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Modesty movement is missing larger issue

I cannot help but roll my eyes when I see women wearing micro-mini skirts, five-inch heels, see-through midriff tank tops and thick layers of makeup when I go out. Although provocative attire is not my personal sense of style, I still respect a woman's right and confidence to embrace her sexuality. It is not my place, or any other person's, to condemn it.

However, a new modesty movement is under way in America. Young girls and women are retaliating against those women who are empowered by sexual freedom. Wendy Shalit's 1999 book, "A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue," set the movement into motion. According to Shalit, these women are rejecting promiscuous roles embodied by celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, toys such as Bratz and Barbie dolls and the hundreds of nameless nude women in "Girls Gone Wild" videos.

The intentions of the movement are good. Yet the group's approach to violence against women is missing the larger cultural issue.

Let us take a glimpse into the world the modesty movement is fighting for: a strictly enforced "chaste but chic" wardrobe (skirts and dresses should fall no more than a finger's length above the knee, shoulders must be covered and shoes cannot have more than a one-inch heel), curfews on college campuses and no coed bathrooms (not even for handicap accessible purposes). Also, mothers need to accompany their daughters on dates. Their mantra is abstinence until marriage and female virtue is the only way to guarantee female safety.

In Shalit's latest book, "Girls Gone Mild," she states that, "the bad girl is simply the common erotic object of most men and women today." It is obvious that contemporary culture has moved into an era where female sexuality is at an all-time high.

But I am perplexed that these women are blaming other women's "bad girl" image for battery and rape. A lack of female modesty is not the reason women are emotionally and physically abused. It is the sense of male entitlement, which is taught generation after generation, that perpetuates violent acts performed on women.

Throughout history, women have been forced into a beautiful and meek cookie-cutter mold of the ideal "woman" while men have always been allowed to dress and act as they please. The fact that this restrictive female image is being questioned and denied is reflecting a generation of women who are empowering themselves and our gender.

This contemporary modesty movement echoes earlier backlashes against women fighting against restrictive representations such as the flappers of the 1920s and second-wave feminists of the '70s. Today, as in the past, there is a larger cultural issue surrounding female safety, and it does not include which parts of women's bodies are or are not covered.

Not only are past and present modesty movements making "unvirtuous" women feel guilty, they are ignoring the fact that people, not only women, of all ages and body types are victimized. Abuse is not an act of passion, but one of power and aggression.

For Shalit and cohorts to assume that women are to blame for violent acts done to them due to a lack of a "chaste but chic" wardrobe and morals is tolerating attackers' entitlement.

The mentality surrounding the image of women needs to be altered before we can ever hope to be safe. Once this shifts, the rest will fall into place.

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