I do not want my daughter to grow up in a world where the boys and men around her constantly judge her morality in terms of physical attraction. I don’t want her to hear things like, “waiting till marriage is sexy” or “it’s a turn-off when girls smoke”.
The piece is insightful and much-needed. I'm glad to see someone with a large audience calling out this phenomenon. But something is still missing.
It is absolutely problematic that boys and men are judging the women around them based on their physical appearance, but isn't the bigger problem that they're judging their morality at all? Would it be okay for them to say, "I don't think you should dance that way/dress that way/act that way because you might go to hell?"
I had a discussion with a friend once about a girl she knew who had called off her wedding because her fiance was insisting on the "no pants" rule. My friend didn't agree with him, but she thought my interpretation of his behavior was too simplistic. "I don't think it's about control," she said. "I think he's wrong, but he's really doing something that he believes is for the good of her soul. He think she'll go to hell if she wears pants." When faced this kind of boneheaded fanaticism, it's hard to tease out the underlying sources of the problem, but I did my best. Why, I wanted to know, was he marrying her in the first place if he didn't trust her to make good, moral decisions about how to dress? Why did he think he needed to make those decisions for her?
The problem is that some men think they can look at a woman and know what's going on in her soul and what she should be doing instead. Last time I checked, only God can do that. And last time I checked, there's a whole story in the New Testament about what Jesus thought about men who take it upon themselves to stone women sinning in public. Remember? Oh, yeah, that one.
So while I agree that it's wrong for men to substitute "not attractive" for "morally wrong," it seems to me that the real issue here is why are these men bossing these women around in the first place?
And no, I don't think "You're not my brother, husband, father" is a good response to these men, because that brings in another whole boatload of problems about whether men in general have some kind of authority over the women in their lives, with some restrictions. Yeah, I don't buy that, because A. Casti Canubii explicitly calls out and condemns men who treat their wives like subordinates and minors, B. It's been a loooong time since my father had moral authority over me. You know, like when I was a child. C. My brothers having authority over me is just a weird idea, period. They're far too busy living their own lives to want or need to police my actions, even if such an idea occurred to them in the first place, which it wouldn't.
These men, the ones condemning women for being "unattractive" when they really mean "sinful," have seized on a woman's natural desire to be loved and found lovable and turned it to their advantage. Most know they would not get away with stating in so many words that women should follow the moral guidance of regular, everyday laymen, but they still want to claim some of that oh-so-tempting authority for themselves, the kind that only the Pope or God or a priest in a confessional has. Kind of like my friend's friend's fiance, who put his future bride in the position of having to choose between saying no to marriage with a man she loved and saying no to a normal adult life where she would make her own decisions about what clothes to put on in the morning. And the root of the conflict was that this young man refused to relinquish what he thought was his right to have veto power over every moral decision his wife might make, even the tiny ones. He assumed she would not give up a life of being loved, even if that love was conditional, and he was right, because she married him anyway. Living a life of being rejected and unloved is a terrifying prospect for most women.
"What's the motivation?" Okay, let's run through this again. Only God gets to police our moral decisions, and His representatives on earth. The Pope, etc. Anyone else who tries to horn in on this right is trying to be like God. Becoming like Gods; gee, what does that remind me of? Weird how it all fits together when you really think about it.
So yes, it's problematic that women are being made to feel bad about their appearance in yet another way, but lets not ignore the root of the problem. You can have the kind of confidence that genuinely doesn't care about what men think of your appearance, and the problem will still be there, because those same men will find some other way of manipulating women in order to get what they want, whether it's a hot sexy always available female companion, or a submissive jean-skirt wearing undemanding self-sacrificing wife-in-the-background. In the end, it's about snatching control and using it for self-centered purposes.
"What about the women?" Women are just as likely to rant and rave about how unattractive "slutty" women are, or to call for dress codes in church, so why just attack the men?
Honestly, that one puzzles me, too. I have no idea what those women get out of it, although I can think of a few theories. Maybe they're trying to get in the good books with the men who make the complaints in the first place. "Look at me! I'm not one of those hideous slutty girls. Wife Material right here." Maybe it's their own desire to control; hey, women can be bossy. Maybe it's jealously of the attention those women get or, more likely, jealously of the freedom exhibited by women who haven't conformed to rigorist religious standards. Maybe they're simply doing what women do best: caring for and being loyal to their own communities. The last interpretation is the one I prefer to believe, because quite frankly I don't have the heart to think about it too much, nor do I want to add my voice to the many others who are griping about women's behavior and how they should change it.