Is There Power in Modesty?S

In Brazil — a country known for teeny bikinis — evangelical clothing stores are popping up in popular shopping areas, selling long skirts and dresses that keep the cleavage covered.

The Associated Press reports:

In 1980, evangelicals represented just over 6 percent of the population, according to the country's IBGE statistics agency. In the 2010 census, more than 42 million people, or 22 percent of the country's 190 million, identified themselves as evangelicals. Some statisticians predict that if trends hold, evangelical Christians could become the majority here by 2030.

Dressing modestly for religious purposes is an age-old concept, usually placing the responsibility on women, from Burkas to the "plain" (leg-hiding and arm-covering) clothing of the Amish. In a post on Beauty Redefined, the author argues that "Modesty, as an ideal, can be about so much more than shaming females into covering up."

When we have to accomplish a task while also thinking about what we look like while doing it, we're at a major disadvantage.

Someone who sees herself as a capable and powerful person with a body that can help her achieve great things might act differently than someone who exists solely to look "hot."

Girls and women LOSE - and so do the men all around us - when we fixate on bodies.

Of course, it can be argued that the pendulum swings from one extreme to another, in Western culture, anyway: The modest full skirts of the '50s gave way to the micro mini skirts of the '60s; the jeans at the turn of the century (1999, 2000, 2001) had a rise so low a bikini wax was required; ten years later the ladylike dresses of Victoria Beckham (who used to look like this) are chic. So perhaps any leanings toward modesty now are in reaction to half-naked Gaga et al?

The folks at Beauty Redefined would like to take a new view of modesty:

We are more than bodies. When we begin believing that, we begin acting like it, and female progress in every imaginable way will move forward. We will spend less money on cosmetic surgery (up 500% in the last decade with 92% of the surgeries performed on women) and every other product we need to "fix" our flaws. We will spend less time minimizing and obsessing over our insecurities beneath our clothes. We will spend less time emphasizing and obsessing over our favorite parts on display in our clothes. We will perform better academically, athletically, and in our careers. We will love other women more because we will not be judging them as bodies. We will feel greater self-love, happiness, and power to live authentically chosen lives. We will pass along all of these powerful truths to the little girls growing up in an increasingly sexualized world.

Let's change the conversation currently steeped in the negativism of "cover yourself" to "you are capable of so much more than being looked at" and positive, powerful outcomes will follow.

Yet the fact remains that this society still makes judgements about people — women — based on the way they are dressed. A person trying to change the conversation from negative to positive — from a focus on bodies to a focus on the whole person — is wading against a stream of sexualized images, "bikini body" magazine cover stories and sexualized toys for kids. But these days, women are taking back the word slut, lobbying for rights and demanding that the world change to accomodate them. Can't the "you are more than your body" message still get through if the message-bearer is scantily clad?

A shocking display in Brazil - of modesty [AP via Christian Nightmares]
Modest Is Hottest? The Revealing Truth [Beauty Redefined]