Total Game Control

Guest Post by Emily Holsinger Butler

the playahs

A Catholic friend of mine once offered the idea that world religions exist for one single purpose: to control women. “A bit reductive, no?” was my response. But this guy was wicked smart—never flippant, never glib. And his assertion has stayed with me like a compass point. I refer to it whenever “things happen” in our Mormon universe. Who is trying to control whom, I ask.

I’ve been controlled, sure. In fact, I’ve often given courtesy control to people out of sheer politeness—like all those times on my mission when I submitted to a young district leader’s efforts to foist a personal priesthood interview on me. That was how the game was played. If there was a priesthood leader present, a sister would hop out of the driver’s seat and let him commandeer the wheel. “Take ‘er for a spin, Elder! Don’t scratch the paint!”* Results varied. It was usually fine, and sometimes funny.

Controlling women—have I been complicit? Heck yeah. I’ve collaborated. I’m not proud of myself. Holy cow, I’ve been Vichy France with a temple recommend.** Like that Saturday in 1994, at some church basketball tournament. As a very lovely break from law school exertions, I played on our ward’s women’s basketball team, coached to great effect by our Stake President. It was super fun. We made it to some sort of regional event, and drove down to a building in southern Virginia on the appointed day. Men were playing in a separate but equal tournament on the full-sized court. We were playing on a smaller one, and I wasn’t about to look that gift horse in the mouth, believe you me. As the female players gathered together, we were addressed by a priesthood leader who may or may not have also been the referee (I don’t recall). He outlined a few basics of the tourney, and then, in all seriousness, admonished us to dress modestly on court.

Incredulous, I looked at my teammates. We were for the most part women of a certain age, some of a more certain age than others. Our power forward was a professional nurse of repute. Our best shooter, the only one who could almost dunk, was the Stake President’s wife (and mother of many). Then there was me—I was a terrible player, but was equipped with two sports bras (worn simultaneously) and shorts that covered my thighs very adequately. I honestly don’t remember the other women’s names, but do remember their tolerant, almost vacant expressions as the brother went on about the necessity of sleeves and such. Nobody batted an eye. We regarded him with distant benevolence. We permitted him to tell us how to dress.

And so it was that we were unprepared for the vision that was unleashed upon us a few moments after the good brother concluded his remarks. It was then that the men’s teams emerged from their changing area. Unlike us, they had actual uniforms with actual numbers. On the other hand, it was clear that said uniforms had been handed down through generations of Mormon men, languishing in a Stake Center closet between basketball tournaments that began sometime in 1972. Sleeves they had none. Manufactured from some sort of skin-tight polyester fabric, the shorts stopped mere centimeters south of the groin area, which (how to put this) was exceptionally pronounced, if not practically articulated—so clingy they might have been codpieces for all intents and purposes. The men’s teams were composed primarily of middle-aged priesthood holders who (like us) were in it for a good time, and who (like us) could stand to lose a good twenty or thirty or forty pounds. It would have been a tender mercy for me to offer my second sports bra to any number of those players. Yeah. Their costumes left very little to the imagination.

Again I looked at my teammates. Bless them, their faces were frozen in alarm, not at what they were seeing, but at what was about to happen. We removed ourselves at once to a secluded area behind the bleachers, and fell to the floor where we rolled around unleashing howls of laughter. Personally, I laughed so hard I pulled a muscle in my abdomen, which didn’t help my game at all. We laughed until the tears ran. Someone almost choked. It wasn’t pretty.

What did I learn that day? Can’t say, really. But it does occur to me that we have a ways to go in our church before we can say that we love each other more than we love controlling each other.

Play on, sisters.

*It was, in fact, literally the case that sisters did not drive cars in my mission. That privilege was reserved for the missionaries who worked in the mission office. Who, incidentally, were all elders.

**I’m paraphrasing the wonderful Caitlin Moran, here. Email me if you want the original quote, which is pretty salty.

Emily Holsinger Butler is a hausfrau living in Utah with delusions of grandeur & survival, a writer of books, a hoper of all things and a believer in several of them.

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Guest Post: Mormons, Garments, and Body Image: A Survey

By Nancy Ross

Jessica Finnigan and I are conducting research into body image and garments. We’ve had an abstract accepted by a journal and now we’re in the survey stage. Please help us out by taking this survey.

When the topic of women’s bodies comes up within Mormonism, we’re usually referencing some element of modesty culture. But for many of us, our bodies and our religion continually interact every day through the wearing of garments. Both men and women wear garments, but men and women have very different experiences with their bodies and we hypothesized that men and women may also have very different experiences with their garments as well.

A lot of people have been asking why we would research such a taboo and personal thing. Don’t we know that asking questions about people’s underwear is inappropriate? I can’t speak for Jessica, but I can tell you that my relationship with my body and my garments have changed a lot in the ten years since I’ve been endowed.

Over time, my experiences with my garments have changed, largely as a result of changes in my body. When I went through the temple for the first time, I had a very positive experience with the initiatory, the ordinance associated with receiving garments. Thereafter, my garments were an extension of that positive experience. I was also surprised that garments had such short sleeves and weren’t calf length. I had been dressing hyper-modestly for years in an effort to not offend God and I was relieved and excited to wear short-short sleeves. Initially, garments freed me from my excessive modesty. They were almost liberating and a sign of my sincere commitment to the gospel and to God.

But they never stayed in place, with the legs always rolling up and the lacy necklines trying to climb out of my modest shirts. The lace was always itchy and the waistbands dug into my skin. I got rid of all of my feminine hygiene products with wings.

Despite difficulties, I still saw them as holy. Pregnancy changed my body and I tried to find garments that would accommodate my growing and changing form. My new state left my body feeling extra sensitive and the poorly-placed seems and limited fabric options of maternity garments led me to buy my preferred fabric in much larger sizes.

When my daughter arrived, I tried to continue wearing my bra over the garment top, but it just didn’t work. Even my most traditional and believing relatives said that nursing tops were a waste of money. That summer, temperatures rose to 117 F and I wore skirts daily to promote air circulation around my swollen legs. Pregnancy and childbirth had not been kind to my body.

At that time, garments became a hair shirt that I wore to fulfill a religious duty. I had never seen them as a sacrifice before, but the sacrifice of wearing them in extreme heat with a swollen body was a difficult physical sacrifice on a top of the many I was making with a breastfeeding newborn. I knew that I could not take a break from them because to do so would be to lose my temple recommend, a symbol of my worthiness before God.

At that time in my life, I felt I had little worth. My garments were a symbol that God was demanding and ever-present. I didn’t like my garments or my duty to wear them, but I wore them anyway. I struggled with my body and I struggled with my garments and I felt that God was in the mix somehow.

Today, my relationship with my garments is different from what it was then. My body is scarred with the marks of pregnancy and childbirth, but its general shape has returned to normal. With my garments, the legs still roll up, the lace is still itchy, and I still can’t use hygiene products with wings. I am still committed to the gospel, and even to wearing garments, but I do not see God in my garments anymore and I am happier for it.

Nancy Ross is a life-long member of the LDS Church. She is an assistant professor in art history at Dixie State University and conducts social science research on Mormons in her spare time.
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Earth Mother, Part II

Mother Earth - Caitlin Connolly

Mother Earth–Caitlin Connolly      For A Mother Here art and poetry contest

by Alicia

Read Part I here.

I believe that the substance of our bodies comes from the earth.

Maybe we are looking for Mother in too far a distant place, maybe she is here with us. Maybe she opted to come with us through our mortal journey. Maybe her role of loving and protecting and providing for us are evidence of her faithfulness to orderliness and her obedience to righteous principles. I love that scripture that talks about our peace being like the river and our constancy like the waves of the sea (1 Nephi 20: 17-19); that in so emulating Her, we see the face of God. Can God have a female face that looks like rich deep brown furrows of dirt?

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The Mormon Underwear Monopoly

The Mormon Underwear Monopoly

“When you go home, can I have your garments?” a local woman asked my senior companion.

It was common for American missionaries serving in my mission to throw away their garments and buy all new ones when they went home. Life in this tropical third world country was hard on garments—the hot, sticky climate invoked constant perspiration as we biked or walked for miles daily. (It would also be accurate to say that garments were hard on us, in all that heat.) There were no washing machines.  We hired local women to clean the garments; their rigorous hand-washing methods were pretty effective at cleaning the soiled garments but also stretched them until they were even more shapeless than how they began.

This local woman knew that American missionaries liked to buy new garments when they went home. She was also a returned missionary. But she had not thrown her missionary garments away. A few years after her mission, she was still wearing them. Unlike the American missionaries, she would never leave this tropical land for a place with cooler weather and washing machines with gentle cycles.

And unlike the American missionaries, she could not afford to replace her garments.

She had considered sewing her own, she explained, but that was against Church rules. So she chose to wear my companion’s disgusting, used underwear. She was nowhere near my companion’s size, by the way, but what else could she do?

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Guest Post — Words Mean Something: Modesty and Lust

Oleaby Olea

There’s been a lot of talk recently about The Lord’s Standard of Morality, as defined by Elder Tad R. Callister. I’d like to focus on just two words: modesty and lust.

Modesty in this talk is used rather narrowly to refer to clothing choices – particularly of women.

The scripture quoted to justify women’s modesty is 1 Timothy 2:9, which speaks against braided hair, gold, pearls and costly apparel. It mentions nothing about covering shoulders or knees. It mentions nothing about how men might be sexually titillated by their lack of covering. Elder Callister also missed the verses 11 and 12, which teach that women should be silent and should not be suffered to teach or have authority over men. Words mean things. Selectively using only a small section of a verse, without honoring the context, or even acknowledging that it exists, eviscerates the scriptures and pretends that revelation exists independently of culture – particularly unhelpful when talking about dress standards.

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LDS Church Announces Lightbulb Commandment

steampunk_light_bulb_earrings_by_tanith_rohe-d3heok2

Lightbulb Earrings: One Modest Pair is Sufficient

(Salt Lake City) – The LDS newsroom has announced a new commandment prohibiting incandescent lightbulbs.  The LDS Church hopes this initiative will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 25 million tons annually among the church’s 15 million members.  An LDS church spokeperson expressed optimism about the goal, given the results of a 14-year pilot project restricting earrings.

In November 2000, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley made an offhand remark about his distaste for earrings on men or multiple piercings on women. Church members, eager for new revelation and bored of old commandments, raced each other to prove their faithfulness through approved earring attire.

“I’m not sure that earring thing was supposed to be a commandment,” said Eliza Smith, an independent sales consultant for Hot Modest Jewelry Pyramid Corporation.  “It just sounded like a typical opinion for conservative men of his generation.”

“That earring rule was inspired revelation,” rebutted Jacob Moroni Young, a senior at Brigham Young University who was a freshman at the time of the November 2000 announcement. (“BYU requires a lot of religion credits,” he explained when questioned about his lengthy stay there.)

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