Peer Review & Skinny Jeans

December 13, 2011

Ah, the BYU Testing Center.  Like Milgram’s famed experiment, the Testing Center is a perfect microcosm illustrating just how quickly people can convince themselves that the pain they inflict on their fellow students is well deserved. This is what happens when unrighteous dominion is given free rein and an orange vest. As Jim on The Office once said of Dwight Shrute, “Never has so little power gone to someone’s head before.”

So, for those who missed this little kerfuffle, here’s a recap.  For those too lazy to click the link, here goes:  a self-described “curvy” female student left a coordination meeting with her bishop (click on the link to judge for yourself; I think she looks awesome and in no way inappropriate), went immediately to the BYU-Idaha testing center, and was told by the testing proctor that she could not take the test because her pants were too tight.  Other students and testing proctors quickly came to her defense but all were overruled, and she was sent home without being allowed to take her exam.  The student paper printed an article about this, which then went viral.  When asked (the first time), the school gave a loose explanation of the policy, stating that form-fitting clothing is against the rules.  However, as the story about BYU banning skinny jeans gained momentum, the school reversed course and clarified that skinny jeans were acceptable.  The abortion rate in Idaho skyrocketed overnight, and Snoop Dogg immediately set up filming for his next Girls Gone Wild shoot.

Was it a rogue zealot who misunderstood a policy?  Doubtful, since University employees had posted warning notes to fellow students: 

“If your pants are tight enough for us to see the shape of your leg (so, pants should not be shaped like legs), your pants are too tight.  If we can see the shape of your belly button (e.g. you have a tummy), your top is too tight.  The CES Dress and Grooming Standards – that you have agreed to Honor – states that:  “Clothing is inappropriate when it is . . . form fitting.”  (what was in that ellipses?  “in any way fashionable, flattering or contemporary”?)   The “Skinny Jeans” style is NOT appropriate attire (until our power-mad assertion hits national news, when it will once again be totally appropriate).  It also says:  “Dresses and skirts must be knee length or longer.”  Short skirts with tights underneath are short skirts.  If your clothing or attitude (meaning you don’t meekly submit to the heavy handed rebuke of your self-appointed judges and fellow students) does not meet the commitments you have made to live the Honor Code, will you please go home and prayerfully talk with your Father in Heaven (just wait until your father gets home, young lady!) and recognize yourself to be a true disciple (because you’re obviously not one, you harlot) and abide by the Honor Code that defines your commitment to be a disciple.”  As a BYU alum, I can unequivocally state that the Honor Code in no way defined my discipleship.  It defined what I was allowed to wear to school and do while on campus.  Period.

And from a Jezebel article, we see that testing center manager John Dexter who apparently has God on speed dial has declared with certainty and solemnity what God is thinking about this episode of What Not to Wear:

If a student prays and they think that the tight ‘formfitting’ clothing is accepted by the Lord, they have not asked, or have not asked the right question, or they have chosen an answer for their own gratification. I don’t believe the Lord would give approval to anyone to be disobedient to the CES Dress and Grooming Standards.

So, whose gratification is this exactly?  The female student who puts on the Freshman Fifteen and finds her pants suddenly snug?  The leering testing center employee who refuses to back down in his righteous vengeance?  Good thing we have John Dexter on the watch and that he’s there to correct the mistakes of University officials and church leaders who evidently got a different answer from God.  Perhaps his authority even outranks an apostle:

“We do not want an environment on this campus characterized by self-appointed, judgmental, and self-righteous spiritual vigilantes.” — David A. Bednar, Ricks College devotional, Sept. 1, 1998

Maybe it’s like with my kids.  Whenever I say “don’t,” they only ever hear the rest of the sentence.  “Don’t spill that!” becomes “Spill that!,” and “Don’t forget to brush your teeth” is heard as “Forget to brush your teeth.” 

What’s worse, the girl in question (whose bishop clearly didn’t object to her attire) stated that her jeans were not “skinny jeans.”  Women who are curvy have a higher chance that clothes will be form-fitting.  And although skinny jeans are popular with both sexes, based on the articles discussing this issue, females appear to have been singled out disproportionately for correction.  Is it appropriate for a male student to decide what is appropriate for a female student to wear?  Isn’t this a situation ripe for abuse?  Based on my own experiences at BYU I would say males harrassing females over standards was an unfortunate and weird stalker-ish byproduct of romantic interest that I witnessed on several occasions.  It’s also a pretty ineffective way to get a girl interested in you, potential standards-stalkers who may be reading this.

Why does this story sound so familiar?  Oh, yeah.  It’s the exact same thing that happened when a Bishop banned cross-dressing toddlers from the ward Trunk or Treat party.  When asked about it, he said it was church policy and that people who didn’t like it (mostly the non-LDS neighbors who were invited to the event as a gesture of fellowship) didn’t need to come.  When it hit national news, the church came out the next day clarifying that it was not church policy.  I liked the suggestion of commenter Jeremy at BCC to measure PR goofs in BFIM units (Brandon Flowers Is Mormon units = the positive value of people knowing Brandon Flowers is Mormon).  How does this keep happening?

I’ve been reading a great book by Caroll Tavris called Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me):  Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs.  The book covers several concepts that explain why incidents like this have begun to happen more frequently:

  • The higher the price to be in an organization, the more people value it.  Those that have set the highest standards place the highest premium on their membership and may not want the rest of us mucking it up.
  • Some people are self-appointed purity police.  Today it’s skinny-jeans.  Last time it was cross-dressing toddlers.  It might be flip flops in church, facial hair or any number of things.
  • When you treat people poorly, you become convinced they deserve it.  Your brain requires you to justify your behavior to yourself because, after all, you are a good person.  So that person you’ve treated badly must deserve your poor treatment.  “Aggression begets self-justification, which begets more aggression.”
  • Admitting mistakes is too painful.  Once you admit you made a mistake, you realize that you’ve harmed other people, and that knowledge is very painful.  Few people can handle that kind of admission.  It requires backing up to the original self-justification and there may be a high body count along that slippery slope.

But the real reason this keeps happening is that

  • Journalism is having a “Mormon Moment.”  What we do is suddenly of prurient interest.  Because many people don’t know much about Mormons, they want to know what kind of person might become President after Newt Gingrich inevitably self-destructs.  “History is written by the victors, but it’s victims who write memoirs.”  The victims of our culture suddenly have advocates cherry picking stories that rightly demonize the zealotry that some members exhibit.
  • Mormonism is no longer a closed loop system. When external feedback comes in to any closed loop system, logic prevails.  We see ourselves and our justifications in a more realistic light.  When we have a practice that makes no sense at all to outsiders but only makes sense to insiders who have paid a high price for it (e.g. polygamy, skinny jeans, cross-dressing toddlers), we may be caught in a self-justifying closed-loop system.  This is why scientific papers are subject to peer review.

From the book:  “If we human beings are inevitably afflicted with tunnel vision, at least our errors are more likely to be reduced, or corrected, if the tunnel is made of glass.”  And, brothers and sisters, ready or not, this tunnel is suddenly made of glass.  What do you think the next tempest-in-an-herbal-teacup scandal will be?  Predictions, please!

Discuss.

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69 Responses to Peer Review & Skinny Jeans

  1. Paul on December 13, 2011 at 6:51 AM

    E-gads. Testing centers, student proctors, dress standards. Ripe for abuse on all sides.

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  2. Kat on December 13, 2011 at 8:03 AM

    I’m afraid I have nothing of real value to add the discussion. I will, however, add a personal anecdote: Whilst at BYU (Provo), an editorial came out about how female students should not be allowed to wear bags across their chest (like a seatbelt) because it accentuates their chest. It’s all ridiculous. If we teach young men to not view women as a piece of sex and also teach them to OWN their own thoughts, none of this should really be an issue.

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  3. abish on December 13, 2011 at 8:17 AM

    i think mitt’s jeans are too form-fitting right there.

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  4. question on December 13, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    those are not skinny jeans, the fabric gets wider towards the feet, they are the complete opposite of skinny jeans. Fwiw, i think the girl looks nice and looks well put together. you might even say she looks “modest”.

    the LDS church is now under a microscope. i know the leaders thought they were before, but this is a new reality. there is no shortage of people that are watching everything. i hope, as you say, that logic prevails.

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  5. Dovie on December 13, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    Ouch. These are big ideas. It is much easier to fall into judgement and condemnation.

    I have no idea what the next thing will be. A little bit I’m glad when things like this are brought to light. I think that it helps force the hard thinking by the students the staff and the institution and me.

    My oldest was accepted to BYU but decided to go to a state school instead (the full scholarship to state school helped). I can be annoyed by things and adapt to circumstances even stupid unjust things, her brain just explodes.

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  6. ji on December 13, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    Excellent article! Thanks for writing it. I like especially, “When we have a practice that makes no sense at all to outsiders but only makes sense to insiders who have paid a high price for it . . . we may be caught in a self-justifying closed-loop system.” What’s the next tempest? I don’t know, and I don’t invite criticism, and I am saddened to read of incidents like this, but we’ll be better because of it.

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  7. GBSmith on December 13, 2011 at 10:08 AM

    This reminds me of an incident back in the day at BYU when a coed was turned away from a test for wearing jeans. She went into a restroom and took them off, buttoned up her coat and went back and took the test. As Monty Python said so eloquently, “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.”

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  8. Amanda L on December 13, 2011 at 10:12 AM

    Great post! I agree with Kat #2 “If we teach young men to not view women as a piece of sex and also teach them to OWN their own thoughts, none of this should really be an issue.” I know someone who once saw a boy in her ward say something judgmental on Facebook about how all the girls at school needed to start dressing more modestly and stop wearing short shorts so the boys can stop being forced to avert their eyes. Her reaction? “I’d love for one of my daughters to marry that boy!” The point of the story, for me, is that not only is that a pervasive attitude in Mormonia, but it is ENCOURAGED. It makes me kinda sick to my stomach…

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  9. Douglas on December 13, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    If we had a shot of the young sister of her backside it might lend more of a “perspective”. However, it seems ludicrous that her attire could be described as immodest. To paraphrase D&C 121, give some twit a little authority….
    I’ve faced this “issue” when wearing a tight pair of jeans and an also tight-fitting T-shirt (sans cigarette box rolled up in the sleeve). I agree with Erin Brokovich that as long as I have one arse instead of two that I’ll wear what I like.

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  10. Jeff Spector on December 13, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    And we wonder why our Young Adults are not getting married?

    It appears to be simply a case of “You’ve lost that lusting feeling.”

    Or, are we just supposed to be impressed that he or she plays a fine game of Scrabble? And anything is “of the devil.”

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  11. Jason on December 13, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    And then the pendulum swings…

    Listen people, yes males should be in control of their own thoughts AND yes women should not dress to provoke.

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  12. LovelyLauren on December 13, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    Jeff, I think all my assets were best shown off when I played Scrabble. My wit, my competitive drive, my fondness for playing dirty words, bending across the table at just the right angle…..

    Seriously though, I was speechless when I heard about this. I just kept thinking, “Seriously? I don’t even have an argument for something this dumb. Seriously?” What’s even more bothersome is that this is a place where students go to take tests they need and it was during finals. As someone in the midst f their own finals week, I found this very cruel.

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  13. Amanda L on December 13, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    #11, I think part of the problem, though, is that when we give people the idea that women should not dress to provoke, it gives them a lot of room to make judgments (and sometimes, as in this case of the testing center, room to act on those judgments). I realize we’re casting judgment in a lot of directions, but judging women for what they wear is starting to get really old.

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  14. Amanda L on December 13, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    To answer the question in the OP, though, I think we have so many possibilities for the next “tempest” I can’t even begin to guess what it will be, but I do think many of them are more likely to appear AFTER Mitt Romney wins the primary IF that happens. Things that the LDS church does in a way that is contrary to the ideals of a majority of liberals (women’s and LGBT issues to name a couple).

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  15. Orwell on December 13, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    What disgusts me most about this incident:

    1. Male employees of the Testing Center taking it upon themselves to inspect and judge women’s attire — creepy, sexist, and a harassment lawsuit waiting to happen.

    Why has it taken so long for administrators to put a stop to this? The more important considerations aside (that the practice is sexist, creepy, and offensive), even the most zealous “modesty”-worshipping theocrat must be able to see, at the very least, that the fallout from one sexual harassment scandal would be a PR nightmare for both the school and church. Since I know they’re obsessed with their brand, I can’t believe this hasn’t occurred to anyone before.

    2. I see the insulting attitude of the testing center director as indicative of the biggest problem at BYU-I. It isn’t the dress and grooming standards themselves, but the attitude about them (which leaders tacitly allow to flourish) that makes the school seem so ridiculous. Despite quotes like the Bednar one above, as long as university employees are allowed to behave in such a manner (and they are), the more extreme dogmatists among the student body will take that as an endorsement of the (already prevailing) self-righteous, gestapo-like, always-looking-for-an-excuse-to-tattle-on-your-neighbor mentality and act accordingly (with relish).

    Brother Dexter needs to be reprimanded publicly so that students understand that such behavior is not acceptable in the eyes of their revered leaders — otherwise he will just become a martyr to the we-are-so-persecuted-for-our-higher-standards crowd.

    Yes, yes, I know that not everyone at BYU-I is insane, but in my own experience there, the vocal minority that is absolutely makes the school worthy of its unfortunate reputation.

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  16. Amanda L on December 13, 2011 at 12:08 PM

    Amen Orwell!

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  17. Miri on December 13, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    That may be a fair statement, Jason, but I don’t see any extreme of the pendulum here… The girl is wearing pants that fit her. If there are people who look at her and see a provocatively dressed lady, then THEY need to be considered the extremes, and not have their unbelievably prudish views touted as the norm of Mormon modesty.

    This is a great post about a seriously absurd event. And while I really hate that we have to spend so much time talking about something so trivial… I guess it’s better than not talking about it. At least the tunnel can be made of glass. (That book sounds really interesting, by the way; I’m adding it to my Goodreads list right now.)

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  18. Anon for now on December 13, 2011 at 12:17 PM

    The rule was intended to address what is known as cameltoe …. How the testing center idiot applied it to the poor girl in this story is beyond rational person.

    But — how many of you think cameltoe is appropriate?

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  19. Stephen M (Ethesis) on December 13, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    I love the book Mistakes were Made. A lot of truth in it.

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  20. chanson on December 13, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    at the very least, that the fallout from one sexual harassment scandal would be a PR nightmare for both the school and church. Since I know they’re obsessed with their brand, I can’t believe this hasn’t occurred to anyone before.

    Yes, but given their soviet-like decision-making process, a little external feedback always helps in these situations.

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  21. Cowboy on December 13, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    Anon:

    Huh?????????????????????????????????????????

    “Based on my own experiences at BYU I would say males harrassing females over standards was an unfortunate and weird stalker-ish byproduct of romantic interest that I witnessed on several occasions. It’s also a pretty ineffective way to get a girl interested in you, potential standards-stalkers who may be reading this.”

    I think there may be something to this. It’s not that far off from the bully in elementary school teasing the girls he likes. He needs to interact with her, but can’t find an appropriate context because he’s either too stupid or too insecure. Therefore, he acts out by trying to express some kind of dominance over her, and the honor code is a perfect vehicle for that.

    I just don’t understand why anybody would want to participate in college enviroment like this. For me college was a great time to find out who I was by placing myself in the intersection of a developing intellectual growth, with necessary lifestyle decision making.

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  22. Jake on December 13, 2011 at 1:09 PM

    On the other side of the spectrum I can remember a talk by President Hinckley when he condemns loose fitting clothing, and baggy jeans as being too ‘slouchy.’

    As a result I personally think the church needs to take a leaf out of the Jewish (or levitical) tradition and come out and precisely quantify the exact dimensions that constitute modesty. I want to know how long the tastles on my robe have to be (to the mm), the number of inches that my t-shirt may extend from my shoulder, the size of my kappah, and what ways I can wear my bag (it could also tell me the dimesnions that my scripture case should be). I think such clarification is much needed to avoid any future confusion as this post demonstrates can sometimes result in. As if my clothes are too tight its wrong, too loose and its wrong. I can’t possible judge myself between the two so I think I need a precise law to tell me and do the thinking for me.

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  23. Cowboy on December 13, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    What is concerning here is not just the micromanagement, but the context. We speak so much about free agency, but I don’t think we truly believe that. If the context made sense, such as a person being denied a temple recommend, or some other relevant situation, then at least we would get it. That is not the case. Instead we are talking about eligibility to take a test during finals. So long as she is dressed, why should this kind of micromanaging behavior be tolerated? Remember, Big Brother is watching YOU!

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  24. Ray on December 13, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    “No, Bishop, I wasn’t ogling her. I promise. I was just making sure she was dressed appropriately. I didn’t know she was the Relief Society President and had just come from a meeting with you as part of that calling.”

    That’s the most ironic part of this whole situation to me. This young lady was the freaking Relief Society President, and her meeting with her Bishop before her test was part of her calling as freaking Relief Society President.

    Heads should be exploding all over BYU-I right now.

    Sometimes we really are our own worst enemies.

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  25. Mai Li on December 13, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    Recently heard of a book y’ll might be interested in. Perhaps you can find it at Deseret Book. It’s called “Free Agency and How to Enforce it.”

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  26. hawkgrrrl on December 13, 2011 at 4:08 PM

    Anon – If you think it is even remotely appropriate for male students to police female students looking for signs of cameltoe, you are bonkers! The signs about skinny jeans that were posted on campus talked about jeans that revealed the shape of the leg. Just because you learned a new word, doesn’t give you street cred.

    Personally, I think a lawsuit would be a great thing for the church – ultimately – if that is what it will take to eliminate this atmosphere so well described by E. Bednar. Until the church steps up and gets guys like Dexter back in line by singling out their behavior as inappropriate (and make no mistake, there are dozens waiting right behind him to pick up his self-righteous mantra), we can expect more PR that makes us all look like idiots. I for one don’t like being tainted by the association with fanatics who harrass women because they can, apparently with the tacit sanction of the school.

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  27. andrew h on December 13, 2011 at 4:39 PM

    “BYU-Idaha testing” – Loved it!

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  28. andrew h on December 13, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    As far as Cross-dressing Halloween goes in the ward I live in (in Western Idaho, no where near BYU I) we had our “Trunk-r-treat” just a few days after the Utah story broke. A counselor in our Bishopric was dressed as a decidedly feminine clown, we had about 4 pre-teen through early teen boys in female cheer-leading outfits (skirts and all), a hand full of boys dressed as female faeries, and a good number of women and girls dressed as “Harry Potter” and other male characters.

    To my knowledge since this “incident” no one in attendance has apostatized, become pregnant out of wedlock, started abusing drugs, or even voted for a democrat! (well, I voted for a democrat, but I was all ready on the road to apostasy)

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  29. andrew h on December 13, 2011 at 4:51 PM

    Cowboy – It would seem that many Church members believe that when Joseph Smith said, “I teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves,” what he REALLY meant was, “I beat them over the head with correct principles, or at least my personal interpretation of principles, and then micromanage them into the ground.

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  30. Cowboy on December 13, 2011 at 5:07 PM

    Andrew –

    That, or perhaps he meant:

    “I teach them general rules with plenty of room for varying interpretations, and then I stare in amusement as they micromanage each other”.

    These examples make it clear than when he said they “govern THEMSELVES”, he really meant that the group as a whole governs itself, not that individuals within the group may govern themselves.

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  31. Badger on December 13, 2011 at 7:37 PM

    I wondered about the sexual harassment aspect when I heard about this. I’ve been to training sessions at more than one university (but nonreligious and outside Utah/Idaho), and I would say it was absolutely clear from both of them that telling students that their clothing was sexually provocative was not unacceptable. At BYU(-I), there are employees whose job it is to enforce the honor code, and as long as that’s what they’re doing, I presume BYU is on safe ground. But if BYU tolerates employees making it up as they go along, and in effect giving “turn-ons” as their justification, I wonder how much legal liability they might incur. In my state at least, the legal standard is how a reasonable woman would react, and it is not a defense to say that there was no actual sexual interest from the employee.

    Maybe there’s some merit to Jake’s advocacy of hyper-legalism, but applied in reverse: if you accuse someone of immodesty but the measurements check out, you’re the one in trouble. Kind of like the penalty for challenging a correct word in Scrabble!

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  32. Badger on December 13, 2011 at 7:39 PM

    …not unacceptable.

    Sorry, accidental double negative.

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  33. prometheus on December 13, 2011 at 8:37 PM

    LovelyLauren – ” I don’t even have an argument for something this dumb. ” This is exactly it.

    And this just pushes me even farther towards thinking that perhaps we need to shut down church schools altogether. Or at the very least, fire the people making these decisions and scrap the honor code entirely.

    Sheesh!

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  34. Will on December 13, 2011 at 9:48 PM

    “But — how many of you think cameltoe is appropriate”

    Rexburg is waaaay to cold for camels. :)

    I think there is way too much emphasis put on nudity or dress and modesty depends on the person. It is interesting that when Adam and Eve were in the Garden it was Lucifer that pointed out nudity was a problem – they didn’t care and as far as I can tell God didn’t really either – see Genesis 2:25 “and they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed”. They were not ashamed by their nakedness, BUT they kept it to themselves.

    I look at a person like Mike S, who probably sees people in various states of undress everyday. I’m sure to him and most doctors the ‘private parts’ are no different than any other part of the body as they have seen it a million times. As I have stated before, immodesty in terms of sexualization only applies to the attractive. Most people wouldn’t be turned on by the fat or ugly in any state of undress or exposure. Nobody really wants to see fat rolls or cottage cheese.

    Attractive people, mostly women, do need to watch what they wear for their own protection. I see comments from people like LovleyLauren and others that have a problem with this stance and see it as the man’s problem and not theirs. My only comment on this is that if you are attractive you are just drawing more attention to yourself, and possible danger, by exposing more of your body. If you are fat or ugly you can wear whatever you want and it probably won’t be a problem. If you’re not concerned for your safety and you are attractive, then flaunt it as there is a big market, but don’t be shocked or offended when men gawk.

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  35. LovelyLauren on December 13, 2011 at 10:55 PM

    Will, I attempted to type out a response to that, but instead, I would just like to direct you to this article. In short, women who wear the hijab in Egypt are actually more likely to receive harassment than those who choose not to.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7514567.stm

    Furthermore, I find you comment entirely irrelevant to the actual post, which is about a girl who is completely covered from her wrists to her ankles and was still refused entrance to a test that was probably vital to her academics. I’m not sure what your point is, other than to perpetuate the same false stereotypes that blame women for the poor behavior of men.

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  36. Will on December 13, 2011 at 11:37 PM

    Lovley Lauren,

    The culture in Egypt is heavily influenced by Islam, which treats women as second class citizens. With that said any article that comes out of Egypt is stained by a corrupt culture and has no basis in reality.

    As for your comment about women, I’m not blaming anyone; I am simply stating the facts of life. It is a pretty simple concept. A lot of men put weight on looks. As I said, wear what you want. If you are fat or ugly, it won’t matter what you wear as you are unattractive, unappealing, undesirable, or whatever term you want to use to describe the fact you won’t get a lot of men staring. In other words, it is impossible to be immodest if there is no demand.

    If you are attractive and choose to wear less clothing it will attract more attention. You will attract enough attention by your looks and less clothing will just add fuel. Thus, the term attraction, desirable, appealing, or whatever term you want to use to describe a lot of men looking at you. If attention is what you want, then fine, wear less clothing. It will work. They will look. They will gawk. If you don’t want attention or men gawking at you, then cover more up.

    It is pretty simple. This is why there are several billionaires selling men’s magazines; and, this is why pornography is still at the top of internet downloads. There is a high demand for attractive females with little or no clothing.

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  37. hawkgrrrl on December 14, 2011 at 12:59 AM

    Apparently the BYU-I testing center’s got a lot in common with Egypt. Good thing women aren’t treated like second class citizens here.

    Will – The girl in question is not immodest by any reasonable standard. She just wanted to take a test, not avoid being ogled. She came from a leadership meeting with her bishop. Yet she was objectified anyway.

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  38. Douglas on December 14, 2011 at 5:47 AM

    #37 – “Objecti-fied?” Hold da freakin’ phone!!!

    I doubt the official that denied the young lady admission to the testing centre was seeing her as a sex object for his own prurient interest. Seems quite the opposite. As I pointed out before, the girl’s appearance, showing only a frontal shot, doesn’t tell “all”, but if I had to employ the same standard an NFL official has to employ to overrule the call “on the field”, I would do. It’s obvious the young lady is somewhat voluptuous, and if that’s your thing, then hey, more power to ya. I can’t see how a reasonable person could consider her as remotely immodest, which I thought was the point in managing a Church-sponsored facility that has visibility.
    I don’t see sexual harassment here, unless the testing official was trying to get something, and, being frustrated, used his position to retaliate. Nor is it gender discrimination unless there’s a provable pattern of applying admission to university activities and facilities that diffrentiates between the sexes. It was rank stupidity, which the marketplace of ideas more than suffices to deal with.

    Watch what youse folks say about Egyptians. I know quite a few here in Northern CA and they seem to treat women with dignity, at least those that I’m acquainted with. A few are even members of the Church. They also have a tradition of Christianity (Coptic) that dates back to the First Century.

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  39. Ray on December 14, 2011 at 6:43 AM

    We can argue about a lot of things, but, at the very least, I think we all agree that the action in question was stupid and wrong.

    Right?

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  40. Stephen M (Ethesis) on December 14, 2011 at 7:06 AM

    Ray, you are right.

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  41. Stephen M (Ethesis) on December 14, 2011 at 7:08 AM

    Douglas — would make an interesting law suit. I think the Church wins by summary judgment, but who knows.

    On the other hand, the young lady did not look very attractive to me. I’d have to agree “It was rank stupidity” …

    Will “if you are fat or ugly” you can count on harassment. Outliers get harassed more than the pretty, all in all.

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  42. Will on December 14, 2011 at 7:46 AM

    “Will – The girl in question is not immodest by any reasonable standard.”

    I never suggested she was immodest, nor am I defending the actions of the man in the OP. I am simply pointing out the realities of what people wear and the impact it has on others. I was addressing LL’s comment.
    If you don’t think dress matters, just dress like a scank or slob for a job interview. If it is a high profile job, you’re not gonna get it.

    I am more of the philosophy of teaching the reality and letting people govern themselves. You will attract different crowds by the way you dress. If you want men staring at your private parts them expose them and risk being assaulted, if you don’t then cover the up, it is pretty simple folks.

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  43. Will on December 14, 2011 at 8:24 AM

    “Will “if you are fat or ugly” you can count on harassment. Outliers get harassed more than the pretty, all in all”

    Not in a sexual content.

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  44. Cowboy on December 14, 2011 at 9:04 AM

    Will, may suggest that if you are going to invoke market analogies, such as “demand” (#36), then you apply them across the board. In other words, there are no “fat” or “ugly” women. Rather, they are just outside of the customer specification limits.

    I love it – unattractive women are not capable of immodesty. Consider that the 2011 addendum to “For the Strength of the Youth”.

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  45. ?????? on December 14, 2011 at 9:12 AM

    Really?? To all of this – REALLY??

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  46. Douglas on December 14, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    Stephen – an “eye of the beholder” thing. Were my intentions of a baser nature, one like her (assuming that she felt likewise) would suffice. But since I’m easily old enough to be her Dad and “retired”, then it would be a matter of would she bear good-looking grandchildren…and that’s for my son to decide. But the issue doesn’t hinge upon the perceived attractiveness of the young lady in question. It revolves around whether the Church’s legitimate interest in maintaining high standards is being well served, and certainly that of the students. IMHO, an apology to the student and some training are highly in order.

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  47. Will on December 14, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    Cowboy,

    LOL

    As poorly as my comments are received, they are in fact true. The dictionary defines modesty as:

    “1.
    the quality of being modest freedom from vanity boastfulness etc.

    It is pretty hard to be vain or boastful with something with little or no demand.

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  48. rah on December 14, 2011 at 11:15 AM

    Ray,

    The most ironic part of this was the women coming from the meeting. The worst part is the sign that was up for days and days at the testing center. It reeks of unrighteous dominion and control. Apparently, thank heavens, there were complaints from students when the sign went up. Unfortunately, it must say something that the sign wasn’t removed upon these complaints and it had to wait for the incident to be addressed.

    I hope the director was disciplined at least informally. He should apologize publicly for the sign and the incident. It is disturbing to me that while we seem to excel at holding women accountable for their earrings and sleeves we suck at holding men accountable for use of their position for unrighteous dominion. I hope that he isn’t getting some twisted positive reinforcement out of this behind the scenes.

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  49. Ray on December 14, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    #48 – I agree, rah.

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  50. Cowboy on December 14, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    Will:

    Just remember, no Prophet is accepted their own land. I’m afraid you’ll just have to persevere.

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  51. NewlyHousewife on December 14, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    Cowboy from comment 23: “We speak so much about free agency, but I don’t think we truly believe that.”

    I once was at a fireside with Elder Bednar speaking. He said something about ‘free agency’ only being placed so children can be baptized. I found the statement troubling with the whole take the sacrament every Sunday to wipe away your sins thought. You can’t sin if you don’t have the agency to.

    Plus I like to think my free agency doesn’t have a time stamp that ends when I get dunked…But that’s just me.

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  52. Jen on December 14, 2011 at 1:10 PM

    How can anyone outside of the church read the posted warning note and not think we are a bunch of freaks? Seriously. It makes me feel like I am a part of a group that needs a major reality check.

    I’d like to think that if Jesus was the testing center director, he would not have only welcomed her in, but would have probably been sportin’ some skinny jeans of His own. The whole thing is over the top and God isn’t involved in ridiculous things like this, it’s foolish people who think they know God, but truly have missed the whole point.

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  53. Cowboy on December 14, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    Newlyhousewife:

    That is interesting. In part because it goes so counter what we teach about agency, and for how it rubs just against general sensibilities. It is also interesting because from my experience, baptisms are one of the least agency driven activities we do in Church.

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  54. KT on December 14, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    I really don’t think as one commenter said that the Church needs to come out and “precisely quantify the exact dimensions that constitute modesty”.
    As another commenter said, what the heck about free agency?? Isn’t that one thing the Church has that sets us apart and that we stick to?
    The Church can give guidelines, but we should have our own free agency and therefore will have our own judgment!

    As for the comments on how young men in the church will place these judgments upon young women, well, what are they modeling after…?? The adults and leadership in the church!

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  55. NewlyHousewife on December 14, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    Cowboy, I totally agree with you. I admit when I got baptized at 8, it wasn’t because I had a testimony of the gospel–its the thing to do and you get a gift in primary afterwards, or you used.

    Never heard of an 8 year old saying ‘no’ so I assume a lot of it is pressure driven.

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  56. NewlyHousewife on December 14, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    **used to.

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  57. NewlyHousewife on December 14, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    KT, Do you think the terminology we use when it comes to the Strength for Youth has a big impact on it? (ex: Guidelines vs. Advice, Based on inspiration vs. Based on culture, Used as an example of scripture vs. No one quotes any other handouts over the pulpit so why this one)

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  58. hawkgrrrl on December 14, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    KT – I’m pretty sure Jake was being sarcastic and making an analogy to the pharisees with their specific measurements for the borders of their robes.

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  59. Paul on December 14, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    The BYU-I issue is one of bureaucratic creep to be sure — an administrator has taken it upon himself to be more restictive than the actual code, based on his own interpretation.

    I guess I can understand those who blame the church for this, since it’s a church-owned institution.

    I’m still trying to figure out how the young woman pictured could not be allowed in the testing center.

    Of course, this is BYU-I. I always assumed they were a bit of the beam up there.

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  60. Anselma on December 15, 2011 at 4:25 PM

    And this is why I went to university outside of the BYU system. I think that when we hold students to a more stringent set of requirements than those necessary to be a temple-worthy member of the church, and also substitute God’s consequences for sin with man-made ones (like not being able to take a final exam), we do harm to young people’s spiritual development and faith.

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  61. Orwell on December 16, 2011 at 6:28 PM

    A great comment on the incident from a poster named Ryan over at the BYU-I Scroll:

    Unless you all think that we are working from misinformation outside of Rexburg, the Mormon world knows that the school never banned skinny jeans. However, the troubling aspect of the incident is not that it was a school policy. In fact, what is most troubling is that incidents like these have come to represent what is happening all over the Church at church dances, in wards, at girl’s camp, at EFY etc. “Modesty” and its social enforcement has become dysfunctional and counterproductive leading to an escalating zealotry in which girls and women are being judged, humiliated, and controlled for nothing more than having bodies.

    For what it is worth, the worst part of this particular episode wasn’t the twit testing center employee who made a mistake, but the sign hung up by administrators spiritually bullying people, invoking holy prayer as a social control mechanism, and presuming that if you don’t get the same “answer” as the testing center bureaucracy you aren’t a “true disciple” of Christ. The horrible irony of course is that Christ spent a good part of his ministry trying to teach his disciples that the Pharisaical obsession with judging others and creating minute rules around the gospel disqualified them from true discipleship. The modesty Gestapo culture we have created not just at BYUI but in the church at large seems to have shot well beyond the mark of teaching standards. It is worth some serious self-reflection among all Mormons generally about what we are doing to your young women and young men in this regard. Frankly, the testing center deserved to be mocked and the administration as well for creating a climate in which a sign like that could be displayed unproblematically for days. But really the Mormon reaction to this isn’t really about you guys at BYUI but because we are seeing and experiencing this all over the church.

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  62. Douglas on December 16, 2011 at 6:46 PM

    #61 – Hear, hear!!

    An example of this judgemental-ism and heaping of personal “standards” on top of what the Church has explicitly proclaimed as “compliant” and judging others by them:

    Some time ago, I was visiting with my wife’s younger sis who is stereotypically “Molly”. To be fair, she’s decent and bakes a mean apple pie from scratch! She noticed me throwing back a 16 oz Red Bull and in shock accused me of being practically apostate. “Those things are against the Word of Wisdom!”. Funny, I’d knocked down an 8 ouncer in the Bishop’s office (he had a grape Shasta), we were both thirsty and in “need” of a “cold one!”. Maybe it was the dosing quantity?

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  63. Ray on December 16, 2011 at 7:20 PM

    Douglas, drinking Red Bull isn’t explicitly a violation of the Word of Wisdom – but it is a violation of simple wisdom. ;)

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  64. Jack Ply on December 17, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    As an alumni of BYU-I, I can’t think of a better description of the general student body than “self-appointed, judgmental, and self-righteous spiritual vigilantes.” I was once sent away from the testing center for having facial hair. I had shaved less than 8 hours prior. I returned an hour later with a horrible razor rash and bleeding neck ready to take my test. I couldn’t help but feel that the sister who denied me didn’t understand the horrors of shaving ones neck twice in a single day.

    While working at the student cafeteria, I witnessed (on several occasions) freshmen on meal plans being denied service based upon their dress and grooming choices. One young man was unable to eat for days because of a poor choice of hair dye. Eventually this humbled (likely by hunger) student returned to eat with a shaven head.

    These situations will always exist in an environment set up this way, especially with students (like 19th century overseers) in positions of judgment.

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  65. [...] worn would be plausible with garments. Quite frankly, that seems like something you might see out of BYU, but there is definitely some skepticism as to whether Mormons Building Bridges reflects something [...]

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  66. CG8s on June 19, 2013 at 10:22 PM

    Although I was admitted to BYU, I chose to attend Stanford instead. I’ve always had a problem with the BYU honor code, especially the inconsistent nature it is applied. (Hello, athletes should be held accountable just as much as other students.) But I’ve had a bigger problem with BYU students and alums who complain about the Honor Code. It’s not like it was a secret you didn’t know about. If you willfully chose to attend a school with such a strict honor code, then own up to it. If it bothers you, then go to a different school. BYU alums that criticize the honor code they chose to sign (like this author) have lost their credibility in my eyes, no matter how strong their argument (like this author).

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  67. hawkgrrrl on June 19, 2013 at 11:32 PM

    CG8s – the honor code is applied differently by different students (as you point out). In this case, the school agreed with the student that her jeans were OK. But that doesn’t mean she wasn’t treated poorly. Also, my tithing money subsidizes BYU whether I attend there or not, whether I send my kids there or not. Why shouldn’t I be able to disagree with anything it does? As an alum, I have more credibility in doing so, not less, because I have personal experience.

    As to your love it or leave it attitude, given that the subsidy of my tithing dollars makes BYU a fourth the cost of most US universities and half the cost of the state school tuition my children are eligible for, it’s unfair to say that if I think the honor code is Pharisaical hedges-about-the-law stuff that I should simply pay twice as much to send my kids to a school that is not as good academically.

    I do realize that in some circles any kind of critical comment is viewed as a sign of organizational disloyalty. My view as a believing Mormon who is proud of my BYU degree is that I am engaged and invested enough to care to suggest improvements.

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  68. Douglas on June 19, 2013 at 11:48 PM

    #67 – there’s a line between “steadying the Ark”, “seeking to counsel your God”, and the peanut gallery giving feedback. IMO, though “revelation” comes from the top down by definition, just as the Lord wasn’t particular about the path of the Saints during Zion’s camp, so I would guess He doesn’t want to micromanage every detail about the doings of “his” University…it’s called delegation. So say on, especially since you have personal experience.
    Funny, no one gripes about the environment at Fresno State…must be that Bulldog wine (yes, CSU Fresno has its own winery, and the grapes are still there on some primo real estate, even for Fresno).

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  69. Mike S on June 20, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    I hadn’t commented on the original post, even though it is old now. My experience – I actually went to BYU – for a time. I had a full 4-year presidential scholarship (Kimball scholarship – that dates me) that paid tuition and extra cash to go towards room and board.

    One day I went to the testing center to take a test. Based on how and where I grew up, I was dressed quite nicely. I was wearing khaki pants and an Oxford button-down shirt. I was also wearing Top-siders (which also dates me) but no socks. Someone wrote down my name and I ended up having to go to the “standards office” for not wearing socks. Seriously. I also was denied eating lunch at Helaman Halls for having shorts that came past my knees (major clam-diggers – again, in style at the time). I had to go change into sweats, which I pushed up ABOVE my knees. The same girl let me in, even though more of me was “exposed” because it “wasn’t shorts”.

    I would complain about inconsequential things like this that had nothing to do with my education and even less to do with any gospel standard, and the standard response was that no one was forcing me to go there. That was true, and so after my mission I gave up the remainder of my academic scholarship and transferred school.

    Now, granted BYU has a lot of highly qualified applicants. Perhaps they don’t need anyone who doesn’t want to live their strange sense of reality. But if I were a university, I would want to attract the best and brightest – that can only help the institution, both while they were there as well as down the road as successful alumni support the institution.

    As my children are approaching the age where they are choosing colleges, there are a number of their peer-group here in the SLC area who wouldn’t touch BYU with a ten-foot pole. They are talented in life, have done extremely well in school, are extremely devoted members of the Church and going on missions, etc., yet don’t want to subject themselves to the NON-DOCTRINAL interpretations of “modesty” and whatever that seem to be present at Church schools. It is sad that places like BYU are losing out on these kids because of a strange emphasis on hedges around the law.

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