Today I saw an article celebrating the newest Sports Illustrated Magazine Swimsuit Issue and it got me thinking. I, like lots of other women, have gone through many different stages of viewing things like it throughout my life.
As a young girl, I think I was shocked and confused. Why would a magazine that is all about sports feature a girl in a bikini? Like, what does that have to do with sports anyway?
As a preteen, it became very clear to me why a magazine catering to mostly men would feature a girl in a bikini. Then- I wanted to be one of those girls. I think at 11 and 12 I still believed I could be one.
As a teenager, I became envious of the girls in the magazine. They got so much attention and it was clear that I would never be one of them. I just didn’t have what it took. The same magazine that made me feel inspired exacerbated feelings of insecurity.
As a late teenager and beyond, I became incredibly turned off by these magazines. What kind of women would so eagerly objectify themselves for random men? I looked down on the women who posed for them and I looked down on the men who bought these magazines.
Now, as my 22-year old self, I realize my thinking was off at every age.
It may seem silly, to consider a magazine so seriously. Especially a magazine that I have no interest in no matter who is on the cover. Yet, reading the comments on the article mentioned above made me reconsider my stance on modesty.
Modesty was ingrained into me from birth, both from my family and the church. We learned that Christian girls should be modest. Don’t show off your body, hide yourself so not to tempt males into thinking sinful thoughts. I get the sentiment of this, by not showing too much of yourself the male specimen will learn to appreciate you for what’s on the inside.
The problem, however, is the reasoning for “why to be modest.” Males get plenty of visual stimulation from every media outlet in existence, so a girl hiding herself will not keep a male from using his imagination. Using the “ever-watching” male eye as a reason to be modest is flawed at its core.
Why flawed? It doesn’t get down to the heart of the person. The question should be- why would somebody not want to be modest? Is it because she wants attention? Is it because she feels like she will only be appreciated if she reveals more of her body? Is because she feels her personality is not enough to get her where she wants to be?
These are the questions that need to be answered. I don’t really believe that a woman should dress based off the way a male thinks. (Unless it is your husband, believe him when he says the shoes don’t really match.)
In our world, a woman’s body is used for everything from selling a burger to setting the beauty standard for other women to live up to. The objectification of the woman’s (or man’s) body is sad and detrimental to us as human beings. When we look at another human being simply for aesthetic pleasure we reduce him or her to nothing but an object. So now I realize that maybe envy, annoyance, and insecurity are the wrong reactions to a beautiful girl on the cover of a magazine. These reactions say more about me than they do her.
Rather than modesty, I say we focus on confidence. Let us build the confidence of other females, so that they don’t have to answer the question of whether to be modest or not. Confidence will do a woman much more good than feeling like she needs to hide her body. Knowing that she is capable and strong and doesn’t have to dress a certain way for anything or anyone. To me, that is a Christian value. Why? Because my confidence comes from my knowledge that my identity is in Christ- not what I wear or how my body looks.