Catholic Online | by Jennifer Hartline | 2/11/2010
In continuing the discussion about a sexual counter-revolution and defeating the culture of death, let’s also confront the need for a fashion revolution.
Every time I walk through the mall I feel this stab of pain in my gut. It also happens in Target, Wal-Mart, the doctor’s office, the grocery store; it even happens in church. I don’t need medication for this pain. It’s not a disease – it’s grief. I’m mourning the death of modesty.
Last week I read the most perfect definition of modesty on the website for the Archdiocese of Washington. Msgr. Charles Pope wrote that “modesty is reverence for mystery.” I can’t imagine a better way to define it. And sadly, in our culture, the mystery is GONE. And with it has gone all reverence, dignity, and respect.
I’m just so sick of seeing women “on display” everywhere I go. It’s inescapable and it’s gotten trashy. I feel sorry for men today – at least the men who are attempting to be gentlemen. Men are visual creatures by design, and now the poor guys can hardly raise their eyes off their shoes without being confronted by half-naked women they’re then not supposed to look at. It’s more than inconsiderate; it’s irresponsible and disrespectful.
Women “advertise” their physical assets in skin-tight, low-cut clothing that reveals more than it covers and then are offended when they aren’t given respect for their skill and intelligence. They market themselves to the world as a sex object and are shocked when they are treated as such.
And make no mistake, ladies, when you walk around with some of the clothing styles too often displayed in public, you are marketing yourself as a sex object whether you think so or not. There’s a neon sign over your head saying “Look at my body! Don’t you think I’m hot?”
There was a time when a woman’s appeal was multi-faceted; her poise, her intelligence, her manners, her wit and savvy, her skills, and yes, her feminine style. Today it seems the only criteria to be met is being sufficiently “hot.”
It’s bad enough that adult women’s fashion has become entirely about sex, but the real grief is that sex-centered clothing is now commonplace for young girls. It is appalling to see what has become acceptable in girls’ fashion. Not a day goes by that I don’t see little girls dressed in spaghetti straps and bare midriff tops and I think back to my girlhood and know that I never would have been allowed to leave the bathroom like that.
If by some fluke I’d managed to avoid being seen by my mother, I never would have made it past my father. Thank God. Of course, the point is that my parents taught me to be a modest young lady and thus I never had any desire to wear sexualized clothing. I would’ve been mortified.
I ache with sadness to realize that mothers and fathers today do not protect their daughters’ innocence and purity by dressing them modestly. Little girls are learning at a very young age that it’s okay for their bodies to be publicly “consumed” and their self-esteem and self-image is cemented to their sexual appeal.
From a tender age, the seeds of promiscuity are planted. From that seed can grow unmarried sex, STD’s, warped ideas about sex, unintended pregnancies, unhealthy body images, destructive relationships, broken hearts, and worst of all, babies killed by abortion. Go back step by step by step, and it begins with the absence of modesty…. no reverence for mystery.
I recently went a few e-mail rounds with the president of a children’s clothing company after I got their catalog in the mail and was shocked by what I saw. The catalog featured a swimsuit for little girls (I mean toddlers, here) that was simply two small fabric patches shaped like ladybugs held up by strings over the shoulders and back.
This was supposed to be “cute” on a little girl. Just enough fabric to cover her. When I wrote to express my outrage, I was told in reply that the staff – made up mostly of moms and grandmothers – was upset that I would impugn their choice of swimwear for little girls. They would never sell anything that was inappropriate or indecent, I was told. But they thanked me for my concern and assured me that they’d take it into consideration for next year’s line.
Please. We’re living in a culture that is saturated with sex and every possible perversion of sex. Is it really beyond the realm of common sense to realize that our daughters should not be half-naked in public, even if they’re only two years old? That swimsuit was a pedophile’s dream.
Is that really so hard to understand? As far as I’m concerned, to expose a little girl’s body in public in such a manner is neglectful and dangerous. It isn’t adorable, it’s stupid and reckless. It’s inviting trouble in so many ways.
Part of successful abstinence education among our kids is going to be a successful revival of modesty in dress for young ladies. Teach a young girl that her body is sacred and should be cherished and treated with care, show her how to present herself accordingly by the way she dresses, and that girl will be much less likely to throw away her purity.
Teach girls that it is their responsibility to themselves – and to young men they meet – to set the tone for how she expects a man to treat her. Clothe yourself with dignity, girls, and show yourself the respect you deserve. A gentleman will follow your lead. A guy who won’t should be shown the door.
Toward this end, I was absolutely delighted to learn from a Catholic Online colleague about Pure Fashion, a faith-based program designed to teach young girls to live the virtues of modesty and purity. Please read on with me in part two of this article and learn more about this very exciting program that is an answer to this mom’s prayers.
Jennifer Hartline is a Catholic Army wife and stay-at-home mother of three precious kids who writes frequently on topics of Catholic faith and daily living. She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.