Modesty and the Individual
see you’re wearing pants today. Good for you. I chose to jazz things up with a shirt and a head scarf to boot. Too much you say?
Let’s be honest here, a whopping majority of us (Muslim, Christian, Agnostic or otherwise) do believe in some form of modesty -of course there are those outliers who believe in nothing at all – but I think most of us would agree that those conditions are not always very sanitary.
You don’t quilt in the nude?
YOU’RE THE PRUDE!
We women are especially notorious for scrutinizing one another and making harsh judgments (see what I just did above), while men generally get a pass from our scrutiny.
Is that dress too low cut for her age? Does she have the body to pull off that outfit? How can she wear that at a funeral/wedding etc…?
You usually don’t see men making these judgments, usually, to men, the more naked a woman -the better. Few from this gender do protest from seeing too much, and to those that are on the opposite side of the isle exclaiming that our covering isn’t enough- it isn’t like you will ever stop looking at us regardless of what we wear- lower your gaze brother, there is no need to call the Haram Police.
And while the judgments made between women can be harsh, it is in these critical comments where we decide where we want to draw our own personal modesty line- which helps us decided what amount of coverage makes us feel comfortable ourselves and in the company we keep. And while we can all acknowledge that the degree of modesty we expect from others around us can be dependent on conditions such as age, location, place in time, it is a shame then, that what can be ridiculed is when a person’s reason for dressing modestly include an individual’s own personal convictions (spiritual or otherwise).
For many Muslim, Christian, and Jewish women (and other faiths included)- we believe that there is a precedent in how we decide to cloth ourselves. Especially acknowledging that male biology has unlikely changed very much over hundreds of years, I can see the wisdom of generations of women before me. But it seems that living in this day and age has caused us to lose touch with where we really would like to draw our own modesty line. Hopeful for the approval of an especially tempting potential partner, bombarded with images from Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, and the judgment of other women, we keep feeling the need to hush our inner voice, thereby compromising our inner values. And it is hard to be at peace when so very many of us are both physically and spiritually uncomfortable.
Why let mainstream media or others influence us and erode the confidence in our decisions?
As one Arab-American female put it “I get a kick out of Americans’ attitude that we’re all special snowflakes who dress exactly the way we want to because we embody the American ideal of freedom of expression, as if we don’t just witlessly wear whatever the stores are full of. I mean come on, pants? Sarongs would be much more comfortable.”
But it is not just a Western problem. True, the East and West both believe that they have the ideal standard of freedom and modesty, and they tend to look at each other as either tyrannical or indulgent. In a country where covering one’s face is the norm, showing a little cheek (facial) can be hot. In a place where women walk around with navels in the breeze and booty shorts, topless-ness might get some disapproving stares.
But the truth is that women generally from both ends of the world are compromising when they cover for the wrong reasons.
Eastern Paradox: “Isn’t she ashamed going out without hijab? What sort of behaviour is that?!”
In the West we are proud of our individualism- modesty is a part of that. I just hope that as women, we decide where to draw our own modestly line for the right reasons and encourage others to do the same whether our standards are based on our own comfort or moral convictions -religious, cultural or otherwise. Let us contemplate the where and why of our own line, instead of imposing our judgment on others. It is in this quite space where we get back to our true nature.
In defense of modesty, I think a fellow blogger from Meg in Progress put it best in an almost Universal tone:
Where do you draw your line? Let us know in the comments below.
Corbin and Lawrence have been bouncing ideas (sometimes in arguments and sometimes in laughs) off each other since high school and into university.
Both converts to Islam, both southerns, both women; but sometimes their opinions and styles are from opposite ends of the globe. And sometimes they complete each other’s sentences.
Now, after getting their degrees, getting married (not to each other! lol), and entering their 30s, they often reflect on their last decade as American converts.