We’re Saying No To Bikinis: Modesty is NOT Body Shaming

In Advice and Encouragement, For the Ladies by Debra Fileta54 Comments

It’s summer time. And you know what that means? Bikinis. They are everywhere.

Being a married woman, with a daughter and two sons, I notice my surroundings more than I used to, because I see them in light of what my kids are taking in. Which is why I found myself thinking through this concept just a little bit more while at the beach last week.

There was an insightful TED talk going around a few years ago, where former model, Jessica Rey, was sharing her thoughts about wearing bikinis and the evolution of swimwear. In her video, she cited a famous study in which images of women in bikinis were shown to men. Brain scans revealed that the men’s brains would light up seeing a scantily clad woman in the SAME EXACT area of the brain that would light up when they saw a tool. Seriously. Like, a drill. There was NO emotional reaction or attachment observed in the brain, and researchers were able to conclude that women in bikinis actually caused men to react in a way that the women were simply seen as objects. 

Conclusion: what you wear has a direct impact on how people see you.

Whether or not you like this conclusion, it’s science based. You can argue with the facts, but they’re still the facts. 

Which leads me to my next question, what, then, is the purpose of wearing a bikini? That’s what I want my daughter to consider one day when this question comes up (and in this culture, I’m sure it will).

Is it because it looks stylish? There are lots of stylish suits with more cover.

Is it to get her stomach nice and tan? Who’s going to be seeing that stomach?

Is it to get attention from the opposite sex? That kind of attention has nothing to do with true affection.

Is it because “I CAN”? Why not choose to assert your rights in ways that actually benefit you and society?

Is it because “I have a nice body”? Yes, you do! And you should protect that awesome body from people who don’t value it.

It’s important to challenge culture and the perspective we have regarding modesty, because there’s a sad trend going around in which encouraging modesty has been slammed as “body-shaming”. As though covering up our body parts means we’re ashamed of them. “Don’t be ashamed”, says culture. “Flaunt it!”

But shame has no place WHATSOEVER in this conversation. This isn’t about covering up our body because we’re ashamed, it’s about covering up because we’re proud. I want my daughter to know that modesty is not body-shaming, it’s the very opposite – it’s body-VALUING.

You choose modesty because you value your body and realize that anything of value is worth protecting from objectification (and let’s not forget from the UV rays of the sun!) You choose modesty because your body is so valuable it’s not just for anyone.

In fact, as a married woman, I value my body so much that I choose to reserve it for the one I value more than anyone else in this world: my husband. Knowing that he will cherish it both physically AND emotionally. 

In the same way, I want my daughter to value herself and in turn to value her body, because it’s so much more than flesh and bones. I want her to begin grasping that message now, as a little girl. As a teenager. And as a young woman. 

Because anything of value is worth protecting.

All this to say, we’re saying no to bikinis in this family. Feel free to disagree. But that’s how we’re living our lives over here. Modesty is empowering, and it’s what we expect from both our girls AND our boys. 

Catch the follow up article to see what I mean, because there are so many important pieces to this conversation: “Boys Will Be Boys” Until We Expect Them To Become Men

Share below: what are your thoughts on the subject and why? (only kindness will be accepted in the comment section). 

Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. Her newest relationship book is set to be released in the Summer of 2018! You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching over 4 million people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!

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54 Comments on "We’re Saying No To Bikinis: Modesty is NOT Body Shaming"

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Oladipo
Guest

This is an interesting perspective about the issue. Thank you for sharing!

Theresa
Guest

I feel the same way. I have loosened up a little as we (my daughter and I) exercise in the lake across the street where there are no onlookers and a two piece is more comfortable to wear with a water belt. But when we are with the opposite gender (except my husband) we go one piece.

Melannie
Guest

Thank you so much for this!! You’ve said what I’ve been feeling but been unable to put into words. I totally and completely agree 💓💓

Jayla
Guest
I totally agree. It was actually the men in my family, particularly those closest to me like my uncles, my dad, and my grandfather who were so honest and forward about how men viewed women and what they saw when women dressed a certain way. They always told me the truth about what men really think. They taught me the reasons why it’s always better to modest as a woman if u want a mans Respect, and not just his attention. I learned in my life that it’s always much much better to earn, and have a mans Respect, as… Read more »
Beccy
Guest
What a great article – thanks Debra! I think it can be freeing to choose to be modest which can sometimes mean being countercultral. One point i’d differ slightly on, is when you mention: choosing to reserve your body for the one you value more than anyone else in this world: your husband. I have thought this for years and it’ll be great to reserve my body for a husband. But what if i dont get married and ive tried to be modest all this time. Will it seem like wasted effort?! Then I came to a conclusion, that a… Read more »
Jecca Damron
Guest
I have a few questions for the ladies in the comments. I totally get what you’re saying – your body, your choice! But I’m confused by a few things in this article 1) Is “I wear them because I like them, and I think they’re cute” a viable reason? Seriously! I just think my little crochet top is the most adorable thing and I love my belly button! 2) If not, does that mean that women who wear bikinis don’t value our bodies enough? The article really seemed to say “I wear covered swimsuits because I have self respect”. 3)… Read more »
Crystal
Guest
Hi, Jecca! Great points to bring up! In my opinion, the definition of modesty is not what changes, but society’s perspective of it does. In my mind, physical modesty is the act of keeping anything covered that may sexually attract an onlooker. It’s not that you don’t have any self-respect if you choose to wear a bikini, but it is choosing to respect others by not “flaunting” the treasure that is your body. Modesty encourages your sisters in Christ (especially the younger women/girls) to dress as if they are more than a body. Because they are so much more! And… Read more »
'Denike
Guest

Thanks for this piece Debra. As a young woman who did a bit of modeling in the past (I still compliments about my body) I was never for once liked bikini because I felt it draws attention to my body and not who I really am as a person. I feel insulted to be remembered by how great my body looks instead of my intelligence and other great stuffs about me.

Sam
Guest
Interesting points, Debra. Two things I’d mention: a. I’ve heard that some women prefer two-piece swimsuits (not bikinis, necessarily) because they can’t find one pieces that fit. (Too tall, too thin, what have you.) I didn’t know if your concern was strictly with bikinis here, or two-piece suits in general (i.e. midriffs). b. I’ve grown up knowing women who wouldn’t wear anything but long, heavy cotton or denim skirts and dresses, would they allow their daughters to. They would have never set foot in the water. Jeans and shorts were out, and swimsuits (even the stylish one-piece examples you give)… Read more »
Hannah
Guest
Woah! That’s quite a challenging thing to do…as for me I didn’t use bikinis before when I was younger I had trouble accepting my body now I use them. It’s hard not to use bikinis especially when I’ve been leaving my entire life on a Mediterranean island (we have 4-5 mos of summer) so we’re basically “all day everyday”at the pool or at the beach. But then, there comes the exception when I go with the church mates or at a summer camp or summer conference I use full body bathing suits and of course no social media posting of… Read more »
Rachel Greer
Guest
You have the right to do what you want to do as a parent. But I’m tired of having to view women’s bodies, including my own, as shameful. Where’s the modesty teaching for guys? Why do guys get off scot free? Is it because women aren’t visually attractive and it’s our responsibility to make sure they don’t fall into sin? Just because a woman wears a bikini doesn’t mean she’s not modest. There are countries where it’s completely normal to breastfeed in public, and no one bats an eyelash. Not every woman is going to follow these sorts of guidelines,… Read more »
Leslie
Guest
I love the idea of modesty and living life as pleasing to God in every way….bu too often quantifying that as “a one piece is more acceptable than a two piece” makes life difficult and divides people in ways that can inflame pride and pretentious posturing as holier than thou. I find the following quote interesting in a Psychology Today study about men’s desire and ability to become aroused called “Why Do Men Find Women’s Leg’s So Alluring?” Yet, regardless of how this attraction is appreciated, the word that probably best characterizes such an allure is tantalizing—or, in some cases,… Read more »
Sam
Guest

Debra, I don’t think body shaming was not portrayed in your article. Instead, I think it’s a question of the wider modesty culture — at least some circles of it.

I’ve read too many accounts from fundamentalist-raised women — for whom modesty and shame were inescapably joined in their upbringing– to discount the possibility that at least SOME modesty teachings lead to shaming and damaged views of self-image and sexuality.

Parker
Guest

I found another Christian perspective towards Jessica Rey’s movement and findings. Just food for thought offered peacefully.

kim
Guest
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10 23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. 25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”[f] 27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you,… Read more »
Colin Byrne
Guest
I’m probably going to offend someone – but this is my opinion. Female swimwear in general has always been evocative, since I reached puberty. Now 48, and having met and formed a relationship with my fiance, I don’t want her to wear a swimsuit as per standard – my problem with swimsuits is from mid-thigh to the hips. Ladies, in my opinion, you should wear what you feel most comfortable wearing, but for the sake of the male population, please wear shorts, so that your vulva and pudenda are not only appropriately covered, but also so that they do not… Read more »
Sam
Guest
Many of these comments involve whether or not modest swimwear = body shaming. But a more basic question jumps out at me: what exactly IS modest swimwear? And what exactly does it look like in practical life? Unless I have misread your article, Debra, you’ve drawn the line at bikinis, while permitting one-piece outfits. Basically, your line divided immodest/modest (again, sorry if I’m over-simplifying), with your family sticking to the modest side. But I could take ten evangelicals, for instance — even from the same church — ask them to define modest swimwear, and get a heated, irreconcilable discussion. It’s… Read more »
J
Guest
I seem to remember reading something somewhere, I believe it was C. S. Lewis — sorry, I don’t have the exact reference for all you cerebral types — basically saying that modesty (a cultural?) and heart issue. For example, on some island in Tahiti, a girl might wear a long skirt and go topless and that might be considered perfectly modest, while in Western culture, that would be seen much differently! Modesty can be cultural issue. What’s considered innocent in one culture might not be in a another. I remember years ago, a female friend talking about going to some… Read more »
Mary Catherine
Guest

This is awesome!! I loooove it. I completely agreeeeee and recently I’ve felt compelled to dress in a more God & man honoring way, so as to wrap myself up as a valuable , mysterious present for the right man if that is God’s plan for my life. 🙏🙏🙏🙏 Bought your book recently and I devoured it, well said.

Eric
Guest

I think this is well said. One thing I’d like to add: it’s about how modest it is, not about how many pieces. I’ve seen one-pieces that aren’t the slightest bit modest, and I’ve seen two-pieces that are quite modest.

Sophie Sebrechts
Guest
I totally agree with Leslee. It’s not about the clothes you’re wearing, it’s about how you think about yourself, and your thoughts can be reflected on others. But even if you do have selfrespect and wear a longsleeved shirt and trousers, men who wants to see woman as objects will still see you as an object. And if they only see woman in bikini’s as objects, they clearly don’t know that even a naked woman is to be respected, because she is made in Gods image and God loves her (also if she doesn’t love herself or the body she’s… Read more »
Beccy
Guest

Thanks Debra! I’m glad it made sense and SO glad that you are talking about an important subject. Bless you and THANK YOU ☺️

Kels
Guest

This couldn’t be timed for perfectly! I just graduated high school and at all the pool parties I am one of the few, or sometimes the only girl in my class who doesn’t wear a bikini. And I went to a Christian school! I wish they could understand the importance of not only modesty, but also not going with the worldly culture we live in. Thank you for this encouragement to live for a higher purpose than fitting in.

April
Guest
I definitely agree with being modest. But I think you can wear a Bikini while still being modest. I’m curious would you suggest men and boys to wear ..shirts? I also think is more about wearing proper attire in the right places. I believe it’s similar to a women wearing a form fitting dress or short dress …I think a women should be able to wear something to make them feel attractive if it’s at the right place. Going out with their husband on a date or walking on the beach. I feel it’s more about who you are with… Read more »
Shay Johnson
Guest

I agree as well, Debra

EM
Guest

This post is great and sparked some of my own questions on modesty that I’ll have to look further into.

Marlene
Guest

I absolutely agree. It is so important for girls & boys to learn the importance of Body Valuing…maybe then as adults the girls won’t choose to wear bikinis and other revealing clothing…and hopefully the boys will appreciate it when girls don’t wear bikinis and other revealing clothing.

Aie
Guest

Some questions
1. If you have decided that women in your family can’t wear bikinis anymore, then does that mean that your husband and men in your family have to wear a shirt at the beach?
2. What makes it okay to show the legs and not the stomach?
3. Modesty is great – I think it should be done by men and women both. But why is it that topics on modesty are always targeting women?

Terri
Guest
So what about when men who wear “banana hammocks” aka thongs to the beach? Or short and tight swimming trunks? That’s why we have choices in fashion and people can choose to wear what suits their own tastes. People are going to wear what they wish, it’s up to everyone else to control their own response to what others choose to wear. And ultimately, a woman’s choice to wear a bikini, tankini, one-piece, sarong, etc is truly nobody else’s concern. Women don’t need to be held to particular dressing standards just because some men don’t know how to act. Enough… Read more »
Blessed
Guest

This is really interesting. Thank you for sharing this Deb. I’m definitely sharing with friends

Reba Riley
Guest

I’m 76 years old. Bikinis have been around a long time. I’ve never worn one, but my reasons were’t these reasons. I’ve never wanted to be that exposed to either sex. Even though my spouse tried to get me to. I love what you said. Wish I’d had your wisdom when my 2 daughters could have greatly benefited from it.

Stefania
Guest
I’ve been reading through most of the comments and definitely read through the article, as spending time at the beach is something I absolutely love, and I have to say I do not completely agree with the message, and I think it’s a bit short and limiting in so many ways. I love your articles and I mostly agree with your view on different topics, though I never found it challenging enough to comment on matters. I study Biomedical Science, and one thing that struck me was the UV bit. UV light can be damaging, definitely, but is also paramount… Read more »
Joel C. Lucas
Guest
Awesome, awesome, article Debra as always. Its so refreshing and good to know that some deems modesty important and not old fashioned. I wish others held modesty in high esteem and honor. I always been told that a woman’s true beauty is what she possess on the inside and it shows through to the outside. I know we live in a world where its anything goes, but things should be left to the imagination both to the men and ladies in the body of christ on the single and married side. I pray for Single Ministries to be in all… Read more »
Akosua
Guest

Wow,great piece Debra. Lots of interesting perspectives. I most definitely agree with Kim on this one. The bible says in 1Peter 2:9,”But you are the chosen race,the king’s priests,the holy nation ,God’s own people,chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God,who called you out of darkness into his own marvelous light.” So like Kim said we are not our own and need to be guided by God through His Spirit (The Holy Spirit) on all matters.
My thoughts

Rianna
Guest
That’s what long t-shirts are for… as long as they’re not white (no wet-shirt contests, lol). Buy whatever swimsuit works with your body. Then put over a t-shirt that covers your butt at the back, and you’re set. I have a 2 piece suit, but it’s closer to a tankini. Regardless, I don’t want my body exposed to any sun or anyone. So I got a mesh wrap-around that goes in the water, & it’s great. This past weekend, I used a poly-cotton blend leggings to go on the waterslides at church for the summer event. I felt comfortable with… Read more »
Amy
Guest
I’m seeing a lot of women hete saying things about how its not wgat you wear but how you feel etc. NO, NOPE, NOT EVEN CLOSE LADIES! You couldn’t be more off the mark because modesty is an isdue of the heart but it involves your outward appearance and behavior. Men can’t see your feelings! Let me ask you this: if you were having to walk by a man who was a sexual predator would you flaunt your body or cover up to protect yourself? The answer is obvious. But since most guys are nice then flaunt away and rely… Read more »
BB
Guest

Does anyone know of places to buy modest swimwear? And swimwear that has shorts too?

BB
Guest

Ah thank you, thats AMAZING! I did read the article but didnt realise the writing in red was a link!

Blessings

anca
Guest

I don’t know what kind of weird crap people say here but this is strange. I grew up in Romania and even my religious parents wore two piece swim suits. I wore a bikini when I was just 12 at the beach. I am not going to change my views because you people are weird about swim suits.

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