Is there a verse in the Bible or the Qur’an that specifies how a woman should sit? No. There is a verse in the Qur’an (24:31) that says that women should dress modesty and not display their “beauties”. In the Bible, 1 Timothy 2:29, it says that women should adorn themselves modestly. However, the sitting posture for both sexes is cultural, not religious. It is important that we separate the two because cultures change over time.

The text in the poster above says “I am sitting properly.” If the young person on the poster was obviously male, there would be no reaction. But it is a young lady wearing modest clothes who is “woman-spreading” instead of “man-spreading”. This poster is an example of what is happening all over the world—that western customs are changing the customs in conservative parts of the world. This is producing cultural stress because the rate of change among younger people exceeds the ability of older people to cope.

The photo of the young lady below would not raise any eyebrows in America unless it was published in a church bulletin, but in Moslem countries it would be considered pornography. Generally in the USA, a picture of a woman is considered modest unless a nipple or pubic hair is showing. However, both body parts are regularly shown on TV.

So how do we change cultures at a rate that pleases the younger generation’s desire for progress without destroying the older generation’s concept of morality? About 120 years ago in the US, men would get excited if a woman exposed her ankles in public. By the 1920s, knee-length dresses were common. Bikinis were introduced around 1950 forcing us all to accept all of a woman’s legs and belly without too much excitement.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m sure that the Pakistani poster showing how young ladies should be allowed to sit will force conversations that will move Pakistan a bit closer to gender equity. My wife pointed out that dressing extremely modestly in tribal cultures might be a way of protecting women from the extreme violence that men are capable of. As such cultures become more gender-equitable, perhaps the need to protect women from violence will be less of an issue.

Gender equity is the central issue. Men should not make the rules for women; nor should women should make the rules for men. Both sexes in every culture should participate in conversations that explore what is legal and what is moral.

Thanks for reading,