Helpful Youth Activity

In the comments to the recent post on modesty, it was pointed at that many of the young women are receiving guidance on modesty, but that the young men aren’t.  To even things out, should the young men be included in the trend?  I have an idea: 

During a Young Men’s activity, they should each be required to put on a pair of pantyhose without getting a run in it.  (Control top preferred).  They will then wear them for either three hours (church block equivalent) or eight hours (work day equivalent).  At the end of that period, we should sit them all down and have a conversation on why exactly men are qualified to comment on the dress standards for women.

I think this would go swimmingly.  Discuss.


  1. Uh, we’re actually trying to de-gay the young men, not engay them.

  2. Don’t judge a woman until you walk three hours in her pantyhose…

  3. They’d have to be pretty determined to be gay if wearing pantyhose will cause it. I gave pantyhose up years ago. Remember, it has to be 98*F or hotter outside.

  4. ‘Cause if they wear them in winter, they might not think the hose is quite as bad as wearing them while sweating.

  5. To fair, I think we should tell the men to wear plain white shirts with a tie, heavily peer pressure them through action, not spoken word to wear a suit, tell them to be clean shaven, and even insist that they can’t old certain callings or work in the temple if they aren’t, not have body piercings or tattoos, to get off their butts and get a job, go on a mission or be considered selfish louts, and then get off their butts and get on to the marrying. Oh, and to stop looking at pRon you sicko horn dogs, which ruins countless marriages all through your own fault and none of the spouses. It’s a shame we don’t do any of this.

    Actually, I’m not bothered by any of these even though I’ve been a flagrant violator of several in my past, and am still not perfect at others (said as I scratch my scruffy face).

  6. Oh, and cut off the skin of your sexual organ if you want to be considered one of God’s chosen people. (not saying we’re doing this now, but no reason not to dig into closet and pull out some of the oldies) Peer pressure is still somewhat coercive here.

  7. observer fka eric s says:

    Women don’t wear pantyhose anymore, Hey-O!!!

  8. This would definitely be funny, but we probably should require the Young Women to do it to. We can’t think of the last time we saw a young woman in pantyhose…lol.

  9. And if younger adult women wear it, chances are it’s just knee-high…

  10. Even for $1,000,000, I couldn’t tell you what comment #6 is saying.

  11. “it was pointed at that many of the young women are receiving guidance on modesty, but that the young men aren’t. ”

    I would pointing out that there are actually lots of things the men do receive guidance on (as well as the women). If you’re really in the dark on that million dollar question, I’ll put on my Sean Connery voice and answer, “What is circumcision, Trabek.”

  12. kerBearRN says:

    Although Chris there DOES happen to be a great deal of medical research that shows benefit to both owner and female partner of said-sexual-organ-skin-lopper. However, that being said, I’ve never understood why men are born with that bit of skin in the first place. But it is NOT all peer pressure that leads many of us to choose lopping for our sons.

    My personal take on pantyhose is that they are yet one other way to make women feel inadequate about their bodies. I refuse to wear them (on chilly winter days I opt for boots. Summertime is sandal and –yes– flip flop city.). Hose are torture devices that all the more strongly point out to women that they don’t get to wear pants and still be considered “feminine”.

  13. As Chris says, the pressure is there, just in different ways:

    Women face grueling YW Camp dress codes, are lectured to at GC and elsewhere to stop attracting the sexual glares of the sexual men in ward/stake. They are told to cover their shoulders, to wear long shorts/skirts and stop wearing those skimpy sundresses at the age of 4.

    Men are told to wear white shirts, to cut that long hair (anything that doesn’t look like a missionary is evil), to shave that beard (especially if you want to work in the temple), to wear a tie, and stop staring at women in sexual ways. I especially love it when YM leaders tell me that when a youth wears a different colored shirt (other than white), he’s sending a message that he doesn’t want to pass the Sacrament. I love that one.

    They’re both active/present, just in different ways.

  14. Observer clipontie says:

    Men are qualified to comment on women’s dress because women use their sexuality as a resource to attract men. Just like women are qualified to comment on the material resources men use to attract women. Equally shallow.

  15. Wow! Just came across this blog via Very thought provoking posts/comments. I think most people know how to be modest if this is their choice. I’m not speaking specifically about LDS. Modesty encompasses more than just dress. For example, some of the young men in my ward have high school logo lanyards hanging out of their pockets on Sunday. The message that I get from seeing these is, “Look, I am cool because I attend XYZ high school, and am on one of the sports teams!” The young men are wearing a white shirt and tie, but their “outfit” which includes the lanyard seems immodest to me. Young Men leaders ought to address this as it might be “cool” to dangle these lanyards from their pants pockets during week days, but not so cool when they are at church.

  16. Karen H. says:

    So obviously, the OP was a bit tongue in cheek, but it’s brought up an interesting question. Are exhortations to modesty (i.e. telling a woman that her body is a sexual object for men, and it is her responsibility to cover it up) qualitatively similar to exhortations for conformity from men (i.e. unless you choose to dress a certain way, we will assume that you are not serious about the gospel). I guess I don’t think they are. Because women are being framed as de factor bearers of something “wrong” or “naughty” while men are simply told that their dress reflects their attitude. Of course, I’m interested to hear ya’ll’s interpretation.

    @clipontie: please tell me you’re being ironical…

  17. So, completely besides the point, but I’m convinced that the reason women find hose uncomfortable is because they’re wearing the wrong size. On my mission, I’d always wear the full on hose (I’m fat and my thighs rub together, but pantyhose keep the garments in place and add an extra layer of protection against chafing) and be fine, while my companions were fighting knee-highs. Runs, too cease to be as big of a problem if you’ve got the right size.

    They do get skanky, but I figured out that I could was both my feet and my nylons during lunch and they’d dry within the hour, and I’d be ready to go out to do…sigh…more tracting.

  18. Brian-A says:

    Are you implying that only men need to reexamine the comments they give on clothing? I don’t know what proportion of males and females are behind the sources you judge unbalanced, but if much of the emphasis on modesty is coming from Primary or Young Women’s leaders, than training young men will not help. I hope I’m misreading the original post, because an assumption that men alone are at fault is sexist, hurtful, and likely incorrect.

  19. Chris Gordon says:

    Karen H., just to clarify your feelings on the subject, are you less, more, equally uncomfortable with the line of conversation that modesty in dress is a reflection of our own attitudes towards our bodies and of our respect for Heavenly Father?

    I’m very familiar with all of the hedges the church has created around the law (dress is code for your worthiness/willingness to participate in the sacrament, too slutty for leering boys, etc.), and while those may or may not be instructive or destructive, I don’t feel that they’re the main point of modesty as a point of doctrine.

  20. I’m confused. Is wearing panty hose supposed to be modest?

    I love discussions about sexism and modesty! I’ll bet every time I’ve come to church with my shoulders, breasts, or thighs exposed, I’ve gotten more funny looks than any of you women.

  21. jason t says:

    I’m with Karen H on this one. There are two things going on. One of them is that we set ridiculously strait-laced standards (no bare shoulders for girls, no blue shirts for boys) and treat them like Central Pillars of the Revealed Gospel, reenforced in all sorts of ways. But on top of that, the import of the standards aren’t uniform across genders. When the boys don’t live up to them, it’s a shame — they’re not living up to potential, etc. When girls don’t live up to them, it’s scandalous — they’re enticing others into sin. Girls, but not boys, are more or less told that their default state is a base, carnal one that they have to shield others from — they might lead someone into sin on accident, just by not being careful about their wardrobe. We communicate that the worst a boy might do by failing to live up to the dress code is (apparently) not go on a mission — but the worst a girl might do is tempt someone into the sin that’s next to murder.

  22. #16 – Karen: “Because women are being framed as de factor bearers of something “wrong” or “naughty” while men are simply told that their dress reflects their attitude.”

    I agree that the message you summarize is as pervasive as it is dangerous. When we send a message that women should dress modestly to avoid tempting men and men should dress conservatively to honor their calling, the message is skewed.

    That said, I have never felt I was held in less esteem than any other brother in my ward because of my beard. I had a beard during two different terms as bishop in two different wards. I was invited to shave my beard so I could serve in the temple a few years ago, which I did willingly.

  23. Karen H (OP),

    I do all of these things while listening to David Bowie – I even put ona bra and lipstick Buffalo Bill style. Now what?

  24. Jason t, great comment. And a propos your final sentence, please see my most recent post.

  25. Riley, it rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.

  26. “Because women are being framed as de factor bearers of something “wrong” or “naughty” while men are simply told that their dress reflects their attitude.”

    Wait a minute. Our culture promotes booty shorts, low-necklines, and bare backs and shoulders for young women, and promotes pants-on-da-ground and other “attitude” clothes for young men. Seems like society is dressing our YW with sex and our YM with attitude, but the church is being sexist by addressing those things?

  27. No doubt, Martin, it is a reflection of the larger culture, but it’s also a distorted exaggeration of it. You can encourage young women to be careful how they present their bodies in a way that reinforces the cultural sexualization of the female form, or in a way that promotes the rejection of it. We could teach our girls that they are worth infinitely more than their value for breeding and attracting the pervasive male gaze which drives the cultural framing of their bodies; or we can continue to tell them to want absolutely nothing more than to attract a husband to make and nurture babies with and that if their shorts are too short or their navels visible then they are living pornography.

  28. And yes, the church is sexist if it reproduces and reinforces the highly sexist social values and gender discourses of the larger culture.

  29. I don’t usually spend too much time thinking about the modesty wars within the church and am liable to throw off comments in response to posts like Karen’s about standing in solidarity with women in wearing less (I’ve been assured this is due to my privileged status as a male which seems entirely likely). But I was horrified enough by the link Kristine provided in the previous post (it bears repeating: to write The Friend and ask them to retract the story. I hope the church will retract it and take a hard look at what made anyone, even a low-level apparatchik (which, if the story picks up steam and goes viral, I am sure we will hear was the person responsible) think that it would be a good idea to have something like that in a church magazine.

  30. “You can encourage young women to be careful how they present their bodies in a way that reinforces the cultural sexualization of the female form, or in a way that promotes the rejection of it”

    Great! I’m all for that. But the sexism complaint is way overblown. So I can wear a swimsuit that exposes my navel to the ward beach party and they can’t. Big deal. They have to shave their pubes to wear theirs, but if a man tried that, he’d get a lot more grief than would a sister in a bikini. (Course, maybe I should shave my navel!)

  31. Martin, I swear to god I have no ungodly idea what you’re talking about.

  32. Also, I maintain “living pornography” is a valid reason to support modesty, if only one of many and not the primary. It seems like that quote comes out and people throw their hands in the air and run around screaming “NA NA NA” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not any more likely to become living pornography by baring my hairy than Sister Jones is by hiking her skirt up to her cellulite, but for the youth, it’s a different story. But the guys are pretty well covered.

  33. Ack. “hairy shoulders”

  34. Somebody fix that, please

  35. Martin,

    The bloggernacle will concede whatever argument you are making if you will withdraw immediately from the field and spare it any more imagery of your unshaven pubes.


    You brought a knife to a gun fight.

  36. It can’t be fixed Martin–I’ve been scrubbing my mind w/ lye for five minutes now with no progress.

  37. The sexism complaint is not remotely overblown, in that the underlying forms and patterns of sexism at work in the broader culture are magnified and distorted in lds culture and modesty discourse. The world teaches girls that their bodies are primarily sexual objects and that, to a certain extent they should embrace it. We tell them, yes, absolutely your bodies are definitely sexual objects and don’t your ever forget it. You can use your power to attract in moderation in appropriate contexts for appropriate purposes (say, as temple square missionaries our to attract a worthy husband), but DO NOT do it be revealing your shoulders, clavicles, navels, mid thighs, lower backs, or even the shape of your bosoms with form fitting shirts and/or shoulder bag straps. Remember, tastefully attractive but not slutty like the prom girls with spaghetti straps. Also, teach your pre teen and even very young daughters to de-pornographize their bodies by covering their shoulders and wearing modest shorts with their one piece swimsuits. &c, &c…

  38. #36 = best comment of the day.

  39. Brad, I don’t see it. It seems appropriate to teach young women to be attractive but not overtly sexual, and I think that’s what the church is trying to do. But just like any doctrine propagated through the membership, it sometimes comes out funny.

    But at this point, I can’t even take myself seriously, so I’ll bow out.

  40. Damnit, Brad, did you have to mention clavicles? Now Nate Oman, admitted clavicle fetishist, is sure to comment.

  41. Then my work here is done.

  42. “But just like any doctrine propagated through the membership, it sometimes comes out funny.”

    Which is exactly why missionaries are forbidden to play telephone while teaching the gospel.

  43. Aaron B says:

    My problem with our “living pornography” discourse is that it isn’t applied equally to men. When the hometeachers or missionaries are peering through my windows on a Sunday morning — making sure I’m coming to Church, and not really “out of town”, as promised — I’d like nothing more than to be able to call them voyeurs and perverts.

  44. Chris Gordon says:

    I’d like to re-ask my question to the rest of you since Karen H. hasn’t had a chance to hop back on yet:

    Are you less, more, equally uncomfortable with the line of conversation that modesty in dress is a reflection of our own attitudes towards our bodies, ourselves, and Heavenly Father?

    How much baby is in this bathwater, I guess. I’m thinking back on my time as a youth and the brief time spent working with them in callings. I’ve heard many of the things that are being harped on here–living porn, you women are nothing but evil Bathshebas and all that, but rarely if ever as the main focus of lessons on modesty.

    Those unhappy with the current discourse: are you saying that the entire discourse should be changed or that these exaggerations and hyperbole need to be weeded out?

  45. Chris G: Yes. The entire discourse is broken.

  46. Chris Gordon says:

    Okay, how is the larger lesson of how you dress is a reflection of your attitude towards yourself, your body, and your God a broken statement?

  47. Completely sidestepping the misogynist elephant in the room, the larger lesson should be on our relationship with God, not pharisaical obsession over clothes and appearances. Teach correct principles and let them govern themselves.

  48. 46 & 47
    “How you dress is a reflection of your attitude towards yoruself, your body, and your God.”
    That’s a great principle and we should govern oursleves on it. The problem is that the lay membership of this church LIKES to be told what to do. Once you have a code in place it’s much easier to start finding loopholes. Plus if we apply the TCPALTGT principle it removes the ability for me to feel superior because I’m living that particular code better than you are.

  49. Chris Gordon says:

    So again I say, the larger principle of “How you dress is a reflection of your attitude towards yourself, your body, and God,” something that can be applied just as equally to fashion faux pas by either gender is misogynistic and counter-doctrinal because…?

    Are you trying to make the argument that ANY discourse on personal appearance can’t be anything but sexist and misogynistic? Because that’s a different argument than what’s being said here. We’ve got a lot of back and forth about the ridiculous extremes this topic has taken, particularly with children and young men, and I’m all for tempering that to something more principle-based.

  50. Kristine says:

    “It seems appropriate to teach young women to be attractive but not overtly sexual, and I think that’s what the church is trying to do.”

    No, it isn’t. It is appropriate to teach young women that they are daughters of God, that they have gifts and talents that have nothing to do with what they look like, that their thoughts and opinions will be taken seriously by boys and men (admittedly, this is difficult in a church where no adult male ever has to listen to a woman, but we could try changing that up, too, for effect), that we will look them in the eyes when they speak, that women are more than mothers and of great worth regardless of whether they ever attract a mate or have children, that bodies of all shapes and sizes are gifts from God and should be a source of delight and joy. We could treat them as intelligent, spiritually capable beings WHO CAN DRESS THEMSELVES.

    If we did that, the need for talks on modesty for girls, and not having plastic surgery for their mothers would decrease dramatically. Which might just free up enough time for some women to give serious doctrinal talks in General Conference.

    But yeah, I’d say right now the whole discourse is broken, as evidenced by the number of men on this thread who can’t even begin to see that there’s a problem not with the content of lessons on modesty, but with the fact that men feel completely entitled to make pronouncements about how women ought to experience their own sexuality and package it for the entitled males’ consumption.

  51. “But yeah, I’d say right now the whole discourse is broken, as evidenced by the number of men on this thread who can’t even begin to see that there’s a problem not with the content of lessons on modesty, but with the fact that men feel completely entitled to make pronouncements about how women ought to experience their own sexuality and package it for the entitled males’ consumption.”

    Say what? There’s nothing wrong with the content of the lessons on modesty, but the fact that men are giving them? Did I understand that right? That last part completely escapes me, and you weren’t even using big words.

  52. Magnolia says:

    It is appropriate to teach young women that they are daughters of God, that they have gifts and talents that have nothing to do with what they look like, that their thoughts and opinions will be taken seriously by boys and men (admittedly, this is difficult in a church where no adult male ever has to listen to a woman, but we could try changing that up, too, for effect),


  53. Kristine says:

    Martin, it escapes you because the ground of your consciousness is formed in a discursive field in which men’s prerogative to preside over women is assumed without argument.

    (And hell, YES!!!! The problem is that men are telling women (and girls) the best way for them to manage their sexuality to meet the men’s preference. The fact that women might have their own ideas about how to be sexual subjects, rather than sexual objects, never even enters the discussion. The entire Mormon discourse around modesty assumes that women have no desires of their own, need no guidance in expressing or controlling their own desire, and should only be concerned with arousing and/or controlling male desire for them as (mostly) passive objects).

  54. Just the statement “teaching them to be attractive but not overtly sexual…” is highly problematic- it supposes the girl/woman must present herself as an object to be consumed, that her purpose is to be appealing to another within the confines set by that other. In this discourse, She is acted upon, never proactive in herself.

  55. Mathew, who needs a gun when you’ve got Kristine on your side?

  56. Since it’s women teaching the lessons on modesty (with YW callings of course being for RS members, and the Primary Presidency being female in every case I’ve ever heard of), we should kick ourselves for that.

    YM aren’t being taught such a great emphasis on clothes because 1) most adult males don’t care what they look like, 2) most males don’t obsess to the death about make up and dresses, and 3) males in general don’t compare each other to the extent women do (IE: women dress nice not to attract a man, but to one up each other).

    Don’t blame the youth for what is being spoken of by the teacher (or parents if they like to do that “compare yourself to this child to know that what they’re doing is wrong and what you’re doing is right thus causing 4 year-olds to make each other cry” game).

  57. Kristine, you are really extremely awesomely awesome. Your #50 gave me the chills. I want to nail it to a door somewhere.

  58. Kristine says:

    “Since it’s women teaching the lessons on modesty (with YW callings of course being for RS members, and the Primary Presidency being female in every case I’ve ever heard of), we should kick ourselves for that.”

    See above (or better yet, read Bordieu) about the ground of consciousness. OF COURSE the women teach what the men tell them to–it’s literally unthinkable for most of us to do otherwise in a patriarchal church.

  59. #54 – That, in a nutshell, is the central theological issue, imo – the idea that women can’t be agents unto themselves when it comes to how they dress.

    I’m not attacking what I would call reasonable standards of modest dress, but nobody should be taught that the *ideal* is to dress according to how others will or might perceive him or her.

    My oldest daughter is a beautiful young woman who has not been through the temple. She dresses modestly (with moderation), but not as if she had attended the temple. She dresses in such a way that it is obvious she is a woman, but she doesn’t call undue attention to herself. She likes to look good, and there is absolutely nothing immodest about that. I have many female friends who are not nearly as pretty by worldly standards, and they have been endowed in the temple and not endowed in the temple. They also dress modestly (in moderation) – in a way that works for them, regardless of how others might rate their physical beauty. Neither is more or less modest than the other, even though how they are preceived by men, generally, varies radically. That’s important to understand – that how “attractive” someone is has absolutely nothing to do with how “modest” they are. Those two things should not be equated. Period.

    Espousing extremes is not modesty – and, to return to the point of the post, it would do men a lot of good, I believe, to have to conform to others’ clothing expectations to the same degree as women are requested to do. The pantyhose example is perfect – as is the dress / skirt example. On the flip side, there are plenty of meetings that “shouldn’t” require a shirt, tie and suit coat for men – where “modest dress” would point toward much more relaxed standards. It’s not all about cultural requirements for women, but it’s more about them than their counterparts for men, since, by and large, it’s men who establish cultural standards for both.

  60. Kristine, my teen daughter told me that the reason she thought Britney Spears was so messed up was because she started being immodest. “She started to dress like that because it helped make her a bigger star, and she just wanted more and more attention and would dress like that to get it. And then she probably did other things to get even more attention because that’s how she judged herself, until she didn’t even know who she was anymore” My paraphrase — it was a while ago. An anecdote, so probably worthless, but that’s what she got from her YW modesty lessons.

    The church isn’t trying to tie women’s sexuality to meeting men’s preference. That’s just silly. The church is primarily reacting to the trends seen in society, and men are generally covered up, and women aren’t. If our YM started wearing booty shorts and tank tops, I suspect they’d probably speak out about that too, but it’s not a trend in our society (which was the point I was making in my light-hearted train wreck above).

    Don’t get me wrong. I read Tracy’s post and thought it was excellent. But still, I see the problem with our discussions on modesty as being in magnitude, not direction.

  61. Kristine,
    “The entire Mormon discourse around modesty assumes that women have no desires of their own, ”
    Respectfully, your entire discourse centers around the fact that you presume the Prophets and Apostles are teaching with an agenda other than the Lord’s agenda. Your entire presume centers around the fact that you believe the Prophets and Apostles are teaching their own desires to be thrusted upon men and women, and those desires are out of sync with the Savior’s and the Fathers. I would differ that they are teaching in large part their desire, but that is because through a lifetime of following the Lord, their desires have become more like his desires and thus they are teaching it.

    Now, certainly their own imperfections come through in both method of delivery and the style and sometimes content of their response. I think the spirit in every case has helped me to smooth out the gaps. But what I see here is not seeking for understanding, but seeking to change them to understand you.

    That’s great if you know the Lord better than they do (either in general or on a particular point). But that’s a point I’m going to need some more evidence on. And neither you nor your co-supporters have really made that clear. No doubt, the quality of discourse and the method of delivering it can be improved, and I say it is being improved. But forgive me if I’m mistaken it almost feels like the constant railing against the ‘patriarchy that never has to listen to a woman’ is just more burning down the village to save it from the weeds in front of town hall. By all means pull out the weeds, but every issue comes up and it’s right back to square one – you don’t understand because you don’t have to listen to a woman, if we reorganized everything to my liking then we’ll get it right.

    I don’t mean to come off too harsh here, but you may be getting a lot of “Amens” from those who agree with you, but I don’t know how many you’ll persuade without pointing out the true doctrines and encouraging us to rise up to them. If you’ve got true principles on your side, point them out and persuade with them by the power of the spirit. Some of us will listen.

  62. Oh, and with regards to teaching girls to be attractive but not overtly sexual, the church teaches us to keep our homes and yards clean and comely too, but not to put too much effort into keeping up with the Jones’. It’s a lesson in moderation, to some extent, but there’s plenty of women (and probably some men) who throw their hands up in frustration over that too. “Teach me I’m a valuable daughter of God, don’t judge me by how clean my house is!”

    Maybe there are problems with how the messages are given, but there’s clearly just as much problem with how the messages are received.

  63. Kristine says:

    “The church isn’t trying to tie women’s sexuality to meeting men’s preference. That’s just silly.”

    Oh, thanks! I’m so glad there’s a man around to point out how I’m wrong! And silly. Because, y’know, I have only spent a couple of decades reading and thinking and writing about these things, so what you gleaned from your discussion with your 12-year-old is undoubtedly more astute than what I think.

    But maybe you were trying to prove my point about how Mormon men think they’re entitled to speak to women? If so, well played, sir.

  64. Brian-A says:

    as evidenced by the number of men on this thread who can’t even begin to see that there’s a problem not with the content of lessons on modesty, but with the fact that men feel completely entitled to make pronouncements about how women ought to experience their own sexuality and package it for the entitled males’ consumption.

    Kristine, what is that number by your count? Four? Perhaps that number is as high as it is because first half of the original post complains about the content of the lessons (specifically how they’re aimed only at young women). To the extent that some of the content is a problem, then women are also to blame. Note, for example, the Friend article linked to in comments 13 and 29 is attributed to a female name.

  65. Mark Brown says:

    I always find it helpful to compare my wife’s appearance to the appearance of our house or yard.

  66. Mark Brown says:

    Can any of the men commenting here ever remember hearing a lesson or talk on how they needed to be sexually attractive but still modest to the women around them?

    Didn’t think so.

  67. Kristine says:

    Well, we could have a conversation about internalized sexism and women as agents of patriarchy, but it would be a long and complicated threadjack. I should have said that it was evidenced by the fact that good, thoughtful, intelligent, compassionate men like some of the ones commenting on this thread literally can’t see the problem. The number is less significant than the nature of the blindness, I think.

  68. Kristine says:

    ps–every single article in the Friend? Every YW lesson? Every talk given by a woman in conference? Yup–they ALL have to be approved by a man. Women who aren’t good at pleasing men don’t get heard at all.

  69. Mark Brown says:

    “…but I don’t know how many you’ll persuade without pointing out the true doctrines and encouraging us to rise up to them.”

    chris, in comment # 50 Kristine stated that women and girls are daughters of God and they are of great worth, regardless of the size or shape of their bodies, and regardless of whether men find them attractive. I think that is some pretty basic doctrine, don’t you?

  70. Kristine says:

    Chris, your first paragraph is so rife with presumptuous judgment that I don’t think it would be worthwhile for me to try to respond, except to say that you’re entirely mistaken about who I am and where my loyalties lie.

  71. Kristine says:

    And, in the future, please don’t bother with “respectfully” before you accuse me of apostasy. I grew up in the South, and I can smell “bless your heart” from miles away.

  72. Fools (i.e., those with slightly different takes, or even questions) rush in here … but we have to, because you BCCers won’t support most other blogs with your comments. So, expecting to have my head cut off and stuffed into my nether regions, I ask:

    What do you think of the 1957 “Be Honest With Yourself” card given to both young men and young women in 1957, discussing modesty, posted on Keepa this morning? The card addresses several aspects of modesty — dress is not the only, or even the first, topic. The paragraph about appearance reads:

    Modesty in dress is another virtue. Smartness of style and modesty can go together, and often do. On the other hand, to flaunt one’s figure, especially before persons of the opposite sex, may excite attention but not inspire admiration. Immodesty in dress is more likely to bring a “whistle call” of dubious compliment than a sincere proposal of honorable friendship.

    That has to be at least marginally better than most of the examples jeered at in the several recent modesty discussions, if only because it tries to alert a young person to how others’ reactions affect the young person, without making him or her responsible for the moral effects of those reactions on other people. How else does it measure up or fall away from your ideal?

  73. I teach my YW that “church standard” dressing and “modest” dress are not the same thing. We talk about how for church activities, there’s a dress code that includes sleeves, long skirts etc., but that modesty itself has everything to do with how we want to present ourselves to the world with decency, moderation, freedom from boastfulness and vanity, etc. We talk about how if the pictures of old homecoming queens at BYU show strapless dresses, and if ballet dancers or hula dancers at the PCC aren’t immodest, then we can see modesty isn’t measured in inches and belly buttons and shoulders and cap sleeves, but in good judgment and respectfulness in all areas of our lives.

    I will say that I don’t think that having a recommended dress standard is a bad thing while these girls come into their own and develop judgment, but I do think that it’s important that they don’t grow up thinking that those standards are the definition of modesty. Statistics show that not all of my sweet YW will always be in the church, and if we teach them that he concept of modesty is the FTSOY standard, we risk that it will be abandoned altogether rather than being a concept that is positive, valuable and applicable for whatever life path they pursue.

  74. Kristine says:

    Ardis, I do like it, but maybe just because I like American prose style more and more as the decades move towards the 1930s ;) It readily demonstrates the reductiveness of our current usage that Tracy was talking about in her post.

    I think the fact that it was given to both young men and young women is as significant as the wording–my real issue with the current discourse is that it is all but exclusively directed at girls, and it is part of a larger discourse in which women are constructed (mostly by male church leaders) as “pure” and “nurturing” and “naturally spiritual,” and otherwise unfit to participate in either church governance or post-feminist civil society. It’s unsurprising that the anxiety around girls’ assimilation to American society shows up this way at a moment when Mormon expectations for girls (i.e. marry early, have many children, stay at home with them) are increasingly at odds with the opportunities in the broader culture.

    “Modesty” is, at the moment, being made to bear more than it should as a boundary marker, probably because it’s visible, and measurable, and vaguely exciting to talk about. But it isn’t really as central a part of Mormonism as it would seem to any fly on the wall in the YW room these days. I don’t actually care whether my daughter has sleeves on her prom dress (although, all things being equal, I would prefer that she did)–I DO care that she should not mistake those sleeves for a Mormon identity, and I fear that the excessive attention to her shoulders distracts from what she really ought to be learning about the gospel and about what it means to be a Mormon woman.

  75. Kristine says:

    er, what Sarah said :)

  76. Thanks, Kristine.

  77. Stellar comment, Sarah.

    Ardis, I do like it better- quite a bit. The language is more neutral, and it does matter than it was presented to both young men and young women.

  78. Respectfully, Kristine, from my perch in Louisiana, Tennessee is not the South.

  79. Thanks, Tracy.

  80. Kristine says:

    Bless your heart, Ann. I know that’s what y’all have to keep tellin’ yourselves, since bein’ French is almost worse than bein’ a damn Yankee.

  81. 69 – Mark – absolutely true, and if that was said over and over again with a plea to let’s get the discourse to rise to this level, not soul could dare disagree. There’s a lot of other stuff swimming around it and in the background that detracts from the simple beauty of that statement.
    I’ll take a stab a one of those object lessons we dislike… surround that pearl of beautiful true doctrine with a bunch of mud and while the pearl doesn’t lose its luster it gets obscured by all the mess. Forgivable because we all do it, as I slap some more mud on with this post.

  82. 66 – “Can any of the men commenting here ever remember hearing a lesson or talk on how they needed to be sexually attractive but still modest to the women around them?”

    The teachers (I think) got a lesson last week where they were shown a nice gift back with a bunch of trash inside of it and told it’s one thing to look nice and attractive on the outside, but be full of garbage on the inside so they shouldn’t just think about making themselves look good on the outside. I asked the adult who gave the lesson if that was from the manual and they said it was… not sure what lesson though or exactly how it was taught, but that’s the substance of what was explained to me. That doesn’t nail your phrase precisely, but it’s pretty darn close. Turn about is fair play though, in best imitation of Martin above, can anyone remember a lesson or talk when the women were told to be clean shaven? Or they had to wear a particular fashion accessory every single Sunday? We can play the mote/beam in your eye game all day. I suppose some feel the sisters get beaten up on worse, and the point should probably be taken, if someone is feeling beat up on, take them at their word and stop beating! Why not just say that over and over again?

  83. ps – I think what Sarah said was great.

  84. Thank you to you for bringing up these topics and supporting them with healthy discourse. Yesterday I commented that I caught myself instructing my daughters to dress a certain way under the guise of modesty: thanks to you I have had a change in paradigm (especially after I talked to my wife about this when we were bowling today and she poked me in the eye about it). Ardis, thank you for the 1957 “Be Honest With Yourself” card, it helps my wife and I educate our daughters as they grow.
    I wholeheartedly agree that our culture and our doctrine have diverged into separate prongs and aren’t meshed. We read about our doctrine, understand it, and apply it but can’t seem to shake “what has always been”. Like my profession, we have an emerging change in culture where there is a shift between the “grey beards” and the new generation. Its very interesting….
    Like other issues that shroud Church culture, this has negative implications to our missionary efforts when we don’t get the right messaging to our understanding of modesty. Who does it really hurt when a new member who hasn’t been endowed wears what they have to worship the Lord? We embarrass them like Tracy was or we just let it be because there is more important work to do building the Kingdom. The endowment will take care of everything else.
    “Well, we could have a conversation about internalized sexism and women as agents of patriarchy, but it would be a long and complicated threadjack.”
    Kristine, grow some “sack” and do it. Its healthy and not tiresome like the poll posted here a couple months back.

  85. “Or they had to wear a particular fashion accessory every single Sunday?”

    No. Unless you count pantyhose or a dress/skirt as a fashion accessory.

  86. Mark Brown says:

    Chris, (81),

    “There’s a lot of other stuff swimming around it and in the background that detracts from the simple beauty of that statement.”

    Exactly! In this sense, Kristine’s comment # 50 is just like the scriptures, or many general conference talks. I suggest we read it for at least 15 minutes every day, then ponder the ways in which we can liken these thoughts to ourselves.

    Also, ditto Sarah’s comment.

  87. Mark Brown says:

    chris (82),

    I disagree that the lesson you witnessed gets close. The message to young women is that they need to be attractive, but not too attractive, lest they be thought slutty and pornographic. Until we have general authorities in conference tell YM to dress and groom themselves to be sexually attractive to the YW, but to be careful about being too handsome because girls might think they are gigolos and thereby render themselves unworthy to serve a mission, we are worlds apart.

  88. Slight threadjack, but look, there are now posters that YW and YM can measure up to:

    Click to access EFY_DressStandard_Flyer.pdf

    At least for EFY.

  89. Regarding those flyers: So if you have a teen friend who doesn’t look Mormon but might be interested in the Gospel, they for sure won’t be let in and will be made to feel awkward and judged. I would have been turned away as a YW and would never have come back. That’s awesome.

  90. Ok, it’s no threadjack. Just watch the videos in my second link above, both the standards for YM and for YW.

  91. Mark Brown says:

    That is part of the problem, right there. Everybody assumes EFY standards are church standards, so the boy who shows up to youth conference with longer hair can be excluded, or the girl who wears a sleeveless blouse to a dance can be put to shame. The jots and tittles are absolutely killing us.

  92. Jim Donaldson says:

    And folks wonder why the activity rate drops precipitously between ages 14 and 23. Especially when this kind of thing passes for “nourishing by the good word of God.” Sheesh.

  93. My parent’s stake took women’s dress standards to a whole new level. The women were encouraged, over the pulpit in Sacrament meeting by way of letter from the presidency, to A) always wear pantyhose, and B) never wear denim to church. My mom was wearing a denim skirt the day of the discourse. A person with a lesser testimony would have never returned.

    On a lighter note, has anyone seen the BYU-Idaho pool mandated men’s swim trunks? They’d be showing less in Speedos. Think clingy, threadbare fabric. (The same goes for the women’s swimsuits, as well.)

  94. Ugh. I should remove the hyperbole and say a person with a lesser testimony MIGHT not have ever returned.

  95. Steve Evans says:

    I am well pleased in this thread. Martin, don’t let them drag you down!

  96. See, we men get some flack too. ;) To even make it to EFY, YM are told to wear white shirts on Sunday. I don’t have to wear a white shirt to pass the Sacrament, but do to attend EFY. How lovely.

    That said, as a guy, I find it particularly bothersome that we get so much say in what women “should” be doing. I haven’t always felt this way, but am appreciating the new vantage point. Seriously, men at ALL levels of the Church are the ones approving most of the dialogue to YW and women in general. And, I would hope Kristine or someone else could help educamate me on some of that internalized sexism that is prevalent, especially in a patriarchal church. Some of us are trying to change and get out of the box of male stereotypes.

    I’m ashamed to admit that I have an 8-year old daughter who I wouldn’t let wear sundresses as a 4-year old and I still have to check myself about sleeveless dresses even today. I’ve had it ingrained in me that sleeves = modesty, that dress = modesty. Too much – far too much – modesty talk is focused on clothing, and not nearly enough on treating YW as YW and nothing else. We make far too much of the clothing issue (for both men and women).


    P.S. I absolutely hate that we teach the youth (both sexes) that what they wear will either give, or take away, their confidence in standing before God. I hate that we base our relationship with God, and how we’d feel in His presence, on clothing. I hate that we can’t simply teach our youth (and everyone) that God loves them no matter what their wearing, that His love for us isn’t contingent on whether I’m wearing flip-flops or newly shined black shoes, on whether I’m wearing a tie or just a polo shirt that day or whatever.

  97. Peter LLC says:

    Ok, it’s no threadjack. Just watch the videos in my second link above

    You’re not kidding. A partial transcript for the record:

    Female: “I think that most good priesthood holders, especially those that are 16-17 years old, trying to look forward and trying to serve the Lord so that they can worthily serve a mission, that they’re looking for girls that will help them live those standards and don’t, and not necessarily like girls can be a distraction, but in a sense they can be, especially when they’re dressed immodestly.”

    Male: “I like young women who dress nice, not how media and how the images of that, how they’re dressed today, because if they’re all dressed inappropriately, sometimes bad thoughts come into our heads and doesn’t really help us out too much trying to go on missions.”

    Female: “If I could say something to all the young women in the church, I would tell them to be a good influence to all the young men by dressing modestly so they don’t get bad thoughts and just showing that they have high standards so those boys can meet those standards.”

    Female: “You know, if you dress immodestly, you are responsible for putting those thoughts into those boys’ heads. You’re going to be held responsible for that. They are responsible for getting rid of them, but you are the one who…put those thoughts in their head. And for me, that’s always been such a…. You know, I don’t want to be responsible for that.”

    Male: “Elder Oaks taught us that when young women chose to dress immodestly, they become pornography. They become the item that influences men negatively down that path towards objectifying women.”

  98. that is so horrible

  99. Mark Brown says:

    Peter LLC: THANKS ALOT! You have now become responsible for making everyone who reads that transcript 10 IQ points stupider!

    Fowles is right, it is obscene.

  100. Peter LLC says:

    Just humbly discharging my educational mandate!

  101. Peter LLC says:

    By the way, the transcript above is from the “Young Women Standards” video. I haven’t watched the Young Men Standards video yet.

  102. Apparently modesty for young men means wearing your trousers around your waist and wearing a white shirt.

  103. Indiana says:

    It’s the fact that we have teenagers (and grown adults) saying and believing the sorts of garbage that Peter LLC mentioned that bothers me. Should we respect that our bodies are for more than attracting a lascivious or sexually appreciative gaze? Yes. Can we do that by dressing in a mode that is less likely to suggest that we want to call the primary focus of others to our sexual potential? Sure. But seriously: to state explicitly that YW are the sole cause of pervy thoughts in the YM is to negate half of our own doctrine about moral agency. If we allow sloppy rhetoric to imply that a teenage boy is literally incapable of undressing a girl with his eyes if her knees/shoulders/midriff are uncovered, then what’s the point of teaching him that he has a God-given ability to decide how he responds to the various stimuli around him? They seem to be mutually exclusive truths, imho, unless we assume that your God-given ability to decide how you act has a few exceptions in the fine print.

    I think that’s the main problem with modesty discourse in the Church and the obsessive fixation with covering specific body parts and delineating every detail of what “modest dress” must entail. Are guidelines helpful? Yes. Is it worth giving examples of appropriate dress for various settings? Sure. But when we get into what everyone here likes to call Pharasiacal nitpicking, or when we draw false conclusions that contradict doctrine, *that* is where I have a problem.

  104. Kristine says:

    The other problem with this discourse is that, to the extent the young men overhear it, we’re setting them up for pr0n problems–we’re teaching them that women are for looking at, and that women who dress immodestly are doing so because they (wickedly) WANT men to look at them lustfully. If you construct women (and teach them to construct themselves) as the object of the male sexual gaze, it doesn’t matter whether you insist that they cover up or strip down–either way, you’ve told boys that they are subjects and women are objects, and that is the fundamental assumption that enables pornography.

    “Obscene” is exactly the right word.

  105. John Taber says:

    One of my youth Sunday School teachers (born c. 1950) asked the class once if certain dances were banned from the Church dances we went to at the time (mid-1980s). We were a bit puzzled and asked why he was asking. Apparently when he was in Young Men, certain “fad dances” (like the Twist) were banned from Church dances. Apparently the stake at the time (Philadelphia) copied Ernest Wilkinson’s directive banning such dances from BYU.

    There were intermittent efforts in my time in Young Men to impose BYU Dress and Grooming Standards on stake youth activities (as in no T-shirts). BYU streamlined/relaxed such standards when I was there a few years later. I have seen, over the years, this notion among some members that, say, if what’s in For the Strength of Youth is good, then missionary (or now, EFY) standards are better. My answer to that is that missions are only two years for a reason.

  106. I have seen, over the years, this notion among some members that, say, if what’s in For the Strength of Youth is good, then missionary (or now, EFY) standards are better.

    Yes, there is this frustrating tendency to one-up on standards. See the comment about the Arizona stake girls camp dress code — where there are only young women present and no young men. They have the girls practically wearing burqinis.

    Burkaland, here we come. How long until the aged RS sisters and Primary leaders realize that their suburban US outfits bought at Dillards or Nordstroms are considered completely immodest in a truly large portion of the world?

  107. It can definitely be taught as nitpicking.

    I have been shopping with little girls and little boys. Little boys have the choice of pant that fit or don’t and … shirts. It’s a very small range. They can choose to dress sloppily, but really between that and the pants…that’s it. The colors are very limited also; there is an extremely tight noose on appropriate colors for men. Now for women and girls…the sky is the limit. The number of choices are huge!

    Women and men are generally different. IME generally men are more easily visually arroused than women. Are we going to pretend that isn’t real? I understand there are exceptions to this. Women’s bodies are also just more exciting-imo. In the hot, hot south you see men in tshirts. Their option is shirtless or shirt. And shirtless isn’t considered dressed. Women have a whole slew of options that are generally considered dressed…all with all sorts of bellly and breast exposure. Girls can wear glorified lingerie and be considered dressed. As women we can help girls not objectify themselves so that their personalities and brains can take centerstage instead of their bodies.

    I’ve been in YW’s twice. Only once did I teach or say anything about modesty. I pulled one young woman aside to let her know that the way she sat with her skirt showed her underwear. It didn’t bother me if she wore miniskirts, but I did want her to know, as I would want to know.

    I did not have an easy transition to garment covering clothes. I was an athlete and very used to not wearing much. (clothes worn by female and male volleyball players is a @#$#@* subject) I was modest at church, but between, I dressed in shorts and tanktop or shorts and tshirts. I felt WAY overdressed for a long time after going to the temple…then going on a mission and wearing skirts or dresses everyday? I had a few friends talk to me because they didn’t think I knew what a huge change it would be. Because of those two things I have been dressing my children, once they hit school age, so that it won’t be a major transition for them.

  108. Indiana says:

    @103: *literally incapable of NOT undressing…. (forgot that part)

    And Kristine, I appreciate your discussion of the harm of discourse that makes women objects of a male gaze. (I studied this a bit myself looking at “accomplished” women in 18th Century England. A very worthwhile topic.) Is part of the solution, then, to teach us (women as well as men) to construct ourselves as agents who can influence the sexual gaze of others through various methods? If that *is* part of the solution, then – presumably – in a church context it must be more distinctly coupled with the idea that agency and responsibility go hand-in-hand: both for the agent doing the influencing and the agent doing the gazing/thinking.

  109. Chris Gordon says:

    All right, I left this thread just before it got really into it. I recognize the problem with a male-dominated discourse. I’d still like to know where that leaves me. We do a lot of “observing” here of problems and I want to know, on a nuts and bolts level, as a father of two daughters and has someone with a ward leadership position, where does that leave me?

    At some point, their mother and I to feel compelled to have a conversation with my daughters about modesty from the point of view of sex (probably many conversations). Are you (operative you, but mostly Kristine :) ) saying that I shouldn’t have that conversation? That I shouldn’t point out what some men are thinking or could be thinking?

    If so, I think there’s a lot of validity there but I’m not sure I’m ready to take that leap in the interests of helping my daughters understand the world. I think in an ideal sense I want this type of conversation to come on the heels of many many more conversations about their worth independent of looks and attractiveness, and that also I wish I could feel confident that I could just leave it at that, but it’s been my limited, anecdotal experience, that when women reach a maturity level where they recognize what dogs men are and can be and are fighting not to be, they’re a little shocked.

  110. Karen H. says:

    Chris, just for starters, I would say that it involves having conversations with your sons that his actions and thoughts are nobody’s responsibility but his. If the heart of the issue is that we want boys to be responsible sexual actors, then talk to the boys about being responsible sexual actors and leave the poor girls and their shoulders and clavicles and knees out of it.

  111. Karen H. says:

    Of course, let’s not get started on the assumption that boys have sexual feelings and girls don’t. Teaching girls that is just asking for trouble, because when they wake up to what their bodies are telling them, they don’t even have the vocabulary to process their wants–their very real hormonal experiences. It’s so unfair that we put them in that situation. That’s a recipe for girls leaving the church, when they find that their own experiences simply don’t match the expectations they learned at church.

  112. #109 – Fwiw, the reason this is such a difficult topic to discuss is nothing more than the fact that it’s a complex subject. Neither extreme works, so we’re left to try to figure out how to work out a modest alternative to the extremes – and there is little consensus on almost every imaginable topic when it comes to how to construct the proper, modest balance. There is no specific point where reality hits idealism – no clear demarcation line that represents the perfect balancing point on which all can agree.

    Therefore, Chris, imo, the practical ideal is to teach our children the principle of modesty (humility, decency, avoidance of extravagance, etc.) in all its applications and leave the governing to the individuals and families – which requires we follow much more fully the admonition to judge not, that we be not judged. I believe that one concept (“I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.”) is the only real “solution” – and I try really hard to follow it with regard to this topic with my own daughters. That means I have four daughters (and a wife) who have individual, differing views about proper dress (ranging from one who is very “traditional” to one who is relatively uninhibited), and I’m totally fine with that – since they are living modest lives to the best of their understanding.

    I also think we need to stress that it is the men who see who are responsible for the thoughts they think and the actions that follow. One man’s walking porn is another man’s beautiful sister – and the best way to eliminate walking porn is to see everyone around us as truly our brothers and sisters. The ideal isn’t to build unassailable, uniform hedges about the law; the ideal is to internalize the law and quit blaming others if we don’t. Since we live in a fallen world, the practical ideal might include a hedge or two, depending on the situation – but that, again, should be taught as a principle, not as specific hedges in a modesty manual of checklist dress standards.

  113. Chris Gordon says:

    Karen, I get that. When and if Heavenly Father blesses me with sons I’ll bear that in mind. :)

    I guess I’m not yet confident that even if my wife and I work as hard as we can to put the emphasis on their worth and their general awesomeness independent of looks, that that basis will be enough to inform their choices about how they present themselves. I’m willing to admit that my standards might need to be adjusted, but I also loathe the idea of their being leered at, and I would be saddened if they unwittingly brought embarrassment on themselves because I failed to draw a hard line on modesty. I’ve talked to many girls who remember the first time they felt leered at, and while it’s not something I can relate to it’s something that is heartbreaking.

  114. #111 – Thanks for saying that, Karen. I know some young women whom that describes very well. I also know one young man who used to target Mormon young women, since many of them couldn’t process the difference between what they had been taught and what he could make them feel.

    We really need to stop teaching incorrect extremes.

  115. Chris, are you suggesting that if your daughters accept their worth and ‘general awesomeness’ but still dress ‘immodestly’ then there is somehow a failure there? If so I think this might be part of the problem. If you have an issue with them being leered at maybe that is something that needs to worked out on at a personal level rather than trying to transfer that to your daughters. If they have an issue with it then I suspect it would be better to teach them how to avoid internalising the assumptions that are transmitted through such gazes. Surely people cannot avoid those looks regardless of what they wear and therefore the latter seems like the best approach.

  116. Karen H. says:

    @Chris: “Karen, I get that. When and if Heavenly Father blesses me with sons I’ll bear that in mind. :)”

    Chris, I hope he does, because it’s clear to me from this thread that you are an incredibly thoughtful parent who really cares about his kids. I wish every kid in the world had that.

  117. Chris, one thing that you can do is teach your that the ability to attract a male gaze is a kind of power, and can actually be a heady experience. But that kind of power is ephemeral at best and false at worst; it doesn’t get them anything that they can hold on to. The modesty discourse doesn’t teach girls anything about what kind of power to develop instead; it just renders them powerless.

    Real power in the Real world comes from using your brain, not your boobs. When a guy is drooling over your ass he is by definition not looking you in the eye and seeing you as a full human being who’s his equal.

    Cultivating the gaze is a distraction from development of real power. In the short term, it’s a rush. In the long term, it costs you. Big time. And I’m not talking about spiritually (though that may be the case also). I mean materially. If you haven’t developed real power by the time you’re 50, nobody cares that you were hot 30 years ago.

  118. Brilliant Ann!

  119. Chris Gordon says:

    @Aaron, point taken, but that’s not what I meant. I’m talking about that wonderful yet frightening naivete of adolescence and pre-adolescence where many young women feel a desire to dress in a sexualized kind of way without an understanding of what that entails. I don’t see it as a failure so much as just a sad moment where a girl has to come to grips with her own sexuality and a projection of herself as a sexual creature not on her terms, but because she’s being leered at, stared at, or notices that she’s, er, caused a physical response in a boy.

    The lesson there will be that the boy/man/other person needs to get a grip on things and quit being a dog, but there’s also a lesson that how we present ourselves in any context communicates something to others. Independent of anything doctrinal, I have a hard time arguing that’s not a truth that needs to be grappled with, whether it’s a truth that is right or not.

    @Karen H., bless you. :) Just made my day. Will you be my girls’ primary teacher?

  120. Chris, I’m sorry that I misunderstood you. Your, of course, right that there is a sad moment there; but I think that a solution is not to be found in making them hyper-aware of that interaction. Perhaps helping young people understand that they can be viewed as sex objects regardless of how they dress will help a young person realise that the leering of another is more about the person who leers than about how that young person is dressing will assist with them navigating that difficult moment.

  121. Kristine @ 104:

    The fundamentals of LDS discourse (broken or otherwise): Fundamental No. 1: No problem is so serious that it can’t be made yet more serious by linking it with porn! Corollary No. 1: No argument is so strong that it can’t be made stronger still by linking it with porn!

    You were doing great until you wandered off into male sexuality. Which, of course, accepting the premise of this post you are ill-qualified to comment on. Can we agree to just shelve the issue as to why men look at porn except to rebut arguments that women are responsible for them doing so? The fundamental assumption that enables pornography among men is more basic and primal than objectification.

  122. Brilliant, Ann!

  123. It is more primal, Martin. You’re right about that. But it is exacerbated and reinforced in precisely the ways Kristine is describing, I think.

  124. Ann, that was excellent.

  125. observer fka eric s says:

    Ann (117) “Real power in the Real world comes from using your brain, not your boobs.”

    Are you kidding me? Seriously. I’m sitting in a corporation at this moment where T&A has earned many women power that it would not otherwise have earned them on brains alone. I’ve worked many other places where I’ve seen the same. Are the 55+ year old men with $$$$ and a 29 y.o. trophy on their arms just an illusion we see? Money and might, for milenia, has been real power for men. T&A has traditionally earned women power. Did this suddenly change last night?

    It’s one thing to be in a moral organization–in this case, the Church–and to fully acknowledge and then work with realities like this. It’s another for the organization and culture to pretend like these power forces don’t exist and talk about how our brains are the *only* place where power is concentrated.

  126. Ann Porter @ 117:

    Why do we insist on denying the obvious fact that lots of women get power–real power–from their looks. I know a lot of people find deriving power via physical beauty as distasteful. Academic discourse certainly privileges brains over boobs (surprise!) and there are good arguments to be made about why power derived from means other than beauty are superior. Still, it doesn’t get around the stubborn reality that lots of women derive power from their looks and I’m confused why you see this as something other than “real” power.

    I think part of the discomfort with women deriving power from looks stems from the fact that looks are a wasting asset and thus may not serve a woman well in the long run. This is the point you seem to be getting at when you note that beauty is typically considerably diminished, and the power associated with it, at age 50. Still, no one diminishes athletes’ power by classifying it as something other than “real”. And for every wife dumped for someone younger there is a broke athlete thinking about his glory days. And there are lots of beautiful women, just as there are many talented athletes, who parlayed their wasting asset into something that provided them with a larger, longer-lasting power base–be it money or fame or position. So what is going on that so many people are so quick to deny or discount the power wielded by beautiful women?

    It may be that this tendency has something in common with the modesty standards under discussion. Diminishing beautiful women’s power is another means of seeking to control it, to channel it for one’s own purposes and to ensure beautiful women’s place further down the pecking order. In a male dominated world women are forced to compete among themselves for whatever power is accorded them–this looks like just one more instance of how damaging that competition has become.

  127. Kristine says:

    Mathew, I think you’re onto something really important. The problem is that we can’t talk very long about women having ANY kind of power without getting into some very, very uncomfortable territory in a patriarchal church…

  128. Glass Ceiling says:

    When will we realize that only some women get that power that sexuality affords them, just as only some men get the power that intelligence or physical strength affords them? Some women, in and of the Church, seem so jealous of men. Fact is,, most men are jealous of the same men…as well as being somewhat resentful of some women’s beauty. Its just the way of the world. No?

  129. Right, we talk to girls/women in a way that assures them that the only real power they have comes from using their bodies to attract/entice men. Then we tell them, over and over again, NOT to use that power.

  130. Almost any middle-teen girl who puts an effort into it can have power over men. I stand by my statement that this power is at best ephemeral. Did I say it wasn’t “real” power? If so, I misspoke. It’s transitory. If she leverages that power into lasting power, it’s not by virtue of her looks that the power is lasting. I have nothing against beautiful women (I may have even been one, once.) I have nothing against women who leverage their looks to give them ongoing power. But not all women can do that, even if they ARE able to attract The Gaze when they are young. I’ll see your beautiful woman with a brain and no job skills and raise you one beautiful ex-wife with three kids, minimal child support, no alimony, and no way to earn a decent living.

    I’m just saying that the power girls feel by making guys hot and bothered is for the most part not something they can build a future on. Most girls. Just like most guys who are great basketball players in high school or even college aren’t going to the NBA.

  131. @129, Brad: very true. Perhaps an umbrella under which this problem falls is the demonization of sex. While my parents thankfully never fell into this trap, various and sundry Church leaders basically told me throughout my youth that sex was bad. Full stop. And suddenly, I find myself married and – gasp! – allowed to have sex and yet…isn’t this the bad terrible thing I’ve been told will negate my worth and standing in the eyes of everyone? Perhaps the first step in the modesty discourse is to clarify that sex is good and commanded of God, but just as you wouldn’t wear clothes in the shower or strip naked in the board room, there’s a time and place for it. If sex is okay (but reserved for a certain time and person), then feeling sexual isn’t something to be feared, but something to be understood, and then the discussions of modest apparel and sending the right signals have a better context.

  132. #131 – You’ve just outlined the official position of the Church regarding sex. I think the vast majority of members believe that, when it gets right down to it – even those who say things that might indicate they don’t. The foundational context is in place; it’s the direction of the journey that is being questioned.

    Any starting point can have multiple directions that lead to multiple destinations. When the starting point is a good one (and I believe the Church’s starting point really is a good one), but the wrong direction leads to a wrong destination, it isn’t necessary to return all the way to the starting point; “all” that is needed is a course correction to reach a new destination.

    If Pres. Uchtdorf was using an airplane analogy, he wouldn’t have to say, “Return to the hangar and start all over again.” Ideally, he would say, “Decide on the correct destination and correct your course to reach it in the most direct flight path possible.”

  133. Easier said than done, I know. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

  134. Ray @132, I don’t think you did really imply otherwise. And I agree, it may have been a bit unhelpful to essentially restate the official position, but it seems that so many people have missed and misinterpreted that message that on some level – to use your Uchtdorf airplane metaphor (which I appreciate, btw) – it may be worth reminding people of where our plane was intended to go…and that is not where it’s currently headed.

    So, I suppose, back to Brad’s point @129, we should teach that not only do we all, as innately sexual beings, have the power to influence the sexual gaze of others, but we should teach the responsible use of that power in a Gospel context. The problem, then, is that men’s ability to influence the sexual gaze of women is ignored while, simultaneously, women are told that the responsible use of that power is just not to use it. How, then, do we start finding and teaching the middle ground? (A complex question, I know. But as a YW leader and soon-to-be parent, I’d like to hash this one out a bit.)

  135. #131: I don’t think the Church’s message is ‘sex is bad’. I think the message is it only for those headed for the CK.

  136. @135, I think that when Ray said I restated the Church’s official position, it was when, behold, I likened sex unto being clothed in public, but not in the shower: sex is good (and even commanded!), but it’s reserved for a particular set of circumstances (being legally married and having sex with and only with the person you married).

  137. Kristine says:

    Glass Ceiling,
    That is certainly true, and I’ll confess to occasionally desperate jealousy of beautiful women and mild envy of powerful men, but there’s a vast difference, I think, between being jealous of power and wanting just institutional structures and a culture that doesn’t reinforce rather than ameliorate the unfair distribution of beauty’s dividends (or the privilege of maleness).

  138. This is awesome: “but there is a vas(t) difference…or the privilege of maleness.”

    It is unavoidable–the phallus will have its due whether in discourse or otherwise.

  139. nuts–my comment got goofed and my square brackets around an s in difference were deleted.

  140. Kristine says:


  141. F. T. W.

  142. Kristine says:

    I could tell what you meant :)

  143. Glass Ceiling says:

    True enough.

    I appreciate that reminder that sex is a commandment. As a single Mormon over 30, it is easily forgotten …give the current state of the singles program (another subject for another thread. ) :)

  144. Glass Ceiling says:

    (That was not an attempted thread -jack. Or thead-kill. My apologies) :)

  145. During a discussion of a similar topic in one of my classes in high school a girl in my class, who was some sort of shift supervisor at McDonalds and quite attractive, commented that she frequently used her looks to “entice” those under her to do what she needed them to do. Having worked in “corporate america” for the last decade I would submit that a lot of men haven’t changed that much with age and good looks still wield power.

    Also regarding the responsibility of young men for their own thoughts, I get really tired of that argument. Of course young men are responsible for their own thoughts, no kidding! Having grown up as a young man in the church I don’t think I’ve ever received a message that said otherwise. If young woman are receiving that message than it should be changed. But it doesn’t mean they’re suddenly free to show it all.

    Look at the story of Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah. We get pretty dramatic when we retell the story and say he was going around persecuting and destroying the church, and sure he was. However in Mosiah 27:8-10 we learn that more specifically he was “destroying” the church by leading the people away with flattery. Wait, his transgression was influencing people to do wrong? But they can make their own choices, how could the Lord hold him responsible? No fair!

    Now I know the modesty thing doesn’t equate exactly here. For most young women they’re not trying to influence a young man’s thoughts or actions, they’re just trying to be comfortable or feel pretty. But the reality is that whether you like it or not there is an influence and it’s something they should be aware of. No, it doesn’t absolve the young men of their responsibility for their thoughts and actions but it doesn’t absolve young women (and older women) of responsibility either.

    More on topic of the original post. I’d have to say the reason young men don’t get harped on for “showing skin” and why there’s no point in bringing it up is it’s not an issue for young men. Having served in young mens I never once had to tell a young men to wear sleaves next time or shorts that are longer. The styles as they are, young men cover up on their own. The issues we had were with cleanliness of dress, dressing sloppily. That is an issue with young men these days and they do get harped on for it.

    Wow, looking back, I apologize for the length of my post. I just read through the last 143 comments and these were my thoughts.

  146. observer fka eric s says:

    Another string of comments that requires a reference to Zardoz: see Zardoz.

  147. Martine says:

    Interesting story, Shawn. Buckingham Palace has a dress code! Of course, the Queen also wears sleeveless formals and who’s gonna tell the Queen that she’s immodest?

  148. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Kristine, you are very convincing on this issue, and I wish you had more voice in official circles. I feel sick when I encounter this modesty fetish in the church. I am really torn, because I love a great deal about the church, and I find many fulfilling opportunities to serve my brothers and sisters, but my heart breaks to think that my daughters will be taught this stuff. They are too precious to me. This issue is big enough for me that it is causing me to want to distance myself from the church. I taught primary last week, and the lesson for 5 year olds included a story about a little girl that outgrew her swimsuit, and the Holy Ghost helped her to realize her “immodesty” and of course her subsequent “righteous” refusal to wear it. I skipped that part of the lesson, because I didn’t think it was appropriate for 5 year olds, but all the way home I was thinking that the lesson sounded like it was written by someone who believed the “male gaze paradigm” and was struggling with pedophilia. It just makes me sick.

  149. Kristine, your laser of righteousness is turned up to maximum hotness! You have burned a heart shaped hole in my brain.

  150. Martine says:

    Kristine, I failed to say yesterday that you’re analysis is spot on. As Hemi just said, it’s become a fetich for too many in the church. It also greatly saddens me when I think my cute granddaughters—4 years and 4 months old–will get this message even though their mom does not believe it and dresses them in sleeveless attire.
    Your most important point tough, is that both boys and girls are given dress rules–these are not guidelines–all for the benefit of young men’s priesthood role and that the message to yW is that they’re a negative influence to YW unless they cover up the parts the church has decided are the culprits.

  151. Kristine says:

    Hemi, I know. It makes me want to take my daughter out of YW about every other week. They’re having a modest fashion show for an activity soon, and I’m considering picketing :) Or borrowing a horse and crashing the stage, Lady Godiva-style.

  152. kristine, i would pay good money to see that (if i had any).
    and, i feel confident that there is a chirpy 5-year-old mormon girl somewhere who would be happy to tell Her Majesty that she is immodest…

  153. Matt W. says:

    Comment 117 is terrific. Totally worth wading through this thread to get that.

  154. @152
    Gaga, not Godiva.
    These are teenage girls.

  155. Kristine, – great idea, just make sure you cover your horses shoulders.

  156. StillConfused says:

    Panty hose are just yeast infection creation devices and should be damned as such

  157. Kristine says:

    Hemi, maybe I’ll just cover my shoulders–I’ll wear one of those stupid little “shrugs” and nothing else :)

  158. Hannah’s grandmother is a b*tch.

  159. LOL Someone actually condemned purse shoulder straps. If that’s porn to you…. You’ve been watching the wrong porn, Brad.

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