Taking Heat for The Modesty Survey
When we agreed to facilitate a co-ed discussion on the subject of modesty, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Hundreds of high school and college age girls submitted questions and over 1,600 guys responded. What was originally intended to be a low-key discussion on Forum became a widely-publicized event — receiving over 500,000 hits in just the first twelve hours of its launch.
Taking Heat for the Modesty Survey
The response has been overwhelmingly positive, but there has also been criticism. The Modesty Survey has made appearances on many prominent feminist blogs and hundreds of their readers have taken the time to visit our website and express their indignation at what they see as sexually-repressed, fundie teens. Andrew Sullivan called the survey “a pale shadow of the kind of strictures in most Islamic countries,” and expletive-laced emails have not been uncommon.
Many people are concerned that the survey focused on female modesty and not male modesty also. For this the survey is accused of being hateful towards women and displaying excessive, biased patriotism towards the male gender. This is, of course, not true. The survey was requested by women, and we have repeatedly expressed our openness to conducting a follow-up survey for guys.
Why We Can’t Do This Every Day
To be perfectly honest, we feel like we just had a baby and are being criticized for having a boy, not a girl, being told we should have had twins, and being asked how soon we’re going to have another (and by golly it had better be a girl this time)!
Just like people don’t have babies every few months (or every nine months), we don’t have time to invest in multiple surveys in a single year. It was an enormous and time-consuming project, just like writing a book. If God wills, we’ll be releasing the results of another survey on St. Valentine’s Day 2008. If we don’t, it won’t be because we didn’t want to, it will because God has something else for us to do.
In the Meantime, Some Clarifications
Alex and I are so glad we facilitated The Modesty Survey. It was (and still is) a great idea that we hope will continue to be a blessing for years to come. For those who actually look at the survey, examine the results, browse the Open Questions, and read our two-part series, The Responsibility of Modesty, the Survey can only come across as a humble plea, not an edict or list of rules.
However, whenever you address a controversial subject like modesty you should expect misinterpretation and offense. For that reason we have prepared a short list of clarifications that address some of the primary objections to the survey:
OBJECTION #1: Men scrutinizing every detail of female dress.
RESPONSE: The survey questions were submitted by Christian teenage and college age women. The guys did not decide to scrutinize every little detail of female dress and design a survey about them. In fact, if guys had written the survey questions you can be sure it would have been much, much shorter. As it was, we cut the 148-question survey down from over 360 submitted questions. It should also be noted that we (and 99% of the guys) had no idea what gauchos, sheer sleeves, or empire waists were before this survey. The items and terms were appropriately photo-illustrated or defined throughout the survey to avoid confusion.
OBJECTION #2: Alex and Brett Harris telling women how to dress.
RESPONSE: Alex and I merely facilitated this conversation. I didn’t even take the survey. We had no control over the results. Our two-part series, The Responsibility of Modesty, and this three-part series, The Modesty Survey Revisited reflect our personal view on the topic. We strongly promote and appreciate modesty, but we do not presume to define it specifically for everyone. There is liberty in Christ for different convictions. The Modesty Survey is not a Rebelution dress code.
OBJECTION #3: Strange men telling women how to dress.
RESPONSE: The way we explain it to our readers is that the results are accurate of what the respondents think, but are not necessarily true of what God desires for men and women in their interaction with one another. It is a resource—a glimpse into the minds of a group of 1,600 men—not a list of rules. There are inaccuracies (on both extremes), but there are also many balanced and reasonable answers. If it is viewed as a resource, not a dress code, you have the freedom to keep the good and disregard the bad.
OBJECTION #4: Placing all the blame on women.
RESPONSE: If you read the responses to the question, “As a guy, what is your responsibility in this area? What is your role in guarding your eyes and mind (as opposed to the women’s role of dressing modestly)?” you will find that 99% of the respondents identify themselves as primarily/entirely responsible for their own lust. And if you read our series, The Responsibility of Modesty, you will see that blaming women is the exact opposite of what the survey is all about.
The Modesty Survey Revisited
As we’ve watched the blogosphere erupt (both positively and negatively) over The Modesty Survey, we’ve recognized the need to clarify the nature and purpose of the project. This three-part series is our attempt at doing that. Over the next few days we will be posting short commentary from our older brother, Joshua Harris, best-selling author of Sex Isn’t The Problem, Lust Is, as well as from Fred Stoeker, best-selling author of Every Man’s Battle and Every Young Man’s Battle.
These men are not 100% enthusiastic about The Modesty Survey — no one should be — rather they bring balanced counsel which warns against the survey’s dangers without discarding the benefits. We hope they will serve you.
Read: From Alex and Brett / From Fred Stoeker / From Joshua Harris