Saturday, August 16, 2014
Men Should Talk Less About the Modesty of Girls
"Modesty" is a big thing right now. It's en vogue to talk about it. I'm sick of talking about it, personally. I understand the issue and I think it's good advice to dress modestly. I am not blind to provocative dress. But I sort of wish men were. At least, I wish they would stop talking about how cap sleeves help them keep their thoughts pure. Even if it's true. Because it strikes me as kind of gross.
Guess what I saw at Girls's Camp? Priesthood plumber's crack. Do I wish it had been covered? I guess. But I'm not going to make a big deal about it. It just seems like a funny slip up, not a moral failing on the part of the person bending over. And when I dropped my son off at scout camp almost all the boys there were wearing shorts. What if I came home and breathlessly insisted that they make a rule to cover boys' legs because they were too provocative? I would seem kind of pervy. (As if the musk of Webelo weren't enough to drive me wild!)
I don't think General Authorities who explain guidelines are pervy. We need guidelines. I'm a huge fan of guidelines! I refer to For the Strength of Youth a lot. I'm so glad we have it. It's there. We can read it. We don't also need Facebook tirades and viral videos (well-intentioned though they may be) of young men singing "If only you saw what I can see you'd understand why I want you so desperately. . . That's what makes you beautiful."
I like how Pope Francis talks about modesty better. He reminds us to live a modest and humble life and to treat others with dignity. This kind of discussion is so much more uplifting to me than most of what I hear about modesty. At girl's camp I heard some girls chatting (from a different stake, OF COURSE) about how they were, like, so mad that they had to bring their $100 jeans to camp. Bless their hearts. I don't judge. But: If I were to judge, I'd probably want to curtail that kind of braggy, worldly talk more than I would want to curtail capris, which aren't allowed at camp (which is OK because it's a rule and I respect rules) but come on—which is worse? Immodesty or "immodesty"?
When I was in graduate school we talked about "the gaze" and "the male gaze." Basically, in media and advertising the gaze is a concept for analyzing visual culture. How something or someone is viewed is determined by the person doing the gazing. Women are usually the objects of the gaze rather than the possessors of the gaze. You can see how this would apply to literature and how graduate students would love to talk about it and feel smart.
I haven't thought much about the male gaze until now when it suddenly springs to mind as a completely apt way to describe contemporary discourse on modesty within the church. There's a lot of gazing going on. I don't like being the object of it and I like it even less when my daughters or any of the young women I work with in my stake are objectified by these discussions about modesty. It sexualizes them more than any tank top ever could.