Uncovering Modesty: Sexism in the Modesty conversation

Modesty forever! This is part 7 in our series about “modesty.”

Previous installments:

  1. Bikinis are Not Immodest
  2. Modest or Immodest: a Handy Guide for Telling the Difference
  3. Topless and Totally Modest (a look at culture’s effect on modesty)
  4. Everything the Bible says about modesty.
  5. “Are you causing men to stumble in how you dress?”
  6. How I (sort of) talk to my daughters about modesty. 

We had best start with a definition. Encyclopedia Brittanica says that sexism is “prejudice or discrimination based on sex or gender, especially against women and girls.”

In this post, when I talk about “modesty” or “modesty culture” I’m referring to the specific definition of modesty which tends toward a sex-based definition, as discussed in previous posts (a definition which I clearly disagree with, but is best for this post to make it clear what we’re talking about).

Let me say this, too: Most people who make modesty arguments are not consciously intending to be sexist or marginalize women. They are repeating arguments they have heard before and haven’t fully examined. So this article is meant to give us some food for thought and hopefully allow us to examine some of those things.

Here are five broad categories where the underlying sexism of “modesty” culture is revealed:

1. Marginalization and Minimization. To be marginalized means to be put to the side… to not be centrally involved in decisions, conversations and discussions that directly involve you. Sadly, in the “modesty” conversation, women are often ignored, downplayed or have their voices eliminated (if they feel the freedom to speak up at all).

What does this look like?

Well, for one thing, “modesty” is pushed on women but is really ABOUT men.

“Well, I for one am not going to let the women tell me how to dress.”

Women are told to “think about how men will respond” to their clothing. They’re told “not to make men stumble.” They’re told, over and over, to PROTECT men in how they dress. To protect men. Laying aside how counter this is to the typical definitions of masculinity and how infantilizing this is toward men, it also makes it clear that this whole issue is about keeping men central to the conversation.

So when we split into men’s and women’s times at a Christian conference, the men talk about not watching porn (rather than talking about modesty) and the women talk about how to help the men by being careful what they wear.

I grew up in the church and part of various Christian organizations for the last 40 years and I have been “told” about being modest zero times. Zero. I’ve been asked my opinion on what is modest (for women) plenty of times, but never told what is modest for me. I’ve never been informed of the modesty of my own clothing. I’ve never been shamed, publicly or privately, for my clothing choices.

What would it look like if men (corporately) took responsibility for their own lust rather than expecting the women to “protect” them? Well. What if women were allowed to wear whatever they liked and the men kept an eye on each other? What if the men punched each other in the arm and said, “Hey, eyes up” or “Dude, show her some respect” instead of saying “She caused me to stumble”?

I know some people think that women have a strong voice on this topic, but that’s an illusion. Ask yourself if there’s a women who is in “modesty culture” and has a dissenting voice and is treated with respect. One of my friends recently said to me “I’ve been trying to start a conversation on these issues for a long time and no one will listen… so I’m thankful that a man is talking about it because suddenly my friends seem interested.” Women are marginalized in modesty culture.

2. Objectification. Objectification is equating a person with an inanimate object, or treating them like one. In the modesty conversation this is largely seen in “fetishizing” or over-sexualizing women.

You can see this in arguments made in the modesty conversation, like, “A woman wearing a low-cut blouse in front of a man is like having a beer in front of an alcoholic.” In this comparison, women take the role of the temptation, are equated with alcohol rather than a human being. They are not tempting someone by their actions or volition, but by their existence. They are objects, not human beings.

Perhaps this is clearest in the phrase, “Modest is hottest.” I have no doubt this is spoken by many with clear, good intentions, but let’s look at the underlying message. “Modesty” culture says that “immodesty” (as they define it) is about sex. You are inappropriately tempting men toward sex in the way you dress. However, if you dress modestly, that is “hottest.” You are even more sexually attractive if you try not to be sexually attractive. No matter what a woman does, she will be seen as a sexual object rather than a person. We think of modesty (at its best) as a way to prevent objectification, to “help” women not be thought of in purely sexual terms… but the way we talk about it actually reinforces objectification of women.

“When you dress immodestly, I think of you in sexual terms. When you dress modestly, I think of you in sexual terms.”

I hear an objection: well, if men are always thinking in sexual terms, should we not teach women to dress modestly so that they will be safer from those who would harm them in sexual ways?

Listen, modest dress is not a protector against sexual violence or harassment. But that’s often how we speak about it. Take this example. What if we taught our legislators to treat women with respect rather than telling youth to cover up? Does that not say that the young women are responsible for someone else’s actions?

For the women reading, how often have you been told how to dress, behave and interact to “keep yourself safe” from men? And men, how often have you been taught the definition of harassment, or had someone explain what date rape is, or rape in general, and told that it was a bad thing to do?

In my experience, the women are held responsible for men’s actions on this topic. Men aren’t even talking about their role in it.

3. Social domination. In social domination, it’s made clear that women are not in charge and must do what they are told. They are not in control… they are not able to make decisions.

“Be modest” but “still attractive.” There’s no clear line for this. Clothes that are modest on one woman are immodest on another (there is a sliding scale of modesty related to a woman’s physical attractiveness… the more traditionally attractive a woman is, the more likely she’s immodest no matter what she wears).

A woman is not able to make a decision on her own about what is modest. She has to call other people in to help her make the call. A community of women gather to decide if a skirt is too short before a big event. We have to check in with a man in authority to figure out if this or that outfit crosses a line.

I’ve heard people say, “Oh, but men aren’t in control of this conversation.” Yeah they are. Pastors and youth pastors often define where the line is because they’re the ones in the pulpit and the ones answering the video questions and the ones making the policies about dress codes for camp. For that matter, I’m talking about it right now. If you’re in a place where modesty culture is in full swing, keep an eye out. How long before you see a man talking about this publicly? I’d be surprised if you can go a week without seeing it somewhere.

4. Stereotypes and generalizations. “Men are turned on by sight, women by emotional connection.”

Wow. It must be REALLY EASY to open.

“A man’s sex drive is stronger than a woman’s.”

Are those things true?


But it’s not true of ALL men and ALL women. I have talked to plenty of women who are turned on by sight, and men who are only attracted to women with whom they’ve had an emotional connection. I’ve read multiple marriage and sex counselors say that in marriages where one spouse has a much higher sex drive than the other, in around 30% of those marriages the person with the low sex drive is the man.

The problem with generalizing is that it makes those in the minority feel something is wrong with them. A woman who is turned on by sight will find herself thinking that she is not feminine. A woman with a higher sex drive than her husband might feel ashamed or that something is wrong with her, because if she has a higher sex drive than a man, she must be a sex maniac.

5. Demonization. There is a sub-section of the modesty folks who think women are responsible for any (purposeful) sexual sin. Women are the seducers. Women are trying to trap men.

“Could any man control her?” A married woman is “controlled” and thus no longer a threat.

Probably the most common place this comes up in is when men decide they can never drive in a car “alone with a single woman.” I think it’s fine to have this rule. People can do what they want. But for some, the underlying idea is that a single woman is going to seduce a (usually married) man if they are alone. It’s a strange idea, and it’s strange that, for instance, the same person who has this rule will be alone with a married woman, or even with an “unattractive woman.” Or that they will tell someone else who doesn’t follow their rules that it is “unwise” for them to be in a car with a single woman.

If a woman is sexually attractive and available, she is evil.

These are a few ways that the underlying sexism of the modesty movement is revealed. What do you think? Do you have examples of this from your own experience? Or is your experience different? Agree or disagree?

Author: Matt Mikalatos

Matt Mikalatos is a writer not a fighter.

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  • Candace Lazzaro

    On the other hand, there are women who deliberately dress to attract the “wrong” kind of attention. And there are men who get turned on my a woman’s mouth — OR women who find get turned on by men’s eyes — nothing to do with the way they are dressed but just by their looks. However, as women AND men, we do need to consider the message we are sending out NOT just to our fellow Christians but to the world. The Hebrews were sexist. That was normal back in the old days. BUT GOD IS NOT. The BIBLE is one of the few, if only ancient books where (some) women are portrayed as upstanding. In Matthew four women are mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy — one of them a former prostitute! Imagine how she dressed in her “working years” — OK don’t! It might cause you to stumble!

  • Pingback: Are you causing men to stumble in how you dress? | Norville Rogers()

  • Candace Lazzaro

    I’m enjoying this series. It’s giving me a lot to think about. . . about what I wear. I’m not a young woman any more, but a few months ago I wore a skirt to church that I could have worn in the 1960s — it was short. But I wore tights under it so my legs were covered. Now, maybe a short skirt on an “mature” woman isn’t always attractive but I did get some “on-the-negative-side” responses like “That skirt is a little short isn’t it” from WOMEN. OK, maybe at my age I shouldn’t be wearing short skirts to church — but I’ve worked hard to take off weight — NOT for vanity sake but for health reasons. We need to think about the message we are sending… that’s why I’m not wearing short skirts to church any more — not because I’m afraid I’ll make any stumble (except maybe some women who are jealous that I can get away with showing off more leg then them) but because it draws attention to me, rather then to my God who I am at church to worship.

    • mattmikalatos

      Yeah it’s kind of weird though, right? When you were wearing shorts under the skirt? Would anyone have said anything if you wore shorts instead of a skirt? Would that have been too much leg?

  • Candace Lazzaro

    And I might add that in some cases, extreme modesty can be immodest as well — if it takes the attention off of God and puts it on a human being. So if the youth group takes a bunch of teens to the beach and the girls have to wear their great-grandmother’s swimming suit, complete with bloomers, long sleeves and a frilly hat in order to be modest . . . well, there goes the youth group, they are all going to another church.

  • B. B.

    Hi Matt!

    I’ve greatly appreciated your thoughts on modesty. I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic lately, and I’ve agreed with a lot of what you’re saying, and greatly enjoyed reading what you’ve written. I mean that. As a dyslexic (apologies in advance for any misspelled words), I rarely read blog posts because of how taxing it is, but I’ve made a point to read each of these posts as they’ve come out as the first one hooked me.

    I’m currently finishing up my Senior year at a Christian college. About once a year, for chapel, we get the “Christian sex talk.” I always end up spending the next week talking to my female friends about modesty–and I hear the goods and the bads. I get annoyed at the “do this” and not the why–or not telling the other side. We don’t teach men what rape is–or what their actions can mean. I’ve talked to enough women to know that men aren’t but should be teaching men to resist the patriarchy, and to be modest, etc.. and I’ve also talked to plenty of men that wished women would be less emotionally abusive and manipulative. I’ve walked out of conversations after I’d hear young women talk about men like a stupid sack of money-making meat (even after I informed them that’s how it sounded)–and I’ve have a dear friend who has walked out of women’s Bible studies because that’s what all the women were doing about their husbands. As I am not yet married, I have no idea what men are saying about their wives behind their backs…but I see there are blind sides on both sides. I can also totally relate to what you said about some stereotypes. As a missionary kid, I was exposed to so many different standards of beauty and modesty rules growing up that, as I discovered when I moved to America for college, sometimes I don’t know what somebody means by a “gorgeous” or “hot” girl. I can talk to some “gorgeous girl” and then find out later that apparently all the guys think she’s attractive–totally wasn’t on my radar.

    That being said, this was the first post with which I found issue/disagreement (at least I think I do…I could be misunderstanding); I felt like the genuine struggle of guys was diminished. I’m currently a psychology student, on my way eventually towards a doctorate. While Psychology is still a soft science, it is increasingly being backed by more research and more secular evidence. While I agree there’s a lot of stereotypes about sexuality, there are a lot of truths. Women aren’t actually all that complicated hormonally, they have two primary hormones that peak once each a month–two lines of mathematical formula. Men’s testosterone is about a page of mathematical formula–it’s higher and lower, at different points of the day (i.e. morning), changes depending on weather (higher in fall), amount of stimulation, etc.. Men’s…body parts even respond appropriately when the spine is severed and no brain activity is involved. Women who also want an increase in sex drive take pills that boost their androgen levels–making their body chemistry more like a male’s. I was talking with one of my friends (a female), and she shared that really, there was only a certain time of month that her sex drive said “give me a man.” She then asked me if there was something like that for men. I didn’t know how to answer– My mentor, an LP, once explained that, for men who are younger than ~25 (hormonal peak), the only thing stronger than their sex drive is their drive to eat–and we eat, typically, 3 times daily. This is all from secular research (one can argue it’s all male-dominated research, but ~3/4ths of all PhDs and PsyDs in Psychology are held by women). I marvel at the story of Joseph because I know there are many days when, if a woman flung herself at me with sexual intent–and then did it day after day after day–I can’t be certain I could resist–I pray and hope I would, but I honestly don’t know some days. That’s certainly not what I hear from my female friends–they’d run if they could (except for maybe those couple of days a month, according to one). True, there are women whose sex drive is stronger than some men’s–I’m pretty sure I know someone like that. That’s not my point–I don’t think we can argue the presence of exceptions negates the principle.

    I think though, there is some merit in the “alcohol in front of the alcoholic” analogy. I’m not saying if I bumped into a girl changing–totally innocently–that that analogy applies. I imagine, yes, I’d have to fight to keep my thoughts clear to keep pure about what I’ve seen, but I think the fight would be my own. However, I also know some women who dress, what I would call, provocatively. These friends (for lack of a better term) get upset with the modesty discussion because “A girl should wear what she wants, and men should suck it up.” (paraphrase). I’ve been told by a particular young woman (we’ll call her “Grace”), that she should be able to go to class naked and not be objectified. Whether or not she’s right is not my point…but I don’t see any love or caring on her end for her brothers’ needs–she wants what she wants. And I think if you’re going out there waving your “I’m sexy and I know it” flag around, it is like waving alcohol in front of a recovering alcoholic. I met Grace when I volunteered to help her study for a Bible class we were both in. I presently discovered that she was big into “hugging”–literally pressing her body into a male’s for as long as possible. I went from what felt like a really good week of managing sexual urges to suddenly being confused, and suddenly on high alert for the rest of the day and into the next (testosterone boosted by stimulation?–like a car engine being turned on, but not driven). This happened again another time–and it started feeling more and more like she was intending it to be sexual (so that I’d come back?). When this occurred, I was a freshman and did not handle the situation properly–I started ignoring her physical contact instead of saying “No, because______”–which I suppose makes me a bit hypocritical. I didn’t know then what I know now. She eventually ended the semester by accusing me of things I very clearly didn’t do and then ignored me till she left the school–but that’s another story.

    I had the privilege of living with one of the professors of the Bible department this summer in a spare bedroom. One night, he and I started talking about modesty and sex drive for men. Being forty years older than me, he shared what it was like down the road. He shared how one of the things he most appreciated about his wife of 35 years was that she never dressed “immodestly”–(I read, “dressed to bring sexual attention upon one’s self”). This professor regularly meets with men who do get in his face, and do things like tell him to keep his eyes up. After saying that, he also shared how he greatly dislikes spring, because of how the women of campus will walk around in short shorts and loose tank tops. I questioned that, asking about guys just being victims in the situation. He did not deny that guys needed to do their part, but said (paraphrased) “if more women knew what men are facing, many would dress more modestly, out of love and out of a desire to help the brother that is weak in that area” (He quoted Romans 15). Perhaps I mis-understood him, but, in context, I understood him as speaking more to those women who are dressing to attract sexually. As in the “While men use things to get sex, women use sex to get things” kind of “attract.”–and I think that’s different than the “demonization” section you talked about, because I don’t think we’re talking about all women. I certainly don’t think this is true of all or most women. I do think they are out there though (just as there are men trying to get all they can out of women).

    That was a bit longer than I was intending to write. I suppose, guess my question is–are you saying guys just need to suck it up and do better? Particularly to guys like me whose hormones are still raging? Is it wrong that we’re telling women about men’s sexual struggles and asking them to help (for the logic of Romans 15) when there are provocative actions/styles of dressing that some women are doing that are making it harder (whether subconsciously or no)?

    • mattmikalatos

      Hi B.B.!

      Thanks for your detailed and well thought out comment. I don’t know that we disagree so much as have a different emphasis.

      I would never say men don’t have a struggle… I would just say women aren’t responsible for it.

      I would also agree that there are women who purposely dress sexually purely to gain attention and/or influence over people. I would just say I don’t think creating a book of rules for all women is the answer to that.

      One more thing, and then I’ll try to answer your questions at the end: The problem I have with the alcohol metaphor is that in the metaphor, “alcohol” and “woman” are equated. Alcohol is a temptation. Women are a temptation. Women are taking the place of an object, and being treated as such. For instance… if I am tempted to drink alcohol, what stands in my way? Theoretically, I have only to pay for it. If I am sexually attracted to a woman, what stands in my way? Well, theoretically, a whole lot of things might, not least of which is the person herself (Is she married? Does she desire to have sex with me? Does she resist my advances? Does she require relationship? Or something else? Is she actually unavailable sexually for whatever reason?) “Objectification” here means only that I am thinking of her as an object rather than a person, and this sort of comparison consistently puts women in the role of object rather than person. Does that make sense?

      Okay, whew, now I’m taking a long time! Let’s get to your questions:

      1. Am I saying guys need to suck it up and do better?

      Sort of. I’m saying that men need to treat women as their equals, not as things which exist to make their lives better or easier. My basic plea here is a request that we treat women as human beings, not sex personified. I’m concerned that the modesty conversation too often boils down to “You’re so sexy I can’t help myself” which is both problematic and dangerous.

      2. Is it wrong to tell women about men’s sexual struggles and ask them to help in the way they dress (etc)?

      I guess I don’t know where we draw the lines here. I think at some point individual women need to be able to make this determination, not be told what to do by men in authority. Like your professor, I think that “if people understood” their effect on others, it would alter behavior in a positive sense. this goes the other way, too, I think: If men knew how damaging it is to create a society in which women follow a series of rules rather than growing in their own character, I think they wouldn’t want to do that.

      Also: I just want to point out that asking women to dress modestly to protect their brothers will only work (even theoretically) within a Christian subculture that doesn’t allow non-believers to enter in. What do we do when we move beyond the “fortress” mentality and start to interact with those who don’t know Jesus? What do we do if they dress in a way that “causes us to stumble”? And can we afford to not engage people with the good news because of that? Do we ask non-believers who start coming to our churches to conform to our moral behavior and culture before they know Jesus? And if so, how are they able to do that without the Holy Spirit?

      Anyway… I really appreciate your thoughts and questions. Thanks for sticking through it all and reading everything!

      • B. B.

        Thanks for clarifying! That makes a lot more sense now.

  • Mikesha younger

    I’ve been thinking about this topic for some time now, in this past year I’ve been a huge avovate for the women I work with about modesty. I think the things that frustrated me the most are that Christian women are barbarded with “modesty” talks all the time about hornoing God by wearing this or that and protecting our brothers from stubbling, but I’ve never heard about guys getting talks about how to protect women. Not to generalize but most women struggle emotionally with men. I’ve seen hundreds of times were guys will do and say things to ladies that seems like he is interested in her but in reality he has no interest in being in a relationship. I’m not saying women are guilt free from jumping too far ahead, but I’ve seen a lot of broken hearts that could have been prevented if the men weren’t building up so much false hope. This is a little of topic but thoughts?

    • mattmikalatos

      Mikesha, I think you’re hitting on one of the core issues here: the way the Bible talks about modesty is that it is about not drawing undue attention to oneself. It’s not about sexual attraction (or at least not primarily about it). What you’re describing in the actions of the young men is *immodest behavior*. It is not modest to use emotional manipulation to get attention from women. I don’t think it’s off topic at all… I think if we were discussing Biblical modesty instead of our sexist, culturally preferred, sexually-oriented definition of modesty, the men would be getting a lecture on this. AND we could do it without sending men and women to separate rooms.

      • Lung and Foot

        At the same time, I wonder how much “emotional manipulation” that women feel is just in their own minds. Many conservative Christians whom I’ve met feel aloof/reserved, and a man with a warm, buoyant, open personality (who is sexually comfortable) who expresses genuine interest in his sisters’ lives and hearts (which I understand we are called to do as believers) could easily be seen as emotionally manipulative.

        In the same way, a woman who is confident, comfortable with her own sexuality, and open and gregarious could wrongly be seen by men as sexually alluring. Fearful people can mistake the intentions of confident people because of their own insecurities.

    • Lung and Foot

      How is this any different from a guy who looks at a woman he thinks is dressed immodestly and says she’s just asking for lust/rape/sex? Couldn’t he say “I’m not saying men are guilt free from fantasizing, but she was just building up so much false hope by dressing that way!”

      If we’re going to treat men and women as equals, then women cannot blame men for emotional manipulation in the same way that men blame women for sexual manipulation.

  • Ronda

    Okay, I have really enjoyed reading through these, and agree with most of what you said. I happen to be a woman who dresses quite modestly by our societal standards, and would pretty much die before wearing a bikini 😉 but I have been saying a lot of these things for years, so it was good to hear it from someone else! Most of my friends think I am totally crazy when I say that modesty is cultural, and changes with where you are. And that modest in the Bible doesn’t mean what we think of as modest…they really don’t get that one! 🙂

    There is one thing in this installment that I didn’t think was on target, though. You said,

    –You can see [objectification] in arguments made in the modesty conversation, like, “A woman wearing a low-cut blouse in front of a man is like having a beer in front of an alcoholic.” In this comparison, women take the role of the temptation, are equated with alcohol rather than a human being. —

    The thing I take exception to is that it’s not the woman herself who is equated to the temptation, it’s the scene she shows. There IS a difference. The woman herself–her character, her personality–are not a temptation unless she is *acting* in an immodest way. But on the other hand, if she is providing a cleavage view in order to attract a man’s eyes, she is actually objectifying *herself,* and that is indeed a temptation.

    The point that I believe you missed is that many, many young women today see *themselves* as sex objects, and seem to have no solid idea how else to relate to men. They think they *must* dress provocatively in order to be interesting to the opposite sex. In that case, the last point you brought up does actually become just a wee bit more true. There is no sensible reason to wear extremely short or tight skirts or low shirts–they are not comfortable or practical, but only created to be sexy. I think that the extreme objectification of women in our society (think of practically ANY advertisement or TV show, with their high-heeled, low-cut everything) has made women see it as normal when it isn’t at all. We really can’t blame men for objectification–we do it to ourselves!

    And “Modest is Hottest?” That is just incredibly DUMB on all levels. Hard to believe that anyone thought that was a good idea!

    • mattmikalatos

      That’s a great insight, Ronda. For sure I think there are women who have embraced and internalized the message of objectification… it’s hard when the culture actively teaches this to people starting very young.

  • Elisabeth Goss

    In my church my sisters and I are the only single women in the church and we dress very similarly to the other women as far as skirt length etc but have been held to a far higher standard than the married women and even publicly shamed for wardrobe malfunctionso (when cleavage or something became temporarily visible not because of a low cut top but unintentionally when bending to pick up a child or something.) This happens to all the other women occasionally too, I would venture to say it happens to all women who don’t dress exclusively in denim jumpers and turtlenecks, but the other men and women in the church seem oblivious to it with anyone else but us. Like they actually don’t even see it. They have described my clothes back to me having mentally removed several inches of skirt, in their own minds honestly believing I wore a mini skirt when it was actually just barely above the knee. Have you witnessed anything like this? Are single women (in my case recently divorced, not by my choice or fault) more noticeable for some reason? Or just easier to accuse? I suspect it might be that I dress more fashionably even though my clothes cover as much. Or that I might just be more physically attractive to the main person bringing the “complaint” (I’m no more attractive than anyone else, but everyone is someone’s “type”) It’s very hurtful and makes attending church almost impossible and unutterably humiliating to be under this kind of scrutiny for dress that’s not really different from anyone else’s. When I’ve tried to discuss how the way the church (not my church specifically but the church at large) thinks about modesty is really actually damaging to women and to men (why are so many Christian men ok with being characterized as basically instinct driven beasts?) they all just think I’m saying that modesty in any context and by any definition doesn’t matter to me at all. I definitely don’t think I should be trying to sexually entice anyone I’m not married too. Neither do I think that I should be responsible for “the way a man’s mind works” especially since they all work differently. I don’t think it’s modest, but rather very immodest, to have to keep an up-to-date encyclopedia of the particular sexual triggers of every man in my church so I don’t “stumble” this man with a visible shoulder or that one with a lace trimmed dress and that one with a strappy sandal or that other one because my legs happen to be longer than his wife’s (though the amount of them that are covered is proportionally the same.) Anyway didn’t mean this to become a rant, just wondering if you’ve noticed this disparity with single women?

    • mattmikalatos

      Sadly, yeah. Single women are seen as “dangerous,” and often by men and (married) women alike. I honestly don’t understand this, as husbands can have affairs with other people’s wives as easily as with a single woman. It’s a bizarre double standard, I think partly brought about by the idol of “the family” at the center of many churches.

      I’d just say, Lis, it’s not your fault. You’re not doing anything wrong. I’m really sorry that’s the message being communicated to you.

      Honestly, if you were my daughter I’d encourage you to try another church where you can focus on Jesus and not on how people are judging your outfit. If there are more singles in the church at the very least you have some support and backup. The issue you’re describing is a cultural one in your church, and it won’t go away easily and it certainly won’t go away because a single woman points it out. 🙁

      Sorry not to have more encouraging words for you. But yeah… find a church that will treat you with respect and allow you to be a fully functioning human at the church. And stay away from the men at the church. They sound like creepers.