The Top 3 Reasons to Wear Modest Swimwear, and None of Them Have to Do With Guys

Modest swimwear. 

Is there a more discussed topic in the way of dress in Christian circles?

I personally believe modesty is cultural (think about the head to toe attire of Islamic women in the Middle East, as versus nothing but a grass skirt warn by some tribes in Papua New Guinea). And even within a culture there are settings where some clothing is more appropriate than others. It's also unique to different body types. How this is played out is a personal and family decision. I'm not going to say one kind of swimsuit is bad, and "modest" women should always wear another kind. I'll leave the particulars of this up to the reader. But I hope my thoughts might influence you a bit when it comes to swimwear this season.

The biggest argument against immodest swimwear is always about guys: We don't want to make guys stumble or imagine sexual thoughts by wearing revealing clothing. We don't want men to look at us lustfully because then we've caused them to "have sex with us in their hearts." We have a responsibility to our brothers in Christ. Etcetera, etcetera, so on and so forth, guys, guys, guys, we make guys, our fault, yadi yada.

You see, there are a number of reasons this mindset is flawed. It's missing a huge element nobody talks about and focuses on only one (albeit important) aspect that is meaningless to many of the people they are trying to convince. I would argue that what men think, though important, is not the biggest issue when it comes to modesty, particularly modesty in swimwear.

First of all, I feel there is way too much pressure put on the girl. Listen to me; no matter how immodest a women might be dressed, it is always the guy's fault for thinking impure thoughts. Sure she might have made it easier, but nobody made him think this way. 

"For from within, out of a person's heart, come sexual immorality, 
theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, 
slander, pride and foolishness." Mark 7:21-22.

"But each one is tempted when he is 
carried away and enticed by his own lust."  James 1:14

Emphasizing this too much as the women's fault creates a mentality that blames women for the sins of men. (Click here to read a good article that goes into this aspect more.)

Secondly, most women, especially young women and girls, even Christians, don't really care that the guys are thinking impure thoughts. They want them to notice them! I've certainly been guilty of this in the past. In a woman's mind all attention is good attention (in this kind if situation), and young girls especially don't understand what men can do with images of scantily clad women. So talking about "guys stumbling" is completely meaningless.

Don't get me wrong, I do think modesty is important for the sake of the men in our lives. And I think we can learn from these other writers who focus on this aspect. But because of the reasons I mentioned above, I don't feel this is the most relevant argument for modest swimwear. There is something equally as important that actually effects people on a greater level.

I feel the biggest issue has to do with other women and girls, and our own hearts. 

A women should not dress in revealing swimwear because:

1. It creates a contest mentality where everyone is judged by a skewed set of rules. 

The girls at the pool wearing the revealing bathing suits are those with unusually attractive bodies. They are super thin and firm, and have good skin. Is this the epitome of beauty?  It certainly is on TV and on the magazine covers lining the grocery store check-out isles. But I constantly hear from Christian and non-Chrsistian circles alike that they are trying to teach their daughters, their friends, themselves, that there is not only one standard of beauty, one that involves being very thin, having airbrushed skin and a perfect chest. 

Those who fall under these skewed "rules" of beauty don't see any problem with dressing in revealing swimwear. It's those who don't, or those who have the sweet 14 year old who isn't thin like her friends and doesn't have the best skin, that are fed up with this. Even the women who are secure in who they are and know their husbands find them attractive, cannot help thinking less of themselves after being around women and girls at the pool or beach in their tiny suits revealing flawless figures.

I have no doubt that girls with eating disorders and major body image issues are hugely influenced by their attractive peers in revealing clothing. In fact, studies show that girls are more influenced by their peers than the media when it comes to body image.

Reason one: Don't participate in this harmful contest with skewed rules.

2. It fosters a selfish mindset. Having fun at the pool is about how cute I look, not about relationships and interacting with others in meaningful ways. 

The primary thought on the minds of most women and girls at the pool in revealing swimsuits is how attractive they look. Their main thought is on their own bodies and how happy they are that they look so cute and can pull off the tiny suit, and loosing that last five pounds really made a difference, and man isn't all this attention so amazing! They are not thinking about the struggles their friends might be going through that week. They are not thinking about their friend who hates her body and dreams of plastic surgery and magic diets so she can look like her. They are completely self-focused.

Swimwear is so much a part of the pool/water scene that some girls would rather not swim at all, and sit on the edge of the pool in every-day clothes, than to wear the modest and unexciting suits their parents are making them wear. And those who are self-consious about their bodies certainly don't want to reveal dimpled thighs and a chubby stomach. Later in life many women just end up swimming in a plain one-piece with long shorts, finally learning that it's okay to swim even if you don't look as cute as you dream. But they are still thinking "I wish I looked like that."

Reason two: Dress modestly at the pool to focus on others, not yourself.

3. It alienates those who choose to dress modestly, or are required to by their parents.

I remember going to a pool when I was 19. I was wearing a tankini with matching boyshorts. It was a pretty cute suit and I'd just purchase it, so I know it was at least somewhat in style. I was the only person of probably over a hundred women and girls, who was not in a bikini. I felt like I was wearing a burka. It's not that I necessarily wanted to reveal more, I just wished I wasn't the only one in a modest suit! I am constantly frustrated that there is now only one kind of suit that is considered acceptable pool wear.

I think about middle and high school girls going to a pool together. I imagine the popular girls with their perfect bodies and tiny suits, laughing and having a blast, soaking up the attention from guys. And I know the chubby girl in her one-piece, or even the slender one in her cute tankini her parents made her wear, are not welcome in this club. Even if the popular girl is kind to these other girls, they can't be part of the "club" because they don't look like she does (this goes along with reason number one). And even if no one actually said anything about her suit, she might as well have jumped in the water wearing a dress, for how different she feels.

Reason three: Wear modest swimwear to not alienate everyone who's not in the skimpy bikini club.

Ladies, lets examine our hearts this 
season before we decide what we'll wear to the pool.

{Spreading the word at Modest Mondays and Titus 2 Tuesdays.}


Deanna said...

This post is GREAT! I agree on so many levels! I was comfortable with my body until I had a child and my body changed so much that I loathed it. It's taken a few years, but I'm okay with it now and I'm not going to let my poochy tummy or my dimpled thighs keep me from enjoying the pool with my 5 year old. I bought a rash guard and surf shorts to go to the pool in this summer after reading so much about modest swimwear. Know what? I feel more confident in my "surfer girl" get-up than I ever felt as a skinny little thing in a bikini.

Bethany :) said...

Wow. I have never EVER heard anyone cite these reasons for modest swimwear, but you hit the nail on the head!!! Excellent post, Melodie!!