The Two-Piece Dilemma

I’ve been thinking about the issue of modesty that Christian girls face for quite some time now, particularly as it relates to swimwear and the all-powerful bikini.

So before I start, some context. Read this amazing article from Relevant Magazine about how modest may not necessarily be hottest. This is truly an eye-opening piece about the legalism that so easily sets in when we start to take modesty to its extreme. The author says bluntly, “…let’s face it: our Christian ‘modesty rules’ are sexist, putting far more responsibility on females than males.” I completely agree, and it’s quite interesting how he plays out this argument in the article, so please read what he wrote first.

Now, keeping in mind the aforementioned article, I want to go ahead and open up an issue that I have been struggling with for years. And I can promise you, all of your brothers in Christ are struggling with this as well.

A friend of mine gave me the opportunity to post about this when she posted the following article on Facebook: Four Reasons to Keep Bikini Pictures Off Facebook.  Thank God someone else is talking about this! I want to particularly zero in on the second point that the author makes in her post which is: “2) Because the good guys (i.e. – the guys you want to date) will choose to “hide” those pictures from their newsfeeds anyway.

I confess that I am one of those guys who hides the bikini pictures on my Facebook news feed. So what do I think about this? Let me say that I have a lot of sisters in Christ who have been perfectly content to wear bikinis their entire lives and they are still dear friends and sisters and none of what I say here changes that. This is the part where men need to take responsibility about what goes on in their heads. Guys, ultimately, whatever goes on in your head is your responsibility and that girl on the beach is not making you sin. But…girls…we need help…

Us men have no idea what it’s like to be a woman and to go through the struggles you go through. You do incredible things and we’re kind of left standing around like a bunch of half-witted louts wondering how exactly you girls do what you do. But on the same level of intellectual honesty, you have no idea what it’s like to be a man. And for Christian guys, the struggle of taking dominion over our masculinity is that much harder. Our identity in Christ forms us into men who want to put the Lord first in our lives. But our culture is all about objectifying women and turning them into vehicles for lust. There is tremendous cultural pressure for us to go along with that, and it is a daily battle, nay, a daily war that we fight to keep it at bay. It is the grace of God and nothing else that keeps us pure and waiting on Him.

But sisters, we need help. When we hang out with our Christian sisters, it is a place of safety for us. Or at least it should be. We need  to be able to trust that you are going to place your trust in God and do what you can to protect us from our own sinful selves, just as we fight to protect you. And it is so hard to fight that battle when our Christian sisters are dressing in the same swimsuits that the world finds fashionable. We are fighting to respect you and trust me when I say that those bikinis do not help.

Now, granted, I am one of the more conservative guys out there. Many Christian dudes just roll with the times and act completely chill that their sisters wear bikinis. For some it may not be as big of a deal. But I promise you, that even those guys struggle with it on some level. My group of bros and I don’t even go to the local water park anymore because there’s just too much to handle. And while this may seem like an impossibly high standard for some, I’ve always hoped and prayed that I will marry a girl who won’t wear a bikini in front of her male friends.

My hope in saying all this is not to throw yet another legalistic rule at my sister’s in Christ. That’s why I tried to set the mood with that article from Relevant Magazine about this kind of legalism. But it would be a lie on my part to say that this isn’t something that affects every single one of your brothers in Christ, whether or not they admit it. Christ created us to build one another up. Help us.

This is one guy’s honest opinion on a touchy subject. But there’s not as much feedback on what things guys do that affect girls in this kind of way.

So girls, what can us guys do better to serve you as your brothers in Christ?

I pray that this post is accepted gracefully. It is not my intent to attack any of my sisters in Christ, or anyone for that matter. It’s a cry for help and sensibility.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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17 thoughts on “The Two-Piece Dilemma

  1. Thats exactly what I was thinking without being able to put it quite as eloquently. Great blog.

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  2. Gracefully accepted, and very well written. Thank you for your sincerity. There is a great book called A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue by Wendy Shalit which further supports what you’ve already said. I invite your sisters to read it. Also, in keeping with the spirit of the above article you mentioned, yes, modesty should be about preserving our own dignity and self-respect, but in so doing, we also help out our brothers. It’s a win-win. I leave you with this quote:

    “If vulgarity is a game that begins by excluding women, but ultimately excludes men from themselves, modesty is the game both can play. It begins as a woman’s game – one, interestingly, where she appears to lose, “to be missing out” – but really she invites a man to relate to her in a way that is both uniquely human and ultimately more erotic. So modesty may superficially seem to be just a woman’s game because it is one that she must begin, but in playing it she invites men to her in a different way, a way that ultimately means that the men win, too, because they are no longer cut off from adult masculinity.” Wendy Shalit, A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue

    Blessings to you, my brother! Keep fighting the good fight. And thank you for also protecting our dignity as women.

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    • Thanks for reading, Janis! That sounds like a very interesting book, I’ll have to check it out and maybe write a follow up post in a few weeks. 🙂 I like what she says about men being cut off from adult masculinity in that quote…definitely an issue I want to explore further.

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  3. Thank you! The post you’re referring to about bikinis and Facebook is mine, and I can’t tell you how many people have commented basically laughing in my face and calling me naiive, deluded, and all sorts of other names for writing #2. In their minds, for a guy to hide those pictures means he’s either gay, lying, or so repulsed by an image of an ugly girl in a bikini that he doesn’t want to see it. …Nice, huh? Guess we get a glimpse of what the world thinks of guys, too.

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    • Ah! Well, thank you for writing that post!!! Definitely something people need to hear. And I’m glad I could add my thoughts to the conversation…I feel like this is just an area that’s never discussed in Christian culture. And yes…culture’s view of men is also seriously skewered as well. Thanks for your feedback!!!

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    • Thank you, Mary, for being brave enough to write your post. To be mocked and ridiculed is a part of our Christian witness, just as Christ was also ridiculed for our sake. Rejoice, knowing that you,too, endure these trials for the love of Christ and for the dignity of women and men everywhere. Be encouraged, and keep being brave! We need people like you.

      Romans 15:1-6 Patience and Self-Denial – We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves; let each of us please our neighbor for the good, for building up. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you fall upon me.” For whatever was written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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    • Mary Lane– it was a great post, and there is certainly truth in it. Unfortunately in our society, we have become so desensitized that what was once inappropriate is now considered normal. There is a tendency–even among Christians–to criticize any morality which we find inconvenient. But keep on speaking out on these things, the world needs to be reminded of truth.

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  4. Thanks for your honesty. Many girls, through their innocence or naïvité, don’t realize how this all affects guys. But it’s also good for our brothers to know that, in this increasing objectifying society, men too need to be modest–those men’s underwear ads don’t help women much either.

    In any case, this post reminds me of the following quote, which exhorts women to uphold standards:
    “To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.”
    -Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

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  5. Awesome, article, Kameron! I’m so glad you asked this though: “So girls, what can us guys do better to serve you as your brothers in Christ?”

    Compliment girls when they wear something cute that isn’t revealing. If a girl gets a compliment on that outfit from a guy she respects, you can guarantee she’s going to wear it more often and wear things similar to it. 🙂

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  6. I totally agree with Mae 🙂 Also I have to say it’s hard to find cute bathing suits that are not bikini’s. Most of the one pieces are very plain or have styles/patterns geared toward older women. There are cute ones online but they seem to be expensive. Then of course there are Tankinis which sometimes have cuter designs but those are limited as well.

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  7. This is awesome, Kam!! To be completely honest, this really makes me stop and think! I’m so used to wearing what everyone else is wearing, that I didn’t really think about how it might be affecting my brothers in Christ.

    And I agree with Mae, whenever a girl gets complimented by a guy, that moment stands out in her mind and she’ll remember to wear something like it more often.

    I’m gonna choose my outfits/swimsuits more carefully from now on!

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  8. I have three sisters, and in my family it was always a given that we wouldn’t wear bikinis. We are stylish and we keep up with tasteful, chic, elegant fashion as best as we can with limited budgets, but without embracing every trend. Even though the bikini trend was one that caught on long before our time (I’m 24; the bikini has been around since my mother’s youth), we always knew this was a trend we would never adopt.

    I have put some careful thought into why this standard should be one that we keep, when 99% of women around us (including the majority of our friends in our largely Catholic circles) don’t have a problem with wearing bikinis. I have come to the conclusion that it’s not just about the amount of skin that you’re showing (although that does play into it). It’s actually about the fact that a woman in a bikini is presenting herself as a collection of parts, rather than a whole. Contrast how she looks on the beach with how she looks in a long evening gown. In the evening gown, she is one, lovely person, presented as a whole with the focus rising to her face; she is womanly. There’s something about a woman in a gown that is remarkably, distinctively feminine. A bikini, on the other hand, divides up that wholeness, highlighting each limb and body part and making focus on her face unlikely.

    It’s so worth it to cover up more, and it’s not impossible to find swimsuits that cover the body and are stylish and attractive!

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  9. Great post Kameron! Again, Mae’s right on. I can’t tell you how helpful it is when a guy I respect lets me know about this stuff–not only does it encourage me to wear similar outfits, but it also protects me from coming up with my own ideas about modesty which could be completely off-base.

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  10. Came across your blog from the post you were commenting on. It’s a bit belated, thanks for this post! Dressing modestly is an act of charity, and like all other acts of charity, it is not an imposition meant to limit your freedom, but rather something one would do out of love for her brothers. 🙂 Beautifully written!

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  11. Pingback: The Two-Piece Dilemma « The Rampart Review | peonies in the dark

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