Monday, November 7, 2022

I was modesty policed and body-shamed (at a funeral, no less!)

In this blog about how I lost 100 pounds, I've been exploring modesty policing (esp. by the "Cleavage Awareness League" as I call them) and female body shaming in general. Honestly, I didn't really believe that anyone had the gall anymore, to call out another person on "modesty." (Unless you're a Duggar, of course). When I was younger, sure. It was common. But I thought we'd grown up, learned to mind our own business, avert our eyes if necessary and shut up. However, I discovered, firsthand, at a funeral no less, that public body shaming does still happen. And it really can undermine your confidence and self-esteem if you let it. But you shouldn't. 

Weirdly, I feel the need to explain what I was wearing and what she called me on. As if I need to justify my dress choice and show how she was out of line. It was a funeral and I was wearing a dark floral dress that was form fit but not too tight or overtly "sexy". Think professional, well-dressed (see picture). I wore heels and hose (gram would love me!) because I wanted to dress nicely for my friend's dad's funeral. I was raised to look your best to show respect. The cut of the dress showed a hint of cleavage, not the Great Divide.

Anyway, I was sitting in the church pew, turned sideways to talk with my friend before the service. My dress must have pulled a bit to one side, showing just a little of the top of my breast or lower neck, on that side. No nipple or even cleavage really. No fear of that in the foundation garment. Everyone was in her place, lol. Just an inch or so of lower neckline. Friend says, boldly, no attempt to lower her voice. "You might want to cover up, you know to be polite." 

I found it ironic that she used the term "polite." I was raised to know that minding your business, when it doesn't harm you, was polite. And opening your mouth to point out "flaws" in others' is impolite. And how is my body "impolite?"

I looked down, adjusted my dress a fraction and that was that. But afterwards, I spent the rest of the day, worried, paranoid and fussing with my dress. I couldn't concentrate on the mass or prayers. This is mental undermining that body shaming causes. I suddenly didn't feel confident, but somehow disrespectful. I felt a little disgusted with myself, both for being sensitive to the criticism and also for, possibly, dressing "inappropriately" (monkey on my back). 

If I said it made me feel insecure, I can hear the retorts. She was only "trying to help." There's no need to be so sensitive, right? No need to take friendly advice so personally, right? WRONG. It's not "friendly" advice. The friendly thing to do, and which I do, all the time, if I don't like something I see, is to MYOB. How is it helpful to make me feel like a tramp, flaunting myself? Answer: it isn't. 

It's also passive-aggressive, posing as nice but actually a little nasty and condescendingly superior. And of course I felt sensitive because it was meant to "sensitize" me to my fashion faux pas. And I don't need to grow thicker skin. The body-shamer does because being "offended" by my dress is her choice. Can say something isn't always should. Also, I have to wonder if she would have pointed this out to another woman her age or whom she felt intimidated by. I doubt it. I've always had a target on my back that shamers can see a mile off. I'm easy prey for those who act superior but in fact probably feel a little inferior or insecure themselves.

I may sound like I'm just attacking this person because she hurt my feelings. She didn't and I'm not. I considered the source. But it did make me second-guess and stress. And I do worry how behavior like hers can cause a lot of unnecessary pain and shame for people who are already body ashamed. I guess it's just a good reminder to practice owning my own and ignoring. Having said that, I will say I'm utterly sick to death of the word modesty. It angers me the way "modesty" has been used to humiliate, shame, put down, subjugate, control and destroy women. 

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