I think these are the main points I try and will try to teach my daughters.
1. THERE ARE NO ABSOLUTES in dress standards. “God” does not care how you dress. And dress is all relative. If you were born an aborigine in 18th century aboriginia… you’d go around in a loincloth showing your boobs and butt and no one would care. And neither would “god”, or the gods.
Culture dictates dress standards. And those cultural standards are often misogynistic or just chauvinistic. It may not be right, but its the world we live in. Deal with it. Feel free to challenge it if you feel you need to. Some standards, however, come from a place of good intent. Learn how to the motivation behind different aspects of modesty culture.
2. DRESS IS A FORM OF COMMUNICATION. The way you dress says something, just as if you wore a sign on your shirt or forehead. The problem is that WHAT IT COMMUNICATES IS AMBIGUOUS. If you walk down the street in a tiny thong and stickers on your nipples, many guys are going to think you are TRYING to communicate something like “I’m sexually available, please make advances on me”. What they think is NOT YOUR FAULT. But it is something your going to have to deal with.
What you wear to church or school or the swimming pool communicates something different to all the people who look at you. Become savy to what you are communicating by your apparel, and be sure its what you want to communicate, but at the same time, don’t be too fussed about it because you shouldn’t feel responsible for other peoples’ thoughts. But be smart enough to know when your communicating something to the majority that you don’t intend to.
3. CLOTHING SHOULD PRIMARILY BE A TOOL. Use it wisely, use it selflessly. It can keep you warm or cool you off. But you can also use clothing to gain power over others. You can use your body to gain power over others. Power in status, Power in sex, Power in relationships. You can use that power selfishly or unselfishly. I hope you try and use the way you dress to polarize toward selflessness. The more selfless you are, the easier your relationships are going to be to maintain. Try to use your body, and the clothes you display it in, to serve others (within limits).
But don’t allow yourself to ever be used by selfish people. Don’t let people take advantage of you. When you are selfless in a non-equal or non-reciprocating relationship, no-one wins. Pandering to a man’s selfishness simply makes him more selfish. If you give your body in a selfless way to please someone else, be sure it is building an equal give and take of reciprocity.
4. Realize that a lot of what you are going to learn about “modesty” in our culture or at church is remnants of social mores dating from a less civilized time when women lived in constant fear of being raped, stalked or seduced by sexual predators. (or stolen away by the king or people of higher class, power and estate.) Other rules and social mores were created from a desire of other women to level the playing field.
Attempting to force attractive women to cover themselves so as to not make less “attractive” women jealous (by whatever cultural standard of beauty). In some cases women used shame as a way to deter other women from luring away their men. (such as an older woman calling a young attractive, sexily dressed co-worker of her husband’s a whore or slut and shaming her into dressing more “modestly”.)
You didn’t create these social customs, you don’t need to feel bound by them or responsible for them. But you should understand the psychology behind why they exist and navigate the ‘cultural modesty’ issue with an intelligence that is aware of the why’s and how’s behind our social and religious mores.
5. FEEL AWESOME ABOUT YOUR BODY. No matter what stage of life or shape you are in, feel awesome about your body, AND DON’T LET ANYONE MAKE YOU FEEL BAD ABOUT IT. If they do, avoid them. If you need to wear ‘modest’ clothes or even a burka to feel good about yourself, go for it. If you need to go naked to free yourself to feel good about yourself… go for it. Dont shame others. Dont shame yourself. But be smart. Be confident. Be considerate. Be kind to yourself and others…
Why will I not give my sons this lesson? Because they typically don’t really give a damn about dress–but they do have to deal with other types of inadequacy. There not going to get a bunch of stupid “modesty” lessons in school or church. Sad how biased our culture is when it comes to girls modesty. Really, most ‘modesty lessons’, simply reinforce a somewhat unfair bias. But at the same time, some of that inequality are biologically driven and aren’t easily changed by social programming.
Tinder is the perfect place to see this through experimentation. Take a marginally attractive man or woman, with great bodies and put them on tinder–the man with his shirt off and the girl in a bikini, and see who gets more matches. The woman will get 10x the matches every time. Because contrary to what many might try and say, men are apparently, indeed more visually driven by sex appeal. On the flip side take the same people and put pictures of both the man and women in situation which display social standing, status and wealth and the exact opposite effect will manifest. Because woman appear to be generally more attracted to these things than simply masculine sex appeal.
So when it comes to ‘selflessness’ and leveling the playing field with modesty. It would appear that woman, if they want, can do so by diminishing their sex appeal. And man, if they want, can do so by diminishing their apparent social status and wealth.