Baggy Sweats, Burqas, and Beyonce

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.
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.  

16 thoughts on “Baggy Sweats, Burqas, and Beyonce

  1. There is a normal aspect to everyone's life, both male and female. Now if we realize the truth to that statement, we might be interested to know that depending on the breadth of what is truly normal (not what you or I judge it to be) then we know without a doubt that fifty percent of both sexes are below normal and fifty percent above. It doesn't make sense to lump all people into categories as if this is the way things are. We are all different and that includes you and I. (as in all of us) I often make the claim that I am an individual without restrictions other than what I impose upon myself. Naturally, I use society and the norms to gauge, but traveling far from normal is a quest of mine. Good luck with your choices in life, keep in mind, these choices have brought you thus far and to this destination. There is always room for redemption and positive change. The best of luck to you all.


  2. Jill, as always, an interesting and right-on-target topic. Appreciated the points you made and applaud you for the stand you take. God bless your efforts and your precious family.


  3. Great post Jill. I have 3 daughters … and it's hard work finding the balance with modesty and fashion. So far they're young… singlets under little tops and leggings under short pants… they can still enjoy fashion and be respectful of their bodies and others around them… I hope. xxx


  4. Good luck, Michelle. It's very hard to find clothing as they get older. Especially if, as is the case with my older two, they are quite well-endowed. You get to talk the line between, as you said, allowing them to fit in and be fashionable and respecting themselves. But it can be done!


  5. Jill, I couldn't agree more! I am a man, and my wife and I raised three boys. I taught them that they were just as responsible as girls for their actions. I acknowledged that there would be temptations, but that they should be prepared in advance on how to handle it. We have prayed that God would see fit to match our sons with strong Christian women someday, and have been likewise praying for two still unknown daughter-in-laws. Our oldest son has been married to a wonderful girl for several years. Although they were childhood sweethearts, to my knowledge they did the right thing by each other throughout their long courtship. He loves and respects her and she him. Thank you, Jill for raising Godly young women. My hat's off to you for dealing with this subject that has been a similar concern and viewpoint of mine…….Steve


  6. Thank you, Steve. I especially appreciate the male point of view since, obviously, I'm not going to be able to supply that. Two more girls are going to be very fortunate to find young men who have been raised to respect them!


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