I’ve been on hiatus for a while but during that time, I have come across a few interesting articles that relate to modesty. One of the more recent ones deals with the bathing suit company WholesomeWear which sells modest swimsuits for women. In her article in the Washington Post, author Robin Givhan criticizes the company for “cranking back the clock to the 1920s” and stifling women’s self expression and freedom. She ends the article by expressing her opinion that the suits are quite unattractive and wonders how WholesomeWear can even call itself a “ministry”.
Givhan’s article has spurred many responses as evidenced by the number of blogs that have commented on it. Let me add my 2 cents and please read the article and tell me what you think. I for one, agree with Givhan that there are other ways to be modest at the beach or by the pool. A tankini, cover-ups, a tasteful one-piece with a sarong could work. However, if someone prefers the WholesomeWear swimsuits, that’s fine too. I find Givhan surprisingly obnoxious and insensitive to women who would prefer these swimsuits. The tone in her article is condescending and she seems to jeer at modesty.
I have been on the WholesomeWear website and while I wouldn’t purchase one of the suits (I don’t swim and even if I did, I refuse to spend $89 on a swimsuit), I’m not at all offended by its presence as Givhan seems to be.
What is it about this company and their customers that bothers Givhan? From the article, it seems to me that she feels as if the company is negatively judging women and particularly those who wear bikinis. To her, it is as if the company labels these women as immodest or even downright slutty and puts itself as the pinnacle of modesty.
To be perfectly honest, I think Givhan is projecting her own misconceptions and prejudices about religious modesty unto WholsesomeWear and the women who buy their swimsuits. For example, she implies that women who wear these swimsuits are “fearful” of their bodies. Why must they be fearful simply because they would prefer to cover up their bodies instead of showing themselves to all who happen to be at the beach or the pool? I will never understand Givhan’s position that wearing a bikini is “liberating” or “compelling” while wearing more modest swimwear is restrictive and a sign of low self esteem and shame in one’s body.
Putting your body on display as if
you were a new car in an auto show doesn't sound like the path to true freedom for me. I’m not saying that everyone who wears a
bikini has this in mind, but I suspect that a lot do. If other women find modesty is a path to freedom, one of embracing self-respect and showing gratitude for the
blessing of being a woman, why do other women have to make fun of that?