Last night I was having a conversation with my teenage daughter. We were mulling over the dress code for camp which led to a discussion that hurts my heart each time I have to think or talk about it. The hurt that comes from acknowledging how badly the church has failed our teens. For whatever reason, a lot of churches are afraid to talk about sex. Truly talk about it. To talk about the ins and outs of something so beautifully created by God for marriage between a husband and wife. To talk about how we each are wired and why our bodies react or respond to certain things the way they do. It almost feels like it is a dirty subject to even write about but here goes.
We have spent YEARS shaming our daughters. And when I say years, I am talking about generations of daughters. We have told them to cover up because if they don’t they are sluts or being provocative or you fill in the blank. And yes, these are things being said to our girls. Now before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I believe girls/women should dress modestly. I am not in favor of women dressing in whatever scantily clad outfit (if you are uncertain the meaning of the phrase, google will happily share images with you) they choose. Especially if one claims to be a follower of Jesus. But all that aside, the shaming we have placed on our daughters needs to stop.
I am the mom of two wonderfully charming daughters. Both totally different. In so many ways. But there is one way in which they are the same. They both have my incredibly long legs. Now I know to some, this would be a great blessing. But to those of us with such things, they can be far from a blessing. You see, most schools or youth camps have dress code rules which limits the length of which your shorts or skirts must fall. It often is 1-2 inches above the knee. Which for a lot of people is perfectly acceptable. Unless you have long legs and then it is near impossible to find shorts that measure up. Pardon the pun.
Yes, we could buy boy shorts (which has in fact been suggested by adult leaders which is upsetting to me as a mom and woman) or cut off a pair of jeans to make them into long shorts that are acceptable to man’s standards but why? What are we teaching our girls, who God created in this way about their bodies? What statement are we making regarding God’s workmanship? Let me tell you as someone who experienced this as a teenager. Here is what I learned. We are teaching our girls that there is something wrong with my body. That my body isn’t normal. That something is wrong with my legs. This then leads me to ask, why would God make me this way if I can’t wear clothes that properly fit? Why would He make me this way? I don’t want to look like a slut or be a slut but why would He create me in a way that I can’t find clothes that fit the way the leaders tell me they should? Each of those questions, are questions I asked myself repeatedly as a young teenager. I would cry and get angry because I didn’t understand why I had to be made this way. I hated my body. To this day, and as much as it embarrasses me to share this, you will not catch me in a pair of shorts unless I’m at the beach because it is still something I struggle with.
So this brings me to my next thought. Who came up with the standards that have been set for dress codes? Men? Women who don’t struggle with body issues? I’m genuinely asking.
Last night Matthew and I shared the ongoing struggles of boys/men when it comes to women and modesty. Here’s the thing, until the church starts talking about sex in a very real and honest way with our teens, girls will continue to be shamed, labeled, and left scarred. We need to reach a place where we are not afraid to have the big conversations. To explain what makes guys different from girls. Why we as women NEED to cover up. It makes me so angry to be walking through the mall or sitting at a restaurant only to see another woman half dressed with her cleavage exposed and her leggings so tight you can see everything. Why does it make me angry? Because I understand the effect it has on my husband as well as my teenage boys. The difference though between my husband and boys is that my husband makes the choice to look away because he has trained himself to do so as a way to honor me and to control his thoughts but my boys, that might not be the case. Boys/men are wired to look. Wired to enjoy. They are visual. Song of Solomon is chocked full of how much Solomon enjoyed the breasts and body of his wife. It is natural. But it is natural and healthy within the confines of a marriage.
Matthew explained this all in such a great way to help my youngest and I both understand why girls need to cover up. It’s not because our teen girls are doing something wrong. It isn’t because our boys are doing something wrong but instead because our boys have eyes that enjoy what God has created but are not wise enough yet at a young age to look away and/or control their thoughts. This can be a reason why they can struggle and find themselves falling into unwise or sinful choices. It is not our (girls) doing but we can play a part and should be responsible and accountable for the part we play. Again, especially as believers.
We as girls have our own issues which typically revolve around identity and often leaves young girls looking for validation in ways that are not healthy. This too is something that needs to be resolved but most definitely resolved in ways other than being shamed.
As for the measurement for shorts and skirts, realistic expectations need to be made for all body types. For modesty within women, if you are a believer then I shouldn’t have to share what the bible says on how we as women should dress. We should know. And if you’ve never read Song of Solomon and taken in the beauty of the book and the beauty of what God created, then I would highly encourage it. It might help us better understand just how God created men and women so differently and why we should celebrate those differences while at the same time respecting those differences. But that can’t be expected within our teenage crowd if we’re too afraid to talk about it with them.