A Modest Proposal For My Critics

By Dannah Gresh, Creator of Secret Keeper Girl

In the past thirty days, CBS has issued a modesty code for celebs attending the Grammy’s while Christian websites and blogs have decried the modesty movement. Has the world been turned upside down?

I encourage you to look at this very graphic visual showcase of just what caused CBS to become so “conservative.” If a picture paints a thousand words, these five might paint a few million! The Daily News’ pictures of Lil’ Kim, Pink, J-Lo, and Toni Braxton are all the reason we need to speak of modesty to our daughters. (In an ironic twist, Lady Gaga is the most modest of them all in this photo review of breasts, bellies, and buttocks.)

Meanwhile, some Christians are saying out loud that the modesty movement might be harmful to women. I’m reading what they have written and seeking God’s heart so that I can learn from them.

In fact, I’m even fine-tuning the language at my Secret Keeper Girl website to reflect some thoughts in their critique. (I so appreciate the good thinking of writer’s like Jonathan Merritt who walks the fine line of embracing truth and demanding grace. He is posing questions, not casting undue and untruthful criticism.)

My heart is aching at some of the things I’m reading from other writers: “Dannah Gresh’s “Secret Keepers” is teaching girls to hate & be ashamed of their bodies. Absolutely deplorable, esp under the ‘good xian’ guise.”

Since my name keeps popping up, may I speak in to this?

Here is where I can agree with my detractors.

Some Modesty Advocates Are Legalists Who Objectify Women!

So many times when the Church addresses modesty, it’s from a heart of rule-based living. “Your skirt should be two inches below the knee.” “Your shorts need to come to the tips of your fingers.” “A Christian woman should never wear pants.” Others can choose to dress like that, but they cannot make it a mandate for me. Making these Biblical mandates and overly obsessing about the female body is both objectifying and shame-based. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a healthy conversation about what’s appropriate for public showcasing of our beauty. Failure to do so places our daughters in the risky position of experiencing the consequences of  expressing their beauty through their sensuality. According to a task force report by the American Psychological Association, the hyper-sexualization of little girls by making them grow up too fast and expressing themselves through more sensual fashion increases the risk of eating disorders, depression and body image issues. The Medical Institute for Sexual Health has determined that girls (and boys) who “look older than they are” are at risk of an earlier sexual debut. How does a girl look older? By the way that she dresses and the make-up she wears. Years ago, something in my fashion-loving self just knew that I needed to be a woman who sounded the alarm to say: “Let’s let little girls be little girls!”

Most Modesty and Purity Advocates Have Inadvertently Made These Virtues About Getting The Boy!

For many years, the shallow end of the purity and modesty movement has offered the false promise of a guy in exchange for her purity ring or modest attire. How sad I am for that! Without even realizing it we have convinced girls they can make a deal with God: a turtle neck now and a wedding ring later. Modesty is not something you use to bargain with God or hide the female body. Here’s where I can agree with the critique of Sharon Hodde Miller:

  • …language about modesty should focus not on hiding the female body but on understanding the body’s created role. Immodesty is not the improper exposure of the body per se, but the improper orientation of the body… When we make ourselves central instead of God, we display the height of immodesty.

The purpose of the body is to glorify God. Do we do that when we embrace the “skin-is-in” fashion that puts our daughter’s at risk? Good critiques like Miller’s and Merritt’s have been shaping and forming the way I have been communicating my messages about modesty and purity. Accountability through kind dialogue is always welcome! The modesty and purity movement must be careful not to unintentionally send a message that purity and modesty are about saving yourself for a man. The purpose of these messages is to protect and respect yourself, and—ultimately—to obey and glorify God.

When Christianity Today’s her•menuetics columnist Elrena Evans posted about me and my efforts to teach modesty, she wrote:

“…the underlying assumption the Secret Keepers seem to endorse is that the female body, if not bad, is at least overwhelmingly tempting and tantalizing: something that must be covered, hidden, and locked away.

The goal of Secret Keeper Girl is for a little girl to believe that she is a masterpiece created by God. For that reason, I’m going to take even her critique to heart as I write content that is careful not to express otherwise. She did find some areas where I can improve. But with all due respect, the female body is tempting and tantalizing. God created women to be especially beautiful.

Why do they use women’s faces to sell men’s razors? Why was the Grammy awards modest standards focused on female body parts? Why don’t men wear belly shirts (Forgive us, God, for the eighties!)? Because female beauty is a powerful force. Advertising gurus have discovered that if you put the photo of a woman in an ad, you can increase the length of time someone spends looking at it by as much as 30%! It doesn’t quite work that way when you use a photo of a man. Proverbs 5:18,19 reads “May your fountain be blessed and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you be ever intoxicated by her love.” That’s a steamy verse. A more literal version of the last phrase might be, “may you be intoxicated by her sexuality.” The female body is powerfully tempting and tantalizing and in the context of marriage this is a wonderful thing, but this is not the core message of Secret Keeper Girl. Our underlying message is that a girl is a masterpiece created by God.  Still, we do not throw out pieces of God’s truth when we talk about a woman’s body or beauty. And the fact that her body is intoxicating is definitely a part of His truth. We do our best to present that in an age appropriate way and over 40,000 moms loved how we did it at our live events last year alone.

Should a girl’s beauty be locked away?  Scriptures don’t directly address modesty all that much. There are four verses that give us specific advice and they don’t tell us if jeans are OK or how low our neckline can plunge. So we are left to surmise and come to our own conclusions about how much skin is too much. And that is why debate is good, but please be careful in how you present your opinions or you lead people to believe that the good work of some of us…well, isn’t good.

So here is my modest proposal for you: when you’re tempted to take things out of context and lead others to believe the worst, try thinking the best as I will choose to think of you.



Dannah Gresh’s Secret Keeper Girl Tour is a faith-based mother-daughter connecting experience. This 2 1/2 hour event features two fun fashion shows that demonstrate modesty and true beauty, deep Bible teaching, live worship, and stories that help girls aged 7-12 embrace true beauty and modesty. Incredible balloon sculptures, bouncing beach ball competitions, mother/daughter conversation time & colorful confetti cannons make the night unforgettable. Click the video below for a sneak peak.


Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh is the best-selling author, speaker , and creator of Secret Keeper Girl, America’s most popular tween stage show for moms and daughters. Dannah has authored 27 books, including And the Bride Wore White, and Lies Young Women Believe (with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth) and is considered one of the leading experts on the subjects of sexual purity, modesty, and true beauty. More than 350,000 people have attended her live events. She has been a guest on CNN, Fox News, and the 700 Club and is a frequent guest on Focus on the Family and Family Life. Her TEDTalk on tolerance for virginity offers thought-provoking look at why sexuality is enhanced by self-control. She lives in State College, Pennsylvania with her husband, Bob on a hobby farm with a menagerie of animals. The couple has four young adult children.

Tokelau VPS Hosting will offer the best linux OpenVZ VPS! - April 12, 2013

Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you penning this
post plus the rest of the site is really good.

Denise Durham - May 1, 2013

My daughter turned 13 this year and has transitioned into the Junior department for clothing. It is difficult to find fashionable and modest clothing for her. I am so thankful that she desires to dress modestly and therefore is not attracted to clothing that shows more than should be shown., Even as a little girl she chose to wear Capri pants in the summer instead of shorts. I try not to stifle her style but some of the clothing is so revealing that I want to return to the children’s department. Your comments were very timely and true, I enjoyed reading your comments. I agree with you a female’s body was designed to be tantalizing to the opposite sex so why tempt a grown man by allowing our daughter’s to reveal parts of their bodies that were not meant to be seen by everyone. Please continue with the work that you do, and I applaud you for being open to and willing to listen to those that attacked your principles and morals. It endears you and this organization to me even more.

Denise Durham

Check it out - May 7, 2013

Great post. I am experiencing a few of these issues as well.

Sheri Timmons - May 10, 2013

I just learned of your website today, but I have striven to teach modesty to my two girls since they were very young. Thank you for standing for modesty. My girls are both plainly beautiful. That is no secret, but I prefer that they know their value goes so much deeper, so that they seek validation from the Father and bloom from the light of His love. Blessings to you!

Autumn McMurdie - May 10, 2013

I have been praying for how to lovingly speak to my 8 1/2 year old daughter about her body, the changes that will be coming her way and sex in marriage. I recently found and read “Six Ways To Keep the Little in Your Girl” by Dannah Gresh and absolutely loved it! I know God answered my prayers through her book and I am thankful that she is making contributions to our society regarding modesty and self respect for our future women!

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