Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny
Today I’d like to venture into the land-mine of another sensitive subject, if I may – modesty.
Invented by the French engineer Louis Rayard in 1946, the bikini was it for site of the atomic bomb testing currently underway in his day; he anticipated an outcry of outrage, as he exposed the belly button for the first time ever, a cultural “atom bomb” if you will. Which indeed he got. He apparently didn’t consider it a true bikini unless it could be pulled through, of all things, a wedding ring; it was so scandalous for its day that no model would wear it. He ended up having to hire a stripper for its debut. Does that tell you something? It does me.
Rumour has it that it took a while for this garment to catch on in the US, since it was considered a “licensuous garment favoured by Mediterranean types”. In 1957 Modern Girl Magazine said that no girl with “tact or decency” would ever wear it. However, once the 1960’s sexual revolution kicked it became square not to wear one. Modern day gurus have even dubbed it “the millennial equivalent of the power suit.” A slight difference of opinion, don’t you agree?
Five years ago Princeton University male students volunteered for a research study on how the male brain reacts to clothing. Or lack of it. Guess what bikini-clad beauties do to a healthy male brain? They light up the “tool” part, of all places. The medial prefrontal cortex however is often unaffected (the part of your brain registering thought of another’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions). Researchers were shocked; they almost never see that part of the brain shut down. Translation: it shows the objectifying of objects, rather than seeing people. Something to be used, not connected with. Who wants that kind of power? Is less really more? Perhaps not.
Jessica Rey has a vid out where she talks of the value of modesty, and how we have almost completely lost it in our present culture. However, and there’s always a however, as we all know, critics of this school of thought have had their day and I want to give equal representation so with this in mind, here are a few snippets from one her blog.
“I grew up in a community where modesty was over-emphasized” (emphasis mine) – you’ve got to know I have an issue right off the bat, btw. “I don’t want to contribute to the grossly incorrect notion that the Bible only addresses fashion in the context of modesty.” It didn’t, last time I checked. “It’s one thing to know what’s right and not always act in accordance with that…” Precisely my point. Right behaviour verses wrong. Not leading others into places they’ll regret later. “It’s another to be less than 100% certain about what’s right in the first place.” I’m not. I’m 100% proof positive certain of where I stand on this issue. Then she has the kindness to ask readers to “adjust your grace-o-meter accordingly.” Wow. Never heard that one before. I’ll bear that in mind for my future blogging excursions.
This blogger argues that bikini-wearing should not be associated with sexual looseness. No one said it was. But there’s a better way. (And an FYI for the blogger, there’s bikinis and then there’s bikinis.) She goes on to say that modesty is “a product of culture.” I happen to disagree, as evidenced by our current one. PG13 slash X rated movies are consistently the highest revenue generating profit makers, according to the stats. “It’s all subjective anyway.” Again I happen to disagree. I know cultures vary in their views of modest but it’s fickle and it can change on a dime. As the blogger herself quite rightly points out, even though Jessica is very modestly dressed according to our present-day society in bygone days women showed neither wrist nor ankle. That doesn’t mean it’s subjective, it simply means culture has changed. I remind her of her own words, “it’s one thing to know what’s right” and not always do it…
The blogger goes on to say that if we are to throw out the bikini, why not the bathwater too? Reintroduce “bath machines”. I found this a strange argument, but still, it’s worth some thought.
Nobody is advocating that we return to the days of women being “baby-making machines meant for serving their husbands in the kitchen.” I fail to see the connection; I’m not quite sure how she got on that subject, when the focus of Rey’s talk was modesty. Her comment, “Bikinis may or may not stimulate particular attitudes towards women; they certainly cannot force them” I also found interesting, since our culture proves many men objectify women. It just doesn’t claim the bikini is the whole reason for this. Neither do I.
I’m happy to say I agree with Jessica Rey – why does it have to be Itsy Bitsy? It’s not about fashion, or even popularity, it’s about dignity. Her last question still haunts me: How will you use your beauty?
The blogger then goes on to take issue with Rey’s chosen example of modesty, Audrey Hepburn, implying it irrelevant since Ms. Hepburn had no figure to speak of, claiming any woman more well-endowed would not be considered modest in Ms. Hepburn’s; she also points out that Rey’s swimsuit designs would not cover such a woman’s cleavage, saying the line does not include plus sizes for said women, yet “despite the numerous flaws I see in Rey’s reasoning…” she still respects her. Wow. Call me dense if you will but all I see is a pot calling a kettle black.
Someone famous once said that those who are doing nothing will always criticize those who are doing something. I’d give ‘em credit if I could remember who they were, I truly would. What I see is a young woman passionately trying to introduce the concept of less being more when it comes to unveiling one’s body, and I believe this is sorely needed in our generation. Am I wrong? Seriously. I want to know. What am I missing?
Kari, the stubbornly modest and proud of it
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