"There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan."

- C. S. Lewis
I Don't Have A Daughter But...

if I did, she'd be wearing something like one of these "fashionably modest" swimsuits that you see at the end of the video from Rey Swimwear. I'd also make her watch this video.

This is Jessica Rey talking about the history of the bikini and modesty. (By the way, if she looks familiar, it's because she was a Power Ranger.)

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Comments on "I Don't Have A Daughter But...":
1. NHE - 11/20/2013 9:35 am CST

I like her statement "covering up doesn't hide our beauty, it reveals our dignity".

I have two adult daughters. One wears bikinis, one doesn't (for the reasons mentioned here). As a parent, I've never seen it as a die on the hill issue, but I think this is great insight to convey to our daughters when they're young.

2. Flyaway - 11/20/2013 11:27 am CST

I think she is on to something. I passed the video on to others.

3. Karl - 11/20/2013 12:29 pm CST

As the dad of 3 girls ages 13, 10 and 8, I have been giving the topic of modesty quite a bit of thought and reading attention lately. I liked this piece, that was prompted by that video:

http://www.qideas.org/blog/modesty-i-dont-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means.aspx

"Interestingly, the same study cited by Rey has been cited by a popular Muslim site as support for encouraging women to wear the hijab, which reveals something of how different cultures and faiths view modesty. I spent some time in India, where women in traditional saris exposed their midriffs and navels without a second thought, but would carefully avoid showing their knees."
...
"What I’ve only just begun to realize is that these two extremes represent different sides of the same coin. While popular culture tends to disempower women by telling them they must dress to get men to look at them, the modesty culture tends to disempower women by telling them they must dress to keep men from looking at them. In both cases, the impetus is placed on the woman to accommodate her clothing or her body to the (varied and culturally relative) expectations of men."

The whole piece is well worth a read.

4. NHE - 11/20/2013 1:08 pm CST

So Karl, would you somewhat conclude then that "who you're dressing for" should be taken into as much consideration as "what you're putting on?".......that makes sense, and keeps this all from being reduced to the extreme of calling out teenage girls as dressing like prostitutes simply because they're wearing a bikini.

5. Karl - 11/20/2013 1:33 pm CST

Yes NHE, absolutely. As increasing numbers of evangelical and post-evangelical women speak out about the damaging effects conservative religious "modesty culture" had on their self-image, I have had to reassess my own views on the matter as I decide how I want to address these issues with my own girls.

Another female author says something similar to what you say above:

"You can be humble, modest and still wear a bikini. I like to think I walk that line.

"But I also think you can be proud, immodest and wear culottes and 3/4 length sleeves. What matters the most? The content of your heart, the virtue of your soul and the reason you chose to put that piece of clothing upon your body."

http://soulation.org/jonalynblog/2012/08/modesty-is-a-chameleon.html

The picture of the dudes on the motorbike in that linked article is telling. If the woman they are ogling was wearing a bikini instead of a burka, lots of my evangelical friends would cite the picture as evidence of the need for women to dress more modestly.

6. NHE - 11/20/2013 2:22 pm CST

Fascinating stuff here Karl, thanks.

I've also come to also think differently about people who are "tatted up". There are actually some very cool redemptive back-stories as to why people have a full sleeve, or a full back tattoo.

I would never get one personally, but I kind of at least "get it now".

The reasons behind how we choose to appear to others are nuanced and layered and not one-size-fits-all.


7. Bird - 11/21/2013 2:39 pm CST

Good share, Phil. Modesty is definitely counter cultural. Even in our churches these days.

8. Bird - 11/21/2013 2:52 pm CST

You can be humble, modest and still wear a bikini. I like to think I walk that line.

That makes no sense, at least as far as being modest.

9. Karl - 11/21/2013 5:20 pm CST

So bikinis are inherently immodest, regardless of setting, cultural norms, or the intent, attitude and demeanor of the wearer?

That kind of reminds me of the American missionaries from New England who arrived in the polynesian islands all dressed in their heavy homespun and saw it as among their first orders of business to teach the natives that they needed to cover up.

10. Karl - 11/21/2013 7:17 pm CST

I like Lewis on the subject of modesty, as on so many other things:

"The Christian rule of chastity must not be confused with the social rule of 'modesty' (in one sense of that word); i.e. propriety, or decency. The social rule of propriety lays down how much of the human body should be displayed and what subjects can be referred to, and in what words, according to the customs of a given social circle. Thus, while the rule of chastity is the same for all Christians at all times, the rule of propriety changes. A girl in the Pacific islands wearing hardly any clothes and a Victorian lady completely covered in clothes might both be equally 'modest', proper, or decent, according to the standards of their own societies: and both, for all we could tell by their dress, might be equally chaste (or equally unchaste). Some of the language which chaste women used in Shakespeare's time would have been used in the nineteenth century only by a woman completely abandoned.

"I do not think that a very strict or fussy standard of propriety is any proof of chastity or any help to it..."

11. Bird - 11/21/2013 9:55 pm CST

So bikinis are inherently immodest, regardless of setting, cultural norms, or the intent, attitude and demeanor of the wearer?

No. I'd say for example a wife who wears one in her and her husband's private pool is not being immodest at all. Other examples, I'm sure, abound.

12. Neo - 11/22/2013 8:10 am CST

Why don't you have a daughter? Did you hit the mandatory 2-child policy in America and mainstream evangelical Christianity?

13. NHE - 11/22/2013 8:12 am CST

I like the Lewis quote as a guiding principle for this.

The video is also very good in that it helps our daughters think about why they're putting on what they're putting on, and what it projects, intentionally or not.

Most girls are a tad naive to what even a nice, fairly conservative bikini (worn well) can do to a guy.

Girls should have the information...and we should parent according to it, but I also don't think we should get our panties in a wad (pun intended) about it.


14. Bill - 11/22/2013 8:24 am CST

Neo, I know you're joking (at least I think you are).

FYI, Phil has four kids, all boys. Is that sufficiently un-mainstream?

15. NHE - 11/22/2013 8:51 am CST

2.5 kids is actually mainstream, but that would be icky.

16. Bird - 11/22/2013 1:39 pm CST

Most girls are a tad naive to what even a nice, fairly conservative bikini (worn well) can do to a guy.

100% true.

17. Karl - 11/22/2013 4:27 pm CST

I agree NHE, with encouraging our girls to think about why they wear what they wear and educating them not only to think about what messages they intend to send but also what messages they may unintentionally be sending. I agree many girls are naive about what often goes on in the mind of a guy who looks at a pretty girl.

But I don't see much difference between a fairly conservative bikini and most 1-piece bathing suits. I mean unless you are going uber-conservative, most 1-piece suits don't leave much to the imagination either - if the observer is inclined to look and think in that way.

And which culture and time period is the standard? Bird do you advocate going back to the days of mobile dressing houses on wheels and bathing costumes that weigh 15 pounds when wet? The people of the late 19th and early 20th century would be scandalized by the immodesty of the "modest" suits the young woman in this video designs. So would 21st century Saudis or Afghani's or people of many other middle eastern countries. Should this designer reel things back to the early 1900's standards, or only just to 1950's America right before the sexual revolution and the scandalous bikini as she has? Why go back to 1950's inspired styles and not further?

People who deal with the problem of lust, infidelity and sexual immorality by focusing on women's bodies rather than on men's hearts and minds are barking up the wrong tree, IMO. That's not to say that our culture has the answer, either. I agree with the author of the first article I linked above though, that culture's flaunt-it message and the modesty culture's cover-up message to girls and women, are often two different sides of the same unhelpful coin.

18. NHE - 11/22/2013 5:52 pm CST

great points Karl.......you're right abut the one pieces....very solid reasoning on the 2 sided coin.

We SO often focus on the outside of the cup instead of what's in it.

19. Bird - 11/23/2013 10:35 am CST

People who deal with the problem of lust, infidelity and sexual immorality by focusing on women's bodies rather than on men's hearts and minds are barking up the wrong tree, IMO.

I'm not sure I've ever truly met someone who honestly was trying to deal with lust by "focusing on women's bodies," or, as, I think you're saying, making the women behave by dressing modestly. So if such people exist, I think you're absolutely correct there, Karl.

I think for Christians the line should be drawn at what is considered, in a particular culture, to be prurient.

I'll also add that IMO, the church needs a fresh dose of both modesty and grace.

20. NHE - 11/23/2013 2:01 pm CST

The Power Ranger girl is an activist about something that she's passionate about.

Most of us have something like that - something we'll risk sounding dogmatic about for the sake of getting across what we believe.

I think her points are very valid and I think she genuinely wants to help young women.

I'd want my daughters to listen to her...that's my litmus test...even if they walk away with a little bit of legalistic message (which everyone knows I hate!) :)

21. Karl - 11/23/2013 5:34 pm CST

"I think for Christians the line should be drawn at what is considered, in a particular culture, to be prurient."

By that standard there is nothing wrong with or immodest about a Christian woman wearing a normal bikini on a beach in 21st Century USA.

22. Bird - 11/23/2013 6:33 pm CST

By that standard there is nothing wrong with or immodest about a Christian woman wearing a normal bikini on a beach in 21st Century USA.

I disagree. Our culture knows that bikinis are prurient (and I'd imagine most Xian women who wear them don't realize that) -- and that's why our culture demands the women wear them.

23. Karl - 11/23/2013 8:45 pm CST

Why just Xian women? Given that the majority of young and even middle aged women at any given beach or pool are comfortably wearing bikini bathing suits, don't you mean that "most women" who wear them don't see bikinis as prurient?

This is the same logic that led to rules like the one in my Christian school growing up, where girls couldn't wear pants (or else you'd see the shape of their legs, their bottom and their crotch and of course you would lust b/c those parts excite lust automatically) but instead had to wear dresses or skirts and those had to be no more than an inch above the center of the kneecap. Teachers with rulers would check to make sure and offenders were sent home or given bulky sweats to put on under the offending skirt. Same logic - the female body is the problem if it's not covered up.

What (some) men see as prurient is a woman's body, period. A man who has trouble lusting after a woman in a bikini will also have trouble lustinng after a woman in a one piece. Or in anything else, most likely. Witness the look on the guys' faces as they check out the woman wearing the hijab or burka in that photo in the article linked above. "Flaunt it" and "hide as much of it as I can convince you to hide so I won't lust" are two sides of the same bad penny.

I think we agree on cultural context and expectations being key re. whether something is per se prurient in a given society. But that's where you lose me. The average bikini is to the swimsuits of the 50's, as the swimsuits of the 50's were to the "bathing costumes" that people wore in 1890. A new norm, that would have been inappropriately out of place in an older context but which in its current culture is not necessarily anything shocking or shameful, depending on how it's worn and with what intent.

24. Bird - 11/23/2013 9:05 pm CST

Same logic - the female body is the problem if it's not covered up.

I think the problem is you think that's my logic, but it's not. Regardless, would you tell that to Paul since he commanded women to dress modestly?

25. NHE - 11/24/2013 1:37 pm CST

Bird, my wife wears a modest bikini (by today's standards) when we go to the beach.

It would have been pushing the envelope in the 50s, but it's modest now. To Karl's point, if my wife had "decided" to wear that in the 50's, her goal would have been to titillate and she would have shown no concern for modesty. That's just not the case now....she just wants to get sun.

26. Karl - 11/24/2013 6:36 pm CST

To the extent he was talking about sex at all, I think Paul was telling women not to act/dress in a way that in their culture, was considered prurient. A typical, bikini on a beach or at a pool (context is everything) in the USA is not considered prurient except by people who would look just as pruriently at the same girl/woman if she was in a typical one piece.

Also, I don't think that Paul's command to dress modestly in its context *primarily* had much - if anything - to do with prurience. As pointed out in the first article I linked:

"In 1 Timothy 2:9-10, the apostle Paul writes “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” The Greek word translated “modesty” here is kosmios. Derived from kosmos (the universe), it signifies orderliness, self-control and appropriateness. It appears only twice in the New Testament, and interestingly, its second usage refers specifically to men (1 Timothy 3:2). In fact, nearly all of the Bible’s instructions regarding modest clothing refer not to sexuality, but rather materialism (Isaiah 3:16-23, 1 Timothy 2:9-12, 1 Peter 3:3). Writers in both the Old Testament and New Testament express grave concern when the people of God flaunt their wealth by buying expensive clothes and jewelry while many of their neighbors suffered in poverty. (Ironically, I’ve heard dozens of sermons about keeping my legs and my cleavage out of sight, but not one about ensuring my jewelry was not acquired through unjust or exploitive trade practices—which would be much more in keeping with biblical teachings on modesty.)"

27. NHE - 11/24/2013 6:51 pm CST

Good stuff Karl....that'll preach!

28. Bird - 11/24/2013 7:41 pm CST

To the extent he was talking about sex at all, I think Paul was telling women not to act/dress in a way that in their culture, was considered prurient.

Karl, that's exactly what I'm saying that Paul was saying (particularly the last part of the sentence above). So we are in complete agreement here. What we apparently disagree on is what our culture defines as prurient. I do appreciate your insights.

29. Tony - 11/26/2013 10:37 am CST

Seeing how 70% of males in the States are addicted to porn it would behoove a female to be modest less she be placed in the sex-object classification of most of the male population.

Karl, doesn't a female wearing a bikini tell something about her: either she is naive, or she desires the attention of males, or she is following what everyone else does or she wants to show off her body. Either way you slice it, these are not 'good' character qualities generally speaking. A female, generally speaking, carefully considers what she is going to wear and because of this, I have a license sort of speak to judge. A woman who wears a one piece has a sense of propriety about her and just by adding this bit of mystery within our cultural context is more attractive in a female than a model in a bikini or at least it should be - IMO. I understand what you are saying about there being little left to the imagination with a one piece as well but I am taking the approach that females (more so than males) are careful in not only the color of clothing they wear but also the type of clothing which includes bathing suits - especially bathing suits.

30. Karl - 11/26/2013 11:08 am CST

Tony, I think a woman could choose to wear a two piece bathing suit for any number of reasons including some of the ones you name. She also might choose to wear it because she's comfortable in it and it is the generally accepted beach or pool wear in the culture in which she lives. I don't have a problem acknowledging that some people might choose to wear a bikini or any other item of clothing, for wrong reasons. But I do take issue with an across the board prescriptive statement saying that bikinis worn in public in 21st century America are per se immodest and that women wearing them are either knowingly or unknowingly being immodest.

Shucks, in France or some other countries a woman in a bikini would be among the most modest on the beach because the vast majority would be topless and nobody would think twice about it. That's not the case here in the USA, but it IS the case in the USA that a bikini is not something considered immodest or improper dress when worn at the beach or a pool, at least not by most people.

What you typed above Tony would have been true in the 1950's but it's not so much today as a blanket statement, as NHE points out above. Similarly, what you typed above could be said about a woman in the 1890's who wore a conservative 1950's one-piece. By 1890's standards that 1950's bathing suit would be horribly immodest and scandalous.

31. NHE - 11/26/2013 2:06 pm CST

I know we tend to be the opposing view here Karl but you make such an important point.

Calling for our women to "dress more modestly" is fine I suppose, but calling for it without regard to current culture and context is troublesome.

I'm certainly not saying that anyone here is doing that.....it may be more a matter (in this forum) of how we view culture.

32. Tony - 11/27/2013 9:33 am CST

Well Karl, I'm sure that a couple of males trying to dissect this issue is getting 'snickers' from females who are reading. I stuck my foot in it and now it's over my head :)

I can understand where you are coming from. I think NHE's last sentence zero's in on our disagreement (...it may be more a matter of how we view culture). Bingo. So, I would say that culture today is not 'right' in this area while you would say it is what it is and let's not get all bent out of shape about it.

I did make an attempt to broaden my horizons and read this blog post from a female who shares her struggle in wearing a bikini.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2011/07/i-wear-a-bikini-gasp.html

It does come from a feminist viewpoint and it is an aspect I didn't think of. For the blogger, I guess wearing a bikini was good for her to overcome herself. Overall though her reasoning cater's to this 'emotional hurdle' woman have with wearing a bikini. Just don't wear one. Who cares if you don't wear one. But now that the culture says it's OK, woman justify wearing one when perhaps they really don't want to or have to.

I did find this yahoo question interesting:

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110509152156AAjjRnk

What do feminists believe women should wear to the beach?

1. A one-piece swimsuit: covering up instead of wearing a bikini because men shouldn't be admiring women for their bodies.
2. Board shorts and going topless: if women are men's equals then they can dress like them too.
3. A bikini: what girls are expected to wear.


I find it ironic that the more feminist one is, the more difficult this topic becomes. Feminist realize that the more free they are to wear bikini's the more opportunity there is for them to become sex objects for males. But the 'best' answers side step the issue: just wear what you want - you are free to do what you will. 'It's all about you'.

33. Karl - 12/10/2013 9:26 am CST

I searched (Jessica Rey response) and read a few blog posts written in response to this video; many made similar points to those I tried to make above. But the most interesting thing I learned was that the study Ms. Rey cites in support of the proposition that bikinis cause males to objectify women, doesn't actually support that proposition at all.

The subjects of the study were only shown images of women fully clothed and women in bikinis. No one piece bathing suits or other varieties of dress were shown. The pictures of women in bikinis were shown without their heads - already kind of an objectifying way to show someone. And the only sub-group whose brain scans lighted up in the area that indicated they were objectifying women without heads pictured in bikinis, was the sub-group of young men who had already been determined to display "hostile sexist" opinions toward women - those who believed women were not as competent, as capable, or as good as men and who tended to look down on them. The ones who already tended to objectify women. The other sub-groups in the study didn't have such brain reactions to the bikini pics.

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