"Is This Modest" is a website that claims to promote an open and practical dialog about modesty, but it's actually a male-gazey compendium of creepshots of high schoolers and misogynist rants about too-tight t-shirts. Is it possible to have a sane discussion about modesty? Not if modesty means, as it does on this site, that it's a woman's responsibility to prevent men from thinking impure thoughts.
"There is no one definition for modesty that everyone agrees on, so here at this site we offer a place to discuss the topic and attempt to help young men and women look beyond the clothing to the heart attitude." That's how the founders of "Is This Modest" explain their philosophy. Sounds rational(ish), right?
Wrong. The site's contributors all wholeheartedly support the exact same definition of modesty: it's 100% the women's responsibility to make sure she's not tempting the men around her into sin by simply existing. The "clothing retailers" section features modest prom dresses, bridal gowns, skirts, and swimwear, and the site gives away a free skirt once a month. Where are the modest options for men? Nonexistent, because only ladies are supposed to militantly monitor the way they dress. Under the quote section, you'll find sayings such as, "Modesty in a woman is a virtue most deserving, since we do all we can to cure her of it." Oooh, deep! What about modesty in a man? They're just born inherently modest, we guess.
Feeling enraged yet? (How immodestly unbecoming!) Settle down, because we haven't even gotten to the creepiest parts of "Is this Modest" yet: the articles and "Quick Review" section, which is essentially r/creepshots for evangelicals.
Meet MInTheGap, who describes himself as a 36-year-old software developer married to "the most beautiful woman in the world (VirtuousBlonde) for 10 years" with five children. Sounds like a busy guy! Not too busy, apparently, because he's been blogging about modesty and "reviewing" photos of high schoolers for years. This guy spends his time scouring Flickr for "people in real situations," i.e. minors whose parents probably didn't realize what they were getting into by posting their yearbook portraits on Flickr, and shaming them in explicit detail for having boobs.
Here are his thoughts on a high schooler posing with a blanket on her lap and a teddy bear (a pretty bizarre photo, yes, but a barely PG-rated one):
I have no idea what she's wearing under the blanket, but the heels aren't high. The top is a bit concerning. First, it's rather tight. Second, the fact that the outer layer is so opened up means that it looks like we're getting a peak at her underthings-and they aren't very high.
I believe this is a piece that's trying to show a contrast between childhood and adulthood-I get that. I also think that you don't have to show yourself like this to convey womanhood.
Wait, so who's the deviant here? The teenager, or the perverted father of five with obvious Lolita fantasies who is "concerned" about a girl he's never met sitting under a blanket?
Here are his musings on another teenage girl sitting on a grassy lawn wearing a long-sleeved shirt and jeans, looking as wholesome as wholesome can get:
What you can tell from this pose is that the outfit is rather tight-it's tight on her legs and on her torso. The other thing to look at is that the v-neck is really low-cut. It's not a problem from this angle, but would be from a little higher up. You could fix a lot by having a lower layer and going another size up.
Ah, that's true. She does have breasts. Maybe she can she cut them off?
The article section is also a fucked up treasure trove of purity obsession. At least the site found both repressed men and repressed women to make the latter group feel bad about their bodies! You can read stories such as "Girls And Their Girls: Too Much of a Good Thing" (Yes, the author is referring to breasts yet again), the story of a woman who reminded of her "own depravity and weakness" while looking at girls wearing tight shirts:
I share it to make it clear to you that I'm not perfect. I still get this wrong sometimes. The "girls" still try to make their way to the surface on occasion…as Jesus girls, we need to be setting example. We have the awesome privilege of showing the world what true beauty looks like, and it's not cleavage!
Our prolific friend MInTheGap returns with "I'd Rather Just Look In Your Eyes":
The truth is, though many women know both that men like to look, they continue to court the gaze by the clothing that they choose to wear.
I'm convinced that most women that wear items that will have maintenance issues either know it when they put it on in the morning, or will know it by the end of the day.
I think that part of the basic problem is that women are fine with the idea of that attractive guy seeing their body, they just don't like the idea of the unattractive or repulsive guy doing the same. I also believe that many women may not consider who sees what by nature-they want to look attractive, and society is telling them that wearing low cut tops is in fashion.
To me, this is just another case of a disconnect between what women say they want and what they would do if they actually wanted it!
Aw, he'd rather just look women in the eyes, poor guy. Well, I'd personally rather just kick him in the balls, but we can't do everything we want in life.
What does MInTheGap expect women to wear? Not sweatpants, that's for sure. In another recent piece (when, exactly, does he develop software or hang out with his family?) "Sweat Pants Do Nothing For You," he laments sloppily-dressed women, who seem to be slightly more worthwhile than sluts but not by much:
I was in the van, watching my four boys while waiting for my wife to return from her doctor's appointment when I noticed two women coming out the office headed toward their car. One of the two women-the younger one-was wearing grey sweatpants, and they did not flatter her.
The woman coming out of the doctor's office was in that last category. Her pants were extremely baggy, and just looked awful.
Let's get this straight: We should never wear tight clothes. But we should also never wear baggy clothes, even when we're running errands and don't particularly give a fuck what anyone thinks about our sartorial choices. Wow, it's like women can never win. Oh, wait.
As Lindy explained in her aptly-titled piece, "Hey, Girls, Modesty is Bullshit," the problem with modesty is that "the idea that society can tell you how much of your body to reveal or hide implies that your body does not belong to you." That's why modesty is bullshit for both men and women. But the convenient absence of men on the modesty-obsessed website — except when they are perving over teenagers under the guise of being concerned about them — highlights how particularly hypocritical this site is.
You can't purport to host an open, nonjudgmental forum while repeatedly enforcing the idea that women, and women only, are responsible for whether or not men lust after them. That's a pervasive concept that perpetuates rape culture; it doesn't help young women feel good about themselves or teach people to respect one another or help anyone in any way. Other than, of course, the sexually repressed dicks who get off on telling girls and women how to behave.
(image via Flickr)