An open letter to my fellow conservative Christians (and anyone else who cares to listen in, because you never know when those strange evangelicals are going to do something entertaining):
Today’s topic makes me angry. I’ve thought about it for a long time, especially because I am attempting to bring up three young women to be as normal as it gets around here. Another young woman’s blog post this morning put me over the edge just enough to rant about (um, discuss) it today. You definitely should read her post. http://www.bookwormbeauty.com/2013/05/the-only-thing-my-double-ds-ever-got-me.html?spref=fb
I write about fears here, big and small, imagined and otherwise. But one I truly hate both because of the damage it does and the lies it tells, is the prevalence of shame young women get about their bodies. It happens everywhere. But when it happens in church, it’s a straight up lie about God and the beauty of his creation.
I’ve read these ideas in Christian books, heard them on talk shows, and listened to them from youth leaders. And they are lies.
“Oh honey, guys just can’t help themselves. You’ve got to make sure you don’t provoke them.”
“Don’t make these young men sin by the way you look.”
“If boys think you’re a certain kind of girl because of the way you dress, don’t blame them for what happens.”
Why has the church embraced the idea that, in every other area of life people make their own choices and are responsible for their own mistakes, but in the arena of sexuality, boys will be boys? And girls must, therefore, be ashamed of being girls.
Girls, therefore, end up with intense guilt over simply being female. At an age where they can’t possibly understand it and are trying to come to terms with their own confusing maturity, they’re told what they’re becoming is an embarrassment to God. Nothing is so untrue. God created woman and said his work was very good. There was nothing to add or to hide. We’ve done that.
Women, of any age, should not have to fear their own bodies, nor other peoples’ reactions to them. Period. That’s God’s assessment of his creation, not my opinion.
No girl should have to dress in baggy sweats because she is afraid of condemnation or starve herself because she is afraid she’s not good enough or stuff herself because she’s afraid of attracting unwanted attention. Young women, if you’re doing any of those and no one has told you yet, the way others react to your body is a reflection of them, not you.
I am not suggesting ladies saunter into church (or anywhere) wearing off-the-rack-Beyonce and expect to be put in charge of youth group. Covering yourself is respectful to everyone, yourself most of all. (Guys, we’re talking to you too, here. You have no idea how many times Ive stood in a line and wanted to tap the guy in front of me on the shoulder and ask, “So, are those pants on their way up or down? Because either way, they haven’t made it, and the indecision has got to be killing them.”) Yes, girls, putting it all out there for public view does send a message, just not the one you’re told. It says, “I have zero self-respect.” Which is another topic.
But there’s a difference between modesty and internalizing the message of shame over a normal, healthy body. We, good church people, have done the latter too much.
Plus, guys, are you not also angry? I have to wonder, do you not feel frustrated at being labeled nothing but a bunch or hormones with no self-control? Should you not be at the forefront of this argument, asserting that you are, in fact, fully functional human beings with brains and judgment? That you do not live at the constant whim of your, um, male parts, and nothing else? And, if you are a male pastor, writer, or youth leader, should you not be saying this?
Yes, you should. And as a female pastor, I just did. Let the comments fall where they may. I have three girls to raise with self-respect. Please don’t lie to them anymore.