“Modesty” – It’s Not What you Think

“Modesty” – It’s Not What you Think

Taking Responsibility for Our Hearts

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There’s a saying I was taught while learning to ride my bike. I was told that if there is an obstacle in my path, that I should not focus on it. If my focus becomes placed onto the obstacle, I will run into it. But if my focus remains on where I want to go, I will safely bypass whatever is in my path.

The same can be said about the subject of “modesty”. Too often we teach our young women to focus on what men will think of us if we dress a certain way. We are taught to dress our bodies in a way that revolves around how men will react to us. And above all we must be mindful if our clothing will “cause men to lust” after us. But doesn’t this seem like a huge burden to place on a girl’s clothing?
 We need a new definition of modesty.
Now, if you are one of those women who does like to choose clothing that is deliberately revealing for the purpose of attracting the attention of men, hear me out:
You are not harming anyone but yourselves.

I am not interested in who does or does not look at you. I am not interested in whatever lustful thoughts a man has for you. That’s his problem.

But just because a man should take responsibility for his thoughts and actions doesn’t mean there is no other harm that could come from you dressing immodestly. Unfortunately, it’s a double-edged sword, and the real problem here is the harm that you are doing to your heart.

If you dress to show as much of your body on purpose because you like the attention, chances are you’re wearing your insecurities on your sleeve. It isn’t healthy to place so little value on your body that you use it merely as a tool for attention. Remember that you want to attract a man to your heart, your mind, your soul, and not just draw his lust towards your body. Don’t settle for a man who will only pursue your physical flesh. You are much more than the sum of your parts!

Either extreme is unhealthy. There is a balance that needs to be found:
Do not be so concerned with your body that you hide as much of it as possible.
(Also)
Do not be so concerned with your body that you show as much of it as possible.
Both reactions come from the same root: being too concerned with your body’s effect on men. Either way, your decisions in clothing will ultimately spring from what is in your heart.
If you truly value yourself, then your clothing choices will follow. Placing value in yourself as a human being rather than in your curves will ultimately take your focus off of dressing to please men. I promise it’s a freeing feeling.
What is comfortable? What isn’t? What is fashionable? What communicates to the world your personality at a glance?
These are the questions we should be asking when it comes to modesty, because in the end, what matters is the girl in the clothes. Not the people looking at her.

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When He Disturbed Me and I Believed it was My Fault

When He Disturbed Me and I Believed it was My Fault

Women are not born with powers of lustful bewitchment that follow us through life untamed. We do not unconsciously control the thoughts or actions of men by enchantment. We are not sirens who sing men to their deaths by merely dressing, acting, speaking a certain way. We are human beings.

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I was setting out the most current installments of the local newspapers, just like any morning, when a man approached me. I was already accustomed to waiting on patrons with mental inconsistencies, and I misinterpreted his strange behavior as one such personality. Little did I know that this man was in full charge of his mental capacities.

As I walked from rack to rack, the man accompanied me. I realized it was increasingly difficult to maintain distance from him, as he kept moving closer and closer. Finally, I felt his hand brush against my backside and I quickly finished what I was doing so that I could return to my desk.

I wrote the touch off as an accident. My insecurity won over my sense of worth and I gave him the benefit of the doubt where there should have been no doubt in his actions. He left soon after, and I was relieved that I didn’t see him again for a while.

My entire life had been preserved in abstinence and purity, and I had worked hard to maintain that preservation. Sure, it was difficult at times, but I for one never regretted it. I guarded my thoughts, my eyes, and my innocence as much as I could manage since I was young. Unfortunately, I was naive.

A couple of weeks passed before the man returned. This time he spoke to me again and situated himself in front of my desk, blocking me from the exit. He began to insinuate that he was a police officer monitoring the exchange of drugs at the library – a claim I wrote off to my assumption that he was mentally ill. I thought he actually believed he was an officer and therefore I didn’t think anything of it.

It wasn’t until I noticed out of the corner of my eye that he was behaving strangely that I felt a hint of fear set in. As I write this even now I feel a sense of guilt wash over me and I must remind myself that the actions of this man were not provoked by anything I did. The guilt is a lie that victims like me must negate with truth over and over again:

it was not my fault.

I did not ask him to expose himself to me. I didn’t ask to become unmovable with fear as he stood between me and the door. I didn’t ask for him to sit in front of me with children and families behind him and boldly assaulted my innocence. 

I was frozen, unable to think of what to do. Hindsight tells me exactly what I could have done, and the answer is so elementary. But in the moment, I felt trapped.

Hastily, I got up from my desk and went into the back room that held the rest of the computers. I assisted patrons who looked as though they needed help, but it wasn’t long enough for the man to leave. When I returned to my desk, he was standing there waiting. He approached me.

“Am I bothering you?” he asked kindly, but his voice had a threatening undertone. I didn’t know what to say. I kept my eyes on my work. “Miss?” he insisted, “I asked if I was bothering you”.

“Why would you be bothering me?” I stuttered, barely audible.

“I was just making sure. I wouldn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable”, he said with a sarcastic tone.

“No”. I lied hastily, scared of what would happen if I told the truth. He was towering too close over me and all I wanted was for him to back away.

He turned around and I was hopeful that he would leave. Instead, I was horrified to see that he sat down in the same seat he had taken before and resumed his disgusting activity, motioning for me to watch. Little did he know that I had never seen what he was showing me.

I remember that my hands were shaking and I felt as though I would vomit. I got up and ran past him for the door and didn’t stop until I was in the employee lounge. With tears in my eyes, I told the only other person occupying the lounge that I had a problem, and that a man was in front of my desk revealing himself to me. She called the police, and they arrived a few minutes later.

When the police asked me to describe the man, I barely got out a few sentences before they turned and ran out the door saying something to each other that sounded like “that was him“. They had seen him leaving and suspected he was their target.

They never found him.

For the longest time I blamed myself. He had asked if I was bothering him and I said “no”. I  punished myself for having given him permission to fill my head with horrifying images. I told myself over and over that he knew I didn’t want that, he knew he was forcing it on me, and I didn’t believe myself. I believed it was my fault that he had traumatized me. My skirt was too short…the length of my skirt invited him to disrespect me…I didn’t tell him it wasn’t okay to commit indecent exposure…I didn’t leave fast enough…I was too nice…

Then I remembered something I remind myself of every day:

I never asked for this.

It wasn’t in my heart to deliberately request this attention from men, no matter my clothing choices or my kindness to people.

All my life I had been told: “cover up“, “don’t make it seem like you’re flirting“, “those shorts are too short“, “that dress is too tight“, by people all around me. Friends, strangers, family, media, everyone was telling me that I needed to be careful so that I didn’t invite unwanted attention from men. One wrong move, and I’ll be “asking for it“.

What kind of disgusting world demands that beauty be hidden so that others cannot perceive it perversely? What kind of demented trap do we lay for warning women not to be “too nice” in order to avoid giving off the wrong “signals”? What kind of unjust society do we live in that victims take the blame for their trauma?

Once I realized that it wasn’t my responsibility to guard a man’s thoughts or to dictate his actions I was liberated. I no longer walk in guilt and shame for being built with feminine form. I no longer feel like a dirty object that requires covering.

I wear bikinis in the summer and dresses that flatter me. I smile at passing strangers. I am loud with my friends and quiet around others. I have no power to read or to control the minds of anyone.

I’m a woman. And it isn’t the same as a siren.

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Women, Wellsprings, and Windmills

Women, Wellsprings, and Windmills

As women, we have great power and responsibility. We are designed to be tools of influence and wellsprings of strength to those around us. Our calling is a divine and beautiful one. Why, then, do we compare ourselves to one another and size each other up by beauty and status? What if we met other women as if we were meeting a kindred spirit or fellow royalty?

What if we treated each other as we would treat the divinity residing inside of them? And what if we actually believed that the selfsame divinity took up residence in us as well?

So many times we choose to embrace the practice of comparison and competition. It happens every time we meet other women; we instantly size each other up and decide which of us are the more appealing individuals. We classify ourselves and organize each other into a hierarchy of worth. Once the hierarchy is established in our minds we begin to immediately seek to steal power from those “above” us in order to increase our own dominance.

We are told at a young age to wait for a Prince Charming who will respect us and care for us the way we deserve. Our entire lives are geared towards attracting a man who will treat us with dignity and respect above all other women. The problem is that we don’t believe we should demonstrate to each other the same respect. We are taught to demand loving attention, and yet we withhold it from our fellow females merely for the sake of competition.

I was watching “Friends” the other day and was highly entertained to see the girls become completely obsessed with a self-help book geared towards empowering women. The book was entitled Be Your Own Windkeeper, and it declared that each woman is a goddess with her own wellspring of “wind”. It encouraged the girls to realize that many men in their lives were simply out to “steal their wind” and were hindering them from becoming the empowered goddesses they should be.

After much discussion, then debate, then realization, the girls are shocked to discover that it isn’t only the men in their lives who are robbing them of their wind. They finally realize that their precious wellspring of wind was being disturbed over and over again by each other! They had lied to, stolen from, cheated, and competed against one another for years without even realizing it.

Society prepares us to remain in constant competition with every other woman we contact. It’s so engrained in our learning as children and teenagers that we rarely even notice it as adults.

As cute and cliché as the “windkeeper” analogy is, there is something under its surface that rings true. We tend to suck the life out of one another in order to appear as though we are more worthy of life.

Women’s power to influence is much like the wind in many ways.

It inspires power and strength when harnessed freely. Without wind, no windmill turns and no power is harnessed. It would make no sense for the wind to hinder itself from the freedom to influence and to move boldly.

Imagine if women began to stand beside one another.

Imagine if we accepted one another as a sister fist and foremost regardless of our beauty, humor, significant other, or education. So much of our anxiety and fear would be absolved in love. We would meet more and more women who are courageous and not insecure. More of our friends would be loyal and not competitors. We would be joyful for each others’ accomplishments rather than jealous and backbiting.

We would be more like the women we wish we were.