Are Your Shorts Biblical Enough?

When I was a kid, I grew up going to two different summer camps. For several years before I started going to church camp in high school, I went to a non-Christian summer camp, where boys and girls did their best to fit in, where middle-schoolers dressed like high-schoolers because everyone wanted to grow up as fast as possible, where the shorts girls wore were like underwear because whoever got the most attention won camp that year. During that time, Soffe shorts were where it was at because they were short and thin and did absolutely nothing to keep your butt from hanging out the bottom. Soffe shorts were hot. Soffe shorts were feminine. Everyone else was doing it, and I wanted to fit in. I felt uncomfortable, and I didn’t understand why.

But then, after a while, I stopped caring because I came to the conclusion that no one, boy or girl, was looking anyway. I wore whatever shorts I darn well pleased because that’s what being a young, innocent pre-teen is about. My shorts went mid-thigh, and I didn’t lose any friends. I could stop pretending that people actually cared how I dressed because nobody did.

Then I started going to church camp. Everyone there cared about how short your shorts were, or at least it seemed like it. I made my mom take me to the mall and spend way too much money buying a whole new set of camp shorts because I believed that the ones I had, the already unfashionable, mid-thigh ones from my other summer camp, were too short. The rules were that they couldn’t go above your fingertips, and being the overachieving Asian that I was, I wanted to make sure they were well above reproach. I vaguely remember that I came to this conclusion because a female friend of mine explicitly told me that shorts that were too short were not allowed, and back then, it seemed like a huge deal if I broke this rule. I believed her because she grew up in church, and I did not. I wanted to fit in. I felt uncomfortable, and I didn’t understand why.

Here’s the thing: I am an exceedingly hot person. I don’t mean that aesthetically. I mean that quite literally; I have a very quick heart rate, which makes me the best to be around in the winter because I’m a human heater, but in the scathing Texas summers, I could not stand being outside for longer than two minutes. I was quite positive that I would die.

I couldn’t find girly, pretty, long shorts because, at the time, it wasn’t a thing that clothing retailers like Limited Too, where I shopped, sold, so I opted for boys’ basketball shorts. Let me tell you something. Boys’ basketball shorts are AWFUL. There are layers and layers of fabric, and all your sweat is just trapped under there, and the heat is rising from your skin and it’s trapped in there and it’s just a horrible, portable pelvic sauna. To this day, I refuse to wear shorts that have more than one layer because it’s disgusting. (By the way, you want to talk about being biologically different? Women’s thighs are so sweaty. Probably because men have adapted to the shorts after years of evolution, I don’t know.)

When I was 14, I didn’t know what sexual sin was. I didn’t know what it meant, I didn’t know people our age were looking at each other “in that way.” I guess the adults did, which is why they made a rule that girls had to wear long shorts. When I asked that female friend why we had to wear them, she said, “It’s so we don’t make the boys stumble.”

Ohhhh, I replied, as though I knew exactly what she was talking about. I was under the impression that if we wore short shorts, Christian boys would die. They would stumble and fall in a pit and literally die. That seemed to be the only plausible explanation because, you see, as I had mentioned before, I came from another non-Christian summer camp in which girls wore shorts so short I’m pretty sure you could see everything. But I wasn’t looking because I didn’t know what sexual sin was.

Full disclosure: I didn’t really think that the boys would die. But I didn’t question it because I didn’t grow up in the church. This was just how they did things, I thought. Who am I to come in and protest the way that they do and have always done things? All I knew was that, both physically and mentally, I was uncomfortable, and I didn’t understand why. My friend probably didn’t understand either.

Well, now, I’m 10 years older, and I do understand. I understand that I, as well as generations and generations of women, young and old, should ask more questions. In fact, we should question everything, especially if we are expected to behave a certain way because of it. I understand that I, as a young teenaged girl who did not even know what pornography was (aside from the pop-ups that would occasionally come up on my computer when I tried to watch too much TV illegally), was to bear the burden of making sure my fellow peers, the good, Christian boys, did not stumble in their minds — no, sorry, in their hearts — by not showing them too much of my body. I, as a 24-year-old woman, understand that “boys will be boys,” and we, as a society, can’t actually expect them to be responsible for their thoughts or actions.

This is the part where, if I were in Lizzie McGuire, my 14-year-old cartoon self would quirkily put her hands on her hips and say something like, “How am I supposed to control what’s in someone’s heart?!” You’re not, little cartoon me, you’re not.

Now, before you close the window and chalk this up as another crazy, feminist rant, let me explain something to you. I understand modesty. I understand the importance of dressing in a way that is respectful to both yourself and the people around you. I understand that as Christians, we need to look out for one another in a sinful world where it’s so easy to misrepresent everything we believe in and fall victim to the way the world has been shaped by centuries and generations of injustice and sinful thinking.

That’s why it’s important that you read this.

I need to point out to you the consequences of actions like demanding that young girls wear shorts so as not to make their male counterparts stumble. I need to point out the folly of dismissing behavior with “Boys will be boys.” I need you to see the problem with school administrators like the ones that run the high school I went to saying things like “Girls are responsible for boys’ bad grades.”

Stop. Stop blaming young girls and making them responsible for the way that boys think and act. Stop prioritizing the well-being and comfort of young men before young women. Stop treating young girls as young women, giving them the responsibility of taking care of their generation, while simultaneously excusing young boys from any responsibility at all, thereby sending the message that we cannot expect them to control themselves. It may be a small demand, but it reflects so much more. It tells teenaged girls that their bodies are and will continue to be unceasingly judged, criticized, policed, and placed under fire. It tells teenaged boys that they are not in charge of their own bodies and minds, that this stuff just happens and there’s nothing they can do about it. For me, it sent the message that unless I dressed like a boy, I would never have a place in the church.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the term “bridezilla,” and how it is inherently sexist because there is no male equivalent. (And like a douchebag, I am going to quote myself.) The same applies here. There is no male equivalent. The sexism seeps in deeper than body-shaming and policing a woman’s clothing. It sends the message to females at an early age that women are not allowed to sin. If a woman is too busy trying to keep a man from sinning, how can she be allowed to have her own problems? I have seen too many young women my age be too afraid to admit their own mistakes and flaws because we’ve structured it in such a way that if a man messes up, it’s expected. If a woman sins, it must be kept in the dark.

Now, back to the camp rule. If a male is going to sin like a young man, he needs to be instructed, taught, and guided like a young man. We cannot in good conscience make a girl, at a young age, responsible for a man’s actions, even on a micro level, and then sit here and wonder why, time and time again, rapists like Brock Turner can escape with virtually no consequences. In fact, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network), 97% of rapists go free with no consequences at all. And while all of this is happening, we turn our noses with disdain at a woman who dares to breastfeed in public because, you know, her child is hungry.

In my mind, if Jesus were to walk among us now, if He were to attend summer camp with us and go to parties with us (you know He would) and walk to classes on campus with us, He would be flipping tables because of the way we, His people, treat women. He would turn to the boy thinking about the girl and say, “Hey, man, I know what you’re thinking, and you best back yourself up.” And then that boy would be like “omg you’re so right, Jesus.” And then he would grow up to be an upstanding, law-abiding citizen who has dedicated his life to treating women as equals and not as pieces of meat because… maybe they are. And then He would go back to that young girl and be like, “I’m so sorry that boy was looking at you like you’re some kind of human steak,” and then she’d be like, “Thank you, Jesus.” Or maybe she’d be like, “Oh, but I wanted him to,” and then Jesus would be like, “Stop, you’re more than that,” and she’d be like “omg you’re so right, Jesus,” and then she’d grow up to be President of the United States. Point is a person’s sin is between them and Jesus, and there’s nobody to be held responsible but your own self, and only God can fix you if you let Him. Maybe that’s what we should be teaching teenagers instead.

It starts with the church. In a world where people have moved on beyond Christianity and Jesus and God because we as so-called believers and saints have, time and time again, failed them, it has to start with the church. Whether it’s fighting for equality and feminism or combating racism, ageism, ableism, or any other kind of prejudice, it has to start with the church. It means that you, Christian, like these young girls that you have irrationally placed a heavy burden upon, are responsible for something that you may not have asked for. It means that you, Church, can no longer turn away and pretend that your minute actions have no consequences on the world around you because things are happening, and the world that you have been tasked to care for is falling apart. It means that you are no longer allowed to function exactly as you always have because the way we’ve been living isn’t working.

I don’t expect the church to be revolutionized by a plea for shorter shorts. (You know somebody out there is going to message me and argue with me that this is what it’s about. Let me tell you something right now if that’s what you’re thinking about doing. I’m not having that conversation with you. Back up. Read it again.) I’m not aspiring to change any lives or fix any issues with one post. I just want to know why it was my sweaty thighs that had to suffer for your problems.

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