Read this Mum’s Viral Post on Why She is not Teaching her Six Daughters to Dress Modestly

Jessica Martin-Weber, a proud mother of six daughters, ranging in age from 5 to 18, and a baby on the way in the Fall, has revealed why she is not teaching her girls to dress modestly.

In a Facebook post that has gone viral, she explains why her and husband allows their daughters dress as they choose.

With all that experience, they’ve learned a few things about parenting, which they share on their family blog and Facebook page, ”Beyond Moi”.

Read her full post below:

”We were asked yesterday and have been asked before what are our standards of modesty in how our children dress and how do we enforce that.

Well… my answer may not be helpful…

Here’s the short version: we don’t teach or enforce any standards of modest dress for our children.

Here’s the long version:

”We follow the guidelines of the places and organizations that we’ve agreed to follow when we are there. So in school, they have to meet dress code standards. Which is easy, our school doesn’t have one. But back when we went to a uniform school and then a school with a dress code, when the girls were on the premises, they followed it.

But outside of that, we don’t enforce any modesty standards. Ever. Modesty is too subjective and true modesty is about attitude and our heart. To us, enforcing modesty standards is about controlling people and we have found that is counterproductive and undermines our commitment to respecting bodily autonomy. The definition of modest dress has and will continue to change through history and across cultures. We do not believe we need to apply such arbitrary controls to our children. In the photo below some would consider what I am wearing modest, others wouldn’t (growing up that dress wouldn’t have been acceptable because of the neckline and slit and the cling of the fabric), some would be comfortable with my daughter in the blue skirt, some wouldn’t, and some would seen nothing wrong with my daughter’s crop top outfit and shorts, some wouldn’t let their child leave the house dressed like that.

Who gets to define modesty anyway?

We don’t bother.

There are a few questions we have for our children about their clothing that are just practical:

1) Can you participate in the activities you will need to do without worrying about your clothing? (Does it fit without hurting you, can you do jumping, bending over, etc.)

2) Is it practical for the weather? (This one is up for personal interpretation. I’m always cold, for example but several in the family are often warm, it doesn’t make sense to require them to dress to my comfort. With young ones we will take appropriate clothes/layers with us or send them with them should they choose attire that will not be fitting for the weather but we do not make them change, only offer it as an option.)

3) Will the clothing you wear seem out of place in that setting or will it communicate respect for where you are and who you are with based on the social norms of that setting? (For example: attending a classical music concert with grandma vs a concert of your favorite band with daddy and a couple of friends, or attending a wedding or funeral vs catching a movie.)

4) Are YOU comfortable with the parts of your body that are showing and that others may notice those parts and though we are not responsible for the actions of others, how will you feel if someone says something about that? (This is more a conversation for our older kids.)

5) Can you tell me what inspired you to pick that outfit and what you feel it expresses about yourself and communicates to others? (This one is REALLY important when you feel yourself disapproving of their choice and projecting why you think they picked it. For example: you see a teen girl in a low neck top and feel she chose it because she wants to draw attention to her chest but in reality she chose it because it is a hot day and it was a top she had clean that she considered cute and has no desire for people to check out her chest but she knows it will happen anyway so why not wear what she wants since in her experience it won’t make a difference.)

6) Are your genitals adequately protected and safe from accidental harm or accidental exposure (i.e. From bacteria or sitting bare on a public surface) in what you are wearing for the setting and activities you will be doing? (This is required for any time leaving the house and often for inside the house as well.)

I grew up with very restrictive modesty standards that gradually loosened over time. Focusing on what is or isn’t ok for other people to see of our bodies, in my opinion, leads to shame. Shame makes everything more difficult, including when sexual assault or harassment happens because then one wonders if it is because they dressed “wrong”. When I was sexually assaulted as a teen I was ashamed to tell anyone in part because I had worn something that was more form fitting and blamed myself for what happened. If only I hadn’t been wearing that, I thought, this wouldn’t have happened. Never mind that he was my boyfriend and it happened several times no matter what I was wearing.

Most of the time if we have a concern we refer to our questions and have a discussion. It is a priority to us that we be respectful of them and do not put them in the position of having to defend their choices as to how they dress their bodies. Instead, we may let them know what we observed that led to our concern, for example: “wasn’t sure if you were aware, but if you bend over or squat in that skirt, you may be showing more than you intend as I can see your undies/butt cheeks. Are you comfortable with that?” At that point we have shared our concern and the choice is theirs as to what they do with it. So far with our teens (14-18) they have always expressed dismay that the clothing revealed more than they intended and modified their outfit in some way but should they choose not to, we will not overpower their autonomy and will show them the respect they deserve as individuals that does not hinge on what they wear but rather their personhood.

With our girls we never, ever tell them something isn’t ok to wear for modesty reasons. I don’t regret this decision as we watch our daughters bloom with confidence and dress for themselves rather than for the gaze of others.”

Do you agree?

Photo credit: Facebook/Beyond Moi

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