Last week I came upon a news article which caused my jaw to drop and overwhelmed me with the desire to purge the accompanying image from my mind. The article concerned an 18 year old high school senior named Sydney who presented a very inappropriate photo to the Durango Colorado High school editorial staff for her yearbook photo. I’m sure Sydney would be thrilled to have me post the photo here…
Now, I would like to clarify what I mean by ‘inappropriate’. This young woman wore a mini-skirt while her top was comprised of a narrow black scarf strategically placed and knotted in front with the ends clutched in her hands. Add to this her very provocative pose with her ‘bootie’ (quite an appropriate term in this instance) sticking out and you have a photo that would be more suited as an ad for a strip joint rather than a High School yearbook. I asked both my 15 and 17 year old daughters their opinion of this photo and their response was unanimous. ‘Disgusting.’
I enthusiastically applaud the wisdom of the Durango High School yearbook editorial staff for recognizing the overt inappropriateness of this photo and refusing to run it as the girl’s yearbook photo. This is all the more impressive due to the fact that the staff is entirely comprised of Syndey’s fellow students. KUDOS!
I have difficulty deciding which person to direct my disgust at in regards to this incident. Sydney is after all, is considered a ‘legal’ adult and should certainly be held responsible for her deplorable decision to have this photo taken and then to request that it be her yearbook photo. However, the article clearly states that Sydney’s mother not only approves of this photo but is claiming that the refusal to print it violates her daughter’s constitutional right to ‘freedom of expression’ to which I respond, ‘Oh PUHLEEZE!’ The freedom of expression is encompassed in the First amendment by the freedoms of speech, press, assembly and to petition. The fact that the Supreme Court took this to mean all sorts of immoral photos, articles and movies are protected by the First Amendment really does defy logic and common sense. I can only imagine what the Founding Fathers would think if they were to know how this Amendment has been warped and twisted into meaning something that was never intended.
At some point in my early teens I was given a Holy card that I have still to this day, mostly due to the fact that is covered by some kind of indestructible plastic envelope but also because of how differently I view what is written on this card now than when I was 14. The front of the card is a picture of St. John Chrysostom. On the back this is printed with the title, ‘Women’s Dress’.
“You carry your snare everywhere and spread your nets in all places. You allege that you never invited others to sin. You did not, indeed, by your words, but you have done so by your dress and your deportment, and much more effectively than you could by your voice. When you have made another sin in his heart, how can you be innocent? Tell me, whom does this world condemn? Whom do judges in court punish? Those who drink poison or those who prepare it and administer the fatal potion? You have prepared the abominable cup, you have given the death-dealing drink, and you are more criminal than are those who poison the body; you murder not the body, but the soul. And it is not to enemies that you do this, nor are you urged on by any imaginary necessity, nor provoked by injury, but out of foolish vanity and pride.”
–St. John Chrysostom (d. 407A.D.)
When I was a 14 year old Catholic schoolgirl I found this piece to be insulting to females. How dare St. John condemn females for the sins of males? Can’t they just avert their eyes and look elsewhere? Can’t they divert their thoughts to those other than of impurity? Why should I have to wear more clothing because males can’t control themselves?
I truly was naïve both about how dramatically men are influenced by visual stimulation and my responsibility for dressing modestly when in their presence. I don’t believe I wrapped my mind around this concept until I was about 28 years old. Prior to that I would on occasion, wear short skirts simply because I knew they looked good on my trim figure. My mantra was, ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it!’ Oh, I was such a fool. I do not recall if it was something I read or something someone said to me, but I came to the realization that I did have a responsibility to cover myself modestly and I was also culpable if a man was led to impure thoughts as a result of my refusal to do so. A survey that was done of young Christian men found that 95% of these young men found modesty to be an important quality they sought in a future wife.
Now I have two teenaged daughters with whom I have an ongoing struggle over my demand for them to dress in a way that does not diminish their value as females. They, like I as a teenager, do not fully comprehend the effect their dress has on the males. However, they have the counsel (so, they call it nagging) from a mother who is teaching them just this fact and who also refuses to allow them to become the cause of the lascivious mental meanderings of a fellow male student as the result of their immodest attire. They can not claim ignorance and I will persist in reminding them of their responsibility to dress appropriately.
This is a difficult battle to wage in a society where teenage girls and women were less and less clothing, television and movies routinely portray scantily clad women and the stores promote this by making modest clothing difficult if not impossible to find. This pervasive acceptance of immodesty in dress is evident everywhere we look. In a public high school back where I lived in Topeka I witnessed girls with plunging necklines, bare midriffs and skirts/bottoms barely (and sometimes not) covering their bottoms…in school. I uttered many a prayer that these young ladies not feel compelled to bend over to pick up a dropped item. In the Catholic High School, despite a dress code that required shorts and skirts to be a certain length, the girls would surreptitiously roll over the waist of their skort/shorts to shorten their length by several inches. I have attended First communion mass in which several of the young first communicants, usually about the age of 6 were wearing off the shoulder dresses…picked out by their mothers, no doubt. I have gone to Sunday masses in which I was surrounded by young and older women flaunting figure hugging tops and bottoms, short skirts and plunging necklines. I have often wondered at the temptations assaulting the poor parish priest as these women approach him for communion. This is attire completely and utterly inappropriate for attendance at church. ALWAYS.
I must wonder at how girls and women can value themselves as females even as they attempt to ‘visually sell’ their bodies to anyone who cares to glance their way. I pity those who do not find value in preserving their innocence and the purity of those who look at them. I pity the mothers of girls and teens who both allow and encourage their daughters to flaunt their bodies inappropriately. They will have to stand before the throne of God one day and explain why they so brazenly sacrificed their daughter’s innocence in the name of ‘fashion’. I pray that I continue to be vigilant as a mother and as a woman and treasure modesty as the virtue it is. Modesty is not just a virtue to be practiced by Catholic women but women of all creeds for we all benefit from when it is practiced.
16 Replies to “THE virtue for women.”
AWESOME article! I saw the story on Sidney Spies and cannot help but feel sorry for this girl in that it is obvious she feels the measure of her worth is her looks.
As the mother of three daughters, this issue is very important to me. By encouraging modest dress, my daughters will be able to greet the world with all of their gifts and talents which would otherwise be hidden by the distractions of immodesty. I am also certain that when they dress with modesty, they will find themselves in the company of decent human beings who will respect them and treat them well. Conversely, if they choose to be immodest they will find that they will attract people who will find a way to use them and discard them when another immodest distraction comes along. Thanks for discussing this, Patty.
Great article. Luckily my teenager has no particular desire to dress immodestly even if she doesn’t share all my other values….it is at least one less battle to fight.
Love this article. But something I would like to bring to further light, as a daughter myself (after college life) with a younger sister in her formative high-school years. First, my apologies if any of this comes across as crass and blunt – it’s not my intention.
I can speak from experience that dressing modestly is not going to keep disrespectful guys away, or at a minimum. They only wonder “what’s underneath all that?” instead. Women are NOT responsible for the choices men make in where their thoughts go. Women ARE, however, responsible for regarding well *their own* personal value (DRESS MODESTLY FOR THE SAKE OF YOU RESPECTING AND HONORING YOURSELF, you can’t control whether or not another person respects you), and are responsible for not “going along with the flow” of suggestive dialogue. Quite honestly, this is looking like the Victorian Age failures of social expectation all over again. Men fail… no, excuse me, immature BOYS choose to fail (real men love Jesus and all that jazz) both on their own desire and on part of peer pressure, and so the blame is placed on women for the failures of the opposite sex?
Adam was with Eve when she took the fruit and ate. The two of them were always at each others’ bosom. She is not responsible for his choice to eat of the forbidden fruit. She is responsible for her choice to disobey and eat. He is responsible for HIS choice to disobey and eat. The serpent is responsible for directing them toward disobedience to God’s command.
Christ had spoken to “looking at a woman” with sin in the man’s thoughts is the fault of the man for *his* committing adultery in his heart. “To think is to do.” Thinking is a verb, an action, which portrays a deliberate choice to focus on one or multiple certain things – either sin or grace, or common tasks of work.
I can speak for one priest, who discussed this matter.
There was an elderly woman (good woman, and a friend of my family and of the parish) who asked our parish priest to make a statement to teenagers in the summertime about their “short skirts” and “figure-hugging tops”. She made a mistake in her words about African cultures (and I’m certain that it was not intended at all to sound the way it did). He refused. Here’s why.
“My responsibility to the people who come here is to serve them. It is not to become a fashion-nazi. I do not want to be known as the priest who kicked people out of the Church for not dressing appropriately in accordance to the standards of another. Neither of us knows what the circumstances in their lives are, and teenagers are at a very, very, very sensitive time in their personal development as individuals and members of a series of groups of other people; does anyone think telling them, sensitive as they are, “your dress is inappropriate,” is going to bring them closer to Christ? Most-likely response is that they’re going to leave, and possibly engage in worse disaster. It is not my right, nor my place here as your parish priest, to pass judgment on them or their circumstances. Unless someone were to come into the parish with no clothes on whatsoever, the issue is not that important to me. This is something to be addressed in the home, by family! I know I’m your priest, and I love being here as your priest, but I can’t do everything myself here.”
I have absolute admiration and respect for you and your desire to be a good mother; please write more! 🙂
This is a wonderful article! Thank you for addressing this! I would highly suggest those who enjoyed this article read Pat Archbold’s article at the National Catholic Register called “The Death of Pretty.” In it he addresses women’s lost of love being “pretty” and their current desire to be considered “hot” and how this changes their worth. This article made me think of Pat’s, and I thought those interested might enjoy it. Once againt, thank you for this article and keep up the great work!
I’m a new “Brudda” to Catholic Sistas and I’ve forwarded every article that I’ve read in the last week as I will this piece to my wife and daughter and FB. Thank you!
Here’s a piece you may like to share with other sistas with teen daughters that I published on CatholicMom.com
Your article reminded me of a very funny, and poorly recorded Nike ad of a priest running to sublimate.
Your article reminded me of a very funny, and poorly recorded Nike ad of a priest running to sublimate.
We think far too little about what we are saying with our bodies!
You are so on target with this post. I saw a link to this story on-line, but from what they showed of the picture I could predict the outcome. Another instance of wrong messages being promoted to young people with continued sad and tragic results. I am determined to fight the modesty battle with our daughter and to continue to insist that she dresses to respect herself and others.
My mother said that a LADY was a woman who made a man WANT to behave as a GENTLEMAN. Ergo, a woman who dresses provacatively may get a man’s attention, but it will be the wrong kind.
A GOOD man will treat a modestly dressed woman with the respect she deserves and will pass on the ones dressed like skanks. In fact, this is pretty much a good litmus test for any girl eyeing a young man as a possible future spouse. How he reacts to modestly and immodestly dressed women.
I agree about the modesty and so on . . . Here’s my problem, sexuality is part of who we are as women. Of course, you are going to say, the proper place to express that sexuality is in the bedroom with your husband . . . But wanting to be attractive to men and wanting their attention seems to me to be part of how God wired us. So when we or our daughters feel the desire to express our sexuality–we wouldn’t want to say that is a bad thing. It’s a good thing and perhaps is nature’s way of telling you it is time to marry. As Paul said, “Better to marry than to burn.” But that, of course, means that we have to support our children if they decide to marry young. I’m actually in support of that. I think we unrealistically ask out children to wait to marry AND to practice abstinence in the interim. Not gonna happen. I think marrying young gets a bad rap.
Side note: I’ve been around quite a few Mennonite women. Yep, their dress is modest, but you should see their shoes! That drive to express your sexuality is pretty strong and I would say, God-given.
I totally agree with you and so often see young women (and some not so young) coming to Mass and I wonder how the dear priest keeps his eyes in his head. I think we all will be held responsable for what we have tempted or helped others to do in the way of sin!
Kristine, I really can not disagree with you more. I do not think that we are ‘hardwired’ to want to show off our breasts and other areas of our bodies that are meant to be covered. That my friend, is the devil whispering in one’s ear and tempting one to sin. Just because someone, or many someones want to do something sinful doesn’t make it acceptable or morally correct. No doubt, we are sexual beings but that is not something that is meant to be expressed loudly to ANY male, just our spouses. Wanting to be attractive to the opposite sex is NOT the same as wanting to be sexually desired by the opposite sex. As for marrying young, I have seen pushed in SSPX where they wanted to get the kids married off before they got themselves into trouble. It backfired big time and they started making them wait longer instead of doing the fast engagement/fast marriage thing.
Very well said and what a very important and perfect article to read. I have seen that news about Sydney at Yahoo news and I have the same reaction about her mother. Hmm. I truly believe that whatever our children do, it is actually a reflection of what the parents teach them. One more point is that men will certainly respect a woman who knows exactly how to respect herself too. Thanks!
Wonderful post! My son celebrated his First Communion this past Sunday and the little girls were dressed modestly but there was a woman in attendance who had on a “little black dress” with one shoulder out. I was amazed that she deemed that appropriate for Mass attendance. It is hard for me not to judge women’s attire because I feel as you mentioned- sorry for the priest and husbands in attendance. Keep raising awareness and we should all pray that these girls (and their moms!) open their eyes to the truth. God Bless!
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