A Man’s Plea for a Discussion of Modesty

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Who’s Winning the Cleavage Contest? (No One.)

PinkHeartA woman in Church feels she is well-dressed. The men who see her—the elderly, those in their prime, even very young boys—are unable to see her heart, distracted by her revealing to the world, a treasure God created for her husband alone.

A female usher (specially trained to intervene in a charitable manner), comes by with a tasteful sweater, asking the well-dressed woman to put it on.

Why should I do that?” Almost no one who has such habits of dress, would have any comprehension of the fact that a problem even exists.

But should we be caught with our heads in the sand, while the secular world demonstrates, not merely awareness of the problem, but is taking the leadership in solving it? Are we in the Church able to discuss this topic, charitably, of course, but with courage and resolve?

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What are the issues, that should be on the table for discussion?

  • The first is that in certain cultures, men actually want their wives to display themselves, in a way that allows the men to feel that their reputation and status are enhanced by, as it were, their ownership of a “property” that is highly desirable, as if their soul-mate’s body were a car, house or piece of jewelry.

(What are the women who cooperate with this culturally-approved habit, saying about their self-understanding?)

That is the most common explanation for this aberrant behavior. But in cultures not so afflicted, there is a second common explanation:

  • Women are in competition with each other, they’re not dressing immodestly explicitly to entice men, and may even wish that men don’t observe what they’re doing.

However, since we don’t live in a vacuum, but our primary unit of identity is as a people, the most important issue is being thrown by the wayside.

  • That is the moral effect the practice has upon individuals and the community.

We wouldn’t want to have to hear our Blessed Lord pronounce a judgment against the offenders, against us individually or as a community, as expressed by St. John Chrysostom:
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“You carry your snare everywhere and spread your nets in all places. You allege that you never invited others to sin. You did not, indeed, by your words, but you have done so by your dress and your deportment. … When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent? Tell me, whom does this world condemn? Whom do judges punish? Those who drink poison or those who prepare it and administer the fatal potion? You have prepared the abominable cup, you have given the death dealing drink, and you are more criminal than are those who poison the body; you murder not the body but the soul. And it is not to enemies you do this, nor are you urged on by any imaginary necessity, nor provoked by injury, but out of foolish vanity and pride.”

Young boys are urged to learn habits of respect for women, starting with their attitudes towards their female classmates. Yet, according to the principal “they don’t care what you know till they know that you care“, young men learn far more about respect for women by the attitudes and actions we display to them.

It has to be one way or another, you can’t have both at once: Either we teach our young people chastity by our deeds, or, “it doesn’t matter, there’s no real harm”.

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Women urged to ditch low-cut gowns and heels at film festival (2018)