Generation Cedar

Upon traversing America in the 1830s, French author and statesman Alexis de Toqueville attributed the extraordinary prosperity and growing greatness of the nation to “the superiority of their women,” who were protected by “punishing rape by death.” Continuing, he noted that

“no other crime is judged with the same inexorable severity by public opinion. There is reason for this: as the Americans think nothing more precious than a woman’s honor.” It was a time of chivalry, honor and modest dress. It was a time when a woman “could walk anywhere alone without fear, so great was men’s respect for their modesty.”

(Wendy Shalit, A Return to Modesty, Discovering the Lost Virtue, 1999, pages 39-40).

To the post where I confronted porn*graphy at my doctor’s office, I received this comment:

“I think your response to the article in the doctor’s office was a bit “over the top.” In fact, when I read it, I actually “rolled my eyes.”

(It was a cardboard stand-up ad, not an article.)

If this commenter is an unbeliever, I’m not surprised or really concerned about her reaction. If she was a Christian, however, I am. So I post this response, with genuine concern, for all the “eye-rollers”.

Based on the PROVEN fact that a few clothes are more seductive than none, we must define pornography. (And perhaps some would be more comfortable with the word “obscenity”, to which I see little difference, although I’m aware of their specific terms.)

By one definition I quickly searched obscenity is:

“Offensive to chastity or modesty; expressing or presenting to the mind or view something which delicacy, purity, and decency forbid to be exposed; impure; as, obscene language; obscene pictures.”

The swimsuit in the doctor’s office could have hardly been smaller without revealing “zones”. Sufficient, by definition, to label obscene.

This quote reveals a major shift in our principles:

“The earliest bathing suit may have possibly been an old smock resembling a kind of “bathing gown.” Modesty was the dictum with style not much of a consideration in those days.”

Our problem is that we have allowed definition based on the name of clothing. If it’s called a “swimsuit”, then it is acceptable attire. If it were a type of underwear (which I’m not going to name for fear of keywords), it is taboo…well, used to be. *sigh*

What constitutes pornography? Does a man view the human body differently depending on what he calls the attire? “This body over here–not provocative. She’s wearing a swimsuit. But this one…well, wow, um,…”

And we’ve done it in other areas!

“Abortion is murder”. Well, unless someone has been raped and then it’s not the same.”

“Divorce is wrong. Well, unless you’re not happy.”

“Barely covering your geni*als is obscenity. Well, unless you’re near the water.”

And one of the reasons I posted this subject is because I want to beg you to THINK. It’s something we simply don’t do. We’ve let others define what is acceptable or not; we’re like blind people, who, frankly, would sound stupid to, say, an alien. Imagine it:

“Well, this is a hammer. Unless you put it under a tree, and then it is a shovel. Hammer–shovel–hammer–shovel .”(holding it under the tree and removing it again.)

Doesn’t that sound senseless? But isn’t that what we’re doing? Just trying to stop this slippery slope!

I beg someone to reveal my error if you disagree.

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19 Responses

  1. I just found your blog last week. We seem very like-minded in many things. I look forward to reading often.
    I totally agree with your post!
    I too have expressed the same thoughts to those around me. People try to justify blatant immodesty by giving it another name! Ridiculous!
    Thanks for the post.

  2. Kelly,
    I agree with your point on modesty. I believe that we are becoming callus not only in the area of modesty but also to violence. Our poor young peoplesee so much in these two areas as they mature that I believe they lose their sensibilities and I believe it robs them of normal responses. It’s sad and also dangerous.

  3. The responsiblity of teaching modesty falls on the parents. I can’t believe how many young Christian teenagers/college aged girls, who really love Jesus, but have never even heard the word modesty, trampse around local pools and beaches basically nude. But they have been programmed to go with the cultural norms of society, never even questioning if what they are wearing is wrong. Why is this? Because the mom’s and dad’s are missing the mark.

    Modesty education HAS to start in the home with the mom’s teaching the little ones, from the time they can walk, what it means to be modest. Modesty has been one of the first words and concepts that my children have learned. Unfortunately, at times they have been way to brazen to call someone out on it. For example, really loudly, “Look Mom, that ladies not modest.” UGH! But yeah at the same time.

    As women, we have to rise up and teach our little girls to be beautifully feminine, yet fully covered. I haven’t received one ounce of flack, from my little girls, so far, and they love to wear beautiful dresses and really cool suits that are different than everyone elses. I found a lady in Costa Rica who hand made our swim suits. I designed them and she made them for us, specifically for our body types. The results are stylish, but yet very modest.

    Let’s teach our girls, educate other women in the church, and DEMAND a higher standard like Kelly did. We should not look to this world to dress us or our children.

    Thanks for this post!

  4. What basically amounts to porn is everywhere. Billboards, magazines, internet ads, church, commercials. I feel sorry for men, like my husband, who strive to lead good, Christian lives and have to be confronted with these images every single day.
    What really gets me is that a woman can dress like a… um… half-naked and actually get upset when a guy oogles at her. Yes, the guy is wrong, but so is she. She is just asking for it by presenting herself that way. Why can’t people see this? I wonder what would happen to the rape numbers if all women started covering up.
    God created man and woman and made them beautiful. He gave them worth and dignity. It imagine it must make Jesus so sad to see His beautiful creations disrespecting the bodies and dignity He gave them.
    We just become so desensitized…. It wasn’t so long ago that people would have rather thrown their tv’s into the streets than see the content that is on it today.
    I could go on and on, but I’ll stop.
    Keep up the good fight 🙂

  5. Kelly,

    What top 5 books would you recommend for reading about the topic of modesty? I am asking because I am interested in reading one and not to criticize what you have said.

    I have to admit that modesty is not a topic that most people take seriously (probably myself included). It’s also something that I don’t think about TOO much. I mean, I know we can’t wear indecent clothing in the streets, but that’s about as far as I have taken it (at least at this point).

  6. Just wanted to comment that just yesterday there was an article in our local newspaper of how the police had confiscated a collection of over 7000 pics of children as young as 7yo in very skimpy clothing and provactive poses, and they want to charge the owner with p*rn but are having difficulty laying the charges because the victims are actually “clothed”.

    Now do you still want to roll your eyes, dear previous commenter?


  7. Have you ever been to a church where even people on stage, like the worship team, are hardly clothed? I mean short skirts, skimpy clothes. What is up with pastors not taking a stand on that? It drives me crazy…speaking from experience in my former church where that happened on several occasions.

  8. Mrs. Lady Sophia,

    Maybe some readers can help me out with book recommendations….but two of my favorite are:

    “Christian Modesty and The Public Undressing of America” by Jeff Pollard

    “The Beauty of Modesty” by David and Diane Vaughan

    (This one deals with modesty from a complete view, that is, modesty of behavior as well as clothing. And it’s not a “here are the rules” but approaches it from a heart issue, which is the only way to approach it correctly!)

  9. It’s sad when you can’t tell the difference between a christian and a nonbeliever b/c the are both dressed so immodestly.
    I was watching TBN, a christian channel. They were interviewing a man on there that was outraged at the way teenagers were dressing. I was thinking, “amen!” He then shared about how he has started his own clothing line and it even promotes character. I was intreagued, so I went to their site ( I clicked on women’s skirts. There was only one option, a mini skirt, 14″ long. The character trait it was “teaching” was “TRUST: confidence, security”….it was written inside the zipper and around the inside of the waiste.
    I’m sure this man is coming from a good place, but what does it teach our young people when he professes to have a christian company and the only difference between his clothes and others is the wording inside them?!
    I thought that what you did in your eye doctor’s office was great! I think you are right on about modesty!


  10. Corrie-

    Rape is not caused by immodesty. Women are not responsible for rape.Rapists are. It is not a crime of lust, it is a crime of violence. Claiming that if women were “modest” there would be fewer rapes is ludicrous. Men rape old ladies. Men rape little girls. Men rape Christian women, Muslim women. Men rape women in countries where women are required to be covered head to toe. Blaming rape on a women’s clothing choices is ridiculous, cruel, and pointless. Covering women up won’t stop rape. And claiming that it does only makes women more vulnerable in the long run. If an “immodest” woman is raped, she is no more accountable for what was done to her than a modest woman. Please educate yourself about rape before you go around spewing more lies that only serve to further victimize women.


  11. Sara,
    I would agree with you that women are not responsible for rape, but not necessarily with your statement that rape is not caused by immodesty. I’m not saying ALL rape is caused by immodesty, but women certainly have made a predicament for themselves and contributed to rape culture by allowing themselves to be seen (nay, demanding that they be seen) as sexual objects. Feminism brought with it the horrible side effect that some women felt they were “reclaiming their power” by using their bodies to get what they wanted. Ironic, because the exact thing that they assumed would give them “power” is what ended up making them victims in a new and more horrible way.
    Sara Carter

  12. Mrs. Carter-

    I don’t want to take over this blog and get into a long discussion on this particular topic (which seems to be tangential to the original post), but I have to disagree with you on the conclusions you and Corrie seem to have made. If women dressing modestly was even a partial solution to rape, as you appear to purport, then why is it that women in Iran, and Saudi Arabia, or other Muslim nations experience rape at all? Women there dress incredibly modestly. Women were raped before the advent of feminism. Women were raped in biblical times, when standards of modesty and gender segregation were even more dutifully maintained. Do you know what contributes to rape culture? Not women in bikinis and feminists (true feminists, btw, have fought incredibly hard to end the sexual objectification of women.) Rape culture is upheld and propagated by the men that claim that lust makes them incapable of controlling themselves, or that women who are immodest are deserving of less respect than women who wear cape dresses or burqas. Women who, like you, seem to believe that a woman who dresses one way or another contributes to her own rape also contribute to rape culture. Please, please, please…educate yourself about rape, who rapes, why…and until you do, please avoid any woman who could be a rape survivor, or a potential rape victim….which, by definition, includes all women. Even you.


  13. I agree with Sara. I am a rape survivor. I was not wearing anything immodest when I was raped. I was wearing jeans and a short-sleeved, button-down shirt. Rapists rape because they want to terrorize and humiliate women and get sexually excited at such a prospect.
    Children are raped, nuns are raped, Burka-draped Arab women are raped, elderly women are raped, etc.
    If women are “asking for it” by dressing immodestly, there would be no need to rape them. They would just give sex to the next “taker”.
    I don’t like “feminist extremism”, but not everything that the feminists did was wrong.
    Before feminism, women who were raped were rarely taken seriously. The feminist movement demanded that women who were raped be treated with respect and believed. I was very thankful that I was treated very well by the police, etc., but that was because of the feminist movement.
    Any woman is potentially a rape victim. “Victim awareness” is necessary. As for me, I was attacked by a stranger from the rear (they use the surprise element). He was white, clean-cut and middle-class looking, in cowboy attire. He was huge, I am small. He pulled a knife and put his big hand over my mouth and nose so that I couldn’t breathe. I went into mild shock, and couldn’t have even told you my name.
    For people to act as though women bring rape upon themselves, is to victimize us further.
    Even if a woman walks down the street in a bikini, there is no reason for a man to use violence against her.
    Again, if she is “asking for it” there is no need for rape.

  14. What is so surprising is that Christian girls (and I’m only 22) will be relatively modest in all areas of their lives–except when it comes to swimsuits. The church that I grew up in actually had youthgroup socials at the beach and people’s pools, and while girls were encouraged to wear one-pieces, no one said anything if they didn’t. And more importantly, a one-piece doesn’t cut it either. It may cover your tummy, but it still leaves a lot to be desired!

    Anyway, I could never figure out why my mom never wanted me to go to these events, and just “rolled my eyes” behind her back. But now that I’m married and hoping to have children soon myself, my whole perspective has changed! Funny that Mom warned me that’s how it would be, haha….

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