The query that was read in meeting last Sunday "Do we honor Friend's traditional testimony that men and women are equal? How do we work to make these ideals a reality?" The first thought that came into my mind was plain/modest dress. This seemed very ironic and somewhat humorous to me as traditional dress for women has been seen by our liberated culture as a sign of the patriarchal domination of women. So how did I so quickly come up with the thought that plain dress is in fact a way to help make the equality of men and women a reality? Obviously one of the ways women in our society are enslaved is that they are viewed as sex objects, by men, by the media, by themselves. Burning bras was supposed to take care of this, but strangely it didn't. It was supposed to make men no longer see women as sex objects, but as people. Women could now wear whatever clothes they wanted to, and the uncovering up of the female body was supposed to make women feel freer and more like men (they don't feel compelled to wear bras, do they!).

When I compare the exploitation of women's bodies in the movies, on TV, in magazines, and on the street, between the early 70s and now, it is obvious things have gone horribly wrong! And I don't think people are even aware of it - except those of us who were concerned about such things back in the 60s! When I complained to the local librarian that one of the teen comic books in the library had fully nude women in it - one of those graphic novels - and that it exploited women, she looked blank and said it was very popular and they couldn't remove it!

I remember as well being outraged at the suggestion of adults in the 60s that if women didn't want to be treated as sex objects why didn't they wear more clothes! Well! Who did they think they were! Women could now wear whatever they wanted and that was that!

So now at the ripe old age of 57 I ask the same question: when will women see that men are biologically programmed (thank God) to see a naked, or near naked woman, as a sex object, and if women want to find true equality in this society it is time to wake up and keep our bodies to ourselves where they belong! This now feels so obvious to me that I really no longer understand why it seems (or seemed) oppressive at all. When will women wake up and claim that equality that God gave them. It is up to us as women to do so, beginning with our own dress.

Barb

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Replies to This Discussion

                  Oh how I struggle with this discussion! I am an advocate for modesty by choice and as a focus away from self and toward others not as a focus of covering up my body lest someone be tempted. I am not an advocate for changing how I dress because I need to "consider that a man may be tempted by seeing _______". I have HUGE issues with that and perhaps, if that is what the focus of these discussions on plain dressing are now, then I don't belong here.

                   I don't dress simply because I am trying to avoid tempting a man to inappropriate behavior. I dress simply because I want my life focus to be on what I do, not how I dress. 

                   I truly believe that the moment we give the excuse that women are causing men to be tempted we step HUGELY back in the respect of a woman's right to be safe from sexual harassment or assault and we reduce her to a weak and less than equal creation that exists to serve/tempt/prey on men.

                  Perhaps it is because of my work in the law that I see the slippery slope of this set of beliefs but the very same arguments of temptation of men have been used for centuries to halt such diverse things as the entry of women in the workplace, the right to vote, the right to an education, etc..

                  Yes, I have HUGE sympathy with those men and women who suffer from sexual addiction issues, just as I have sympathy for those who suffer from gambling addiction, drug addiction, alcohol addiction etc. but that doesn't relieve them from the responsibility of having to commit to recover from that addiction and part of that recovery means that you see the trigger for you behavior and you refuse to allow it to cause you to act out in a matter contrary to your recovery commitment. That includes living in a society that may have what is your trigger up in your face on a daily/hourly/minute-by-minute basis. 

                   And before someone cites increased rapes as a result of lack of modest dressing may I stop and say that rape is not a crime of sexual congress, it is a crime of rage and anger in which a person is assaulted violently by means of body parts that can be used for sexual congress. If indeed a lack of modest clothing were the trigger for rape then the infant, the elderly woman asleep in her bed at home, the school girl in uniform on her way home from Catholic school would not have been raped. (These three are all cases I personally know of, not made up examples.)

                     Having said all that - do I believe that we show too much? Yes, but I believe that we have always and will always show too much or too little or whatever someone would want to complain about. It's part of living in a democracy - the downside that people go about with all their parts hanging out that all can see and be tempted by them -  that by the very nature of a democracy must accompany the upside - the ability to choose how we dress.  

                       Should we wish to change that in society than we must understand that the very basis of this society that allows us to choose how we dress, how we worship, what we stand for and what we speak out in support of and if we change what is allowed in dress and lose the ability to choose one's clothes we are also VERY likely to change and lose those other rights as well. 

                       One final thought before I shut up and go away (I think permanently because I suspect I am stepping on too many toes here for which I am sorry but I must - as part of my Quaker witness stand absolutely if non-violently on the side of the freedoms guaranteed by a democracy.) I think that simple dress to and the creation of a world in which our focus is on each other as people and not as body parts are part and parcel of what we are called to do as Quakers. It is through this focus - on the personhood of others that I believe that we see and celebrate that which is sacred in ourselves and others - whether those people look like "us" or like a centerfold in a magazine that makes me blush when I see it on the news stand. My fear is that that in being "modest" we could become elitist  and no longer see those that are different than us as equal to us or worthy. 

I agree with you that men should be responsible for their own actions, regardless of how a woman dresses. Sometimes I feel like dressing in long skirts is attempting to sidestep the issue by avoiding opportunities to "hollaback".

Meg Hill-Grigson said:

                  Oh how I struggle with this discussion! I am an advocate for modesty by choice and as a focus away from self and toward others not as a focus of covering up my body lest someone be tempted. I am not an advocate for changing how I dress because I need to "consider that a man may be tempted by seeing _______". I have HUGE issues with that and perhaps, if that is what the focus of these discussions on plain dressing are now, then I don't belong here.

                   I don't dress simply because I am trying to avoid tempting a man to inappropriate behavior. I dress simply because I want my life focus to be on what I do, not how I dress. 

                   I truly believe that the moment we give the excuse that women are causing men to be tempted we step HUGELY back in the respect of a woman's right to be safe from sexual harassment or assault and we reduce her to a weak and less than equal creation that exists to serve/tempt/prey on men.

                  Perhaps it is because of my work in the law that I see the slippery slope of this set of beliefs but the very same arguments of temptation of men have been used for centuries to halt such diverse things as the entry of women in the workplace, the right to vote, the right to an education, etc..

                  Yes, I have HUGE sympathy with those men and women who suffer from sexual addiction issues, just as I have sympathy for those who suffer from gambling addiction, drug addiction, alcohol addiction etc. but that doesn't relieve them from the responsibility of having to commit to recover from that addiction and part of that recovery means that you see the trigger for you behavior and you refuse to allow it to cause you to act out in a matter contrary to your recovery commitment. That includes living in a society that may have what is your trigger up in your face on a daily/hourly/minute-by-minute basis. 

                   And before someone cites increased rapes as a result of lack of modest dressing may I stop and say that rape is not a crime of sexual congress, it is a crime of rage and anger in which a person is assaulted violently by means of body parts that can be used for sexual congress. If indeed a lack of modest clothing were the trigger for rape then the infant, the elderly woman asleep in her bed at home, the school girl in uniform on her way home from Catholic school would not have been raped. (These three are all cases I personally know of, not made up examples.)

                     Having said all that - do I believe that we show too much? Yes, but I believe that we have always and will always show too much or too little or whatever someone would want to complain about. It's part of living in a democracy - the downside that people go about with all their parts hanging out that all can see and be tempted by them -  that by the very nature of a democracy must accompany the upside - the ability to choose how we dress.  

                       Should we wish to change that in society than we must understand that the very basis of this society that allows us to choose how we dress, how we worship, what we stand for and what we speak out in support of and if we change what is allowed in dress and lose the ability to choose one's clothes we are also VERY likely to change and lose those other rights as well. 

                       One final thought before I shut up and go away (I think permanently because I suspect I am stepping on too many toes here for which I am sorry but I must - as part of my Quaker witness stand absolutely if non-violently on the side of the freedoms guaranteed by a democracy.) I think that simple dress to and the creation of a world in which our focus is on each other as people and not as body parts are part and parcel of what we are called to do as Quakers. It is through this focus - on the personhood of others that I believe that we see and celebrate that which is sacred in ourselves and others - whether those people look like "us" or like a centerfold in a magazine that makes me blush when I see it on the news stand. My fear is that that in being "modest" we could become elitist  and no longer see those that are different than us as equal to us or worthy. 

I wear modest dress because I believe it is God's will for me, not for other people but I can see that it affects people. I do not compete with other women by showing off my fashion sense and I do not compete with them over men. I make it nearly impossible for men to not look at my face because they are not able to see every curve. To be honest, when I used to dress fashionable I mainly did so to impress other women, I have never trusted men's fashion sense. I used fashion to impress other women, position myself against them and to make them believe I was this and that way. I have stopped that kind of manipulation now and I am honest to people who I am and what I stand for.

I have worn almost any style there is including extremely low cut tops and short skirts and what actually makes men look at you is totally random. The night of my life when most men approached me was in college and I wore a pretty boring jeans skirt and a not very closefitting t-shirt, no make-up and a very simple hair do. I am not a particularily pretty woman and I am not used to have to beat men off with a stick but that night came pretty close...

Each of us are trying to follow the Truth and the Light for themselves as they see experience it. I have spent the last many years slowly undoing and questioning many of the liberal assumptions I was raised with and now following the Light more closely.  The conclusions I am being led to do not mesh with my background, but I now feel I am speaking from an authentic place, not based on theories and sweeping generalizations of how people are or should be. From this I have chosen to dress in a way that clearly states who I feel I am and how I can best present myself to the world in the name of Christ. I position myself with Elin and men have to look at my face as that's about all they can see.

I appreciate all the searching responses to this issue. It is very personal and I knew it would be controversial. Sorry if it caused any hard feelings, but I stated where I am authentically coming from as I am led.

Barb

Friends, can we please stop alluding to bra burning? It is a myth.

 

This matters to me. I would like to add my two cents to the conversation ( I dress "modern plain"), but I can't if we are operating under false assumptions.

 

 

That's what I said yesterday in front of a friend, and he said his mother had done it. I remember one of my professors saying she had too (specifically, she burned her roommate's bra, because it was bigger and more impressive than her own). From what I can tell, it seems there were a very few isolated incidents, but not a huge movement.

That friend also explained WHY his mother burned hers. He said that bras in the 60s were made for what men wanted to look like, while being horribly uncomfortable for the women. Whereas nowadays, bra manufacturers do tend to try for a bit of comfort! I'd always wondered before why the bra, when they're supposedly more comfortable than corsets* and certainly more comfortable for the well-endowed than hanging free.

* I say "supposedly" because I think it depends on what era's form of corsetry you look at. I find early 16th century Italian bodices slightly stiffened with hemp cord (there is debate as to how the stiffening worked in that time, but hemp cord seems to reproduce the soft curves better than the methods most people think of when they hear "corsetry"-- though thin reeds are also a possibility and would work similarly) to be more comfortable than a modern bra.  If it weren't for the fact that my dresses that have such bodices required assistance to lace (under the arm pits)...  Well, I really ought to make a couple that lace up the front. It also, of course, depends on how tight you lace it. As one friend puts it regarding those who hurt themselves overtightening their laces, "we still have those people...we call them anorexics now."

Paula Deming said:

Friends, can we please stop alluding to bra burning? It is a myth.

 

Right. If there were any burnings, it happened after it was said to be happening. At least that's my take. I lived on the edge of a university campus during my childhood in the 1960s and 1970s, and I remember streaking, but never heard of anything like bra burnings. I did check Snopes: http://www.snopes.com/history/american/burnbra.asp

It was more of an urban legend, symbolic of women's lib.

 

Hijab can also be a forced oppression, make no mistake.

Of course, like any dress that is not worn because it is the will of the person. Plain dress could be too, as could fashion.

Caroline Gulian said:

Hijab can also be a forced oppression, make no mistake.

RE: Hijab can also be a forced oppression, make no mistake.

Of course, Caroline. That's why I said, "Choice aside..." because many Muslim embrace hijab for similar reasons that other women embrace modesty.  That kind of oppression is not peculiar to hijab alone.

Paula

So this discussion has been boiling in my head all night. I guess one of the problems with online discussions of this nature its that so many slightly different aspects are brought up and then because we are not in the same room they either don't get discussed as separate, or they are mixed in and then lead to confusion etc. etc. I'm sure you all know what I mean...like the burka, the rape issue, freedom of choice, male domination, bra burning, etc. All related but not really. So I've been praying for the right words to summarize why I brought this up at all. I will make a few statements that are Truth for me.

1. We live in an oversexualized society and that is a problem that both men and women bear EQUAL responsibility for.

2. Many millions of people are sexually reactive today (this was not true 50 years ago). People, male and female, who were sexually abused (and for little children this abuse can be in the form of being exposed to sexual stimulation, even just visual, at too young an age) are sexually reactive and through no fault of their own do not deal with sexual stimulation rationally. This is NOT a male problem, it is a societal problem. Of course I am not saying that they don't need to learn to deal with this in a socially acceptable manner, but de-sexualizing society as a whole ( and yes, the way I dress is part of that), would help them tremendously! I hate to say it, but it is these children that become the sex offenders. I speak from the experience of having had 5 sexually reactive foster children and teens over the years.

3. If we are to truly meet each person in Love we can't say "Well, how they react to me is THEIR problem (male or female)!" We should be also concerned for the spiritual well-being of those around us as far as we are able to help them. George Fox demonstrated this to me when he attempted to stop his attackers, NOT because he didn't want to be attacked, but because he was concerned for the effect on THEIR spiritual health! (How not PC, eh?)

4. I asked my teenage girls "What would you wear if you were going to meet Jesus?" Answer, long, loose clothing, covering pretty much everything but hands and face. These are not plain dressing girls; they wear jeans etc. Interesting. Makes me pause and think of WHY do we choose the clothes we do?

5. Mother Teresa is one of my huge role models. Mother Teresa in a tank top? If clothes don't matter why does that not work for me?

6. I was there when the bras weren't burned, but they were waved around the discarded as a symbol of male domination etc. etc. I'm done seeing the world as male versus female. That is only ONE of the many symptoms of how we as humans have fallen out of God's grace, and as George Fox said, if you keep looking down into the mass of sin you will lose hope, but if you look UP to the Light you will be able to overcome the sin surrounding you! I think we spend too much time examining the problems and not enough looking for solutions and The Solution.

I think that gets it all off my chest, and I hope some of what I said is helpful, and not too contentious. I'm definitely not PC in my old age.

Have a good weekend,

Barb

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