Teaching our daughters not to reveal what should remain hidden.
Editor’s Note: This post was removed for a time and has been republished with some of it’s original content omitted. It has been linked by an atheist feminist discussion board where many of the comments misrepresented its content and my intention in writing the post. Accordingly, I have removed the parts that were most prone to be misconstrued. The site claims to ban “hateful or disrespectful commentary” but otherwise be “against most censorship.” However, only the comments that supported my viewpoint, my right to hold it, or our right to raise our daughter according to our values were suppressed. Yet, all of the comments that were hateful or disrespectful toward me remained visible. Interesting.
I’m keeping the edited version of this post at the original link, because I also received a lot of positive feedback on it. I believe it sends a necessary message of support and encouragement to fathers who are struggling against the culture to raise their daughters with a sense of values. Don’t give up; don’t give in. Set appropriate boundaries and stick to them; she’s worth the effort. Most of all, love your daughter and do your best to instill in her a profound sense of her own dignity. Her relationships with men and with God will be impacted by her relationship with you, so don’t let her down! For more, read Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker, M.D.
* * *
Lucy is growing up. I know she’s only almost-4, but the difference between her first day of preschool and her last one is striking. No longer a toddler, she’s a bright, energetic, free-spirited little girl with a burgeoning independent streak. She wants to do what she wants to do.
Getting her dressed in the morning is often a battle. Quite simply, she doesn’t want to.
Lucy: “No, I don’t want to.”
Me: “You need to get ready for preschool.”
Lucy: “I want to wear … JAMMIES!”
Me: “Sweetheart, you need to wear your play clothes.”
Lucy: “No, I don’t WANT to get dressed!”
I’m no fool (or so I think); I can see where this is going. The conflict isn’t over modesty, yet. It’s more generally about what attire is appropriate for what she’s doing and where she’s going, but I can see the modesty discussions coming. Lisa wrote about this recently.
I am my daughter’s protector. Right now, my job as her father is to help her understand that what she wears has to be grounded in reality. For example, she has learned “the hard way” that she needs to wear pants to protect the skin on her knees when she slides across our hardwood floor.
However, the stakes will increase exponentially in the coming years, and I’d rather she not learn the importance of modesty “the hard way.” From the Catechism:
… 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 … (CCC 2521-2523)
Again, as a father, I am my daughter’s protector – of both her exterior and her interior.
I ran across a post from Michael Hyatt recently: Whatever Happened to Modesty? In it, he shares the “Four Guidelines for Modesty” he gave his daughters when they were growing up:
- If you have trouble getting into it or out of it, it is probably not modest.
- If you have to be careful when you sit down or bend over, it is probably not modest.
- If people look at any part of your body before looking at your face, it is probably not modest.
- If you can see your most private body parts or an outline of those parts under the fabric, it is probably not modest.
I think these are a helpful starting point. The criteria are rather objective but largely focused on her experience – what can be seen, how others might interact with her, and how she might feel. It goes straight to the core of what happens when you “unveil what should remain hidden.”
Modesty is the fence around the garden of chastity. Its cornerposts are anchored by self-respect.
Question: How can we help instill modesty, self-respect, and dignity in our daughters? You can leave a comment by clicking here.