After I read this fantastic post I started thinking again about modesty in the context of our lives as Latter-day Saints. Heaven knows, the Mormon blogosphere has been fascinated with the subject for some time now, but for the sake of the conversation, and partly to underscore how absurd it seems to be to focus on tank tops or shorts when speaking of children’s clothing, I submit the following:
Are the people in this photo dressed modestly?
I’m interested in your responses. All these folks are active, temple-married, garment-wearing Latter-day Saint adults. I’m the one in the middle with the SPF 30 clothing. (Call me old fashioned. And medically-minded in all things sun-related.) The others are two of my children and their spouses. Each person had his or her reasons for their choice of hiking gear in Moab. Each person felt happy and content. We had no discussion about what anyone wore. And I doubt anyone even thought about the modesty issue because, well, we are all modest people. None of us is dressed to draw attention to ourselves or to arouse sexual feelings in our fellow-hikers. It’s hot. People sweat. Chafing is involved.
There may be a second issue here, which is: When must garments be worn and when is it acceptable to not wear them. I’m not addressing that here. But you are welcome to comment about that if you feel so inclined. That could be an interesting discussion.
What I would like to put forth is my personal feeling that if these adults are all dressed modestly, (you’re welcome to your own opinion about that) a primary-aged child simply cannot be dressed immodestly in something like an orange tank-top. How can a ten-year-old be immodest in a pair of hiking shorts? Well, she can’t. That’s how I see it anyway. I know it’s been said before, but I’ll say it again. Let’s stop the prepubescent immodesty insanity.
And for the record, I think the above-linked article had value. There were lessons taught about trusting one’s own feelings and honoring one’s comfort level with various types of clothing. But the suggestion of relative “goodness” based on what we wear made me uncomfortable. And the whole focus on modesty for young children is inappropriate so far as I’m concerned. How ’bout we spend our time (and printing budget) on more articles about caring for our bodies by, say, going hiking in Moab. How about more stories showing how much we love our friend, Lexie, by inviting her to go hiking with us regardless of what she’s wearing?
This goes back to what many others were saying in the comments on the fantastic post you linked to (this one is fantastic too), in that modesty can be circumstantial. Would I wear short–or even long–hiking shorts to sacrament meeting? Not likely. Are they modest when hiking in Moab on a hot day? Of course.
If I may begin the “when is it appropriate to wear garments” conversation: I have a story. When I was prepping for my first child’s birth, I was with a midwife at a birthing center (that didn’t work out-long story) and she talked about another LDS patient she’d had. She was alarmed by how quickly and vehemently the new mama had insisted she get dressed after labor. The mama was hyper anxious about the fact that she hadn’t been in her garments for the duration of the labor and couldn’t relax until she had them back on.
I assured the midwife that we Mormons were not all that crazy. But, that story to me does highlight the fact that we may be a wee bit obsessed with our consistent garment wearing. And I dare say a fair amount of judgement goes around about it.
Thanks, Leah. This is good conversation item. Great example too. There is a wide array of opinion about wearing the garment. And I suppose it’s all very personal and individual.
My favorite garment story involves an elderly Native American convert who, when receiving the garment noticed some specific markings and said, “I already have those tattooed on my body. Do I really need to wear these?” His culture or tradition apparently had a similar origin to ours. [Please don’t tell me this story is Mormon Myth. It came from a reputable source.]
Until as a church we can learn to discuss modesty without only focusing on clothing i think the whole modesty discussion needs to be dropped. We push over and over again hemline modesty…and that is only a small piece of the puzzle. Modesty as it pertains to being a well rounded person with regards to dress, speech, and actions/behavior based on your circumstances/location/surroundings/activity/etc is what needs to be taught. Tunnel vision hemline modesty needs to return to the firey pits of Mordor from whence it came…to never return again.
Agreed. In my statement, “we are all modest people” I was referring not only to our dress, but to the broader definition of the word.
And I would go even further with the tunnel vision thing: The topic of dress standards has little or no place in Christianity as far as I’m concerned. Living a Christ-centered life naturally moves people toward all good things – including all aspects of being “modest” – only one of which is about clothing.
On these lines (haha), one of the largest reasons I see of why we even have hemline modesty is because of garments.
We’re taught over and over how important the temple is. That it is the ultimate in holiness and it should be our focus. And a huge part of temple worship is the wearing of the garment.
SO the connection is formed.
How do you remove hemline modesty and have members stop focusing on it while at the same time regulating it in the underwear that is issued only to worthy members?
It doesn’t work.
I’m hoping for a continued revolution (I’d even take a slow revolution if it benefited my children) in the garment world. I for sure wouldn’t be sad if they did away with them and all of the hemline modesty teaching (that starts in primary just to make sure it’s drilled into them early).
I just don’t understand WHY we need to focus so much on what we are wearing.
When I was a student at BYU I would wear similar clothes while running in the mid-day summer sun. You know, tank top and running shorts. It was at least 90 degrees and my northwestern-bred blood couldn’t handle the heat as well as others. I will always remember what one of my roommates reportedly said about me after I left to run one day: “Why does Rebecca dress like a slut when she runs?” At the time, the cutting remark was devastating. I had no idea I had crossed an invisible threshold into ‘slutdom” and I feared my roommate wasn’t the only one who was judging me so harshly. Now, years later, I recognize how little her judgement matters. I agree with the above commenter about hemline modesty. When we talk about modesty, can we allow only a portion of the conversation to cover appropriate wear for appropriate activities? And allow the remainder of the conversation for the discussion of modest behavior, attitudes, etc?
The modesty rhetoric has blown through the roof in recent years. I don’t get it. It is almost like the church is re-entrenching as it did during the Utah War during the 1880s. I even hear adults advising other adults to follow the For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet. Weird man… so weird
Thanks for this example, Rebecca. Here is the comment I left on the post I linked to above:
“Once again, we as a religious culture are focusing on the outward self with the current modesty obsession. Once again, we find a way to categorize, label and judge character based upon what we see with our eyes. This is a long-time pattern with the LDS culture. Adherence to accepted practices such as non-smoking, non-drinking behaviors becomes the measure of righteousness. Modesty has been moved into that barrel.
This obsession has exploded in the last two decades. While I was raising my kids, the message was present, but not prominent.
I realize part of the modesty push in the world -not just within the LDS community – is a result of what I agree are declining social standards for dress and behavior, so I can give a little slack to the zealots. But the overriding message of “Make your judgements and be judged based upon outward appearance” is the most bothersome part of the whole thing for me. It distracts us from the doctrine of Christ — Faith in Him, repentance, baptism, enlightenment and Loving One Another.”
These two articles may be of interest to readers on this subject.
I agree with the last quote. We are turning modesty into a bright line boundary mechanism like the Word of Wisdom. Now I am actually not apriori against such boundary mechanisms. All groups have them, all religions have them. My issue with using modesty as one of these is that it is so gendered. It puts far more psychological and physical onus on women. The WoW is blessedly gender neutral as is Sabbath Day observance. Modesty as boundary mechanism, especially in a patriarchal church is simply fraught with potential harm to women, much of which we see. Whether it is slip ups like talking about women as “walking pornography” or shaming women, young women and girls for simply having the bodies the Lord gave them, increasing the incidence of pornography addition among men taught to view women’s bodies as sexual objects or simply overrought modesty policing the impacts are there and simply can not be ignored.
“My issue with using modesty as one of these [bright line boundaries] is that it is so gendered.”
Amen. And amen. Thank you for bringing this to the conversation, RAH.
Awesome comment. I feel that this is an aspect that is often overlooked.
I’m really bothered by peers calling girls who wear “immodest” clothing sluts. To be called that… to be thinking that people will be thinking that about you based on what you are wearing has the potential to be harmful. And it is a burden put on girls. I don’t remember the last time someone looked at a teen boy walking around with his shirt off and called him a slut or whatever the male equivalent would be.
Wearing a tank top or short shorts does not make a person immoral or a slut.
I am looking at this from a completely different perspective. When I spoke with my stake president before getting endowed we talked about the proper wear and care of the temple garment. This message was reiterated in the temple as I went through the endowment ordinance. I see the wearing of my temple garment as a priveledge and a protection. Like it or not, the way the natural mans’ brain is wired, appearances often lead to objectification of others; instead of seeing others as a person with thoughts, ideas and feelings, they become an object to be acted upon.
I believe our manner of dress also says a lot about what is going on inside-our thoughts about ourselves, the world around us, our relation to others, and our upbringing. I think it is a form of respect not only for ourselves and the great gift we’ve been given of a body, but for those around us, when we dress in ways that appropriately cover ourselves. It makes everyone more comfortable, we’re better able to focus on each other as people, and decreases distraction and distortion.
Modesty of dress, mind, speech and action are important regardless of gender. This is not just a gender topic, but because men look upon women differently than women typically look upon men-it is different. For me it boils down to respect. I don’t feel it’s appropriate to judge others by stereotyping them as zealots or sluts. As children of God and endowed members of the church this should be a non-issue and we should be striving to live on a higher plane instead of submitting ourselves to wordly views.
A few weeks ago, I was on a small whale watching boat off the coast of Massachusetts. The temperature was in the mid 90’s. I was wearing a tank top and relishing the sun and wind on my shoulders. i wasn’t hot or sweaty. I have come to believe that appreciating the body God gave me means taking advantage of the God-given gift of nature’s air conditioning, which is allowing the breeze to reach the moisture on my skin and cause it to evaporate, thereby keeping me cool.
“Covering up” doesn’t necessarily follow “gratitude for the body HF gave us.” The linkage is culturally induced.
On the boat, I purposely observed how women were dressed and how they behaved. As a Utah resident for many years, I’m not often in a mostly tank top environment and have also been acculturated to believe that women dress “immodestly” to attract male attention and because they disrespect themselves .
While I couldn’t read the women’s minds, what I observed was women dressed for a comfortable ride on a hot day. I didn’t see women attempting to get men’s attention by exposing breasts or thighs. Most were there with a husband or boyfriend and each were minding their own business. I didn’t witness men ogling because shoulders, a little cleavage or thigh are every day occurrence, part of the scenery and don’t cause those men to loose control of their thoughts or actions.
And while we say things like “modesty is not just for women” like we say “the RS General Meeting is the equivalent of the PH session of GC” it’s just not so. Actions speak much louder than words. Modesty talks are targeted to women and girls by men who cannot control their own thoughts and urges. Then women buy into what men tell them and join in the chorus of talks.
Shall I tell you about the Adonis that ran past me, shirtless, tanned, with perfect back and thighs while I was running in Liberty Park yesterday afternoon? I’m nearly 60 years old…and yes, I had a reaction to that guy. Shame on him for CAUSING me to have impure thoughts, because, of course, in the words of Elder Lynn Robbins, he’s responsible for my thoughts if he dresses like this knowing better. I’m pretty sure I was responsible for my own thoughts yesterday.