“Respect is not given, it’s earned.” That saying has been prevalent in my life for as long as I can remember. Some of you may not see a problem with such saying, while others may be just as angry as I. A person is a person, no matter how big or small. Respect should not be contingent on clothing, gender, skin color, religion, race or ethnicity.
I revisited a devotional recently, one that I had read a few years before. It’s titled Every Young Woman’s Battle: Guarding Your Mind, Heart, and Body in a Sex-Saturated World by Shannon Ethridge & Stephen Arterburn. The chapter that I came across happened to be the modesty chapter: “Dressing to Impress”. To use ‘frustrated’ to describe my feelings after reading this chapter, wouldn’t do them justice. Allow me to share some of my favorite quotes from the chapter:
“Our Congratulations to Christi for figuring out that the way she dressed influenced how others viewed her and for changing her wardrobe so that others would treat her with respect.”
Have no fear, these wonderful authors give us helpful tips on deciding what is modest and what is not:
-If someone is standing over you or if you are bending over, could that person get an eyeful of cleavage?
-Do any of your sleeveless shirts or tank tops reveal your bra straps or require that you not wear a bra?
-Do your shirts reveal any part of your abdomen or back if you do the “hallelujah test” (lift your hands above your head)?
-Do you have to lie down on the bed and suck in your stomach to zip up any of your pants?
-Do you own any pants that have lettering or graphics across the seat to draw attention to your rear view?
-Regardless of the length of your skirts, do any have slits up the front, back, or side that could draw a guy’s eye too far up your legs?
(Literally could not make this stuff up y’all.)
“But if you want to be a young woman of sexual integrity, you will be different. Smarter. You will teach your guy friends how to treat you with dignity and respect rather than teaching them that you are eye candy or a toy for their sexual jollies.” My first issue with this specific quote is the fact that it somehow became a young woman’s job to teach her guys friends respect and dignity. Should that not be taught from birth? Do those guy friends walk around treating everyone with disrespect? Secondly, when should a guy ever think it is okay to treat anyone as their “sexual jollies”? Regardless of their clothing. This may be my biggest issue with modesty. We are teaching young men that respect and dignity for a female is contingent on her clothing. I understand that young men are visually stimulated and struggle with having lustful thoughts. But why does the respect they should have for a female, a fellow human being, have to come from her clothing? How are young men supposed to lead other people and possible women to Christ if they can’t even treat them with respect and dignity? Are y’all seeing how insulting this is?
Not only is this issue of modesty detrimental to the way young men treat us, it is detrimental to a young woman’s self-esteem and self-efficacy. From a very young age I have been told to cover myself up and to not advertise myself a certain way. I have felt ashamed of my body for years now. I slouched when walking (and still occasionally do because good posture is hard to train) because I did not want to stick my chest out for fear of “undesired attention.” I have been taught that I am a sexual object; from school dress codes to church events. Why is it that only girls have had a strict dress code, been singled out for wardrobe choices, and sent home for wearing “revealing clothing”? My shoulder? My shoulder is distracting you from learning? Girls have been singled out from the beginning of school days. All in the “protection” of our dearest fellow male students.
It is left to the females to teach males respect, give them a distraction-free learning environment, and ultimately make sure they are appeased in every way possible. At the cost of what and in the name of who? Is this equality? Look at what this is doing to young women.
This lack of respect that men are learning, or very well not learning, at a young age is clear in their actions. In the most serious of examples, it’s broadcasted in rape culture. When young women come forward about an incident of rape and the first question they’re asked is about what they were wearing. The thought process that is behind that question is that if they were, in fact wearing “revealing” clothes, then she did deserve to be raped. Automatically the blame for her being raped is put on herself. She is the victim. Her clothes do not determine her consent.
This lack of respect is prevalent in other females too. So ladies, do not feel like you’re off the hook here. We use the double standard language: slut, whore, loose, easy, etc. Why does a girl wearing “revealing” clothing make her a slut? Or why does a girl who sleeps with multiple guys get ridiculed, while the guy gets high-fived? Our first thoughts are to judge someone based on something as simple and insignificant as their clothing. Not only are we judging them, we’re using that as a determinate of the respect we decide to show or have for them. Let’s not forget that if whatever they’re wearing makes them comfortable, you have no right to feel uncomfortable. Unless their shirt is proclaiming the hatred of chocolate, then you have every right at feeling uncomfortable, because who hates chocolate? No, but seriously, why does someone’s clothing bother you so much? Its clothes, get over it.
We respect people because that is what decent human beings do. We respect another person because that is exactly what they are, a person. Can we work together y’all and stop this idea that respect is contingent on something as transparent as clothing?
It is not my goal to offend anyone reading this and I apologize if I already have. It is simply my hope that we can move forward from this legalistic view of what we want a woman to look like. Let’s accept others, show tolerance, love, and most importantly respect people.
Hope y’all have a good rest of the week. Try to be more conscious of your thoughts, words, and actions; Know that I am doing the same.
Here are some informative articles about how prevalent this is in today’s society: