Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Be decent to each other

Catholic Modesty

"The Gucci Awakening" by Julie at The Corner with a View
"Never Give Beauty Another Negative Thought" by Trista at Not a Minx, Moron, or a Parasite
"Be decent to each other" by Elizabeth at Startling the Day

The "Bright Maidens" were originally three from the oft-mentioned, widely-speculated upon demographic of young, twenty-something Catholic women. Now, we all take up the cross to dispel the myths and misconceptions. Welcome!

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I have begun and erased about three versions of this post and I cannot narrow down why it is to hard to write.

1. Modesty of dress is not something I feel qualified to quantify with inches, measurements, and levels of cloth tightness.
2. Modesty depends on the venue and purpose of one's outfit.
3. Men and women play roles in the perception of modesty. 

Men are more visually tempted; that is not anti-feminist and I'm not giving men an excuse. It's a biologically significant difference between men and women.

Women's Achilles Heel(s) is their romance-craving ears. Romance novels sell like wildfire, burning up women's sensitivity to modesty. The seduction in those books appeal to the female attraction to "ideal" romance.

The simple fact about modesty is summed up in the Catechism:
2522. Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love.  It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled.  Modesty is decency.  It inspires ones choice of clothing.  It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity.  It is discreet.

Duggars and naked people

The Duggars are a non-contraception, non-natural-family-planning family who became the first modest dual-baseball-team-sized group to hit television.

The girls won't wear pants (except when volunteer fire-fighting) and opt for loose skirts that fall below the knee and modest t-shirts. All of the women have long, simple hair and fresh faces without make up.

The men and boys won't wear shorts because, as the Old Testament reads, "the thigh is nakedness." They certainly don't go to the pool without their elbow-to-knee swimsuits.

Mrs. Duggar explained that the girls wear swim dresses, like the ones pictured at right, because men "have a hard enough time keeping their minds in the right place." Essentially, they want to keep everyone focused on what is most important: the inner beauty and appreciating your brothers and sisters in Christ for who they are and not how attractive they can be.

The Duggars are an extreme. They hold to extremely modest qualifications extremely tightly (unlike their clothing, har har har). Their actions stand at the exact opposite of nudists who, paradoxically, have similar reasons for what they do: achieving equality and returning to nature.

The Duggars aim to prevent one sex from influencing the other by way of their sexual desires, so they wear modest clothing. Nudists try to achieve equality by allowing everyone to strip down to their "least inhibited" state: their birthday suit. Though they are on opposite sides of the spectrum, these two camps use their dress (or non-dress) as a statement to point to their inner person.

Brass tacks

I won't recommend going to the Duggar extreme and I certainly won't recommend going to a nudist extreme...

This is a topic of contention among modern Catholics, but I do think that women have a responsibility to dress modestly for the sake of men. Men have the responsibility of acting modestly and not flirt with every woman they meet, seducing them the same way a revealing outfit visually seduces men.

Women: Before you get dressed (especially for somewhere like Mass), ask yourself why you're choosing the outfit. If the answer leans toward wanting to attract someone with your body in a way that may harbor their ability to be attracted to your person, consider a costume change.

Modesty doesn't have to be synonymous with avoiding looking good. Really attractive women can still be attractive, thus inciting lust in some people, when they dress modestly. Thus, it's to your discretion where you draw the line.

Men: Before you engage your flirty-touchy routine with every woman you meet, consider how easily our ears are seduced. If you're going to flirt, flirt with intention. With one of us.

If the goal is to make the greatest impact on our world, the way we fit into the message today is essential. Why cut corners?


Anthony S. Layne said...

One thing I can suggest is that clothes should be comfortable. Some years back, when I was in fast-food management, one of my coworkers would change into her work pants in the back of the restaurant (okay, modesty violation #1). It was disconcerting to see her try to stuff her already skinny body into a pair of pants at least one size too small. I've also seen women dressed in what a friend mine called "the Cyclops Bra — the bra that lifts and mashes together!" and wrapped in shirts with visible strain marks at the buttons. There's no point in going to so much trouble to emphasize body parts if you're going to die of hypoxia a few minutes later. If anything, dress a size larger.

Emily said...

Love this, Elizabeth! It's good you brought up the Duggars. They bring modesty to a whole new level, but maybe our world needs to see something like that to understand how bad our generation has actually become. Sometimes we really need to think why are we wearing this? Because I believe if everyone really thought about why they were wearing a particular piece of clothing.. our world we be a much more modest place.

Julie Robison said...

The thing with keeping men's mind in the right place is a two-way street: men have to try not to think about it, and women have to not give them a reason to think about. That being said, wearing swimming dresses is silly.

I like the phrase "brass tacks"- what were you thinking when you used it as a sub-heading?

Kendra said...

You make a really good point about how men can achieve modesty also. It's so true! Men have a power with words over women that must be acknowledged, that's for sure!

Modesty issues caused more than a few strifes in Stephen and I's relationship in the past, both because he didn't realize the power of his words on me, and I didn't acknowledge how strongly my clothing choices were affecting him. It's crazy stuff.

Chloe said...

I appreciate the message you conveyed that modesty for the sake of modesty is missing the boat; it is not necessarily our job to establish “rules”, but to examine our intentions and the likely consequences of our actions. I especially appreciate the quote from the Catechism that “[m]odesty protects the mystery of persons and their love... [and] inspires ones choice of clothing”. If pressed, we all know how to dress modestly and appropriately for given situations in our culture, without a rulebook... sometimes we just need a friendly reminder. :)

Marc Cardaronella said...

I love the path these posts on modesty are taking. It's not about inches and fashion, it's about attitude and intention. You make some very good points in your qualifications for men and women. Men are visually enticed, women have "romance-craving ears." Very well said. Both sexes should be attentive to what they're doing and how they're affecting the other. We are our brother's and sister's keepers.

Elizabeth said...

I'm very late following up on this...

Great rule of thumb, Tony!

Fabulous, Emily! I constantly need to remember that: I'm going to Mass, why am I wearing this?

Julie - hahaha That's the "getting down to brass tacks" I was talking about. Two-way street AND swim dresses are silly.

Kendra- precisely! That's why we need to actively respect each other all the time.

Chloe - "If pressed, we all know how to dress modestly and appropriately for given situations in our culture, without a rulebook." That is SO TRUE! We easily convince ourselves to just do what we want to do and chalk it up to "ignorance" because there really isn't a rulebook, but we know. Awesome point!

Bingo, Marc! It's about attitude and intention!

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