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How Modesty Campaigns Objectify Women (Part One)

Good morning, girls! Today is our first-ever post from our new contributor Jeff Bethke. He will be regularly sharing thoughts on purity from a guy’s perspective, and we hope you’ll enjoy this new point of view and his refreshingly honest style.

by Jeff Bethke

Ladies, can I talk to you as a brother real quick? I more than anyone is for girls dressing modestly, but I think we are in danger in the future if we don’t realize a few things. I came across a recent article that argued modesty standards are sometimes just as sinful as girls who dress promiscuously. I wholeheartedly agree, but first let me explain.

Because promiscuity is so prevalent today us in the church have reacted by elevating modesty to unhealthy proportions. We jump too quickly into behavior modification and don’t realize that most of our modesty campaigns are actually borderline legalism.

One rule in particular that “Christian” schools, universities, and clubs like to enforce is the “skirt test.” It usually involves the woman getting on her knees to see if the skirt touches the ground, which if it does it’s deemed acceptable. My question though is what are we doing in that moment? Is the gospel being exalted or are we heaping shame and condemnation on them?

The fact that she is on her knees for the test couldn’t be more symbolic of submission, power, shame, and guilt. The trouble, however, is that while modesty standards are set up to not make women’s bodies an object, it is in fact doing that very thing.

Highlighting the girl’s dress in front of everyone, and telling her she should dress a certain way because she doesn’t want “to make the men stumble” is simply making her an object. In the body we need to realize using men’s sin and lust issues as the reason why a woman should dress a certain way is actually making her just as much an object than if she were to dress promiscuously.

Now am I saying a woman should dress promiscuously? Hear me emphatically say NO. There is nothing more attractive to me than a woman who dresses in a way that brings attention to her face, not her body. But, I am arguing that we must be on guard against our hearts natural inclination towards legalism.

Every lady should ask herself when getting dressed, “am I getting dressed thinking about God’s gaze upon me or someone else’s?” Because the truth is whether you dress to be looked at modestly, or you dress to be looked at promiscuously, you are still dressing to be looked at by someone other than your Creator.

Let me say this loud and clear ladies: you are not an object! Dressing so “church people” will accept you or dressing so guys will gawk at you is the same sin—becoming a slave to the praise of man. Tomorrow we will look at two reasons specifically that usually lead to this idolatry of modesty, and propose the solution to how we can live with the proper biblical tension on this subject.

Have you experienced idolatry to modesty? How so?

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