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.
Are you familiar with the book Female Chauvinist Pigs? It's about the way women have been tricked into thinking that doing exactly what men wanted all along is empowering for the woman herself.
I do think it'd be nice if men's bodies and women's bodies were treated equally. For example, men can walk around shirtless, and it doesn't raise an eyebrow. Either we need to start gasping in shock and horror at men doing so (and go back to those 1940s long bathing suits), or a bunch of straight men need to learn to stop acting like hungry infants when they see a bit of breast. Also if women's clothing was only as form-fitting as men's, that would be nice too. It'd be easier to shop, they'd last better through size changes, and just as little attention drawn to women's rear ends and thighs as men's.
Of course, what you're used to strongly affects whether you are titillated by certain dress. If you've never seen an ankle or an elbow on a woman, even that could be titillating. If you see them every day...whatever.
Barb, you're just realizing what Muslim women who follow hijab have been saying all along. Not getting into the discussion of choice (choosing to follow hijab or being forced to), many westerners might find it surprising that women often embrace hijab for the very reasons you've cited. Has it oppressed them? Sure; as much as clothing and gender have oppressed us clothing and gender have oppressed women all over the world. However, where were the first female heads of state? In the US? In Europe? No; in India, Pakistan and Israel.
Barb, thanks for your post. I hope the editors do not delete this reply as I feel it is important. I think most women 'see' this whether on an intelligent level or not, and use it as opportunity, especially when they are going through the years that are focused on finding a mate and bearing children. I put it so 'crudely' because there is a stage of life where sex is the focus for the purpose of continuing our species and is natural. As for exploitation on TV and other media, this has distorted it incredibly. Advertisers understand that sex sells and this has exploited women moreso than prostitution. Pornography has existed for only the past century as has mass-marketing. Before that, sex was for people like it was for most other animals, something relatively private even when it was solicited.
Sex addiction is something that is relatively new and this is directly related to the overload of selling of sex on all 'inaccessible' levels - and is focused primarily on men. This is where 'sex object' and 'potential mate' differenciate. I think that men are biologically programmed to see an attractive naked woman as a potential mate, however a 'sex object' is more of when a man looks at a woman who is not accessible (like in pornography) yet is aroused none the less. This numbs one's mind as to what sex is about. The comic books you mentioned I believe are the 'Manga' anime and it is pornography. I do not believe it is natural to watch others - for hours on end -engaging in sex and this is where the exploitation begins.
Regardless of one's opinion of where exploitation begins, to build relationships sans sex, does involve a great deal of removing all sexuality. Not just with modest dress but also - and in my opinion more importantly - attitude. It's not about equality of the sexes but striving to build relationships void of sexuality. It can be done with participation and willingness from everyone.
Language correction, because I speak Japanese.
Anime = animation, but abbreviated. Obviously, comic books are not animated, therefore they are not anime. Manga refers to ANY Japanese comic book. The term for pornographic manga is hentai (literally "pervert" in Japanese), and within the realm of manga relating to relationships you'll find subcategories of "yaoi" (gay men, usually read by straight women) and "yuri" (lesbians).
Though, as I understand it, full nudity in any media (art, comics, etc.) is illegal in Japan. Genitals must be censored in some way (though this could just be pixelation/blur).
Sorry. The books are classified under Manga in the book stores, even the ones with pornography. I should have been more specific.
I picked up the particulars of subcategories only because the girls I hung out with in high school read a lot of yaoi. I was the weirdo in Japanese class because I took it for a challenge (starting over at first year Spanish after ten years? not a challenge) not because I was an anime and manga fan (like apparently everyone else in the class).
They are all listed under one category in the stores, Manga. They are 'rated' on the backs by age group. E for everyone, Y for youth (10+), T for teens, OT for older teens and M for mature which are the ones which include explicit sexual acts and violence. My daughter enjoys reading the E & Y-rated ones so I've had to learn about the rating process. http://manga.about.com/od/readingcollectingmanga/a/ageratings.htm
I'm only 30, so I don't have the breadth of experience you do Barb and Jenna. Part of my attraction to "plainer" dress is a rejection of fashion and the commercialization of the human body. I am a wife and a mother, who has found herself in the social position of being an example to younger women. Modesty is important. I want those around me to know that I am not "hunting", and that a woman can be fullfilled, successful, and even attractive without following every wim of fashion, and dedicating her life to her appearance. In that way, I do like your "bra burning" analogy!
But I argue that modesty itself does not hold the power to bring gender equality, anymore than stripping down to mini-skirts caused the inequality in the first place. It is a deeper social issue. Sex, and the desire for it are natural. Yes, men are most definately visually oriented (as a generalization) when it comes to arousal. But finding a person attractive is an entirely different issue than seeing them as an object. I have no doubt that my husband finds me attractive, and is very visual. But he treats me as an equal, and I've only seen him do the same in interactions with other attractive women. I should be able to walk down the street naked, and still be considered a person worthy of respect! I do think that modest dress removes some of the obvious distractions, but the focus needs to be on the people, not the clothes!
Women in Burkas are perhaps some of the most objectified women in the world. Even within their own culture they are seen as mostly interchangable housework and baby providers. European and early American history is little better. Modesty or plainness *alone* is not the answer.
Caroline, I think you have hit on what I see as the biggest problem! The mass-marketing of sex. Visually "perfect" mostly maked women, who are fantacy pictures with no personality, no morning breath or bad habits, dull our understanding of what intimate human interactions are naturally like. The effect on society is also on a massive scale, unlike the quieter forms of exploitation that have always been around.
I do believe that if the only time we saw bare flesh, it was in the context of a whole person, not just an advertisement, it would be much more difficult to treat people like products.
I also believe that the 'almost' of sex advertising has cast a bad view on one very important thing. A woman's breasts. A wall-size advertisement of a woman in a string bikini is 'acceptable', yet some people are still repulsed by a woman breastfeeding in public. I breastfed my children as infants and while I would try to be discreet this was not always possible. The need of the baby comes first. Most people were respectable but I did get negative comments, telling me a woman should not be showing her breasts in public.
The worst example of this was when I was watching a show on TV about a woman getting a sex change. She was topless in the doctor's office and the breasts were blurred. After the sex change, he was in a swimming pool in shorts and the breasts were not blurred. The media set this standard, telling us what is 'dirty' and what is not.
Regarding burka; most Muslim women do not wear burka. This is why I made my discussion without discussing choice. Most Muslim women do not live in Afghanistan under a burka. Hijab runs the gamut from modest dress/no head scarf, all the way to burka.
Friends - Thanks for all the comments. I just want to clarify that of course I fully support real rights for women, and equal treatment for men and women and I was not saying that a mere change of clothing would achieve that. But on the other hand, as long as women treat themselves as sex objects, by their fashion-driven addiction to tight, ultra-revealing clothing then they are not even respecting themselves as fully human individuals, so how do they expect society to see them that way!
As for the Manga comics, I was referring to the teen rated comics which are indeed pornography in the teen section of your local library. Check it out! Caroline, I fully support your concern about sex addiction and the devastating effects it is having on our society on all levels! As a mother and grandmother I feel sick about this and helpless to protect my children and grandchildren against it. It is literally thrown in their faces and I guess it is one of the many spiritual challenges they will face in their lifetimes! May God strengthen them!
The selling of women/sex in our culture has gone hand in hand with the so-called sexual revolution, beginning in the 60s, and has had the effect of cheapening and devaluing our sexual selves, which are indeed sacred, to the point that it is considered a physical appetite and that is all! This has had far reaching consequences into the cheapening of all aspects of human life, previously held as sacred.
So I would like to add in as a controversial point here what the Apostle Paul said about not putting a stumbling block in the way of your brother or sister. How is immodest dress possibly putting a stumbling block in the way of men who are struggling (many, or most?, with some degree of sex addiction)?
It is our responsibility as followers of the Light to imagine the society that we wish our children to grow up in, and to think how that would look in detail. As a query: What can we personally do to bring about a culture where people value each other as fully human individuals, male and female, and where the sexual spheres of our lives are seen as sacred.
Please take all this in the spirit it is offered. I so appreciate this group of like-minded folks who are working in Hope to bring the Kingdom of God to this world.
PS It would be nice to hear from some men on this issue as well?