This post is part of The Modesty Panel, a series focusing on the concept of modesty from the perspectives of various bra bloggers. Each of us has experiences, beliefs and assumptions about modesty that influence how we blog about breasts, and this week we are taking the time to share our views. Make sure to check some of the other posts out!
When I was 16, I was still at that inbetween phase with clothes, where you haven’t quite found what you love or really works on you . I loved colours and patterns, but as a teenager with big boobs, I was pretty limited in the shirt department. I mostly stuck to plain vest tops with pretty skirts, so my usual outfit was something like the below. It was pretty, comfortable, cool in hot weather…basically, it ticked all the boxes. The only “problem” is that it showed a bit of cleavage. Which, for a 16 year old in the middle of summer, really wasn’t a big deal.
Me at 16
After class one day, I was walking home with my then-boyfriend, when we passed a group of guys. You know the type – loud, obnoxious, and as I’m sure you can predict, they started making lewd comments at me. It wasn’t new. It’s something I got used to pretty much as soon as I hit puberty. I could write a whole post on catcalling alone, but that isn’t what I want to talk about today. My boyfriend was furious. Not because I had been harassed, not because I can’t even walk down the street without being blatantly objectified and disrespected. He was furious because of what I was wearing. Because my top showed some cleavage, he accused me of looking for attention. My boyfriend of nearly 2 years decided that I must want to be catcalled. He called me a lot of names I won’t repeat, and demanded I start wearing t-shirts.
All of that because I was wearing a vest top. Sure, I could change what I wear, and it might result in a few less comments. But why should I have to? What’s so wrong with my breasts? Why was the problem me?
Dressing modestly isn’t itself problematic, but it being seen as the only acceptable choice is. I have no qualms with people covering up, and I have no qualms with people showing skin. Neither is inherently liberating, and neither is necessarily better than the other. What I do have a problem with is when modesty is used to control women’s clothing choices, to make judgements about someone’s character, or used as justification to view them as lesser.
Image via Sabrina Tamayo
One of the most infuriating things to me is that those who are comfortable showing a little more skin are assumed to have no self-respect. Even worse, there are then people who say, “If you don’t respect yourself, why should I respect you?”, which is one of the least logically sound things I can think of. Everyone deserves a basic level of respect, and denying it by using something as trivial as skirt length, which can tell you absolutely nothing about someone’s morals, character or self-worth, is absurd. If someone dislikes me or disagrees with me, I would hope it is due to something of actual substance. When someone says “have some self-respect”, what I actually hear is “behave in a way that I deem good enough for me to respect you”. It’s really nothing to do with how much self-respect someone has. It is a judgemental statement, made to shame people for having different preferences or standards.
To me, self-respect is about putting myself first. It means I don’t wear clothes I’m uncomfortable in, just because other people think I should. It means caring about my health and well-being. It means I don’t have to smile and bear it when people are rude to me, or maintain relationships that are bad for me. It means knowing what I deserve, and that I deserve to pursue it.
In no way does it mean I have to dress conservatively. As someone who shares pictures of herself in lingerie in her spare time, I think it’s pretty clear that I’ve never really been a fan of modesty. I’m not insecure, and I’m not looking for attention or validation. I just don’t see what the fuss is about. It’s just a body, and if I want to wear clothes that emphasise my boobs, I will. Likewise, if I feel like covering up a bit more, I will. Neither option says anything about me as a person, and I refuse to let anyone tell me how I should dress. What I wear is nobody’s business but mine – even if it’s not “modest”.
For more posts on modesty, check out the links below:
Braless In Brasil
By Baby’s Rules
Fussy Busty (Amy)
Fussy Busty (Nicole)
Hourglass with Class
Hourglassy (Off The Rack)
Hourglassy (Corporate Curves)
Hourglassy (Abreast Abroad)
Nothing Ever Fits
Obsessed with Breasts
Red Hair and Girly Flair
That Bra Does Not Fit Her
The Tit Rambler
Thin and Curvy
Two Cakes on a Plate
Weirdly Shaped and Well Photographed
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Great post, I always look forward to your posts about feminist issues, so I was thrilled to see you were participating in the Modesty Panel!
Awesome post! When I was 16, I DID wear t-shirts, dark, baggy, tshirts with high neckline… and I got catcalled/street harrassed pretty much daily.
I love this. I completely agree, I don’t see anything wrong with my body and I will wear what I want. Don’t like it, don’t look. I completely agree with the self respect thing, how does that even make sense? I respect myself enough to dress how I want instead of how society wants to and not to see my body as something shameful. That might not be YOUR idea of self respect, but it’s mine, and just because we share different opinions doesn’t mean you have the right to tell me I have ‘no self respect’ because I don’t conform to your opinions.
There’s never any fuss when men wear those baggy trousers that expose their arse, so why such a fuss when a tiny amount of cleavage is on show? Oh that’s right, because it’s women. Grrrrrr I could rant on this.
I hope you broke up with him stat.
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This series has been wonderful to read! I love how you promote women having the option of choosing the level of modesty which best suits their lifestyle and personality. I think if more people were respectful of the personal feelings of others we’d see drastic improvement in this world!
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There is no doubt that our society, men and boys have a fixation on a woman’s breasts and it results in this catcalling which is both galling and even outrageous. But you must consider the source, not accept it or even necessarily forgive it. Young boys and many men perceive breasts as a womans body part that is there for their enjoyment. Women certainly have the right to dress as they see fit, but people are going to say what they are going to say. I see this all the time from all sorts of people, men and women alike. It seems we take one step forward and two steps back. While everyone has a right to their own opinion, that doesn’t mean that gives them the right to impose it on others.
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You know I love this, but I just thought I would pop in and say… I love this. As always.
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Our opinions of what you wear is none of your business.
To be quite honest, I really couldn’t give a fuck what your opinions of people’s clothes are, as long as you have the manners and self-control to keep it to yourself.
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I totally agree with you. Being a 34 K at 15 can be difficult sometimes. And people are constantly judging me for what I wear. It might be a simple V- neck t shirt which obviously shows some cleavage I’ll get rude comments. It nearly got to the point where I begged my mum for a breast reduction because I couldn’t handle the way people would judge me because of my figure. But now I’ve decided that its my body and I’ll dress how I fell comfortable regardless of any other people’s opinions.
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