A Modest Proposal For My Critics

FtWayneIn the past thirty days, CBS has issued a modesty code for celebs attending the Grammy’s while Christian websites and blogs have decried the modesty movement. Has the world been turned upside down?

I encourage you to look at this very graphic visual showcase of just what caused CBS to become so “conservative.” If a picture paints a thousand words, these five might paint a few million! The Daily News’ pictures of Lil’ Kim, Pink, J-Lo, and Toni Braxton are all the reason we need to speak of modesty to our daughters. (In an ironic twist, Lady Gaga is the most modest of them all in this photo review of breasts, bellies, and buttocks.)

Meanwhile, some Christians are saying out loud that the modesty movement might be harmful to women. I’m reading what they have written and seeking God’s heart so that I can learn from them.

In fact, I’m even fine-tuning the language at my Secret Keeper Girl website to reflect some thoughts in their critique. (I so appreciate the good thinking of writer’s like Jonathan Merritt who walks the fine line of embracing truth and demanding grace. He is posing questions, not casting undue and untruthful criticism.)

My heart is aching at some of the things I’m reading from other writers: “Dannah Gresh’s “Secret Keepers” is teaching girls to hate & be ashamed of their bodies. Absolutely deplorable, esp under the ‘good xian’ guise.”

Since my name keeps popping up, may I speak in to this?

Here is where I can agree with my detractors.

Some Modesty Advocates Are Legalists Who Objectify Women!

So many times when the Church addresses modesty, it’s from a heart of rule-based living. “Your skirt should be two inches below the knee.” “Your shorts need to come to the tips of your fingers.” “A Christian woman should never wear pants.” Others can choose to dress like that, but they cannot make it a mandate for me. Making these Biblical mandates and overly obsessing about the female body is both objectifying and shame-based. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a healthy conversation about what’s appropriate for public showcasing of our beauty. Failure to do so places our daughters in the risky position of experiencing the consequences of  expressing their beauty through their sensuality. According to a task force report by the American Psychological Association, the hyper-sexualization of little girls by making them grow up too fast and expressing themselves through more sensual fashion increases the risk of eating disorders, depression and body image issues. The Medical Institute for Sexual Health has determined that girls (and boys) who “look older than they are” are at risk of an earlier sexual debut. How does a girl look older? By the way that she dresses and the make-up she wears. Years ago, something in my fashion-loving self just knew that I needed to be a woman who sounded the alarm to say: “Let’s let little girls be little girls!”

Most Modesty and Purity Advocates Have Inadvertently Made These Virtues About Getting The Boy!

For many years, the shallow end of the purity and modesty movement has offered the false promise of a guy in exchange for her purity ring or modest attire. How sad I am for that! Without even realizing it we have convinced girls they can make a deal with God: a turtle neck now and a wedding ring later. Modesty is not something you use to bargain with God or hide the female body. Here’s where I can agree with the critique of Sharon Hodde Miller:

  • …language about modesty should focus not on hiding the female body but on understanding the body’s created role. Immodesty is not the improper exposure of the body per se, but the improper orientation of the body… When we make ourselves central instead of God, we display the height of immodesty.

The purpose of the body is to glorify God. Do we do that when we embrace the “skin-is-in” fashion that puts our daughter’s at risk? Good critiques like Miller’s and Merritt’s have been shaping and forming the way I have been communicating my messages about modesty and purity. Accountability through kind dialogue is always welcome! The modesty and purity movement must be careful not to unintentionally send a message that purity and modesty are about saving yourself for a man. The purpose of these messages is to protect and respect yourself, and—ultimately—to obey and glorify God.

When Christianity Today’s her•menuetics columnist Elrena Evans posted about me and my efforts to teach modesty, she wrote:

“…the underlying assumption the Secret Keepers seem to endorse is that the female body, if not bad, is at least overwhelmingly tempting and tantalizing: something that must be covered, hidden, and locked away.

The goal of Secret Keeper Girl is for a little girl to believe that she is a masterpiece created by God. For that reason, I’m going to take even her critique to heart as I write content that is careful not to express otherwise. She did find some areas where I can improve. But with all due respect, the female body is tempting and tantalizing. God created women to be especially beautiful.

Why do they use women’s faces to sell men’s razors? Why was the Grammy awards modest standards focused on female body parts? Why don’t men wear belly shirts (Forgive us, God, for the eighties!)? Because female beauty is a powerful force. Advertising gurus have discovered that if you put the photo of a woman in an ad, you can increase the length of time someone spends looking at it by as much as 30%! It doesn’t quite work that way when you use a photo of a man. Proverbs 5:18,19 reads “May your fountain be blessed and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you be ever intoxicated by her love.” That’s a steamy verse. A more literal version of the last phrase might be, “may you be intoxicated by her sexuality.” The female body is powerfully tempting and tantalizing and in the context of marriage this is a wonderful thing, but this is not the core message of Secret Keeper Girl. Our underlying message is that a girl is a masterpiece created by God.  Still, we do not throw out pieces of God’s truth when we talk about a woman’s body or beauty. And the fact that her body is intoxicating is definitely a part of His truth. We do our best to present that in an age appropriate way and over 40,000 moms loved how we did it at our live events last year alone.

Should a girl’s beauty be locked away?  Scriptures don’t directly address modesty all that much. There are four verses that give us specific advice and they don’t tell us if jeans are OK or how low our neckline can plunge. So we are left to surmise and come to our own conclusions about how much skin is too much. And that is why debate is good, but please be careful in how you present your opinions or you lead people to believe that the good work of some of us…well, isn’t good.

So here is my modest proposal for you: when you’re tempted to take things out of context and lead others to believe the worst, try thinking the best as I will choose to think of you.

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50 Comments

  • Those that would say you and Secret Keeper Girls teach girls to hate their bodies have CLEARLY never read a word you’ve written and never been to a single event. I took my daughter to an SKG event in Ohio and what she learned was quite the opposite that the critics would have you believe. She learned to value her body and to treat it with respect. Very sad that anyone would say otherwise.

  • I hate the way modern Christians’ view on modesty, honestly. They act as if the clothes we wear aren’t sending some kind of message, but if you’re wearing Daisy Dukes and a tube top in winter, guys WILL look.
    We can’t help that. It’s the way God made us, and not for evil, but a fallen world has turned God’s creation into something bad.
    Instead of coming to terms with the fact that we actually do need to set modesty rules for ourselves and that God made men visual, and women sensual for a reason, we say that it’s now ok to wear whatever you want as long as your heart’s right.
    Your heart may be right, but if the clothes you wear reveal the body your husband was meant to see, it becomes an issue.

    • Genesis 3:7 “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked”….If you make a statement on how God created men and women, please look to how men and women were originally created–blind. At the very beginning, at the start of it all, in the God’s designed way, each of us were created to be blind to ourselves and open to the Glory and presence of God. Not men are visual/Not women are sensual, but absolutely created for God paired together to bring Him, and Him alone, Glory.

      Overcoming this pattern-of-the-world thinking is the first step to modesty, which at it’s deepest meaning is not drawing (any) attention to yourself and away from God. Adorning yourself in modesty, in words, deeds, dress, attitude, says that only God is worthy of Glory; place value on Him and Him alone.

      When your clothes draw attention to you (your own attention or the attention of others), eyes are focused in the wrong direction. When your deeds draw attention to you, wrong direction. When you giving or your service or prayers draw attention to you, you are no longer acting in a way that is modest. When your opinions or spirituality, your status in ministry or your knowledge, are presented to draw the focus to you, it fails to be modest.

      It’s about more than the clothes. It’s about a life that seeks to shine the light on God and only God.

      • Well said, Erica. Living that out in the implication of our fallen world where we are no longer blinded is so hard, isn’t it? Just how do we get back to that place hwere we illuminate his glory? Oh, I have more questions than answers!

  • I am the mother of a 12 year old girl, and she has been raised and will continue to be raised that less skin is better. You can be trendy and modesty. So well said Mrs. Gresch. BTW: my daughter and I attended the secret keepers event bothell last year. She really enjoyed it and looking to going again.

  • This is why I’ve been hesitant to become a “voice”. People misconstrue and take out of context and come at things from such different angles. I just want to say, I have read a little of what you are referring to, and I think its almost turning into too picky of arguments. I understand where you are coming from in your ministry and just want to send a shout out for what you do, and for having the guts to be out there standing for what you do. Whether everyone agrees 100%, you know where you stand and are open before God. This is a good response.

  • I appreciate your kind words in response to some maybe not-so-nice critiques. It’s so unique to see a post that’s humble & teachable when I know for me, my first response would be to defend myself & possibly “mudfling”. Thank you for your post. It was definitely a good reminder & gave me some perspective!

  • Dannah, I love the way that you took the critical words with a grain of salt and chose to use them to sharpen your skills. It takes extreme humility to look at criticism as an opportunity to grow. You are the front-runner in the battle to protect our daughters from the garbage that the media piles on them. Please press on knowing and believing that you and Secret Keepers are making a difference!

  • As a mom raising 2 teenage daughters and a son in England, where the sexualisation of children is even more prolific than in the US, I am so thankful to have found you. Through you I have found a way to biblically explain what I already knew to be true. This helps my girls to understand how beautifully they are made and how wonderful it is to save the best of that beauty for the man they marry, if they marry. It also, through both my and my girls’ example, teaches my son how to appreciate a woman’s beauty and that true beauty is not baring everything, but is keeping some of that mystique to be revealed to one’s spouse. I also appreciate the way you have handled this critique. You are obviously using Christ as the guide by which you judge your actions, rather than what others think of you. Thank you for standing strong in what you know God has called you to do, and for doing it with grace.

  • What I find interesting is that the women who are critiquing your articles and teaching only view this topic from a female perspective. Do they have husbands? Have they asked their husbands what clothing bothers the male mind? Do they have daughters? Do the fathers feel comfortable with the same clothing standard that the mom presents to her daughters? I don’t believe the male mind is evil, nor do I believe women should be held responsible for a man’s thoughts when he lusts after a woman. But I do NOT have any understanding of the male mind, nor of how to best protect our daughters from men who may be obsessed with lust. My husband does. Therefore, I think that mothers should absolutely seek input from fathers when it comes to protecting and teaching their daughters in regards to modesty and men. I am now 41 years old, a former youth pastor’s wife, and a mother of a 15 year old boy and 2 girls, ages 11 and 6. I’ve watched many moms insist that liberal clothing standards were not harmful at all, only to see their daughters grow up and lead an immoral life. No, I don’t attribute that all to their clothing, but I will say that too many girls have not been taught about their power to affect the male mind and the responsibility they have to God to not misuse that power. I am not a man-hater (I do have a son who I love very much), nor am I a prude (my daughters wear shorts, scooters, leggings, and swimsuits, not Amish dresses). I am a mom who doesn’t want my daughters to use sexual attraction to get men to do things for her. I am a mom who wants to protect my daughters from predators and womanizers. And I am a mom who wants her son to see women for who they are rather than having his brain turned off so he objectifies them. So from a mom who sees the point from both gender perspectives, I say to other moms, please, please, ask your husbands about the male mind. Ask your husbands what they don’t feel comfortable allowing their daughters to wear. And listen to their answers, don’t get judgmental and dismissive.

  • The big problem here, as I see it, is this view that the ways we look at women’s/girls’ bodies in the United States is designed by God, or just “natural.” The fact is that women in other parts of the world have exposed breasts or legs or buttocks that are not considered sexual, except in particular settings. Men are not constantly aroused by the site of these women working, walking, etc. The female body is not “created” to be “especially beautiful.” Men and women are both attracted by visual cues, but we are trained to look at each other in particular ways. Just look at history. In many cultures women who are very heavy are considered sexually desirable, while in the united states some men can no longer physically respond to their wives when they gain weight. We experience these things as “natural” but they are clearly culturally and historically specific.

    Does this undermine the message that our bodies are designed by God to be used to glorify Him? Of course not. But let’s recognize in our language that what we’re talking about are social standards that can undermine our witness or enhance it. As such, we have to think about particular contexts as much as we consider scripture.

    • This is a good point and one that I write about in Secret Keeper: The Delicate Power of Modesty. We are most certainly trained to think certain things are sexual. In Madagascar, a woman’s exposed arms are considered very sexual! Doesn’t that sound crazy? Culture trains us to be sensitive to certain things externally. That’s why ultimately modesty is an inner virtue.

      Peter challenged, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair or the wearing of gold jewelry, and find clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” He’s not saying we can’t wear gold jewelry and nice clothes and have a great hair cut. He’s saying that we are called to inner beauty first and foremost. When that is in order, the outside becomes less important and we don’t struggle to be sensitive to the cultural triggers.

      I do happen to think that God knew what he was doing when he made us more alluring than men. And I do think we are. You could say that men are simply more visually wired, but they don’t compare themselves to each other the way that women do.

  • First – congratulations! You are successful enough to be criticized! Rejoice! 🙂 (and tune in to the Wally show on WAYFM to commiserate – it’s funny when he reads his e-mails; I can tell the criticisms do still bother him; you are in good company)
    Second – I can understand where they are coming from sometimes; there are times that I type in ‘conservative clothing’ and what comes up more resembles a burqa than something my teens would want to wear. They still want to (and can) look cute – like the outfits that you showcase – in this article.
    Third – I just want to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU in SO many ways – your heart; the way you communicate; your mission; your books; your articles… in particular, as a married woman with a past, I have found intimacy in a new way because of your book What are you Waiting For – as if I finally gave myself permission to revel in the Yada of the love of my husband. I really want to buy Get Lost and somehow communicate the concepts to my girls – 16, 15 and 12 (and one son age 10 – for whom I’m reading your book on boys 🙂
    Continued prayers for blessings on you, your ministry, your integrity and your family.
    See you this Friday! (Asbury UMC)

  • Very well said, Dannah. Do NOT lose heart, stay the course. Tides are shifting slowly and you are one of those in a position of influence. “No weapon formed against you shall stand.” It may appear like the weapons of words may gain ground for a little while but truth will remain in the hearts of those who follow it and it will draw others. God bless. So very proud of you. I have some good local examples of your strong, solid teachings and from the other comments so do many others! Onward, Christian Soldier. Love you much.

  • Hey Dannah,

    I linked your article as well as some other of your resources today in a post… I just wanted to encourage you. I am impressed with your heart and the way you are responding with great character AND strength! I love it and hope more women will read your blog regularly. :-). I am reminded of how He tells us we will be hated for what we stand for. Even within our own circles. We can trust in the name of the LORD as the Victor!

  • So glad for Dannah and her Secret Keeper Girls! I have two teenage daughters and have attended both the preteen and teen events she hosts. It took hearing it from Dannah to have my oldest daughter understand about how she dresses impacts how she is seen by males. It is so hard in this world today to do right for our children and keep them pure, as God intends for them to be. Thanks, Dannah! Keep up the great work. I am keeping you and your ministry in my prayers daily!!!Lots of love from Ohio!

  • Dannah, if you want to look to anthropology to back up the claim that men are “wired” to be “visual,” it isn’t going to work. There is too much evidence that the use of visual clues is both a male and female trait among human beings. I don’t know what you mean when you say that women are more alluring than men. (Most) men are attracted to women and (most) women are attracted to men. Doesn’t that make men alluring to those who are attracted to them? I teach college students, and it’s generally very harmful to young women to be told their sexuality is “naturally” or “created” in only one way, while men’s (all men’s? most men’s? manly men’s?) sexuality is another. The fact is many women struggle with lust just as men do. Statistics on internet porn suggest that as much as 40% of it is consumed by women ( a difficult thing to get women to talk about, since so many think it is “unnatural” for them to be excited by visual clues.)

    I don’t object to your overall message about people (men and women) having respect for their own bodies and to consider themselves created for the glory of God, not for their own (or other’s) pleasure, but I find the message about how “women” (all? some? only the healthy ones?) are just one way and men are just/always another to be both empirically and theologically wrong.

    • Brian, I have never stated that women are not visual but I have stated that men are more so. And this seems to be easily proven by many things including the fact that men are more aroused by visual (i.e. porn or their wife’s naked body) and women are more aroused by emotional (i.e. erotica with a story line or their husband’s words and tender touch. There is much evidence to suggest this is true.

      Here is how a Psychology Today article says it:

      “In one study, conducted by Dorothy Tennov, over 90 percent of the subjects rejected the statement: “The best thing about love is sex.” Similarly, 53 percent of the females and 79 percent of the males agreed with the statement: “I have been sexually attracted without feeling the slightest trace of love”; and 61 percent of the females and 35 percent of the males agreed with the statement: “I have been in love without feeling any need for sex.” However, the majority of people, especially women, enjoy sex best when they are in love with their partner. Thus, most people think that love and sex can be separated, but would prefer to have them combined.

      There are some gender differences in this regard: men tend to separate sex and love whereas women tend to believe that love and sex go together. Thus, erotic pictures generate more arousal in men than in women, whereas pictures of romantic couples generate much more arousal in women than in men. Similarly, extramarital sexual involvements of women are more likely to be love-oriented and those of men to be pleasure-oriented. Accordingly, men are more likely to engage in extramarital sex with little or no emotional involvement, whereas women are more likely to engage in extramarital emotional involvement without sexual intercourse. It has been argued that a wife commits adultery generally when her feelings are deeply involved or likely to become so (see The Subtlety of Emotions).”

      What may seem out of balance in my work is that it is directed at women and not men. I am not a man, so I don’t often speak into the responsibility of a man to maintain modesty and purity in his life or for the sake of his Christian sisters. However, at the end of the day there is a much higher responsibility on his shoulders according to scripture. No where in scripture is a woman charged with anything other than her own personal responsibility concerning sexual purity and modesty. But a man is told that he is to present his wife a pure and spotless bride. (Ephesians 5) He is not only responsible for his own self-control but the protection of his wife. It is unfortunate that there seems to be more of a conversation happening to raise the awareness of Christian women for their own personal sexual conduct when God places a greater burden on the man. I will have to pray that more men rise up or their voices are heard more clearly in the culture!

      • First, I definitely respect that your ministry directed to women and girls. There is no doubt that women and men everywhere experience the world differently because of gender. God created gender, so the fact that it is acknowledged everywhere, and that we should do likewise, is good and right.

        But what concerns me is that these kind of data like you cite above are both culturally specific and general trends that don’t necessarily work at the individual or cross-cultural level. So a majority (53%) of women agreed with the statement “I have been sexually attracted without feeling the slightest trace of love.” This is, of course, just a self-reporting, and in a society that would strongly discourage this among women, it’s surprising to me it is this high! I suspect the reality is that a higher percentage of women have actually had this feeling, but they won’t admit it, because it seems shameful.

        And this is to say nothing of how this kind of survey question would, or would not work, in another culture.

        What troubles me is when these general trends and culturally-particular manifestations of gender – of whatever culture – are called “God’s design.” Once this is presented as a created nature – the way God made all Men and all Women – then what is the young woman who IS attracted by sight and DOES struggle with lust supposed to think? She thinks she’s sick, and wrong, and not created quite right. A young man who feels these things might know they’re sinful, but he’ll seek an accountability group and, possibly, take a kind of comfort in knowing that he struggles with “normal sins.”

        In order to affirm the beauty of each individual as created in the image of God, we need to have room for the wide wide range of sexual feelings people have. Even same sex attractions, or people who have very few sexual feelings, women with strong sexual desires and men without them need to be affirmed in all the same ways you’re affirming girls. I worry about that 53% of women who do feel sexual desire apart from feeling of love. Will they hear the message you’re saying, or feel that God must not have created them quite right?

        We all need to think of our bodies as for the glory of God.

        • Brian, I think we’re agreeing on more than you think. I’ll take your questions to heart as I develop content. Thanks for your feedback.

        • I have nothing to do with Dannah’ s ministry, but I think she is right on. It seems as though you are piddling over small points of necessary generalization to convince women to expose themselves more? Maybe not 100% of men look at me wolfishly when in the past I have been scantily clad here in the US where I generally remain, But many did and it made me uncomfortable. I stylishly covered up more, and to my relief, no longer got those scary looks. We women are smart enough to figure out cultural differences without our favorite authors endlessly qualifying everything they say to include the specific nuances of every person alive.

          • Holly, it’s not piddling, nor have I ever suggested that women expose themselves. This is a significant point. Why do you think men look at you wolfishly? Because God made them to do that? No. It is not because God made men to leer and made women beautiful. It is because of the ways we learn to think about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman.

            There is little about the consequences of Dannah’s ministry with which I disagree. I once wrote a letter to Target when I was horrified trying to buy my seven year old daughter a Christmas dress and only found sexy outfits in her size. BUT, I am very careful to teach my daughter and my son that the ways our idea of gender are broken in this country are not universal and the responses we need to have here and now are not universal.

            It is not necessary to say “Woman are _______.” and “Men are ________.” I think it does damage to men and women when they struggle to fit even the sinful patterns they are told are “normal” for “men” and “women.” We should be emphasizing that all human beings should treat their bodies as temples and then figure out what that means here and now for people as we live here and now.

          • Brian, I believe it is necessary to say that women are __________ and men are __________. Gender differences are established by Scripture. And God has firmly planted them in brain and hormone science that we can’t ignore. These are not cultural creations, but creations of God. Is it cultural that men have more testosterone and women have more estrogen? Or how about that the male brain is typical 10% larger than the female brain, but the female brain has a much larger deep limbic system (which stores emotion)? Why did God make us that way?

  • Thank you Dannah for all that you do each day to help us moms teach our daughters about modesty. Your work is definitely appreciated! {{hugs from WI}}

  • Thank you Dannah for standing firm on what you believe and know to be true despite your critics. You have been a wonderful source of information as you guide me in raising my 12 yr. old daughter. I feel the best message I can give my daughter about her her body, is that it is a a beautiful creation of God that is to be protected and kept pure for God’s glory and her ultimate joy. Dannah, please continue speaking God’s truth in love. I appreciate all you and your ministry does. THANK YOU!

  • I SO appreciate Dannah Gresh, the role she has played in our lives, the fact that she realizes our faith and relationship with God is a living thing….every growing, changing, and maturing to open our eyes to His will for our lives. She’s not above retracting a statement or rethinking her wording or the crux of her message to ensure it is GOD’S message that is coming through and not her own. Kudos to you, Dannah Gresh…..keep it up my friend. You are being used as HIS vessel and you are invaluable.

  • Dannah,

    We want you to know that we think you and your team are AMAZING! My daughter and I have been going to SKG Events since she was 8 years old. The SKG ministry has had a HUGE impact on our lives. She will be turning 12 this spring and we are taking a whole new group and a few return customers:) to the next event. 40something girls and moms will be learning that God is “tickled silly pink, madly in love with us”! So excited!!!

    As for the criticism you have received – please keep in mind that the enemy only has reason to attack when we are on the right track! Our prayer for you and yours. . . “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” Ephesians 6:10-13

    Many thanks and love from our family of Dad, Mom and Secret Keeper Girl to YOU and YOUR MINISTRY TEAM for sharing YOUR STORIES, YOUR HEARTS, YOUR LIVES and the TRUTH with us! We will continue to lift you all up in prayer! Stand firm because you are on the right track!

  • Dannah, thank you so much for all you do! I honestly struggled so deeply with understanding modesty for most of middle school and until this year (junior in high school) I didn’t get it until I started to read your books and read your blogs. Your guide lines on modesty make sense and are PRACTICAL! And you do make it very clear that it is not about hiding you body or being responsible for guys thoughts but about embracing our God-given feminine “superpower” of beauty. Thank you! Keep it up!

  • Dannah, you make a good point that there are physical differences in brains. And hormones. These are real and this does raise some interesting questions. But let’s wrestle with this a moment. There is lots of evidence that individuals with same sex attractions (SSA) have physical brain structures that are different from individuals without SSA. This is part of the claim that homosexual rights groups make about “It’s natural” and “God made me this way.” Those of us who hold to a traditional sexual ethic need to have a response that says biology is not destiny and that there may be things about biology that we are not called to affirm.

    Hormones are also interesting. Yes, men typically have more testosterone than women – sometimes a lot more -, but research is demonstrating that these fluctuate throughout life, and even throughout the day. Recently research suggested that men who are fathers have lower testosterone when they hear their babies cry. We know that women can raise their testosterone through exercise (as can men.) Some women have naturally higher levels of testosterone than some men. So these norms, while real, don’t help individuals understand how or why God might want them to respond to particular feelings or desires that may be partly attributable to hormone levels.

    My concern is that you have the opportunity to speak to big crowds of young people, particularly young women. When they hear you say, “‘Women were made by God to be like _________,” what happens to the young woman who is not like that? Say it’s only 15% of the girls who are there. that means 15% of them leave thinking, “God messed up when he made me.” I know you speak more carefully than that and that you are thoughtful about how you put these things, but you know better than I that young people often only seize on one or two things we say. I worry about those 15% of women who may not fit the mold, but are (and I know you agree) just as created by God and just as beautiful for it.

    I’m convinced that your message – a good and important one – doesn’t require this kind of gender essentialism. I think it’s very possible to say “Whether you feel like X or Y or Z, whether you fit these notions of how girls are supposed to be or not, we are all called to use our bodies for the glory of God, and we all have to do the hard work of figuring out what this will look like in our family, school, church, community, and world.”

    Have you read “Making Chastity Sexy” by Christine Gardner? You come up prominently in that book. It’s not a bash, though. I hope you’ve had a chance to read it. I think it’s very thoughtful. I’m sure the author (who is at George Fox University this year) would be very happy to interact with you about it.

    • I have read Christine’s book. Sadly, her research was not current. She spoke with both me and True Love Waits years before she published. Our ministries have evolved to reflect the needs of culture, but her critique did not reveal that. She had many good thoughts in the book but an educational researcher carries the burden of being current with her proofs and research. Sadly, she failed big in that area so much of her critique was obsolete.

      I do think that gender differentiation is a critical part of aligning our sexual theology with Scripture. On that we will probably not find as much common ground as you are hoping to discover.

      Hopefully one day you’ll be able to hear me speak live or read one of my full works and you’ll find that I do take into account that not all boys are the same and not all girls are the same, but there are essential differences in maleness and femaleness that are worthy of noting and that God loves very much!

      • Dannah, I’ll take up both your modest proposal and I will get a hold of one of your books or another full work and go over it more carefully. It’s the least I can do after you’ve thoughtfully and graciously interacted with me and others on this blog. I do appreciate your openness.

        FWIW, book publishing takes a long time, and I know Christy had to go do additional research in East Africa based on the first publisher reviews, so I think there were forced delays, but of course you respond to the very same critique above as something that remains problematic with some (though as you say, not yours) modesty/purity advocates, so I suspect that while the examples she pulled from your ministry may have been out-of-date by the time the book came to print, the overall point about how chastity movements can use rhetorics of sexiness, rewarding relationships, and marriage as their end-game is still relevant.

        Blessings on your work, Dannah.

        • You would likely want to being with What Are You Waiting For: The One Thing No One Ever Tells You About Sex! Happy reading.

  • Could someone tell me what the four verses that specifically addresse modesty are?
    I would greatly appreciate it, thanks 🙂

    • Here are the four direct references. Any other references would be more indirect.

      I Timothy 2:9,10
      I Peter 3:3,4
      I Corinthians 12:23
      Proverbs 11:22

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  • You know what I find interesting about the purity movement is the fact that
    a) slut shaming is not only accepted but advocated and
    b) It’s alright to make a profit off of it.

    When has it ever become alright to make a woman feel like she is unworthy because of how she chooses to dress? When was the only time in the Bible that Jesus got angry?

    Gender norms are something that you are sadly playing into and it breaks my heart to know that women across the world are being subject to this material and have to spend their whole lives not know their true value because you are putting a price on it. Women of God are more than just ladies in waiting for their husbands; they have a responsibility to self by understanding who God is in them.
    I’m a proud Christian and Feminist and I know that the two go hand in hand. God has put a passion in my heart to love everyone because that is at the core of Christianity…is it not? I’m also a critique because I don’t see how slut shaming, gender norms and exclusion furthers Gods kingdom. Furthermore, Heteronormativity is written all over this project, what about the kids in the back that don’t find the opposite sex attractive?

    I speak on behalf of the people who are rejected by society and don’t find comfort in the Christian faith. I speak on behalf of the brown skinned girls who don’t fit in. I speak on behalf of the girls who didn’t have a choice to stay pure; I speak for those whose voices are silence by organizations like this. I speak on behalf of those who refuse to be put in their place. I speak and pray that God makes this little whisper into a loud roar.

    • Wow. This comment is fueled with logical fallacies. I’m going to respect that you have some differences of opinion, but you’ll need to dig a deep hole of untruth to align my name and ministry work with the things you claim in this comment. Your whisper might get louder if you work on being factual.

  • So here is where the immodest? (Modesty is bad? let it all hang out?)movement looses me, people who feel teaching our daughters modesty is harmful say that telling girls to keep it covered is the same as saying your body is shameful. Let me share with you the drastically different message I got as a young girl and teen. I grew up with a mother much more permissive than I am, and my friends for the most part were very promiscuous. It was nothing for them to walk around the neighborhood in bikini tops and too short cut offs at thirteen years old. I on the other hand was always the biggest of the bunch. Too tall and too heavy to squeeze into a mid drift top or miniskirt. What I learned from this is…drum roll please!…my body was shameful. My friends learned early on that their bodies and, in turn, sex could be used as a tool. They found out that the more skin they showed, the more attention they got, and the more they were able to get away with. The worst part of this is that they openly pitied me. They thought I had less value because I didn’t fit the mold, or that I was destined to be an unhappy cat lady because I didn’t walk around with large portions of my body on display for the world. I bought it hook, line and sinker. I was ashamed and unhappy; convinced that no one would ever see someone worth while through the jeans and giant tshirts. I still carry a lot of that around even though I am now quite grown up with a family of my own. But here is what I learned in retrospect, I didn’t have dozens of boyfriends chase after me to see how far they could get, but I did a hand full of boy FRIENDS who thought I was smart and funny and enjoyed being with me because they didn’t feel threatened by me. Boys that genuinely valued me as a person. Boys that, when I met my husband, became suddenly overprotective and decided they weren’t quite ready to step aside. Modesty was thrust upon me, so I kinda missed the point. I thought of my body as a tool that was sorely broken, and I never appreciated the fact that it was a tool working just the way God had intended it to. To house a creative mind, to work hard, and later to please my husband and bring children into the world. The point people are missing when they see the modesty movement is that it’s not about being ashamed of what we have or don’t have, but respecting our body and using it to edify God. Besides, is the message I got really a better alternative?

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