Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.
Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one's choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet.
There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.
The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person.
Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2521-2524)
The principal of Plymouth Christian High School (PCHS) in Grand Rapids, MI, Jim Bazen, is a firm believer in modesty…especially on the part of female high school students. That belief has landed Bazen in the middle of quite a firestorm.
It all started a short time back when The Grand Rapids Press published an editorial arguing that school dress codes “have a serious sexism problem.” The editors believe that female students are being unfairly targeted for their bas la mode. How so? Dress codes that require haut couture send the message that female students are responsible for eliminating distractions for male students. They ask:
What generation do we live in where “showing too much collarbone” is considered sexual? A change of approach is badly needed. Schools need to do away with policies that disproportionately penalize female students. Not only is it wrong, it raises the specter of potential violations under Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in education based on sex. They also must stop sending a message to female students that they must be afraid of their sexuality, and that they're simply sexual objects and distractions.
- Public schools have uniforms. Girls wear the same things. Boys wear the same things.
- Parents are responsible for their chlidren’s choice of couture. Whether it’s bas la mode or haute couture that's being sported on the runway in high schools, approval--explicit, tacit, or implicit--came from parents.
- Really, does anyone honestly believe that those young females don’t want young males noticing them?
Responding to the editorial and arguing in defense of strict school dress codes that focus more heavily on female students than male ones, Bazen wrote in MLive that PCHS’s strict dress code for females is important. Why? It eases young men’s uncontrollable lust and helps to preserve young women's virginity. Bazen asserted:
The only way you can help young men not treat young ladies as sex objects is by telling the young ladies to cover up!
But, not stepping back, Bazen continued fanning the flames and poured additional fuel on the fire, explaining that “the male mind” is “wired more visual,” thus males become distracted when they see skin and tight clothing. These desires are inevitable, he noted, as is the predictable result, in which males treat females in skin-baring tight clothing as sex objects.
When young women are “scantily clad,” Bazen argued, their male classmates no longer look at them as a person, but as a “sex object.” Why? Men can’t help but lust after women, making women responsible for controlling that lust.
The solution? Bazen wrote:
So, it would seem to me, that if you do not want women treated as "sex objects," you should tell them to cover more skin.
- Feminists likened Bazen to a cultural Luddite whose condescending attitude toward females—who he blames for male irresponsibility—evidences patriarchy by once again blaming Eve for Adam’s sin.
- Some males castigated Bazen for cutting young men slack when, these opponents believe, males should exercise self-control and not act instinctually as misogynist creeps and hormone-crazed, irresponsible, wild animals act.
- Others wonder if Bazen is some sort of pervert. One asked: “Does he get all depraved of mind witnessing the athletic exploits of swimmers and runners, gymnasts and volleyball players?”
Bazen believes the problem is cultural, noting:
My heart goes out to our young ladies because they are caught between a rock and a hard place. Our girls are taught by the media that “sex” or “being sexy” will get them attention, especially from boys...and they get it.
Modesty is a virtue that's applicable to both sexes. Unfortunatley, it’s one that’s currently not in vogue. Hence, lots of bas de mode and the entirely predictable fallout associated with it evidencing itself in the nation’s public schools.
Perhaps the solution would be to bring back single-sex high schools.
Let the discussion begin...
To learn about PCHS, click on the following link:
To read the editorial in The Grand Rapids Press, click on the following link:
To read Principal Brazen's op-ed response, click on the following link: