So often, we hear that such virtues as modesty and chastity place unfair expectations on women. Many people also believe that the calling to be virtuous not only puts unfair responsibilities on women, but it also enslaves women.
Since the Free Love movement in the 1960s (widely now known as the Sexual Revolution), modest clothing and virtuous behavior has been the subject of ridicule and harsh judgment. If you dressed to “cover up”, you were labeled a religious extremist. If you acted chastely and with respect, you were labeled a prude. Since the 1960s, modesty – which used to be held as treating oneself with respect and dignity – is now thought of as enslavement of femininity. Instead of it bringing dignity to both men and women – as is its true quality – it now has been blamed, quite ironically, for any lack of dignity given towards women.
In The Likeness of Mary
However, despite the common attitude held by society in regards to modesty and chastity, the greatest quality of virtuous living is the dignity bestowed on sons and daughter of God, particularly daughters. Modesty, in its true form, dignifies women, raising them up in the likeness of the Virgin Mother, Mary Most Holy.
As daughters of God, women are called to follow Mary in her purity, virtue, and acceptance of God’s Will. Mary is held as the epitome of femininity, who with quiet virtue and obedience surrendered herself completely to the Father:
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word. (Luke 1:38)
It is this quiet virtue and complete surrender to God’s Will that is the essence of feminine genius – the epitome of femininity. Saint Peter teaches us that it’s the most pleasing to God, as it embraces the true purpose of His creation of woman. It’s also the gateway to conversion, says Saint Peter.
Then if there are some husbands who do not believe the Word, they may find themselves won over, without a word spoken, by the way their wives behave, when they see the reverence and purity of your way of life. Your adornment should be…the interior disposition of the heart, consisting in the imperishable quality of a gentle and peaceful spirit, so precious in the sight of God. (1 Peter 3:1-4)
Dignity Through Modesty
When women dress and act modestly, it’s not because they’re unequal to men. It’s not because they should be hidden away or that they are temptresses. On the contrary, modesty gives women dignity and exudes the beauty of true femininity. Furthermore, it holds men accountable for their actions as well as assists in the removal of some temptation. Therefore, as Saint Peter says, it helps lead souls to heaven.
Modesty demands respect for the human being as a whole – body and soul. Unlike immodest and impure actions, which focus on the physical being only and the selfish usage of such – modesty demands a quiet selflessness. It reminds us that we are not just physical beings in a material world, but meant for the eternity of Heaven.