Christian Church / Christianity / Religion

My Fundamentalist Christian College Tour Part 1: Modesty

modesty 2

Love where the words are. Coincidence?

When I was in high school, I attended what we called an independent, fundamental, Bible-believing Baptist church. My high school was attached to that church. I was there every single day. There was church on Sunday, school, youth activities and my parents and I were volunteer janitors every Saturday. In short, I was fully integrated into the community there. Our youth group did a trip every year with kids getting close to college age to tour the Christian colleges our church deemed appropriate. The tour I remember the most included Bob Jones University, Clear Water Christian College, and Pensacola Christian College.

I remember thinking before we went that I didn’t want to go to a Christian college, that I had had enough Christian education and now it was time to branch out. But the trips were always central to the stories that the older kids told. Their bus broke down. They hit a skunk. They played pranks on each other and just got to spend a whole week together. What could be better than that? So I went.

navy-stripe-culottes

Culottes

At Pensacola, there was a strict dress code that we girls had to adhere to while on campus. We wore jeans and pants on the trip, but stopped and changed into long skirts and dresses before arriving at Pensacola. We even had to be careful to bring nightgowns, not sweat pants or pajama pants. The Pensacola campus d

idn’t allow their girls to wear pants- at all. Even though the dorms are completely separated, having separate buildings for boys and girls, we still couldn’t even wear pants to bed. Not even in the dorm room. In fact, when you get to Pensacola to go to school, they collect all of your pants and put them into storage. “You won’t need them.”

You were, however, allowed to wear culottes; well to the skating rink and climbing the rock wall anyway. In case you’re not sure what they are, I’ve included a picture of culottes. Ideally, they look like a skirt until you stand just so.The length is non-negotiable.

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A Bob Jones Approved Picture.

And to protect your evil minds, if you bring picture albums you must draw or sticker-on skirts over all the women wearing pants. Obviously, magazines couldn’t be permitted. Not only did we have quite strict rules on pants at Pensacola, but on the type of modest attire we were allowed to wear. Our skirts and their slits could be no higher than our kneecaps while sitting, standing or walking. Our blouses had to be no more than three fingers from our collarbone. We also had to wear pantyhose, under everything, everyday, unless you had a doctor’s note. (This college is in Florida.) This was our biggest dress code stress place. Pensacola is easily the most conservative that way, but each school had it’s own modesty challenges.

At Clearwater the dress code standards were the most lax. After 4.30 pm on weekdays and all weekend you are permitted to wear loose fitting slacks, capri’s, sweatshirts, and t-shirts (providing they have uplifting messages or none at all.) To define ‘loose fitting’ it was required that you could grab a full handful of you jeans on both sides of your legs. You’re also allowed to wear shorts to the mid-calf, providing you are participating in exercise. That college was the most preppy in dress also. Everyone was in khakis and polos. At least sometimes we were allowed to wear jeans and t-shirts.

cobobjonBob Jones has the most specific exclusions. We were not allowed to wear Hollister or Abercrombie and Fitch, as those companies have shown “an unusual degree of antagonism for biblical morality.” It’s a peculiar exclusion for those who haven’t been involved in the Christian circles, but we all knew it. It wasn’t hard to keep those brands out of our wardrobes, because we knew those stores weren’t acceptable in our world. Visiting Hollister was a way of rebelling on a small scale for us. We would go into to their darkened corners and drink in that rancid perfume. We never bought anything though. abercrombie-and-fitch-modelWe’d also get our pictures taken with those really hot Abercrombie models, but buy something? Probably not. Regardless, they were deemed unacceptable according to their handbook. They even have a small note that discourages students from patronizing the stores. But that kind of warning is like catnip to teenagers.

I recently read another article on the subject of modesty where there is a poster of Emma Watson beside a saying “The less you reveal; the more they can wonder.” She brings up the inherent problem with this saying and where even those who wear burqas have it up on the fundamentalist Christian. They are telling us to dress modestly so the boys have more to wonder about. They still want our bodies to occupy their minds, and as implied by the saying, perhaps even more so than the people who dress immodestly. At least in Muslim circles the sole purpose is to take away the barrier of sexuality and focus on her intelligence and personality. For fundamentalists, the purpose of modesty is for our bodies to assault the minds of men even more completely.  A friend of mine once said, “To the pure all things are pure.”

These rules and regulations sometimes are entertaining and laughable, but they hide a problem. An obsession with sex. Fundamentalist guards are always looking for sex every where. They look for sexy ads. They look for sexy clothing. But they aren’t doing it because they want sex, but because they want to shield the mind of the impressionable. The youth are taught to think about others according to how they dress. If you have morals, you’ll dress modestly. If you don’t you’ll dress to draw attention to yourself or to incite lust. This ideology is the root of a much bigger problem. Rather than re-teaching the minds of our young Christian men and women to not focus on sex, they are trying to program them to believe that your sexuality is inherently tied to how you dress, not how you act. This becomes a problem especially when we get to the topic of rape. If a woman was dressing to incite lust in a man, she has somehow taken part in her own rape and bears some of the responsibility. Bathsheba simply shouldn’t have been bathing on her roof.

Part II

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11 thoughts on “My Fundamentalist Christian College Tour Part 1: Modesty

  1. Those are amazing and unrealistic rules! Do they still apply at those places?

    It seems to me that we need to recognise that most of us can be tempted, you can never stop it, but it is possible to make things easier not to give in to what we don’t believe to be good. Paul offers the best advice I think, in Philippians 4:8:

    “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”

    The best way to avoid temptation is not to keep on thinking how you should avoid certain thoughts, but to think about positive things.

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  2. I’ve always wondered why skirts were allowed and pants weren’t. I mean, hello, big gust of wind, anybody? But some, like you said, must wear panty-hose underneath. So, jeans are no, but panty-hose are yes…I…don’t compute.
    Love being a guy. Nobody gives a crap as long as you’re wearing anything at all 😀 Sorry, ladies!

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  3. Oh modesty…I think one of the biggest issues I have with the way it is currently handled is that it puts all of the power with the females and we therefore need to use our power wisely and protect the males around us from stumbling.

    Also, great point at the end regarding how this view of modesty ties sexuality to how you dress instead of how you act. I wrote on some of my feelings about modesty on my blog not long ago that relate to that.
    Part 1: http://simplysexuality.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/modesty-whats-in-a-word/
    Part 2: http://simplysexuality.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/modesty-a-definition/

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    • Tell me about it. Where’s the personal responsibility here? I understand we have to help them, but they also need to help themselves. Telling them they are simply sex raving beings susceptible to our prowess alone doesn’t help.

      I’ve read those! They’re great. I’m a subscriber of yours because you do a great job with the subject of sexuality. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting.

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  4. Pingback: My Fundamental Christian College Tour Part 2: Social Life | Sacred Struggler

  5. Pingback: My Fundamental Christian College Tour Part 3: Personal Responsibility.. Personal Limits? | Sacred Struggler

  6. This is great! I graduated from Bob Jones University, and, yeah, the rules were pretty insane back in my day. I’m doing a blogging through Lent project, and an upcoming post (scheduled for Wednesday, I think) is about modesty and how I grew up dressing like a hobo. I refer to this post in my post. 🙂

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