Modest Bodily Autonomy

CSD_2006_Cologne_sexy_9.jpgThe other day as I was scrolling through Facebook, this article popped up in my newsfeed:

Letting My Daughter Choose Her Clothes is a Lesson in Bodily Autonomy

I read the blog post, increasingly shaking my head. Now, it didn’t start out that bad, and to an extent I agreed with the writer – I do agree that it is important to cultivate a healthy body image in our children, and I’m certainly not planning on laying out my daughter’s outfits for her until she leaves home. I do want her to develop her own sense of style and fashion, and I realize that as she gets older I’ll likely buy my daughter certain styles of clothing that certainly wouldn’t be my first choice. However, I also fully believe that I retain the right to put my foot down and say, “No. I will not allow that,” to certain items, because contrary to the writer, we believe in teaching our daughter guidelines for choosing her attire, and those guidelines will involve modesty.

Yes,  modesty; the word that once described a common way of life and dress, which has today become a hotly debated topic. It is a word that stirs up the ire of feminists everywhere. Modesty is a largely misunderstood subject. Most people today think that modesty means body-shaming, when in actuality, it is quite the opposite. The point of modesty is of bringing dignity and respect back to the female body.

I belong to an encouraging Facebook group which is dedicated to modesty. I shared the blog post with them, because as I read the article it really struck a discord with me, but I was having a hard time putting into words why it bothered me; so I sought their input. Thankfully, other women who were less tired than I was, were able to coherently say what I had been thinking and feeling about the post. Their thoughts helped me put what I was thinking, into the words you’re now reading.

In the blog post the author says when she was sixteen she wore short shorts because her legs were the only thing she was confident about. Because of this, she wants to teach her daughter to dress however she wants, to make herself feel good, regardless of how others may view her. I can only ask, what sort of sad, convoluted thought is that?

In a culture that is increasingly sexually objectifying women of all ages, we need to teach our daughter’s to love their bodies just as they are, imperfections included, yes. But more importantly, we need to help them realize that their self-worth comes not from their body, but their natural gifts and talents. When your daughter suffers from low  self-esteem or a lack of confidence in her body,  and you encourage her to wear tight pants, low cut tops or short shorts in hopes of helping her gain confidence, you are failing your daughter in a very big way, because you have just helped to reinforce the idea that her value comes from her body. The same body that she is struggling to accept. See the problem?

Today’s culture is teaching women of all ages that their worth comes from their appearance, and women and teenagers who dress in scanty clothing, do it for attention. In the majority of cases, I would say, show me a scantily clad female, and I will show you an insecure female who is dressing to seek attention, to help her feel good about herself.

Let’s face it – women have always cared about how they look, about fashion. It’s not a new “problem”. In fact, I have no doubt in my mind that Eve pestered Adam by asking him if her fig leaves made her hips look big, or if her saber-tooth necklace matched her wooly mammoth shoes. And really, wanting to look attractive is not an inherently bad thing. Our bodies – in all their glorious shapes and sizes, are beautifully and wonderfully made. The problem comes in when females find their value and self-worth in their appearance,  in their body, and the attraction it can get. The problem is when we dress ourselves, or allow our daughters to dress in a way that encourages sexual attention.

By all means, let your daughters develop their own style – meaning choosing certain colors, patterns, cuts, accessories etc… which  reflect their personality.  But please, do not allow them to fall into the trap of choosing items that show off their body in a way that will garner sexual attention and encourage objectification. We need to help all  females, but our young girls especially, move past the idea that in order to be attractive, you need to show copious amounts of skin, or wear tight-fitting, revealing clothes.

We need to teach our girls how to pick clothes that flatter all of their person (not just parts of them) so as to empower them, instead of reducing them to an object of a male’s desire. We need to teach our youth that in reality, how you dress does matter. If you’re dressing in sexually revealing, provocative clothing, you are going to attract cheap, shallow, sexual attention. However, if you dress yourself in a modest, dignified and yet attractive manner, you will attract a completely different kind of attention – one that includes respect.

Now, I want to make it very clear, that I am not in any way saying that dressing in scanty clothing makes harassment, assault or rape okay. It doesn’t, ever. We need to be raising our boys to understand that all females are to be respected and valued, period. No matter what they are (or aren’t) wearing. However, at the end of the day, we know that dressing in a certain way encourages the wrong type of attention and objectification. So yes, the onus is on us to make sure that we are dressing in a way so as to attract the right kind of attention.

I’ll leave you with this thought from a fellow mother, that I think summed up perfectly what I imagine we all want for our daughters:

“Yes, I want my daughter to love her body. I want her to love and respect herself enough to wear clothes that reflect who she is on the inside; clothes that don’t speak louder than her amazing personality. I want her to understand that her body is beautiful, and because it is beautiful, it should be clothed in outfits that reflect it’s dignity, rather than ones that beg for attention just for attention’s sake. She should never feel ashamed of how she looks, and she should have her own style that pleases her. After all, it’s her body! And while she cannot control other’s thoughts or actions, she should always wear clothes that cause others to see her dignity and personality, not merely her body. She is so much more than just her body.”

 

Attractive and flattering dress, doesn’t have to equal skin tight and revealing:

winter-teen-fashion-trends-2009-and-2010-8TeensAftrPic2Augst13plus-size-clothing-1390783539g4n8ke801eb6cac5a7c2e5eec609c9f42063amodest-clothingMikaRose modest cute clothingdb7a41375249d82b188b9837083aa611charlotte-modest-dress-in-dark-navy-12b7d905b8e0d3b1a5fb6ccf7aface7011374074dff86b8971e8955ca8e569b643246690f0d5263eb1f1b67412fc028f4e28195f702e29a17c4cd3b21cf06525b113601d33536668236769c5fe87dcc2b66156db2d0bd1c641bf5b7fd2dc6b4e1e217b032080e18a6a927bde06158b730a21dc1fee426988f7c89a961e9358248b16c916e764e559b2f17b43b9a50e07d78d892487449ff4b29a1378205b61569b8d3756cab9393824fc9dc272531d52326fb86cd9a9ba3caed3e6a4e04cd2684a3e2e4c4d4366b062b54966be57bf85b51c7beaf7bbb2758e31f22c83e566d7871b4c89e092a539e6c604726b70a42f44

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