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Doctor Explains Why It’s Not Prudish to Encourage Modesty

1 ¾ min

When a couple of young female passengers were barred from boarding a United Airlines flight because they were wearing leggings, the internet exploded with accusations of sexism.

When high school girls in Los Angeles showed up to school in spaghetti straps and off-the-shoulder tops, the dress code was deemed outdated.

And when actress Mayim Bialik and Olympian Gabby Douglas suggested that dressing modestly might protect girls against predatory attacks from individuals like Harvey Weinstein, both were nearly run out of town on a rail.

What these incidents suggest is that anyone who hints that modest dress is appropriate and helpful for females is irrational, out of touch, and completely unaware of a woman’s mindset and needs.

But according to one doctor, such an opinion is opposed to reality. Writing in Psychology Today, medical doctor Leonard Sax takes on the issue of school dress codes. Sax, also an advocate for common sense parenting, explains that research shows a decided academic disadvantage for girls who dress in more revealing clothing. Even when isolated in a private room, young women dressed in swimsuits perform much worse than those in sweaters when given a math quiz. The opposite is true for young men.

The reason for this, Sax explains, is simple:

“We actually have quite a bit of research now on what happens when a girl or woman wears skintight leggings or a swimsuit. Often what happens is “self-objectification”: the girl, or woman, assesses herself as an object on display for others. And the more public the setting, the more likely self-objectification is to occur.

Self-objectification is distracting. It’s hard to concentrate on Spanish grammar when you’re wondering whether this outfit makes your thighs look fat. Girls who self-objectify are also more likely to become depressed. They are less likely to be satisfied with their body. They are more likely to engage in self-harm.”

In essence, Sax seems to be inferring that those who encourage modest dressing are not the self-righteous prudes that we’ve made them out to be. Instead, their ideas may actually be the ones which are more accepting, considerate, and advantageous to females.

Image Credit: Flickr-Eva Rinaldi (CC BY-SA 2.0)]

Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.

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