Sunday, October 16, 2011

Modesty Can Be Both Smart And Sexy: The Daily Mail Reports On The Proliferation Of Mormon Modesty Blogs

Several members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are attempting to demonstrate that modesty can be both smart and sexy. On October 14th, 2011, the Daily Mail reported on a proliferation of Mormon Modesty blogs designed to communicate this positive message.

In general, these Mormon Modesty bloggers believe that their bodies are temples and should be treated with respect. While LDS dress standards don't dictate personal style, LDS standards provide guidelines for what is considered appropriate and respectful. And this doesn't just include clothing; tattoos, heavy jewelry and body piercing are also discouraged by Church leaders, although not necessarily issues of temple worthiness. Modesty is actually much more than rules; modesty is actually about showing respect for our bodies because they are a sacred gift from God and should be treated accordingly.

So who are these modesty bloggers? Here's the list of those presented in the story:

-- Clothed Much: Edited by Elaine Hearn, a 23-year-old account coordinator. Also has a Facebook page.

-- North Meets South: Edited by Erica Ricks, an accountant based in New York City.

-- Wearing It On My Sleeves: Edited by Sarah Morales.

-- No More Mom Jeans: Edited by Jae Curtis, a 27-year old freelance writer.

-- Cats And Cardigans: Edited by Brandilyn Haynes.

-- Writing Rainbows: Edited by Ashley Nielson.

All six of these bloggers show that modesty can be both smart and sexy, effectively countering the sleazy propaganda put forth by both the fashion business and the entertainment industry.

This is a welcome development, because as a man, I find it more difficult to respect a woman who dresses suggestively than one who dresses modestly. Why is this? It's because of acculturation and opportunism. I actually get turned on more by a secretary wearing a short skirt in a typical office than by a woman wearing a bikini down at the beach. This is attributable to the fact that bikinis fit in with the beach and numerous women wear them, while a single woman wearing a short skirt in an office environment stands out and detracts from professionalism. Married women who dress suggestively may be more prone to illicit affairs than married women who dress modestly, although I know of no objective statistics to back this up.

Obviously, we men have the primary responsibility for being the guardians of our own virtue. But as Young Women President Elaine Dalton suggested during the General Young Women Meeting in April 2011, women have a secondary responsibility to be guardians of our virtue as well. This means women should avoid dressing and behaving in a manner which tempts us beyond our ability to bear it. The unspoken assumption is that we men also have a secondary responsibility to serve as guardians of women's virtue; we serve this purpose best by treating women like ladies even when they don't behave like ladies. This is the most effective antidote to feminism.

One supportive comment was posted on the Daily Mail website by a non-Mormon:

It's not just LDS who have modesty rules, many Conservative Baptists, Pentecostals, Assembly of God, Catholics and other Christian women try to dress modestly! I'm plain-old C of E [Church of England] but I would never wear a skirt that wasn't at least below my knees, or a t-shirt that was too tight or didn't cover the tops of my arms and exposed too much of my 'cleavage'. Basically, it's about self-respect, and also about 'not having everything on show' to the world. There are things I like to keep for my husband! I do the same with my children, they are brought up to respect themselves!

- Anna, Newcastle, 16/10/2011 13:45


Henry said...

I think you need to study up a bit on what modesty actually is. Modesty is not just about respecting our bodies - it's behaving, living, dressing, speaking, whatever in a way that honors God and does not use the body as a means to draw the focus of other people.

So, all those modesty blogs are actually a joke. They have nothing to do with actual modesty since they're all about drawing attention to oneself - which simply is not modesty.

And, really, women have no obligation to keep men chaste in any way. How could any woman even know what's "tempting beyond what a man can bear". That could be so different for every male. I mean, am I tempting my Muslim male neighbors too much by running around in shorts down to my knee in the summer???? I may be. So, should I cover up more? What about when guys at BYU struggled with women wearing shoulder bags that would emphasize the breasts? Apparently some were tempted beyond what they could bear.

So, do you see women being responsible for men's sexual behavior? And how would you support this idea with scriptures?

I honestly think Sis. Dalton was wrong in suggesting this, though it's a typical cultural notion to think that it's the women's job to make sure guys don't mess up. I mean, it's like the "women get raped because of sexy clothes" mind-set. There are lots of people who believe that, but studies haven't been able to prove that notion. It's not true...but everyone thinks it is. Urgh.

Jack Mormon said...

Actually, Henry, you're correct in the fact that the modesty bloggers are drawing attention to themselves. But it is not for self-gratification, but to demonstrate their ability to design and promote clothing more consistent with LDS standards, and to show that it can be fashionable.

The precise temptation threshold for each man is indeed different, but the majority of heterosexual men will get fired up when a woman wearing a short skirt enters a room. That's reality. Rape is different -- rape is generally just as much a crime of power rather than lust. This explains why 80-year-old women get raped.

I still agree with Sister Dalton, though. If a woman dresses modestly in public, she will get more respect. Men will be less likely to take liberties with her. Your dress and personal appearance send a message about you. Sister Dalton is not so unrealistic as to expect people to suppress their normal nature; instead, she provides guidance on how to better avoid getting burned by it.