Musings on Modesty

By: hawkgrrrl
September 11, 2012

It’s a miracle!  A worldly toddler spontaneously sprouted cap sleeves and became modest and beautiful again!

Sproing!

Her entire class was basking in the warm light of spirituality as seen in this picture – even their color improved to a healthy glow as if by the grace of God.

Rumor has it that similar miracles have happened to the Prom Queens of Yesteryear whose portraits hang in the Wilkinson Center at BYU.  Not since the nipples were airbrushed off the Nephites in Book of Mormon video portraiture has such an outpouring of faith resulted in such miraculous change.

Obviously, I’m being sarcastic.  In the tradition of 9/11 posts about hammering women on modesty, let’s talk about what’s going on here.

toddler-naked.jpgMy own immodesty started at a young age.  I’m told I was born naked, and often wore nothing but a diaper and rubber pants until around age 2.  We weren’t ghetto.  We just lived in Florida, and it was hot. When I was age 5, I adamantly refused to wear a shirt at home on hot days, despite my 15 year old brother’s protestations that it was “gross” and “indecent.”  As I explained (quite rationally for a 5 year old), he didn’t have to wear his shirt, and I didn’t have anything to cover up that he didn’t have, so why should I have to sweat?  My mother didn’t really argue with this logic.  She followed a benign neglect parenting model that is hard to fault.

When I was a teenager, my mother once tentatively suggested to me that I should stop wearing tank tops and shorts and start dressing as if I was already wearing garments.  I’m not sure where she got this idea, since I never heard anything like that at church at the time (and we had no For the Strength of Youth pamphlet in YW in the first half of the 1980s).  I said no way, that my life would be over soon enough, and it wasn’t like I needed practice at wearing hot clothing in the summer.  (We weren’t having an argument by any stretch; she just made a suggestion I rejected.  My mom was never pushy about personal decisions.)  Bear in mind that my mother drank her last cup of coffee seconds before stepping into the font for her baptism at age 28 using more or less the same logic I used for not wearing garment-ready clothes before going to the temple. Perhaps my wanton ways are genetic.

Later, at BYU, I decided to try really hard to understand why people got their knickers tied in knots about things like drinking caffeine or unendowed people wearing tank tops and shorts.  I realized that many of them were raised in stricter environments than I was, and I felt that nobody was going to go to hell for overcomplying, so maybe they were in fact more righteous than the rest of us.  Or at least they were the way they were because they didn’t really have as much freedom to choose growing up, and if so, that was pitiable, but not unrighteous.

At one point, I decided it would be charitable to comply with these excessive requirements so that someone else didn’t have to judge unrighteously based on outward appearances because their understanding of the standards differed or was more stringent.  I was following Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians when he talked about eating food offered to idols not being a sin:

4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things athat are offered in sacrifice unto bidols, we know that an cidol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. . .

7 Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their aconscience being weak is defiled. . .

9 But take heed lest by any means this aliberty of yours become abstumblingblock to them that are cweak.

10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;

11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?

12 But when ye sin so against the abrethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.

13 Wherefore, if meat amake my brother to boffend, I will ceat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

This is a little confusing, and herein lies the problem.  Paul is saying that we know it’s not bad to eat the food offered to idols, so bully for us, we’re not ignorant and weak like those superstitious idol-worshippers.  But let’s still not eat that meat because if we do, the superstitious, weak people will be tempted to eat the food of idols (which we just established is no big deal because idols aren’t real gods).  He says “through thy knowledge” (that eating idol offerings is no biggie) “shall the weak brother perish.”  So why is the weak brother perishing?  Because he was emboldened to eat those things not offered to idols (which Paul has already established isn’t an issue)?  Because of his attitude about eating the food (the weak person is doing it defiantly)?  Because he’s wrongly judging others who are eating the idol’s offerings?

I assumed the harm to others had to be in terms of their attitudes.  People who haven’t let go of their superstitions or given much thought to their beliefs are more likely to 1) over-comply, 2) judge people who don’t over-comply, and 3) possibly freak out and act in rebelliousness without understanding the principles.

I tried hard to maintain that viewpoint for several months, with some success, but ultimately I felt my charitable sacrifices weren’t doing anyone any favors.  Even though I wanted to help people by not doing things that they would judge, it only seemed to make them feel more and more self-righteous about it and prone to judge others.  Instead of complaining about me, they now felt they could complain to me about everyone else.  I determined that complying with unreasonable demands doesn’t actually elevate the person who makes the unreasonable demand.

The church seems conflicted on whether to enforce hedges about the law or to clarify when they are unnecessary or when they clarify, how clearly to clarify.  There was just a clarification in policy (thank you, Mitt Romney) that caffeine is not prohibited by mentioned in the Word of Wisdom.  Clear as Mocha Mud pie.

But at the same time, we’ve got someone madly photoshopping cap sleeves on toddlers so that no shoulder is left exposed, no matter how young.  According to Photo Standards on lds.org:  “Because of the need to present women and girls modestly, regardless of age, please avoid submitting photos of them in sleeveless tops and dresses or short skirts.”  In case you are wondering, I am not making this up.  Someone thinks there is a “need” to cover the shoulders of toddlers (if they are female) so that they are not immodest.  Toddler girl #1 above was on lds.org up to very recently.  Toddler girl #2 with magical appearing cap sleeves is there now.  This happened.

Is it judgmental to judge someone for being judgmental?  I am pretty sure it is, and if so, I definitely need to repent, just like Paul does in his epistle to the Corinthians in which those superstitious idol-worshippers are called weak.  This obsession with female shoulders makes Mormons look kinda crazy, like these Moms who painted clothing on their daughters’ Barbie dolls with markers and nail polish.  I am seriously left wondering what people are thinking.

Discuss.

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45 Responses to Musings on Modesty

  1. Jon on September 11, 2012 at 6:05 AM

    My wife did the shoulder thing. My daughter (4) said but cousin so-and-so doesn’t wear sleeves. So she turned to me and I’m like, I don’t think it matters (don’t know if this was an incorrect response on my part).

    I don’t see the principle behind modesty. We could walk around naked if that were the social norm. So, if your child lives in UT then, by all means, put a shirt on that has sleeves, but if you don’t, the social norms don’t apply and you don’t need to. Of course, Utahns are welcome to buck the trend, there will just be some social backlash. Oh, and don’t forget to only have one pair of earrings on that child!

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  2. Jenn on September 11, 2012 at 6:23 AM

    I’ve already discussed this endlessly at By Common Consent (http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/09/03/editing-photos-to-add-cap-sleeves-is-a-bad-idea/) but I’ll sum up:
    The church has shifted the focus/definition of “modesty”. It SHOULD be about self-respect, and how what we wear sends messages to those around us. Instead it is about just what bits of skin need to be covered. Otherwise this little girl’s bare shoulders wouldn’t get a second thought- nothing about that is disrespectful to her body or sending a negative/sexual message to those around her. By covering them, the implication is that something is wrong with a 7-year-old’s bare shoulders- an idea which causes MORE sexualization, not less.

    It’s ridiculous.

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  3. Howard on September 11, 2012 at 6:30 AM

    pharisaical
    1. of the Pharisees
    2. emphasizing or observing the letter but not the spirit of religious law; self-righteous; sanctimonious
    3. pretending to be highly moral or virtuous without actually being so; hypocritical

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  4. Mike S on September 11, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    I’ve only had to walk out of Primary sharing time once or twice in the past few years I’ve been there.

    Last year there was a lesson on standards. One of them was “We should be modest”. A leader asked one of the children what being “modest” meant (something that’s obviously even hard for adults to define). The girl (who was wearing a cute sundress) replied “uh, not being immodest?”

    The leader said, “nope, it means keeping your shoulders covered”. That was it. That was the entire definition of modesty to the Primary. Half the girls in sharing time had on some variation of a sundress, or something like in the photo above. They spent the rest of the time squirming and putting their hands on their shoulders thinking they were “bad”.

    Unfortunately, this thinking is all too common in the Church. And it’s having a detrimental effect. People aren’t buying it – especially the youth and young adults. There is much more to the gospel than keeping your shoulders covered.

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  5. Mike S on September 11, 2012 at 8:23 AM

    Also, the most ironic thing is that even the photoshopped pictures would be considered as breaking temple covenants by President Joseph F Smith. In my post on changing garments, I quoted him:

    “Each individual should be provided with the endowment clothing they need. The garments must be clean and white, and of the approved pattern; they must not be altered or mutilated, and are to be worn as intended, down to the wrist and ankles, and around the neck. These requirements are imperative; admission to the Temple will be refused to those who do not comply therewith.”

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  6. IDIAT on September 11, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    Mike S- luckily we follow living prophets instead of dead ones. This photoshop thing has already been beat to death at fMh, and there was some timeline clarifications in the comments there. Is this obsession over modesty an “out west” thing? The only thing that comes up in my area are short shorts and dresses. I think the modesty “issue” is much ado over nothing (pun intended.)

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  7. salth2o on September 11, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    I chalk up the editing of this picture to human error- I found it obnoxious but not enough to get emotionally stirred up about it.

    However- the ‘modesty’ story in the Friend that really stirred up the modesty controversy anew – with the 4 year old wanting to wear a white t-shirt under her new dress. THAT REALLY IRKED ME. There are articles in the Friend and New Era that boarder on propaganda.

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  8. SilverRain on September 11, 2012 at 10:18 AM

    I teach my daughters to wear the same kind of clothes I do, because I am teaching them that their entire lives is preparation for the covenants I hope they will make. True religion cannot be compartmentalized by timeline. It teaches them to be aware of the messages they are sending others, that their choices in clothing sends messages, some unintentional, that modesty is contextual, and that it only STARTS with clothing.

    But I also squash immediately any sign of judging others, which is a natural child thing to do, by telling them that modesty is about worrying about ourselves, and what WE feel is right for US, not worrying about others and what they feel is right for them.

    And for what it’s worth, I also teach them that excessive bling, spending more than necessary on clothing, and obsessing over what they are wearing is also not modest.

    Like most commandments, it isn’t all one or the other. But I find gnawing over others’ overenthusiastic and pharisaical interpretation of modesty to be just as distasteful as gnawing over others’ more permissive and relaxed interpretation.

    Such a fine line to walk.

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  9. Will on September 11, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    Hawk,

    Here Will goes again…

    Let’s define modesty: It is “freedom from vanity, boastfulness, etc’ or “regard for decency of speech, behavior, dress, etc..” With this in mind, it is impossible for a poor person to ‘boast’ or be ‘vain’ about their run-down beat up car. One would look ridiculous bragging about a 1973 Pinto in our modern society. When we describe someone coming from modest means, we are saying they don’t have much to offer. Likewise, if someone is ugly or undesirable, it is impossible to be immodest; or to ‘boast’ or be ‘vain’ with something no one really wants or desires. I guess there is a small market for fat, hairy men; or large women in skimpy outfits. The demand, however, is small.

    On the other hand, attractive women with hot bodies are in huge demand. And, to a lesser extent, fit men with toned bodies. There thousands of pornographic sites, movies, dvd’s, magazines and the like. Men are attracted to this. It is real. If an attractive woman with an attractive body wears little to nothing, she will get attention. Men will look. Some will want to do more than look. They will get aroused and excited. They will think sexual thoughts. You can try and change this reality, but it will still be a reality. If you are attractive and wear little to nothing, you will get attention – men will look, stare and think unholy thoughts. You will increase the probability of being sexually assaulted. This is not fair. It is not the way it should be, but it is a reality.

    If you are fat, ugly or undesirable you probably don’t have much to worry about. I think out of jealously and envy some women fight the modesty laws, because they are insecure about their own looks. They want to fight an injustice. The only injustice is that attractive women are being exploited, and immodest dress just increases this exploitation.

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  10. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 11, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    One word: purple.

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  11. Jenn on September 11, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    Will-
    “Likewise, if someone is ugly or undesirable, it is impossible to be immodest”
    That’s quite the assertion!
    First, ugly/undesirable is entirely subjective. It is VERY possible to be what I would consider undesirable but consider yourself potentially desirable and therefore act immodestly.

    Second, “regard for decency of speech, behavior, dress, etc” has nothing to do with your “desirability”. Decency of dress applies across the board- for instant, society generally considers walking through the mall with your nipples exposed to be indecent, regardless of desirability. Some mormons consider bare shoulders on females- even sweet innocent little girls- to be “indecent” (an idea that’s absurd to me, but there we go with subjectivity again). When people talk about modesty (especially within the church) it is often this second definition they are referring to- what is considered “decent”, not what is considered “boasting”.

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  12. Jon on September 11, 2012 at 12:36 PM

    After reading others comments I still hold modesty is something that is cultural, there’s not much to the principle on modesty, maybe I missed something.

    I thinks its ironic also how people will do the sleeves but then wear tight clothing. In my mind tight clothing is much more immodest than sleeveless clothing.

    But, as I said before, if the societal norm was to walk around naked (as the nudists have shown) you can perfectly modest. It is just what we are accustomed to that matters.

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  13. SilverRain on September 11, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    “I still hold modesty is something that is cultural, there’s not much to the principle on modesty…”

    I’m missing something as to how the first part of this sentence leads into the second.

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  14. Jon on September 11, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    SR,

    I am saying that I don’t see the principle. What is the principle behind modesty?

    Well, I guess Will’s definition shows the principle:

    “freedom from vanity, boastfulness, etc’ or “regard for decency of speech, behavior, dress, etc..”

    But it is still based on culture what “decency” is. Nudists have standards of decency and don’t have the problems of men “getting excited” since it is highly frowned upon.

    Church members in the past would have been appalled, as Mike pointed out, to know their decedents would be wearing short sleeves and short pants.

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  15. Cowboy on September 11, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    “There is much more to the gospel than keeping your shoulders covered.”

    Let’s hope not.

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  16. Will on September 11, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    Jenn,

    “That’s quite the assertion!”

    But true.

    “….but consider yourself potentially desirable”

    Exactly. Is this not vanity? Is this not
    being something you are not? Most importantly, just because you think you are desirable, doesn’t mean that you are. Sometimes, ugly is just ugly and fat is just fat and subjectivity is just rationalization.

    “Decency of dress applies across the board”

    Exactly. I think your nipple example is a good one, but why? In my opinion, it violates societal norms because it is either a turn-on, or a turn-off – it either promotes arousal or repulsion. Either way, it is not decent and should be covered up. Just like giggly arms, thunder thighs, man boobs and large bellies should be covered to avoid repulsion. Or on the opposite end, attractive female body parts should be covered to prevent exploitation.

    As for the little girl exposing her arms, or just about anything else for that matter, is in a different league. Anyone aroused by this, should be taken out of society.

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  17. Jon on September 11, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    Will,

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I consider my wife beautiful, others might not. Some people like different features of people, others find it repulsive. It’s all subjective. Once again, nudists have gotten to the point where they don’t find any of these thing offensive. I would opine that they might be at a higher point in spirituality in the aspect of their lives.

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  18. Romni on September 11, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    Have they really altered the Prom queen pictures in the Wilkinson Center, or was this a joke?

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  19. Will on September 11, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    Jon,

    But my point is that SOCIETY finds it offensive, so out of respect, cover-up. Like every ward, we have attractive and unattractive women. I guarantee if some of the women decided to weed the garden in the nude, it would attract every Tom, Dick and Harry with hesitation by these men on calling the police — an official gawk-fest. On the other hand, if others did the same deed, the police would be called without any hesitation or crow
    On nudists and nudist colonies, I have always liked the far side of the two bears peering over a wall to a nudist camp and one bear turns to the other and says ‘I think I’ve lost my appetite’ in reference to the undesirable crowd.

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  20. Jon on September 11, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    I think we’re pretty close to being on the same page then. When in UT do as the Utahns do, when elsewhere likewise. Since there really isn’t any standard for what modesty of clothing is.

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  21. Jenn on September 11, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    It can be a principle and still be relative. That’s the problem with the church’s approach. They think the principle of modesty is “what is considered decent by us, endowed old white men in utah”. When really the principle of modesty is “respect your body, and be aware of what message your clothing sends to others; be careful to send messages in line with your beliefs”. In some situations, this will mean don’t show shoulders (if you are endowed, for isntance). But in MANY other situations, like this little girl, she isn’t sending any inappropriate message by not covering her shoulders.

    What you wear does not define modesty. WHY you wear it does.

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  22. MD on September 11, 2012 at 3:00 PM

    Will, I do agree with this part of your post:

    “As for the little girl exposing her arms, or just about anything else for that matter, is in a different league. Anyone aroused by this, should be taken out of society.”

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  23. Will on September 11, 2012 at 4:30 PM

    “What you wear does not define modesty. WHY you wear it does.”

    Non-sense. Absolute non-sense.

    A very attractive female walking through City Creek in a skimpy, butt-floss, thong would be indecent regardless of whether she wore it because it was comfortable on a hot day, or because she wanted to show off-her goodies. Either way, it is indecent; and, if the latter (showing off her goodies) it would be vain. Under either scenario, it meets the dictionary definition of immodesty that I posted earlier.

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  24. Jenn on September 11, 2012 at 4:43 PM

    But that’s just it- no sane person walks around in a butt-floss thong without being aware of the message it sends. Therefore, the problem isn’t the thong, but the lack of consideration of (or desire for) the message it sends. And yes, the vanity is problem, and the flagrant disregard for society’s standards of decency- I agree there. But I don’t think that those tie directly to what skin is shown but more to the situation, the appropriateness, and what the clothing says about the wearer.

    I wear shorts and tank tops freely here in hot and humid Georgia. No one thinks twice about it, and I’d be shocked if anyone I met thought I were indecent or immodest. But if I were visiting BYU campus, I would not, because to do so would be to hold up a sign that says “I don’t care about your standards and don’t mind getting attention that says so and possibly offending those around me”. The same amount of thigh/shoulder would be shown, with very different messages. One is potentially problematic; I argue that the other is not.

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  25. hawkgrrrl on September 11, 2012 at 6:37 PM

    Innocent things become “messages” because they are outlawed. When my oldest sister was a teenager in the 1960s, she wore sandals to school one day (this was in CA). The dean of her school called home to complain to my mother about my sister’s immodesty. She said that “the heels are the sexiest part of a woman’s body.”

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  26. Jenn on September 11, 2012 at 6:46 PM

    Exactly! Just like in past eras, a women’s heels could be scandalous and turn a man on. Currently in some muslim countries, it’s a woman’s uncovered hair. Whereas in tribal africa, young men can see topless women all the time without being overcome with lust. It’s not because they are DEsensitized- it is because they were never “sensitized”. By taking “modesty” to such an extreme as to not allow uncovered shoulders on little girls, we are “sensitizing” ourselves- our men- and treating something as sexual when it doesn’t need to be. If we keep along this path, then in time a girl showing bare shoulders WILL be indecent because she’d only do so to send a message to those around her that she is indecent and doesn’t care who knows it.

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  27. GBSmith on September 11, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    ” Will

    Jon,

    But my point is that SOCIETY finds it offensive, so out of respect, cover-up. Like every ward, we have attractive and unattractive women. I guarantee if some of the women decided to weed the garden in the nude, it would attract every Tom, Dick and Harry with hesitation by these men on calling the police — an official gawk-fest. On the other hand, if others did the same deed, the police would be called without any hesitation or crow
    On nudists and nudist colonies, I have always liked the far side of the two bears peering over a wall to a nudist camp and one bear turns to the other and says ‘I think I’ve lost my appetite’ in reference to the undesirable crowd.”

    As a nudist and at the risk of a threadjack, I object just a bit to your reference to “society” finding nudity offensive. The society that I relate to in this matter is chaste social nudity where people accept their and others bodies as they are and don’t make judgements about them based on appearance. I think the advice about not judging applies to peoples appearance and body habitus just as much as age, sex, skin color, education, personal habits, etc.. Clothes do far more to sexualize individuals especially children and teenagers that nudity in a safe protected location ever will. Spend a little time at http://www.ldssdc.info or http://www.ldssdc.org and you might be surprised. Oh, and there’s no nudity so you won’t have to worry about confessing to the bishop.

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  28. Jenn on September 11, 2012 at 7:02 PM

    Bwa ha ha ha! That link just made my night, I had no idea such a thing existed. How delightful.

    I agree, we shouldn’t set different standards for “pretty” women or “ugly” women. After all, we are all made by God, and are ALL beautiful; and the perception of beauty is a very subjective thing. I think if we were all exposed to a bit more (realistic) non-sexual nudity instead of what we see in the media, we might be able to find more beauty in ourselves and each other.

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  29. Anon on September 11, 2012 at 8:39 PM

    I just think it’s all cultural. It’s all what WE make of it, not God.

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  30. Zara on September 11, 2012 at 11:57 PM

    I regret that the church has gotten away from teaching the principle, and has instead given the FTSTOY checklist. I grew up in the South in the 80s, and basically, we were taught the principle of modesty and left to our own devices. I even wore some midthigh casual skirts, but they weren’t worn with the intention of immodesty. They were worn because they were cute and casual. It saddens me to see teens growing up saddled with the charge of dressing like they’re already endowed, when they are perfectly capable of adjusting to a different wardrobe when the time comes.

    My guess is that someone wrote the FTSOY pamphlet who leaned more on the conservative side, then it just got signed off by the First Pres. I think a lot of the stuff that is seen as handed down from the Lord on stone tablets was probably not meant to be. I doubt GBH meant for the earrings thing to be a new commandment, but here we are.

    I think it’s perhaps a natural fear-based human response to perceive danger/evil and respond by become more conservative. The LDS Church has long preached about the world becoming more evil and sending worldly messages to the youth about who they are. I guess I’m not surprised that the response is to become even more “peculiar,” to combat that influence. I just think the idea is misguided and will feel like unnecessary oppression to some of the youth who are trying to hang in there. I know it would have to me. I’m glad my mom was reasonable about modesty and that she took intent into the equation.

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  31. Hedgehog on September 12, 2012 at 2:07 AM

    Just a couple of points:
    The whole shoulder thing didn’t kick off with the ‘Strength of Youth’ booklet, unless it is much older than its presence here would suggest. Back in the early 70s my mother was pretty strict about the whole sleeves thing. I remember her being really cross with about my removed roll-neck sweater in nursery school (I was left wearing a sleeveless pinafore dress) one winter – the classroom was baking hot and the teacher had insisted I remove the sweater, as I was obviously too warm. The following day in the same outfit I was nearly hysterical as the teacher removed the sweater yet again… I was 3 or 4 years old. In my mother’s defence, she was very young still, and maybe there’d been a recent conference talk on the subject. She has mellowed since.

    With my own children I have gone along with the sleeves thing – not because I believe there is anything wrong with shoulders, but because I don’t want them to find themselves in the predicament of the poor girls in primary that Mike S. mentioned. I didn’t want my children to be my weapon. BUT I apply the ‘directive’ to both boys and girls, so my son got the sleeves too (if the ‘reason’ is to cover the current temple garment line then really it is illogical to leave boys out). I was however careful to make sure they never find themselves in the predicament I was in, where they’d be too hot and have nothing to remove – so no sundresses with t-shirts (constricted layering is such a bad idea in muggy weather even here), instead pretty skirts and loose fitting pretty t-shirts on a Sunday. Shorts and t-shirts the rest of the week…

    I don’t know about the US, but here the issue of ‘sexualised’ clothing for young girls has been an issue of some debate in the media over the last few years, with various campaigns having been organised by various groups. But they are a whole different ballgame to the gorgeous dress the little girl is wearing in the picture, which is anything but (sleeves or not). It had become very difficult in this country to buy nice clothing for girls over 5 years old. Some of the clothing would have conformed to the modesty standards in terms of coverage, but was still sending a seriously screwed up message. I think the campaigns are starting to take effect now though. What disturbs me is that we as a church concentrate so much on ‘coverage’, we aren’t seeing other messages in clothing the rest of our communities would interpret as sexualised or extreme, in some cases. We need to be attuned to what is or isn’t seen as modest within the communities we live in. Global guidelines don’t do that.

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  32. hawkgrrrl on September 12, 2012 at 2:37 AM

    This whole conversation would be a moot point if garments didn’t have cap sleeves in the first place. We’ve somehow taken it for granted that an adult woman’s shoulders are immodest and must be covered. Yet, an inside source tells me that when the issue of whether to remove the cap sleeves for women from the garments was taken to vote in the Q12, all but one voted to remove them. I don’t know who the lone man is that stood between hundreds of thousands of women and sleevelessness, but I suspect he owns stock in an anti-perspirant company.

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  33. Jon on September 12, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    Hedgehog,

    Your comment made me think of when I was in Argentina. A young girl 7 or 8 was wearing what a prostitute in a movie would wear. I think she could have used some modesty. Although I think people can go around naked and be modest, but, as someone mentioned before in these comments clothing can make someone more immodest.

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  34. Mike S on September 12, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    I second Hawkgrrrl’s comment #32. Cap sleeves have nothing to do with anything. There are no markings on the cap sleeves. There is nothing special about them.

    Garments have already had 18 inches removed from the arms since they were instituted by Joseph Smith. There is NOTHING sacred about removing the last 2 inches and making it a camisole top. It is purely a cultural thing which happens to be preferred by some people.

    Because there is nothing sacred about a 2 inch sleeve as opposed to an 18 inch sleeve, this whole fixation the Church seems to have about little girls’ shoulders (as well as modifying famous paintings) actually seems quite absurd. Certainly we have better things to worry about as a Church.

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  35. Jon on September 12, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    So does anyone have links to the paintings that were modified? And links to the originals?

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  36. Jenn on September 12, 2012 at 11:10 AM

    http://www.dovesandserpents.org/wp/2012/05/on-immodest-angels/ shows one of the more famously modified paintings

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  37. Sherry on September 12, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    FWIW, I think much of the obsession with modestly might have to do with it being a “value” or “standard” that is measurable, is seen and can be judged. I realize the sexualality part and do think that is ridiculous to sexualize shoulders. I have five girls (four grown) and four boys, all grown so I have some experience. Modesty, at least the current church definition, is so overt and causes us, as a people, to judge way too much, simply because it’s easy to do so. I am sick to death of YW teachings about modesty. Do the YW even learn about character traits, being kind, less judgemental to others? Not often. And the YM – my gosh – how can they look at any YW without immediately thinking if they’re modest or not? Most people really do know how to dress appropriately. If my daughter went to YW in a sleeveless top she would be asked to leave or thrown a t-shirt with sleeves. If I showed up to SM in a sleeveless dress, would I be asked to leave? No…then WHY do we do this to the youth??? Because it’s easy to pick on someone younger than you and it’s easy to look and judge. I fear we are alienating youth (and maybe their parents) and that’s not right.

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  38. Sherry on September 12, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    Also – isn’t it a “lie” or a form of hypocrisy or something for the church to alter photos to make them more modest? To me it’s the same as whitewashing or covering up (oops – no pun intended) past church leader’s faults, wrong-doings, history etc. Why can’t we just let truth, bare shoulders on BYU 1960s coeds, be what it is? If the church would allow truth, in the form of church history, bare shoulders etc, we would all breathe a little easier.

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  39. salth2o on September 12, 2012 at 1:22 PM

    hawkgrrrl- If your inside sources are correct- there’s hope, a bit of hope.

    Who knows, the caffeine ‘amendment’ may be just the beginning – 2 years from now- no cap sleeves, 3 years from now- a 2.5 hour block!

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  40. Hedgehog on September 13, 2012 at 1:23 AM

    #33 Jon
    Yep, that pretty much was the style the shops seemed to be pushing for the over 5s. Horrible. I hope the backlash from parents groups taught them something.

    I think our youth can get a pretty screwed up message from ‘modesty guidelines’ that concentrate on coverage as opposed to the finished image. I think it can cause them to view clothing as parts, and sadly that means girls can sometimes finish up looking ‘trashier’ (for want of a better term, though it isn’t one I like) while keeping to the letter of the guideline, than others in a smart sleeveless dress that may finish just above the knee.

    Having said that, there are some fundamentalist Christian groups that would seem have things a whole lot worse than we do. I have wondered to what extent the church tries not to alienate (panders to?) that segment of society…

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  41. Heber13 on September 13, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    Hawkgrrrl, I agree with your #32 comment. To me, It feels like sometimes the standard has to be drawn at the innocent stage so it is far away from the actual standard (insert the stagecoach driver story for youth here). Too risky to draw the line at the real standard or it would be broken…or so it seems.

    Coffee and tea are bad…so we better draw the line at caffeinated soda and tiramisu so we don’t have even the appearance of evil.

    That line of thinking can be safer…but when one stops and steps back and looks at things…those by themselves are a bit silly. I might understand why they are taught that way by some in the church, but if they seem silly to me, I should fall back on the spirit of what is being taught and be an agent unto myself. That’s not rebellious, that’s mature.

    I’ve never seen a shoulder and thought, “ooohh”.

    I’ve also never seen capsleeves on a dress with a low neckline.

    It seems church standards err on the side of prudish and safety rather than normal or rational. Actually, I can understand that. I’ll consider it as my family makes our standards.

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  42. hawkgrrrl on September 13, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    Heber13: Just a point of fashion, cap sleeves with a low scooping neckline (along with an empire waist) were all over Kohl’s about 3 years ago. An empire waist (like in the Jane Austen novels) almost always comes with a low neckline.

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  43. Heber13 on September 13, 2012 at 7:47 PM

    Thanks HG. I have no fashion sense.

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  44. Hedgehog on September 14, 2012 at 1:05 AM

    #41,42
    Conversely there are a great many short, sleeveless dresses with a neckline no lower than the collar bone.
    IME sleeveless tank tops have a higher neck than many sleeved t-shirts.
    Finding the combination of a reasonable neckline and sleeves can be downright difficult at times.

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  45. Julia on September 15, 2012 at 10:52 PM

    #9- Wow! To think if only women were more modest, they wouldn’t force men to sexually assault or rape them.

    Wish I had known sooner. I had a bishop you should meet. He thought rape victims needed to repent, and I am sure the two of you could figure out other ways to blame victims.

    Sherry #37-38- I think that the double standard for boys and girls is pretty stark if you go camping with each group. About 5 years ago I went on rafting trips with the YW and YM in my stake.

    The YW were constantly reminded that bathing suits had to be approved before the trip. A nonmember friend of one of the YW, whose parents had only decided she could go the night before, was told that her suit was cut too high on the leg, and she would have to wear shorts for the entire trip, because “the priesthood” were on the trip with us.

    The YM had a wide variety of bathing suits, and two showed up without suits at all. Nothing was said about bare chests and shorts or swim trunks that didn’t stay on their waists. On the other hand, my very modest swimsuit (I had twins and have no desire to let anything hang out) was suddenly immodest. I was asked/told that I needed to wear tshirts and shorts over my swimsuit, and white was not acceptable for those shirts and shorts.

    Apparently the YM might have gone wild seeing my shoulders, the top of my thighs or the area between my neck and the top of my swimsuit. In the same way a high cut leg on a teenager’s bathing suit could be too tempting for the Bishops and High Councilors who were with the YW, as one of only two women on the trip, I might suddenly have changed from a “ward mom” to an object of sexual desire.

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