So that link above is a really good look at where I go to school. A lot of things I’ve struggled to explain to you can be seen very clearly through it. I should say that as far as I can tell, most women on campus dress modestly or decently and there was little or no need for the editorial’s call for – well, I’ll let the author explain:
…“long skirt” signifies more than a daily clothing choice; it is a frame of mind that values modesty for the sake of holiness. You can be a long skirt, and you should encourage all the women in your life to adopt the modesty and prudence of long skirtness for the sake of their beauty and the benefit of everyone who has to look at them.
The problem with this kind of talk isn’t that a lack of modesty is a good thing. The problem is that there are a lot of people who are, to say the least, not-very-nice hiding behind this sort of rhetoric. I’ve known fundamentalist families and friends who will yell at anyone over anything. I don’t think I need to spell out where and how I’ve met them. And while no school should be connected to what at times might be termed “abuse,” the unfortunate reality is that a university’s culture can reinforce some of the worst things human beings can do to each other.
In this case, it absolutely is the case that this kind of talk encourages self-hate and paranoia over nothing. Witness this comment:
This article really made me re-think about what I’m wearing. I don’t usually wear leggings, but I do wear semi-fitted to fitted pants (which the majority of the world wears now). Still, it made me aware of the fact that I need to exercise modesty.
I hope this is a joke, because it has absolutely nothing to do with faith or treating people well or loving justice or walking humbly with one’s God. The way it is written, it seems to have everything to do with jumping through arbitrary hoops and saying that’s the essence of faith. What’s at play is fundamentalist peer pressure. I’m not saying the author of the comment shouldn’t be more aware of what she already wants to do, i.e. be more modest. If that’s what she wants, fine. I can see how that might generate something people would consider holy. But it looks to me that the article has achieved something that can only be called sinister.
There’s an additional problem. Not only is there implicit (and in some cases, explicit – read some of the comments by the article’s defenders) bullying. It’s also the case that now, instead of talking about whether French intervention in Mali will be successful or Platonic thoughts about justice carry over into Augustine, we’re stuck on this. All of a sudden, in one bold stroke, everything a school tries to be intellectually is gone. And the price is more than intellectual. After all, what’s happening is some form of bullying. What is lost as an educational institution is any sense of maturity.
We lose the ability to produce people who can talk about relevant issues. We lose the ability to seriously critique the worst aspects of our culture. We lose the ability to create leaders who can be trusted by everyone. Does it surprise you that the article sounds like a number of people who are thought to be unelectable? What makes someone unelectable is when they create an “us” vs. “them” with no credible reconciliation of the gap. That was what made Romney’s “47%” remark fatal: there’s no real attempt to try and say “we.” There’s only “good” and “bad” with one group always being “bad.”
No one’s saying there can’t be a more conservative culture or calls for decency. But this is what you get on a conservative campus, and yes, it probably is related to the GOP’s current problems. To be blunt: I couldn’t stand Leftist causes at state university. But at least those Leftist causes were aware, in large part, that there were other people in the world and that those other people deserved better. What is so striking about the next generation of conservatives, from what I can see, is an almost endless amount of self-absorption. As if morality were only a personal code of conduct – as if “love thy neighbor” was an option.