A recent experience reinforced my conclusion that we need to be a lot more specific about the term modesty. I was at a function and someone implied that I was dressed in a manner that was less than appropriate.
There are a few important things to understand:
1. I am not exactly a fashion model. My style of dress is generally pretty casual (read: boring). When I buy clothes, I go for comfort, not look. That particular day, I had dressed up somewhat more than usual. However, my outfit could be best described as a step down from business casual. Even by very conservative standards, I was dressed more “appropriately” than approximately half the women there.
2. I am an adult, not a child or a teenager. I really don’t need advice on how to dress for public events. Generally speaking, unless the adult in question is mentally incapacitated or has asked for help, there is no need for public correction regarding personal appearance.
3. There are no circumstances in which I find it even remotely appropriate for a married man to take interest in what another man’s wife is wearing. I don’t seek my husband’s approval before I leave the house. But if he were to object to something, I know my husband well enough to know he would have good reason–like I’d worn a red sweater and purple sweatpants. There is no need for anyone to second guess his sense of what is or is not appropriate.
Now, I don’t want to speculate on the motives of the person making the comment. I’m sure that it was not intended to offend me. I’m not holding a grudge and I don’t want to dwell on the specific incident. What matters to me is the general principle. If even our adult men don’t have a clear sense of what is modest and appropriate for adult women to wear in public, how can we expect to teach our sons?
And if we allow our adult men to make women feel small and embarrassed about their bodies, how can we expect our daughters to feel good about their bodies in ways that are healthy?