Modesty vs Respect

I would have thought nothing of the woman I saw on the warm fall afternoon dressed in a long dress down to her ankles with a scoop neck and sleeveless top, who had probably stopped in for a little shopping after church and lunch on Sunday, while I was wearing a slip on shirt with sleeves and blue jeans, having headed home to change first thing.

The reason I even noticed was a conversation on modesty. If you prefer dresses, I am not here to change your mind. How we choose to dress is a matter of taste, culture, our society, and even our religion. I just don’t believe that how a woman dresses affects a mans behavior. Yes, how a person adorns themselves will get attention, whether it be with tattoos and henna, jewels, or clothing in different styles from street punk to refined classic, but no, I can’t agree that any of this makes a man, or woman behave in a way against their nature. When we adorn ourselves we are saying something about what we like and who we are, conservative, private, outgoing, easygoing, fun-loving, the list is nearly endless.

The woman I saw in the long dress was appropriately and attractively dressed. I dressed more casually, yet also appropriately and attractively. No one would have mistaken either one of us for being men. In my opinion, we were both suitably modest, and yet I am sure if either of us were going out on the town with our friends, or our husbands, we might dress a little more provocatively and add a little more sparkle and bling, because that is appropriate in certain settings in our culture. We would expect respect and not to be molested in any way.

Does this mean we can throw all caution to the wind? No, because unfortunately there are still predators out there who are looking for any opportunity to take advantage of a situation, and let me be clear, women are not the only people who need to be aware of predators. There are female predators as well as male predators and this blog is not about predators who don’t care how modest, how appropriate, how proper, or religious a person is. A predator is on the hunt, looking for any opening to make you their victim, and becoming a victim is not your fault.

The real question is not one of modesty, but of respect. In another conversation I commented that I liked to be “girly” while riding my motor cycle, because it attracts attention and makes me more visible on the road. A male in the group said my riding around in a nothing but a thong would get his attention. This is not what I meant by “girly,” and honestly at my age that would be closer to the old woman in the Playboy cartoons. I was offended, not complimented. I did not feel the comment was at all respectful. The man in question would not ride with his wife un-dressed in such a way, so why would he suggest such an idea. Lack of respect.

One day riding my motor cycle I dressed in white slacks, my powder blue motor cycle jacket and matching helmet, with my purse slung across my body when a couple of young men leaned out of the passenger side windows and yelled, “Hey Babe, that’s sick!” I took that as a major compliment. Imagine their surprise if they had seen the grandmotherly “Babe” under that helmet! They obviously liked seeing a woman on a bike!

We in the United States like to think we live in one of the most forward thinking countries in the world, yet women still get paid less than men for the same work as men. Women are still timid about putting themselves forward in school and business. Women want to contribute to their jobs, families and communities, but women do not want to compete with men, they want to be partners with men.

To raise girls into strong women, and strengthen the women in your life, don’t tell them how pretty they are. (Although I have to admit I do like to hear that from Hubby.) Tell her what an awesome writer she is. Tell her how insightful, accomplished, or good at something she is. Tell her how proud you are of her contribution, work ethic, and creativity. Tell her why you respect her.

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9 thoughts on “Modesty vs Respect

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  1. Congratulations, April. The time you spent on this one paid off; this is a brilliant post. You touched the inconvenient truth. Education is fundamental to change this mindset. I dare say that unfortunately many women still role model and perpetuate the rosy, girly, barbie-like looks of their little ones; so they grow up believing that how they look is more important than being respected. Thanks for that.

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  2. LOVE IT! It’s like you reached into my brain and pulled out all my thoughts! I saw an article on the catcalling but have been unable to get to read it (things are crazy here!)
    I live in an area that is full of Amish and Pentecostal followers. While I have no issue with their choice at all, I happen to know personally some of them teach women to be submissive and to dress modestly because they “make a man lust” or “turn his eye.” I have such an issue with that.
    Having been a, I hate the word, victim of such predators, it didn’t matter what I was wearing, and it was unfair for my family to make me feel this way!
    Thank you for writing such an awesome post!
    ~Audrey

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