-1-Let's start with a definition. Modesty is defined as freedom from conceit or vanity, also propriety in dress, speech, and conduct. I would paraphrase to say that modesty means avoiding undue or improper attention. Modesty, therefore, is extremely culturally dependent.
-2-I believe most people in the modesty discussion accept the modesty is cultural. We understand that being topless in some cultures is completely modest at the same time that showing one's knees may create scandal. Here's the problem: we Americans each believe our own culture is the American culture.
-3-I function in a fairly insular culture. The vast majority of my social interactions are with observant Catholics, many of whom homeschool. In my culture, skirts - even long ones - are modest. However, I live in a suburban small town. I can tell you that wearing an ankle-length skirt around town is not modest. I attract much more attention just walking down the street. People notice me. They look more closely at me and my clothing. I make no assumptions about whether the attention is improper, but it is certainly undue!
|The skirt in question looks a lot like this one|
-4-We live in America, a land of many cultures. What is modest in one setting is not modest in another. We choose our clothing to send a message (even if the message is "I'm just wearing this because it's comfortable"), but those receiving the message see us through their own cultural lens.
-5-What about the idea that skirts are less sexual than pants? I mentioned this to my husband, who shook his head. "Skirts are always more sexy, unless the pants are basically painted on. But even a pair of fitted pants is never as attractive as a skirt. Think about a camera panning up a woman; when is she ever wearing a pantsuit? Skirts are feminine; femininity is attractive." We asked a male friend of ours who said it depends on the girl and the pants, but agreed that it is ridiculous to say skirts are less sexually suggestive across the board, even discounting short skirts. (... or across the broad... hehe)
-6-There is also the claim from the "cover everything" camp that women are responsible for protecting the men around them from their base instincts. This does a great disservice to men (see How the modesty police are hurting my son) and women. What at first glance may seem like a call to accountability and high moral standards can also pave the road for shaming and blaming the victim.
-7-Finally, much of the cry for modesty smacks of gnosticism (all matter is evil). Since when did our bodies, made in the image and likeness of God, become a near occasion of sin? "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body." Our bodies are not shameful, meant to be hidden away, never admired, dismissed as not "the real us". In different bodies, we would not be who we are. Our bodies are temples. So yes, treat them with respect. Remember that God is living in you; dress, talk, and live in such a way that others can see Him. If you want, wear a skirt.
Read more 7 Quick Takes at Conversion Diary