Jessica Rey’s recent qideas talk on “The evolution of the swimsuit” is popping up all over the net at the moment. Some promoting her arguments about modesty, others lambasting her for being a prudish irrelevant hypocrite.
When it comes to ideas of morality and standards, many decisions are very personal and by nature individual. What one person in one place at one time considers modest or immoral may differ significantly from another. It could even be the opposite!
What are the motivations behind a choice to modest in any context? There are going to be instances where that so-called modesty is used as a tool to repress freedom, creativity and expression and as an excuse for oppression and kinds of abuse. In those instances the passionate calls for modesty are often driven by weak minded men struggling to keep power over women. Yet in those very same contexts there are still problems with rape and sexual abuse. The cause of those evils is not lack of modesty any more than it is where such inhibitions do not exist.
A concern for modesty cannot be engineered in such a way to excuse perpetrators from crimes or disrespectful behaviour. Modesty, as Rey notes in her conclusion, isn’t about hiding or covering up because someone else has a problem. Modesty is about revealing your dignity.
Rey also cites some research to support her arguments that has also been criticised. Was her motivation solely to sell her own products? We all know that stats and data sets are vulnerable to manipulation so that has to be a concern when research is cited as a defence for any argument. However, read what Rey says in response to that criticism:
Wow! When I was first asked to give this talk, I asked, “how can I possibly say everything I want to say in 9 minutes?” I was told that the point is to get people thinking, to get people asking questions. It seems I have done just that! Thank you for taking the time to watch and to continue to ponder the issue.
For those of you saying that all of the men in the study were hostile sexists, I invite you to read the research again. Some of them were, some of them were not. I also encourage you to read some of the comments on various blogs/articles about the research. Men are laughing that money was spent to research something that is obvious:
“It took a STUDY by people with PhDs to determine this? Good grief.”
“Water is wet. Fire is hot.”
When I give talks to teens and young adults, I do not use this research, though it would be helpful. I simply ask them to sit at a coffee shop for a couple of hours and take note of how various men react to women who have their bodies on display and those who are more modestly dressed. I invite you to do the same.
For those of you who think I used this opportunity to plug my own business, it was actually suggested I speak about my business for 3 of the 9 minutes. Instead, I mentioned my business and tied in the tagline, “Who says it has to be itsy bitsy?” which is relevant to the talk. I spent the rest of the time on the topic at hand.
One other quick caveat. Modesty isn’t a concern exclusive to women. Men also need to consider how they reveal their dignity in their conduct and dress. More on that another time perhaps.
For now, I would recommend you watch it and if you have children, perhaps from school years 4 or 5 upwards, watch it with your kids and talk to them about it.
For my part, as the father of a daughter, I think Jessica, in this presentation, is a great role model with admirable motivation and rationale behind her arguments.
Were I the father of a son, I would want him to think this through and decide to hold all women in highest esteem as his intellectual, moral and spiritual equal.
There’s much more that could be said, I’m sure. Please take a few minutes to watch it.
Let me know what you think when you’re ready.