Monday, May 25, 2015

It's Not Body Shaming, It's Called Modesty

I've been seeing a lot of headlines recently accusing unfair school dress codes of "body shaming," particularly focusing on female students.

It's Not Body Shaming, It's Called Modesty -- We've all seen headlines calling unfair dress codes in our schools "body shaming." Are they totally missing the point?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}No matter what the specifics of the article, the reader comments are the same:

"Boys need to just control their own thoughts."

"If you're looking at these girls in a sexual way, it's your problem."

"You don't have to look at it if you don't like it."

But something is missing in our conversations about dress codes. Where is the word "respect?" 

To think about it another way, imagine that I walked in wearing a big sandwich sign with something offensive printed on it. It could be profanity directed at you, it could be a racial slur... use your imagination.

Sure, I could defend it by saying "I can wear whatever I want, if you have a problem with it then just look away!" But that doesn't make sense, not really, because if you've been offended it means you've already seen it. You've already been disrespected.

Yes, you can look away and forget about it, but wouldn't it be better if I hadn't worn it in the first place?

What benefit would I really gain from wearing it, anyway?

And even if I have the right to wear it, does it mean I should?

I wonder why those questions are also missing from the conversation on dress codes and modesty.

Like an offensive shirt slogan, suggestive clothes are distracting for all students, both boys and girls. Believe it or not, there are people who aren't comfortable seeing the private parts of a person's body prominently displayed (whether that means skimpy clothes that bare all, or skin-tight clothes that make every dimple visible from outer space.)

What about showing those people respect?

Somewhere along the line, it seems that being able to do, say, and wear whatever we want became more important than being considerate.

The fact of the matter is that no matter how well we teach our young men and women not to see each other as objects, we're all biologically hardwired to respond with a sexual thought when we see a sexual sight  like someone dressed in sexy clothes.

There are amazing young men out there trying to be gentlemen, and amazing young women out there trying to be ladies, who look away and try to push objectifying thoughts out of their heads every day. But wouldn't it be nice if everyone dressed with more modesty in public, out of simple respect for those boys and girls? 

I'm not saying that anyone is completely responsible for anyone else's thoughts, but that doesn't mean we can't be considerate of others when we get dressed in the morning all the same.

"Body shaming" has become a hollow buzzword, thrown around to silence any call for respectful dress in our schools. You want me to dress modestly? You are body shaming me!

Let's be honest about what body shaming really is.

Body shaming is hurtful self-talk, calling yourself fat, ugly, disgusting. Body shaming is telling someone else that they don't have worth because their appearance doesn't measure up. That kind of body shaming  actual body shaming  has no place in a respectful society.

Dressing modestly does.

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Jenny said...

Well said. And along the same lines, if they can complain about people saying their clothes are too skimpy, then they shouldn't complain about how other people dress. (That made sense right?) like when people complain about a flag in school or a picture of Christ or anything else. If you're going to tell me I'm wrong for wearing a flag shirt, I should be able to say that I don't like the way you dress.

I remember when I was in school, we had a dress code that our hands couldn't go past our shirts when putting them straight down. We also had to have our shoulders covered and we cleavages was covered. I feel like it's pretty sad that now we are getting to the point where it's unacceptable to have a dress code like that.

Rachel said...

I'm not the biggest modesty advocate around--in large part because of my distaste at all the skirts vs. pants debates within Christianity. I wear pants, so obviously I'm highly immodest.
However, I fully support school's rights to have dress codes and enforce them. To me, school is "work" for kids. It is not true that when you are an adult you can wear whatever you want. Many people will, 5 or 6 days a week, as adults, be wearing whatever is deemed appropriate by their job's dress code--whether that's a uniform shirt or 100% black professional wear (my dress code at my last job) or general professional standards like knees and shoulders covered. I think school ought to give kids a little start on knowing how to dress professionally. Honestly, though, most school dress codes are really laid back compared to most work-related dress codes. My classmates in beauty school were constantly being sent home to change clothes (which involved a fine and the loss of hours, which delays graduation) because they wouldn't follow the black-only dress code. It's a good skill to learn before you're out in the real world.

Jenny Evans said...

Good point. Your definition of modesty really does depend on your culture, so it's all relative. But I think school isn't the place to push the envelope of what's appropriate in your culture. (And personally, probably not the best idea anywhere, but that's my opinion.)

Sharon said...


Unknown said...


normaleverydaylife said...

Great post! I have both girls and boys and I want all of them to dress modestly and appropriately for the the environments they're in. It's a sign of respect for others and themselves.

Unknown said...

Well said, this is something I have to be careful with, our eldest is now 9 and thinks she's Taylor Swift. Modesty and Respect are so important, thanks for sharing #sharewithme

Anonymous said...

My thoughts exactly! I have a son and he is young but I would want him to be modest and mindful of the clothes that he is wearing. Hopefully I can instill that to him this early. #sharewithme

Tubbs said...

I have the responsibility to dress modestly so I don't cause my brother to stumble. My brother needs to understand that immodest dress is not an invitation to pass go and collect £200. it's tough one and sometimes the shops don't help. Trying to find respectable clothes for my 11 year old can be a challenge! #sharewithme

Jenny Evans said...

I vividly remember standing in front of a rack of clothes at a thrift store we used to live near (don't get me started talking about how awesome this thrift store was or I'll never stop) shopping for my oldest daughter and realizing that I had to start paying attention to skirt length. She was 4.

Let's Talk Mommy said...

Great post as ever Michelle. and I couldn't agree more. There are some that just think they should flaunt it or show it off for attention either negative or positive they just want people's attention. It's all it is. I call it disrespect for themselves and others but you are right true body shaming shouldn't be tolerated either. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me. #sharewithme

Anonymous said...

Troll much?

mumturnedmom said...

Oh, this is interesting. I'm inclined to agree with you, but with the caveat that modesty varies from culture to culture. And, I would second Mrs Tubbs comments about the tricky balance that we need to deal with; the responsibility can't be laid all at one persons feet. I certainly think that it's hugely important to teach children confidence and self-respect, which will in turn lead to sensible and considerate choices. And I completely agree with your comments about body shaming. Thank you so much for sharing with #ThePrompt x

Cara L McKee said...

I hate school uniform, I've ranted about it here: sadly I live in Scotland where school uniform seems to be hard wired... I guess school dress codes are the same kind of idea.

I agree with you that when you're working it makes sense to dress sensibly, but I can't understand how it's a girl's job to dress modestly so she doesn't distract boys? I remember getting terribly distracted by some particularly gorgeous boys when I was a girl, but I've not noticed boys being criticised for not dressing modestly.

Jenny Evans said...

I think everyone should conduct themselves in a way that conveys respect for the people around them, whether we're talking about a boy or a girl.

Unknown said...

I love this post Jenny, and every sentiment of it. I totally agree with you. #ThePrompt

PurpleSlob said...

YES!! thank you for calling out those that call asking for modesty, "body shaming".
Our society is so off track.
Everything wrong has become right, and right has become wrong.
Modesty in dress, male or female, shows self-respect, first of all!
If you don't respect yourself, you can't respect anyone else either.

Unknown said...

Exactly. The dress code is there show students how to follow rules. To teach them how to match their attire to their surroundings. They will have to do this 90% of jobs out there. Instead of whining about it for the kids we should showing them that if they are tall, they will have to look for longer options for pants or if you wear something and didn’t think it would violate the rules, you still have to change in order to participate in class if it does. It’s unreal to me how many people think dress code are all about boys ogling girls and not about appropriate dress for a learning establishment.

Jenny Evans said...

I think the right thing to do if you have an issue with the dress code at your school is talk to the administration about your concerns, not break it and then put it on social media trying to garner outrage when you are asked to change into something that fits the rules. But that's another subject for another post at another time...