You don't have to signal a social conscience by looking like a frump. Lace knickers won't hasten the holocaust, you can ban the bomb in a feather boa just as well as without, and a mild interest in the length of hemlines doesn't necessarily disqualify you from reading Das Kapital and agreeing with every word. --Elizabeth Bibesco

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Navigating Public Transportation in the City

I have lots of things I could post about and I probably should, but for the moment, here is a thought for you. Just FYI, I'm on Chicago public transportation at least twice a day and usually more than that, so I speak from experience.

If you are just a little tired of spooning with strangers on your morning commute, wear a hijab-looking headscarf. No Seriously. All other things being equal, when I'm wearing something that looks like a hijab, I am the last person anyone sits next to on the train. Except maybe the other girl in a hijab.

If, however, you are feeling chatty and want perfect strangers to strike up a conversation with you about intimate details of their life (which, by the way, never happens in the city-- people look at you funny if you say a cheerful 'hello'), then wear a bonnet. (Mine is a lovely kapp by Sowers of Hope, like the one in the picture.) Seriously, I could be wearing the same clothes otherwise, and this would happen. What does it say about the world that what I use to cover my head changes people's opinions of me so drastically?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Modest Wedding, Part 2

I've been engaged for a little over a month now and it's getting harder and harder to manage a modest wedding. I'm not just talking the clothes, either. The average wedding in the US cost more than $26,000 this year! Now, my Woman isn't necessarily modest in dress (that's not to say she doesn't wear modest clothing sometimes, but that she is not intentionally modest on a daily basis). However, I think it's safe to say we try to be modest about our life in general-- you know, it's not about us being flashy; it's about God. Well, we try, anyway.

But the whole wedding scene is decidedly not modest, particularly in that respect. Every time I open a bridal magazine (and, I'll admit, I open a lot of them), they're telling me, "This is your big day" or, "This is all about you."

I've got news for the wedding industry. This isn't "all about me." It's about me, my Woman and God (not in that order). It's also about our families (as my mother so often reminds me), our friends and our communities. And whether we want it to be or not, it's also about politics. Because, for whatever reason, two women walking down the aisle and saying "I do" is a political statement.

Anyway, it's about all of those things, but mostly it's about love. And I think the hardest part about planning a wedding is taking a step back and thinking: "Okay, this isn't my day to look like a princess. This is the day I declare to God and everyone else that I'm spending my life with this woman."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Modest Wedding?

Eee! So excited! So I proposed to my Woman and she accepted. The wedding won't take place for at least a year and a half yet, so we have time, but I'm already looking around for a modest wedding dress-- and that's hard!

Everything is strapless-this and spaghetti-straps-that. Ugh. And don't get me wrong-- I know I'm being high maintenance: I'm not just looking for any modest wedding dress-- I want THE ONE. I know-- the makings of a bridezilla. :) Anyway... let me list my requirements... and feel free to send suggestions.

Modesty requirements:
  • Sleeves. As an example: I went to church today in a dress that had 2-inch thick straps. I'd brought a scarf to put over my shoulders, but it was so hot, I didn't wear it at all at first. Then, as we're getting up to go to Communion, I realize I won't feel right without my shawl. I threw it on and was fine, but it does mean I want my shoulders covered at least.
  • Floor length. I'm with the Mormons on this one: modesty is relative, but most gowns are floor-length, so I want one that is at least floor length.
  • Headcovering. Obviously, in the form of a veil.
Bridezilla requirements:
  • Lace! I love lace and, like any good six-year-old, I think my dress should have as much of it as possible! Long lace sleeves, in particular, would be lovely.
  • White-- my Woman wants a white dress and to have one bride walk down the aisle in white and the other walk down in a "Champagne" gown would just be awkward.
Practical requirements:
  • Does not cost an arm, a leg and my first-born child. I'm not looking to hemorrhage money any more than necessary.
  • Can be bought nearby so I don't have to do that crazy shipping back and forth thing.

Now that doesn't seem too difficult. Except it is.

What have I found? Well, surprisingly, the Mormons and I get along rather well on this front too. (shown above) has some wonderful things, but nothing local.

David's Bridal actually has something wonderful... and maybe I should just go for it. I just want to say, though, that I was into modest wedding dresses before the Duchess of Cambridge made it cool! Check out David's Bridal's copy of Kate's fabulous dress.
Oh! The lace sleeves! The gown is a little intense for me, but maybe I can't be too picky...

These are my thoughts so far, but I'm also only 1 day into being an engaged woman, so I'm sure I'll have more opinions soon. Thoughts, anybody? Suggestions?

Monday, September 12, 2011

I Love the Big City!

The other day I was early to the train station and decided to do a little people watching. In the process, I saw two groups of hijabis, a tzniut woman in a snood and a Plain Amish family.

You can say a lot of negative things about the city. My least favorite at the moment is the fact that I'm supposed to be excited about my apartment's "manicured green space." However, one of the things I love about living here is that you see all kinds of people-- particularly, for me, I like seeing all the women that cover.

Now, I only ever see Amish women at the train station downtown-- I don't know why. What do Amish people do in the city?

I see tzniut women in my neighborhood and on my local train, because I live in a neighborhood that is very gay and also very Jewish. (Have you noticed that there are many neighborhoods like that? I stayed in one in Paris too... Why is that?)

I see hijabi women everywhere --it really isn't an uncommon sight in the city-- and I see niqabi women at work, because I work in a hospital.

There are a bunch of other groups of women who cover for more cultural reasons (I think) as well. Black women cover a lot more than white women, as far as I can tell. This was certainly true when I lived in Senegal, but I guess I didn't realize that black women in the States did it as well. One of my coworkers mentioned that she saw a lot of women wearing head coverings similar to my favorite kind (for work, anyway) at the Greek cultural festival.

My Woman has commented about this too. She says that while I used to be one of the few people she knew who covered --and so she thought I was rather weird for doing it-- now she sees women who cover all the time and it makes her think of me! :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Immodesty for Social Justice?

Okay, so first things first, read this: Israeli and Palestinian Women Take a Rare Swim.

Since I can safely say that y'all probably didn't read it (I know, we all lead busy lives), here's the gist: in an act of civil disobedience, several Israeli women took several Palestinian women to the beach. Which is illegal. Palestinians are not allowed out of the West Bank/Palestine/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. (Have you noticed that what you call that location is making a political statement?) Anyway, here's the part that interests me most. In order to participate, the Palestinian women dressed like Israeli women, which meant wearing significantly less clothing than what they believe is right.

So here's my question. For those of you who do wear clothes that you believe are important (or necessary) religiously or morally, would you participate in something like this, for a cause you believed was right, if it meant shedding the clothes that you believe are right?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Religious Justifications for Immodesty

So I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about my religious justifications for modesty, but truthfully, I believe that God really just wants us to be humble and not worry about what we wear. (Check out the specs on that here.) Modesty makes sense for me, but it may not make sense for everyone.

Since I feel this way, and since I know many religious people who don't believe in religiously-motivated modesty or believe in what I'll call religiously-motivated immodesty (ie. that God is okay or promotes us wearing things that aren't modest), I feel like I should write about it!

Perhaps one of the biggest argument for religious immodesty is that God, in all God's wisdom, created us naked. Genesis 2:25 "Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame." The nakedness isn't the sin of Adam and Eve. Neither, mind you, are the clothes, but the clothes are emblematic of the sin: eating from the tree God told them not to eat from was the sin, which resulted in them being ashamed of their nakedness, so they made clothes for themselves.

Let's think about that for a second: our first sin as humans as symbolized by clothes-- God knows we sinned because we came out of it clothed. Forever after that, every (or nearly every) human over the age of, say, 2 wears clothes.

Let's pull back and personify God for a second. (I think that's appropriate because much of Genesis personifies God.) A friend of mine describes Genesis as a love story. And I so agree. God has angels. Why would God create humans? Answer: humans have free will and God wants to love a creature that chooses to love Her. Being loved and praised by creatures that are unable to do anything besides love and praise you isn't nearly as fulfilling as being loved and praised by a creature you gave the free will to turn away from you.

So God orchestrates this beautiful love story, creates humans and gives us stewardship of the whole earth and what do we do? We turn away. The marker of this change in the relationship is that humans now wear clothes. For millennia afterwords, humans continue to wear clothes. Rubbing salt in the wound much? Now, God is infinitely loving, so She has forgiven us this, but it still looks like we're just trying to piss God off, doesn't it? That right there is a fabulous argument not to wear any clothes at all. Of course, generally speaking this is an impractical argument, because most places in the world won't let you be naked.

Now let's talk about Jesus's feelings about clothes.

Jesus denounces even the most splendid of clothes as not as beautiful as what God has created. ("Consider the lilies, how they grow : they neither toil nor spin ; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these" Luke 12:27.)

Jesus continues, "If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!" (Luke 12:28) What I get from this is that we need to relax and not worry about what we wear. What one might get from this is that the "clothes" God has provided for us (our skin, our hair, etc.) are enough and we don't need other adornments.

So there you go. Two basic arguments for religious immodesty.
1) Since clothes are a symbol of our first sin against God, the wearing of them and --worse!-- the fussing over them is a continual reminder to God of our sin.
2) Jesus even told us that what God gave us to cover us should be enough for us, at least in the way of beauty. We could not find any kind of clothes in the world that would make us more beautiful than the way God made us.
Actually, in fairness, these are probably better arguments for religiously motivated nudism, rather than immodesty, but it's what I've got.

Anyone else have thoughts on this to share?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Things I've Learned from Working in a Hospital

1. Not everyone wearing a white coat is a doctor. In fact, if she looks like a 22-year-old who just graduated with a BA in psychology, she probably is. But be nice to her, just to be on the safe side-- she could be your internist!

2. A lab coat makes a fabulous modest addition to any hospital worker's wardrobe. Or any wardrobe. Seriously. Suppose you find yourself in the following situation: you woke up late (on purpose) because you refuse to wake up before 6:00 am, even though you need to be at work at 7:30 am and your work is technically an hour and a half away from home. You throw on some clothes in the semi-darkness, which you picked out the night before, also in the semi-darkness, and rush out the door to work. Then suppose you have an awkward interaction with a subject in which your pretty sure he's not looking at your face, even though you're wearing a shirt that is only an inch below you collar bones, so you go to the bathroom to check out your outfit and discover that your shirt is actually see-through. In this totally hypothetical situation, what do you do? Grab a lab coat. Spilled marinara sauce all over your sweater? Lab coat. Cold in your office because they expect it to be warm in Chicago in the summer? Lab coat.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to answer the people who stop me in the hall to ask for directions to radiology. I always want to respond, "Why don't you ask a grown-up?" Oops... that might be me!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Modest Swimsuit Update

So that immodesty article will show up in a minute (read: a few days), but since my swimsuit post continues to get the most hits, I thought I'd update you all on my swimsuit search for the summer.

I got this top, but in black from
I initially planned to wear some kind of tankini and board shorts. I'm not interested in keeping tzniut, but I am interested in something more modest than your average tankini for my legs. And I don't buy those little skirts they sell either-- they may be a little more modest out of the water, but the moment you get in the water, it flies up and you might as well not be wearing it. That's not to say I disapprove of women who wear it-- if that extra coverage out of the water is all you need, go for it! It's just not for me.

I did end up with a really cute black checkered tankini from Delia's. (If you're not from the U.S., I think Delia's is generally thought of as a pre-teen girl store, but it had the cutest range of tankinis by far.) Again, I realize it's nowhere near tzniut, but I'm with the Mormons on this one: modesty is relative. Just perhaps not as relative as most Americans think it is...

Anyway, so the tankini went well.

The board shorts are another story. I looked all over. I wanted black or white (to go with the top) board shorts that hit just above my knees (or lower!) that were designed for women. Now, I know many a woman who will wear men's swim trunks, but I have 2 complaints with them. 1) I just don't think they look good on me. At all. Vain, I know, but hey-- a girl's got to have standards. 2) I resent having to buy men's clothing in order to cover my thighs and go in the water. That's just absurd!

I searched all over. Even Coolibar didn't have what I was looking for! (To be fair, Coolibar does have nearly knee-length swim shorts and even swim capris which go well beyond the knee, but they are skin tight-- not what I wanted.) I tried Lands End's longest swim shorts (an 11-inch inseam). Now, maybe this would have been enough if I weren't abnormally long-legged, but they were just the awkwardest length! It didn't look right at all and they didn't hit where I wanted them to anyway. So I returned them.
My sport skirt from Kosher Casual.

What I have settled on for now (although I will take suggestions) is my absolutely wonderful sports skirt with built-in leggings from Kosher Casual. Now, I asked, and this version is not chlorine resistant, but I'm mostly planning to swim in Lake Michigan and that may have a lot of things in it, but I'm pretty sure chlorine isn't one of them. They will start making the chlorine resistant version in a few weeks, though, which is good news! That's one thing I like about Kosher Casual: they are very willing to take suggestions where possible. Also, the clothes are just freaking gorgeous, even for those who aren't tzniut.

So that's my plan for the moment. I also need to buy a swim cap, because I'm covering my head out of the house, but swim caps are easy.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

SlutWalk Chicago was Today!

I went to SlutWalk Chicago today and it was wonderful. It's always inspiring to see how many people turn out for that kind of thing! It was a little bizarre how many people were taking pictures of us (my Woman and I), especially without our consent! :O But we did consent when people asked...

Anyway, check me out,y'all!
 I learned how to turn one of my scarves into a niqab, thanks to The Non-Muslim Hijabi's Youtube video, which was super helpful, and using beautiful pins from The Modest Woman on Etsy.

If you can't read the sign, it says: "Don't teach women how to dress; teach men how not to rape." And yes, I did actually use a semi-colon in my protest sign.

Also, my woman came to SlutWalk, just wearing what she would normally wear.
Her sign says: "Nobody deserves to be sexually assaulted." On the back, it said, "To prevent sexual assault, stop victim blaming."

That's all for today-- it's a billion degrees here and balancing my laptop on my lap any longer just isn't an option. Tune in sometime later this week for a post about the religious justifications for immodesty.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New Blog Title!

So I've been looking for something moderately creative for my blog title since Lent was over, but I hadn't been able to find anything... until now!

I found this quote looking for sayings and such to put on a sign for SlutWalk.

You don't have to signal a social conscience by looking like a frump. Lace knickers won't hasten the holocaust, you can ban the bomb in a feather boa just as well as without, and a mild interest in the length of hemlines doesn't necessarily disqualify you from reading Das Kapital and agreeing with every word. --Elizabeth Bibesco 

I picked it because it made me laugh-- so many of our political movements now as then (Bibesco lived from 1897-1945) think our clothes are emblematic of our political beliefs... and they can be, but they don't have to be. Plus, my exploration of this whole modesty thing feels like "a mild interest in the length of hemlines."

I think it's a fabulous discriptor.

Anyway, it's still the same URL (, just a different title. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Modesty and SlutWalk

So I'm going to Chicago's SlutWalk this coming Saturday and I'm totally pumped about it. If you haven't heard about SlutWalks, an explanation for them can be found here. The gist of it is, though, that a police officer was giving safety tips to law students in Toronto and said that women could avoid sexual assault if they stopped dressing like sluts. Understandably, this pissed a lot of people off, so SlutWalks started in Toronto to reclaim the derogatory word and to protest the police force's treatment of female survivors of sexual assault.

I think the movement is important, so I'm delighted to be going. It will also be my first (and, let's face it, probably last) time in a niqab, so I'm excited about that too. To recap, yes I am going to SlutWalk Chicago in a niqab.

So, now I'm going to address a couple of concerns I can see coming up in the blogosphere. 1) Is modesty the opposite of sluttiness? and 2) Should a modest woman (or man!) go to SlutWalk and why?

First question first. Is modesty the opposite of sluttiness?
Right off the bat, I'm going to remind you all, that I don't think God is necessarily a proponent of one or the other, so I'm going to keep God out of this and just talk about what I think (which is necessarily informed by my religious views), but my point is, I don't think God "sides with" the slut or the modest woman.

Okay, in order to see if modesty and sluttiness are incompatible, we have to know what both are. Slut, according to this dictionary, means "a person, especially a woman, considered sexually promiscuous." Modesty is defined as: reserve or propriety in speech, dress, or behavior.

You could argue, then, either way. If we are talking only about modesty in dress, a slut could be modest. If we are talking about behavior, you could say a modest woman could not also be a slut, because sexual promiscuity isn't, by definition, reserve in behavior.

However, check out some of urban dictionary's definitions for "slut." Or, don't, if you are squeamish. The point is: is a website where people contribute their own definitions and many of these definitions say: "a woman who likes to have lots of sex." Now, even if you are a monogamous, sex-after-marriage kind of woman, by this latter definition, you could be a slut. And it could be a good thing.

Next question. Should a modest woman (or man!) go to SlutWalk and why? or Allie, why are you wearing a niqab to SlutWalk?
 I figure these two questions can be answered in one fell swoop.

SlutWalk is a protest about the fact that society still thinks that the women who get raped are the ones wearing the "slutty" clothes and thus, if you don't want to get raped, you shouldn't wear those clothes. This is an affront for every kind of woman (and man). It totally denies the existence of modest rape survivors. It also implies that our men can't control themselves when they see a woman in a short skirt. Never mind the idea that being a woman who enjoys sex is a bad thing.

So, who should be at SlutWalk?
  • Modest Rape Survivors
  • Immodest Rape Survivors
  • Sluts (of all kinds!)
  • Men
Meet me at SlutWalk Chicago (Thompson Center Plaza, June 4th at 12noon) if you agree!

Source: SlutWalk Chicago's SlutWalk Guerilla Street Performance that happened this past Saturday.
 By the way: now that you know what I'm wearing, what should my sign say? Any ideas?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Big Boobs, Short Skirts and Modesty

I don't have a forum to discuss these things with other modest women in real life, so I'd like to post a couple of complications I've had.

Ok, so I may have mentioned this before, but I have big boobs. They've always been that way. As a pre-teen, I showed about as much of them as possible. It was a pride thing for sure-- I had something very few other girls my age had.

As I've gotten older, it's been hard to find appropriate clothing, especially working with kids.

Here are my requirements for "appropriate":
  • Doesn't show lots of cleavage, even bending over
  • Not too tight
  • Also, not a bag.
Here's a hint:
  • For women with my breasts, they don't exist.

Also, at first I didn't understand why the tzniut requirement called for skirts below the knees, except that they are an easy line for delineation purposes.

After a week in a job where I have to wear formal clothes and with a traditional business skirt that hits just above my knee, I have different opinions.

I take the train and then the bus to work. On the train, the only seats available by the time I get on are on an upper level, often facing people on the lower level. How do I keep them from seeing up my skirt? Mostly, I've been contorting my legs in all sorts of ways to remain modest. Crossed at the knee, crossed at the ankle, crossed at the knee and then at the ankle, just pressed together, stretched out and pressed together. I must look like I have ants in my pants, skirt, whatever.

Any ideas? On either matter?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Job Interviews

So I just graduated from college and I've been doing a lot of job interviews. It's interesting how it has made me analyze my own modesty and head covering practices.

I have to ask myself: do I want to be noticeably religious? I'm still not sure. Is being visibly religious like being the light on the hill or like being the pharisee on the street corner? And is being blatantly modest analogous with being visibly religious? (To this last one: I think it depends on context. At work, modesty is not inherently religious; at the pool, it might be.)

I've been debating these questions the past couple of days.

Today, I was on my way home from the temporary job I just acquired, and I read The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila (the only book recommendation I've ever taken). She had two points that I think help with this whole light on the hill/pharisee on the street corner question. And, because I like quotes, I shall quote her.

I warn you: abandon yourselves [to acts of devotion] only under the condition that you harbor no illusions about the Beloved being under some obligation to repay you for your sacrifice with divine favors. [...] What can we offer such a generous Beloved, who died for us and breathes life into our being?

She's speaking to her sisters in the convent and talking about, in particular, giving up worldly goods. I think she probably also intends it to cover other acts of devotion as well. If you are doing anything, really, because you think God should reward you for it, you aren't "walking humbly with God."

I've never really thought of of tzniut or head covering as something that should bring repayment from God. Isn't everything we do supposed to be repayment to God? God loved us and created us and then we blew God off. God came to down to earth to teach us the way Home and we killed God. God has done everything for us and we, as a whole anyway, have been brutally unreceptive. So I think all our lives should be repayment back to God-- mind you, that's hard to remember even on my best days.

That's where the head covering comes in, I think. I, as a human full of faults, don't always remember to live my life as an offering to God. The head covering is my reminder. If it acts as a label to identify me as Christian or religious, that's fine, but it is first and foremost for me.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Walk Humbly with Your God

I teach Sunday School to 5th and 6th graders. They are a very intelligent, very energetic group.
Today, we were studying (among other things) Micah 6:8 where God calls on the people, instead of sacrificing oil and animals to Her, to "do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God."

Our activity involved making lists of things people in general and my students in particular could do under the headings of Doing Justice, Loving Kindness and Walking Humbly with God.

Some suggestions I got for Doing Justice were:
Stand Up to Bullies
Put Terry Jones in jail
Protest (Oh, Ann Arbor children)

Some suggestions I got for Loving Kindness were:
Helping children who are lost
Giving people hugs
Not being mean to people

Walking humbly with God was by far the hardest. But I told them about tzniut and how tzniut is based pretty much entirely on that part of this verse (source). Then they got into it and here were some of the suggestions I got:
Do what people tell you
Don't brag
Don't dress in a way that makes people pay attention to you

After this last suggestion, many of the students started to defend why they dressed to attract attention. (I mean, come on, many of them are in junior high and the rest will be soon.) However, one of my (male) students, who I'll call J, said in a remarkably thoughtful way, "I don't usually dress to make people pay attention me..." He paused, and then added, "Except my Converse."

I had to smile-- I loved that he thought dressing not to make people pay attention was important when all of his classmates were arguing against it. I also loved that he was willing to admit that he did wear his Converse shoes sometimes to attract attention! I think God would approve, for sure.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Your skirt is way more modest than mine"

So I sat down on the bus the other day on my way home from work in my ankle-length jean skirt, a black jacket and a silver kerchief on. There was a guy sitting across from me, also wearing a skirt. His came to a bit above his knees. Now, I have to say, in rainy icky weather like that, I rarely see women wearing skirts around Ann Arbor, much less men. He looked at me, smiled, and said, "Your skirt is way more modest than mine. Now I'm embarrassed." I was delighted! I responded with something like, "Well, it's all about what you're going for, right?" But I was thrilled. I don't know if he intended it as a compliment or not (I think he did), but I've never had someone say to me before, "Wow, what a modest outfit you have there!" Usually it's: "Aren't you hot in that?" or more politely,  "I like your... hat," while I'm wearing a hijab. I'm not sure why I was so delighted with this, but I was.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happy Belated Easter, everyone!

So Happy Easter! Sorry this made it up a bit late-- I went to Easter Vigil, then celebrated my Easter by sleeping in and then working at our local Domestic Violence Shelter-- where I wrote this (in the down time), but didn't get a chance to post it until now.

So today was my first day as a "free woman," so to speak. I also stressed out way more about clothes today than I have in at least a week. And don't get me wrong, clothes were stressful all through Lent, but now I have to decide what I want to wear rather than what's clean that I can wear that matches. :) Truth be told, I don't know what I want to wear.
So here's me trying to figure that out...

I know that I don't see pants as immodest or unfeminine. (To prove this last point, take any one of my jeans and put the butchest man you can find in them and he will look very feminine.) I do, however, see pants as a pain in the neck and not nearly as much fun as skirts.

Not many of my skirts are much shorter than 3/4 of the way down my thighs, but a good handfull of them don't cover my knees. I wore one of those today. With leggings. So my knees wouldn't feel totally bare.

The top was way more trouble for me. You see, I have 34DD boobs, which means that shirts that don't show one whit of cleavage on anyone else, show a lot on me. Today, I wanted to wear something that maybe didn't cover my collarbones, but also wouldn't show cleavage. In fact, maybe that's what I want all the time. I'm not sure. Either way, I own 2 shirts that fall into that category-- and both of them were dirty.

So I ended up wearing a shirt that covered my collarbones, but had short sleeves. I also covered my hair.

One of the big things I learned from Lent is this: my basic outfit of jeans and a t-shirt or jeans and a sweater may be comfortable for me, but it doesn't feel like honoring God. Not because of what I reveal or don't reveal necessarily, but because I want to think about God every moment of every day and I'm not. (Now, the odds of me actually achieving this are slim, but hey, a girl can dream.) So in order to achieve that, I'm going to start covering my head. It's not in obedience to Paul's command in 1 Corinthians... because I don't have a husband to show submission to. And also because I think Paul is a crock... a well intentioned crock, but a crock nonetheless. I plan on covering my head so that every time it annoys me, every time I have to fix it, every time I fuss about finding one that matches, I remember that God is always over me. That's the idea anyway. If it doesn't end up working, I may change it.

Another thing I learned from Lent is that there are parts of my body that I think should be between me, my Woman and God. And that's okay. And it's not necessarily parts of my body that I have issues with. Some of them are, but even then, the reasons I was having issues with them were because I expected the whole world to see them and thus, the whole world's opinion mattered. When I narrow it down to my Woman, my God and me, well... my Woman and my God like all of my body-- it's just me who needs to catch up. :)

Funnily enough, I think these areas correspond pretty well with the Mormon rules, which require that the clothes cover Temple garments (the women's are on the right). I think my body from my breasts down to 3/4 of my thigh should be covered, maybe my knees. I'm not so sure about cleavage yet-- simply because I'm unwilling, I think, to throw out all the clothes that show cleavage on me. I do think my shoulders should be covered almost all the time. (I'll make an exception for swimming.) And, although the Mormons never specifically state this, I think when the weather is cold and everyone else is wearing long-sleeves, I should wear long-sleeves most of the time too. To be honest, I don't think this has changed much since the beginning of Lent. I've simply learned that it's okay. I don't have to be okay with showing all of my body to everyone.

What do I think God thinks of this?

Well, as I've said before, I'm pretty sure God would prefer it if we didn't fuss about clothes at all. I shall work on that. In the meantime, I think God's pretty okay with my choices. Do I think God is also okay with what "Anne" wears? Yeah. Do I think God is also okay with what the women at the SlutWalks wear? Yup. I think God wants us to be comfortable in our bodies, to respect our bodies and to treat them as Temples of God, whatever that means to us. I think that can be done in all kinds of clothes.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Outward Acts of Religiosity

I think outward acts of religiosity are tough in Christianity. For one thing, we're supposed to be "not of this world," which makes us stand out whether we want to or not. For another, Jesus said when we fasted not to look like we were fasting and when we prayed not to be pompous about it. On the other hand, we do it. If your Catholic or Episcopalian, think crossing yourself.

I started crossing myself a while back, but I was hesitant about it for all the reasons one could be hesitant about blatant acts of religiosity. Now, though, I do it out of habit. I like it, I'm glad it's become habit, but it's definitely a habit.

Now, I work on a project studying youth suicide prevention. My boss is religious and Episcopalian. The team learned Thursday while I was there that a youth in our community had committed suicide. When I heard it, I crossed myself and prayed (silently) "Let light perpetual shine upon him." My boss saw and thanked me for doing it. She was upset and the sight of that familiar ritual was comforting.

That's why ritual exists, isn't it? So we can fall back on it for comfort? But we generally fall back on our own ritual not other people's, unless it's very visible. Is that why there are acts of religiosity that we do publically? To remind other people of faith that they're not alone? To give them something to fall back on?

Does my covering serve that purpose? I don't know.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Interviews, Part 3


Do you have parts of your body that you feel should always be covered (in public)?

What are they?
Breasts, stomach, bum, upper thighs.

Do you have parts of your body that you feel should never be covered? What are they?
No, although I show clevage most of the time.

Do you have parts of your body that you feel should be covered/uncovered at certain times?
Yes, when I work, for example, I cover from a few inches below my neck to my knees or below my knees. Also, in church, I generally do the same thing.

Besides what you cover/don’t cover, are there other distinctive ways about how you dress? Please elaborate as best you can.
I dress how I feel that morning. I could decide to wear something very hippie-ish (long skirt, flowy top), or I could wear something casual (jeans, and a t-shirt). My style always changes, but I love bright colors and feminine cuts. In the spring and summer, I wear lots of dresses and wrap skirts. In the fall and winter, I wear lots of jeans and long-sleeved shirts, usually in darker colors. I usually wear lacy underthings, because it makes me feel pretty and sexy, even if my boyfriend is the only other person who sees it.

Describe your typical outfit.
I don't necessarily have a typical outfit, but it usually shows cleavage, and is mildly form fitting.

In an ideal world/social norms notwithstanding, would your typical outfit be different? How?
I would most likely be naked all the time, because I love my skin!

Why do you dress the way you do? Please elaborate as best you can.
Comfort, yes, but I do like to make a statement sometimes, mostly I dress how I feel and I dress to make myself happy.

Do you think everyone should dress the way you do? Why or why not?
No, not at all! The beauty of living in the U.S. is that everyone is different, all styles, all colors, it expresses who we are.

How do you think people respond to your manner of dress?
Depends on the person, but I get compliments from all genders. I think it's less about clothes, and more about confidence.

How would you like people to respond to your manner of dress?

The same way they do now.

Anything you’d like to add that I haven’t already asked?
No, I think you covered everything! (sorry, pun was not intended)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Interviews, Part 2


Do you have parts of your body that you feel should always be covered (in public)?

What are they?
Pretty much from armpits to mid-thigh.

Do you have parts of your body that you feel should never be covered? What are they?
Not really.

Do you have parts of your body that you feel should be covered/uncovered at certain times?
Only in winter (lol). I probably would not wear anything strapless in church, but I don't generally anyway. If I wear a sundress in summer I do usually have a shawl/sweater for the church part of the day (ie if going to a wedding I'll wear the covering in church but remove at reception).

Besides what you cover/don’t cover, are there other distinctive ways about how you dress? Please elaborate as best you can.
I always wear a cross but more for myself than others--a reminder to me of my faith which I will often hold in a moment of prayer. I always wear my wedding and engagement rings (commitment) and only take them off when cooking something I have to knead by hand. I always wear a ring I got in the Badlands when I went on pilgrimage in 2002. In terms of colors I gravitate to what I like (blues, pinks, red). I never wear animal prints or fur.

Describe your typical outfit.
Jean/slacks (no holes, frayed edges, etc).
If casual, T-shirt or long-sleeved shirt (maybe sweater); if professional light sweater, work appropriate shirt (rarely v-necks and if so not deep Vs), handknit socks when possible, birkenstocks almost always. I rarely wear heals unless a formal occasion, but mostly due to foot problems (bunion and Morton's neuroma surgery 5 years ago).

In an ideal world/social norms notwithstanding, would your typical outfit be different? How?
Nope. I dress mostly for comfort.

Why do you dress the way you do? Please elaborate as best you can.

Mostly physical comfort although I have never been comfortable letting breasts/belly/bottom "hang out". Makes me self conscious.

What are the biggest barriers (internal or external) for dressing the way you would like?

What are the biggest blessings about the way you dress?
Easy to launder! I rarely have to iron anything I own. Also my dress is not a distraction for me or others. It lets "me" come through. As a knitter I am also able to wear my art which makes me very proud.

Do you think everyone should dress the way you do? Why or why not?
No way. You should dress in a way you are comfortable. Also, if you religion suggests a standard (such as hijab) I'm fine with that.

How do you think people respond to your manner of dress?

They don't, 'cause I'm a "boring" dresser.

How would you like people to respond to your manner of dress?

Anything you’d like to add that I haven’t already asked?
I was raised by parents who didn't think it was appropriate to let breasts/belly/butt show and still continue that. I do think that women younger that me who dress to the current more exposed fashion standard can sometimes do themselves a disservice and be taken less seriously especially in professional settings.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Lent is Drawing to a Close: Interviews, Part 1

Okay, so Lent is drawing to a close and I'm trying to figure out what I've gotten out of my Lenten discipline and where I will go from here. I feel like much of it has been a study in what parts of my body I am comfortable showing and why I'm not comfortable showing them. For instance, I've been pretty much always uncomfortable in swim suits and while this is due in part, I am sure, to my own body image issues, I think it is also heavily related to modesty. Some of those parts (stomach, upper thighs) are, for me, between me and God and my Woman. I don't want to show them to everyone and their brother. I think this discipline has liberated me in a way. I feel more comfortable covering what I want to cover, whether or not everyone else does.

It also taught me that everyone has parts of them they think should be covered and parts they think should not be covered, so I decided to interview a bunch of friends for their opinions on clothes. I will do a little series on these with whoever wants to contribute. My questions are in Italics. Their answers have only been minorly edited for comprehension and such.


Do you have parts of your body that you feel should always be covered (in public)?
What are they?

Pretty much just the naughty parts, boobs, butts, and genitals.

Do you have parts of your body that you feel should never be covered? What are they?
Pretty much just the face. Although I really don't like wearing gloves.

Do you have parts of your body that you feel should be covered/uncovered at certain times?
Everything that hasn't been covered before! Every other part of your body can be covered or uncovered depending on the situation. For instance, what you wear to the beach is different then what you wear to a business meeting.

Besides what you cover/don’t cover, are there other distinctive ways about how you dress? Please elaborate as best you can.
I pretty much wear anything and everything. I do try and pull comfort into the mix. Because I live in SoCal in the desert, it can get hot. I like to wear light fabrics with bold prints, and especially sun dresses. In the winter it gets pretty cold, so layers are key. I also like to look good and feel sexy so some times I put in some extra effort like wearing jewelry, but that is only once in a while. There really is no telling what I will feel like wearing on a day-to-day basis.

Describe your typical outfit.

I have two typical outfits. One is for the week when I am in school. I wear jeans and a teeshirt, or one of my longer dresses. I like to keep my legs down to my knees covered along with my stomach. I make sure that my bra or underwear are not showing and that I am not being provocative. On the weekends, it's a whole other ball game. I wear my SUPER short skirts and dresses, often bear my midriff, and like to show off cute colored bra straps. Even still, I try not to be too racy. I only show off one provocative area at a time (legs, midriff, shoulders/breasts). My goal is to be sexy, not slutty.

In an ideal world/social norms notwithstanding, would your typical outfit be different? How?
I think my typical outfit would be a lot different, especially in the summer time. It gets so hot here, that oftentimes the last thing that I want to do is wear clothing. I think that I would start wearing bathing suits as clothing, or just go completely nude (which I guess isn't a typical outfit).

Why do you dress the way you do? Please elaborate as best you can.
My clothes basically try and find an intersection between comfort and beauty. I want to look hot/sexy/beautiful, but I also want to be able to move in my clothes and feel comfortable. I like finding flirty clothes that aren't too tight or too short or too restricting. Because of this, I love my sun dresses. They are typically about mid-thigh length which is enough to run around in and sit down in without flashing anything inappropriate, but short enough to show off some leg. And because they are dresses, they have a certain amount of style and beauty associated with them.

Do you think everyone should dress the way you do? Why or why not?
I think that people should try and follow some of my guidelines about what to wear and when. I have seen, several times, girls wearing micro mini skirts to class where everyone can see their underwear (or lack thereof). To me, that is just not appropriate. Don't get me wrong, I love the micro mini and if they looked good on me I would have 12 in my closet, but it is for a more informal setting then the classroom. As far as what people wear, I would hate it if everyone dressed like me. I wouldn't be able to stand out with crazy fashion sense or ridiculous shoes. I like everyone wearing different things and expressing who they are.

How do you think people respond to your manner of dress?

I think they think I'm a little crazy sometimes, but overall I don't think people really think about what I wear. I don't wear anything that is overly offensive or different from the norm at my school.

How would you like people to respond to your manner of dress?
Mostly for them to think I look good.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mann traoch, Gott läuch.

That, my friends is Yiddish for "Man plans, God laughs," at least as far as google is concerned.

I'm pretty sure God's laughing at my Lenten Discipline.

Here I am, trying really hard to strictly abide by modesty rules and what happens on my pilgrimage to Lourdes? Of course, to get in the baths, everyone strips (in relatively discreet places, I might add). I was naked as the day I was born in front of at least 3 women who I'd never seen before in my life and will never see again. It was such a shock to my system after so much modesty that I was shaking even before I was plunged in the icy water.

However, this experience that was enabled by these moments of total immodesty was an amazing moment for me. I'm not sure I feel "cured." (I don't think I'd know what "cured" felt like, anyway.) However, being in the bath (albeit briefly), felt like walking into a Mass that I didn't know was going on-- this suprisingly wonderful reminder that I am part of something much larger than myself.

Being dunked in the water, I was reminded of my baptism (and every baptism I'd ever seen or heard of), especially Jesus's baptism, I was reminded of all the other people who had been dunked in this water, all the people who wash their hands in it (including St. Bernadette), I was reminded of all the people who bathe in the Ganges, but maybe coolest of all, I was reminded that God gives us these reminders not only in holy places, but every time we encounter water.

Christianity (and many other religions) picked some really basic elements to make holy. Water in baptism. Food and drink in the Eucharist. Oil in the chrism. Sticks, well, branches, in Palm Sunday. Although I'm a thorough believer in transubstantiation, I think Protestants got one thing right in the whole it's-a-symbol concept. It is supposed to be symbolic everytime we pick up a piece of bread anywhere. My pain au chocolat this morning? Symbolically, the body of Christ. A reminder of the Eucharist I will partake in this evening, which is the literal body of Christ.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Several years ago, the deacon at my old church gave a sermon that sticks with me now after attending 3 Masses so far here in France. Now, I'm very bad at paying attention to sermons and I'm doing this from memory at least 3 years on, so I may not get it all right.

He was talking, as I recall, about why Episcopalians put so much weight on the Eucharist and not on the Bible (not, at least, as a literal, premade document). He compared two people growing old, one of whom was very Protestant and who's central "icon," if you will, of the faith (by which I mean what represented the faith to them) was the Bible, and the other of whom was Episcopalian and who's central "icon" of the faith was the Eucharist. Both of them were losing their eyesight and, in some ways, their understanding, so the Protestant was struggling with their faith because they were losing their ability to read and comprehend the Bible, which was their tangible connection to the faith. For the Episcopalian, even though they were losing their sight and comprehension, still had the Eucharist to hold on to. They could still experience the Eucharist, even when the Bible was inaccesible to them.

Having attended Mass here in France in 3 different churches and in 2 different languages, I get that. I love the beauty of being able to walk into a Mass and understand what is going on without knowing the language very well. It feels like the most accessible link to God possible-- a way to access God through something we humans have to do all the time anyway-- eat!

In a way, that's kind of what I'm looking for in covering my head-- a way to access God through sometihng I do every day.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hijabi in France

So in light of my confession yesterday, I ended up going home and wearing the same outfit, but with my hijab over the top. I felt pretty, classy, modest and best of all... cool. (I mean that the air cooled me off, not that Justin Bieber would approve of my clothing choice.)

That feeling of finding the perfect clothes (which I get so rarely these days) evaporated after about 3 blocks. I was wandering around my hotel's quartier (neighborhood), doing some shopping and stopping in cafes. I was minding my own business. No one else was, it seemed.

As I stopped by jewelry stores and book stores run by Jewish men (I am, after all, in the Jewish quartier), I'd get distrusting looks as I stood in the window. The moment I crossed the threshold into their shop, I got outright glares. And followed. I don't know whether they expected me to plant a bomb or steal stuff or what! And this at just about every shop I went into, because, let's face it, why go into anyting besides jewelry and book stores? When I walked into stores that weren't Jewish-run, I got ignored. The shopkeepers would not greet me, although they greeted everyone else that walked in and out. Good thing I didn't want to buy anything because I would have had to jump up and down with money in my hand to get anyone to bat an eyelid at me.

I did get some headnods from women in hijabs, which made me smile, and even a headnod from a woman in a hijab-esq thing, wearing a hodgepodge of modest clothing-- she kinda looked like me actually: indefinably modest.

I wanted to wear a sign that said, "I'm Christian. I'm a feminist. I like my rights. I also like hijab." Or for the Jewish shops, maybe a sign that said, "Do your research. Hijab and tzniut are very similar!" Would that have made it better? I don't know. I felt like everyone was judging me-- and I think they were. It was totally isolating and, frankly, humiliating. I was embarrassed for me and for the French. This was a very touristy-area and there were people who noticed how these French shopkeepers were treating me. It was awkward for everyone involved. It can't have been good for business.

Interestingly, there was one exception to all this. And it made me hella proud. Near the end of my day, I stopped at a gay cafe. The waiter showed up almost the moment I sat down (which never happens in France, hijab or no) and took my order. It took him about 10 minutes to come back with my drink (not long, in France) after which he apologized profusely for being so slow (which he wasn't compared to everything else here). He was sweet, he checked on me frequently and he was prompt about everything. It was such a relief, because the afternoon in my hijab had been so incredibly draining!

Why did this one gay man treat me like a human being? Did I set his gaydar off? Did he recognize me as a fellow oppressed person? Is he just that nice to everyone? Whatever the reason, I hope he continues...

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Ok, so I'm vacationing in France right now... which is awesome, but I had a little incident today.

I went to church this morning. I caught the metro to the American Cathedral in Paris. (Which smells like an Episcopal Church? What is that? There's a smell. Only in high church places, though... Do we all use the same wood polish or something?)

Anyway, caught the metro there in beautiful, appropriate kosher clothing. Loved the service. Decided to walk back. It was a long walk, but I thought I'd manage. Fail. I ended up walking the wrong direction. Which I only realized when I was practically directly under the Eiffel Tower. So I walked back to the American Cathedral and by that point I was so hungry and sweaty and tired that I caught the metro home.

I climbed up the 5 flights of stairs to my hotel room and decided to change into the lightest-weight clothing I could-- which turned out to be a mid-calf-length brown skirt and an Indian style blouse with 3/4-length sleeves and a lightweight brown scarf that I'd tied kerchief style. I left the hotel (after much moaning and groaning and flopping about). Two blocks down the road, I think, "Wow. This light-weight fabric is so awesome; I'm so much cooler already... Wait, did my blouse slip, is that why I'm showing too much collarbone? ... *tugs on shirt* Oh shit! I forgot to cover my collarbones."

Actually forgot. I just didn't look in the mirror on my way out of the room.

Well, so there in the middle of the street, I whipped my scarf off my head and folded it more hijab style. Now my collarbones are covered but I definitely wasn't planning on wearing anything remotely resembling a hijab this soon. It makes me nervous in this countrty-- even though there are definitely plenty of women wearing them.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

France's Niqab Ban and Me

So, I am joyously heading to France tomorrow to simultaneously reward myself for finishing my thesis and celebrate the last time I won't feel guilty about paying for something extravagent for a while because I am still a student until the end of this month.

Hijab, from
Interestingly, France is very anti religious head coverings. Mostly Muslim ones, but in order not to be discriminatory, they have to be anti all of them. They banned the hijab in public schools in 2004. (Again, ostensibly they banned all large religious symbols, but it boiled down to banning the hijab.) This used to bother me --a lot-- but now it really touches close to home because I wear them on a regular basis. It irks me, but it is only in public schools... I haven't decided yet whether I shall wear a hijab in France or not.

Now, as of the 11th of April, 2011, the French are banning the niqab. Not in public schools. Everywhere. Now, I don't wear niqabs and have no interest in doing so. I mean, come on, turtlenecks make me claustrophobic-- I have no illusions about how trapped a niqab would make me feel. On the other hand-- the attachment I've developed towards covering my head in such a short time makes me very empathetic to women who might have developed a similar attachment for covering their face. Especially for people who grew up wearing the hijab or niqab. If you're with me on the hijab, but not on the niqab, let me offer an example.

Niqab, from
I grew up in a meat-eating household. Nearly every meal we ate for my entire childhood had meat in it. I was always a little averse to meat, but was never "fanatical" enough to go vegetarian while living with my parents. Prompted by health reasons, I eventually stopped eating meat. To me, it's a small but important sacrifice to make for a variety of reasons. I've learned to make some wonderful meals that are vegetarian. Even my solidly ominvorous family likes some of my meals.

I have a friend, though, who grew up vegetarian. She's never eaten meat at all as far as I know and all her life her family cooked wonderful vegetarian things. Also prompted by health reasons, she became vegan. For her, it was a small sacrifice. For me, it would be an almost incomprehensible one. I just can't imagine my life without milk or cheese. Maybe it's a silly comparison, but that's how I look at the whole hijab/niqab thing. Wearing hijab for me is a big difference (from, say, no head covering), but I love it. I could see how forsomeone who had grown up wearing hijab, the niqab would be appealing and just another small step in their relationship with God.

So, here's a questions. For those of you who wear a head covering or have considered it, how do you feel about France's ban? (Definitely google it if you haven't heard of it before!)

Monday, April 4, 2011

I've always been offensive, just by being myself.

It's true. If I did everything "by the book" (or "the Book"), I'd still offend a majority of the world's population, just by how I feel about women. (Shall I get in to the fact that it is actually impossible to do everything the Bible says literally? ...No, I shan't.)

Simply "having homosexual tendencies" makes me ineligible to teach Sunday School in many churches.

The loving, monogamous relationship I have with my Woman has made mothers pull their children away from us in the street. (Not knocking polygamy/polyamory-- that's simply a fight I'm not going into right now.)

Being Christian means 9 out of 10 gay people I meet assume I'm closeted and self-hating. Worse! They'll assume one or the other is a "phase"-- where have I heard that before???

And while I'm on other queer people! Some of the people I find I offend the most are other queer people who are less affectionate than my Woman and I are in church. Like, they feel the need to act like heteros so why don't my Woman and I?

So I can't get around being offensive and my choice was to minimize my offensiveness and not "act gay" --whatever that means-- or be myself and risk offending people.

My point is, I guess I'm going to have to do that here.

The modesty thing is constantly changing the way I look at clothing (more on that in another post), but I don't think I will continue it (at least in quite this way) in perpetuity. Head covering, on the other hand, I really feel called to, if that makes sense. It's not something we typically talk about having a calling for in the Episcopal Church, but I really just feel like it should have been there all along.

Maybe that's offensive. Or is it only offensive if I wear hijab? To that end-- here we go.

First off, I have yet to find a source anywhere where a Muslim person says they would be offended by a non-Muslim wearing a hijab. Now, I'm sure some Muslim somewhere is probably offended, but obviously it is not a majority. Not including the ones Megan found in my earlier post, here's what I found in my first two or three pages of googling.

And then there's this facebook group that is specifically for non-Muslim hijabis.

And, check out my blogroll on the right hand side of the page. Cover(ed) Girl is by Heather, a Christian hijabi who was formerly a niqabi. Little Steps Home is written by Amber, who is an Orthodox Christian who covers, as far as I can tell, sometimes with a hijab.

Even with all that, I just feel comfortable in a hijab-- perhaps it's because I prefer it when my ears are covered and I like having something that tucks into my shirt-- it just makes the whole thing feel more "right" for me.

And when I lived in Senegal, it was encouraged. Honestly, I fought it tooth-and-nail there because it felt like it was saying they would only treat me respectfully if I wore it. And frankly, I resent that, but near the end of my time in Senegal I got into the hijab more. (As a note: I covered my hair there a lot, because it was easier to do it and not look abnormal.) So maybe that let it in as an option for me? I don't know.

I might also add that there a finite number of ways one can cover one's head. At some point, I'm going to step on somebody's toes.

All I know is: I feel called to cover. I will continue doing so unless and until I feel called to stop or it gets too difficult to manage. As for the hijab, I will try to be culturally sensitive, but I don't think I'm upsetting hijabis. I imagine a lot of them feel called to the hijab and so understand what it's like trying to argue with a call.

I do appreciate your input; after all, I asked for it. It is totally enlightening and feel free to continue commenting, but in the end, it's my submission to God and it's my call.

Friday, April 1, 2011


So I was sitting in a meeting the other day with about a dozen other women. It was informal so I was wearing my ankle-length jean skirt, a sweater with a shell underneath, and a kerchief. I looked around the room and every other woman was wearing jeans. Now, I like jeans-- they're durable, they're versatile and they look cute. But I can't stand shopping for jeans. This goes back to what my old dietitian said about the fashion industry-- they're out to get women. I can spend 2 hours in Express trying to find the right jeans, finally find them, grab another pair of the same cut, style and size off the wall, take them home and then find out they other one doesn't fit! And that's not to knock Express-- at least they have jeans that fit me. Most places don't.

Skirts on the other hand, I'm not looking for an 8 long, I'm just looking for an 8. I can shop for them anywhere and I do! My ankle-length jean skirt does almost anything a pair of jeans could do and it took me 20 minutes to try on. Now that's liberation from the fashion industry. :) Or it's a start, anyway.

Maybe one of these days I will learn to sew and make my own clothes or buy clothes just from people who've made it themselves-- that would be about as liberated from the fashion industry as one could get (like most Plain people). And I'm not saying I'll never wear jeans again --I mean, come on, try riding a horse in an ankle-length skirt. I just mean that maybe wearing more skirts and fewer jeans isn't just an act of modesty or an act of faith or an act of beauty (and all of those things are subjective). Maybe, it's also an act of liberation.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Please Raise Your Hand If I'm Offending You

Yes, that's what I'm asking. And I do want to know.
There are a number of ways to look at this.

Is practicing tzniut for Lent offensive to Jews? Just Orthodox Jews? Just Orthodox Jewish women?
Is practicing tzniut for Lent offensive to Christians? Just Christians who follow Christian modesty rules? If so, which kinds? All of them?
Is wearing a hijab offensive to all Muslims? Muslim women?
Is wearing a hijab offensive to Christians?

Ways people besides me might look at this: (let me know if I've missed any)

1) Closer to the One True Truth
If you believe that yours is the one true truth (ie. that Islam and nothing else is right or that Orthodox Judaism and nothing else is right) then surely it is better for me to get one thing right than nothing right. This was a prominent belief in Senegal. *Sidy* or whomever believes that Islam is the one true truth. He wishes the whole world was Muslim. He would love it if I, personally, converted to Islam. One day, I show up wearing a hijab. *Sidy* grins. He knows I'm not Muslim, because maybe he saw me at the bar the other night or whatever, but he'll applaud me, saying it's better that I do one thing right than nothing.

2) Appropriating Someone's Culture
If you believe that tzniut (or Orthodox Judaism or hijab or Islam) is a cultural thing, then obviously, taking things from it when I don't fully understand it would be hugely offensive and also awkward for me. It'd be like the people walking around with the giant Chinese word for "joy" on their back. It may or may not be Chinese and it may or may not mean "joy" but the fact that I'm walking around without knowing that would be offensive to Chinese-speaking people and awkward for me (even though I don't know it).

3) Denying My Own Religion
If you believe a) that Christianity has a mandate to not follow tzniut rules or hijab or what-have-you or b) that one cannot use aspects of another faith to deepen one's own faith-- that this amounts to a denial of the faith, then I could see some Christians being offended at my claim to be Christian. Check out this little upheaval for more ideas.

4) Truth in Advertising
This would require that you believed 2 things: 1) that practicing modesty or headcovering or whatever advertises something besides modesty or headcovering (ie. that wearing a hijab advertises being a Muslim) and 2) that since it advertises this, it must be inherently wrong to practice this if you are also advertising behaviors that you believe inconsistent with it (ie. it is wrong to drink alcohol in a hijab whether or not one is Muslim).

5) Enriching My Spiritual Practice
I'm learning about other people's religions and deepening my own in the process. To me, it seems to provide me with an opportunity (as a nerdy, overly fashion-conscious, religious college student) to combine my nerdiness (the research) my fashion issues (the clothes) and my religion (the prayer) into one Lenten discipline.

6) What About Christian Modesty?
This would mean that because my Lenten discipline uses tzniut guidlines or because I wear a hijab (occasionally), I've turned up my nose at Christian modesty practices-- such as going by Plain or Mormon standards or something like that.

7) You Can't be a Lesbian and Religious! Especially Not Christian/Jewish/Muslim/Zoroastrian!
This means assuming that queer people can't be in XYZ religion. Then, you assume that my *being* Christian or using Jewish standards to define modesty or wearing a hijab is offensive to someone, somewhere because I'm queer and they don't let queer people in that club. With all of that, you're endorsing that they have a right to be offended by my sexual orientation, which is legitimizing homophobia.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Feminism and Clothes and Orthodox Judaism, Oh My!

This isn't really a real post, but mostly just a giant arrow pointing to Nina's most recent post at Check it out here!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Headcoverings, again!

So, I've been covering my head most of the time lately. Saturday evening, though, I curled my hair for a 50's-themed party and it held so well through Sunday that I thought I'd go with my head uncovered. Well, I was fine with it teaching Sunday School, but when it came time to go into the sanctuary, I just really felt much better with my head covered, so I threw a scarf over it.

Later that evening, I went to my other church with my head uncovered and, while I managed, I really would have felt much more comfortable covered. This has little to do with my church community-- no one in my later church covers for sure and I'm reasonably certain no one in my early church covers either.

My rationale is not the typical reason Christian women cover their hair-- as a sign of submission to men as the head of the church/household/relationship with God/etc. My motivation is similar, I think, to why Orthodox Jewish men cover their heads-- I want a reminder that God is always above me. God is in control.

Now, I have a pretty decent collection of scarves and a hat or two, but I want a default one for church-- so if I don't have a scarf that "goes" with my outfit for the day, I can just grab my default scarf and not get caught up in the fashion-craziness of it. (But I don't plan on restricting myself to just my default scarf, so if I do have that perfect one that "goes," I can wear that too.)

The question is: what should my default church covering look like?

Initially, I thought basic would be good, since it is my "default" covering.
Like the chapel veils that some of the more orthodox Catholic women wear.  The one to the right here is by Lady in Blue on Etsy. However, my Woman is a recovering ex-Catholic and I don't want my "default" to be something that freaks the daylights out of her...

Another good basic would be like this one to the left. I don't know who wears these, but I do see girls around campus wearing them (or ones like them) occasionally. Anyone know? This one in particular is from Also, how do these stay on? I don't know what they're called, so I can't google it.

On the other hand, since my whole life seems to shock people (it seems lesbians can't be religious, let alone as theologically conservative as I am), I'm tempted to make my "basic" something with a giant rainbow on it. The one below is from Total Thread Head on Etsy.
Now, part of me says, "Wow. That's way too ostentatious" and you might agree with me. On the other hand, you must remember: I'm Episcopalian. The head of our church, Katherine Jefferts Schori (who by the way, is a really awesome person and Presiding Bishop) wears things like this:
Courtesy of
Obviously, you can't look too ostentatious for an Episcopalian church. Obviously.

Anyway, so the rainbow headcovering is not out of the picture, but I'm trying to find the one, you know? Suggestions are encouraged.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Modesty Stereotypes

So as a reward for myself, sometime last week I bought myself a hijab from It is beautiful! I wore it with this cute v-neck sweater I have that has pretty detail around the neckline. That way, I could tuck the hijab into my sweater neckline and still be covering my collarbones.

This was Friday, I think, and my Woman and I decided we wanted to go out to our local gay bar, the Aut. Well, so we walked there holding hands (which is the usual for us, but one of us is not typically wearing a hijab) and didn't seem to cause any traffic accidents. Yay! Better yet, when we got to the Aut, no one batted an eyelid. Mind you, we're there a lot. So perhaps they just know I'm weird and it doesn't cause any confusion any more? :)

The next day, we went out to breakfast. And yes, I was wearing the same outfit-- whoever knew I'd be doing the walk of shame in a hijab! Anyway, we go out to eat at Sava's, which has wonderful food, but we got the funniest stares the whole time! Clearly, we were astounding a few people-- what looked like a conservative Muslim woman kissing another woman! Quelle choque!

It seems people think that a hijab is much like the proverbial lesbian toaster. Guys, you can buys hijabs online for like $10... or just learn to fold a scarf like one if  you already have scarves. There's no secret handshake you have to learn, I promise.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Prayer Times

So, when I started this, I figured I'd be most likely to pray when I was hot and sweaty or freezing cold. Truly, though, I pray most when I'm trying to figure out what to wear for the day (or for an event). While I'm flinging things around my room trying to find a shirt, a shell and a skirt (and often a headcovering) that all match, I freak out... and then remember to pray. Often, I'm in such a state that the only thing I can remember to pray is the prayer one of my priests announced in my first Lent as an official Episcopalian: "Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." I don't know how common a prayer that is-- but for me it epitomizes my prayers during Lent. I repeat it over and over until slowly I realize that clothes are the least of my worries.

I am dust, after all. My death is looming. And I'm a sinner. Thank goodness I don't have to earn redemption-- I'd never make it. It brings me full force into the reality of how badly I need Christ.

Needless to say, I think every once-in-a-while, my Lenten discipline achieves its goal: I remember that there are things that are much more important than clothes.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Modest Swimsuits?

Finding the right swimsuit can be a disaster for any woman, not just women who are following religious modesty standards.

So I'm going to have a little fun here and talk about what many denominations think are modest swimsuits! For whatever reason, when I started researching modesty, I found a lot of swimsuit websites. Now, I've always been uncomfortable wearing my swimsuit --even after I reached the point where I very much like my body and think it's attractive. I just think there are parts of my body that not everyone gets to see and my tankini doesn't cover it for me. Now that I know other people feel the same, I think it gives me a little mental leverage for me to make my own swimming experience a whole lot more fun. I'm certainly not saying these are for everyone (and many of them are not even viable for me), but it's an interesting perspective.

For starters: A tzniut swimsuit.
For tzniut women going swimming in front of men, all of the rules still apply. Cover your collarbones, elbows and knees. Wear a skirt. Don't wear things that are skin-tight. Since wearing a knee-length shirt and a baggy shirt is very difficult to swim in, most tzniut women (or so it seems to me) choose to swim in women-only pools. Probably sensible. Imagine trying to swim in this:
It's cute. But if you were going to do any real moving in deep water, it would be difficult.
I looked at that and felt better. There were other people in the world who wanted to be more covered up when they swam! Mind you, unless it's during Lent, I would prefer wearing less than that, so I continued on.
Muslim hijab rules involve covering everthing but a woman's face and hands. Skirts are not required, but it should avoid clinging to you as much as possible. This means that their modest swimsuits end up looking more like wetsuits with caps. Now, not all Muslims find this acceptable, but it seems to be a pretty viable option. And there are tighter ones that could be easier to swim in, but more controversial. Unfortunately, everyone seems to have an opinion about this swimsuit-- either it's a drowning hazard or it's immodest. It is an advancement, though, so women can be modest by their own definition, without inhibiting the lifestyle they want.

Some Muslims and seemingly most Pentecostals believe that men and women swimming together, no matter each group is wearing, is immodest. Perhaps, though, they just haven't found the right outfit!

Seventh-Day Adventists, as far as I can tell, advocate covering the thighs and shoulders. In fact, this website quote the founder of Seventh-Day Adventism as saying that women should not wear corsets, pants or skirts (because a woman's hips are not made to hold things up-- oh yeah? where do you hold you baby, your shoulders?). Women should not wear vain things, but should be clean and neatly dressed. Dresses should be floor-length, but women should also cover their legs with leggings. Perhaps the latter are older rules?

Mormons have what I think of as a uniquely American approach to modesty. For them, modesty is relative. In general, an outfit should cover Temple Garments for them to be acceptable.
Temple Garments according to
The garments shown are for men. The ones for women are similar but they do have a lower collar and shorter sleeves. Needless to say, if these rules extended to swimming, their suits would look a lot like tzniut swimsuits. However, in "special circumstances," other things are permitted. For instance, in swimming, Mormons are allowed to wear swimsuits as Americans would recognize them, they just have to be very modest versions of your typical swimsuit. This means that typical Mormon swimsuits for women are either one-pieces or tankinis.
Mormon Miss Idaho 2011
 I don't know of any other denomination that mandates different swimwear. The rest of the ones I know that are modest aren't really in to letting their women swim...
So looking at this (and throughout this little Lenten journey of mine) I have been forced to analyze my own modesty standards. Generally, I think I keep my shoulders and my stomach covered (but I don't mind low cleavage) and my bottoms (either pants or skirts) generally covered most, if not all, of my thighs. I, however, am with the Mormons on the whole modesty-is-relative. At least a little bit-- for my shoulders.
So here's my swimsuit choice. What do you think?
Pua Brand Board shorts

Friday, March 11, 2011

Can I be a Modest Feminist?

So, I meant to post this on International Women’s Day, but this took a really long time, mostly because I have so many thoughts! ☺Scroll to the bottom if you need a very short cliffnotes version. Also! If you are a dork like me, feel free to check out my links and add your own!

My Woman, when I started all this up, was very worried about how modesty and feminism fit together. Now, I'm not a feminism scholar, so I don't know all the ins and outs of it, but I am a feminist. (Before you go all Ah!-she's-a-man-eating-lesbian-after-all on me, I'm going to give you 2 quotes to exemplify my feminism.) Rebecca West once said: "I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat." Cheris Kramarae and Paula Treichler are quoted as having said, "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people."

There. That is why I'm a feminist. I believe that women are people. But! The feminist ideology is more than that, I think. It's the radical notion that everyone is a person and deserves to be treated as such. This isn't very far from the Christian idea of seeing Christ in everyone and serving Christ in everyone. I am a feminist because I'm a Christian. I see Christ in women. I see Christ in black people. I see Christ in Jews. I see Christ in Muslims. I see Christ in poor people. I see Christ in queer people. I even see Christ in Fred Phelps. With difficulty.

Okay, so that defense of feminism may seem unnecessary --and perhaps it is-- but as I searched around the internet about modesty and feminism, I discovered that pretty much nobody thinks you can be modest and a feminist. Or if they do, it's because they've redefined feminism into something I don't recognize (and even that is rare).

Different Feminists’ Opinions on clothes

So how do feminists view clothes? Well, the answer to that is it depends on who you ask.
One group –that I think of as Old-School Feminists (and, I've found confirmation --and here-- that this is indeed the majority thought of Second Wave Feminism)-- insists that you can’t be a feminist if you wear revealing things. Eg. Or says that wanting to be sexy and successful is anti-feminist. Eg. The idea was revolutionary at the time-- women didn't have to shave every day or wear make-up to please their men? That kind of clothing made a statement.

Another group (in my social circle, this group is often made up of lesbians, but it is certainly not only queer people) insists you must be willing to march down Main Street naked or you’re uncomfortable with your body. You can find that attitude in this protest and this one. I'm told here and here that this is mostly Third Wave Feminism. The idea was we are sexually liberated and so we should be treated like human beings no matter what we're wearing.

Many of the above get downright obnoxious when someone else claiming to be a feminist supports something that –God forbid-- might be considered modest. (Like this rant about Burkas or this one about "the modesty movement".)

Now, the funny thing is, I like the clothes they offer on and I think blaghag’s boobquake is, at the very least, an interesting social statement, but neither of these groups’ opinions sound like mine. I like looking pretty. But I do have limits to the amount of skin I’ll show. And I’m a feminist, right? Right?

Plain(s)feminist, Naomi Wolf, and a few others would say, "Right." Apparently, this is a sub-genre of Third Wave Feminism called Choice Feminism. There is a middle ground between frump and slut. And it's important that we have that option, they'd add-- even if the fashion industry is out to get women. (Now I sound like my old dietitian who thought the fashion industry was conspiring against women. When I was 16, I thought she was crazy-- now, I think she's right.) We also should have the choice to be modest or the choice to dress sluttily or any combination of the two. Some say it's the beginning of a new Fourth Wave Feminism. Choice or Fourth Wave, it's a minority right now, but you could say that feminists are slowly beginning to understand that clothes don't necessarily make the woman.

Different Modesty Groups’ Opinions on clothes
In order to prove my point: namely, that one can be modest and a feminist, I think I shall have to look at what different proponents of modesty think about clothing. Now, one of these days I’d love to detail all the different rules—from what Mormons think is a modest swimsuit to what hijabis would consider a modest swimsuit—but I don’t have time to do that here. I’d like instead to look at women’s general ideas of why modesty is a good idea and how it should be followed in a more general sense than “These Are The Rules.”

One of the most vocal groups seems to think that dressing modestly protects a woman from the dangerous gaze –and subsequently, actions—of men. I refuse to buy this. (Catholic sources, Pentecostal sources, Muslim sources and many others here and here. I don't know what the name is. Modesty proponents don't have clearly identified "Waves" that they belong to, tragically.)
Things I find wrong with this line of thought:
1) IT’S VICTIM BLAMING!!!! It assumes that if I’m wearing a mini-skirt, I’m less of a person of value than if I’m wearing a maxi-skirt. It actually sounds a lot like’s assertion that you can’t be a feminist if you’re wearing a thong bikini.
2) It implies that men have absolutely no control over their sex drive or their actions. Ok. As someone who is attracted to women, I have to say: I don’t lose all ability to control my actions when a pretty woman walks by. On the rare occasion, I’ll lose my train of thought (okay, maybe it’s more than rare), but I still manage not to rape her… or even to have “impure” thoughts (unless awe is impure). Don’t say it’s because I’m a woman. I assure you, my sex drive functions as well as any straight male. I think we should give our men a little more credit for, you know, control of their actions.
3) It teaches our young women that they are in charge of who they have sex with, which is an ideal to be sure, but it’s not reality. And it leaves rape victims feeling guilty for having somehow caused it.
4) It teaches our young men that any woman who is dressed like X wants to have sex with them, no matter what she actually says, so “no means no” gets a lot more complicated.

I don’t think this one can be feminist, but feel free to argue with me!

Other reasons people advocate modesty are as:
  • A sign to ourselves that we value our bodies, according to this Jewish website and this Muslim one.
    • I like this one—sometimes I really need a reminder that I (and my Woman and my God) value my body. While not my primary goal for my Lenten discipline, I see this as a side-effec that could be almost an antidote for the giving-up-food aspect of Lent.
  • A sign of our devotion to God or so saith both Quaker Jane and another blog.
    • I like this one too, although I worry about it. For people who work very hard on their humility, this is probably a wonderful thing. Quaker Jane describes elsewhere on her site how she get asked about religion by total strangers. While being publicly devoted to God does encourage you to act in a way that would represent God well (I personally think this involves being kind to other people and holding hands with my Woman), it also is a fine line to walk in Christianity. I actually think it was our Ash Wednesday reading where Jesus says don’t pray in public (check out Matthew 6:1-6:20), because God sees in secret and rewards what we do in secret. When I do public acts of religiosity, I definitely worry about being a hypocrite like Jesus talks about in this passage. I guess it is all about the spirit in which you undertake these endeavors. And I’m still working on that—I think it’s a work in progress for everyone.
    • A sign of belonging to a particular religion, according to Quaker Jane again, a Muslim website and an interview with Muslim hijabis.
      • I’m not sure how I feel about this, although it seems inevitable if you’re wearing a style of modesty that is denomination-specific. I think my worry about it would go back to Matthew 6—why do I want to advertize that I belong to this faith? But I definitely think it would keep you on your toes as far as acceptable behavior goes.
      • To glorify God. At least according to the Mormons and these Catholics.
        • If you believe God requires it, this is a pretty straightforward answer.

      Are these contradictory?
      Well, here’s a radical concept:
      Neither feminism nor modesty is really about what you wear!

      Feminism is about believing that all people have the right to be treated like people. Modesty (at it’s best, in my opinion) is about valuing our bodies, showing our devotion and honoring God.

      I don’t think those are contradictory!

      Need a cliffnotes version of all of this? Both feminists and modesty proponents need to get over themselves. Not all feminists look the same and not all modesty proponents think the same, but one can still be a feminist and modest. I guess this makes me a Fourth Wave Feminist, huh? Let's get the revolution started!