The Overkill of Modesty

by allisoncoyle


As a former Christian school kid, I’d like to discuss modesty (or the overkill of modesty) from the vantage point of someone with a large chest.

From the ages of 3-13, I attended a small Christian school where I was instructed on the many do’s and don’ts of Christianity. Though I thought I disliked my school at the time, I had no idea what was in store for me when I transferred to another school in ninth grade.

I developed quite early on in life, much earlier than my peers, much to my confusion and embarrassment. My first bra was a 36B in 5th grade. By the time I entered ninth grade, I was a size 12, 36DD (which was thankfully where my body decided to stop, haha). Though we wore uniforms in our high school, there was a noticeable difference in how the girls’ blouses fit, dependent on how endowed any given girl was. In this case, the girls with smaller chests were much more fortunate, as their slim frames fit nicely and “appropriately” into the button-down shirts and plaid skirts. Perhaps I wouldn’t have felt like such a pariah had there been more girls dealing with the same “struggle.” Before I continue, let me say that as a 21 year-old, I do not wish to complain about my body, as I love my shape and how my body was designed. However, as a developing, awkward teenager, it was a nightmare. You see, it’s not “appropriate” to have boobs larger than a B or maybe a C cup in Christian school. It doesn’t matter if your body is working its own magic…you’re somehow expected to be in control of what your body is doing, because big boobs are a distraction and may tempt men. And therein lies the crux of the “modesty” movement. Women are inexplicably held responsible for the thoughts men have. According to my teachers, it was MY fault when boys tried to peer down my shirt. They wouldn’t be tempted if I would just cover up more.

On dress down days, which was when my struggle was at an all-time high, I would typically wear Spanx (to hold my boobs in even more), jeans, a white tank top, a black tank top over that, a pretty “outer layer” tank top with a slightly loose fit, so as not to draw attention to my figure, and a zipped down hoodie to finish the look. And, like clockwork, I was told every dress down day that I was dressed inappropriately and that I needed to change back to my uniform, which I always refused to do before threatening to call my parents and tell them how I was being unfairly targeted. They generally backed off once they realized parental involvement would likely not bode well for them. While I did tell my mom all of what was going on, she brushed it off as a general nuisance that goes along with attending an overreaching private school, but she did nothing to address the issue, much to my frustration. On one occasion, my female principal pulled me aside and accused me of sleeping with my best friend (who happened to be gay). Guess what? I was a virgin throughout high school and still am, happily, at the age of 21. Meanwhile, girls who were presumed to be the sweet and innocent ones were sleeping around, not that it was any business of the administrators.

It was a witch hunt, and they were out for blood. It wasn’t enough that they were monitoring our facebook, twitter, and myspace accounts. No, they had to infiltrate every part of our lives. And monitoring our wardrobe was just another form of control.

As I said before, at the age of 21, I’m now happy with my figure, and it deeply saddens me that I (along with many other girls) was ever made to feel guilty about having a voluptuous, feminine body. God has a specific purpose in mind for each one of us, and our bodies are specifically designed to fulfill that purpose. I’m personally over the moon just thinking about one day becoming a mother, and I know that my large hips will greatly aid in the delivery. Haha. We all have unique jobs and specific reasons for being alive, and, frankly, it’s shameful that elderly (supposed) followers of Christ would ever look down upon the very children and teens they’re claiming to “guide.” Not once during my four years at that hell hole was I ever given guidance or understanding. I was shamed and treated like a common prostitute, simply because I had a different body than many of the other girls.

I hope that I have daughters one day so I can encourage them to feel proud of their bodies. Christina Hendricks, Kat Dennings, and Nigella Lawson have helped me immensely in my journey of body-acceptance.

Sadly, there will always be that one voice in the back of my mind that questions whether or not what I’m wearing is “decent” or “acceptable.” While you eventually leave school and become an autonomous member of society, some part of you will always be governed, whether you realize it or not, by your past.

“The Christian rhetoric of modesty, rather than offering believers an alternative to the sexual objectification of women, often continues the objectification, just in a different form. It treats women’s bodies not as glorious reflections of the image of God, but as sources of temptation that must be hidden.” – Sharon Hodde Miller