As a man who lives with and cherishes his wife and three daughters, there are few things that I find as frustrating as seeing young girls demean their value and objectify themselves by the way they dress. Many of the styles young girls find themselves drawn to these days make me wonder, ‘Why are they wearing anything at all?’
Feminism has won the right for women to dress however they want, right? Men have forever been hushed, and trained not to speak about what a woman wears, right? But here’s the thing: A house divided against itself cannot stand. If the goal of feminism was to increase our awareness of the inherent value and dignity of women, but the clothes they choose to wear actually diminish their dignity and value, which side wins? And if we, as men, know that we think differently about inappropriately dressed women, but don’t say something then aren’t we in fact contributing to the diminishing of the display of the dignity and value of women?
For whatever reason, the men in our culture seem to be happy to keep quiet about this. The husbands have not spoken to wives, and the fathers have certainly not addressed these matters with their daughters (they’re far too distracted with other things, letting the TV and pop culture raise their children). Pastors have done not much better, barely ever speaking to the female members of their church with a sense of challenge and expectation. We’ve listened to feminist rhetoric, become lazy, and just kept quiet.
There’s an interesting form of subtle ‘reverse sexism’ at play here. In an effort to give our women more freedom (‘treat them with more respect’), we’re choosing not to call them to something hard. We’re choosing to shield them from the realities that we (as men) are well aware of. We’re choosing to expect less of them, as if they just wouldn’t be able to ‘get it’ or something.
While some of the conversations may indeed be hard, let’s give our women the benefit of the doubt. They can understand hard things. They can deal with it. They can choose to accept what we say or reject it. But let’s at least treat them as equals and give them the knowledge to make an informed decision.
Two Lessons from History
Since I’m preaching through Genesis right now I can’t help but relate everything back there. I want us men to take at least two lessons from our first father’s failure.
First, we must learn to not be silent. Adam was right there while Eve was being tempted. He didn’t say anything. We all know what happened — but we need to remember who God came looking for. Brothers, if we are not helping our wives in the midst of her temptations to listen to the lies of Satan and the world, then God will come looking for us. It is you and me that will be held accountable.
Second, we must see that clothes are good and cover our shame. Adam and Eve felt shame and covered up with fig leaves. That wasn’t good enough. God made them permanent clothes out of animal skins. Their shame was bad, and the covering of their private parts was good. Any attempt to ‘uncover’ ourselves or draw attention proudly to what God calls sees as evidence of our shame should be and must be seen as prideful rebellion.
Honouring the Heart of Feminism
If the very best of feminism has at its heart the desire for women to be seen as equals with inherent value and dignity, and for women to be treated with respect, then we acknowledge this is a good desire. I have daughters, and believe me, I want men to treat them with respect. But the simple fact of the matter is that by letting our ladies dress so sensually we are actually allowing them to be demeaned and objectified in the hearts and minds of many of the men who will see them.
If we want others to cherish and honour the women we love, to respect them as people and not objects, we must help our ladies understand what it means to ‘adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control’ (1 Tim 2.9).