The yoga pants witch hunt: missing pieces of the modesty conversation

 

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It’s getting to be that time of year again. You know, the one with all the articles about women’s modesty and how we should be dressing to prevent men from sinning, and are bikinis really okay?

I have waited several years to write about modesty, because I know it’s a hot topic and people tend to feel very strongly that their way is the right way. And you know what? You’re entitled to your opinion. Whether you rock a floor-length denim skirt or short-shorts, rock on my friend.

But there’s 3 things I keep missing in our conversations, on both sides, that I’d like to talk about.

 

1) Modesty culture has no boundaries.

Reading and listening to conversations about how someone else’s sin is my fault gives me anxiety like you wouldn’t believe. Why? Because there is no male responsibility in modesty culture. There is very little accountability for the way a man chooses to look at a woman, because the woman is responsible for the outcome.

What else does that sound like?

“You made me beat you.” “You made me get angry.” “You made me break up with you.” A classic sign of irresponsibility is putting the responsibility of our emotional well-being on someone else.

(For clarification: it is also our responsibility to make sure we are not a threat to the safety of others. A woman should not have to dress a certain way to protect herself. If you think you may be teetering on the edge of making some bad decisions, it is your job to take the necessary precautions.)

The argument with this is “why cause your friend to stumble?”, and I think that’s a great thing. Yes, let’s do what we can to help out those we love. But when that attempt at prevention causes you personal anxiety, fear and stress, therefore causing you to stumble, it’s only making things worse. If this is about community supporting one another, let’s all do our part by taking responsibility of what’s ours to be responsible for, and not put unnecessary pressure on each other to take care of us.

Once you become an adult, your well being is your responsibility. Male or female.

 

2) Pressure. Pressure. Pressure.

This whole modesty thing puts an insane amount of pressure on women. There’s no biblical standard for what is considered modest – in fact, the Bible only refers to modesty as wearing inexpensive clothing, not hiding your sexuality.

What’s unacceptable in New York is acceptable in Los Angeles, what’s acceptable in Chicago is unacceptable in rural Indiana. Women are harassed when they’re not wearing enough, and ostracized if they’re wearing too much. Whether we like it or not, there is not a one-size-fits-all (pun intended) rule for what women can and cannot wear. So keeping up with the latest “acceptable” and “unacceptable” when all we want is to just be comfortable is completely exhausting.

Believe it or not, most women I know don’t put on yoga pants to flaunt anything or taunt anyone – they’re widely sold, not too expensive, flattering (confidence boost!) and seriously the most freaking comfortable things I have ever worn. Not to mention they stretch. God bless ’em.

 

3) Modesty culture shows a routine disrespect for men.

I could write an entire blog post about just this point (hey who knows, maybe I will one day), but for the sake of your attention span I’ll keep it brief.

When women are taught they must manage the emotions and desires of men for them, it really says men will never have the capacity to be your equal emotionally. Men will never learn how to listen instead of fix (which, by the way, is not a male thing but rather a coping mechanism for someone who doesn’t know how to sit in emotional discomfort). Men will never learn to remain interested in your thoughts and emotions while you’re sharing your heart with them – that’s just too much to ask. And if they can’t do those things, they definitely can’t control their lustful thoughts when they see a girl in a bikini at the beach.

Dear reader and friend: are you sure you want to encourage this belief? Are you sure you want the message you send to your daughter, niece, or friend be that they will never find a partner who can actually do life as an emotional equal? That they must always manage the emotions of their husband?

My entire life my brother went above and beyond most boys his age in emotional maturity, and as a result many of his friends growing up were girls. And you know what? I spent years trying to convince my brother that bikinis were sexually tempting, and he was the one who talked me out of it. He offered women respect when I only gave them judgment.

It’s time to let go of the yoga pants witch hunt, and instead offer people respect. Kindness. The benefit of the doubt. Regardless of what they’re wearing.

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126 thoughts on “The yoga pants witch hunt: missing pieces of the modesty conversation

  1. “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”
    ~Proverbs 13:3

    Despite the scripture above, I would like to share my ramblings in a fashion consistent with several pages of coffee stained notebook paper. Due to my lack of grace and tact when it comes to gender-role specific disputes, I must apologize in advance for anything that may come out wrong. Please know that my intention here is to better understand the roles of Christian men and women in regard to views of modesty, as well as share some thoughts of my own.

    “Let all that you do be done in love.”
    ~1 Corinthians 16:14

    As a Christian male in my late 20’s that actively battles with pornography, and the pointedly sexual atmosphere resulting from targeted commercialism and social media, it is both mentally and emotionally exhausting for me to read discussions relating to topics of modesty. Many women claim to empathize with men (“Just don’t look!”), and many men point the finger at women (“Don’t dress like a slut!”). And here we have the never-ending debate of modesty. I have my own ideas of what is considered “modest” and what is not, but my intention is not to force, nor even to disclose that to anyone here as it is subjective, and thus serves no end. Although this article was written with the best of intentions, and with Christ in mind, I do not feel that it has cleared up anything about the modesty dispute, much less the involvement of the male role. I do not say this to spite the author (sorry Hannah), but rather as a means to touch on some key points to which I either disagree, or would like to offer my thoughts as a male.

    “Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.”
    ~Galatians 4:14

    I find it fairly disappointing that many of the female contributors here have claimed to know “how men are wired” simply based off of a few close personal relationships. I know individuals whose father has been their lifelong model of inspiration and purity, but I also know some who have been sexually assaulted by their father/relative. Do you think their opinions of “how men are wired” would differ? It makes no difference how many PhD’s or MD-PhD’s you have; you can’t possibly know what is running through a male mind every time a woman comes in contact with them. You’ve been married for 30 years? Great! I bet you have a very deep connection with the thoughts, tendencies, and physical/spiritual struggles of your husband. But that’s only one man, and I can assure you that even though we might have the same urges, what happens after the urge isn’t “hard-wired” the same for everyone. Male organisms throughout most species on the planet are very visually oriented, which is why the females tend to be the gorgeous ones, and women are gorgeous! This visual attraction causes the release of chemicals and hormones which cause impulses, stimulation, and… well, you know the rest. What I’m trying to say is that on the inside (chemically, involuntarily) male bodies react to the presence of women in a very similar fashion, but what we do on the outside (physically, voluntarily) is what defines the type of man we are.

    “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
    ~1 Corinthians 10:13

    Personally, yoga pants aren’t nearly as attractive to me as a fashionably fitting pair of jeans. They just don’t do it for me. I like the mystery (and we all know that yoga pants leave no mystery). Does this mean that women have to stop wearing fashionably fitting jeans? Absolutely not! Does it mean that I am free from the temptation of indecent thoughts or glances while walking behind a woman in yoga pants? Totally incorrect! What it does mean is that there are many men out there (for lack of using baseless superlatives) that are turned on by a woman simply being a woman! I don’t stand to tell women what they can and can’t wear, that’s not my place. What I am saying is that what clothes women decide to wear DOES affect the men around them. Just know that not all men are bad guys, and concurrently not all women provoke temptation in men. There certainly are some ways in which both men and women can help each other to resist temptation, after all everyone wants to go to heaven, so why not help each other out? For men, negating the “straying eye” or actively turning away from indecent photos/advertisements is a good start (one that I’m employing myself). And perhaps for women a skirt over the yoga pants is a step in the right direction (actually a very cute look, and fashionable). But ultimately that’s for you to decide.

    “And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!”
    ~Luke 17:1

    Thanks Hannah for taking a stand on something you believe in, and I hope I didn’t come across too insensitive or coarse. Also thanks to individuals like Jon Torres (@jontorresart), and others who have taken the time to quote scripture in order to provide relevant biblical reference, as well as stand up for men in general.

    Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
    ~Romans 14:13

    • I know this seems trivial after all you just responded with but, just so you sound educated in future discussions, the females of species in the animal kingdom (and my opinion humans as well) are not the beautiful ones. Look up peacocks, Mallard ducks and lions, to name a few. The males are always more colorful, more feathered, etc. Even with humans, men have longer eyelashes and look better with no makeup and bald than a woman would in a similar state. Just saying. It pretty much ruins your “men are visual” angle. There is actually a Harvard study from a few years ago that disproved that men are more visually sexually stimulated than women. Just more Evangelical hype. Peace.

      • Thank you for your noteworthy reply, and your true words. Also, I apologize for responding to this so many months late – I just happened to run across it in my email.

        You are absolutely correct in my misconception of females being the better looking individuals “in most species.” I did not verify my thought before I typed it and thus have significantly reduced the effectiveness of that angle. My intention was to convey the power that male visual cues have on our impulsive actions and sex drive. I do hope, however, that this shortcoming on my part does not depreciate the overarching intent of this post.

  2. Pingback: The yoga pants witch hunt: missing pieces of the modesty conversation | Aliyah of a Soul

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