Modesty - Breasts Included?


My fellow editorial board member, C. Wess Daniels, has opened a "five gallon bucket of worms" as Peggy put it with his blog post titled, "Modesty: Too Much Skin (At Church and Elsewhere)?", http://gatheringinlight.com/. Within a 24 hour period he had over 30 comments which inspired Peggy to call for a women's blogorama on the topic, see http://www.sillypoorgospel.blogspot.com/ for her posts. As I have a lot to say on this subject, I am going to break it up with this first post focussing on the feminine divine and women's breasts.

I start this conversation with the feminine divine because I think ignoring feminine images of God lies at the root of the problem of how we view women. If we honored and upheld feminine images of God as well as masculine ones, we would value women as human beings as much as we do men and women's bodies would not be something to just cover up while calling it "holy modesty." We would honor their bodies like artists painting or sculpting a nude.

For months I have been studying the feminine divine and sexuality. It has been extremely interesting and has opened up a whole new world of thought for me. God is so often referred to in the male pronoun but in our culture, rarely in the female. Why is that? If God is neither male nor female and both women and men are made in God's image, can we not use both sets of pronouns? If referring to God as Her bothers you, ask yourself why. Why does it bother you to see images of women as images of God? For centuries, women have been reffered to as the evil and sinful gender, the one's to be hidden and covered up. Not only does that do GREAT damage to women, but also to God for SHE is hidden and covered up as well. Through my own exploration of the feminine divine, I have found that by reclaiming God-transcendant and including the feminine, I feel powerful, connected with God in a whole new way, and more at home in my own skin. It is easier to believe I have "that of God within."

The few times I have mentioned this to others, I have heard several times, "Where is that in the Bible? That's not biblical!" Oh, my dear, yes it is! It is biblical. Though I am not usually one to back up what I believe with biblical texts, I will do so here so we can get through this question. Do you remember the story about the woman looking for her lost coin? The woman symbolized God looking for us! Jesus also refered to God in feminine terms when he compared God to a hen sheltering her chicks under her wings. There is also Sophia, the personification of wisdom who calls out in the streets. This is also an image of Jesus/God. And have you heard one of the Hebrew names for God, El Shaddai? El Shaddai means "the large breasted one". My question to you is, if one of the oldest names for God refers to breasts and we as women are supposed to cover them up, what does that mean for who God is? I don't mean that God has breasts, it's the metaphore of life and nuturarnce, but if God honors breasts, why don't we? These are just a smattering of God in feminine terms in the Bible, there are many more.

In Wess's blog, he quotes a woman, though doesn't agree with her, named Annie as saying in her blog:
"–there is a female feature we call breasts. they can also be referred to as “boobies,” or “the twins,” or “the rack,” or “jugs,” so on, so forth.
–most men find this particular feature interesting. tempting. and amazing.
–upon catching a glimpse of said feature (regardless of how much is actually exposed), it is likely for a man’s mind to go to places it shouldn’t.
–with above knowledge, women, you now are educated and have no excuse."


Excuse me? MEN have no excuse. Breasts are breasts! They are a part of our bodies and not something to be hidden away and covered up. There are cultures where women go around bare chested and it's normal. The reason men are so excited by breasts is because they are culturally conditioned to be so. Go back a hundred years and it was the ankles. Women did not show the ankles for it would excite the lusts of men. Are men so animalistic that they can't control themselves if they see a bit of bare flesh? What about all those times when you men take your shirts off? Are you not tempting us women to let our minds go where they should not? What a shitty double standard that is! We are not in control of YOUR behavior. YOUR behavior is YOUR choice and if you can't control yourself when I'm wearing a low cut shirt, than you have far more serious problems than you think.

When I reopened my publishing website,
http://www.spiritwaterpublications.com/, I recieved a comment on my guestbook I decided to leave on there. Here is what "Kay" wrote:

Dear Sarah, I came across your page while looking for a website for Rainbow West. You have a nice website, and a beautiful smile. May I make a suggestion as an older woman in the Lord? In your photo, you are wearing a top that comes very close to revealing more of your femininity than I think you intend. My husband and I work with teenage boys and they have shared with us that it's really hard for them to keep their hearts and minds pure when young women call attention to their bodies in any way that's the least bit suggestive. That doesn't mean you can't be "current", but I would encourage you to be mindful of showing too much skin or too much shape. We also work with young ladies and it's fun and exciting to see them be creative with today's fashion, yet do it in a way that truly brings honor and glory to the Lord. I hope you take this right and that the Lord uses it for His glory in your life. I also pray that He blesses you mightily! Love in Christ, Kay

This is what my friend Gene wrote nearly a year later:

The first thing I noticed was that the vast majority of those writing were female. So, I debated about adding my words. Then I came to the prudish comment about your attire in your staff photo and I wanted to hurl. People with their heads that far into the sand would attend an exhibit like "Body Worlds 3" and leave in disgust because the human body was shown in its entirety; rather than marvel at how fearsomely and awesomely we are made. This is the same attitude that covered the legs of the piano-forte so its "limbs" were not exposed. The site is fantastic! I am pleased to have made your acquaintance. "The cookie lady."

The other day I wore that shirt in question again and realized how high cut it really is for me now. I now have other shirts that look nice but go far lower and it was interesting to realize my change in perspecitive. I also now own and wear a two piece bathing suit which I bought as I became more comfortable in my body and I love going to the pool in it. I do not wear these things to "excite men". My body was not made for their pleasure. It was made for mine. I feel comfortbale and I like wearing low cut shirts when I feel like it. Deal with it. I am a woman and I am not to be "covered up" and "hidden" but I CHOOSE to honor my body by presenting it to myself, God, and others when I want to, in a way I like without thought to how it will affect men's oversexed drive.

Here in Oregon there is an event called "The Country Fair". I had heard about it for years so finally went for the first time last summer with a male friend of mine. To picture The Country Fair, think hippieville meets the woods meets Woodstock. It's AWESOME. It feels like you are transported to another world, as if you are visiting an EXTENSIVE village that has been there for decades, everything is so intertwined into the trees and branches and medows. It is a sight to see you will never forget. There are so many amazing sights. Part of the culture at The Country Fair are painted chests. Many women walk around with beautifully painted bodies, bare breasts included. It's perfectly normal and you just accept that this is the way it is. I LOVED it. While I chose to wear my shirt, I appreciated the open sexuality and pride in their bodies these women exhibited. You may be asking at this point about my male friend. What was his reaction? As far as I could tell, it was very similar to my own. I am sure he appreciated their bodies as I did, but he was wasn't staring after them, they were just another face in the crowd. Modestly is such a cultural thing. In Europe, they are much more accepting of the nude human body than we are here in America. For such a sex-crazed culture, we certainly don't talk about sexuality much or are very accepting of our bodies. Personally, I prefer a culture more like The Country Fair where bodies are seen as art and not just sexual objects. While sexuality is a part of who we are, we ARE sexual beings after all, it does not define the whole of who we are. Just as breasts are involved in sexuality but are not JUST sexual.

I will conclude this portion of the conversation by saying I do believe in wearing clothing, in blending in with the surrounding culture, but I am going to choose what I wear by how I want to be presented, by what I want to say about myself, and by what I feel comfortable in. It is not your choice. It is mine. Breasts included.

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Walking the Sea: Modesty - Breasts Included?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Modesty - Breasts Included?


My fellow editorial board member, C. Wess Daniels, has opened a "five gallon bucket of worms" as Peggy put it with his blog post titled, "Modesty: Too Much Skin (At Church and Elsewhere)?", http://gatheringinlight.com/. Within a 24 hour period he had over 30 comments which inspired Peggy to call for a women's blogorama on the topic, see http://www.sillypoorgospel.blogspot.com/ for her posts. As I have a lot to say on this subject, I am going to break it up with this first post focussing on the feminine divine and women's breasts.

I start this conversation with the feminine divine because I think ignoring feminine images of God lies at the root of the problem of how we view women. If we honored and upheld feminine images of God as well as masculine ones, we would value women as human beings as much as we do men and women's bodies would not be something to just cover up while calling it "holy modesty." We would honor their bodies like artists painting or sculpting a nude.

For months I have been studying the feminine divine and sexuality. It has been extremely interesting and has opened up a whole new world of thought for me. God is so often referred to in the male pronoun but in our culture, rarely in the female. Why is that? If God is neither male nor female and both women and men are made in God's image, can we not use both sets of pronouns? If referring to God as Her bothers you, ask yourself why. Why does it bother you to see images of women as images of God? For centuries, women have been reffered to as the evil and sinful gender, the one's to be hidden and covered up. Not only does that do GREAT damage to women, but also to God for SHE is hidden and covered up as well. Through my own exploration of the feminine divine, I have found that by reclaiming God-transcendant and including the feminine, I feel powerful, connected with God in a whole new way, and more at home in my own skin. It is easier to believe I have "that of God within."

The few times I have mentioned this to others, I have heard several times, "Where is that in the Bible? That's not biblical!" Oh, my dear, yes it is! It is biblical. Though I am not usually one to back up what I believe with biblical texts, I will do so here so we can get through this question. Do you remember the story about the woman looking for her lost coin? The woman symbolized God looking for us! Jesus also refered to God in feminine terms when he compared God to a hen sheltering her chicks under her wings. There is also Sophia, the personification of wisdom who calls out in the streets. This is also an image of Jesus/God. And have you heard one of the Hebrew names for God, El Shaddai? El Shaddai means "the large breasted one". My question to you is, if one of the oldest names for God refers to breasts and we as women are supposed to cover them up, what does that mean for who God is? I don't mean that God has breasts, it's the metaphore of life and nuturarnce, but if God honors breasts, why don't we? These are just a smattering of God in feminine terms in the Bible, there are many more.

In Wess's blog, he quotes a woman, though doesn't agree with her, named Annie as saying in her blog:
"–there is a female feature we call breasts. they can also be referred to as “boobies,” or “the twins,” or “the rack,” or “jugs,” so on, so forth.
–most men find this particular feature interesting. tempting. and amazing.
–upon catching a glimpse of said feature (regardless of how much is actually exposed), it is likely for a man’s mind to go to places it shouldn’t.
–with above knowledge, women, you now are educated and have no excuse."


Excuse me? MEN have no excuse. Breasts are breasts! They are a part of our bodies and not something to be hidden away and covered up. There are cultures where women go around bare chested and it's normal. The reason men are so excited by breasts is because they are culturally conditioned to be so. Go back a hundred years and it was the ankles. Women did not show the ankles for it would excite the lusts of men. Are men so animalistic that they can't control themselves if they see a bit of bare flesh? What about all those times when you men take your shirts off? Are you not tempting us women to let our minds go where they should not? What a shitty double standard that is! We are not in control of YOUR behavior. YOUR behavior is YOUR choice and if you can't control yourself when I'm wearing a low cut shirt, than you have far more serious problems than you think.

When I reopened my publishing website,
http://www.spiritwaterpublications.com/, I recieved a comment on my guestbook I decided to leave on there. Here is what "Kay" wrote:

Dear Sarah, I came across your page while looking for a website for Rainbow West. You have a nice website, and a beautiful smile. May I make a suggestion as an older woman in the Lord? In your photo, you are wearing a top that comes very close to revealing more of your femininity than I think you intend. My husband and I work with teenage boys and they have shared with us that it's really hard for them to keep their hearts and minds pure when young women call attention to their bodies in any way that's the least bit suggestive. That doesn't mean you can't be "current", but I would encourage you to be mindful of showing too much skin or too much shape. We also work with young ladies and it's fun and exciting to see them be creative with today's fashion, yet do it in a way that truly brings honor and glory to the Lord. I hope you take this right and that the Lord uses it for His glory in your life. I also pray that He blesses you mightily! Love in Christ, Kay

This is what my friend Gene wrote nearly a year later:

The first thing I noticed was that the vast majority of those writing were female. So, I debated about adding my words. Then I came to the prudish comment about your attire in your staff photo and I wanted to hurl. People with their heads that far into the sand would attend an exhibit like "Body Worlds 3" and leave in disgust because the human body was shown in its entirety; rather than marvel at how fearsomely and awesomely we are made. This is the same attitude that covered the legs of the piano-forte so its "limbs" were not exposed. The site is fantastic! I am pleased to have made your acquaintance. "The cookie lady."

The other day I wore that shirt in question again and realized how high cut it really is for me now. I now have other shirts that look nice but go far lower and it was interesting to realize my change in perspecitive. I also now own and wear a two piece bathing suit which I bought as I became more comfortable in my body and I love going to the pool in it. I do not wear these things to "excite men". My body was not made for their pleasure. It was made for mine. I feel comfortbale and I like wearing low cut shirts when I feel like it. Deal with it. I am a woman and I am not to be "covered up" and "hidden" but I CHOOSE to honor my body by presenting it to myself, God, and others when I want to, in a way I like without thought to how it will affect men's oversexed drive.

Here in Oregon there is an event called "The Country Fair". I had heard about it for years so finally went for the first time last summer with a male friend of mine. To picture The Country Fair, think hippieville meets the woods meets Woodstock. It's AWESOME. It feels like you are transported to another world, as if you are visiting an EXTENSIVE village that has been there for decades, everything is so intertwined into the trees and branches and medows. It is a sight to see you will never forget. There are so many amazing sights. Part of the culture at The Country Fair are painted chests. Many women walk around with beautifully painted bodies, bare breasts included. It's perfectly normal and you just accept that this is the way it is. I LOVED it. While I chose to wear my shirt, I appreciated the open sexuality and pride in their bodies these women exhibited. You may be asking at this point about my male friend. What was his reaction? As far as I could tell, it was very similar to my own. I am sure he appreciated their bodies as I did, but he was wasn't staring after them, they were just another face in the crowd. Modestly is such a cultural thing. In Europe, they are much more accepting of the nude human body than we are here in America. For such a sex-crazed culture, we certainly don't talk about sexuality much or are very accepting of our bodies. Personally, I prefer a culture more like The Country Fair where bodies are seen as art and not just sexual objects. While sexuality is a part of who we are, we ARE sexual beings after all, it does not define the whole of who we are. Just as breasts are involved in sexuality but are not JUST sexual.

I will conclude this portion of the conversation by saying I do believe in wearing clothing, in blending in with the surrounding culture, but I am going to choose what I wear by how I want to be presented, by what I want to say about myself, and by what I feel comfortable in. It is not your choice. It is mine. Breasts included.

Labels: , , ,

7 Comments:

At May 9, 2008 at 2:51 PM , Blogger Dad said...

Preach it sister! One of the best discourses I have read in a very long time. To have it authored by a LADY I respect greatly, makes it even better. You strike hard blows on the head of nail that has bugged me longer than you have been on this planet. I was blown away recently when a special on the Sistine ceiling was started with a disclaimer about some of the pictures might be found offensive by some. Yeah, there are nudes on the Pope's ceiling.

Thank you for being the fantastic lady I have come to know and appreciate.

Gene

 
At May 9, 2008 at 3:34 PM , Anonymous wess said...

Sarah - Wonderful post. And I'm glad you brought up the point about God and femininity. I agree with you reading of Sophia in the bible, and how she's an image for Jesus and God. I love it. And even though I'm not a woman I claim this with you:
"Through my own exploration of the feminine divine, I have found that by reclaiming God-transcendant and including the feminine, I feel powerful, connected with God in a whole new way, and more at home in my own skin. It is easier to believe I have "that of God within."

 
At May 10, 2008 at 3:35 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some day I'm going to find a study about all the damage incorporating neo-platonist ideas into the increasingly clerical church in the second century and beyond really did. The attitude toward women, which does not reflect what Jesus taught and demonstrated, is a major part. Good point about feminine images of God.

In His Love,
Nate Swift

 
At May 12, 2008 at 8:15 AM , Blogger Dad said...

This whole thing about breasts and church "modesty" takes me back a whole lot of years to when I was asked to be the lifeguard at a church camp just west of Dallas. The first day I opened the pool I was inundated with a bunch of 8th grade girls wearing white t-shirts over their swimsuits. I asked what was going on and was told by several of them that the camp rules required a t-shirt to be worn over any two piece suit. I told them that the t-shirts HAD TO GO and would not be allowed in MY pool. Needless to say we had a lot of happy campers (pun intended). Hey! It amounted to a wet t-shirt contest for girls just starting to change shape and enjoying the change. The camp administration went ballistic. I explained that a wet t-shirt might as not be there. In fact, it makes it more appealing. It is what you just can't quite see that intrigues; not, what is boldly presented. That is the whole basis of the Victoria's Secret success and selling the female form. Strangely, this little volunteer job lasted only that week.

 
At May 13, 2008 at 8:27 AM , Blogger Dad said...

I guess my lifeguard post didn't make it past muster. But I do have something for you and your readers to ponder ... Our modesty seems to come with an off/on switch that often defies logic. Let us examine just one aspect of this.

You have mentioned that you have "graduated" to a two piece swimsuit that you enjoy wearing to the pool at your complex. This is great that you have come to enjoy the body given you when God knit you together in the womb. But let us now switch the modesty to ON. There is no way on God's green earth that you would stroll down to the pool in a bra and panties. The same amount of skin is exposed (or covered) in each situation, but we will do one and definitely NOT the other. To me, it makes no sense. The bra is often much more pretty than the suit top but it is to be seen only by you and your mirror. I have yet to find someone that tells me, "I just have to show you the new set of undies I purchased." Worn or merely presented, this conversation never happens between friends of opposite gender. When is this drilled into us? By whom?

It is just something that popped into mind as I sit being able to do very little. Not terribly important but I would enjoy some discussion.

Your friendly blood sucker,
Gene

 
At May 14, 2008 at 2:19 PM , Blogger Tania said...

But what about the poor lesbians who will see your chest and be unable to control themselves? THINK OF THE LESBIANS!!

I loved this post. :)

 
At October 24, 2009 at 8:15 PM , Anonymous Benny said...

Lady you are so right on! As a man, I have found the "forbidden" fruits intriguing,though, much more so in my youth than now, but only when they are hidden. A nude women on a beach of naked people is not a turn on. I believe it is cultural and the culture that tries to restrict only makes the thing restricted more desirable.

 

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