I Hate To Even Link Them...

My pal Julie, over at the blog with the ever-changing name, wrote about "The Modesty Survey," an online survey to be taken by guys only. The survey has nearly one hundred questions about everything from bathing suits to tutus to laying on the floor.

I spent some time perusing the survey and got more and more indignant as I read things like:
  • "Nude colored nylons are a stumbling block"
  • "It is a stumbling block to see a girl lying down, even if she's just hanging out on the floor or on a couch with her friends"
  • "Girls should always wear clothes that show little body definition (e.g., jumpers or loose dresses)"
  • " Exposing the chest below the collarbone, even without cleavage, is immodest."
I am a fairly modest person. Mini-skirts are not for me, my shorts all hit mid-thigh or lower, and wouldn't show my cleavage even if I had it to show. I agree with a lot of the standards of modesty that this "survey" seems to be presenting.

However, I DON'T agree with calling something a survey when all the questions are asked in such a way that you already know the answer you should give. This phenomenon struck me the most in the Swimsuit category. The first questions says, " A one-piece swimsuit is modest." A few questions later says, "A tankini with a bikini-bottom is immodest." Clearly, the survey taker is supposed to answer "yes" to both questions.

Just like Julie, the language of the survey bothers me, too. The word "girl" is clearly diminutive and makes me think of prepubescent females. I don't believe that the survey creators meant to imply "female child" by using the word girl, but I do think they should have considered their language more carefully.

There is also a clear double standard built in. We are told again and again that men and boys are more easily stimulated visually than women and girls. While this may be true, there are standards of modesty that should extend to both males and females. Honestly, I think the difference is overstated because of the myth that women do not have sex drives.

Finally, this survey made me think of The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood, which I highly recommend. In this story, women are forced to cover themselves completely. Rather than curbing the sex drive of men, it makes them excited over things such as exposed ankles and wrists. Obviously, this book does not represent reality, but I think we need to remember that humans are innately sexual beings, we don't need to see exposed flesh to get excited.

I'm not advocating walking around naked, but I do think we need to be careful about how we send messages about modesty. We need to couple the message of modesty (for both men and women) with respect and love for our good bodies, in order to remind ourselves and others that we don't cover up because our bodies are evil.

I'd love to hear your reactions and comments on this survey and my evaluation of it.
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