My friend Christo recently wrote an opinion piece for the school paper that was quite inflammatory. Every spring, when women on campus start to lose the jackets and go for the sun dresses, men start complaining a bit about their sisters “causing them to stumble”. Christo wrote, essentially, that women should wear what they want, even if it’s (gasp!) sexy. It’s pretty outrageous, but in the end, I agreed with him more than I disagreed. Articles like this, however, tend to start something of a firestorm on this campus. It’s kind of a touchy issue.
Realizing that everyone and their mom would have something to say about the issue, I decided to write a guest editorial for The Falcon. I thought I’d share it with you: here’s what I wrote (at least, before my editor got to it).
The headline, which I didn’t come up with but really like, is “Men: Change How You See, Not What”:
As a feminist, I try to avoid telling women what to do. But I do have something to say to my fellow men.
Guys, you commit sin when you tell women what to wear because you can’t deal with your own lustful desires, as if keeping women covered up somehow solved the problem of your lust. Taking an alcoholic out of a liquor store won’t do anything to make him sober. The problem with an alcoholic in a liquor store is not that he’s in a liquor store: it’s that he doesn’t know how to interact healthily with alcohol. Similarly, asking or obligating women to cover up does not change the fundamental fact that you do not know how to interact healthily with sex and sexuality. That’s why when women make any suggestion of the fact that they are, in fact, sexual beings, you lose control.
In fact, my bet is that many of you who are the most insistent about women covering up are also the ones who struggle the most with pornography. What you don’t realize is that those problems are two branches of the same tree: your struggle to view women as more than sexual objects, and their bodies as anything more than a source of temptation.
When Jesus addressed this problem, what did he say? “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Not a word to the women about covering up. Why?
Because it’s not women who need to change their behavior. It is you who need to change the way you see the world: even if it means going half-blind.
So, here’ s a paradigm shift to get you started: women are created in the image of God. Every woman, and every part of a woman—and I do mean every part—was fashioned by God in God’s own image. That’s Genesis 1:27. Wrestle with that for a while. A woman’s body is a good thing, and her sexuality is a good thing: not a funny thing or a gross thing or an evil thing, but a godly thing.
So ask yourself this: what would happen if we knew and believed that every woman is a reflection of the divine? That every woman on this campus is a moving picture of the One we worship?
I bet if we were able to fully grasp that truth, we could be in a place where women really could wear whatever they want without us being offended, because then the body wouldn’t be a source of temptation, but rather something that God, in the goodness of creation, has deemed of value.
And maybe, if we were able to understand women the way the Bible teaches us to understand them, women wouldn’t feel like they had to dress provocatively, because their bodies, as we would all acknowledge, are not valuable as objects of sexual pleasure, but as beautiful in their own right—beautiful because God is beautiful, and, as the Bible teaches us, women look like God, and God looks like women.