Revealing dress exposes women to objectifications – Father Thomas G. Morrow

Revealing dress exposes women to objectifications The concept of modesty seems lost even on those who advocate for chastity.

Father Thomas G. Morrow

From OSV Newsweekly


Msgr. Angelo Roncalli once found himself seated at a banquet next to a woman who was dressed with little regard for the virtue of modesty. Others observed him, wondering how he would deal with his predicament, given his moral convictions and his reputation for diplomacy.

After the dinner, Msgr. Roncalli took an apple and offered it to the woman in question. She declined his offer. Nonetheless, he persisted in his offer, to the point that the woman asked why he was so interested in having her eat the fruit. He responded with a twinkle in his eye, “Because when Eve ate an apple, she realized she was naked.”

Msgr. Roncalli went on to become Pope John XXIII — now Blessed John XXIII. It’s not known what happened to the woman.

Offensive to God

Our Lady of Fatima spoke to Jacinta Marto, age 11 at the time and told her, “Fashions will arise which will greatly offend God.” It seems that she was speaking of today.

It appears that the sexual revolution in the 1960s brought about some rather shabby treatment of women by their men. This is because women bond with men after having sex with men, while men do not necessarily bond with women. Thus, it seems that women put up with more bad treatment because they didn’t want to go find someone else, once they had given themselves to a man.

The feminists correctly identified this bad treatment, but alas, their solution was worse than the problem: They tried to be like men with regard to sex, to ask men out themselves. Abortion would ensure their new “freedom.” The treatment got worse, the divorce rate continued upward (it is now double that of 1960) and many, alas, just ended up opting for lesbianism.

The point of all this is that women got a raw deal in the sexual revolution and came to be seen as “objects of enjoyment,” as Pope John Paul II described it in the 1960 book he wrote as Bishop Karol Wojtyla, “Love and Responsibility.”

In this age when both men and women are tuning in to “Love and Responsibility” and Pope John Paul’s theology of the body (see excerpt on Page 12); when young people are getting a good dose of solid Catholicism at universities like Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ave Maria and Christendom; and when young families are finding strong support for their faith in Opus Dei, Regnum Christi and the Neocatechumenal Way, the concept of modesty seems lost on just about everyone, including some of these very same people.

It seems that although many are digesting good words about chastity, the pictures portrayed by women’s dress speak a different message. And, as the cliché goes, one picture is worth a thousand words.

Objectification of women

If we promote chastity out of one side of our mouths and, by our silence, give tacit approval to the immodesty in our midst, we are kidding ourselves. By saying nothing about the immodest dress among women (not to mention among men) we are perpetuating the image of women as objects of enjoyment. We are prolonging the denigration of women.

In “Love and Responsibility,” Pope John Paul II writes, “The evolution of modesty in woman requires some initial insight into the male psychology.” This insight has been sadly lacking, since we have not explained to women just how the male psyche responds to women’s dress. And, when we explain it, we must be specific, since generalities on modesty are not working.

We all play a role

It’s rather strange to see women who are enthusiastic about chastity and the theology of the body show up at a wedding with spaghetti strap dresses or strapless dresses. Have they been watching too much television to think that they have to show their shoulders to be formal?

Women are not even allowed in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome with bare shoulders. And then there’s the girl attending a solidly Catholic high school or college who arrives at the beach wearing a bikini. What gives? I don’t expect much modesty from nonbelievers, but from well-formed Catholics, I do.

I guess they just don’t get it. And, whose fault is that? It is partly mine, if I don’t speak up and spell out for women just what is going on in men’s minds. It is the responsibility of priests, bishops, educators,parents and men in general to pass on to women the facts on how they are being seen by men and their responsibility for the plight of all women, not just themselves. There is much work to be done.

Modesty is an integral part of chastity, and until we are ready to speak of both in rather specific terms, the moral renewal of Pope John Paul II will be stymied.

Until the chic chastity group gets very serious about modest dress and begins to live it, the dignity of women will not be restored, and they will continue to be seen, consciously or subconsciously, even by men who seek out chaste women, as objects of enjoyment.

Photo by Tess on Unsplash

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