Since joining the church, I have always dressed modestly. By “dressed modestly”, I mean I dress according to the cookie-cutter standards of covering one’s body- shorts and skirts to the knee, shoulders covered, no midriff, and no cleavage. I’ve taught many EFY, mission, relief society, and seminary lessons on the topic, and, honestly, many of those lessons were probably at least a little bit misguided.
My vocalized reasons for being modest were usually that it “showed respect to God” and “showed respect to myself”, but these reasons are problematic because I feel just as much respect for God and for myself when I am wearing a bathing suit, a running tank, and even nothing at all. I had a “come to Jesus” moment with myself and got down to the real reasons I am modest. Here they are, first being most compelling, last being least compelling.
Number 1: I am modest because, to me, not wearing the temple garment would be a symbol of me denouncing my faith. I am not going to denounce my faith.
Number 2: I am modest because my body is sacred and I don’t seek after the approving eyes of others to call it acceptable or desirable. I know that it is both.
Number 3: I am modest because I want young men to identify me as chaste and obedient.
Number 4: I am modest because I want to be an example to other women, especially younger women, by showing them that modesty is enjoyable.
Number 5: I am modest because I want people to know me by my kindness and my mind, and not my body (as bangin’ as it may be).
Number 6: I am modest because my thighs won’t chafe if my shorts are long and I don’t have to try to manipulate this rack into a strapless bra if my shoulders are covered.
Number 7: I am modest because I want my husband to feel like he’s getting to see something special, not something that has been seen by every Tom, Dick, and Harry.
Number 8: I am modest because I don’t want my body to be a source of unnecessary distraction.
You will probably notice that I said nothing about keeping the thoughts of young men “clean”. Boys will be boys, men will be men. They are going to look at women, notice their bodies, and desire them. I feel overwhelmed at the idea of trying to keep this from happening. And I don’t think that desire is dirty, and therefor is not in need of cleaning up. If we really thought that the sight of a thigh would ruin a man’s moral fiber, would we ever approve of him taking a trip to the beach?
I am very impressed by the men I know who actively try to be masters of their minds and emotions by not inappropriately dwelling on things of a sexual nature (by the way, this is a struggle had by women as well as men). I don’t want to imply that I think that men should see whatever jiggling body part piques their interest, and I don’t want to imply that women should recklessly display their bodies out of a lack of respect for men who are trying to do the right thing. If I purposely expose my body to a man in an attempt to make him lose his self-control, I am clearly guilty of sin.
But I am not going to base what I wear on a guessing game of who’s thinking what about whatever it is I’m wearing.
Some of my reasons are good, and some are less good. This isn’t about the right reason to be modest, or the reason why you should be modest, or even what I want to be the reason that I’m modest. It’s just the truth- and an exercise in investigating my motives.
Why do you choose to be or not be “modest”? How do you even define that? Please feel free to comment on anything on my list.