Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bikini or Biki-no? Part 2

Much like the one I packed.
This week I traveled to Austin for work and knew my hotel had a pool. This discussion popped up in my head as I was packing my bag because there have been so many great comments thus far.

I packed a swimming practice suit, like the ones I wore when I was competitive swimming, because I knew a bikini would be inappropriate around my co-workers and I didn't want to have to worry about any kind of top-half skin exposure. Does that mean I should wear the same kind of suit every time?

Let's recap:

What responsibility should women have in modesty? Are men just going to imagine our bodies, no matter how much we cover up? Is part of our feminine genius inherent in the beauty of our figures?

Chase chimes in:
I think the important things to remember in modesty are that man and woman are made in the image and likeness of God, and that the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. The body is beautiful because it's made in God's image. This also means we're attuned to each other's natural beauty and dressing in a way that reveals our natural beauty (bikinis cover little more than the FCC-objectionable parts, after all) seems like a way to make use of our God-given gifts.  
But wait! Doesn't that mean dressing down is a good thing? Well, maybe in a perfect world. We face this little problem called lust, though. Guys especially (though ladies, we see when you oggle stud muffins too) are inclined to see this beauty, then see past that whole "image and likeness of God" bit and allow beauty to be just a pleasure. Whether or not you think objectification is a problem that guys just need to get over is inconsequential to the fact that it is a problem, and widespread at that. Noodle on this: if you enable someone to lust over you, either out of indifference (it's not my problem guys lust over my nice body) or willfully (i.e., a person who uses their looks to "control" someone else), you're becoming his(her) god! Pornography does this; the pornography itself becomes the source of beauty and "nourishment" of unsatisfied feelings for its victim, the viewer. To summarize in a sentence: the God-given gift of beauty comes with great power, and with great power comes great responsibility.  
The other angle I mentioned was the notion that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19-20). Temples are special places; remember that in Judaic law, the temple was so sacred that only the High Priest could enter its inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies. Thus, the body is sacred and valuable, immeasurably so. If you owned a Lamborghini (yes, a car analogy, forgive me I'm a guy), would you keep it garaged? Let just anyone drive it? Invite a passenger who would leave Frito crumbs all over? The answers to these questions seem "duh" obvious, because Lamborghinis are very valuable. But human life is infinitely more so. Dressing revealingly poses the same problem as our Lamborghini left outside, unlocked, with keys in the ignition: a temptation to those that see it (you) that could be easily avoided. The tragedy today is young girls who don't know their self-worth, who look to the very things that demean them in search of attention and meaning. All should seek to dress in a way that reflects their self-worth.  
I'm worth infinitely more than a garaged Lamborghini...I suppose you want oppress me into wearing burqas tankinis? Would you put a Lamborghini in a climate-controlled chamber and never drive it to preserve its value and protect it from bad things happening? As I already said, beauty is good because it comes from God, so it isn't necessary to cover ourselves into unattractive blobs. Modesty requires a fair amount of judgment based on your circumstances. For instance, a bikini might be better suited to a private backyard pool than the beach, but it also depends on who is around. And on whether you might end up in photos as Elizabeth pointed out (who knows who'll end up looking at them). Unfortunately, like most things in life, I can't give a straight answer, but I hope you might look at that next outfit critically and ask yourself if those who pass your way will see the immeasurable treasure of God that you are.
Has your opinion changed? Has your opinion become firmer?

Men, if you have been waiting for a forum to share with us your opinion, this is it. Comment and we'll get in touch to add to this series.


Anonymous said...

As a man I don't think it matters whether an attractive woman wears a one piece or a bikini. There are going to be impure thoughts. I beat myself up constantly over my lustful ways cause I now it is wrong.

And even thinking God has blessed this world with her beauty just doesn't seem right to me either.

Elizabeth Hillgrove said...

Thank you for commenting, Anon! I'm interested to understand what you mean by "thinking God has blessed this world with her beauty just doesn't seem right to me either." If you would be so kind, please expand!

Paige said...

Okay, but we can't control if we have nice bodies. YES, we can take care in dressing modestly (by which I mean not dressing provocatively), but we still have the bodies God gave us. And the feminine form is beautiful. Men need to practice custody of their eyes and work at not being lustful or objectify us. Granted, I know this is a lot harder for them than women, but it's not a sin to be beautiful as long as you are not trying to entice someone. It IS a sin to be lustful and to objectify another person.

Paige said...

My husband's 2 cents "I can't stop lustful thoughts, but I can certainly cut them off. If I can, anyone can."

Elizabeth Hillgrove said...

Great point, Paige! Women have to cut off their own emotionally immodest/unchaste thoughts, too. That is our responsibility. So...

solve this for me:

male easily visually-stimulated minds:bikinis::female easily emotionally-stimulated minds:X

Paige said...

Twilight, Catholic Ryan Gosling, any kind of romantic notion up to and including Disney Princess movies we were fed as children.

Lenina V said...

yes, SOME men are going to use their imaginations and objectify women even if they wear a one piece, but it seems to me that they're MORE likely to do it if the woman is wearing a revealing bikini. It goes back to that point about not locking the lamborghini in a "climate-controlled chamber and never driving it". Wearing some big smock just isn't practical for swimming, but at the same time we do have a responsibility to help our brothers in Christ avoid sin. They have to do their part too, but the bible talks a lot about not leading others to sin and helping each other live holier lives. That makes it hard to go with the "its not my fault guys have impure thoughts about me" argument. Women wearing bikinis aren't making it any easier on the guys.

Paige said...

Again, my argument is that a skin-tight piece of clothing is a skin-tight piece of clothing. A 4" swath of "fabric" over my belly-button isn't going to help anyone.

Beth Anne @ The Catholic Couponer said...

I see what you mean but I still think wearing a 1 piece is less revealing than wearing a bikini. some of those bikinis are like walking around in a bra and underwear they have such little cloth...

Stephanie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie said...

1. I definitely got a laugh from this post having led me to Catholic Ryan Gosling. =)

2. Well into my conversion, I was still wearing bikinis, fighting with every argument in the book. I wasn't out to get guys' attention, I reasoned; I thought my bikinis, sans anything with strings, were less revealing than most girls; everyone wears them anyway, so how bad could it be...this was definitely a last battle sort of issue for me. Eventually, I realized that none of my reasoning held up: when your body's on display, I concluded, it's just as visible to cute guys as it is to leathery old men hiding behind their sunglasses, and modesty shouldn't be put on a sliding scale in comparison to what everyone else is wearing. You ladies are right that our brothers should be accountable for seeing a woman in a pure, dignified way, regardless of how she's dressed, but I've kind of come to see this issue as less about a male/female relationship thing (although that's still important) as much as a question of why you want to wear a bikini in the first place. Is it just because they're so common that it doesn't really seem like a big deal, or is there a desire to be noticed? It's so characteristic and good of a woman's heart to want to be beautiful and desired, but one of the thoughts that changed my mind on bathing suits was the realization that true femininity involves the knowledge that one is beautiful just by virtue of how she's created, not by how many stares she gets. It takes guts and security to cover up when hardly anyone else is- magazines always talk about the self-confidence it takes to rock a two piece, but I think it shows genuine confidence and peace when a girl has the security to know that it's not just her body that's garnering attention. I like to think of it as an invitation to a guy to get to know you for all of the other great things about you! Just my two cents!


Chase said...

Anon @#1: You are very right about how hard it is to fight these thoughts. It is so important to not despair and lose hope, keep seeking God's grace and support (sacraments and prayer), and be willing to challenge yourself to combat your weaknesses (rather than beat yourself up for them; to love fully, one must be able to love himself). This will be long, continuous, and hard, and without God's help, we're destined to give up and declare the fight not worth it.

Stephanie: Thanks for your example. It fits perfectly with what I meant to convey, that by taking a hard look at who you are and what you're worth, the answers to modesty questions start falling into place. As you say, having security in what you wear helps you show the 'you' you want guys to see. Somethimes you might still have to ask yourself about some outfits; that's inevitable. And guys have to do their part in remaining chaste and virtuous.

Paige, Lenina, Beth: Thanks for chiming in as well!

Anonymous said...

There is a time and a place for a bikini - Hawaii, the beaches of Southern Europe, the Caribbean. There is a time and a place for a practical one-piece - swimming laps at the gym, water aerobics. You wouldn't catch me in a bathing suit in front of my co-workers, but that's just me. ;)

Modesty is relative - if everyone else is wearing a one-piece (say you're in Turkey) and you wear a bikini, you'll attract attention and possibly lust or even disgust. On a beach in Southern Spain where it's common for women to go topless, no one is going to notice your bikini.

Personally, I enjoy the feeling of the breeze and the sun on my midriff when in tropical paradise. I'm past the age where I'm inspiring lust in passers-by, so it has not occurred to me to feel immodest.

Finally, I think modesty is as much a state of mind as a state of dress.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and someone mentioned male swim dress. To bring up southern Europe again, the speedo is the standard for men. In fact, I went to one swimming pool in southern France where men were required to wear Speedos! If you didn't own one, you could rent one that had been worn by many others without washing in between! The life guards' primary function seemed to be to order modest American and Northern Europeans in their swim trunks out of the pool (as happened to my partner). It was kind of unbelievable.

I have to say that despite being surrounded by a bounty of barely covered male flesh, I did not feel the least bit lustful. When something is normal, it doesn't draw attention, and immodesty is as much about drawing attention as anything else.

Anonymous said...

"And even thinking God has blessed this world with her beauty just doesn't seem right to me either."

In my opinion it's a crutch used to hold off the impure thoughts. So the thoughts are there underneath but its almost like a prayer to help keep them tucked away.

I live with my Catholic guilt pretty well and I confess my lustful heart to my priest and pray for a clean heart. I pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet whenever I can cause Lord knows I need his mercy.

Quid est Veritas? said...

I know that almost everybody wears bikinis and that therefore a few people above argued that men are "desensitised" to seeing women in them. That may be true for some. But as the sister of two hormonal teenage boys, I know that it certainly isn't true for everyone because they are visibly uncomfortable around bikini clad girls, but not so much around girls wearing one-pieces.
I personally am a one-piece only girl. I can concentrate on swimming, there's less of me to get sunburned, and there is less likelihood that something will fall off.

Liesl said...

I've never felt comfortable in a bikini, partly because I don't have the body shape to pull one off and partly because I feel like people are staring at me. Honestly, I don't like any swimsuit because I think they all are a bit too revealing, but I'll take my one piece any day.

Yes, modesty is relative in the sense that it was considered immodest in the past to show your ankles (gasp!) but I also think there are limits to modesty that are not relative.

Anonymous said...

Modesty is about me being me. Who I am and what I represent (myself, basically) does not change based on where I am (beach in Europe was mentioned), or who I am with. I am me. I dress in a way that expresses "me" to other people. This entails knowing who I am, and also knowing what other people take away from what they see. So, as a petite, trim, could-wear-whatever-I-wanted-if-I-wanted-to, 20-ish Mama to my two kids and wife to my fabulous husband, I wish to convey: FAITHFUL to my SPOUSE, LOVING to my KIDS, and HUMBLE before my GOD, and RESPECTFUL of myself. "Bikini" does not "say" those things. So no bikini. No matter where; no matter who I'm with. Easy-peasy.

Anonymous said...

I dress with a goal to looking
0% "hot"
0% "frumpy,"
10% "practical", and
90% "lovely."

Use whatever alternative words you like to get the same idea across in your own mind. It makes choosing clothes so much easier! :)

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Barely There Bras

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