#hearLDSwomen: Modesty Is Prioritized Over Safety and Practicality
At one of my mutual activities, all the young women were required to wear a t-shirt over their suits–regardless if it was a one-piece–while all the boys were, of course, shirtless. Any push back and we were not allowed to attend.
– Sarah A.
My daughter went to her adviser’s home for a Young Women swimming activity in a tankini that was quite modest but did technically have two pieces. She was asked to go home and change or wear a tee shirt over her suit because the leader’s husband was there. Same thing with girls’ camp and shorts, men may be tantalized by legs…
– Sherry Andersen
My exit interview was with the new mission president and he talked to me about the horrors of pornography and how male sexual response was 75% visual so I needed to be careful with how I dressed and acted around men. We didn’t talk about my mission experience at all. I barely even talked. It was all about pornography, my body, and getting married.
– Chloe M.
For one of our stake Youth Conferences, our kids were going to an Army barracks and experiencing some military-style training. On the supply list there was a note: “Everyone who attends must dress modestly. For those who don’t, we have a special pair of clown pants for you to wear.”
I found this to be atrocious. Intimidation and threats of humiliation is not Christ’s way to encourage people to make appropriate choices. I wrote an e-mail to the stake president, expressing my concerns. This email was carefully-worded, logically presented, and supported with quotes from different scriptures and conference talks about choice. I tried to point out, in an objective way, that if they want the youth to feel loved at and excited for church activities, fear, shame, and judgement would not achieve that. Instead, the modesty rules and the clown-pants threat would serve to make sure that only the kids who always attend every activity would come. Finally, I pointed out that they were visiting a hot place where they would be doing physically-active activities; surely dressing to be comfortable in the heat would be appropriate?
When the stake president e-mailed me back, he did not mention a single one of my points. Instead he said referred to the modesty section of the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet. He pointed out that the girls in the church have always been encouraged to dress modestly and that the young men who were also attending would not want to be distracted by immodest clothing. My sons and I decided together that they would not attend the youth conference after discussing the church’s unfair and unreasonable expectations for girls’ clothing.
I think what angered me the most was his refusal to seriously consider my objections. Instead, there was a quick reference to the “words of the prophets” and no acknowledgment of the real issue. But mostly it was the insistence of girls’ clothing choices influencing boys’ thoughts.
I wanted to get a group of women together to exercise together once a week in the gym. It is too humid in the summer to meet at a park. They said yes on the following conditions: we had to have a discussion beforehand on wearing modest workout clothes, we had to have music approved by the bishop beforehand, and we had to have a priesthood holder in the building.
I asked if this included non-members that might want to join us. And I asked if the men that meet and play basketball also have to have the same discussion before they play ball.
It never ended up happening because it was just too much to get a few women together that just wanted a place to meet up and let their little kids run around the gym while they could do something active for themselves. I was bummed because I saw a lot of women that were craving a way to connect and I really felt like I had found a way. That was the beginning of me getting labeled a troublemaker. Sigh. I just wanted to use the gym.
Pro Tip: See women and girls as whole people, not just a collection of body parts that need to be covered. Prioritize safety, practicality, attendance/participation, and the comfort of girls/women over arbitrary rules about how many inches of skin they’re permitted to show. Never tell a girl or woman that it is her job to dress to make men comfortable.
“If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:23)