This is the second in a series on modesty I’m hosting on my blog. Last week, Sheila Wray Gregoire argued that the way Christians often talk about modesty shames women. Today, former model and co-founder of GirlDefined Ministries, Kristin Clark, explores the opposite effect — how nudity shames and devalues women. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter too! How do you talk about modesty with your daughters and/or young women you’re mentoring? What lessons have you learned about modesty in your life? — Julie
By Kristen Clark
From the time I was a little girl, I’ve had random people approach me and ask if I did any modeling. I had never thought of myself as a model, but all of their questions made me curious.
As I grew older my curiosity for the modeling industry grew stronger. I was raised in a strong Christian home and both of my parents knew the dangers of the modeling industry. When I grew a little older I finally convinced them to let me try a “family friendly” modeling agency.
I went in for an interview and got the job immediately. I agreed to sign a one-year contract.
Things seemed to be going well at first and I liked the idea of being called a model. I wasn’t pressured to lower my standards for modesty and purity until several months into the job.
One day my director called me on the phone and explained that models need to be flexible with what they wear and what they do. “If you want to join the big leagues and become a top model some day, you need to be less picky. Remember, your job is to be eye candy.”
Eye candy? I thought to myself. The term disgusted me. By the end of the phone call, things were becoming pretty clear. In order to become a successful model, I would have to be okay with undressing — a lot. I would have to be okay with selling my image.
I wasn’t okay with that though.
I chose to walk away from the modeling industry as soon as my one year contract was up.
Even though my experience in the industry was brief, I got a taste for what it felt like to sell my image for profit. I greatly disliked being viewed as an object for others (mainly men) to consume.
I was constantly pressured to accept jobs and wear things that were raunchy and sensual.
The modeling industry, along with countless other industries, has re-trained our society to view the female body as a consumable object.
Teen girls are now taught that female liberation and empowerment means illicit sex, sensual clothing, and an occupation as a porn star. As Carolyn McCulley writes in her book Radical Womanhood, “Raunchy has become synonymous with liberated.”
And the worst part? Our over-sexualized culture has done an incredible job at making the raunchy girl the cool girl.
“We live in a culture of hyper-aggressive female sexuality, which is arguably the worst ever in recorded history,” McCulley says.
Sadly, modesty has become close to extinct in the new American raunch culture. In fact, modesty is now looked upon with shame and embarrassment.
So here’s the question: Is modesty actually valuable for women? Or is it simply a regressive idea from the past? And, as Sheila Wray Gregoire asks in her previous post on this site, “Can Christians Talk About Modesty Without Shaming Women?”
In short, I discovered compelling evidence that there is a Christ-honoring way to embrace modesty in a biblical manner without falling into either ditch — either shaming women, or embracing sexual license.
After my short-lived career in the modeling industry, I have attempted to do just that – to talk about modesty in a positive, non-shaming way. I went on a research journey with the goal of discovering exactly what it means to be a woman defined by God’s truth. In short, I discovered compelling evidence that there is a Christ-honoring way to embrace modesty in a biblical manner without falling into either ditch — either shaming women, or embracing sexual license. Truth is, modesty actually brings more value to women, not less — and here are four reasons why:
1. Modesty places value on a woman’s body.
Women were created by God to be physically beautiful. To have soft curves and a lovely figure. This is a wonderful thing! However, God didn’t design the intimate parts of this beautiful body to be consumed by just any passer-by (Prov. 5:18-19). When we, as women, uncover and reveal our intimate body parts, we, in a sense, cheapen what God has made to valuable.
However, by dressing with modesty and dignity, we boldly state that our bodies are precious, valuable, and not available for common consumption.
2. Modesty promotes female dignity.
Nudity and immodesty have completely backfired on women. Rather than gaining more respect and dignity in the eyes of others, we have become objects to consume. By undressing, we have trained many modern men to view us as nothing more than eye candy. We have thrown our dignity down the drain at the false promise of becoming more empowered.
Putting our clothes back on is the first step to regaining some ground. Actions speak louder than words. By dressing modestly we silently proclaim that we are much more valuable than our curves. We are dignified women who value our bodies and expect the same from others.
As Jessica Rey stated, “Modesty isn’t about hiding ourselves, it’s about revealing our dignity.”
3. Modesty demands respect.
Women desire respect just like men do. Sadly, nothing has destroyed respect for women more than the porn industry. I looked up synonyms for respect, and I found words like esteem, regard, high opinion, admiration, reverence, and honor. Porn encourages none of those for women. Why? Because porn/nudity turns women into “objects” and objects are disposable and replaceable.
Women who dress with modesty and decency naturally demand more respect. When we respect our own bodies, we encourage the respect, honor, and admiration from those around us.
4. Modesty draws attention to the face.
It’s not uncommon to be out in public and see a random guy doing a “once over” on a woman. When we, as women, undress and reveal alluring portions of our intimate body parts, we shouldn’t be surprised when strangers feast on our body. By dressing immodestly we invite everyone, including creepers, to enjoy what isn’t theirs.
The attention we receive (good or bad) is solely based on our physical body, not on who we are as a person. By dressing modestly we instantly put the creepers in their place. We send the message that our face is where the focus needs to be. We encourage people to get to know “us” not our curves.
When modesty is embraced with the right heart and for the right reasons, it is powerful and freeing in a woman’s life.
Modesty promotes value and worth in ways that sensuality and immodesty never could.
God loves his daughters and He values us more than anyone in this world (even more than we value ourselves). God calls women to adorn themselves in modest apparel (1 Timothy 2:9) because He loves us and values us. When we, as modern women choose to dress modestly, we aren’t proclaiming shame, but simply proclaiming the fact that we value and treasure the beautiful bodies that God gave us — all for His glory.
For more of Kristin’s perspective on modesty, check out the book she co-authored with her sister – Project Modesty: How to Honor God with Your Wardrobe While Looking Totally Adorable in the Process. The book unpacks the Biblical perspective on modesty by digging into why modesty must start in the heart, why God created clothes in the first place, and how to dress fashionably and modest at the same time.
About the Author
Kristen Clark is the co-founder of GirlDefined Ministries, and co-author of Girl Defined: God’s Radical Design for Beauty, Femininity, and Identity. She and her sister, Bethany, have a passion for helping modern girls understand and live out God’s timeless truth for womanhood. In a day and age when girls and women receive so many conflicting messages about their value, purpose, and identity, they desperately need to know that the only one who can define them is the One who created them. You can find out more at www.girldefined.com.