modesty & why no one gets it right

Modesty is a word I’ve heard too much and for too long. Ever since the concept of modesty was introduced to me somewhere around the 3rd or 4th grade, I’ve been perpetually confused by it. I grew up in a very Christian community which has created a very solid foundation for my relationship with Jesus but it also formed some misconceptions. From a religious standpoint, modesty was explained to me as “dressing in a way that is respectful to you, God, and men” though some explained it in a much more brash way (“don’t make your brothers stumble”, “don’t dress like a slut if you don’t want people to treat you like a slut”, etc). And since modesty is Biblical, I took this very seriously. This proposes a question of what lines considering modesty and vanity am I not allowed to cross as a Christian and how does this affect my feminism as well.

When I started to form into a feminist in the 9th grade, all the unsettled and misled feelings I had about modesty felt validated. Generally, feminism is supportive of women dressing how they want, and for themselves and after having been exposed to strict and somewhat traumatizing tactics of dress-coding, I had decided modesty is a bunk concept. This change in attitude didn’t cause me to buy a closet full of plunging necklines or mini-mini skirts, but it did generate contempt within me, especially in my Christian school. I still loved God and wanted to serve him but hated the idea of dressing myself for men’s comfort and many of my friends had also been feeling this for years.

At this point in my life, my Christianity and feminism were very separate and I was letting my social beliefs take precedent over my moral compass. It wasn’t until Muslim women started talking about modesty within the feminist circle that I had to reevaluate my thoughts. Many feminists, at the time, were labelling Muslim women as “oppressed” because of their religious choice to wear hijabs, niqabs, or just generally wearing higher necklines and longer skirts. Muslim women spoke up and made it clear that women should be entitled to dress in what is comfortable for them, and as people under religious conviction, modesty is their choice. After listening to this discussion I really had to contemplate on Biblical modesty once again. I conducted multiple interviews with teachers at my school because of their experience with dress coding and knowledge of the Bible and to get individual takes on the concept. Some teachers reiterated the fact that modesty is first and foremost to help out Christian men (which still makes me wince a bit). But other teachers had a much more nuanced view. One female teacher explained that while modesty can have a positive effect on the surrounding community, it’s first about the heart. Christians believe that the body is sacred which explains such an emphasis on purity and taking care of it. Our bodies are important and I think it feels healthy to showcase it appropriately and in a way that sits right with you and God or even just you can your moral compass.

While I think many Christian and non-Christian women have to come to a positive conclusion about modesty, there are still 2 important issues we are left with, that I’ve yet to see dealt with well.

1.) Modesty is relative!!!

Modesty is 100% going to look different on different people. Some women consider knee-high skirts and revealed shoulders immodest and other women still feel modest in shorts! Modesty is not a dress code or a set of rules, it’s a conversation between you and God or with yourself and you how you best feel comfortable. I do admit that there will be times where I’m unsure about whether I think something is modest on me or not and these situations have caused me to gain a trusting 2nd opinion: my mom. Whenever I question an outfit I think if my mom would be fine with it or not and that always gives me an answer. Along with modesty’s relativity, context is also important. Personally, I think if I wore a bikini top to a grocery store I’d feel pretty revealing, but on the beach, I’d feel perfectly appropriate.

2.) The world doesn’t subscribe to modesty!

This is just another topic that reminds me how important it is for religious people to understand the separation of church and state. As much as I think personal modesty is a healthy and positive thing, I cannot impose this on people who don’t care! It is not my place to police or judge those who aren’t into modesty and this is especially important because of point 1. I might look at someone and think they’re immodest when in reality they might just have different parameters. And as for those who couldn’t care less about dressing modestly, it’s totally their choice. I know the world doesn’t run on Christian ideals and I’m so not entitled to look down upon others for that.

Listen, I’m not saying we should stop preaching modesty or destroy all school dress guidelines but I do think we should stop making the conversation gender specific. Women were called out for modesty more in the Bible because women, at that time, were only viewed as sex objects. We live in a much more enlightened and equal world which means it’s time to start balancing the conversation. Men are able to be immodest and women are also capable of lust; the responsibility is individual.

1 Peter 5:5 “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Read more at

The last thing I would like to say is can we make this conversation, especially in the church, a little kinder? This world is hard and there are a lot of different pressures coming from different places and a really good way to destroy a teenage girl’s self-esteem is to tell her she’s being seductive or impure or dirty. We need more grace just generally.

All the best,

you’re a feminist

I really hate to break it to you, but you are. Or most likely are. But I’m not about to tell you what you are or are not, I’m going to let words and their meanings do that instead.

The word “feminism” was first used by a French philosopher in the late 1800’s, when describing women’s relationship with social and political status. Since then it has tailed along side the Suffrage movement and carried throughout the second wave and it now it’s become quite the buzzword. While the feminist movement has been gaining traction and support in light of a political uproar (the orange man) and with ongoing discussions (intersectionality, sexual violence, etc), it’s still such a dividing topic. Even though most every person within Canada or America would give the concept of “equality” a thumbs up, we still can’t seem to team up behind one movement. This is all due to bad connotations.

They’re all lesbians.

Some are.

They complain about non-issues

Some do.

They’re gross and hairy

Gross? No. Hairy? Some.

They hate men.

Some do.

Here’s the deal. Movements of great importance always contain members that don’t have it quite right; and people screw up! Sometimes we phrase things wrong. Sometimes we change our minds. But just because a cause is made up of flawed people doesn’t mean we have to throw the baby out with the bath water. To further explain, I’ll use a parallel that also pertains to my life. I’m not only a feminist but a Christian as well, which many think are mutually exclusive, and while I have many things to say about that I need to save it for another post. Even though some think Christianity and Feminism have zero to none in common, that isn’t true. To stay very specific, let’s just look at the language. Feminism, as discussed, has a black and white definition but with all the varying opinions it appears much more grey. Christians are united by a single belief which is designed to make us objectively good people but because we’re are inherently flawed it has seemed to create a much more extreme binary. Either you’re a saint or a hypocrite. Historically Christians have screwed up and misinterpreted the Bible pretty severely (the Crusades), and because of this, we now carry connotations as well.

They’re judgemental.

They don’t understand science.

They’re so condemning.

They love Trump.

They hate Muslims.

They hate gay people.

The sad truth is some are, some don’t, some can be, some do, some do, some do. This is not an excuse for hateful and hurtful behaviour but it’s just to highlight the fact that while you’d think loving God would cause all people to reach the same conclusion about everything, that’s impossible. Everyone’s relationship with God is on a spectrum and with elements like your economic, political, geographical background, trauma, and current circumstances, it’s unrealistic to expect every single, complex and unique individual to have black and white answers for everything. I believe some Christians have interpreted certain issues incorrectly, but I have enough grace to not write them off because of it. And I’d hope that those who think I have it wrong give me enough grace to listen anyways. Civil discourse is so important (as I’ve previously discussed) and I think we should enter into discussion and debates with the intention of listening and hopefully leave with more understanding from the other’s perspective.

I understand that by calling myself a Christian I may be taking on thousands of years of other’s mistakes but it would be silly and unproductive to call myself exclusively a “Jesus Follower” or another synonym for Christian. I will continue to call myself a Christian because that describes what I am and even though I don’t like a lot of the baggage that comes with the word it makes it my responsibility to reclaim the label and represent it accurately and lovingly. Feminism has a hand on so many different issues and there’s lots of differing of opinions throughout the community and there’s room for choice. That’s what it’s about: equality and the right to choose.

Speaking of choice, I should probably address something. A huge reason why so many in the Christian community do not support the feminist movement is because it is loudly pro-choice. Please don’t let that count yourselves out. Just like how I still choose to participate in Christian circles even though it can be anti-immigrant and homophobic. We are imperfect people but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be working towards a greater good. Feminism supports child care, challenges beauty standards, fights for indigenous rights, supports the disabled and people of colour. Feminism fights against sexual violence and assault. Feminists fights for the people Jesus would have talked to at the well. Feminism fights for immigrants and representation of all people. Feminism is greater than the sum of its parts.

At the end of the day labels aren’t everything but they help us define ourselves and support causes we believe in. I believe in Jesus and am a Christian. I also live in Canada, and am Canadian. I love dogs and I’m a dog person. I go to fashion school and am a fashion student. I support women and the rights of all people. I’m a feminist. And you probably are too.

All the best,

feeling pretty zitty lately

 

I’ve had acne since I was 10, which is unfairly early. Or maybe it’s not and all my girlfriends have perfect skin, but I do feel pretty on the outs with this one. Having pimples as a girl in the 5th grade is less than ideal, obviously. My mom empathized with my predicament and allowed me to use concealer. I was (am) an oily kid. My hair gets greasy fast and my skin loves to collect and grab onto any oil, and this has been a curse. My acne got astonishingly worse as I aged and it hit its peak of nasty when I was 16. This is when I had Rodan and Fields recommended to me. Despite its priciness, my parents were kind enough to let me try it and it did stuff! After a couple months of using it day and night, my skin looked significantly better. Since then my skin has had moments of clarity and times of peril, but is much more mode

rate than it was. But once I was introduced to what I looked like with almost no acne, it shifted my perception. I like how I look without acne (obviously) so much more than the alternative, that I get even more disgruntled by pimples now, though they’re not nearly as severe.

As of late, my skin has not been a pal. This is due to winter weather (dry, dry, dry), not as much fresh air (it is cold), and bad diet (I eat from a university cafeteria, what would you expect?). It’s spotty, discoloured, rough, flakey, and oily (gotta love combination skin!!!), and I forget what it feels like to have clear skin altogether. While I still use R&F religiously and never sleep in makeup, I have too many elements working against to expect Glossier model level skin. And when I talk to folk about my skin related frustrations I hear a few common pieces of well-meaning advice, which include; drink more water, cut out sugar, stop wearing makeup. And here lies my unasked for ramble responding to said advice.

Drink more water

You know what? You’re right. I don’t drink enough water because Grapefruit San Pellegrino tastes much too good. Sugary drinks just taste better than drinking plain liquid that only tastes like “wet”. But I’ll seriously try to take this one on. I mostly promise!

Cut out sugar.

Okay…but then I won’t want to get out of bed in the morning? I’m not saying sugar is the only reason I wake up but I can tell you it’s an exciting prospect for the day. I don’t overload on sugar on the daily, but I know if I took it away from myself then I wouldn’t be able to stop obsessing over it, most likely resulting in an ungodly donut flavoured binge. Even though my zitty life is making me a little blue, I care too much about my mental state to deprive myself of the taste of happiness. Cutting back on sugar? Mm, we’ll see. Cutting out sugar? I’ll keep my zits thanks.

Stop wearing makeup.

skin with light concealer on

No. No thank you. No thanks. It’s easy to not wear makeup when your skin is relatively clear. When your skin looks like mine, or worse, it makes leaving house no fun at all. Whether not wearing foundation everyday would drastically transform my skin or not, it’s too hard walking around with a pimple for a face. Wearing makeup may be a contributing element to my acne, but I promise you it’s not the root cause. I’m made of bad skinned genes, as proven by my parents high school photos. You have no idea how much I would love to be that traditional “low maintenance” gal but with the hand I’ve been dealt consisting of acne-ridden skin, naturally mousey brown hair, being paler than the moon, and eyelashes shorter and straighter than my nail clippings, it would take far too much self confidence and the ability to not care at all about what people think to walk out of my door feeling good. I’m not trying to sound deprecating because that would be terribly annoying but I’m trying to be honest.

The parts of me I’m most satisfied with are things I’ve had the most control over. Over the years I’ve been able to play with and grow out my brows and I really like how they look now, and I tweak them very rarely now. My hair I’ve changed a million times and I like that I’m able to select colours and styles that I feel best represent me. And I like my nose now, but that has taken years. All of this is to say that I’m not just what I’ve been given but I’m also what I choose to be.

This piece was mostly to complain about my face, which I understand may come off as irritating, especially since I address ways in which I’m fairly aware, could help fix my problem but like I said, this is also about choice. I’m unhappy with the amount of acne I have but I’m also happy to be able to treat myself to sugar and be able to put makeup on in the morning. Those good habits might be ones I can build up to one day, and perhaps I can eventually become confident enough to stop caring about the state of my skin. I don’t have acne because I’m gross, I get zits because I wasn’t born with the perfect skin. And neither was a lot of population. It’s crazy how big of a taboo acne is, considering how common it is. The world of advertising is finally understanding that consumers don’t care about the “ideal” but we care about representation. Body positivity within mainstream media increases by the day. We can now see ads with women rocking different body shapes and skin colours. But where are the zitty folk? Makeup companies are becoming very anti-retouching nowadays but what’s the point if all of their models have perfectly clear skin? Not only does that perpetuate the standard to have clear skin but it does a terrible job of showing how much coverage the makeup actually provides. Acne is a hard problem. Compare it with being fat. While in North America the ideal for the last 100 years has been variations on the slim girl, we are pushing and gaining lots of traction to help expand the western idea of beauty to include women of different proportions, but you can also find other cultures themselves praising the fat body. I’ve yet to hear of one person/place in the world that glorifies pimples. I don’t expect acne to one day be envied or become the ideal, however it would be really cool to see zits as a neutral trait. Most people get them at some point, so can we throw away the judgment, please?

skin without anything! ain’t it purty??

As for my skin, let’s hope it clears up a little, but if it doesn’t at least I have Tarte Amazonian Clay Foundation to fool those who forgot to put in their contacts.

All the best,

 

my tattoo

I work at a Tourism Information centre and I talk to around 300 people a day. I mostly give directions or answer questions about campgrounds or what we grow in our fields (Saskatchewan), but quite often the conversation turns from pointing to a street on a map to personal questions. Sometimes I get asked about what I’m taking in school, my ethnic background, and often times, my tattoo. And since the people asking me are mere strangers, I don’t give them a long explanation but there is more to it than a couple of sentences.

My journey with feminism has been a long one and I’ll spare you the details in the post! (But if you want to hear more, you can watch this video). Feminism has always been evident in my life, I just didn’t know the language. My biggest influence has always been my grandfather.

My grandpa is a retired history teacher, and really nurtured an appreciation for the past in me. And being the feminist he is, my grandpa made sure I knew all about the suffrage movement. He stressed the fact that women’s liberation was not give, but fought for. My voting rights as a white woman came long before the rights of women of color, which goes to show that freedom is often is a slow, and unfair process. And I figure, if white women have been able to vote for only about 100 years now, I don’t believe it’s possible that every women is a recipient of perfect equality, not even close. And while most people are aware that women in poorer countries around the world still face a heavy amount of injustice, it should also be recognized that North America still has a long way to go. The topics of the gender wage gap, women’s reproductive health, child care, etc. are all controversial, but they have to be keep being discussed so we can solve the significant questions and issues so many women face today.

My tattoo is a reminder that the rights I have today were not always mine. That they were fought for by loud women, supportive men, resilient women of colour, feminists. And my tattoo is a thank you to them. Awareness and conversation is what brings attention to the many around the world still without basic rights and the many right here with their own shackles. I will keep fighting the good fight.

Proverbs 31:8 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” I know that as a middle class, white, Canadian woman, I have privilege and while I didn’t ask for it and can’t do anything about it, I can use my voice. While some think getting a permanent marking on my arm is dumb, regardless of the meaning it has, I love my tattoo and love the conversations it has started with strangers I meet.

All the best,

the first

While the idea of a blog honestly seems draining and too much work for what it’s worth, I know the impact bloggers have had on my life and I think I may as well put my piece in as well. So let’s just get this introduction under way! I’m Martha Shareski, I currently live in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and I turn 19 in the fall. I’ll be attending Ryerson University in Toronto at the start of September, for a degree in Fashion Communication. That’s the factual stuff about me. But really the core of who I am consists more of this:

  • I’m a feminist who loves Jesus
  • My favorite food is either pickles or cotton candy, can’t decide
  • The most dramatic movie scene of all time is the part in Karate Kid when Daniel throws his bike into the garbage bin, hands down
  • Dickies are the best fashion invention of all time
  • I’ve seen 16 (I think) Broadway musicals and I hope to rapidly expand this list
  • If I could ask God any question it would be: is Bigfoot real?
  • I have one tattoo (so far)
  • I took a gap year this past school-year and traveled Australia with three of my friends for 4 months and ate lots of bread
  • Jess from Gilmore Girls is my dream man
  • and lastly, I love to write

I’m a middle class, white woman from Canada, and though I know my ethnicity and background are represented much more than women of color or of different religions but I still feel a major lack of women who share my perspective. Being a young woman who loves Jesus and cares deeply about women’s rights, it’s very difficult to find sources of solidarity in that. I know how encouraging it is to find women who I can relate to, women who either love Jesus, or fight for women’s equality (or both!), and women who care about style and view it as expression rather than vanity. Basically, I hope to use this platform to encourage me to research the things I am confused/intrigued by and to possibly encourage those of you who feel similarly as I do about certain things!

All the best,