Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Modesty- the new four letter word

I read a blog post this afternoon written by a mom of boys. She wrote about how she and her boys block social media with pictures of teenage girls who are posting suggestive photographs of themselves. You can read that post here: http://givenbreath.com/2013/09/03/fyi-if-youre-a-teenage-girl/

What I did not do was read the comment section, wherein she was blasted over and over for posting pictures of her boys shirtless and in swimsuits. It would seem quite the hypocritical double standard, no?

I don't think so.

But before I talk about swimming pools and movie stars, I want to be transparent. *I* have had an experience with this before, and it turned ugly.

It went down basically like this:

Trever and I were helping lead our church's youth group. We loved these kids. We saw a lot of ugly stuff and looked right past it. We figure God is more concerned about changing hearts than quibbling over logos on tee shirts.

But there was this one girl, seventeen, a born leader, gorgeous. Also? She claimed to be a dedicated Christian. I started noticing the pictures she was posting on facebook and let's just say, they hurt my heart. Clevage, check. Pouty looks? Check. Comments from pervy boys? Check.

It was the comments that confirmed it for me. If she had any question what people were thinking when she posted these pictures, that really should have cleared it up. But, it was obvious she liked the attention.

I sent her a private message, encouraging her to remember she was an ambassador for Jesus Christ, and in my very best I-am-not-judging-you-and-love-you-like-crazy, from-one-sister-in-Christ-to-another language, I tried to lovingly ask her to be careful about the kinds of pictures she was posting.

The response? Within 2 minutes of receiving my post she had deleted me as a facebook friend and told her mother, who came after me, claws barred. She demanded to know why I had said anything about that to her daughter and emphatically insisted there was nothing wrong with the photos her daughter was posting. When I explained I cared about her daughter she told me she didn't care. When I told her I was not trying to be ugly or offensive, she started attacking my personal life, calling me a hypocrite and insinuating I was the last person in the world who should be saying anything to her daughter.

I tried to remain teachable. Really, I did. But after asking numerous times what she was referring to without receiving an answer, I left it alone. She promptly unfriended me and then went on to blast the crap out of me on her facebook page. How do I know she did that? Because my husband was still on her friends list and he saw it all.

{I later found out what she was referring to in my personal life that made me such a hypocrite: I had a single margarita with a friend when she came out to visit. We took goofy pictures at the restaurant and my friend posted them on facebook.}

But that is neither here nor there.

I am telling you all this because I have first hand experience with inappropriate facebook photos and the fiasco trying to confront the issue can become.

Let me also say I'm an equal opportunity picture blocker. I don't care if it's a shirtless guy or a sultry girl in pajamas. I don't want to look at it and feel responsible to shield my children from it.

But the most important thing I want to point out is this: modesty is not a virtue found in square yardage of fabric. It is a heart issue. Modesty is a rare jewel. Modesty says, I posses worth and beauty that need not be exploited or flaunted, but can rest content in simplicity, in innocence, and, dare I say it? In hiddeness.

You can't make a person modest by putting more clothes on them because modesty is not about clothes.

And this is where I'll lose a lot of you because this is heinously unpopular. I don't have an issue with a boy wearing a bathing suit and fooling around on the beach with his family. It seems obvious to me those boys were not trying to flaunt their bodies or be sexual, for the love. I feel the exact same way about girls. My girls can be silly at the pool in their suits and I take pictures and I see not a thing wrong with it.

Can a guy wear a suit for the sole purpose of showing off his body and getting attention? Sure. Can a girl? You betcha.

{As an aside, no matter what is worn (or not worn), everyone is RESPONSIBLE for their own actions, their own urges, their own behaviour. A woman who saunters out on the beach naked (though hideously unwise) is not asking to be raped, nor are men so incapable of controlling themselves that they are nothing more than animals. We good there? Okay, moving on...}

You can not legalize modesty, folks.

Still, if we are all being honest and using a tiny bit of common sense, it is not particularly hard to discern the difference between an impromptu picture of a girl being silly in pjs and a girl who is out for sensual attention. And yes, that would apply for guys as well.

While it would be great to be able to get down to the heart with everyone, that is something only God can do. We are left with prayer, love and boundaries as tools. I can't make my sons develop a heart of modesty, but I CAN prevent them from wearing/buying inappropriate clothing and posting pictures to facebook. I CAN take away their computers and phones until they prove trustworthy. And I can pray they will, ultimately leaving the hearts of my children to a God who cares for them.

When my oldest son was little, we got a magazine in the mail with women in lingerie. I taught my son, from that day forward, that if anything like that came in the mail, he was to look away. Same thing with the magazines at the grocery store. {I've been known to turn those backwards in the stands so my kids aren't assaulted with images of women in thong bikinis.} So yes, I am doing my best to teach my sons to control themselves. I am teaching them women are not objects for alleviating sexual urges, that they posses hearts and souls and are intrinsically valuable because they were made in the image of our Creator.

I'm not teaching them to turn down their noses at girls on facebook that are posting inappropriate pictures, to judge their hearts, to assume ugly things about them, but I AM teaching them to recognize those pictures are inappropriate, and to turn away.

I know this post is all over the place, and I'm sorry.

My husband told me the other day that he considers me to be a strong woman-a borderline feminist. I thought about it and had to agree. I am. I hate, hate, hate reading anything that places the burden of men controlling their urges on women. I wholeheartedly agree that we ought to be bringing up sons who are honorable, trustworthy, men of integrity.

But at the same time, we have gotten so defensive that we fail to see there IS another side. And yes, sometimes women seek sexual attention ON PURPOSE. I know. I've done it.

It's a little embarrassing to write out in black and white but really folks, it needs to be said. I think the author of the original article hits on this, because she asked questions like, What were you trying to do? Who were you trying to reach? What were you trying to say?

We all get defensive when it comes to our kids. We just do. I saw that a lot in the comments when the author was blasted for going after other people's daughters, being hypocritical, and essentially told to mind her own business. You know what I saw? A mom trying to responsibly raise her sons, who identified a problem. IT IS A PROBLEM, FOLKS.

So she didn't address several millenia of female oppression in her post. So what? Let's not miss the forest for the trees.

~Amy Danielle





4 comments:

  1. Amy, just stopping in here now. I agree 100% with everything you said here and I don't believe that contradicts the comments I made earlier regarding the post, or my feelings about it. I love you more than life, and as we discussed, aim to "disagree well", and it is only in that spirit that I add my thoughts to the pot here.

    In case I wasn't clear, I also see absolutely nothing wrong, or sexually charged or immodest about posting photos of boys with their family at the beach (I would post photos like that of my own kids, but not with the same message attached to them) and I agree that these sorts of photos are totally not the same thing as girls seeking sexual attention. What I do see a problem with, though, is that no thought whatsoever was given (as she admitted in the comments) to the fact that different people have different levels of modesty and values regarding clothing, etc. and she was choosing her own standard of modesty to demand of a general audience of people (not anyone specific, just all teenage girls) without any regard to the male role in all of it, or without regard to how those photos would appear or challenge those seeing them (which is precisely what she was asking the girls she addressed to do--be considerate of the moral standards of those coming across the photos). To me it is a matter of taking the speck out of our own eye before reprimanding others.

    I DO believe there is a big difference between the private message you sent to the girl in your youth group--a specific person who you know and love and showed appropriate concern for as an adult in her life. The way they chose to react to your concern was sad but you did what we are called to do as Christian women and I don't for a minute think you were wrong for doing it. I have a hard time, though, with the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do message that I (and many others, as the comments indicate) clearly took away from the blog post that found so many others offended by the very thing she was speaking against--photos of people that caused the person looking at them to be uncomfortable. I didn't have a problem whatsoever with the photos of the boys until I got to the end of the post and realized that it was never once mentioned in her words on her post (I realize you addressed it thoroughly here and I agree with you) what role the "looker" has here. I believe both the forest AND the trees are relevant in this. I only think it worthy to speak up because I have read posts just like this hundreds of times, I have seen thousands of Facebook photos of girls being overtly sexual and the criticism (rightly) they receive for it, but never once....ever, ever, ever have I come across someone writing the same mass message to the general population of boys who are taking photos of themselves in the mirror, of their six-packs, their outfits, their sagging shorts which practically show all with the same amount of concern everyone has about the girls doing so. It is absolutely a heart problem, but girls aren't the only ones with hearts in need of guidance is all I'm saying. It is somehow morally acceptable for us to encourage this behavior with men and not with women. I am totally guilty of adding to it, I'm sure (Ryan Gosling 'hello girl' memes come to mind, for example) but feel sick the more I realize how as a culture the message out there is that it's cute and masculine when men do it (Tim Tebow, anyone?) and reprehensible when girls do it. Again, I agree 100% with what you are saying and I do believe the message the woman wrote was from a good place but I think it's dangerous to continue to ignore the male role in all this, which is, I think, why the post received so much backlash.

    Love you tons, and I always appreciate the food for thought you give me. If nothing else, this will cause me to prayerfully consider as my daughter gets into her teen years how (and whether) there are differences between the standards I hold for her and those I hold for my sons in this area. <3

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