“I do not believe in sex distinction in literature, law, politics, or trade – or that modesty and virtue are more becoming to women than to men, but wish we had more of it everywhere.” Belva Lockwood
I have been watching the series “Outlander.” I know I’m a few years behind. I watched as the main character learns how to dress as a woman back in the 1700s. It involved many layers, often uncomfortable, but they sure had to hide her shape. (Great show, BTW. -I had read the author’s book and it was decently presented on screen.) Back in the 1950s, my mother would dress with care and style when preparing to take an airplane flight. So did my dad. As we went through the 1960s, jeans and t-shirts became in vogue. When my girls started school, they were required to wear shorts under their skirts for the sake of *modesty.*(Christian school!) As time has gone on, I have seen women and girls comfortably dressed in leggings, sports bras, and t-shirts along with hoodies. As I travel more and more, I see women dressing similarly. I think they look great! In fact, they are quite comfortable, so comfortable I have adopted some of those styles myself. Modest dressing has changed through the years and just because a new style comes along, like athleisure, doesn’t mean they aren’t modest in current views. (Was that a double negative?) In other words, 1950s clothing would seem scandalous in 1750.
Throughout the years I have heard it is the woman’s responsibility to dress modestly to keep men and boys from lusting. Let me point out how this paradigm doesn’t hold up. Look at Josh Duggar. His sisters were made to wear long jean skirts. They even had to wear long clothes to go in swimming. He was taught to avert his eyes when women, not dressed in the requisite jeans skirt, walked by. Michelle and Jim Bob loved parading their solution to modesty. As we now know, Josh molested two of his sisters when a teen. He was on the Ashley Madison website despite the supposedly strict computer search blockers. Now, he’s been arrested for using child porn. Looks like all that eye averting was to no avail.
Recently, The Gospel Coalition posted The Modesty Conversation We Need to Have by Megan Hill. Hill is an unusual woman. She claimed she spent time in weekly meetings at college, discussing what modesty looks like. Weekly meetings? These women were serious.
Every week, my friends and I would spread a blanket on a sunny patch of campus grass and debate things like whether female modesty is inherent or cultural,
…Hearing about our discussion, a group of Christian guys on campus began to refer to us as “The Puritans.”
She was very, very concerned. If she didn’t figure out how to dress properly, she wouldn’t be able to help the next generation learn how to dress properly as well. What appears not to have been clarified in those weekly discussions was that the next generation may make different choices for what constitutes modest dress. Her choice of dressing may not be the cultural choice for other women. For example, I met a Christian woman who grew up in Brazil. She was confused by the seeming rejection of bikinis by some Christian women in American culture. She claimed that most of the Brazilian Christian women she knew wore bikinis because it’s acceptable in that Christian culture.
Modest clothing choices cause people in the world to notice that one’s daughter is reflecting the glory of God in the world.
Now this one is difficult to explain. So what glorifies God? The cute shoes you nabbed at a discount? The somewhat expensive sundress that only shows the upper breast bone? What about the cute LuLuLemon leggings paired with other forms of athleisure? I have news for Megam Hill who might hang around others who think like her. If one day your daughter wore a crop top that you don’t approve of, there will likely not be a single person who thinks “There goes that Megan’s daughter, ruining the glory of God.” This is one of those Calvinist constructs similar to the one which states that complementarian marriage helps people in the world to see the glory of God. No, it doesn’t. I have yet to hear one person claim that Fred and Ethel’s marriage reflects the glory of God, no matter how much they wish it was so.
We have an opportunity to point our daughters to the privilege of selecting clothing with an eye to glorifying God in the world.
Women should not aim at androgyny in their dress.
This is certainly confusing. What does androgyny look like in clothing? I sometimes wear jeans, khakis, t-shirts, etc. So do lots of men Is that wrong? What would a woman be wearing that Hill would consider androgynous? What does she mean that we women should dress like a woman who shows *delight* in the fact that God has made me a woman? Can’t I do that when I wear jeans?
Let me also say that I like to dress well and comfortably. However, I do not spend a lot of time trying to figure out if my dress is *womanly* enough or modest enough to meet Hill’s standards. Does Eileen Fisher work? How about J Jill?
But whatever we select, our clothes should not aim at androgyny. They should aim at expressing (and delighting in) the fact that God created us women.
She gives no examples of what androgynous dressing means to her but she gives a command to dress correctly! We must dress like a woman, whatever that means to Hill.
As Elisabeth Elliot wrote in Let Me Be a Woman, “The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman.” God made you a woman. Dress accordingly.
What will the others think if you wear that?!
And this means we don’t get dressed with an eye only to ourselves. We get dressed as people who belong to other people.
…We don’t want our clothing to be an occasion for jealousy or for lust. It may not be our responsibility if someone sins, but it is our privilege to help prevent it.
In fact, we are privileged to help them not *lust.* So let me ask a question. I have ladies who have been cleaning my house for years. Many of them are new to our country and do not have what I have, be it my house, clothes, etc. How do I help them not to lust? Perhaps Megan lives in a community in which all the people who attend her church are in the exact same socioeconomic class as she is. If so, I would not enjoy being in her church since I like diversity. In the meantime, I cannot prevent people from lusting after what I have, and neither can she.
It is not the dress I wear or the number of clothes that I have that shows care for others. It is how I speak, act, and treat them. It is how I reach out to them, asking them how they are doing and really listening. In fact, Megan makes my argument here. We should be kind and gentle to those who are around us. We should reach out and care for those who are not like us.
When the apostles instructed women to adorn themselves with gentleness rather than jewelry (1 Pet. 3:3–5) and good works rather than costly clothes (1 Tim. 2:9–10), they were writing to the gathered church. These words publicly called the congregations to create a culture in which godliness was more important than clothing.
When we wear clothes, they should help us serve.
Now, how do those clothes help us serve, you ask?
Most days are work days. And so most of our clothes should enable us to serve: to lean over to pick up a baby, to reach down and clean up a spill in the lunch room, to walk up a staircase to visit a friend, to stand on a platform and teach, to help carry someone’s belongings or put supplies away on a shelf.
What exactly does she mean when she says to dress accordingly such as * a woman walks up the stairs.* I am going to assume she means we should dress so that someone looking up from below won’t see your private parts when you are wearing that lovely sundress. I have news for Megan. Any man who deliberately places himself in order to look up a woman’s skirt is a pervert. Maybe she might remember Rick Trotter, brother-in-law of Bryan Loriits, doing just that? He got arrested for attempting to see up women’s skirts.
If I didn’t want to have any trouble with my clothes for anything that I might attempt to do, I would need to dress in baggy pants, baggy sweaters, etc.
You are under authority which makes the rules and if you discard all rules, including those made by men, you do so at the peril of your very soul.
Well that ratchets up the matter. My soul is now in peril. Doesn’t it always boil down to authority when it comes to Calvinists? This section made little sense except to say that parents make the rules for what their kids wear. Are you shocked? It appears she lives in a world of private schools (uniforms for her children.) She believes that we must abide by any rules set for dress codes. I had to laugh when she appears shocked that some girls shortened their skirts against the rules. But she takes it further than that. Instead of simply telling her girls *not to do that* she claims that:
It’s not always easy to make decisions about what our daughters should wear, and it’s also often tempting to dismiss the legitimate authority of those who set dress codes.
…Years ago, working at the uniform swap at my kids’ school, I regularly encountered skirts that had been shortened or tightened against dress code, not for reasons of fit but simply because the girls preferred that style and the parents acquiesced.
…A parent’s rule about particular outfits, the dress code at school or camp, and the guidelines at the pool or workplace—no matter how arbitrary they may seem—were given by authority. We throw off such rules at the peril of our souls;
Years ago, I went to a baby shower for a woman who was having her first child. She said something that I internally disagreed with. It went something like this.
My babyy is so blessed to have a father who always does what’s right. He never goes one mile over the speed limit. He will be an example of *doing the right thing.*
I remember thinking that it would be nice to have a dad who actually admitted to doing the wrong thing as we all do as pretending that dad was perfect. Such a dad would model what Luther called “simul justus et peccator.” We are, at the same time, both righteous and a sinner.
Megan appears to be like the woman who praised her husband for obeying the rule of not driving one mile over the speed limit. I can see her standing in the uniform resale, silently judging the parents who allowed the shortened and tightened skirts without recognizing that this is completely normal pushback from all teens. I’d like to hear a little bit more about love and tolerance. Instead, she claims that our very souls are in peril if we don’t make sure that our girls wear long skirts and always obey the rules. I have news for you. In my kids’ school, the girls would go to the restroom and roll the top of the skirt over to shorten it. They’ll do it whether or not the mom shortens the hem. And guess what? There is a thing called forgiveness which God gives all of us. A simple breaking of a rule does NOT put our souls in peril. Good night! What are they teaching at her husband’s church?
Let me close by saying that this was the typical discussion of the role of women in preventing men from lusting. Instead of saying it’s a women’s job to prevent men from lusting, she claims it is our privilege to help prevent them from lusting. It’s the same old, same old, dressed up in different words.
I want to say this loud and clear that I am tired of women and men telling women to dress modestly to keep the menfolk from stumbling. In Megan’s description, she thinks it is a privilege to help keep others from lusting, both materially and sexually. She thinks she can do it. I think she will fail miserably.
In the end, modesty has little to do with dress and everything to do with attitude. It has little to do with gender and everything to do with values, regardless of gender. It’s not about how short your daughter’s skirt is but more to do with loving, tolerant, and respectful relationships within a family. I believe it’s something that the males of The Gospel Coalition and Acts 29 should adopt as one of their values.