How Not to Talk About Modesty (Among Other Things)

If she had worn a mantilla, those men would have respected her!

I am sure the author of this article is a perfectly nice Catholic man, but perhaps he has not been listening to the news for the past few months, or he would have been more leery of the examples he used to illustrate his views on modesty.   If there is one rule that a male Catholic writer should follow, it is this:

Don’t talk about rape if your article is not already about sexual violence.

The corollary, of course, is “make sure you are qualified to write about sexual violence so that you don’t end up horrifying people and starting slutwalks,” but let’s stick to the main rule.  Toutounji said some well-worn but mostly innocuous things for the first three paragraphs of his article, and then he took a turn for Crazytown:

Some years ago there was a terrible gang rape case in Australia by some Islamic young men. One of the local imams came out and instead of condemning the men, accused Australian women of inviting rape because of the way they dressed. His comments were highly offensive and inappropriate. Days of public commentary deriding the cleric asserted the right of women to dress as they pleased and the responsibility of men to control themselves. And the commentary was correct.

One stands in awe at the laborious care the author has taken to crash into this gaffe, like a skier hitting the only tree on the slope.  If he knew the imam’s words were barbaric, why bring them up?  Why, in the name of all the saints, couldn’t he have thought of a less awful and rapey way to say, “Don’t wear leggings as pants?”  Why did he go there?  But it gets better:

Even though this imam was completely out of place, the essence of his comment was that the way a woman dresses has an impact on men and to ignore that is to be foolishly unaware of the reality.

IgnitumToday advertises itself as “the social network of the JP2 and B16 generations.”  I’m not sure whether this poorly considered article reflects more badly on the site or on us Catholic youth – just look at some of the comments!  My heart breaks for the college student who wrote, in earnest, “If someone compliments my figure, however (like my legs or something; it has happened, college boys don’t always have a filter), I’m doing something wrong somewhere and should probably add an inch to my skirt or wear thicker tights or taller socks.”

Listen up, would-be modesty advocates: the more often you say these dumb things, the more we Catholic girls will begin to believe that you actually mean them.  Please refrain, therefore, from using such examples as “Iranian women have been stoned to death for adultery, which is bad, but still…” (for an article on preserving the sanctity of marriage), or “A certain tribe from Borneo used to eat the flesh of their enemies, which is gross, but still…” (for an article on the morality of military service).

But just when the reader reassures herself that the author is probably an NCB putting his foot in his mouth, she comes across his second analogy:

If I am inviting a friend who struggles with alcohol to my house for dinner, I am not going to offer him a beer as he walks through the door and an array of fine wines with the meal. To do that would be cruel to him and it would not be showing genuine sensitively for his particular struggle.

Again, perhaps Toutounji is just being clumsy here, but in his analogy, walking down the street :  inviting all nearby men to dinner, and walking around in skimpy clothes :  shoving beer into the hands of a recovering alcoholic, who presumably will be more pitied than blamed if he consumes the tempting libation.  Toutounji is very lucky that his post has not yet been discovered by the likes of Gawker or Jezebel.  They would be far less merciful to him than I.

Even the presumably godless editors of women’s magazines agree that it is tacky and immodest to wear leggings as pants.  And now I almost want to put on a shorter top (yes, I’m wearing leggings right now) and prance down to Starbucks.  Congratulations.

All I’m really trying to say is this:  as a young Catholic woman, I am interested in hearing how my dress or behavior might affect nice Catholic men, i.e., men I care about.  I do not care about the feelings of a psychopathic mob of rapists, and I do not understand where violent criminals fit into a discussion of women’s clothing.  Alrighty then.

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About flirtyintrovert

I love reading blogs more than talking to people. I'm trying to change that by writing a blog.
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7 Responses to How Not to Talk About Modesty (Among Other Things)

  1. Sheila says:

    It is my opinion that the way to protect against rapists is not a burqa, but mace. The kind of man who rapes women may or may not care in the slightest what she’s wearing. (In fact, an ankle-length skirt would be considerably less protection against a rapist than a pair of skinny jeans. There was a story in the news awhile back about an attempted rape that the woman was able to fend off because the man couldn’t get her tight jeans off.) However, physical force speaks a language the most depraved fiend can’t help but understand.

    Anyway, I agree with you: men shouldn’t talk about rape if they can avoid it. Heck, I try not to talk much about it myself, because I haven’t been raped so what do I know?

  2. Finicky Cat says:

    Oh, heavens – men joining the modesty debate! To which I say: “La-la-la! Fingers in my ears! Not listening to you! Not listening! Go away!” Sheila, can you spare some of that Mace?

    I’ll listen to my husband. And probably to my father, brother, pope. Probably. (And to my sons when they’re old enough? That’s a weird thought…) The rest of you guys – you’re CREEPY. Go away.

    Flirty, once again you’ve nailed it… Love your blog.

  3. John VI says:

    I do not care about the feelings of a psychopathic mob of rapists

    The problem, conveniently ignored, is that the psychopathic mob of rapists doesnt care about your feelings either.

    There are local standards and rules to be followed. If you dress any way you want in libya, you are likely to be killed. If you dress anyway you want in egypt, you are likely to be raped. And if you dress anyway you want in a western country, some poor smuck is going to try and make you fall in love with him with awkward phrasing about his support for your rights to dress however you wish to dress. Penalties everywhere.

    • Fortunately I do not live in Libya or Egypt – I live in America, where the “She hypnotized me into raping her” defense is not much credited. Some of us, at least, are determined to make sure that it stays that way, and that the “psychopathic mob of rapists” does not become a common feature on the average American street. And I said nothing whatsoever about awkward guys. Awkwardness is not criminal. We are talking about a blog post in which the author brought up a shocking crime to argue for tasteful, modest dress when he could have chosen a much less horrid, more relevant example.

    • If you are in Libya you are likely to be killed, period. In Egypt they kidnap modest, Christian, teenage girls and force them to ” marry” Muslim men. But even in Egypt men are stepping up to punish street harassers and protect their countrywomen:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/nov/05/egyptians-fighting-harassment-streets

      It is simply shameful to hear western men fantasizing about throwing women to the wolves. Fortunately, such cravenness is more common on the Internet than in real life, as I am blessed to associate with many excellent men.

  4. Lucy says:

    What Toutounji doesn’t mention is that the rapists actually stated their collective motive for their crime, which was “Because you’re Western.” They also made comments throughout such as, Editor: [various horrible racist, sadistic things] The rapes were race-based. The imam’s comments about modesty were a way of distracting people from the actual issue.

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