Tuesday, September 12, 2006,9:38 PM
letter of the law
So I was at the mall today (indoor play areas good for toddler when its been raining nonstop!!!). In the food court I saw a muslim mother with her daughter. The mother was in the burka, but the young daughter was in a spaghetti strap tank top. It reminded me of a family I had seen to the zoo earlier in the summer. This was a conservative christian family - all the women in long skirts, with the triangle do-rag headcovering, but also all wearing spaghetti strap tank tops. Now I personally I have nothing against spaghetti strap tank tops (I wear them), I was just involved in evangelical youth ministry too long. The residual gut reaction to the most sinful piece of clothing a girl could ever wear is hard to overcome.

My point is - isn't the point of burkas, headcoverings, and long skirts modesty? Aren't they there so as not to tempt men or as we have translated in our bibles "for the sake of the angels"? But when they become just another form of legalism to check off the list while the person participates in other forms of assumed immodesty what's the point. (for that matter what's the point of using a do-rag or doile as a headcovering anyway). If one is convinced of a certain standard of modesty I would hope they would live up to it. If they don't think wearing cultually accepted clothing, why retain other symbols of modest clothing that seemingly stand in contrast to the rest of their wardrobe. So in the rambling post I'm just wondering about the hierarchical importance of symbols, rules, conviction, and generally accepted styles.


posted by Julie at 9:38 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 9/12/2006 10:59:00 PM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

    Hmmm, so why are spagetti straps the most sinful piece of clothing?

    It's interesting that you throw that topic out there, we were just discussing this tonight.

    While I was at the Sandwich Fair on Friday I had a weird thing happen. We (Corwin and Angeleah in a double stroller pushed by me) had stopped to buy bottled water. I was dividing the water into sippy cups and was paying very little attention to anything else but water and children. I was somewhat startled to hear two college age guys do a wolf whistle (it was actually a warble, but how do you explain that???) which I dismissed as "yeah, college guys spot female, not much has changed." At least until one of them fondled my arm as they passed. EWWWWWWW! The water bottle lady had a weird look on her face and asked "did you know them?" And I said "Never saw them in my life - that was realllly bizarre."

    So, telling that story tonight to my friends, their reaction was: "were you bending over, maybe wearing something revealing?" So, it explains their behavior if I was wearing something revealing? I deserved to be fondled???? I was standing upright, pouring water from a bottle into a sippy cup, wearing a tank top.

    Later the conversation revolved around body language messages inherent in the clothing we wear, tattoos on the lower back with low rider jeans or thongs showing, etc.

    Honestly, I am very uncomfortable with the entire topic. It suggests that the clothing we wear, the styles we prefer, allow people to do certain things because of the messages they receive. Messages we cannot entirely control because we are such a varied culture that no matter what we do we send the wrong message to someone. Much less looking at how conservatives view liberal dress codes and how aware or unaware liberals are how those could be viewed.

    This whole topic completely links to the sex without her consent discussion. While the clothing we wear does send messages, it may be a completely different message than we think. How did you know they were conservative Christians with the tank tops and long skirts? Did you ask?

    Personally, I've learned from horrible experience, that if someone is intent on doing wrong, they'll find an excuse to do it. Projecting the "right" image only keeps your friends from telling you that you might have deserved it.

    Hierarchically, I'd lean towards conviction, generally accepted styles, symbols, rules.
    Because: I would dress like a woman should dress within my culture, not how a very literal interpretation of the Bible would strictly say, because I believe the principle the Bible stresses is to dress as a woman (therefore, conviction overrides style). My convictions may convince me that use of symbols is appropriate for times that the strict rules would disagree with. Thus, symbol over rules.

    Besides rules for the rules sake, sucks anyway.

    Getting up at 5AM, good night!

  • At 9/13/2006 08:29:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    So I have no issue with tank tops spaghetti or otherwise. They were just the easy thing that youth camps and the like forbade. There generally was more discussion about the type clothing girls could or couldn't wear at camp than about any sort of faith or theology in the brochures/applications. If one person didn't like what another girl was wearing (read they were jealous she was cute) they could complain about her clothing and embarress her in front of the whole group. I thought the whole thing was stupid. To prevent youth from participating in events because their tank top had a centimeter strap as opposed to the approved 1 inch strap really misses the point. Just one more silly way christians separate unnecessarily from culture. Whatever is trendy at the moment must therefoore be EVIL and we must forbid it.

    strange experience at the Fair. Men can be jerks like that. I find it really strange to even think that a tank top can be an provocitive item these days - its too common. Granted some men will use any excuse to justify why they can't think with anything other than their dicks. Them dictating to women what they should wear (whether to please them or keep them from supposed temptation) is just another way to control women.

  • At 9/16/2006 04:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    I recommend you to read this book:
    What guys see that girls don't... Or do they? by Sharon Daugherty.


    Blessings on you!

  • At 9/17/2006 04:56:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    hey anonymous - who are you? Its hard to take a recommendation seriously if I am unsure who made it. And why do you recommend that book?

  • At 9/18/2006 11:45:00 PM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

    It's a touchy subject with me, so recommending me a book to read with that title and from that publisher just pushed the hot button a little further.

    My outfit that day was SO much more conservative than what most high schoolers think is appropriate it would be funny, even though it isn't. And being on the "obesity" index doesn't exactly make for a supermodel figure. So.

    Who cares what they saw? The point is that there is no excuse for inappropriate person to person behavior and our society and church revel in making excuses for it.

  • At 9/19/2006 10:40:00 PM, Blogger Shoshana

    Char, sorry if we made you feel like you had done something to deserved the unwanted attention. No matter what you wore it does not give anyone the right to accost you like that. I felt a bit uncomfortable with that part of the discussion so I just kept silent, unintentionally condoning with my silence. However, I did, and have judged women who display a "tramp stamp" in public (lower back tatoos). That's really silly considering I have a tatoo. I guess that is something I will have to reconsider.

    In regards to the original post, ideas of modesty vary a lot from culture to culture. My understanding of the burka/headdress tradition is that the hair is considered to be too seductive for public exposure (a type of muslim/arab tramp stamp). The book I read this in went on to mention that the bared breast of a nursing mother was no big deal. Just a sign of the nurturing maternal role. However, a recent poll on public breastfeeding in the U.S. showed that most americans viewed it as indecent and disgusting. Since I have nursed in public many times myself, I guess my morals have been questioned by many people without me knowing it.

    Perhapse it all boils down to the words of Tom Leher "When correctly viewed, everything is lewd...Filth is in the mind of the beholder." So what does that say about the so called morality police that see vice everywhere?

  • At 9/21/2006 11:52:00 PM, Blogger Charlotte Wyncoop

    Hey, no prob. It was just frustrating.


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