A rambling rant about social media, social responsibility, and modesty
(Welcome to a crazy, confused debate inside my head…)
STORYTIME: So the other day I was sitting in my social media class listening to my prof rant about how we (students) need to take social media seriously as a responsibility. As in, don’t live inside an echo chamber. Fact-check things before you retweet and like them and pass them on. SERIOUSLY PEOPLE, fake news spreads like wildfire online — see this story of a mentally disturbed person taking a gun to a pizza shop to find the pedophiles supposedly hidden in the basement — a conspiracy theory he learned about online. YOU (students who use the internet) have a responsibility to your neighbors!!
Besides the humor in seeing a usually chatty, funny prof get visibly upset and reluctantly scold us like I’ve never seen a prof scold, something struck me. Something about his language. Something about the way he phrased the idea that if we advertise bad information online, we are morally culpable of the consequences, in some small way.
As in, you shouldn’t pass on fake news, and should fact-check everything you retweet, so that some psychopath somewhere doesn’t grab a gun and go hunting.
It reminded me of this argument: “Women shouldn’t wear miniskirts so they won’t get raped.”
But here’s the thing. Can’t you also make the argument: crazy people are just going to crazy, and evil people are going to rape? Like really, how much of your minor choices are going to affect the major moral choices of other people?
But this line of argument also annoys me, because I think there are good arguments to be made that people (women AND men) should dress modestly, be responsible with their words, and so on. We know that toddlers constantly monkey-see-monkey-do, because they’re obvious about it. We, in our pride, assume that adults grow out of that. But in reality, people are frequently and drastically influenced by others through example and friendship and peer pressure.
Which brings me to modesty — the problem that’s been tickling the back of my brain ever since I came to college. Growing up in a conservative Catholic community, there were always certain rules about clothing — length above knee, coverage of straps, length below collarbone, tightness of fabric — that in high school I quit questioning because they started to make sense to me.
Enter my small Christian liberal arts college. I was a bit surprised to find that the administration will punish students for having sex outside of marriage, or having a person of the opposite sex in their dorm room after hours, but no one will even mention it when a student shows up to class in shorts so tiny that her ass is visible.
I’m not sure that I’m advocating a dress code. But some consistency in the rules made by the administration would be nice.
I’m not going to argue the point of whether people should dress modestly. It seems that there are primarily two ways people dress themselves — as a person of practicality/modesty or as a person who’s open for business. And since Christians believe themselves to be first and foremost temples of the Holy Spirit, and find their worth in that and not in themselves as machines for sexual pleasure, the conclusion is pretty clear: modesty is the better choice.
Which brings me to my biggest problem: How do I argue with my friends about the length of skirts or the tightness of pants? It seems to me that modesty is a virtue, and virtues are always objective. Virtues and vices don’t change with time, because the ten commandments and God’s law don’t change with the passing of history. But modesty standards certainly do. Just think how far we’ve come from the Victorian days when a woman couldn’t — gasp! — show her ankles.
So how do you quibble over how short is too short? Some clothing screams: “I’m open for a one-night stand,” and other clothing murmurs: “get to know me as a woman of worth.” So should we judge that this neckline is too low — too provocative — too immodest — sinful — because of what other people will read into it? Since when do the perceptions of others determine the morality of my actions?
I guess it’s the age-old question: How do I take objective moral standards and apply them to the messy situation of the times I live in?