Friday, June 21, 2013

What I Plan to Teach My Children About Bikinis

This started out as a post on Facebook and then became quite long so...

Many of you have probably seen the bikini evolution video that's gone viral this week. Actually, this post is not directly about the bikini video. Truthfully, I didn't love or hate that video. I agreed with some of it and disagreed with other parts of it. What mostly inspired this blog post were several of the comments and discussions I noticed when my friends posted the video on Facebook.


I have a problem with the way people often talk about modesty and sexuality.

So when I read this article, I did love it: Men, Sex and Modesty

It's a bit long, but definitely worth the read. It makes several good points that I think are worth sharing. As far as clothing choices go, I plan to teach my daughters to dress themselves in a way that shows that they respect their bodies and love the God who created them. I believe this is between a woman and herself and her God. I do not believe in only teaching girls to be modest "because men will...." or "because men think..." or "save your male friends' poor testosterone-ridden minds from evil." That does not sit well with me.

I am not saying it's my opinion that we should all run around naked and everyone else should just have to deal with it because hey, free choice! But I am saying that some of the REASONS we frequently give for modesty are misguided. This article makes several excellent points about a HEALTHIER approach to modesty and sexuality. This made me do fist pumps in the air: "We infantilize and unnecessarily and falsely victimize men (and women) when we insist that men at best bear only partial responsibility for their feelings and any actions derived from those feelings."

There is, in fact, a way to safely live in a world full of bikinis without telling the bikinis to go away.

I think the story this author shares about his mission companion's healthy, realistic view of women is exceptional and mirrors more of what we SHOULD be teaching: "He still thought women were desirable, no different from any other heterosexual man, it was just that he didn’t experience anxiety and powerlessness according to what a woman chose to wear....He didn’t think girls could directly and irrevocably cause inappropriate thoughts, but that such thoughts were just part of becoming an adult human being, and needed to be acknowledged and managed accordingly."

BINGO. B-I-N-G-O. A-M-E-N.

I love and appreciate that the man in the story grew up in an environment where he was often exposed to women in little clothing (Hawaii), and so he adapted and learned to manage his thoughts and still view women in a healthy way. I do not plan to teach my sons to fear or shun a woman in a bikini -- I plan to teach them how to appropriately manage their natural feelings and thoughts when they inevitably encounter that situation. I don't believe in shielding children from reality -- I believe in teaching them to cope with it.

There will always be women in bikinis, billboards for strip clubs, and girls in miniskirts in the hallways at school. I don't want to raise my children to be so afraid of that "evil" that they are incapable of living in the real world and viewing the women around them, in any degree of clothing, as human beings. I want to teach them a better way -- a healthier view of sexuality and the ability to handle the ups and downs of puberty and sexuality without feeling guilty, ashamed or judgmental. I loved many of the comments I saw from people who grew up in European countries, where nudity is more culturally acceptable. They learned to deal with it in an appropriate manner because they simply had to -- it was the environment they were in, so they had to manage it. Simple as that.

And lastly, to address something else important I saw appearing in some of the comment threads...

May we all bite down (hard) on our tongues before we ever, ever, EVER imply or state that a woman "invites" or "asks for" sexual mistreatment because of the way she dresses or acts. The blame for harassment or rape lies 100% with the perpetrator and no. one. else. Viewing it any other way is incredibly damaging toward anyone who is ever the victim of a sexual crime because it induces feelings of shared blame, fear and shame. Nothing you EVER do or say "invites" or "asks for" someone else to have a sexual encounter with you against your will, and making statements like that perpetuates a rape culture that, yes, is something to be ashamed of.

And those are my thoughts on modesty. Yours?

To read more about this topic, check out my follow-up post: In Defense of Bikini-Wearing Mormons

26 comments:

Mikaela D said...

You nailed it again, Miss Katie! Love this!

Jenna Foote said...

This is the best article I've seen on the bikini talk (which I admit, I haven't watched -- just don't really care). Thank you for not going all Mormon preachy or anti-Church ranty. I mean it.

My thoughts on modesty?
http://momtheintern.blogspot.com/2012/02/modesty-and-accountability.html

Megan said...

I appreciated your points and agreed with a lot of them. I absolutely believe that we should teach children how to handle themselves and not be afraid of what they are eventually going to see. We are still masters of our own bodies. Great article!

Brooke said...

I just love everything about this. :)

P.S. I find it humorous how the codes I had to type in to make this comment approved were "suit" and "attracts." :)

Jacqueline said...

so good katie! i mean, really really good! thanks for putting into words the thoughts and concerns i've struggled with for years. Xx

mcarrasco said...

amen girl

Anonymous said...

I plan to teach my boys to respect girls and I plan to teach my girls to respect boys. I plan to teach my boys that girls aren't sexual objects and I also plan to teach my girls they aren't sexual objects. It goes both ways. My girls will be taught modesty-- because modesty shows respect for boys!

Jayme said...

I didn't ever watch that clip going around. I have issues with modesty and the gender inequality associated with it. (like telling teenage me I need to cover up my oh-so-sexy shoulders, but you can be endowed and go around w/o your g's?? But I digress) Great post :)

Elise Michelle said...

Absolutely nailed it.

Kailee said...

THANK YOU. Thank you thank you thank you! It drives me absolutely insane when people say girls need to dress modestly for the men because guys automatically have crazy thoughts so we need to do it to help them. I hate that. It just really bugs me. I think this applies to everything in the world, that we have to change our thoughts to be able to adapt to it. Totally agree with you on this, thanks! :)

karajean said...

I love this! I am in the YW presidency in I CRINGE every time we talk about modesty because the focus of those lessons always seem to be that women need to cover up because the men can't control themselves or their thoughts. We even had a young man who is about to leave on his mission say this very thing in stake conference recently. It was awful and I don't believe that is an ok message to be sending to our youth. This is my favorite part:

"I plan to teach my daughters to dress themselves in a way that shows that they respect their bodies and love the God who created them."

Yep! Me too. Me too.

Stargirl said...

I just watched the video. You're right---some of it is good (mainly the last section) but the whole male-objectifying thing is not so great. Some men may feel that way or look at girls that way. But we can't go around being afraid of them. It's like hiding from anything else--we could, but then we miss out on life.

My husband and I are reading "And they were not ashamed." While the book probably isn't for general reading (it's about intimacy), the beginning addresses the issues mormon girls (it's written to LDS girls) have with their bodies and sexuality. Some YW classes aren't very helpful in making us comfortable with our bodies. And towards the end, it gives some ideas for how to discuss sexuality with youth in a helpful way.

Thank you! This is something I have been thinking about recently!

Jen said...

Yep. Yep, yep, yep. This especially: "I don't believe in shielding children from reality -- I believe in teaching them to cope with it. ...I want to teach them a better way -- a healthier view of sexuality and the ability to handle the ups and downs of puberty and sexuality without feeling guilty, ashamed or judgmental." Boys and girls both need this, I think, and I'm glad I won't be the only parent with that end in mind.

My best friend once suggested we create a puberty day camp with this kind of mentality driving the curriculum. It's sounding more and more appealing these days. You want in?

Lyon's said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on that clip and on modesty. The way you presented and wrote this blog post really amazed me. Thank you for being such a good example.

Ashley Frederickson said...

Well said! I think you made some amazing points. Thank you for being so open and sharing! I now follow your blog. :)
xo,
Ashley

Maggie B. said...

Oh thank you! I saw the video posted last week on another blog and made a comment about how I don't agree with much of the video's points (the same as you mentioned and commenters here have mentioned), which lead to the blogger writing me back and then me writing her back. But (I think) because I disagreed with her statements she no longer talks with me.


But I digress. My beef with they video mainly stemmed from the concept that I will always refuse to dress myself in a certain way, or not in a certain way, because someone, somewhere, MIGHT take exception to it. My husband loves it when I wear my bikini. I love it when I wear my bikini. Frankly, I don't much care what anyone else thinks.

I mean, if a bikini can cause that kind of behavior, whatever are we going to do about short shorts, mini skirts, tube tops, spandex and stiletto heels?

Modestly, as you mentioned, is a choice and a level that each person needs to make.

Alexis Kaye said...

you're such a good person. TO THE CORE! I'm lucky to know you

Elaine said...

Loved this! Thank you!

WELCOME said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brittany LeSueur said...

Totally agree with the whole reasons thing! I fully expect that my two little boys will, unfortunately be exposed to immodest women in their lives. It is my only hope that I, as a mother, would teach them enough that they would want to take responsibility for their own thoughts and fully respect a woman and her body.

I am sad that we don't hear enough that modesty is an attitude of respect for God and our bodies! I personally know for myself that I would not wear a bikini publicly unless I was on a honeymoon or tanning. To me, wearing one in any other circumstance would be unnecessary. God gave me a beautiful body, and I am confidant (or not) in that. I don't really care if anybody else knows it or not. And those are my personal feelings and attitudes.

I have many close friends who wear them almost religiously, and I don't think any different of them. It is not my place to judge where their standards of modestly are. I don't think that their standards are above or below mine, just different.

The whole thing about the modesty talk is that it is an attitude and condition of the heart. It is something we cant judge for others, just for ourselves.

Loved this post!

Sally said...

Agree! At our middle school we have a dress code that we seem to only enforce for girls. And most of the reasoning tends to come from...."well you know what middle school boys are thinking when they see that..." Why can't we teach young men not to treat girls like sex objects? Some of the clothes the girls wear really IS too revealing or not really appropriate for school....but to me it should be more about keeping themselves to a higher standard and respecting themselves....

Bri Rios said...

My husband always gripes about how we treat men like they are dogs, like they don't have a brain of their own. They can control their thoughts and reactions! To put the responsibility of a man's thoughts on how modestly women dress is ridiculous! Once you more out of the bubble known as Utah, not everyone is going to dress modestly to make YOU feel comfortable.

Bri
breezydaysblog.blogspot.com

Chantel said...

INCREDIBLE, Katie. This blew my mind. You have such a sound mind.

Aaron Smith said...

As a guy with strong feelings on the subject I'd like to share my thoughts.

1. If you were taught modesty and chastity, then you must have had the spirit bare witness to you that: wearing bikini's and exposing your bodies in that way, violates to a degree, the law of chastity. It really does go beyond immodesty into the realm of immorality, when what you are wearing what amounts to bra and panties or even less than that! Those areas of your bodies that you are exposing were intended to be saved for your marriage and as such, the Lord has intended for you women to cover up. It;s the truth, you know its immoral, which is why some of you are trying to perform mental gymnastics in justifying it and keeping one foot in the world and one foot in the gospel. You can't serve too masters by trying to both serve the lord and wear bikinis.

2. This trying to shift blame away from women, towards the men on why you make the choice to dishonor your bodies and violate your chastity reflects how some of you women have allowed yourselves to be deceived by the adversary. The sin isn't with the men for observing you Latter-day Saint women in dishonorably exposing your bodies.

3. It doesn't matter how the rest of the women in the world prance around in bikinis, you women in the church know better. And even if a man is used to seeing half-naked women on beaches, it doesn't mean that he has the right frame of mind. He has nothing to do with the sin you are committing by exposing your bodies in that way. You women of the church were intended through true and honest modesty to be a beacon and standard to the world. For this reason, the lord never intended for you women to dishonor your bodies by dressing(or the lack thereof) this way in front of other people. You cannot be a light unto the world of the restored gospel, when you are contradicting it giving into worldliness, vanity, and sexual impurity via immodesty. In other words, you can't be a gospel contrast to worldiness when you yourselves are dressing (or the lack thereof) worldly.

4. You women know its wrong, so why try to justify it?

5. The same principle applies to men too.

Aaron Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron Smith said...

I'll also add that it doesn't matter whether you are single or married, there is never an appropriate time to dishonor one's body by wearing only a bikini.