A couple of months ago, my wife and I stopped at a new restaurant downtown for lunch on a quiet Sunday afternoon. The menu looked appetizing and the servers seemed professional, so we sat down and took in our surroundings. The place had a very industrial look, with a lot of concrete, steel, and untreated wood. The browns and grays were offset by several splashes of candy apple red throughout, such as the lighting electrical cords and the accessories of the servers. Everything was fun, and the afternoon seemed to be on an excellent track. Until we noticed the art.
There were only two pieces of art in the entire place, as far as we can remember. Both were six-foot photographs of models doing chores in their underwear. We were struck because these photos had absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the decor. We shook our heads, enjoyed our lunch, and left, probably never to return.
I tell this story because it seems that, in spite of the feminist movement of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, it is still alright for women to be used as “eye candy.” It is perfectly acceptable to display women as nothing more than the object of a male fantasy: someone who is nearly naked and looking after the house. Further, it is alright to portray these scantily clad women not only in men’s washrooms or gentlemen clubs, but in a downtown pub.
Now, I understand that my bias leans me away from gratuitous displays of skin in public, but I’ve come to think that there is very little left of the road to “physical freedom” that our society has yet to explore. We are bombarded by Victoria’s Secret models as we scour the mall for the few remaining cute skirts with hems that sit at or below the knee. Nudity has become the norm with well-loved television series. It seems nearly impossible to turn on one’s browser without being greeted by someone wearing far less than one might appreciate.
As I am about to become a father in a few weeks, I sometimes fear for my future children. My sons will have to learn early that the media lies: women are not on this planet solely for their pleasure. They are fellow human beings with lives that are full of joy and pain and love. They have body issues and confidence issues and interpersonal issues. They have dreams, hopes, and plans. And perhaps one day, God will bring one of these beautiful creations into their lives to share a future with.
As for my girls, my wife and I must help them traverse this world that gives them two options as they grow up: be sexy, or be invisible. I have to fight the billboards and the commercials to tell my daughters that their worth is not found in their ability to adhere to a physical standard that has been placed upon them by the faceless “media.” I have to convince them that getting attention for showing skin is not the same thing as love and acceptance. I have to show them that their true power as women comes from their love of God, not their ability to turn heads.
It is for these reasons that I want to call us to think about modesty.
I don’t mean we need to become Amish or return to 1930’s bathing suits, but perhaps we can think about the messages we send to the upcoming generations by what we wear and how we portray sexuality in public. As a start, just think about the image you are sending out and why you do so. Is it to be sexy? Powerful? Desirable? Think about it.
In the midst of this concern for the future, I do hold on to a little hope. Western history has shown that the pendulum swings back and forth between conservative and liberal expressions of art, politics, and social movement. As skirts have reached a point where they can go no shorter before being reclassified as belts, I hope that they begin to lengthen, even if just in the name of fashion. As people become numb to the reckless nudity that we are faced with, perhaps a touch of modesty can become flirty again. The hint of skin may become more enticing than getting the whole show up front. A guy can hope…
Much of this article has focused on modesty for women, for which I apologize. Men are not innocent of a lack of modesty (which the Abercrombie bags at my local mall can attest to), but I’ve found the media focuses a lot more on nearly naked women to sell everything. My aim is not to come down on women and their dress, but to start a conversation on the direction our world is headed. I really don’t want to raise children in a society that worships at the altar of sexuality, but I can’t change things on my own.
I hope I’ve given you all something to think about.