That Time Mary Pride Put the Modesty Survey on Blast

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Mary Pride is considered by some to be “the queen of homeschooling.” She is one of the founders of the Quiverfull movement, the anti-feminism author of The Way Home, and the publisher of the wildly popular magazine “Practical Homeschooling.” I have previously covered problematic aspects of her worldview, including her thoughts on domestic violence and child abuse. Her belief that women’s use of contraception turns men gay is also bewildering.

That said, Mary Pride is also an expert at putting people on blast. Normally she puts her archenemies — child advocates, feminists, and LGBTQ people — on blast. But sometimes even her peers are not spared. The best example of this comes from her trash-talking of Alex and Brett Harris’ 2007 “Modesty Survey.” The following passage is from page 221 of the “Afterthoughts” chapter added to The Way Home‘s 25th Anniversary Edition in 2010:

Speaking of our daughters, I would like to say just a few words about the “Modesty Survey” and other attempts to “encourage” young ladies to dress according to some ill-defined, ever-shifting male standard of “modesty.”

The bottom line here is the belief that women’s dress can cause men to fall into ungodly thoughts. If I had the space, I would have plenty to say about this. For now, consider just this:

  1. The only female features that the Bible says cause potential male downfall are “eyes” (Prov. 6:25): literally “eyelids,” as in the KJV.
  2. The “strange woman” (KJV) or “adulteress” (NIV), who is by no means a Christian sister, leads a young man astray by her smooth speech (Prov. 5:3), not by her outfit.

Those arguing for the “Burqa Lite” standard of Christian dress also fail to explain how young men who faint at the sight of a Christian ankle are supposed to control themselves when out in the world.

Doctors see naked women. Missionaries see half-naked women. But we don’t expect them to go insane with lust.

Proverbs 7:6-27 describes a woman leading a man astray. She is loud, defiant, dressed like a prostitute, and deliberately talks him into committing adultery. Even so, the passage is all about how he should have known better.

I’m all for modest dress, but not because Christian men are going to fall into temptation left and right if various arbitrary skirt lengths, etc., are not met. In the New Testament, “modest” dress refers to “spending a modest amount on clothing,” not to the amount of cloth and where it is draped. “Modest” dress is contrasted with ostentatiously expensive clothing and hairstyles—and the passage is talking about how to dress for church (1 Tim. 2:8-10)!

This preoccupation on men’s part with women’s modesty is misguided and proto-Islamic. Once again, the older women should be teaching the younger what is appropriate. Neither older nor younger men are responsible or authorized to instruct the younger women in this area.

There are, of course, problems within this passage, including Pride’s penchant towards Islamophobia. But still…

burn

9 comments

  • I guess everyone has there moments of clarity.

  • Somebody finally noticed the similarity between the motivations of men to require the high-necked, long, shapeless, denim jumper and those who demand burkas. I AM surprised – especially at who it is!

  • I am so confused right now.

  • Hahahahahahaha this is fantastic and bewildering. But still fantastic.

  • “There are, of course, problems within this passage, including Pride’s penchant towards Islamophobia. But still…”
    I don’t see anything “Islamophobic” about drawing comparisons between Fundamentalist’s “arbitrary skirt lengths” and Islam’s view on how women should dress, I find them very similar as well looking from the outside in.

    • Yes—the pop culture penchant for appending “phobia” to words to indicate “thing I don’t agree with” is tiresome. A casual comparison of modesty and fundamentalist Islam or Christianity is a viable discussion. We wouldn’t say this web site is “fundy-phobic” simply because we have strong disagreements with many fundamentalist homeschool figures. I don’t have paralyzing irrational fear of Bill Gothard, for example, I simply strongly disagree with central tenets of his beliefs and actions.

      • “I don’t see anything ‘Islamophobic’ about drawing comparisons between Fundamentalist’s ‘arbitrary skirt lengths’ and Islam’s view on how women should dress…”

        There’s two ways to respond to this:

        First, there’s nothing Islamophobic about drawing comparisons between a particular Christian subculture’s modesty requirements and a particular Islamic subculture’s modesty requirements. So if that’s what you thought I meant, then no, I definitely didn’t mean that. I would agree with you that there’s nothing Islamophobic about that.

        Second, Islamophobia creeps into your statement when your comparison is between a particular Christian subculture’s modesty requirements and “Islam’s view on how women should dress.” There is no one view within Islam about modesty requirements, because Islam is not a monolith — just like how Christianity is not a monolith. There is no one view within Christianity about modesty requirements, either. Collapsing all the religious diversity within Islam into a monolith is one of the actual, technical definitions of Islamophobia (and I would argue that, similarly, collapsing all the religious diversity within Christianity into a monolith is, similarly, Christophobia). So the _______phobic part of the equation is not critiquing or drawing comparisons between modesty requirements within a religious subculture; the _______phobic part of the equation is when you create a caricature of a religion (any religion) that has immense diversity.

        A casual comparison of modesty and fundamentalist Islam or Christianity is a viable discussion.

        Totally agreed. And that’s what my second point above is trying to say. We can definitely compare a fundamentalist Islamic subculture with a fundamentalist Christian subculture. In fact, the similarities are illuminating, overwhelming, and scary at times.

        My original point was meant to be more general. That is, Mary Pride has a general penchant towards Islamophobia (as defined above). If you read her writings, this is pretty clear. There’s a reason why she refers to modesty standards not as “Puritan Lite” or “proto-Mennonite” but rather as “Burqa Lite” and “proto-Islam.” It’s part of a larger theme in the writings of her and other Quiverfull advocates (and I think it’s an important theme to be aware of, as it is key to understanding underlying assumptions in the Quiverfull ideology).

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    The “strange woman” (KJV) or “adulteress” (NIV), who is by no means a Christian sister, leads a young man astray by her smooth speech (Prov. 5:3), not by her outfit.

    What that proverb seems to be about is “Beware of the sexual predator; beware of the manipulator.”

    Which probably hits a little too close to home for a LOT of preachers.

  • For Pride, Islam is mainly COMPETITION !!

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