Modesty is more than just clothes

do-what-i-wantWhile reading through a Facebook argument on modesty (my time could have been better spent, I know), I realized that for those who hate modesty, their arguments are equivalent to those who hate political correctness (that’s not the right phrase, anymore, right? I can’t keep up.) The argument is pretty much summed up by “What I do isn’t about you and doesn’t affect you, and if it does affect you, fix yourself, not me.” It’s a very come-together, selfless, flower-and-rainbows kind of argument, amirite?

Often I see the same people who argue against modesty also argue for an end to offensive speech, and vice versa. But really both groups of people have picked their preferred form of modesty, will accept no less, and think your form of modesty is oppressive, wrong, and maybe even evil.

The truth is modesty covers both dress and speech because it covers appearance and behavior. And, like it or not, modesty is intertwined with respect. Because what we do and say affects who we are and also affects the way people perceive us. (Clearly our dress is only a small part of what we do.) We aren’t just inanimate blobs floating around that no one can see or hear (and therefore never be offended by us). To say our speech or our dress doesn’t matter because “I’ll do what I want” is not going to engender a polite society.

This is not to say you should be assaulted for what you wear! (I know this is a particular pet peeve of the anti-modesty crowd.) And, similarly, you should not be assaulted for what you say.  But respect goes both ways, and certain places and people require an amount of appropriateness in both dress and speech.  I think you should be modest for nice people not for the scum of society.

I also don’t think we should spend much time policing one another (this is my hope that the internet shuts up, I know, very likely). There are always lines to be drawn. But if you really cling to wear whatever you want/say whatever you want or cover every inch/zip your lip, you’re probably being too inflexible and should chill a bit. puritan Nicely dressed meteorologists don’t need to put a sweater on, but we don’t need to see celebrities naked (or even nearly-naked) selfies (sorry, no link). College graduates don’t need protection from Secretaries of States from politically different administrations, but women should not be harassed online for doing their jobs.

Overall, if you spend any time on the internet, you should realize that many aspects of our society could benefit from a little modesty. But that doesn’t mean we all need to become Puritans.


Fight the New Drug, The New Anti-Porn Movement

I’m impressed with the evidence and the citations that provides in their exposé of pornography. In this section, called Porn’s Dirty Little Secret, they document the connection between pornography and violence and sex trafficking. It’s an uphill battle because, perversely, a large section of the feminist movement itself sees porn as empowering for women. This is another example of how feminists in America risk taking their own privilege for granted. Porn might be a choice for a woman who is in a position of power because of her race, class, and age but that’s an exceptional case. Not the rule.

2014-01-16 Fight the New Drug

I think some of the most persuasive arguments from the site are those that explicitly try to take down the myth that there’s good porn and bad porn by showing how blurry the line between violent aggression and corporate porn can be.

Part of the lie porn producers want customers to buy into is that porn is legitimate entertainment made by glamorous people who are doing it because it’s what they want; it’s OK for the user to enjoy it because the people they’re watching seem to be enjoying it. What they don’t say is that some of those people look like they’re having a good time because behind the scenes they have a gun pointed at their head. And if they stop smiling, it will go off.

Obviously, human trafficking is an underground business, making firm statistics hard to come by. But the facts in cases that come to light are chilling. For example, in 2011, two Miami men were found guilty of spending five years luring women into a human trafficking trap. They would advertise modeling roles, then when women came to try out, they would drug them, kidnap them, rape them, videotape the violence, and sell it to pornography stores and businesses across the country.

That same year a couple in Missouri was charged with forcing a mentally handicapped girl to produce porn for them by beating, whipping, suffocating, electrocuting, drowning, mutilating, and choking her until she agreed. One of the photos they forced her to make ended up on the front cover of a porn publication owned by Hustler Magazine Group.

I haven’t even finished reading everything, but the information is solid, the arguments are good, and even the presentation is really powerful. (You can download sections of the website as nicely formatted .pdf’s, for example.)

I know it’s a ridiculously uphill battle, especially in the geek culture that I’m a part of, and that’s why I’m happy to see such a great new resource.

The Modesty Wars

I initially wrote this post as an irate response to this post from By Common Consent, but I decided to let it simmer for a few days. I knew that Angela C, who wrote that BCC post, didn’t really deserve to be singled out as the target for my ire when she was really just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

So, instead of tackling her post point-by-point, I want to get to what really fundamentally bothers me about the modesty wars. I guess I should start by defining the modest wars.

If you’ve never heard of the phrase that’s OK because, as far as I know, I just made it up. It refers to the odd feminist-vs-feminist battle between social conservatives and social liberals that centers primarily on modest dress. The conservative view is that immodest clothing is intrinsically sexually objectifying and therefore disempowers women. Probably the best proponent of this view comes from Caroline Heldman’s TEDxYouth talk.

The liberal response is basically that an emphasis on modest dress is the problem, not the solution, because it teaches both boys and girls to objectify their female bodies in the first place. Apparently liberals believe that, without specific training, no man would ever objectify women by ogling their bodies and that no woman would ever notice this and respond to it by intentionally inviting such objectification in exchange for leverage. Nope: that dysfunctional co-dependency is all thanks to capped-sleeves.

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Hide Your Eyes… There Be Breastfeeding!

In an aptly named blog post, We must stop these crazed half naked psychopaths from feeding their children in front of other people!, one father discusses the country’s crazy aversion to breastfeeding.


Do you feel awkward around a breastfeeding mom?  No worries!  Our society has conditioned us to think of the breast as a sex object.  Sex object + innocent baby + dinner time = weirdness!

In that moment of awkwardness, just remind yourself: this is in no way about sex.  This is just a mom caring for her baby.  It’s natural and beautiful. Eventually, your neural pathways will reroute and maybe you won’t feel even a twinge of awkwardness.