Addressing Biblical Femininity and Modesty With Our Daughters

So last Thursday I was out of town, camping with my married daughters and my youngest two children and about 490 other friends. Imagine how this introvert felt about that. Anyway, I misread the schedule and posted a Q and A post when I was supposed to discuss this topic instead. Ooops.

Modesty:
First of all, it’s required.

But what is it? That seems to be a bit tougher, although I think it really isn’t quite as difficult as we make it.

Like Connie’s family, underwear is not to be seen in public, not the shape, color, style, or the actual garment. I don’t like straps of undergarments showing, and I don’t like peek-a-boo hints of undergarments either. Essentially we prefer, for everybody, including the boy and his father, full coverage from shoulders to knees. Yes, that means not even the menfolk in our family go shirtless after a certain age. No, I can’t tell you that age. All teh babies are essentially nudists about half the time, and they cease to be babies sometime around 3. Ish.

Also, for the girls, no cleavage. That does mean different heights of necklines for different girls. That’s just the way it is. That is no more unfair than saying that the size 12 girl can’t wear size 8 clothes. The shortest of the girls can get away with shorter skirts, too, just because it takes a lot fewer inches of fabric to reach her knees than it does for her far more long legged sister.

We don’t do tight, either, and that means it can’t be tight, and neither can it be loose but look like you were poured into it.

However, those are externals, and while we think they are important, it’s not enough to begin and end with externals. LIke Kimberly’s family at Raising Olives, modesty is about the heart, the attitude, and always, relationships. Although we are all in agreement about some essential basics (the shoulder to knee, and no cleavage), We don’t all have the exact same opinions in our house about clothing, but we have never had the sorts of huge arguments, tears, and yelling that I’ve been told other parents have with their daughters over clothing. I think there are various reasons for this:

1. Preferences are not convictions, and at some stage in their growing up, we do not impose preferences on our children without seriously good reason- I have a good reason for requiring that no t-shirts with slogans be worn to funerals, weddings, and church, even though I don’t exactly have a conviction about it, so that rule stands. I only have a personal antipathy against ankle bracelets and nail polish. It’s not remotely a conviction, I just don’t like ’em, and I don’t really have a good reason. So they are a non-issue- I don’t wear them, but I don’t impose that preference on my Progeny.

2. An excellent relationship with their father. When my husband says, “I know you don’t understand why that skirt is immodest, but i am telling you it will attract attention of the sort you do not want,” even if they find it impossible to believe him, because they don’t think like that, they love him and they trust him. Even if they thought he was wrong, they know he wants only the best for them all the time. I know that many of our readers do not have that for their children, and so this is painful to read, and believe me, my heart aches for you. I did not have that relationship with my own father, and I know what that means in a girl’s life. But I have to tell you the truth. People ask for my advice on how we ‘get’ our girls to go along with our outside the mainstream ideas, and I don’t have any other tips, short cuts, or experience except that we stick to our guns when they are younger and their father is the most amazing and best beloved dad, ever.

3. God blessed us with terrific kids who are all fairly even-tempered.

4. It is a blessing and a curse, but I am quite comfortable with my authority as a parent.  I don’t mean I never second guess myself or worry about my failures, but I feel very strongly that it’s part of my job as a parent not to allow my children to develop ungrateful, whining, discontented and disrespectful characters, and my husband agrees, so we work hard not to let children develop these habits when they are young.   I don’t like it when my two year old yells ‘I hate you,’ but it doesn’t hurt my feelings or make me change my mind, and I have yet to hear one of my teens say this (and we have gotten five through and beyond the teens years so far).  Many much nicer women than I seem to have more trouble with their children than I do, and it often looks to me as though it’s because some of that niceness is actually weakness- they lack confidence in their role as caretakers for the children God has given them.  I’m okay with strong opinions and having an extra say in the matter because I am The Mom.  For instance,   You already know what I think about strapless wedding gowns.

 

Femininity:

We are not egalitarian. We believe men and women are different and have different roles in life.  Like our cyber-siblings at Life In A Shoe, we don’t base our ideas about femininity on the Victorian era, unless we’re hamming it up in a tongue in cheek fashion at a tea party.

Biblically, these are aspects of true femininity:

Being trustworthy, doing good to your family, providing food, gardening, having strong arms, diligence, working with your hands, selling the products of your labor, capably dealing with the marketplace, charity, strength, dignity, wisdom, loving your family, self-controlled,  pure, busy at home,  kind, and subject to your own husband, hospitable, bearing children if possible…. these are just a few of the traits I find specifically in Proverbs 31, Titus 2, and 1 Timothy 5.

Yes, many of them also are good things for males to do.

Things I don’t find as necessary components of femininity:

pink

frou-frou

naive and/or ignorant

silly

illogical

dithery

manipulative

The best way I know of to teach these things to your daughters is to first study and absorb as much as you can biblically, and then talk about it with your children in the good old fashioned Deuteronomy 6 fashion- when you get up, sit down, walk by the wayside, do dishes, cook dinner, and go to the park or drive to visit Grandma. Yes, I paraphrased.  Model them.  Look for examples in books and movies and talk about them.

No curriculum in the world will replace those things.  But it doesn’t hurt to read Pride and Prejudice together.=)

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3 Comments

  1. Harmony
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    “All teh babies are essentially nudists about half the time, and they cease to be babies sometime around 3. Ish.”

    I’m glad to hear this, because that’s the way it works in our family… but we have a relative who is of the opinion that even newborns should be clothed pretty much ALL the time. I’ve often wondered if they were right and we were wrong. Not that I’m giving you the final say on the subject, or that I think my relative shouldn’t be doing things the way they think is best for their family.

    And yes, sometime around when Pearl turned 3 we started talking about modesty and appropriate dress. It’s starting to sink in, but she’s definitely wants to be a nudist sometimes. It’s reassuring to hear that just because she’s occasionally a nudist at 3, it doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll grow up to be one. 😉

  2. Heather P
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Harmony, relax. . . your’e doing fine. My 4 baby girls were allowed to be nudies until about 3 as well, and modesty is also an early and common topic in our household. While our oldest is only 11, she is in public middle school and very aware and critical of immodesty that she sees in her peers. Babies are “innocents” when it comes to these issues. Let them be that as long as is socially appropriate and possible. You’re not warping them or creating a problem. On the flip side of that argument, none of my girls, even as babies, were ever allowed to wear 2-piece swim suits. The can now, IF they are tankinis that cover their middles. . . but NOT bikinis. I figured if I never opened that can of worms with them, then I never had to figure out when to STOP allowing something they had gotten used to.

  3. Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, this is what I was looking for. Exactly what my thoughts are.

    My daughter wears a tankini, actually it’s a swim shirt (short sleeve, like a t-shirt) and shorts. I find that easier for going to the bathroom, but it’s more modest than many one piece suits. If there’s never a chance to wear a bikini you never have to have that argument.

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