Sunday, August 24, 2014

Modesty Gone Awry

We are part of a small homeschool co-op which was formed last year. It was very laid back with like-minded moms pooling our talents and strengths to best teach our kids. (I'm teaching speech and debate this year. Shocking, I know.) 

We purposely had very few rules last year, choosing instead to focus on Jesus first and joy in our group. It went well and we had a great year.

This year seems to be a different story as more families were added and with them, more structure and more regulations. I get it. We want to prevent chaos and attempt to control drama. Rules are necessary to do that with an abundance of people. 

But one particular rule and the reason behind it picked at a scab. Legalism wounds and leaves a mark. I have them in various stages of healing. Most of the time, they go unnoticed, but occasionally, an event will happen that reminds me I am not fully whole.

Such was the case with the dress code. 

There is nothing wrong with a dress code. Most organizations and schools have them. Some are more conservative than others. The co-op dress code is not overly so. I would've been fine knowing our group chose to establish one if it not for one other detail: The reason behind it.

I never noticed any of the teen girls in our group dressing provocatively or inappropriately last year. However, a teen boy complained that their manner of dress was "distracting." 

He complained to his mother, who went to leadership, and suddenly, rather than just dress code, we were discussing terms of "modesty", who will be the modesty police, enforcing via "Amish clothes" for the day, and prefacing the vote with "What mom wouldn't vote for modesty?" 

Thankfully (or not) I was not at this meeting, but these events were reported to me this way by those on both sides of the issue. 

I have a problem with this on so many levels. Many other writers have addressed some of them more brilliantly than I could. Modesty: I Don't Think it Means What You Think it Means, When Suits Become a Stumbling Block: A Plea to my Brothers in Christ (tongue-in-cheek, but gets the point across), and How 'Modest is Hottest' Is Hurting Christian Women to name just a few. 

The biggest problem for me is the idea that one teen boy has dictated how a whole group of girls must now behave. The fault of his own personal issue was deflected onto them, thereby objectifying these young women. 

Rather than teaching our girls that they are image-bearers of the Most High God and should dress in ways that glorify Him, it instead teaches them that their bodies are shameful and to be hidden lest they inadvertently cause a brother to sin. 

It teaches our boys that when they do fall prey to the sin of lust, rather than manning up and treating it as Jesus commands, they can simply blame it on the girl wearing yoga pants. 

But worse, it sets the stage for something far more sinister. 

One in six women will be the victim of sexual assault. When that happens, the enemy will come in and plant a lie to the victim that it is her fault. He will tell her, You are the one to blame. Something in your behavior or dress or demeanor drew his attention and caused him to attack you. You deserved this.

By agreeing with this teen boy that the girls are to blame for his "distraction" problem and forcing them to change their manner of dress, we moms are laying the groundwork for them to believe this lie if the unthinkable happens and our daughters are victimized. If we are all in that he can't help but lust when they wear shorts rising above fingertip length and we place the responsibility on their shoulders to keep his mind out of the gutter, why would they not?

And that is troubling to me. And I find myself angry, yet powerless. 

I can't rewind. I can't magically transport myself back in time to that meeting to raise my objections before it became "law". But most troubling, I can't erase the fact that my teen daughters knew all of this before I did. They knew about the dress code, the modesty debate, and the reason it all came to be. They know it's not just a dress code. 

All we can do is move forward. We will adhere to the new standards out of respect for those in our group. I'll continue to remind my girls they are image bearers and should do all things to glorify the Lord, including dress. As He convicts them, they should respond. It's a tough balance to strike even for a forty-something like me. They are going to get it wrong sometimes. I do. But there is grace for even that. 

But most importantly, I will teach them that they are responsible for their own sin, their own hearts before God. They are not responsible for the sin of someone else. I don't want them dealing with the scabs and the scars of legalism like their mother. I don't want them dealing with body image problems or the temptation to fall into pride for their "modest" appearance as both often happen in the modest church culture. But I especially don't want them dealing with false guilt put on them by my well-meaning peers. 

Thankfully, there's grace for all of us. 

1 comment:

  1. I completely relate to this with my two girls, especially. :(