Modesty Wars: Who’s Responsible, Men or Women?

In Advice and Encouragement, For the Guys, For the Ladies, Relationships by Debra Fileta

The topic modesty has been taking over the blogosphere over the past year.  It’s a topic that was once considered a no-brainer, but has now entered the realm of controversy.  A lot of articles have been written about this concept, most expressing their opinion on of two sides of the spectrum. 

The first side is all about the power of a woman’s choice: the choice to wear what she wants and enjoy contemporary fashion without feeling shamed by society’s view.  Woman have been known to feel shame toward their bodies in the Christian subculture, and this perspective seeks to embrace a woman’s body.  Responsibility falls on the shoulders of the man to keep his eyes at bay.  Rather than blame their internal struggles of lust and temptation on others, men are to be responsible for their eyes and their thoughts.  It’s a perspective that could be summarized by the phrase, “I can flaunt it, but you can’t want it”.

The second perspective I’ve read about has much less to do with power, and much more to do with responsibility.  A woman should be responsible for her attire, because what she wears “could cause her brother to stumble”.   Modesty, in this perspective, is all about wearing clothing that’s not to short, night to tight, not too low, not too high, and not too flashy.  Women are taught that men have a hard time controlling their eyes, and so we have to help them by controlling our wardrobe.  This perspective can basically be summarized by this phrase: “Respect the men in your life by covering it up.”

As a woman, I’ve been contemplating these two perspectives over the past year.  If I’m honest, throughout my life I have swung the pendulum of perspectives- at times, covering my body in fear that it’s being used for lustful purposes- and at other times, caring slim to none about what’s going on in my “brothers” brains proclaiming that it wasn’t up to me help them be holy. 

My pendulum has finally landed…and it’s landed smack dab in the middle. 

I am choosing to revolt against a society that preaches to men (sometimes even from the pulpit) that they are incapable of controlling their eyes.  By saying that we automatically put the responsibility on God exclaiming that, “well, he made me this way”.  Instead, we need to raise up a society of men that believes they are worth more than cheap glances and lustful stares.  God wants to replace those momentary pleasures with His righteousness and holiness- a character that is only satisfied in greater things than these!

I am also choosing to revolt against the philosophy that women have to dress to guard the eyes of the men.  Our motivation to dress should never be rooted in guilt, and that’s the only thing that perspective breeds.  Instead, we need to raise up a generation of women that choose to dress in a way that honors, respects, and cherishes their bodies for what they are- a beautiful creation of God. 

Empowering women means that we teach them that they have value, worth, and beauty standing alone.  Not dependent on the men they attract, the lustful glances they repel, or the fashion that they flaunt.  Our value has to do with so, so much more- and is rooted in something far better, that can never be taken away. 

It’s time for each gender to stop the blame game, and instead, begin to really take a deep look inside- asking God to bring healing, wholeness, and life into the depths of our hearts.  It’s time to work together as men and women, instead of only working against each other.  That is true community and that is true love.  It is only in this kind of mutually respectful environment that healthy relationships can begin to take shape, and the reflection of Jesus begin to appear. 

May we seek to bring this perspective back to the middle, making sure to live a life that “points our finger” at no one and nothing else but Jesus.  Pointing to him in how we dress, how we think, how we live, and how we love one another. 

 Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of the book 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. You may also recognize her voice from her 100+ articles at Relevant Magazine or! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter