This may come as a shock, especially to evangelical men and women. But here’s the thing, every woman has boobs! Its crazy to acknowledge this I know! Considering the amount of time and energy we spend on trying to hide them you would think this is something that we are unaware of. But let’s just get it out in the open once and for all-women’s bodies were created with breasts. They come in all shapes and sizes. They are there, whether you try to hide them or not. And men notice them, no matter how hard you try to cover them up.
My whole life I grew up in church and as an adult I worked for a popular evangelical christian ministry. If I were to count the number of talks and seminars that I heard on modesty and purity, you could fill a whole book, maybe two. We were taught whether outright or through the unspoken power of suggestion that boobs were the worst thing in the world; they were like bad scary monsters that had the ability to make a man stumble into deep dark sin and practically loose his faith. Every year, multiple times a year, we were taught as girls to be modest and given suggestions how to properly “cover (those monsters) up.”
The scariest season of the year… (insert dun, dun, dun, screech, screech, screech, music here) SUMMER! Bathing suit season and summer camp all rolled into one. Girls were sent a long list of what was acceptable swimsuit attire. No two pieces, no bikinis, no v-necks, no halter tops, no high cut briefs. If a novice showed up without the proper bathing suit, she was sent into summer camp shame and forced to wear a baggy t-shirt in the pool or on the beach. Everyone knew that she had broken the rules and was immodest. (The horror!)
One summer in particular, while staffing a summer mission’s trip, I was sitting in the middle pew of a beautiful old church in Ocean City, NJ. We were having a girls night, discussing topics related to our lives as women and how they might intersect with our faith. There was a panel of staff and college students, trusted men and women up on stage, offering their expertise. The topic: modesty. We were told very clearly that bra straps that peered out of your tank top and purse straps worn across the chest, were stumbling blocks because they made men think about….BOOBS!!!! We were encouraged to hold ours shirts close against our chests when bending forward, for fear of men getting a glimpse of our cleavage. When getting dressed in the morning it was suggested that, if possible, have a roommate stand on a chair and look down at you to determine if a taller man would be able to see any hint of boobs. If not, you were safe to leave the apartment. The lengths we had to go to in order to cover up our boobs were to no end.
While on these beach summer mission’s trips, the men, mind you, were given no modesty dress codes, no modesty talks, and completely free to walk around all summer without a shirt on. Despite hundreds of women suntanning on the beach in bikinis, the women attending this mission trip were expected to cover up, heaven forbid the guys stumble.
So let me get this straight, while out starting spiritual conversations on the beach with my friend Brad, I have to be sure to be in a t-shirt and mid-thigh shorts while we talk to a teenager in a bikini, because poor Brad might be tempted to think about boobs? I’m pretty sure he’s already treaded well past that line, regardless of what I am wearing! Never-the-less, I was told I was a respectable woman, seen as honorable, a refreshing difference, and “honestly more beautiful if not in bikini.” Sure Brad, sure.
The trouble is, all women have boobs and it is nearly impossible to cover them up or hide them if you have boobs larger than a size B, am I right? The bigger your boobs, which for the most part, you have no control over (unless of course there is cosmetic surgery or push-up bras factored in), the more you are under this agonizing pressure as a christian women to somehow make them disappear. Boxy t-shirts are tight around the chest, and honestly uncomfortable for larger breasted women. Scoop neck shirts are OUT OF THE QUESTION with their loose neck and dangerous cleavage potential. V-necks? Don’t even think about it unless you have a camisole underneath and spend the entire day pressing your shirt against your chest for fear of someone sneaking a peek. Bathing suits? Don’t bother….jeans and a sweatshirt will probably serve you best.
We have been told over and over again that our bodies, our natural bodies, are to be hidden because men’s faith and purity are at stake. I am sick of it! I have boobs, they are on my body whether they are a threat to you or not. I am tired of the time, energy, stress, and money spent trying to hide them from the gaze of men. I am exhausted by the constant shame associated with my boobs. They are not a topic up for negotiations any longer.
If my boobs are a threat to your faith, your purity, your marriage, than that is your problem, it is no longer mine.