Friday, July 27, 2012

Modesty: My Solution

Here is my previous post, in which I basically concluded that it would be most godly for me to not look like a girl.

And here is my answer, my personal stance on this whole "modesty" issue:

1. If modesty is for helping the boys, then it's ONLY for the decent boys.

If modesty is about helping boys not to lust, well, some boys are beyond help.  There are men who WANT to objectify women. Women have NO RESPONSIBILITY to "help" them not be perverts. There are men who stare at women on the bus. There are men who get on the internet and argue that women should take sexual harassment as a COMPLIMENT. There are men who make awful sexist superbowl commercials... Modesty is absolutely not for their benefit.

Because they don't want help. Because they're beyond help. Because the only way to stop them from objectifying you is to not let them know you're a girl.

Usually it gets worded a bit more crudely... Image source.

Because if you're a pervert, and you want to be a pervert, that's your own problem. It makes no sense for me to change my behavior for someone who doesn't even respect women. It's ridiculous that I would even CONSIDER that maybe I should change my behavior for them. Absolutely not.

The best I can do is try not to think about it, because that's the creepiest thing...

No, the boys we are trying to "help" by being "modest" are the decent ones. They're the ones who respect women and treat them like, you know, people. Treat them like friends, like sisters. They are the ones who want to have a friendly conversation with you, and know that it would be wrong to stare at your boobs, and they don't want to stare, so help them out by not showing cleavage.

The decent guys are the ones who have thought about this stuff before, who know what lust is, and know their own weaknesses and limits. They live in the same world you do- they have to live in society every day and interact with women. As long as your appearance is within the realm of what people typically look like, the guys have seen it before and if this is really a problem for them, then they have faced it before and know what they need to do to deal with it.

So, not as much of a big deal as we girls might think.

(Decent guys out there- am I right?)

2. Cost vs benefit

One of the ideas behind "modesty" is that yes, girls totally have the freedom to wear whatever, but we should give up some of that freedom, to help out the guys. So, you could see it like this:

Cost to me, as a woman: I don't get to look as sexy as I want.

Benefit to men: They don't have to worry about guarding their minds against lust when they're around me.

Maybe that sounds reasonable in principle, but how does that work in a practical sense? Do women have to agonize over all their clothing choices, feel bad about their bodies if they look more "feminine", question their motives all the time, and feel guilty for wanting to be beautiful?

"Oh no this t-shirt has an image on the front! I'm worried that it draws too much attention to my chest..." Image source.

How it actually works out:

Cost to me, as a woman: I feel like I'm not allowed to look cute/beautiful/feminine at all. The logical conclusion is that I should wear a tent, you know, in order to help the guys as much as possible.

Benefit to men: Impossible to measure. Maybe it all didn't matter.

But the bible says to treat others better than ourselves. So shouldn't I give up my rights, without limit, in order to possibly help someone else a little bit?

No. The cost to me/ benefit to you ratio DOES matter. This would be like if I walked 5 miles to Tim Hortons and back to buy you a coffee in case you didn't like the one you already had. Every day.

My first rage comic! Be nice.

This is clearly unreasonable. But this is exactly what it's like for a woman to worry about her clothes and feel bad and fear that she might "cause her brother to stumble", and by extension feel like something is wrong with the feminine way her body was made, and that she's not allowed to be beautiful. Huge cost, no apparent benefit.

(Decent guys out there- speak up if I've got this all wrong.)

3. What you wear should be about YOU

For all body types, there are some clothes that look really good for that body type. Women should go ahead and figure out what makes them look good and feel good, and wear that.  

As far as "modesty" is concerned, well, I guess don't show a ton of cleavage, and don't wear some super-tight catwoman suit, but other than that, don't worry about it. Seriously, don't worry about it. I personally don't care about modesty at all any more. As long as what you look like is within the realm of what people typically look like, it's fine.

The most important thing about what you wear should be that YOU like it. I want women to feel awesome about how they look. Wear clothes that make you happy. What you wear should be about you, it shouldn't be to please someone else, and it definitely shouldn't be to "help" boys with some vaguely-understood phantom problem that they might have.

(And I no longer have the patience to be super-extreme-conservative about a "problem" that I can never directly observe or understand.)

Also, one component of "what makes you feel good" is how other people perceive you. Yeah, it's true that people will give you a different amount of respect depending on what you wear. Ideally it wouldn't be that way, but whatever. Figure out how that makes you feel, and dress accordingly.  

Also don't try to "dress to get attention from guys" ON PURPOSE. But that's not the same thing as feeling awesome about yourself. Yes, I think feeling good because you look cute is somewhat related to being attractive to guys. But don't kill yourself trying to tease out and analyze your motives. (In other words, I don't require that the dot product of "I want to wear this because it's cute" and "I want boys to think I'm attractive" is 0.) You're fine. Looking awesome is awesome. Go ahead and be awesome.

Seriously. Yeah basically this is my stance on modesty: Don't worry about the boys. Just wear whatever makes you look and feel awesome. If you're not TRYING to manipulate boys by wearing revealing stuff, then I'm sure you're fine. Please, just don't worry about it. It's not fair for women to have that burden.

4. We absolutely DO NOT judge other women's clothing choices.

I can think of very very few situations in which it would be okay for one women to tell another that her clothes were too "immodest." Certainly it would only be okay between very very good friends- and even then, very rarely.

I'm not okay with the stories I hear about Christian camp counselors punishing/shaming girls for wearing a two-piece swimsuit. (For tall skinny people like me, one-piece swimsuits just DO NOT EXIST. I bet there are other body-types with that issue too.)

"Thank goodness- they've relaxed the requirements this year! I can bring a one-piece swimsuit, or a two-piece made of unicorn fur!" Image source.

And I'm not okay with girls making comments: "she needs to put some clothes on" referring to some stranger they see out in public. Even if it's a girl walking around in a bikini in the mall. Yes I know that does not fit my requirement above about being "in the realm of what people typically wear" but that doesn't matter. That's a guideline I've set for myself, not something I'd like to force everyone to follow. You don't know her- don't judge her.

I'm DEFINITELY not okay with making little comments about what someone wears to church. It's the freaking church! We need to accept people, not judge them. (You may have heard of someone named Jesus who advocated this...?) If someone comes to your church, and you say "wow I can't believe she's wearing a shirt like that" instead of saying "Hi, welcome to church", then you’re doing it wrong.

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So, that's my solution to modesty. This is meant to be advice for what to do as an individual woman- I haven't addressed how this shows some of the problems of society in general, I haven't offered a solution about what to teach young Christian girls (and boys) about modesty/lust/beauty. And I think different women may have different "solutions" than I do. That's fine. We can disagree about everything except point #4, about not judging people- I stand by that point.

Tell me what you think in the comments!

24 comments:

  1. Lots of common sense here. :)

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    1. That's my goal. Common sense and logic.

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  2. I like your rage comic very much, btw.

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  3. OK, apparently there is a character cap set at 4,096. As such I will have to break up my response into several pieces. Not sure how many yet, but I guess we'll soon find out.

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  4. TL;DR: it’s a matter of sin and ultimately a heart issue for both parties (girls and guys), but Jesus is stronger and has already put sin to death!
    First and foremost, my goal with this response is to stay as faithful to Scripture as I can, and to address some of the underlying issues behind the problems that you have raised. At the same time, I am somewhat intimidated by the task, as I feel that there is enough material for me to write a decently long sermon series on and still only be scratching the surface. That being the case, I’m going to try and dive into the heart (heh) of the matter and then address a few of the ways that the root of the issue calls us to respond as Christians with some of the examples you have raised.
    Sin is a funny thing. On the one hand, it separates us from God and earns His eternal wrath and judgment, with fire, brimstone, wailing, gnashing of teeth, and so on (forgive my brevity, sin is a serious issue and should be treated as such, but I have been redeemed and fear neither death nor the punishment that I have earned, as Jesus has paid my debt and accounted me His righteousness for no other reason than He loves me; to Him be all praise, honor, and glory forevermore). On the other hand, God is God, and as such there is nothing that can deter Him in His plans for the salvation of His people, not even our sin. Just imagine what it would be like if there was such a thing as a sin that God could not forgive. I can’t begin to think of how stressful that would be, to live with a constant fear of this sin that was more powerful than God’s unconditional, everlasting love, and the sickening notion that just by knowing what it was and thinking about it I may accidentally commit it without meaning to. From a theological/ ontological/ philosophical standpoint that doesn’t even make sense. One of the classic defenses/ arguments for God is Anselm’s statement that “God is that than which nothing else can be greater.” Even in the oft-quoted (especially on Reddit) passage from Epicurus there lies the notion that if something is greater than God then God should not be given that name. If such a sin existed that nullified God’s ability to be God, then from an ontological standpoint that sin should be given the name “God” and God as we know Him should be relegated to some other position in the universe. That is not unlike the Gnostic view of God the Father versus God the Son, but that’s a different matter altogether.
    As for the legalism/ antinomianism debate, I can’t do the subject any better justice than Paul already has in his epistles, especially to the Romans and Galatians. But still, the issue then is one of sin. God is God, and greater than all sin, but sin should still be avoided. We can’t do this on our own, we are sinful people. But Ephesians tells us that we “can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.” So, relying on ourselves will get us nowhere; relying on Christ is our only option.

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  5. Now then, if we are sinful people, who shall we blame for our sin? Our sinful nature is revealed here as well, given that our instinct is to blame someone else. Adam’s first sin was doing the one thing God told him not to do. Adam’s first sin as a sinner was to blame Eve for it. One of the biggest problems of our sinful hearts is that we don’t want the responsibility for what we’ve done. I’m not sure if you have ever done the Gospel-Centered Life study, but it has a couple of chapters that speak directly to this. One of the points that it makes is that, “At the root of all our visible sins lies the invisible struggle for righteousness and identity. In other words, we never outgrow the gospel.” One of the best lines from the chapter on repentance that applies directly to the issue of modesty is that, “Because our hearts are a ‘factory of idols’ (as John Calvin put it), even our repentance can become a vehicle for sin and selfishness. We are skilled practitioners of false repentance.” The Bible says we must not lust. Therefore, as a means of ensuring that we men do not lust, we say that women must dress modestly (without defining exactly what that means) and tell them that it’s their fault if we lust. Instead, we as men need to be much more keenly focused on the condition of our hearts as the root of the sin and why we want to turn from God by objectifying His creation in the first place. Our actions come from our thoughts, and our thoughts are derived from the condition of our hearts; thus it is that Jesus said, “Out of the overflow of [the] heart [the] mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). The caveat here is that we as Christian men have been taught not to speak lustful thoughts, but that doesn’t stop us from acting on them. My Sunday school class has been going through Revelation, and this issue came up when talking about the Church in Thyatira. One of the comments that my pastor made is that in today’s church we have many of the same issues with regards to sexual impurity as they did when the letter was written, and that when it comes to porn, masturbation, and sex outside of marriage, even in the church 9/10 guys will have struggled with at least one of those, and the tenth is probably lying. We may not say as much, but our actions speak for us the truth of how broken and needful of a savior we are. There is a lot more that applies to this and to sin in general in The Gospel-Centered Life, and I would highly recommend going through it at the very least on your own if you don’t have a small group to do it with.
    So, where does this leave us with the issue of modesty? The excuse that “men are visual” is just that: an excuse. It doesn’t deal with the sin, it doesn’t deal with the man’s heart, and it doesn’t deal with true repentance on his behalf and an actual desire to restore his relationship with God. This is a perfect example of spiritual laziness. Do women’s bodies “have power” over men? Of course. They’re supposed to. God could have said to Adam, “Hey man, I made this thing that you’re supposed to make babies with just because I said so, but you’re not supposed to enjoy it because ew,” but instead He created sex as something to be enjoyed, something to want, and something that glorifies Him, as long as it is done to bring Him honor and not just to feel good out of our own selfishness. We’re supposed to find each other attractive, and to want to be together. However, what we have now is not the natural view of finding each other attractive, but the result of what happens when sin enters the world and perverts what God made to be perfect. The result is that instead of focusing on the woman we want to marry, we start fantasizing, thinking that any woman will do, and that the point of a woman is because she has sexy bits, rather than to have a partner with whom to seek and strive for a deeper relationship with God first and foremost, and then to enjoy the sexuality that God made us with.

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  6. Should women be careful of what they wear? Yes, but not universally. I wouldn’t wear the same thing to the beach that I would wear to do prison ministry, just because that wouldn’t be appropriate. A big part of the difficulty with the subject is being able to define what is or isn’t “appropriate” for every single potential scenario, but that’s where trusting Christ comes in. That’s where the heart thing comes back into play. God made you, which means He made you exactly the way you should be, since He’s God and doesn’t make mistakes. If anything, that means that it’s OK to dress to be cute/ pretty/ beautiful/ stunning whenever it makes sense to wear clothes that accomplish that goal (a sundress in Cleveland in December usually doesn’t make sense, even if you would look amazing in it). As long as you aren’t trying to provoke guys into lusting after you, then you’re doing your part. All guys are sinners, and there will inevitably be someone who thinks the wrong thing about something that you wear. That doesn’t make it OK for him just because he can’t help it, but that doesn’t make it OK to treat him like a pervert either. The problem is the sin, not the guy. Just on a personal note, I’ve dated girls that I thought looked just as amazing whether they were wearing jeans, long shirts, boots, and a jacket, shorts and a t-shirt, a skirt and blouse, or a full-length dress. Guys appreciate it when the girl they are dating dresses up for them, but the appropriate response is to give God the glory for how marvelous His creation is, not to start thinking about her without those clothes or how to get her out of them and into bed, and the same thing goes for random girls on the street.
    Modesty isn’t for helping boys. It’s for glorifying God and worshipping Him for the beautiful creation that He made you to be. Just as He was appalled with Israel for taking the beauty He had given the nation and using it to entice her neighbors instead of glorifying the One who had raised her up from nothing and made her beautiful, He didn’t make you beautiful so that you could pursue the hearts of men, but so that you could serve as living evidence of the beauty of His creation, and bring honor and glory to His name for the mighty and wondrous works of His hand. If modesty isn’t for helping boys, then it most certainly isn’t only for helping the decent boys. There are no decent boys. Not of our own accord, anyway. Every single one of us is in need of redemption through Christ, and apart from Him not one of us can be called worthy of anything. Even the best of men is only such because of the grace of Christ, and not through his own merit, and could that grace be revoked, he would become such a wretch that not one of his good deeds would be remembered. The truth is that all Christian men are deeply in need of the savior they have professed. The point of conversion is the beginning of our lives, not the completion of it.

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  7. As to whether or not you get to look as sexy as you want, again that is a matter of the heart. What are you trying to achieve by looking sexy? Is your focus on giving God glory, or is it on drawing attention to yourself? If the former, then go nuts. If the latter, then work on your heart. Keep in mind that men will always have to guard their minds against lust, period. That’s the nature of being sinful. But again, that’s where the redemption of Christ comes in, that we can be righteous on His account rather than having to rely on our own selves. You as a woman can’t do the work that a man needs to do on his heart with the Lord that he needs to do for him, just as you as a person can’t do the work that any other person needs to do with their heart for them. Traditionally, it’s a man’s duty to protect a woman, not the other way around. This can further be seen in countries/ societies that have gone the full tent route. Does wearing a tent stop lust? Nope. What about rape? No again. What about all of the other ways in which the slightest glimpse of a woman’s skin can drive a man wild with passion and carnal desire? Sorry, but man’s capacity and creativity to sin is far greater than his ability to avoid it without Christ.
    Again, what you wear shouldn’t be about you, but about God. He made you beautiful. The first answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” Note that there isn’t a second part that talks about women and how their chief end is something else entirely, such as preventing the downfall of men by keeping all their lady bits covered in mountains of cloth. The other catch is that if a person does something that they think is a sin, then they have sinned even if the Bible doesn’t make it explicit that doing it is a sin. That does not mean that if someone else does something that you think is a sin, then they have sinned even if the Bible doesn’t make it explicit that doing it is a sin. The point here is that God is the point, not what others may or may not think.
    Now, one of the stickier issues will be that of judgment. I think it’s natural to judge a person’s decision to wear a speedo/ bikini when there are 6 feet of snow on the ground as “poor,” just as it is to judge a person’s decision to wear a parka, fur hat, snow pants, and boots to the beach when it’s 98 out as equally “poor” and potentially hazardous to their health. Still, judging a person’s decision on what to wear is very different on judging the person and ascribing a set of morals/ values to them based solely on what you saw them wear that one time. Even if a girl or guy showed up at church completely naked, she or he would be no more a sinner than everyone else there. Now, that being said, we as Christians are called not to judge those who are not. If someone isn’t a Christian, we can’t hold them to Christian standards any more than they can hold us to theirs. On the other hand, we as Christians are very much called to hold each other accountable in the faith. 2 Tim. 3:16 is one of the clearest examples of this off the top of my head. What many people forget is that we are called to do so out of love, rather than shaming them as heathens who are horrible people for not being able to hold themselves as righteous as the people doing the condemning are. Often, those who shame others, or try to, are doing so from their own legalistic views, and are just as in need of grace and forgiveness as the ones who they are accusing. I would refer them to Zechariah 3, and the vision of Joshua the High Priest, the holiest man in all of Israel, being accused by Satan before the Lord, and how the Lord responds. There is absolutely a place for discipline within the church, but as with all things there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

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  8. So what then is the solution? As with many things, there isn’t a single answer that will forever solve the problem unless you focus on God’s standards, rather than on man’s. The simple answer then is to glorify God in all that you do. One of the hallmarks of the Christian faith is that the simple answers aren’t necessarily easy ones, and this case is no different. Wear what makes you feel beautiful. Trust the Holy Spirit to guide you to that end, rather than relying on your own standards or those of another to dictate what is or isn’t appropriate. Colossians 3:23 says, “In everything you do, do it with all your heart. Do it unto the Lord, and not unto men,” and this case is no exception. If you wear something that you think is appropriate and then after you arrive start to doubt your choice, question the source of that guilt, and whether it is conviction by the Holy Spirit or accusation by Satan. If the Holy Spirit, then repent, pray, and seek a closer relationship with Him that He may better guide your decisions in the future, but also rest knowing that you have been forgiven by Christ. If Satan, then pray that the Holy Spirit fill you with peace, knowing that the righteousness that you have been given in Christ far surpasses any sin that you may commit. Either way, pray. Let those close to you know your struggles, that they may intercede for you as well in their own prayers. Whatever you do, make sure that you have around you a strong community of believers to help you and support you, to pray with you, and to strengthen you, like iron sharpening iron.

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  9. I feel that I should point out that I was using "you" in my response in a general sense to refer to Christian girls, not you in particular.

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    1. You wrote a lot of stuff. ^_^ I like how you related it back to the gospel, and how the root of the issue is sinfulness. And also that lust/manipulation is a twisted and marred form of something that God made GOOD- beauty and attraction between men and women. So women are SUPPOSED to be beautiful. It seems like a lot of times the underlying, unspoken idea in the modesty discussion is that women's bodies are evil- that it's evil/sinful to have curves and look feminine. But that's totally not true. (And totally a harmful idea that makes me really mad.)

      I think it's really important to see the big picture like that, so thanks for talking about the gospel and everything. Usually the modesty discussion (at least the part the women hear) is "you have to cover up because men are all perverts" and that's it.

      In terms of "practical advice", it seems like you're saying women should not worry about "modesty" but instead seek to honor God in everything we do- and part of that is we are able to show his awesomeness by being beautiful. I think that's a good perspective. But it's also really abstract and I'm not sure what to do with it.

      I just have a really hard time BELIEVING that God not only is "okay with" me looking cute, but in full support because that was his intention. That's because I subconsciously imagine God to be an old guy who doesn't understand any of the little things I find interesting. So... well I technically know God isn't really like that, but... yeah, not sure what to do.

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  10. Andrew, this isn't my blog-- but I'm wondering if posting a whole sermon in the comment section of someone else's blog, is very good Internet manners. It's up to Perfectnumber herself, of course. But I don't think she intended to invite a five-part pastoral teaching from a man who isn't her pastor, on a blog which she created for a place to express herself. Especially when the post itself was clearly addressed to other Christian women.

    Perfectnumber, what do you think? I don't intend to interfere between you and your other commenters, but I just felt maybe I should speak up. I don't have a quarrel with what Andrew says particularly-- it's just that it seems kind of out of place to do it here instead of just posting a link to his own blog or sermon series.

    Shutting up now. . .

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    1. I'm fine with it in this case- thanks for your concern though. ^_^ I know Andrew from real life and I'm interested in what he has to say.

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  11. That's good. Sorry for the interference.

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  12. Thoughts on boys and girls, part 1:
    In winter here the girls go out in miniskirts though it is freezing!

    I can remember only one time I saw something in this city that was on someone and I thought it was offensive.

    A skinhead guy went past, he had a lot of tattoos. He actually spat at me (I had peace leaflets I think) But the point is, the worst tattoo was on his head, a really big tattoo.

    It was a swastika.

    The other year I was on a train and someone had written 'I want to kill niggers!' on the wall.

    That is the kind of stuff I find offensive.

    There was a feminist cartoon a couple of decades ago. The slogan was (about a woman or girl's right to go outdoors by herself and wear what clothes she chooses, without anything happening):
    'Anywhere, At any time, For any reason, In Whatever I want to wear'.

    I liked the case a few years back about school rules concerning clothing. Well there was more than one case. A school got a girl into trouble because she wore trousers instead of a skirt. In another case a school boy went to school in a skirt, to protest about the way boys and girls are made to dress according to what people say boys and girls should wear. In his case he took them to a tribunal and acted as his own lawyer. The argument was that girls and boys were equal in the school rules on discrimination, girls could wear skirt or trousers, so boys could wear trousers or skirt. He won.

    (Trousers were for WOMEN in Turkey. Men in Europe and most of the rest of the world, for most of history, have worn a dress, kilt or skirt of some kind. From the middle ages into the 1600s, MEN wore tights with a high tunic/skirt/'shorts', and WOMEN would ogle at their LEGS. Women wore a long dress to the ground, mainly as there were no proper toilets and also no underpants.) {The men of the Wodaabe tribe in Niger wear makeup, and the women do all the work and are in charge}

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  13. Thoughts on boys and girls, part 2:

    I had a friend, who had 4 kids. The older 3 had 'manly' sounding biblical names. The 4th was called Sky. Sky wore lots of pink and had really long hair. My friend, though a Catholic, breastfed all 4 in public including the one approaching puberty (but they were vegans). At the commune the older kids could be in varying states
    of undress. The 3rd kid sometimes was naked. And one day I got sent to find Sky. Sky's shoes, socks, etc made a trail I followed
    into the garden. At the end of it Sky was naked. Then Sky turned
    round -
    Sky was a boy.

    Years later I was living somewhere else, I finally figured after a YEAR I'd talk to the guy living in the trailer behind my house.
    Some mutual confusion followed (my parents and I had carried the person home when they were drunk, and put them to bed), and it turned out the tenant in the trailer -in our bizarre conversation-
    was a girl. She didn't think she looked or sounded strange. She identified as a straight woman, but I had mistaken her for her boyfriend, who I'd heard but not seen. She said she had no problem with her appearance. But she was in fact a semi-professional weightlifter and bodybuilder, and as part of this relied on anabolic steroids. So then for a while I became her manager, she got into wrestling and boxing, and I got her into a strongman contest (had to explain to the organisers she was in the women's event). Before I was coaching and managing her,
    I told my parents. They had helped me carry her, and when I told them she was a girl, they said I had gone crazy. They totally couldn't believe it!

    More recently: A friend now has a child called Fifi. Fifi is now grown up and asked not to be called Fifi any more. Fifi's a guy. His real name is Felix and he has a girlfriend.

    More recently than that: At a group I go to each month, a woman joined the other year and brought 2 kids. I figured she just had fairly standard looking daughters. They tended to wear lots of pink and dresses. Both looked pretty, with long hair. It took me at least a year before I found out that one of them is a boy. He has stopped wearing dresses, now, but still wears girls' tops and trousers and jewellery. BUT if asked, he says he identifies as a boy, he doesn't think it's weird or anything, even painting his nails is 'normal'.

    Then again I have a nephew who is like, several times over, a boy.
    His mum is an athlete and used to bodybuild and weightlift and teach martial arts, swim, and cycle. She now runs marathons. She can lift our father above her head. She's married and a very strict Christian. And 100% straight.

    Goth males wear makeup and jewellery. Some hippy guys wear a necklace.

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  14. Thoughts on boys and girls, part 3 of 3:
    If you can google it, check out a protest song. It is old, it's called Boys Will Be Boys, by Leon Rosselson, the lyrics are here
    http://www.mudcat.org/@displaysong.cfm?SongID=889

    It wouldn't play, but it might play if it is on other pages. The intro was about 'The differences between boys and girls', and started with a reading in the style of the books called in the UK
    'Peter and Jane' and in the USA 'Janet and John'.

    You know we used to dress boys in pink and girls in blue? And put boy babies in long dresses? There are older traditions of dressing the child in the opposite clothes to confuse the evil spirits who want to kidnap it.

    There is a cartoon (again, old) of a little girl and boy in the bath. The girl looks at the boy, and says "That explains the difference in our pay."

    According to Stephen Fry on QI, all children were once referred to as 'girls'.

    The Mosuo tribe in China have a matriarchal and matrilineal society where they also practice gynarchy (rule by women) and polyandry (women picking multiple husbands). They have a tradition called 'Walking Marriages'. The women own and run the house. They can have boyfriends, the men are invited to stay the night. If the woman doesn't want the man to stay, or wants to break it off, she puts his things outside the house and he must
    leave. It can be the morning after, or any time later. The men don't do much. All the organising and work is done by the women. They say hard physical work like digging ditches is for women because men aren't up to doing it. The most famous Mosuo woman in the world is the singer and writer Namu.In charge of everything are the grandmothers.

    If you prefer biology to anthropology, all babies start female and need to respond to the right conditions to develop as a male.
    Males are a type of genetic mutation, the Y chromosome was originally a malformed X chromosome. Bringing us up to date: This week scientists confirmed female pit vipers in the wild can reproduce by parthenogenesis (reproduction without males). The baby snakes are clones.

    Society gets to say what is 'male' and 'female', how to act and dress. But this changes depending on the place and time, context, subculture, etc. What is seen as 'unmanly' here can be 'macho' elsewhere. It can be argued that men and women are social constructs, we're all just people and for much of the time we can do without everyone trying to put us into neat boxes or categories. Who we fall in love with (if anyone), is up to us.

    Bye...

    (In case you're wondering, I'm a guy)

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  15. Modesty in the Bible in the context that it is discussed seemed to be more about not flaunting your wealth and status in other people's faces. I am not actually sure at what point Christians started to associate the whole thing with sex - after Freud maybe?

    Modesty varies greatly across cultures. It seems to be a way of solidifying that women don't leave their tribe - cover them up so we can possess them? The "rules" across the cultures change as to what each things must be covered and this unity of idea then prevents women from looking attractive to men outside their tribe. (Scary if you consider how this might be going on subconsciously in church groups).

    I generally try to respect the culture I am visiting wearing a Salwar in Bangladesh, or pants rather than shorts in China, simply to avoid being an object in that culture. But I usually go for happy moderation not the extreme (I usually leave off the head scarf in Dhaka, I am a foreigner, and in general it's just understood that I am respecting the culture rather than challenging it by attempting to uphold some of their standards, but I don't feel pressure to go overboard with it) yet, in this, I still see tribalism rearing its head.

    So what is our responsibility? Probably, as in the Bible not flaunting - our wealthy (look at me I'm a rich westerner) or our freedom (look at me, you poor captive slaves) but by gently knowing and reaching others by surrendering some of our liberties to meet them without intimidating them.

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  16. There is a deeper message in cross-cultural understanding that has been completely lost because we hide in our little tribal groups. What happens when we read this in the cross-cultural outreach perspective in which it was intended?

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  17. Several years ago, I made a nude male & female pair sculpture. The assignment for my sculpture class was to make a piece based on one of the fruits of the Spirit, and the one I chose was love. The sculpture is of a woman reclining against a sitting man, and they are gazing lovingly into each other's eyes. Being a poor college student living in a small apartment with my husband, I had no place to put it except for our living room. Some Christian family members (*ahem*...in-laws) came over, and the first thing one of them said wasn't about how well-executed the sculpture was, or anything complimentary, but "Those people look like they need some clothes sculpted for them!" Art is a gift I've had ever since I was a kid, and after receiving a lot of praise and encouragement my entire life for my artistic efforts, this was very out-of-the-ordinary feedback. For me, it highlighted the need for Christians to reclaim the beauty and marvelousness of one of God's creations--the human body (which is what several artists at my Christian college were working to do, including quite notably one of the professors)--without seeing its nude form as being sexual or pornographic. There's always talk in churches about "being in the world but not of the world," but it sure seems like Christians have allowed the world to define their perception of the body, rather than making an effort to view it as a truly amazing, adaptable, and complex work of living art!

    Personally, I wish more people would share your point of view about what women should wear, rather than settling for the status quo of fixating on how much women and girls are or aren't showing (and thus unwittingly perpetuating rape culture). This is our collection of hundreds of different cell types, each expressing select genes, communicating and coordinating with each other to anchor our souls to the earth. I think that's pretty freaking awesome and worth celebrating; some of us may choose to do this by showing a little skin, bone, muscle, or fat, and why not? By doing so, maybe more people will come to see the female form for what it is--a living body in which a unique person lives--rather than an object of sexualization or scorn.

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  18. I really liked this, aside from point 4, which is kind of funny considering your post-script. It's common sense, avoids the silly over-feminist reactions of "it's not our fault what men do/think, we should be able to dress however we like and they can deal with it" and "the female body is a beautiful thing designed in God's image, we shouldn't be obliged to hide it", while recognising it is not wrong to dress to look nice.

    As for point 4, Paul actually advocates judging people within the church (within reason - look at 1 Corinthians 5 & 6). He tells us not to judge those outside the church, but he has no problems with judging people inside the church. That aside, I probably wouldn't SAY anything if I saw someone wearing something unsuitable at church, and I wouldn't judge her in the sense of drawing any particular assumptions or conclusions based on what she's wearing, but I'm not going to go around thinking, "oh that's ok for her to wear, it's only a guideline I've set for myself, no-one else should have to follow it". Modesty and temptation aside, it's not cool to wear a skirt so short people can just about see your backside to church. I don't even think that's ok for wearing out in the general community, but in church, where attention is meant to be on God, it's a bit inappropriate. I guess you could say I wouldn't judge her, but that doesn't mean I won't be disapproving either.

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  19. A jillion times YES. Exactly. 100%. I was going to write a post on this same topic, but why should I when this says everything I would have said?


    The "modesty" talk has just led me to worry that every single guy I see, no matter where I may be, is objectifying my body and raping me in their mind. NOT. HEALTHY. Yesterday I was at the beach with my kids and there were some guys fishing. I wanted to swim so I took off my skirt and shirt to wear my boring black one-piece. But the whole time I obsessed and felt self-conscious because maybe those guys were looking at me. Staring at my legs, my arms, my shape inside that swimsuit. Ugh.


    The only thing that allows me to continue living my life is to assume that all that jazz about how men look at women is a lie. It might be true of some outliers, like horny teenage boys or very sheltered homeschooled boys, but it is not true of all men. The really "worldly" guys are probably totally desensitized to any normal woman from watching so much porn. If you wear about what everyone else is wearing, I doubt people will notice. And anyway, if everyone else is in a bikini, wearing a one-piece isn't likely to "save" a single person from sin. They'll just be lusting after everybody else on the beach.


    Thanks for writing this.

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  20. Ok, you make this whole post about not enticing decent men and then you go and make a comment referencing dot products. That's freaking porn for a nerd. If you are going to try so hard to make yourself not sexually attractive, why stop at appearance? I find a woman who references obscure math to be sexy as hell! Maybe you should act dumber so I'm not turned on?

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