If there's any horse in existence that has been thoroughly clubbed stiff by the Internet, surely it would have to be the topic of modesty. There is more content (both good and bad) on this topic than anyone could read in a lifetime. However, there's one point I've yet to see any blogger make which to me seems important: women benefit from our decisions to dress with modesty too.
It is not my intention to add to this virtual cacophony, but I feel I should define what I mean by modesty in dress and what I believe the Bible asks of us. Although there are many people who wish it did and go to great lengths to pretend it does, the Bible does not give us a dress code. It does not say anywhere, "Thou shalt not wear halter nor tube nor spaghetti strap tops and neither shall thy shorts exceed 6 inches above thine knee; and both guys and girls shalt wear a T-shirt over their bathing suits whilst in the pool."
And clearly, we have a range of views represented by Christians, from women who wear 1850's style dresses with head coverings, to the denim-skirt Pentecostals and Independent Baptists, to the more liberal dress-however-you-please Bible churches. So from this, we gather that clothing is a matter of Christian liberty, and that each Christian should follow her convictions from the Holy Spirit, but we are in agreement so far as I know that it is wrong to seek to distract men.
99% of Christian women I know believe that it is important to cover cleavage and stomachs and have some amount of length in shorts/skirts. For this article, I am referring to this baseline, mostly-agreed-upon standard of modesty, and though I understand some Christians may dispute it, its defense is not my purpose in writing.
It is common knowledge that people, and specifically women's, bodies change a lot throughout life. We go from being tiny babies to adult size in only a few years. From there, we change from being decidedly unattractive middle-schoolers to becoming more attractive in our teens and twenties. In our twenties and thirties, having children causes our bodies to change even more. In our forties, we begin to age and change still more for the rest of our lives. Illness can cause drastic changes at any time. This is natural and okay.
However, our society idolizes the female body in the state in which it exists during our late teens through thirties. There are some natural reasons for this: for our species to survive, humans must reproduce, and we do so during this age range. If humans did not prioritize reproduction, we would go extinct. But the scales have unarguably tipped toward the unhealthy. High school and middle school girls spend lots of money trying to look older, and older women spend even more trying to look younger. This is not good, and unfortunately, our society makes almost all of us feel desperately insecure about something. Ask any girl or woman if there's something she would change about her appearance; you'll go awhile before you find someone who wouldn't.
It is loving to our brothers in Christ when we dress in such a way as to help them keep their focus on the Lord. Is their lust our problem? No, it's theirs. But we largely agree that we should be loving toward them in this way. As I said, if you disagree, then do so; it is not my purpose to defend this statement. I'm just pointing out that most Christians agree that we should.
Now, what about our sisters struggling with insecurity? For the woman who's just undergone a double mastectomy, might it be painful to see unnecessary amounts of cleavage? For the woman who had triplets last winter and is feeling insecure, is it loving for me to wear a crop top? For the girl struggling after weight loss surgery, does she need to see 90% of a perfect body to remind her of what she doesn't have?
Before I appear to have gotten carried away, the insecurity of our sisters is no more our problem than the lust of our brothers. But if it so widely agreed upon that we should dress modestly in order to be loving to our brothers, can we consider taking the same concept we already live by a step further to be extra loving to our sisters in various natural stages of life to whom society is so cruel?
Furthermore, lust is a sin. Cancer is not a sin, giving birth is not a sin, getting old is not a sin. If we care so much about men struggling with sin, can we not care the same for women struggling with things outside of their control?
This may make me sound heartless, but I dress modestly for women, not for men. The concept of masculinity that lies behind mainstream thoughts on modesty is inconsistent with the godly men that I know. They are not raging sex monsters; they are honorable human beings with self-control and respect for women. If men were all I cared about, the truth is that I would probably take far less care in dressing. The people that I want to be over-the-top loving to are the women who are getting older, having babies, and recovering from illnesses; the ones whose bodies aren't good enough for society and who feel that deeply. It may not be so many years before I may appreciate it myself.