One of my many summer reading books was Raising Maidens of Virtue by Stacy McDonald. I said from the beginning I had some cautions as I have mixed feelings about Vision Forum ministries and their strong patriarchal leanings. But this book was loaned to me and I was intrigued by it, so I read through it this summer.
As a mother of daughters, I can’t help but like the title. Who doesn’t want to raise virtuous maidens in this day and age? And if someone can give me a step-by-step guide? Sign me up! As I read through it the first time, much of what it said did not surprise me – very conservative with a strong emphasis on daughters entrusting their hearts to their fathers and being available and prepared to serve throughout life. Good stuff, really. However, one chapter at the end got my feathers more than a little ruffled. It would, appropriately enough, be the chapter in which women who wear bikini swim suits are compared to “colorful flamingos” flaunting their feathers.
Pardon me while I climb on my soap box:
I wear a bikini. We allow our daughters to wear bikinis if they wish. We don’t do “tween-sexy” or string-type bikinis for the girls, because that’s the line we’ve drawn. If one goes to a pool today, one is hard-pressed to find a woman not wearing a bikini. It is no longer a matter of flaunting one’s body per se. It can just be a matter of what a woman is most comfortable in or, shocking as this may sound, a woman dressing to please her husband.
Stepping back down now.
So, needless to say, I was a little annoyed by this chapter. I finished the book and still agreed with points of it. I decided I was going to read through the book with the girls this fall as it has many principles that I would like them to take to heart, planning to either skim over or at least discuss the sections I didn’t agree with. However, as I began to read it aloud to them, I felt incredibly uncomfortable with the emphasis I was noticing throughout the book on outward appearance. I want our girls to make wise choices with how they clothe their bodies and how they present themselves to the world. I do want them to be able to look at an outfit and discern whether or not it is appropriate. I do not want them to look at the person wearing said outfit and pass judgement on her spiritual walk with the Lord. There is so much more to a woman than what she wears. I want to raise daughters that are wise and who give their hearts to their earthly father and their Heavenly one because they know that is where their hearts belong not because they have been filled with fear that they are not physically safe if they do not. I want to raise daughters who know how to dress in such a way that they both look and feel beautiful without being a distraction to others – male or female. I want to raise daughters who love the Lord in such a way that, regardless of what they wear, Christ is the one others see.
I am weary of the notion that in order for a woman to be godly she cannot be outwardly beautiful and that she must hide as much skin as is seasonally safe for fear of causing her brother to stumble. I want to encourage my Christian brothers in their walk as much as anybody, but the men of our faith must bear some responsibility as well for their thoughts and actions. As my husband (from a very conservative background) said one morning as I fretted over whether or not to wear a particular article of clothing to a church function for this very reason, “Honey, it is possible to lust after a woman in a baggy white blouse and a full-length navy skirt. Those jeans are fine.” His point was that, while we as women do not want to purposely draw attention to ourselves in a lustful manner, there comes a point where the woman can only do so much and the man has to take control of his thought life.
I have diverged a bit from my original topic, but this is obviously something I have some feelings about. 🙂
All in all, the book was okay. Like I said, there are some principals in it I really would like my girls to take hold of. But if it requires them to become judgmental and self-conscious in the process, I’ll pass.