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Interesting... Came across another page I'd like to hear comments on, wanting to hear folks' opinions on how she was taught, or how what she was taught, was wrong and caused problems.  This article sort of goes with another I just posted this morning -- "What, if Anything, is the Lesson for Parents?"  I have the same sorts of questions about this as I did about the article in the other thread:  What went wrong here with this woman? What lessons did she learn that but which no one intended to teach her -- and how did that happen? How can we teach our kids to be modest without causing psychological issues and "weirdisms" like this woman suffered?

From the blog No Longer Quivering:



How Modesty Made Me Fat
November 22, 2011 By Guest Contributor
by Sierra


This isn’t a story about how modest clothes allowed me to “let myself go” and conceal a growing figure. It’s not even a story about how wearing modest clothes kept my self-esteem at rock bottom and thrust me into a too-close relationship with Ben & Jerry. It’s a story about how modesty doctrines impacted my mind, in ways that had real, negative effects on my body. Modesty was one of the reasons my defining relationship with my body became whether or not I was “fat.” Modesty was one of the engines that pushed me into a full-blown eating disorder. It’s not just a dress code: it’s a philosophy, and it’s one that destroys young women, mentally and physically.

Modesty taught me that my first priority needed to be making sure I wasn’t a “stumbling block” to men. Not being sexually attractive was the most important thing I had to consider when buying clothes, putting them on, maintaining my weight (can’t have things getting tight!), and moving around (can’t wiggle those hips, or let a little knee show). Modesty taught me that what I looked like was what mattered most of all. Not what I thought. Not how I felt. Not what I was capable of doing. Worrying about modesty, and being vigilant not to be sexy, made me even more obsessed with my looks than the women in short shorts and spray tans I was taught to hate.

Vox Wrote:One problem that strikes me right off is that she was "taught to hate" girls who aren't modest. That's not a Christian attitude, obviously. And it sounds as if modesty was stressed so much that it caused her to think that how she looks -- or doesn't look -- is a matter of the greatest virtue and something to obsess over.

Modesty taught me that I was always on display. There was no occasion in which it was acceptable to be immodest. Not the beach, not at the pool with friends, not in my own backyard (sunbathing was out because a neighbor might glance over and see me). This took my normal self-consciousness as a teenage girl and amped it up to an impossible degree. I once had a bee fly down my (acceptably loose) shirt and, in flailing around to get it out, had a family member comment that I’d just “flashed” my own grandfather. I was horrified for the rest of the week. That’s not normal. The normal order of priorities is getting dangerous animals out of your clothing first, and then worrying about making your own relatives perv on you second. Not so with the modesty doctrine. I should have let it sting me, apparently. Getting stung was the lesser risk.

Vox Wrote:Sad, sad, sad...

Modesty was not just about dress. It was also about moving like a lady. Knees together, butt down, breasts in, arms down. It is impossible to get physically fit while adhering to ladylike movements only. You might be able to run, but only if you wear two sports bras to keep anything from jiggling inappropriately. You certainly can’t do anything with weights. In college, I had the chance to join a horseback riding team for a couple of semesters. I soon realized that staying on the horse required starting some kind of fitness regimen. In the gym, I found a couple of hip abductor/adductor machines that were handy for building the thigh strength necessary to grip the horse. The problem? I was so embarrassed that somebody might walk in front of me while I was on the machine with my legs spread that I started going to the gym the moment it opened in the morning and avoiding exercise when men were present. In this instance, modesty was literally keeping me weak. Eventually, I grew comfortable enough with my own body to exercise without worrying about other people happening to look at me. Now, I do an exercise routine that would have scandalized my old self: squats, deadlifts, and barbell rows. I have so much more energy and my mood is so much improved – plus, I can move my own furniture! But I couldn’t have got to this point without dumping the modesty doctrine. Because I couldn’t concentrate on hauling iron while worried that some perv behind me might happen to glance my way and pop his gym shorts. That’s not my job anymore. I’m not responsible for men’s souls, because I no longer think of myself as an object to be looked at and evaluated.

Backing up to before I got to college, modesty contributed to my eating disorder. How? Because I noticed that the best way to keep men from staring at my ass was not to have one. Ditto boobs. The skinnier I got, the less womanly I looked, and the more “modest” I felt, until I was 25lbs underweight. I was perpetually “fat” in my own mind – because in my own mind, the only acceptable body type was an androgynous one – one that could not possibly provoke a man to lust. I’m sure I don’t need to explain why that was a bad thing.

Vox Wrote:It is a bad thing to intentionally provoke a strange man to lust after you. But there are prudence and common sense on the one hand -- and scrupulosity and ridiculous standards on the other.

Modesty taught me that I was a decoration. Everything about my life was governed by whether or not a man was watching. How I moved and what I ate or wore all depended on the male gaze. Modesty taught me that nothing I did mattered more than avoiding sexual attention. Modesty made me objectify myself. I was so aware of my own potential desirability at all times that I lost all other ways of defining myself. I couldn’t work out or get fit without worrying about attracting men. I couldn’t relax my eating habits for a moment lest my shirts start to pull a little in the chest. I couldn’t grow like a normal human adolescent because staying slim and sexless was the biggest priority in my world.

Vox Wrote:Dressing "like a slut" is also objectifying oneself. Neither means of objectification is good.

When you argue that what’s modest and what isn’t is a valid concern for women, you tell them that their appearance matters most. You objectify them. You tell them that whether or not you are sexually aroused by their actions or their dress is more important than anything they want to do or wear. You tell them that they must, at all times, be thinking aboutyou when they are making decisions about their own lives. That’s arrogant. That’s immoral.

Vox Wrote:I have no idea how she gets from the the idea that teaching your kids to be modest is necessarily at ALL telling them that their appearance matters most. That makes no sense whatsoever. But it sounds as if the "modesty lessons" she received were handled in such a way as to make her think that. So what could her parents and teachers have done to make her make that link? How could they have done it better?

When you argue that modesty is just a “debate” that must be won by those whose arguments are strongest in the abstract, you ignore the fact that the “debate” has consequences you don’t have to live with. Women have to live with the consequences of modesty debates. Those debates impact every sphere of their lives: work, play, even their own health and wellbeing. If you think that, as a man, you can somehow argue “objectively” about what women should or shouldn’t wear and “win” a debate fair and square, let me remind you of a few things. If a man “loses” a modesty debate, nothing about his life changes. If a man “wins” a modesty debate, nothing about his life changes. But if a woman loses a modesty debate, the entire fabric of her existence changes. If a woman loses a modesty debate, she has lost whole areas of freedom in her life. She now has more things to worry about not doing so that men will not get aroused. There is no such thing as an “objective” argument in which the stakes are astronomical for one side and nonexistent for the other. Furthermore, by even accepting modesty as a valid area of concern for women, you have accepted a premise that defines women by their looks and objectifies them. Women have already lost the moment a modesty debate begins.

Vox Wrote:I dislike the idea she's expressing here, that men have no right to opinions about these things -- esp. when those men are fathers. But I also definitely think that far too many men lack empathy when talking about this stuff, present their personal preferences as a matter of some "divine" law ("Women should have long hair!"), put too much of the onus for their problems with lust onto women, go on about female modesty while not concerning themselves with male modesty, have no idea how hard it can be to find modest clothes that fit and don't look like crap, and can come off as very condescending. That stuff annoys me to no end.

Modesty made me “fat” because it defined my relationship with my body in terms of appearance. Not action. Not gratitude. Not the joy of movement. Just appearance. It also defined my relationship with men as one of predator and prey. It was my job to hide from men so that their sex drive would lie dormant, like a sleeping wolf. But if that wolf ever awakened, it was not because it had been sleeping for a long time and its circadian rhythm kicked in, or it was just naturally hungry. It was my fault because I had done something to “bait” the wolf. Just by being visibly female, or by moving in “unladylike” ways. You cannot consider women full human beings unless you recognize that their lives do not revolve around the male sex drive. Modesty is a philosophy that dehumanizes. It incites constant fear and vigilance in one sex while excusing the other of all responsibility. It’s immoral.

Vox Wrote:Girls who weren't raised to be modest have the same problem with having their relationship with their body defined in terms of appearance and being pressured to look a certain way. Instead of the frumpy denim jumpers, they're mentally pushed into stilettos and short skirts. There's no winning on that score. But a woman can try to stop playing that game as best as she can, dress modestly and attractively without obsessing about it, and avoid the trap on the opposite side of the modesty spectrum. We don't have to choose between whore and Laura Ingalls, and we don't have to let lessons about the wisdom of dressing modestly get twisted into the kind of stuff she's talking about.

But I just wonder how she came to see modesty this way. What went wrong?



Sierra is a PhD student living in the Midwest. She was raised in a “Message of the Hour” congregation that followed the ministry of William Branham. She left the Message in 2006 and is the author of the blog The Unspoken Words: A Non-Prophet Message.


My fiancée has never viewed modesty as being a means to hide something shameful and degrading.  Nor has she ever viewed the necessity of being modest as something as crass as to avoid being a "stumbling block" for men (although I do appreciate that her modesty does that!  :LOL:).  In fact, her beliefs in modesty have absolutely nothing to do with myself or men in general.  It's about her, and her own body's sacredness and beauty.  She does not dress modestly because her body is bad, she dresses modestly because her body is beautiful, because it is a gift from God that she will share with me after we are wed.  She wants to share herself with one man, and not every Tom, Dick and Harry that walks down the street.  The Bible tells women to cover their heads, but yet it also says a woman's hair is her glory.  She is modest, because she views her body with reverence.

I think that's a pretty healthy attitude to have.
This article could be re-titled, "How Being Over-Scrupulous About Modesty Made Me Neurotic."  As traditional Catholics, we have some things in common with these Duggar-like "Quiverfull" branches of Protestantism and Mormonism... on the surface, the women all seem to care about modesty, they have big families, they're pro-life, blah blah.  But there's something off about them and they never quite hit the mark. 

Quote:Modesty taught me that my first priority needed to be making sure I wasn’t a “stumbling block” to men. Not being sexually attractive was the most important thing I had to consider when buying clothes, putting them on, maintaining my weight (can’t have things getting tight!), and moving around (can’t wiggle those hips, or let a little knee show). Modesty taught me that what I looked like was what mattered most of all. Not what I thought. Not how I felt. Not what I was capable of doing. Worrying about modesty, and being vigilant not to be sexy, made me even more obsessed with my looks than the women in short shorts and spray tans I was taught to hate.

THis definitely doesn't sound like the Catholic attitude.  If I had a [living] daughter, I would teach her that modesty is important and she ought not to put herself on display.  However I also plan on teaching my son to have custody of the eyes.  He needs to learn to look at women as sisters in Christ, not sex objects--whether they're modest or not.  And while I do see something wrong with women trying to "dress sexy" and tempt men, I don't think a woman should go to great lengths not to walk in a "sexy" way or hide her natural beauty.  In short, don't be neurotic.  I guess that can be a lot to ask.

(04-17-2014, 09:49 PM)Vox Clamantis Wrote: [ -> ]Modesty taught me that I was always on display. There was no occasion in which it was acceptable to be immodest. Not the beach, not at the pool with friends, not in my own backyard (sunbathing was out because a neighbor might glance over and see me). This took my normal self-consciousness as a teenage girl and amped it up to an impossible degree. I once had a bee fly down my (acceptably loose) shirt and, in flailing around to get it out, had a family member comment that I’d just “flashed” my own grandfather. I was horrified for the rest of the week. That’s not normal. The normal order of priorities is getting dangerous animals out of your clothing first, and then worrying about making your own relatives perv on you second. Not so with the modesty doctrine. I should have let it sting me, apparently. Getting stung was the lesser risk.

Or perhaps she is a highly sensitive individual...and if she wasn't raised with modesty she'd have something else to take personally.  My wife has an eating disorder so I'm very aware of how terrible and debilitating they can be.  I really feel awful that this woman grew up with such a skewed understanding of modesty and feminine beauty, but I strongly disagree with her idea that men cannot participate in the conversation about modesty.  I don't want my children growing up in a culture where it's OK for women to walk around half naked and expecting no one to stare or think that's weird.

A few weeks ago, I was seeing a new specialist my doctor referred me to.  When I got into her office, I was shocked to see that she was wearing a strapless dress that barely covered her nipples (I wish I was exaggerating).  When she left the room my wife said, "OMG, what's with Dr. Strapless?  I feel like I'm actually in a porn film."  The doctor's outfit wasn't just a distraction for me, but my wife had a hard time focusing on anything else.  Instead of feeling like I was in the capable hands of a competent medical professional, I had a hard time respecting her as a doctor because of her horrendously unprofessional outfit.  A woman is more likely to have her ideas and intelligence taken seriously when she dresses in a way that doesn't draw needless attention to her body.  That doesn't mean wearing a denim muumuu but some discretion is necessary.
(04-17-2014, 11:04 PM)Chestertonian Wrote: [ -> ]THis definitely doesn't sound like the Catholic attitude.  If I had a [living] daughter, I would teach her that modesty is important and she ought not to put herself on display.  However I also plan on teaching my son to have custody of the eyes.  He needs to learn to look at women as sisters in Christ, not sex objects--whether they're modest or not.  And while I do see something wrong with women trying to "dress sexy" and tempt men, I don't think a woman should go to great lengths not to walk in a "sexy" way or hide her natural beauty.  In short, don't be neurotic.  I guess that can be a lot to ask.

That touches on what was bugging me about this article. The entire concept of modesty that she grew up with rested solely on the woman - the men apparently had no ability to keep themselves in check. The strikes me that the entire male-female relationship is in fact very corrupt in this situation.

Now, I get the whole "not being a stumbling block" thing, but men need to be men and take some responsibility for themselves here. I tend to think that the whole burqua thing Muslims to has actually nothing to do with the woman, and everything to do with the man. What she describes is essentially a Christian burqua.
(04-17-2014, 11:14 PM)PrairieMom Wrote: [ -> ]
(04-17-2014, 11:04 PM)Chestertonian Wrote: [ -> ]THis definitely doesn't sound like the Catholic attitude.  If I had a [living] daughter, I would teach her that modesty is important and she ought not to put herself on display.  However I also plan on teaching my son to have custody of the eyes.  He needs to learn to look at women as sisters in Christ, not sex objects--whether they're modest or not.  And while I do see something wrong with women trying to "dress sexy" and tempt men, I don't think a woman should go to great lengths not to walk in a "sexy" way or hide her natural beauty.  In short, don't be neurotic.  I guess that can be a lot to ask.

That touches on what was bugging me about this article. The entire concept of modesty that she grew up with rested solely on the woman - the men apparently had no ability to keep themselves in check. The strikes me that the entire male-female relationship is in fact very corrupt in this situation.

Now, I get the whole "not being a stumbling block" thing, but men need to be men and take some responsibility for themselves here. I tend to think that the whole burqua thing Muslims to has actually nothing to do with the woman, and everything to do with the man. What she describes is essentially a Christian burqua.

yes, the muslims are even worse.  I have a friend who is a Mormon and she went on her "mission year" in Dubai.  She and her friend went out one night to go out to eat and do some sightseeing, and they were followed by some sketchy men.  When they complained to the police, they were told "No wonder you're being followed, dressed like that and out of the house at this hour."  it's just assumed that that's just the way men are
Good discussion. It sounds like Prie-Dieu's fiancee has the right idea. Pursue modesty as an end in itself, for God, rather than as something that will have a positive impact on men. It turns out it often will have a positive impact on men, but as the writer of the article points out, there are some things it's pretty difficult for a lady to do without being a little revealing. Modesty is about risk-management rather than risk elimination. And I totally agree that men have work to do as well. Even if a woman dresses modestly, a man has to be well disposed to take the right message from that. A man may see a modestly dressed woman and see her as a "challenge", playing hard-to-get, or what have you. I'm not saying women shouldn't care about the impact on men - I was at mass yesterday and I saw the pews of covered heads, and I thought, that's great, I really appreciate that - but there are no guarantees. Do it for Christ, who cannot fail to be impressed, even if His sons are a little slow on the uptake.

Looking modest doesn't have to mean you can't look lovely. I'd direct the writer towards this blog: http://freshmodesty.blogspot.co.uk. It sounds like the writer's family might have got a bit mixed up - what were they fighting against exactly? Were they fighting against the abuse of the body, or against the body as such? Not a few heretics were moral rigourists, working on the assumption that the body is evil and the spirit is good.

I like it when people take responsibility for what they themselves have taken from their own upbringing. I have been guilty in the past of blaming parents and teachers for this or that. So when I see someone say "Modesty made me fat" I instinctively want to say, was it other people talking about modesty that made you fat, or was it what you did with it? What parents say and what children hear are sometimes different. I'm sure my mum used to say "There are children starving in Africa" when I wouldn't finish a meal. Hearing that had a big impact on me, and to this day I eat everything on my plate. But I spoke to her about it recently and she doesn't remember ever saying it. I'm sure she did, but even if she did, she invested less in that comment than I did.

I think the same is true of discussions between men and women. I had a quite heated discussion about modesty with a friend, and she got quite angry with me, but within a week she'd got rid of all her strappy tops. I had hoped she would go away and think about it, but I didn't expect such a sudden change. What I think happens is this. Bob thinks that Jill's body is beautiful, but Jill thinks her body is disgusting. Bob asks Jill to dress modestly, so that her beautiful body doesn't become a distraction - but what Jill hears is that her body is so ugly it needs to be covered up still further.
This article could be re-titled, "How Being Over-Scrupulous About Modesty Made Me Neurotic."

The truth is probably closer to the reverse, "How Being Neurotic and Proudly OCD made Me Overly Scrupulous about Modesty."

It could possibly even be titled, "I Prefer Sluttiness but I Will Hide that Fact from People Who Dont Know Me and Write an Article About How Christian Modesty is Bad for Women and Bad for Humanity." Subtitled, "O What a Victim Am I." That's too long for a title.
(04-18-2014, 08:50 AM)charlesh Wrote: [ -> ]This article could be re-titled, "How Being Over-Scrupulous About Modesty Made Me Neurotic."

The truth is probably closer to the reverse, "How Being Neurotic and Proudly OCD made Me Overly Scrupulous about Modesty."

It could possibly even be titled, "I Prefer Sluttiness but I Will Hide that Fact from People Who Dont Know Me and Write an Article About How Christian Modesty is Bad for Women and Bad for Humanity." Subtitled, "O What a Victim Am I." That's too long for a title.

:colt: (I couldn't find the "Yeah That" smiley, so I used this one instead for no good reason)

This is pretty much what I thought when I read the article. The girls got problems, and modesty has nothing to do with them. OCD sounds about right.
I wonder if that is why I see more skinny girls in traditional parishes than in more liberals. I always speculated that it was because they would fast more, heh.

The sad fact is that women these days are almost always regarded as objects. She seems to think the normal thing is to dress, pardon my language, slutlike, that the normal thing is to “feel pretty” and so on. While in reality this is also – sometimes unbearable – impositions, to make a woman be pretty and than accepted to men or even to a group of women (which, from what I hear, they can be quite demanding), and of course, from this state of things follows quite naturally the development of ever more provocative clothes that, really, have nothing to do with comfort or practicability, bur rather with self affirmation, “emancipation” and acceptance. I myself know plenty of women and girls that suffer terribly with this sort of thing, with the need of being pretty all the time, etc. (and, ironically, they are already pretty). And if one defines modesty as the mirror image of this, than of course modesty will be something bad. On the contrary, I think the best way to see modesty would be to look at the example of Prie dieu's fiancee, which relate to the other more indirectly than in terms of violence, and is a sort of via media.

But, since I do not think these are independent phenomena, but rather two manifestations, or rather responses, to a same condition, I'm inclined to search for what could generate this sort of thing. And my best guess is that this is indeed the fault of men. Maybe because for so much time (with only briefs interruptions) men did establish – through ignoble abuses that were prevalent in the past – the relationship between men and women as the relationship between predator and prey and now with the decadence of Christendom this relationship is reappearing. Or maybe its something more recent, but in any case I think after this grand thing left our culture, our relationship became more primitive, or rather, violent. This is another important point: the relationship is defined as violent; difference is seeing as violence, and to use the Nietzschean language, its either the ordering violence of Apollo or the orgiastic violence of Dionysus.

But anyway, I guess the best solution would be for us men to be more virtuous, to regain some more chivalry, and so on, so that women will not see us like predators (and really, this is not an unjustified picture). I realize that I'm probably, as they say, preaching to the choir, but I'll leave that in any case.
While I have struggled with my weight most of my adult life I don't blame the way I dress for it.  I blame my lousy relationship with food and my inability to control at times what I put in my mouth.  I have been working hard to fix that and have been loosing weight recently, so much so that my dr will be taking me off my blood pressure meds if I loose 15 more lbs. 

Be that as it may, I dress modestly, and if anything, it makes me feel better about myself.  It makes me feel more feminine and more appreciated.  I find that when I am dressed like a woman doors are held more often, men let you go ahead of them in line and they just are more polite in general.  I feel just so much better about myself when I dress modestly and like a woman.  So it has had the opposite effect on me.  I used to dress like most everybody else, jeans and a tshirt all the time.  No longer.  Sure I still have jeans, but I use them mainly when cleaning out the chicken coop or other chores at home.  Even in the cold I try to wear skirts or nice dresses.  There are plenty of pretty clothes for women out there that will make you feel pretty and feminine. 

I think she has other problems that are effecting her eating and body issues.

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