Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
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.
Oversexualized is the symptom, not the problem, and I think this is why many people have a difficulty approaching how to solve this problem. Money is where it's at. Sex sells. Not just in prostitution but in every aspect of electronic media. If you have ever seen a commercial for Axe, a line of products for men's hygene, it is a perfect example. A man likes a pretty woman, this is natural. The commercial is a group of scantily clad pretty women fighting over an average man because he is wearing a brand of deodorant & the goal of the commercial is to make money. The internet is a cesspool of pornography because people want to make money & sex has always made money, and this is the largest market one can utilize to make this money. THIS is why sex addiction has gotten out of control over the past 50 years: Media.
The solution cannot be handled globally. We cannot shut down the internet and televisions. We cannot make people not want to make money regardless of how lucratively it's made. It's not male versus female although those who use the media to make money do want us to believe this. Many males are against sexual stereotypes and many women support inequality. I firmly believe it is the media in all senses which create these walls. Turn off your computer & TV and tell your children to turn off their computers & TV's. Detach from the media and see how powerless they truly are.
I am very careful in introducing my children to sex. We've had talks about sex and safe sex but more specifically I focus on the respect we must have for the chosen partner. Love comes a lot more freely than respect, I believe. Respect God, respect ourselves, respect our partners. This is the only solution.
Caroline, you are absolutely correct when you say that sex sells. That's why we see these images. But that is not the media's fault. They bring us what sells. If you think for a moment about news, for example, it is no accident that TV news focuses on images and the sensational, and newspapers follow different kinds of stories (including many that have no images). TV is visual in a way that newspapers are not.
But I want to bring this back to the way we dress and whether we women bear a responsibility to men's reactions. Just this week, at the courthouse (I've been on jury duty), I've had it brought home to me that we are still held hostage to male attitudes. I am in my mid 50s, I wear "modern plain" that includes skirts grazing my ankles, and this being winter, I am also in my long coat (near ankles) and rather bundled. On Thursday, while walking down a corridor, a man coming the other direction called out to me, asked me if I remember Billy Crystal, and when I expressed confusion, he told me he was quoting Billy Crystal and then commented on my clothes and appearance. He meant to be complimentary, but why is it OK for a stranger to stop me to rave about how I look?
Then, on Friday, as I came to the security line, a man working there called me "young lady." They don't understand that this is demeaning. He didn't say it because I was dressed in long coat and skirts, but because I am a woman. I spoke gently and respectfully to him, but it took him awhile before he recognized that he couldn't just laugh away what he said.
There is nothing we can do: our clothes are a non-issue. Men assume they can say what they want to us, do what they want with us. I'm sick of men thinking they can say things under the premise of "oh, I was just making a joke. Don't be so touchy." In 2012, a man is still joking about women needing to keep an aspirin between their knees.
I feel like I'm back in the 1970s with some of the horrid stuff I hear. I thought we had gotten past calling grown women "chicks" and "girls," but it's still with us.
Jesus respected women. He emphasized spiritual well being for all.
Caroline - Well put. I totally agree and we do the same with the kids. But I would go farther and say that even the money is not the PROBLEM. That too is a symptom - of human greed gone wild. It all leads back to human capacity for sin.
Most men are not that way, what that man did to you is called 'passive aggressive'. My exhusband was that way. He'd insult me in front of other people, then humiliate me further by saying 'you can't take a joke?' But my current relationship is not like that. My man is very respectful not only to me but to everyone. There are very respectful and respectable men in this world.
I am raising my son and daughter to be respectful, patient and understanding people. This is the only way greed can be overcome. Teach our children values.
I guess one can say money is the vehicle. Greed is the desire to have everything, money is the way to get it. But it also comes back to the overload of sex trafficking and pornography. The demand for sex tops the demand for just about everything else. More people watch porn than abuse drugs.
It's an interesting observation you make about people being reluctant to be labeled as puritanical so they endure things that they actually find indecent. For me being a Friend and being Plain has released me from this reluctance. I am much more likely to speak the truth as a Quaker rather than to hold polite silence. Just the other day people on another forum were commenting on the current (I don't know how often it changes) Sport Illustrated cover model. I looked at the picture and was appalled. I pointed out that this kind of export is likely why so many people are afraid of what America might bring to the table to corrupt their young people.
I am so happy to read this thoughtful, polite discussion!
I will add: we live in Europe. Especially in Germany, nudity is a non-issue. Condom commercials and nude sunbathing are fairly normal. But whether it is a different culture, or legislation, advertisments are less blatantly sexual. I have never gotten a dirty look in Germany, France or Italy for breastfeeding openly, like I have in th rural US.
I don't know if there is a connection or not, but the "it's no big deal" attitude surrounding nudity, seems to make it less marketable. Of course, there is still a sizable porn industry, and gender equality has a long way to go.
Of course, sexual content for no good reason disturbs me. Especially the casual, risk free way it's often presented. But I am much more upset by the amount of violence that passes for PG13, while a nipple garners much worse!!
The only social action I've found so far (besides dressing simply), is to keep sexual advertising out of my house and avoid companies who use it. I am trying to raise my 2 boys and 2 girls to respect everyone, regardless of what's on the outside, and to understand that not everyone else does the same!
I ONLY want to look sexy to my Beloved, and I don't even want to be sexy to him all day every day.
A friend's foreign born husband requested early in their marriage that she not wear pants. He told her when a man sees a woman in pants his eyes go "straight to the crotch" or "straight to the bottom" and that he'd prefer men look straight at her beautiful eyes instead. As an American girl raised to follow the fashions such a thought had never crossed her mind. After watching men and women interact for a few weeks she concluded her husband's advice made good sense, and began choosing modestly loose and long dresses for herself .
Your heading "Plain Dress: The New Bra Burning" caught my eye, and made me laugh because I remember well the feminist bra burning era. The fashion industry seems to have quickly steered it into "We're liberated, we can dress as trashy as we want" instead.
Re: Bras themselves- as a young nursing mama I quickly learned wearing bras really made it dificult for me to make enough milk. You never see a cow in one, do you? When I switched to going braless everything worked just fine, thank you. I simply changed from the usual "hoist the girls up in front" look to dressing in a way that didn't emphasize the breasts. (loose-layered-comfortable).
Plain Dress for me cures a lot of "problems".
Leslie - This statement summed up much better than my words what I was trying to get at:
"We're liberated, we can dress as trashy as we want"
Also, what your friend's husband said is also what I was getting at - and I have heard similar things from other men. This is largely involuntary and NOT necessarily the way they want to look at women. My question was, do women bear any responsibility for this? Obviously many people in our culture say NO!. I feel they do.
As for movies, after years of discomfort I just snapped! The last straw was a PG13 movie with a fully nude strip scene with a dancing pole! I felt sick to my stomach and something I can only describe as the Power of God came over me and I realized I had to stop all of this right now in our house! I have found comedies are the worst, and the animated children's movies are sick as far as I'm concerned (the movie makers are obviously a bunch of over grown preschoolers who never got out of the potty stage!) I'm sorry to be so incensed about this, but it's been building in me for years with no outlet - so many adults seem unconcerned. While old comedies had their share of sexual innuendo it was tame. And the actors did not seem obsessed with each other's bodily functions!Mostly it makes me sad as I don't feel there is a limit to what the public will swallow.
Thanks for listening to me unload.
Karen - I guess I'm not arguing that a woman should dress modestly to protect herself so much as dress modestly to send the message "I am a person, not a female body". It never occurred to me that we might be talking about blaming a woman for a rape or whatever. Of course that is wrong. But I do not want a half-naked man standing in front of me because I want to see HIM as a person, not a body. So why can't we all have that consideration for each other instead of just dressing any way we want as if we are not having an impact on each other? In my opinion our lives should speak of Christ to all around us, what we do, what we say, and how we look.
PS BTW I really enjoy your posts. I love the way you put things. As direct and "forthright" as I am - a friend called me that one time and I think she really meant "too bold", but I appreciate people who are like that.
I'm going to present a different perspective about dress based on my observations of the teens and young adults who are my sons' friends at school and in Southern Appalachian Young Friends. Many, I'd say most, of the young women wear very revealing clothing. They wear short skirts and those tiny camisole tops that show a lot of breast. The pants the wear are low-rise and the tops are short so their bellies and lower backs are exposed. The boys wear low-rise, very tight pants and low-rise shorts with baggy t-shirts or no shirts or very tight t-shirts. My two oldest boys attended/attend a public art high school where creativity rules. There and at SAYF, PDAs are the norm but the affection is not sexually exploitative or negative. Especially at SAYF, all the beautiful young people spend as much time each weekend as possible in what are known in Quaker circles as "puppy piles". These amazing young people are aware and affirming of their sexuality but don't act on their sexual impulses and are respectful and totally cool with one another. They take gender/identity equality as a given. I believe that when we raise our children with the understanding that we are all sexual beings and that our bodies are gifts from God, they can own their sexuality and be in relationship with others in healthy ways.
I wear lots of kinds of funky thrift-store clothing. I show skin, happily feeling the wind and sun on my shoulders not because I want to feel like a man but because I rejoice in my womanliness. I love my body. I love that I can create life and nurture a baby with my breasts. I give thanks when I bleed each month. I love that my man loves my curves, bumps and valleys. I love this body and I'm grateful to God for giving it to me (and for giving me parents who affirmed my "temple" as good). I wear clothing that makes me happy, not because I want to be objectified, which will happen if I wear sweatpants or walk naked, but because I own my body.