Yup - it's there. Of course they influence us as well, but the focus of this blog is godly fashion from a woman's perspective, and I want to spend some time this morning discussing how we impact men in the way we both dress and carry ourselves. (I've got some upcoming posts that are filled with the kind of fashion chat that is more girly in nature, so stay tuned!) By virtue of the fact that men are born with a desire to find beauty, and we are born wanting to create it, our relationship with the world of men has the potential to be very....interesting.
What does that mean for Christian women?
It means our clothes are powerful. Women are powerful, anyway. The whole feminist movement of the past hundred years or so really didn't need to worry about adding to the power of a woman; we were born with influence, darling. If you doubt it, just take a look at two homes - one with a sour-puss wife and mother running it, the other with a kind and patient woman for the wife and mother - and see whether or not the children and husband are different people because of her.
So what do you intend to do with the power you've got? Please do intend something, because you can't ignore your influence. If you're going to have it anyway, why not use it on purpose instead of by accident?
But it doesn't hurt to know what our weapons are. I speak rather tongue-in-cheek, but I'm perfectly serious when I say we have power. God gave us an enormous ability to affect those around us - other women as well as men - and we ought to think a little about that. To ignore our influence would be like handling a loaded gun carelessly.
So what are some of our weapons/tools/powers/whatever-you-want-to-call-them? I'll get to clothing in a minute, but first let's look at several other tools that are a part and parcel of the way other people see us.
We females have spent centuries being ribbed about our use of the tongue. I must admit to thinking that men have their share of problems with that little member, too, but women have a special talent. Men can gossip, back-bite, be rude, lie, etc., but we have skill when it comes to whittling down a person or idea. The inflection of our voice, the pregnant pauses, the careful omission of facts, the emphasis on certain words......we can slice, dice, and serve someone's head on a platter with the skill of a barbaric french chef. We're also talented in a certain little technique known as nagging. This is one thing I've never seen a male master; it's just not a part of their biological capabilities, I guess. But we can do it splendidly. And, as Proverbs mentions several times, few things are more agonizing to be around than a nagging woman. This weapon of ours - our tongue - is almost more powerful than we are. It takes the Spirit of God inside us to learn to control it and use it for building others up, furthering the truth, and proclaiming God's goodness.
There's a reason the damsel in distress is one of the most common story lines ever. For all our talk about independence and strength, even the strongest of women need help once in awhile. Of course, that's a trait common to all humans, but men and women are built in such a way that we have particular urges to help the opposite sex when they're in trouble. We women intuitively know we are helpful to men in certain areas - and we like knowing it; being needed helps us feel fulfilled. On the flip side, men are wired to respond strongly to a woman in need. Picture two guys working side by side; one has a headache. Guy #1 says to Guy #2, "Dude, just man up and stop whining." Now picture a guy and girl together, and the girl mentions she has a headache. Guy says, "Hey, I've got some aspirin."
Granted, there are men whose sin nature has run rampant and destroyed this instinct, but on the whole men are strongly motivated to climb the highest mountain and swim the coldest stream to help out a woman who needs them. It makes them feel skilled, handy....manly. As women, we ought to be aware that when we express a need - whether in words or actions, and whether it's physical, material, or emotional - we're going to nudge the men around us. They're either going to act and do something (good or bad, depending on in which direction we've motivated them), or they are going to remain inactive, but feel guilty. Either way, they are affected. Neediness, ladies - it's not just a side effect of being female; it's a tool. Use it carefully.
Oh yes - you knew we'd get here eventually, didn't you? But it's worth discussing. I don't think we need to prove the point that what we do with our bodies has an effect on men - that's rather obvious - but I think women as a whole don't realize exactly what that's like. I've been told that more times than I can count.
I'm sure you've heard it, too "Men are strongly affected by what they see, when it comes to women, and women have no idea what it's like to be a man, and have that so-easily-awoken instinct."
True enough. I don't have any idea what that is like. If I was to imagine, I'd guess that inappropriate views are, for a man, a lot like inappropriate touch for a woman. Touch seems to be our weakness. I can't imagine what it would be like to live in a culture where all the men were free to walk around caressing, kissing, and otherwise embracing every woman they passed on the street or in the store. Talk about difficult. It's not fair that we women are spared from having to deal with a situation like that, but men are expected to survive in a world that flashes all the wrong sights in their faces.
I would imagine that, for a man who wishes to be a godly man, a woman who recognizes this unfairness in our culture and does all in her power to help remove temptation from her brothers in Christ would be a wonderful, refreshing godsend. We have the potential here to make his load a little lighter while he is with us.
Just for the record, one of my pet peeves is discussions of modesty in which all the load of responsibility is placed in the woman's lap. When saying that we should help our fellowman by giving him less tempting scenery, I'm not suggesting that we are responsible for his thought life and everything that follows. His life is his own - and that includes any sin he commits. My exhortation for women and girls here is not to feel the burden of another person's decisions, but to have love for a brother. That's all this is, really; a love for our brothers in Christ. We are free in Christ, but the law of love constrains us to do all we can to help our brethren.
So how does your appearance affect the men around you? Is your posture quiet and meek, or "look at me, I'm so hot!"? Are your clothes screaming to be noticed, and do they accent what lies beneath, or are they there to do their job and make you look like a lady? Does your appearance and behavior draw forth what is good and gentlemanly about a man, or does it encourage him to be assuming, bold, lazy, and selfish?
You aren't responsible for what a man thinks or what a man does, but you are absolutely and completely responsible before God for what you try to make him think and do.
Consider it. It scares me a little. But it's good to be reminded.
Remember, it's all about love. Who are you loving today?