When I’m Asking You to Take It Back: Don’t Call Me a Princess

To my dismay, I came across the post entitled “That Day I Wore Yoga Pants: 5 Myths About Modesty” when I logged into Facebook one morning and saw it being shared on numerous friends’ Walls. Thinking that it must be an interesting article – not one that would make me want to rip my face off – I clicked the link. It made me want to rip my face off.

For me as the reader, the first sign of trouble came five paragraphs in when the man referred to solely as Mr. M (the author’s boyfriend? elderly neighbor? husband? photographer? who knows! at least for a good long while) is noted as having “. . . requested, not commanded, that I [the author, Phylicia] refrain from wearing the [yoga] pants to the gym, and really not in public at all.” Okay, fine. Dude has an issue with yoga pants, and you’re wearing them on your date-notdate-Ihavenoideawhatitisbecausethere’sbeennoclarification. But already you’re having to preface the crux of the whole article with the mysterious Mr. M is not forcing me to do anything because he’s not commanding, he’s not making rules for me, he’s just requesting, isn’t that so polite? 

My blood pressure started to bounce into the unstable zone just a few sentences later.
“I picked at the tag on a buffet table, glancing at myself in a mirror in the corner. It was just one request he had made – a request based on what he knew of his own male mind and the minds of the men around him. But I wanted MY way, so I ignored it.”
Excuse me? You mean to say that you’re ashamed – and that that shame is justified? As you yourself said at the beginning of this post, you were running late AND you were planning to meet Mr. M for a fast-paced walk, so you pulled yoga pants out of your drawer and put them on. Tell me where the shame should come from in that sentence.

“The issue here is not that I wore yoga pants. The issue isn’t yoga pants at all, but the principle of the matter. The pants are skin tight. You can see every curve of my lower body. Not only is it attractive to Mr. M, but from several informal interviews, comments, and input from other men, it’s a recurring blind spot with Christian women everywhere. It’s about how hot I look, or how I want to dress, regardless of what anybody thinks.
Let’s be real: I have failed and still do fail at modesty on occasions like I just depicted above.” 
Well, thank God. The issue is not that you wore yoga pants. However, allow me to please point to what is actually the problematic principle of the matter, one that you failed to address. You say that the issue is not how tight or how provocative the yoga pants are but, instead, how attractive you look in them. When you say that you justifiably feel ashamed – even more so, that you feel that you have FAILED at modesty – when you look attractive, you continue the devastating onward roll of the lie that bodies are sinful, bodies are something to be ashamed of, and how attractive you are – otherwise known as beauty – is all the more so something to be ashamed of. And that is a lie from the pit of hell. 

I have always sensed that this lie is exactly that, a lie. But, as Christians are prone to say, you can’t trust your feelings (or, in this case, your sensations). {Whether or not I agree with that statement is another story.} Okay, fine. I’ll match you with something equally not feelings-y and equally Christian. Let’s talk about the Incarnation. 
The God of the universe decided, years upon years upon years of God time in advance, to come to earth in order to fulfill His master plan of rescue and salvation and grace and mercy. He chose to come to earth through Jesus, His Son. He decided that Jesus would look like a human being. That Jesus would actually BE a human being. So, when the time came, God was incarnated as Jesus Christ in human flesh. Let it be remembered that there was no sin in Jesus, no sin at all. That, my friends, is how we know that human bodies are not something to be ashamed of. 

I’m not sure when it happened, but I do know that at some point – perhaps right here – I threw my pen quite violently across the room. And by “right here” I mean at Myth of Modesty #1 According to Phylicia. 
“#1 Myth of Modesty: ‘It’s His Job Not to Look’
It’s true, lust is a sin, and men shouldn’t entertain it.
But if we give them nothing to look at, how often do you think they would be tempted to lust after us?” 
These words are only a hop, skip, and a jump away from the boiling hot water of rape culture where people say, “If you hadn’t worn such a short skirt, that never would have happened to you.” (In other words, an “It’s your fault” mentality.) Penn State’s online Center for Women Students has listed their own (six) myths about rape, all of which are founded on research: 

“MYTH: Rape can’t happen to me or to someone I know.
FACT: Rape victims come from all socioeconomic classes and ethnic backgrounds and range in age from 3 months to 97 years. Men and boys can be victims, too. The highest rape victimization rate is for women between the ages of 16 and 19; the second highest is for women between the ages of 20 and 24. The average age of sexual assault victims at Penn State is 19.

MYTH: Most rapes are committed by strangers in a dark place at night.
FACT: Approximately 80% of the students who sought services for sexual assault at Penn State were assaulted by an acquaintance. National data also indicate that most sexual assaults and rapes are committed by someone the woman knows. Rape can take place anywhere, at any time. Many acquaintance rapes occur in the context of a dating relationship and typically take place on the man’s turf. For college women, their normal social environment – a party where alcohol is used – involves more of a risk for sexual victimization than does walking alone down a dark street.

MYTH: Rape is a sexual crime, impulsively committed by a man for sexual gratification.
FACT: Rape is a crime of violence and aggression. Its intent is to overpower, degrade, and humiliate the victim.

MYTH: Women provoke rape by how they behave, dress, or where they choose to go. Rape is the victim’s fault.
FACT: Rape is never the victim’s fault. If a woman wants to be involved sexually with a man, it would not be necessary for him to use force or threats of physical violence. Research shows that rapists look for available women they perceive as vulnerable.

MYTH: In a dating situation, when a woman says “no,” she really means “yes.”
FACT: “No” means No.

MYTH: Women report rapes to get even with men or to protect their reputations.
FACT: According to the FBI, fewer than 2 percent of reports of rapes are false, which is the same percentage for the false reporting of other crimes. In fact, anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of all rapes are not reported to the police. During 1996-97, only 18% of student victims of sexual assault at Penn State reported their experience to local or campus police.” 

Now let’s look at the SlutWalk movement. According to the National Organization for Women (Greater Grand Rapids Chapter), “The SlutWalk movement originated in Toronto in January 2011, when Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti publically stated: “Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” These now infamous words sparked an outrage, and from that outrage came a movement that in 6 short months has spread throughout Canada and the United States, as well as the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Asia and Europe.  The message is simple: the victim of a sexual assault is never to blame, and to pretend otherwise by asking questions such as “What were they wearing?” will only perpetuate the problem by placing blame on the victim rather than the perpetrator.” SlutWalks are much like any other parade with a strong motive, only these in particular often consist of women wearing oversized, “unattractive” clothes (such as sweatpants) because that was what they were wearing when they were raped. If that isn’t proof that you dare not victimize the victim – for any reason, especially not for a reason of clothing choice – then I don’t know what is. 

Later in Phylicia’s post, Phylicia refers to “a young man in a men’s group Mr. M once attended.” Apparently, he shared that it is quite difficult for him to work out beside women who are wearing yoga pants because it is difficult for him not to lust after them. He even referred to the experience as a “threat.” To that I say: You’re at the gym. They’re at the gym. Yoga pants were designed for yoga at the gym. The modesty/prevention of lust argument about short running shorts will not fly when you find yourself on a university cross-country team. (Source: one of my best friends, who obsessed over modesty to the point of wearing knee-length workout shorts all her life while running until college. When she joined her Christian university cross-country team, she was told that short running shorts are a necessity because the less fabric there is tying you down, the more seconds you can shave off your race time. And shaving seconds off your race time is the point of university racing teams.) And the modesty/prevention of lust argument about yoga pants should not fly at a yoga class either. I mean, if we’re going to start shaming women with this “modesty doctrine,” then why don’t we start shaming men with it too? Stop being shirtless at the gym! Don’t show off your muscles! Wear a loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirt and baggy, long pants no matter the temperature. For the love, how dare you make me feel attracted to you! (Because sexual attraction is totally something to be ashamed of . . .)  {For the record, I do not think we should shame either side, men or women.} 

Unfortunately, Phylicia wrote a sequel to her first post. This one is called “The Motive to Modesty.” Let me bring you to the part that made every hair stand on edge, every bit of blood boil, and my entire world hit the fan: 
“Married women: you represent your husband’s name. People see you and they associate you with him; are you a reflection of the honor and respect you want associated with that name – the name you bear?

Engaged women: we represent our fiance’s reputation. Did he make a good choice, or are we calling him into question by the cleavage we display as we bend over?

Single and dating women: you represent hidden qualities of godliness, the mystery of femininity that so many men seek. You are the prize, the trophy, the golden crown to someone: does what is showing distract from that?”
To that I say: I am more than a representative of my husband, fiancé, boyfriend. I am more than a representative of mysterious femininity. I am not a prize. I am not a trophy. I am not, and I will not ever be, a golden crown to someone. How dare you name me as such. When you do, you do precisely what you are arguing so vehemently against – you are turning me into an object. Don’t you dare. 

A man is a man. A woman is a woman. We are more than representatives of another person. We are living, breathing beings with hopes, dreams, desires, emotions, intellect, logic, creativity, and immense talent. We are more than prizes, trophies, and crowns. You demean us when you say we are otherwise.

Women, you were never meant to feel the weight of guilt and shame that comes from carrying a burden you were never meant to carry, the one that says “You are responsible for another man’s lust. You are responsible for how he looks at you. It is your fault when you’re walking down the street and catch a man looking you up and down.” Men, you were never meant to feel the weight of guilt and shame that comes from carrying a burden you were never meant to carry, the one that says, “You are responsible for another woman’s lust. You are responsible for how she looks at you. It is your fault when you’re walking down the street and catch a woman looking you up and down.” It is not your fault. It never was, and it never will be. Can you care about modesty if you want to? Yes, of course. But should modesty start tipping over into blaming and shaming? Never. It’s not your fault. 

You are a not a princess. You are not a prince. You are not a slave who is bound and shackled by another’s temptations, pitfalls, and serious problems. Be careful as you walk through this life, for the guilt can seriously mess you up. But I promise you it’s not yours to be had. 


7 thoughts on “When I’m Asking You to Take It Back: Don’t Call Me a Princess

  1. I am so glad that you spoke out against this blog post! I read that too when you mentioned it in your last post, and the entire article made my blood boil. I could not believe the judgmental nature in which she wrote the 5 Myths about Modesty, and how she glorified a man who clearly wants to control her and just “asked nicely.” Honestly, that’s one thing that I see in the church today that enrages me; men think they have this role to fill as “the man” and women must be subservient to his whims and wishes, but in reality, the man and the woman in a relationship should put the other person first. I am so glad that you spoke out about this.

    1. Thank you so much for commenting! I agree – it also strikes me as healthiest when two people are both walking humbly and selflessly, as much as possible, together.

  2. Thank you!! I read the original article and about screamed. I spent the next week ranting to anyone that would listen about how the article was dumb for placing all the blame on women and making us to feel shameful for being beautiful. Thank you for writing this counter piece. I really enjoyed it and I agree with you whole heartedly. Thank you

  3. Many years ago I was thinking about why so many of the “rules” I heard growing up in “holiness” churches were placed on women and their appearance. Then it came to me that men were trying to make women responsible for controlling their (the man’s) lust. Women are right to demand that a man take responsibility for his own lust (I’ve learned to appreciate looking at the ground a lot over the years) but it is just as important that a woman’s motives are right. As man, I will be held responsible by God for how i control my own lust. However, the same is true of women. They will not be given a “free pass” by God simply because some men have uncontrolled lust.
    Everyone will be equally responsible for their own actions and the motivation of their hearts. No one gets a “free pass” and no one will be able to cast blame on someone else.

    1. That’s a great way of putting it: “Everyone will be equally responsible for their own actions and the motivation of their hearts. No one gets a “free pass” and no one will be able to cast blame on someone else.” I agree!

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