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‘I’m sorry if this offends you…’
You might have to pluck out your eyes.
In the – dare I say quite fantastic – finale of my YouTube show Sisterhood which was released last Saturday with the title ‘No sex before marriage?’ I reveal how I sometimes write the word sex with an underscore or asterix to replace the letter e, a la: S_X. I go on to explain to my co-hosts, Cassandra Maria and Lauren Windle, that I do that not to bypass email security at work, but to make fun of the way it seems in some circles to be used almost as a swear word.
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We go on to discuss how good it is that churches are making more of an effort to talk about sex in a healthy and positive way; understanding that people, and young ones especially, can no longer be fobbed off with the old school theology of: sex is bad (when you’re single) until it’s good (when you’re married). Information about sex – good and not so good – is out there for anyone to find for themselves so a more thorough teaching on the absolute gorgeous wonder of sex and why we are taught to “wait” is much healthier and better for everyone involved.
It really bothers me when women are shamed into covering up
One of the topics that came up during the show is the constant bashing of women to cover up lest we tempt our apparently uncontrollable brothers in Christ. In this episode of Sisterhood, Lauren points out how interesting it is that the men (and some women) of today are keen to place the responsibility of taming male lust on women, whereas Jesus Himself took a more radical approach that held men much more accountable for their own reactions:
‘And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.’ (Mathew 18:9)
Did you hear that, men? That co-worker whose boobs you’re ogling as they sit minding their own business under her blouse – don’t tell her maybe she should wear a jumper with a high neckline: Gouge your own eye out and THROW IT AWAY.
It really bothers me when women are shamed into covering up. Cass says, jokingly but with also no word of a lie, that if they want to, ‘men will sexualise a tree’. Which okay sure, might be a bit extreme but you get the point. For that episode I was wearing a green lambswool sweater, black cycling shorts and high heeled ankle boots. Will there be people who think my legs shouldn’t have been exposed? Absolutely. Do I care? Absolutely not. I’m passionate about clothes because what I wear is important to me and as I wrote in my book, Still Standing – 100 Lessons from an ‘Unsucessful’ Life, clothes can help you face the world. In getting dressed each morning, in no way am I attempting to seduce any random Tom, Dick or Tope who might cross my path. I dress because of how it makes me feel and even if, even if, a part of me might be dressing for attention; for example on my wedding day or for a public event, you as an onlooker have the free will to look away should my garments - or lack thereof - offend you. And I’m going to say something now that may actually offend you: my worth and value is not in what I am wearing or not wearing. And neither is yours.
The more skin you show, the less value you have – and other lies told by Christian missionaries to African natives
In the case studies used to put together an unwritten book entitled: The more skin you show, the less value you have – and other lies told by Christian missionaries to African natives would be the true stories of UK missionaries who have travelled to countries with hotter climates and taken it upon themselves to educate the native people about how to dress. Nevermind the 40 degree (Celsius) heat, these men and women of God decided that heavy Victorian layers are the way to declare modesty and equate piousness with a higher neckline. I mean, stop it! Let’s leave the cashmere for sub-zero temperatures and if villagers want to wear coconut shells to cover their reproductive organs let them get on with it. Or have we forgotten that Adam and Eve’s nakedness in the garden (in Genesis) is actually the original plan and that covering up only came when they had sinned? This is also a very subtle way of control that has actually seeped its way through in other areas of Church doctrine where there is an overt Western lean to Christianity that we are only now making sense of.
If your immediate reaction is dismay at how she is dressed, then I’m (not) sorry but you’ve got a problem
Look, if someone walks into your church wearing a bikini then your reaction should be gratefulness that she has found her way to a welcoming group of people who only want to show her – along with anyone else who makes the brave decision to come through the doors - the love of Jesus. If your immediate reaction is dismay at how she is dressed, then I’m (not) sorry but you’ve got a problem.
I will quite famously wear whatever, whenever; however, there are some things I won’t wear in certain settings, for example my “Carpe That F*cking Diem” tee that I bought from teen cult brand Brandy Melville years ago. I love it for going hard at enjoying life a la the last line in Max Ehrmann’s excellent poem, Desiderata (which is Strive to be happy.) but I understand many parents don’t want to explain that (actual) swear word to their young children. I respect that so I am careful about where I wear it.
But I want to reiterate that your value really isn’t in what you wear. We need to stop looking for rules which we can then use to bash people over the head in the name of Christianity. Be Spirit led about how you dress and don’t worry about the “skin effect” because ultimately, God is looking at your heart.