Anger is not accommodating. Anger isn’t contained in tidy little packages, it’s not pretty, and it’s seldom righteous. By and large, anger is considered the realm of men- it’s powerful, large and burns not only the one consumed by it, but anyone who get too close. Anger is not… ladylike.
Yesterday, I combusted, was consumed and burnt anyone who dared to come near. It was one of those days, and the emotional hangover has me thinking about anger in general, my own in particular, and the stage on which this plays out. A stage that has been packed and primed with incendiary devices, mercury trip-switches, flints and tinders, and then wrapped in pink-painted barbed-wire with Pinterest-cute beribboned signs that say “Women are Special!” and “Virtue is Power!”
All I wanna do is kick the powder keg over and light up a match…
My daughter told me her shorts showed too much of her legs and she couldn’t wear them anymore. My breath caught in my throat and the rage-monster woke in my breast. But it got worse- she then asked me why her thighs were bigger than the other girls’ thighs. Nothing on earth will convince me it’s coincidental that she learned about “modesty” and began to compare her legs— she previously had never even used the word thigh, just the generic ‘leg’— to other girls. I carefully tried to keep my face calm, but inside the tidal wave of rage was swelling.
I’ve tried to counteract what I consider the warped, distorted and perverted idea of modesty taught at my church— the idea that girls are responsible for the thoughts of others, the idea that crashing body and sexual awareness onto perfectly innocent young girls is beneficial, the imposing of adult ‘standards’ (and I use the term loosely) onto children (because there is nothing praiseworthy or standard about depriving girls of the joy of their own embodiment and tying their self-esteem to how others perceive them). God help me, I have tried to temper, moderate and educate. But they got to my daughter. And now I don’t know what to do, because SMASHING isn’t going to go over well.
I’m tired of playing nice. I’m tired of pretending the discourse around modesty, young women and motherhood is everything except regressive and harmful. There is good to be mined, but what we cannot seem to see in the ceaseless drumming of “virtue” “chastity” “modesty” and the saccarine-soaked praise is that we are still… STILL… teaching our girls that their value is based on how they look. I’m sure some well-intentioned soul thought she was doing good by telling my daughter what she imagined was appropriate. The problem is, the message is warped and unhealthy, and it’s one with which I not only disagree, but that makes me want to go all Sampson and tear the building down.
There is nothing— NOTHING— wrong with a child in shorts, a sundress, a tank top or a two-piece bathing suit. Not a damn thing. No child is responsible for what any adult may think about their bodies, and I sure as hell do not want my daughter (or my sons) internalizing guilt or shame about the flesh their souls inhabit. Their bodies are marvelous creations, and their innocence is worth protecting fiercely.
Before I joined this church, I never thought about bodies. They just were. Everyone had one. I grew up in a house and a community where I saw mothers nurse openly, breasts were just breasts, and children swam and ran naked through the sprinklers in the front yard. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s, a mother, and a member of this church, and constantly (ceaselessly, unendingly) hearing about modestly that I suddenly became hyper-aware of the bodies of others. It’s as stark a line as day and night. And it’s a line those steeped in it, steeped with their entire family, friends, and community, cannot seem to see. We create exactly that of which we are so terrified.
So here’s an idea: What if we stop focusing so much on how anyone— in particular, children— looks, and try focusing on the things Christ taught. Christ didn’t look at the woman brought to him for stoning and ask what she was wearing. He didn’t chastise Mary or Martha for their dress- he corrected them for focusing on the wrong things and invited both women to come hear on the words of God.
People might not be truly capable of righteous anger, the kind Christ showed when he cleansed the temple (we kind of gloss over the fact that not only did he kick tables over, but he was wielding a weapon and seriously kicking ass) but I think a mother defending her children could come close. Personally, I equate the peddlers of ‘modesty’ to be akin to the moneychangers- they are bringing something impure into a citadel that is naturally perfect and perfectly innocent, and doing so under the guise of providing a service. The intentions may be good, but what they are selling is corrupt, and has no place here. None at all.
Meanwhile, I’ll be standing guard. Right over here, on this stage, laden with all the things I’m not supposed to be comfortable with…next to the pile of matches. And where I don’t give a damn about ladylike.