“Be independent. Don’t count on anyone. Have the low expectations you’re supposed to have. Be independent. Don’t ask any questions. Don’t demand more than what we say you can have. Don’t feel anything you’re not supposed to feel. Do as you’re told. Be independent! ***
Meanwhile, women all around the country, women who have already had numerous sexual affairs, are descending on nineteenth-century period dramas – at the cinema, on PBS, anywhere they can catch a glimpse of Jane Austen’s Emma or Elizabeth – with a kind of religious seriousness that would be comical if it weren’t so poignant. While we may confess to each other our romantic hopes, we dare not go public with our thoughts. We are so afraid of being thought “unbalanced.” ”From A Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit
As I have been reading A Return to Modesty, there is a lot of talk about a woman being “independent.” As a teenager in the late 90s, I remember reading magazines like Seventeen and I remember vaguely that the magazine would try to encourage girls to stand up for themselves and be independent. At the time I didn’t think anything of it because that was how my mom raised me and my sister. Well, to an extent. She wanted us to be able to take care of ourselves when it came time for us to move out.
However, many women that are between the ages of 21 and 35 were taught as teenage girls, from the time we hit puberty, that as long as we were careful, it was okay to “express” ourselves sexually. This didn’t always mean that we had to be sexually active, but we could dress in a way that was sexy.
No, our parents didn’t say it was okay (at least, not mine) but the world we live in sure doesn’t say it’s not. If we look at the people who are “role models” for girls today, – and it isn’t necessarily by choice because I’m sure that most celebrities don’t go into the entertainment business more to become role models for young girls, but I digress – young girls want to be like them because they seem fun and cool. They want to dress like them because, according to the “standards” of beauty, they are pretty. People like them. And everyone wants to be liked, right?
What about parents or an adult close to the family being a role model for a young girl? And why the emphasis with independence or sexual expression when you’re a teenager? From my own experience, I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to handle what I was putting my body through. It caused me a lot of heartache for years after, some of which I am still trying to overcome.
Like I posted previously, prior to my becoming sexually active, I had had a hope to stay a virgin until I was married. I didn’t dress provocatively until I became sexually active. And I was like that until I hit college and gained weight but even still, I would wear a low cut shirt or whatever when I went out because I was always on the lookout for a boyfriend (and going about it all the wrong ways).
Now, at 27, I have made a promise to myself to abstain from sex until marriage (and yes, even if that means I am not married til I’m 40) and to also be more mindful of how I dress and how others perceive me by my outward appearance. This also has to do with wanting people to see the Christ in me and who I am in God rather than just a pretty face.
My question now is… Who is more free – the independent, sexually ‘liberated’ woman or a modest woman who abstains from sex until marriage and heeds the words of those around her who are wiser? I know how I answer that question for myself. I guess we’ll have to all ask ourselves…