Saturday, June 9, 2012

Catholic Girls in Bikinis

Many people find this post first on my blog (I wonder why! haha!) - Here’s a short clip to start you off!  Only 3 minutes, please watch it before reading on!


To follow on our them of sexuality and young girls, here is a wonderful piece by a contributing author!  Grace Marie Rose lives in New Orleans with her husband and 5 children.  As a youth director, she has a particularly unique view!  I know you’ll enjoy this one!  So without further ado, I introduce to you, my sister, Grace Marie:
“So, when did you decide to give up the battle for modesty with your daughters and let them wear bikinis?”  
    This was the question I recently asked some beautiful Catholic women whose teenage daughters were at a co-ed arena with fairly skimpy bikinis.  Some were string bikinis and others were strapless tube tops.  The answers varied.  However, the gist of what I heard was that at some point the relationship between the mother and daughter consisted of only fighting about clothes.  In order to preserve their relationships, the mothers chose to drop that fight and work on their relationship instead.  Other moms expressed the limits that they set for the teens at different ages.  As a mother of young girls, this intrigued me.



     In my line of work, I have had a chance to witness a wide variety of teenage girls in summer attire.  I have noticed several trends in our faith-filled Catholic girls of today and it really comes down to their parents!
     First, there are the girls whose parents probably bought them cute bikinis when they were toddlers, thinking how cute and innocent they were.  These parents are the ones who thought that boyfriends and girlfriends in kindergarten were cute and may have even encouraged it.  As teenagers these girls are simply told to save sex for marriage.  Many of these girls will be able to do this, but it is a struggle as they find themselves in awkward situations time and again.
    The second group of teenage girls have parents who are more active in their faith.  These parents draw lines – yes, you can see this movie, but not that one; you can wear this suit, but not that one.  These parents understand what is right and good, but often have a hard time sharing their faith with their children.  These teens may have only been coming to mass or youth group because their parents made them.  Their parents are stricter about what bathing suits they can wear, but it creates fights because, to the teen, it is all about rules and lines.  These are the girls who may wear leggings under a short skirt just to get out of the house, but then take them off when they get in the car.  These girls know their family is different, but don’t fully understand or want to embrace it.  I probably fit into this category myself as a teenager.  These teens even have lines that they draw for themselves (because they can see the good in what their parents are telling them), but also get into sticky situations because it is still all about how far you can go and where to draw the line.
    The third group of girls I have met are aghast at what their friends wear.  These are girls who purposefully choose to wear bathing suits with cute skirts and tops that cover their midriff.  I overheard one of these girls recently remark, “I couldn’t have just come from mass, I’m wearing jeans!”  I am not saying that wearing jeans to church is always wrong, but she was able to strongly defend her stance as others teenagers questioned her.  Her view on clothing had a lot to do with her view of herself in the eyes of God.  She was very confident in who she was as a Catholic young woman alive in her faith.  It is harder to figure out what these parents are doing right with their teens because I hardly see these parents!  These are the girls who are coming to church and adoration and youth group by their own volition.  They are alive and on fire in the Faith, and are beautiful in every way!  These girls still struggle, but their struggle is heard when they are not feeling as strong and they simply blame their parents (“yeah, my mom makes me wear a one-piece”) even though everyone around them knows that it was their own desire to choose it.  It is these mothers who I have to figure out, for those are the teenage girls I want my daughters to be like! 

     In looking at these mothers, they are just as active in their faith as the mothers in group two.  
What is the difference?  I think (and I could be wrong – I am still trying to figure this one out myself!) that these women focus more on teaching their daughters what a child of God IS, not what a child of God IS NOT.  Someone once shared with me that in order to teach FBI investigators how to spot counterfeit bills, they are made to study real bills over and over and over.  In this way, they are so familiar with the real bills that they can spot the counterfeit ones quickly and easily.  It is the same with the Truth.  These women do not focus on telling their children what is wrong over and over and over.  Instead, these ladies teach and model for their daughters what is right and good on a daily basis.  One of these moms recently had all of her children cancel all of their activities for a week because the children were not getting along.  Instead of punishing them and telling them to stop fighting, she simply told them that they needed to work on their relationships with each other first and foremost.  So, they spent a week at home, having family time, growing in love of one another.  These mothers are the ones who remind their daughters that they are daughters of the King!

     When I was in college, I read Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye and one of the biggest things that I still share with teens is that modesty and chastity are not a line, it is a direction.  What I realized was that my modesty was not about what I could not do.  Instead, it was about what I could become!  It was an arrow, a direction toward God.  “In whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything for the glory of God!”  Everything I do, even what clothes I wear needs to be for the glory of God!  My kids tease me about this quote and ask, “Even just 1% for myself?  What about .5%?”  However, they already know my answer, “EVERYTHING for the glory of God!”  It is only when our sights are set on Christ and His glory that then we’ll realize what we have the potential to be and what we are striving toward.  We will stop looking behind us trying to figure out this line and, instead, run in the direction of purity and chastity!

     I think that the only way we can avoid the choice to fight about clothes or have a relationship with our daughters is to pass this idea on to them.  It certainly helps if we can start when they are young as they form their identity.  However, it is never too late to come to this realization and understanding of who we are.  It is about the positive, not about the negative.  I have witnessed girls changing as they studied John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (through the TOB for Teens series).  Just look at the Facebook pictures of girls you know and love.  You will see very clearly who each girl is through their pictures.  I messaged one such model of modesty, letting her know that I noticed and encouraging her in her modesty and purity (this was not a girl with whom I had more than an acquaintance relationship so I really did not know how she would take it).  Her response was beautiful: “ Thank you so much Mrs. Grace Marie! Dressing modestly is something I try really hard to do.... Its nice to know my efforts don't go unnoticed!”



     Yes, that’s the strength that I pray for in my own daughters now and always!  May all of us remember that we are daughters of the King and that everything we do should be for the glory of our Father!” – Grace Marie Rose.

What wonderful insight!  Thank you, Grace Marie, for the thoughtful reflection.  You have given us so much to think about!

Well, that’s my view of it and I welcome yours!  (Please comment below!)
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26 comments:

  1. LOVE the concept of teaching what's right, instead of repeating over and over what is wrong. That is spot on.

    I'm a Catholic teen, and value modesty and chastity very much. It's hard to find the right kind of clothes, but a little effort goes a long way. I know people think I'm weird for dressing in skirts often, refusing to wear bikinis, tight things, etc. but I am honestly not comfortable at ALL in that kind of clothes. And I NEVER wear jeans to mass - I threw on jeans for work one morning this week, but had to change because I was going to mass before. Love hearing I'm not the only one!

    Thank you for sharing this story. I love hearing that I'm not the only one out there trying to honor God in the way I dress!

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  2. I agree that there's always a week where a priest seems to have to say "I know it's hot outside gang, but we have AC in here..." and agree that attire IN church, school, etc. needs to be modest and tasteful,

    BUT and this may be a surprise, but there are those of us who grew up and stay very heartily Catholic and wore bikinis, and short jean shorts, and skinny tanktops...in appropriate settings, such as the beach or pool! As a swimmer, a lifeguard, i LIVED in small bathing suits (sometimes the 1 pieces are tinier than a bikini, frankly) and was taught by my very Catholic parents to be proud and feel comfortable in my God-given strong feminine body, capable of so many cool things in the water. As a horseman and competitive rider, while we wear traditional hunt attire that covers almost every inch of us, it is rather tight and formfitting, but (other than wishing my thighs were thinner, who doesn't) I never once felt uncomfortable or self-conscious because it all has a reason, mostly for safety frankly, and put together is a very classy look.

    Is there not something intrinsically sexy and feminine and attractive about the long flowy skirt? YES THERE IS. it may leave more to "the imagination" versus the super short elastic belt that some call a skirt, but it still makes the guys' heads turn... so either way, whether you show it all or not, we are women - we are intrinsically gorgeous, feminine and attractive to the opposite sex. it is nothing to hide from!

    I am ALL for honoring God with how we dress, but what about honoring God with how we ACT, SPEAK, LIVE AND LOVE, no matter the dress. Our faith, specifically as Catholics, teaches us NOT to judge others, does it not?

    If a bikini is wrong, then is a strapless prom or formal gown wrong? If jeans in church are wrong, is missing Mass better? As a woman, wife, momma, and youth ministry worker, trust me - I've seen it all...and yes I'll make my son put on a polo shirt (versus his cut-off-sleeve one that he's got on now) and nicer sandals for Mass, and I'm sure I'll be full of angst when my now 2.5 year old daughter turns 13 and turns to me with a black bikini in her hand in the store... BUT, I hope and pray that I can think of my own parents (who are older, were adults when Vatican 2 and all it's "radical" ideas came about) and their sweet patience with me and my 7 brothers and sisters...they knew that they'd much rather "give in" to a bikini or a dirtbike or black hair/loud music than many of the other temptations of the world.

    LOVE TO ALL. xoxo

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    1. Katrina, :-) Thank you for sharing! such great thought! I totally agree when it comes down either dressing more modestly or attending church...by all means GET TO CHURCH! ;-)
      And I didn't read this as a judgment piece as much as an embracing God's will - whatever that is for you!
      Our bodies should be embraced and celebrated not hidden? TOTALLY AGREE! I'm not condoning everyone wearing hippy flowing skirts...personally, I could never wear one.
      I do think there is a difference, however, (and its just so good to open this conversation!) between wearing attractive (maybe form fitting) clothes and wearing sexually arousing clothes.
      I know young girls and even women don't think that way. We are totally comfortable and would say "you look adorable in that bikini!" But men's minds are programmed differently. There was an article that was so good - if someone can find it, please link it! - that showed how when men looked at a woman in "regular attire" (don't remember exactly what it was) versus in bikinis and skimpy outfits. When men looked at women in the bikinis, it triggered the part of their brain that was mechanical; the part that is activated when one uses or operates a tool.
      As women, we don't understand this. But modesty doesn't hide as much as protects us from each other's lusts.
      I agree that women are always attractive and men would be attracted anyway, and also that some two pieces are more modest than some one pieces! I also think it goes back to the idea of why you are wearing what you are, and also taking into consideration our brothers in Christ who are trying so hard to keep their minds pure! (And God knows there are enough temptations out there!)

      But no judging going on here! :-) I'd much rather see anyone in Church! Just some things to think about! (I'll see if I can find that article!)

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    2. Oh! another thought! I think the above post is really focusing on teenage young ladies. As women, we can make our own decisions and handle ourselves. Not all decisions are the best, but we're all adults.
      How our daughters dress I think rises from our protection of them. We don't want them to be looked at as sex objects. And yet we want them to love the glorious femininity that God gave them!
      It's a crazy tight rope of a line, but the Theology of the Body studies are really great at zeroing in on that. Our bodies are beautiful gifts from God, to be celebrated and never used...

      lol! just a few more thoughts! ;-)

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    3. Here is some food for thought. I think the point of being modest and respectfull besides out of obedience to our Lord, is to help each other see each other as children of God not objects to be used. I am not responsible for how others act but I am responsible for how I do.

      Male college students at Princeton University recently took part in studies of how the male brain reacts to seeing people wearing different amounts of clothing. The test subjects were placed in a brain scanner and for a fraction of a second were shown photographs of women in bikinis, as well as men and women dressed modestly.

      When the young men viewed the scantily clad women, the part of their brain associated with tool use lit up. Even though some of the images were shown for as little as two-tenths of a second, the most easily remembered photographs were of bikini-clad women whose heads were cropped off the photos!

      The purpose of the research, according to Susan Fiske, a professor of psychology at Princeton University, was to examine ways in which people view others as a means to an end. The findings of the research were presented during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held in Chicago.

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    4. That's EXACTLY the research I was looking for!! THANK YOU for posting it!! :-)

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    5. Grace Marie RoseJune 10, 2012 at 9:25 PM

      Oh, and just to explain, when I say bikini, I don't mean a two-piece or tankini. I was talking specifically about bathing suits that cover less than my undergarments! But this reflection was more for my own understanding of mothering... yes, I agree with all of those women who say you need to pick your battles and it is better to give in with clothing than with other things!
      My big question for myself was, "Is there any possible way to avoid that compromise or decision as a mother?" Because the women of whom I refer are beautiful and wonderful Catholic women who are very modest themselves! I am not judging them or their teens. :)
      I am exploring the topic as a mother of young girls who is trying to totally avoid the dilemma with my daughters when they get older. I can write a follow-up in four years when my oldest daughter turns 13 to let you know if my hypothesis is correct or not! Thanks for listening :)

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    6. LOL! Grace Marie, we'll have to hold you to that 4 years down the road! ;-)

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    7. This particular thread of the commentary is fabulous. Love it! Just giving you folks the nod for the reflections!

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  3. Of course this doesn't apply only to Catholic girls! Just because you look great in that bikini doesn't mean you should wear it! I think my girls thought that I thought they looked bad in some clothes that I nixed because of modesty. Nothing is further from the truth! The feminism movement suggests that women can wear whatever the heck they want and the guys just have to deal with it! While this can be true, we are free, the better choice is one that will not lead others to lustful thoughts about you. The better choice keeps you free from leers of others and sending the wrong sexual signal. Whether you like it or not, whether you think it's not fair, what you wear sends a signal. What message are you prepared to send and deal with?

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    1. Believe it or not, one of the best comments on the subject of modesty in clothing I ever heard came from the old TV show "Happy Days", when Fonzie said to Joanie (Richie's little sister), who was dressed in a provocative way--"If you advertise, someone's going to answer that ad!"

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  4. Grace Marie RoseJune 10, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    If your daughter or friend is already at the spot where she sees only the lines and boundaries of modesty instead of the direction, one great thing to do is say yes. For instance, when she shows you the cute little string bikini she wants to buy, you can respond, "Oh! That would just be so perfect for your honeymoon on a private beach with just you and your husband! It is so cute and perfect for that! Now, let's try to find something that works to wear in front of the rest of the world..." Just an idea, but it stops the negative and shows our bodies as beautifully and wonderfully made for a beautiful purpose. And it lets them know that they are beautiful and they will one day have a chance to share that in a special way with a special person! :)

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  5. Grace Marie, great collumn and LOVE the last suggestion in the comments. The main point of focusing on the POSITIVE (again, love the FBI example) of what's GOOD instead of what's NOT is so very important. It also pushes lots of parents to discover more deeply what we DO believe - because many grown Catholics only know what they want to avoid with their kids but haven't even fully discovered the riches of the faith and the deeply formed vision of the human person we are privvy to in our Tradition. Blessings on your ministry and family!

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  6. You all may think I'm a nut, but my little girls only wear dresses past the knee, with biker shorts underneath for modesty's sake. My oldest daughter is only 3.5yrs old. We are already talking about modesty and respect for her body. She is NOT allowed to be undressed in front of her older brother who is only 5. If you start from the beginning, then they won't ask why it was 'ok' to wear a bikini at 2 but not at 14. We are constantly telling our daughter that God made her and that her body is only for God to see ( a 3yr old doesn't need the 'except for your husband if you get married one day' speech). We emphasize purity and respect and modesty. Also, even though we are adults and can make our own decisions, those decisions send a message to our children. They will see it as unfair that mom can wear a bikini, but she cannot, and she'll be right. Men do not look at a 15yr old in skimpy clothes any different than they look at a 35yr old in skimpy clothes. We should hold ourselves to a high standard and not see ourselves short, just because we can or because we look cute in it.

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    1. *sell* ourselves short.

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  7. Grace Marie RoseJune 12, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    I don't think you are a nut at all! Purity is a direction toward God and it sounds like you are clearly pointing your daughter in that direction! God bless you! :)

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  8. When i was growing up in the 70's and on a swim team where we'd be practicing 5 days a week it was nothing to be in one peice suits and then bikinis on th weekends and obviuosly around boys since it was a co-ed team. The difference then was that there was a level of respect. We had sexy bodies but boys didn't have lust all over them 24 hrs. a day like today world. We didn't have to worry about wearing shorts under our skirts then either. We were very comfortable in what ever we wore and bikinis were no big deal. Again in those days we wern't debased to have every sexy moment be about lust. Boys respected us and even though they admired our bodies they wern't drooling all over us. Also it became apparent that the two sexes being around each other all the time in swimwear then became the norm of sorts and really became o non issue. I think once one starts covering up all the time it then becomes an issue. Imagination can only last so long. After extensive travel in Europe where the dress code is even more lenient women show there bodies all the time and are proud of it. Men appreciate the beauty of observation without visaral tendencies and it is the norm instead of some issue. It's too bad that America has digressed to the point where women can't really be themselves with regard to their attire. By no means do i condone casual wear to church as that should be adheared to with proper attire.

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    1. My dad used to tell us that it is important to be modest because he was a teenage boy and he knows how they think.

      He was on a swim team in the early 70s. Whether they act on it or not, boys think differently. Did you read Theresa's follow up "Beyond the Bokini" yet? It talks about a lot of the same things you are saying. It's worth a look

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  9. I think you mean 'theme' not 'them'.

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  10. I am a catholic teen girl,age 17,and my parish is very strict and highly stresses purity and abstinance before marriage.For us girls,all white outfits are required for baptism,first holy communion and confirmation.For baptism the outfit consists of a poofy white kneelength dress with a bonnet,lace socks or white tights and white mary jane shoes.for first communion,its the communion dress,veil,gloves,white tights and the mary jane shoes.For confirmation(AGE 16)its the white formal floor length,poofy dress,veil,wrist length gloves,white tights and the mary janes.A white cloth diaper,plastic pants and under shirt is required under all three outfits.I made my first communion at 14 and had to wear the required outfit and then was confirmed at 16 and had to wear the required outfit.it was weird having the cloth diaper and plastic pants on under my tights with my communion and confirmation dresses.

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    1. I am 16 and being confirmed in may and my parish requires the white floor length dress with the veil,gloves,tights and the white mary jane shoes.we too have to wear a cloth diaper and "rubberpants" under our tights and a white under shirt as our top.

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  11. To anonymous september 21,2013-All the preteen and teen girls at my parish also wore the poofy white dresses and bonnets for their easter vigil baptisms this past easter and the majority of the teen girls pushed the modesty limit by wearing their baptism dresses midthigh length and a few had their dresses even shorter! When they bent over their diapers and plastic pants could easily be seen and i thought it was disgusting!Most of the teen boys gawked at them the whole time.It is so ironic that they dress up like babies to be pure and innocent for their baptisms,yet they dont care if everyone sees their diaper and plastic pants!I just dont understand how these girls can do this!

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    1. Our daughter was baptized at Easter vigil last year when she was 16 and wore a poofy,short sleeve flower girl dress with the bonnet,lace anklets and the white 'mary jane'shoes.The dress was also midthigh length and she had a baby print cloth diaper on under her white rubberpants and when she bent over to get the water on her head,her dress went up in back and everyone saw the diaper and rubberpants and she got teased about having the babyprint diaper on under the rubberpants!She was quite upset,but i told her it was her own fault that she wanted her dress short like that.

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