By Jenn Fawzy
Fashion often dictates what we choose to wear each morning. Halter tops, Capri pants and spaghettis are just a few styles that women like to wear because they have nice cuts and sleek designs. Sometimes we choose our clothing based upon the seasons or occasions. As religious women, are we choosing clothes that reflect what we believe or what is popular in magazines?
Modesty is a virtue that is disappearing in our society. We see men and women dressed in clothing that still makes them look almost nude. No one even seems to notice anymore as miniskirts and shorter shorts has become the norm. In fact, when we see women who are covered up, it looks out of place or almost odd. We have a duty as women of faith to separate ourselves from secular society not only in action but in the fashion world as well.
Muslim women also feel like they have to justify why they dress modestly to non-Muslims. Societies that are not familiar with Islamic doctrine think that somehow modesty has to do with culture. It was customary for women in all societies to dress modestly, but over time, that has changed.
The sexual revolution in the USA in part caused women to shed their respectable garments for more sexy and revealing attire proclaiming that women can be as sexual as men, and that their bodies are beautiful creations that they should not be ashamed of. While this statement holds true, it is used in the wrong context usually. A woman can wear whatever she wants at home with her family or even alone. Why does she have to showcase herself to people that she does not know outside the home? Why can’t she wear what she likes instead of what fashion experts want her to wear?
These days, women are judged for how skinny they are, or how sexy they look instead of more important characteristics. Instead of liberating women to truly act equally as men, we are now reduced to sexual objects only desired for their bodies. How often do you see men parading about in a halter top or see through shorts?
The media uses female sexuality to sell everything from food to cars reducing it to a sales pitch instead of something that God has ordained to be protected. The West hardly thinks of sex as something that is sacred. Sex has devolved into an act that you can do randomly with strangers just for fun. It is no longer a physical expression of love that you share with your spouse.
The real issue at hand is how to maintain your modesty. It is difficult to find appropriate clothes in many shopping malls and clothing retailers. The fashion industry wants you to bare your arms, legs and bosoms because they realize the one thing that you do not. The more skin you show, the more naked you become. I understand that arms and legs are not sexual organs and their function is not to reproduce, but they are parts of your body that deserve the same level of respect as the more private parts do. Just because your arms and legs are not sexual organs does not mean that they are not beautiful and sensual.
The beauty industry knows that a woman’s body is beautiful. This is the reason that there is a product that exists for every part of a woman’s body from her eye lashes to her toe nails and earlobes. Men do not have such products that accentuate their beauty, but women do. There is nothing wrong with being sexy and beautiful, but we as women have to keep it from becoming excessive.
We have to be mindful of how we dress because it is a display of how we think of ourselves and how we want people to treat us. If we are dressed in revealing clothing, men may treat us in such a way that is offensive. Women are not responsible for the actions of such men, but choosing proper clothing will help us to divert negative advertisement of ourselves.
Dave Chappell (a comedian) actually addressed this issue on one of his shows in an indirect way. He said, “If you dress up as a police officer, I will treat you like a police officer. You are wearing a police officer’s uniform. Even if you are pretending to be an officer, I would not know the difference because I am treating you based on how you look.” People do that! It is natural. We know a dog is a dog based on how it looks, barks, and wags its tail. I am sure that some people thought a wolf was a dog, but again there are exceptions, but exceptions do not change the rule.
Modesty reasserts our God given equality to men. Men pay more attention to their visual senses, while women heed more to what they hear. Men find women beautiful and when they see our skin, it is arousing to them. If we cover our skin, a man is able to focus on the task at hand instead of becoming distracted by our looks. We do not have to give up our femininity to be treated equally as men. By giving up our femininity we actually become more masculine, and this is not being equal to a man, it is becoming one.
You can still be a fashionable, beautiful woman even if you are covered up. There are so many prints and colors that you can try along with layering your clothes. I am sure people will say, “Layering clothing will make you become hot” or “I live in the desert” and that is okay. Cotton is lightweight and allows air to circulate through, so you can wear more light colored cotton fabrics.
To truly be modest on the outside, you have to be modest on the inside as well. Pray for God to help you with your modesty, and don’t give up. It may be difficult at first, but all things in life that are worth the fight are. May God bless you and your efforts.
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