As a father of three beautiful girls, my oldest being nine, I very much appreciate your post. It is also quite insightful you point out there is no definite line to what sort of womens clothing may muse for a dirty though a man might have. I support this point you make. We all have different “turn-ons” and both men and women are responsible for what happens inside their own heads.

    That being said, I would like to illuminate just how powerful a female figure is to a man in terms a woman might understand. When a cute baby is in public many women and girls swoon. You know the feeling- you want to hold baby, you want to be near baby, you want to touch those cheeks and shower kisses and for a moment make baby yours. Mothers and babies and interested females joy in the encounter and happiness glows abundantly from the experience. So it is for men and what they wish to do to women who strike a fancy. But men don’t (at least shouldn’t) express our appreciation for ladies in this manner. Yet we still feel alive in such moments. And deep down feel right about having those feelings.

    It is not an easy thing to have said emotions and do nothing about them, to be reviled for having them, to be told these powerful emotions are not good. It takes years of mentoring to make an honorable man, and lots of spiritual tight-rope walking to teach young men they are not evil for having these kinds of thoughts, yet one could be doing evil by not controlling them just so.

    To my understanding, a society is a relationship between a person and their neighbors and community. It is a set of expectations we place upon one another, a code of conduct, an important pact as real as a family dynamic. Zion is just a society in which we strive to be more of our brothers keeper defined by Gods Law. A super society. Again, we ultimately are responsible for what goes on in our own minds. Just like a person is not responsible for a neighbors actions when they steal their car that makes a great V8 growl and was buffed out so pretty, females are not responsible for a males actions when they violate laws and commandments. But from a chaste man’s perspective, it sure is nice not to be distracted at church by provocative clothing. Do women have a role in helping men keep their minds clean by dressing modestly? I say yes, please. It is the kind thing to do. More RedBook and less Cosmo, if you catch my drift.

    • I appreciated this comment. I felt that the women and babies analogy put things into perspective we women can understand and sympathize with on some level.

  9. Nathan, Jenny, and A.J.,

    I have to say that I agree with all the comments so far. I find that Jenny speaks the truth when reminding girls and women that it is not their fault for men or boys choosing to act on animalistic behavior that is not consented by the girl. I also agree that the point A.J. makes is valid. We are asked to consider the effects we have on men and boys and how that effect will be positive or negative, but this is true foreveryone we surround ourselves with. Jenny added the paragraph about the kinds of effects we have on those around us by the way we behave or dress and even speak. But Nathan’s comments hit me with full force. I have studied the male reactions to female stimuli and have to agree that in ways women do have the responsibility to dress apropriate per occasion as not to draw the wrong attention and to add protection for herself, as Jenny pointed out so well. The way Natan described it was so simple and yet so visual. I found it enlightening to view the topic from his perspective. As women, we rarely truly understand the battle within the male as he looks upon the female form. After reading his post, it is not the women’s responsibility to keep a man’s thoughts pure, but heaven sakes, I can see how it would help in keeping a modest dress, behavior, and speech. I agree that we do live in a society and with that comes responsibilities toward our neighbors. But fault finding is the key here. Each man or boy as well as each woman or girl is responsible for their own thoughts and actions. We cannot deny thousands of years of biology, but we can respect them as we concider what it means to be truly modest. I certainly beieve that it is long overdue for a new teaching strategy for boys and men when it comes to respecting women and girls and not objectifying them. That said, not all men and boys do this, but like Nathan stated, it is a long road of teaching and mentoring in training a boy to control these thoughts and impulses. All boys and men can be taught, but the lack of mentoring this kind of control and respect for women, is I fear, the root of the issue. Both genders need to be truly taught well what modesty means and their responisibilities within our society to help eachother. Unfortunately we will always read about cases where it just does not matter what a girl or boy wears or how they behave, there will always bee those who choose not to control themselves and thus feel entitled to take what they want when they want it. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Thank you Nathan for your comments. I remember many years ago sitting at a middle school volleyball game my daughter was playing in and listening to the conversation of some of their male classmates – it had nothing to do with volleyball -and wishing I had been able to record it to play to my young women. I have never found anything as powerful as that to persuade them to change their thoughts about the way they dress. It is a very difficult task to teach our girls to value themselves for who they are when they live in a stage of life when they are craving the acceptance and attention of their peers, both male and female. (Some never grow out of it.) All the more reason for developing, from the time they are young, strong parent/child relationships of love and nurturing.

  11. Jenny, thank you so, so much for this. I have two daughters–20 and 18, and am gratified to see them as confident women who don’t believe the actions/thoughts of others are their fault or responsibility, and they also respect themselves. I also have an 8 year old boy who my husband and I are trying to raise in such a way that he appreciates the value of women and of his own, as well.

    I appreciate your comments, Nathan, and to it I might add this–that just as many women get all squishy and gooey over babies, people need to understand that there’s also a strong physical pull for girls to boys as well. Often it’s tied up with a whole lot of emotions and daydreams of a wonderful life together, but the physical attraction is also there for women, just as it is for men. I suppose what I’m thinking is that women can be and are just as “aroused?” (is that the word I’m looking for?) as men when looking at someone they find attractive. I also appreciated, Nathan, that you addressed that men/boys are often told or it’s implied that they shouldn’t have feelings that are an important part of perpetuating the species. There’s a reason this stuff is biological, and it was designed that way on purpose.

    Now, it’s not usually an issue for boys with modesty and girls thinking “inappropriate thoughts” about them because of the way they’re dressed. But it’s another issue for another day that I feel should be addressed. That there’s a reason for the attraction and I do wish young women realized that it’s healthy and normal and a good thing, as Jenny said, at the right time with the right person. We often emphasize so heavily the importance of things like modesty and chastity (and we should) but somewhere along the way we produce young women, especially, who feel there’s never an appropriate time for those feelings, urges, etc. My dad was a therapist for years and counseled couple after couple who came to him, married, and feeling guilty that they enjoyed their intimacy.

    Anyway, that’s a HUGE tangent, but it relates in a round-about way. What I REALLY want to say here, again, is thank you Jenny for putting this out there. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.

    • Nancy, thank you so much for this comment. You have clarified my own feelings even further. My biggest concern is not with the teaching of modesty in the first place (Of course we need to teach modesty and chastity. Of course!) but in the HOW of our teaching. If young women are simply taught that they should cover up or else boys will think bad thoughts, it feels like that simply objectifies our bodies even further… “your body is dangerous, it’s all about sex, (which is bad) so stay covered up.” I’m grossly exaggerating, but it’s a trickle down affect that over time I think can have big consequences, such as the couples that were struggling when visiting your Father.

      I think it all needs to be about respect, for both men and women, which unfortunately is hard to do with society at large trying to sell such different principles, subversively, if not blatantly.

  12. Nathan, I understand your comment and see where you are coming from. I would add that there is a huge difference between admiring a woman that you find is attractive, and lusting after a woman that you find is attractive, just like there is a difference between thinking someone’s baby is cute, and planning to steal the baby and run away because it’s cute. Know what I mean?

    I firmly believe that men can be observant, can notice when a woman is attractive, without turning into a neanderthal that simply can’t control his thoughts or keep himself from letting his mind wander. If such is the case, what are women to do, but avoid any and all clothing that emphasizes their femininity?

    • Agreed Jenny. I believe biology is worth respecting but it is not the excuse for abhorent behavior. We are taught that we came to earth for the chance to prove that our relying on our Savior can and will help us overcome the natural man, biological impulses. I believe if both genders respect the others’ biology and divinity, then modesty really is applicable.

  13. Thank you for this. As someone who has always valued and dressed modestly, and as a woman, I loved it. You put my thoughts and feelings down in a way that I’m not able to. As a survivor of sexual abuse your words about worth struck my heart deeply. I know we as women sometimes need a reminder of how truly amazing we are and today was one of those days. “You are not responsible for the thoughts and actions of boys or men” struck home for me because for years I thought what happened to me was my fault. I’d brought it upon myself some how. It is so validating to hear those words. I have heard and realized them before but they always touch a special place in my heart that I have to continually strive to let Christ take and heal. I shared this article on Facebook today and I hope a lot if not all of my friends will read it. I want to impart this to as many women as I can (especially my sisters). Thank you again.

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