Culture

How The Modesty Talk May Be Devaluing Women 

The evangelical church has always done a poor job of handling, valuing and encouraging women. Instead, women have been over sexualized (yes, even in the church, and especially women of color) and blamed for everything that is wrong with men. One of those areas is modesty. Let me break it down a little..

  • When Jesus gave the command to not commit adultery-and then connected it further-by saying that “if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28), two things are going on, or “not going on” here.

One: Women were not dressing how they dress today in America. These were different times and a different culture. So, when Jesus gave that command, women were fully clothed. We can even argue that they were more than likely covered from head to toe (given the culture). YET, men could still look at them, even as they are fully covered and lust after them. That is funny, since today we are told that lust from a man is a woman’s fault. It has everything to do with what she’s wearing (or not wearing). It has to be her short shorts that are causing him to lust. However, given the time and culture in which Jesus said this, and the style of dress being drastically different; but the lust in the heart of man being EXACTLY the same. That argument falls flat on its face. I’ll elaborate more later, but I want to say this now. No matter WHAT a woman is wearing, men will lust, if they are going to lust.

Two: The commandment does not say “if a woman causes you to lust by wearing something you find attractive, you have already committed adultery​ in your heart.” Jesus is coming at their hearts, not at what women are or aren’t wearing. To place blame on women for the sins of a man’s own heart, is wrong and sinful. It is to misuse and misunderstand what the text is actually getting at.

  • There are NO guidelines in scripture for what is “too short, too tight, too high, too long, too big”, etc.

It just isn’t there. Are there things I think are appropriate and inappropriate, in certain settings, or period? Sure. But to make laws off of what I, Jasmine, think is appropriate, is legalism. I have no authority to make my likes and dislikes, laws for the whole church. And frankly, neither do you.

  • When we blame women for the lust issues of men, we do damage to our sisters and a disservice to our brothers.

Should women dress modesty? YES! Do I get to decide what is modesty? NO! Jesus is telling men to watch their hearts, to keep them in check. To not look at women lustfully. What He isn’t saying is “go change your clothes, woman, so that this man doesn’t lust after you.” That is over sexualizing women. It’s saying that because of her clothes, men are lusting. But that’s not true. Jesus is saying, because of their hearts, men are lusting. So instead of telling women “change your clothes so you don’t cause him to lust,” we should be telling men “brother, gouge that eye out if it is causing you to sin. For it is better to enter the Kingdom without your eye, than to burn in hell.” Sound familiar? Because that is what Jesus tells us to do when our members of our bodies cause us to sin. It is not a woman’s fault that a man sins, he already has sin and wickedness in his own heart. Let’s stop blaming women, and start holding men accountable for themselves.

  • The shape of black and brown women, does not give you the right to make special rules for her.

I think most would agree that everyone (men included) ought to try and dress according to their body type. After all, isn’t that why there are different styles and sizes of clothes. But far too often, I have seen and heard women of color—who are usually more curvy and full-figured—told that they should be wearing bigger and looser clothes than their white counterparts. They have to sacrifice being “cute” (I don’t know any women who don’t at least want to feel comfortable in their clothes) because they aren’t built like “other women”. This is another way that black and brown women have their bodies used against them, and it must stop! If we follow the same line of thought throughout this blog, then we must still come to the point of saying that women, even with their different sizes and shapes, are not the cause of a man’s lust. Our culture tells us that more curves are “better” and “more attractive”, and whether you believe that or not, the onus is still on men to make sure, no matter what she looks like, that you do not lust after her. But rather, see her as a woman made in God’s image.

  • It is and can be loving for a woman to change her outfit at times.

If, a certain outfit, really has a brother (in her local community) struggling to see her as the imago dei (image of God), and keeps tempting him to see her as someone who he sexualizes, then in his weakness, you could perhaps help him. You could, for the weaker brother, lay down your liberty to wear what you want, to help him as he fights against his sin. That in no way means that you are the reason for his sin, but that you love him enough, to help him win against his sin. We must never come to a point that we will not be willing to lay down our freedoms for love. Freedom that is not restrained by love is not freedom at all.

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