The double standard of modesty: Lust, modesty, and yoga pants
Views 22 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 10 - 24 - 2018 | By: Alex Leiseca
Why is modesty exclusively aimed toward women? One rarely hears of a man being told to “be more modest.” Modesty is enforced upon women in both religious and secular settings. In churches, women are taught that they must be modest in order to be godly women. In schools, dress codes focus mainly on female students and seldom target males.
This bias is even evident in sports. Recently, tennis player Alize Cornet was issued a warning from the umpire after she discreetly changed her shirt during a match. This incident was met with indignant claims of unjust gender bias, as many people pointed out that male players routinely change their shirts without penalty. Clearly, there is a double standard for men in women in regard to modesty.
How did this double standard develop? In my opinion, misinterpreted Bible verses may be the culprit. For example, 1 Timothy 2:9 states that “women should adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold or pearls.”
Several things can be unpacked from this verse. The first is that while it is very clear that women in particular should dress modestly, it also commands them to be “shamefaced” and that they must not have braided hair, gold jewelry, or pearls. It is interesting to note that out of each of the commands listed in this verse, the command to be modest is the only one that has been deemed a necessary rule to follow.
Also, this verse might have been written intending to advise against using material decorations as the only thing to beautify oneself. Considering that perspective, the meaning of the verse changes from “do not wear pretty things” to “do not only use pretty things to make yourself beautiful.”
While modesty is a godly virtue to have, there seems to be an unfair pressure to be modest placed on women that men are not yoked with. If you Google the words “Christian modesty,” the first six results are all centered around women. The title of the first article that appears is “5 things women get wrong about modesty,” while another is “Modesty, yoga pants, and 5 myths you need to know.” The article that mentions yoga pants was especially interesting to read. The author writes about how her husband was upset that she had worn yoga pants on a run and the author agrees with her husband and admits she sinned and feels shameful.
Throughout the article, the author’s tone was incredibly condescending to women as she makes arguments like “do we [women] seriously expect to wear whatever we want and then tell them [men] not to look at us?” and then goes on to inform women that it is their duty not to cause men to lust after them. While modesty can be a good thing, perhaps instead of enforcing overblown clothing regulations on women (such as not wearing yoga pants), the Christian community can focus on the problem of lust.
While I am not arguing that everyone should simply run around half naked every day, I do believe that there are unequal expectations regarding modesty for men and women. These expectations should be recognized and perhaps even remade to be balanced.
There are a few steps that can be taken to equalize the expectations of modesty between men and women. Do not blame a woman’s choice of clothing for causing a man to lust, do not hold women at a higher standard of modesty than men, and understand that different people have varying interpretations of what it means to be modest.