A couple weeks ago a young college student posted this photo and the internet erupted with everyone's commentary on it. (Don't be surprised. They do that about everything.)
(If you didn’t click the link and check out the photo – go do that – and then come back! Or else this blog won’t make any sense to you.)
I think it's a brilliant photo because it makes me stop and think. I hope it does the same for you.
(I think it also might be a little inaccurate though because some girls can totally rock a long, maxi skirt.)
I also think it points a big, fat finger at those super conservative Catholi . . . oh wait . . . at us – those people who think every girl's skirt should hit exactly at the knee in order to be 'proper.' The girl who made the image even admitted that she thought of the idea because she realized this was something she was guilty of – making quick judgements about someone based on their skirt length.
Admit it – whether you’re a male or female, we’re all guilty of doing this. I would do anything to meet the person (it's probably Mother Teresa) who has never judged a girl based on what she's wearing – whether it's the girl walking down the hall of your high school, your sister, or a complete stranger. Why do we do this? It's not like we judge girls based on their hair color or body type. Oh wait. People do that too.
Object and Person
The main thrust of the modesty argument . . . as well as the talking point of every girl's session you've ever heard . . . is that women are more than their bodies. We deserve to be treated as unique individuals and not a collection of desirable body parts. Right? Agreed?
Then why, oh, why on earth do we reduce girls to their clothes and bodies when we judge them for things like skirt length? That's the definition of objectifying someone. The motivation behind it – lust or judgement – is different to be sure. But the fact that it's objectification is not.
In both cases, you're not looking at the person, or thinking about the fact that there's a soul in front of you. You're looking at them as an object.
Blessed Mother Teresa said, 'If you judge people you have no time to love them.' And isn't that what we're supposed to do? Love God; love others. That's the simple message of the gospel.
What's the point of judging a girl’s character by her clothes anyway?
To change her mind and get her to change her clothes? The idea that you should run around and say 'it has to come to this line and this line only' in order to be modest is such a legalistic approach and misses the whole point of the discussion about modesty. Since when do people – especially young people – respond well to being confined to a set of rules? It doesn't work.
No one wants to obey the ten commandments if they don't have a relationship with God.
And no one will listen to someone who only wants to tell them what they're suggesting with how many inches of leg they're showing.
There's something more going on.
Fulfilled, happy people don't post suggestive photos of themselves on Facebook.
Fulfilled, happy people don't need to decrease the amount of clothes they're wearing in order to increase their amount of confidence.
Instead of judging we need to look inward and ask ourselves questions like: What are we doing to help the people around us understand their dignity? How are we being Christ to one another? How are we loving each other?
It's the hearts not the hemlines we should be caring about.
Holiness over Hemline
Now, I've written about modesty before so obviously I'm not advocating that everyone wear whatever they want while we sit by silent and approving. But I don't want to give a lecture on what I believe the perfect skirt length is – or whether or not such a thing exists for every person. (No.)
There are some clothes that are modest and immodest. A half-shirt and a couple inches of skirt aren't going to lead anyone to holiness. And a bikini isn't going to either.
But the girl who puts that on probably isn't thinking about that in the first place. Whether it's a fashion statement, a cry for attention, or the need for a date, you won't know until she trusts you enough to talk to you.
Any conversion and any conversation about clothing choices has to come out of a relationship first. And a relationship can only be built when a girl knows you're looking at her personhood without a derogatory name in your head.
It's like the gospel story about the people who were condemning the woman caught in adultery. They asked Jesus if they should stone her for her sin and he said whoever has never sinned can throw the first stone. (John 8:1-11)
Well . . . if you've never done anything to get attention, if you've never done anything out of your need for love, if you're never made a choice you regret . . . then go ahead, call her a name . . . throw the stone of judgement.
I'm praying for you.