Friday, March 12, 2010

SKIN - show some

When I was a teenager I remember dressing quite frumpy. I was self conscious of my figure and didn't want to reveal too much skin or have clinging clothes. I think part of this was that I felt overweight (looking back in photos I was nowhere near fat! I want that figure now). Another part of it I believe was the constant messages at church about dressing modestly. We were taught that if we dressed immodestly then boys would not be able to control themselves!

"We are responsible for the effect our dress standards have on others. Anything that causes improper thoughts or sets a bad example before others is not modest. It is especially important that we teach young girls not to wear clothes that would encourage young men to have improper thoughts."

(Read more here and here Dress Code )

That is just the start of it though. I expect that some mormons would say that the above statement is quite tame and that they believe that it is a true statement. Well I have a lot of problems with the above statement and I will get to that. Before I do though, I think it is important to say that at lot more gets said in a classroom situation. I have been present in Young Women's lessons (12-18 year olds taught by older women) as a teenager and later as a teacher where much worse has been said. I have been told that my boyfriend would be unable to control himself sexually if I dressed inappropriately. Now this is a lot further than just 'causing' him to think 'bad' thoughts.

Later, when I was the teacher, I still had to update the lessons (with the help of a fantastic blog for responsible leaders who want to encourage respect between the sexes!) and then tackle the inappropriate comments from other teachers. I could not believe that the young women were still being taught that it was their responsibility to dress modestly to help the young men behave properly!!

As if that weren't enough one youth leader (in an adult mtg with no teenagers around thank God!!) said that Rhianna deserved what she got because she dressed and behaved like such a slut. OMG! and this is the kind of person that the church wants teaching its youth, aaaaaaah!

Mormons take note! Everyone is responsible for their own thoughts and actions. The church is behaving very irresponsibly by confusing young people about who is to blame for sexual and physical abuse. The church needs to look at this issue very seriously.

Even today I still feel uncomfortable about male attention. Even though I do not follow the church's restrictions on dress anymore I have found that I feel quite bare in a singlet (not to mention that blackbikini that I'm negotiating with!). I still cover up quite a bit and feel vulnerable when in male company. These are personal issues of course but I do know that the multitude of negative messages that I received about my sexuality throughout my childhood has played havoc with my mind.


  1. It always seemed to me that what Mormons consider to be 'modesty in dress' was an arbitrary point on a continuum between 'nude' and 'burqa'.

  2. Very hard to pin down the 'rules'. I saw (and as a teeneger experienced) young women being told that their shorts/skirts were to short. If they didn't wear board shorts and a rashie vest to swimming activities then they were given disapproving looks. I saw leaders adjust girls clothing, pulling up sleeves, pulling down shirts to cover bellys.

    They were told that if they reached their hands to the sky then their skirt should not ride up above their knees. If they bent over then their shirt should still cover their back. Problem here was that even as the leader I had a hard time fitting these requirements and with a very limited wardrobe and funds I felt very embarrassed about my appearance. I can only imagine how the girls felt.

    When Rockstar and I were newly married I went with him to a youth camp for which Rockstar was a leader. I was wearing the newish long garment shirts that looked more like tshirts than 1830s frilly things. Anyway, I had been in the habit of wearing the garment hanging out as part of my layered look. A very matronly woman (she was huuuuge!) cornered me and asked if that were my garments hanging out. Unaware of any problem but a little embarrassed by the question I said that it was. She then lectured me on why they need to be hidden and why as an adult I needed to show a better example!! Later on the hike, it was stinking hot and I rolled my shirt up and tucked it in under my bra. Another leader came running up and said that I needed to cover up straight away. I was walking with Rockstar and a couple of the young men and I was very embarrassed.

    Now with the advent of online social networking I often see photos of members clearly not wearing garments in many, many settings. What a sucker I was! I was so confused about my body and its 'power', it really was very unhealthy.

  3. I should clarify that as a leader I did not pass on these dress codes to the girls. I avoided that 'rule' like the plague. I have been describing what other leaders were saying/doing.

    A lot of the time when I saw stuff going on I thought - damn we're lucky that girl even came here tonight, why are you making her feel awkward about her appearance!? I did broach the subject at a mtg but it was not taken well.

  4. good on you! I have mentioned to a few of my friends about this blog (described as a close friends blog about leaving the mormon church behind)and one reaction I got was 'Ho Hum. When it comes to crazy religions, mormonism is pretty liberal i think'. Ignorance is bliss, isn't it? I mean, it may be fairly middle of the pack compred to Scientology etc, but that shouldn't wjats the word?) undermine? the fact that some of the teachings are just plain WRONG! Sane ppl know that a woman who dresses 'provocatively is in fact, NOT asking to be raped. *shakes head*

  5. I think that is a big part of the problem for me. The church is seen as relatively tame, a nice bunch of people. Yes they are nice but they are also brainwashed. I was brainwashed, it is a cult. I know that now. It takes different things for different people to get out of there. Plus the members and the leaders all believe in it, they do not think that they are involved in a cult (who ever does?). They have been deceived by Joseph Smith and his accomplices.

    Mormons are discouraged from reading anything that challenges the churches teachings. The result I'm afraid is a large group of people who will not question things that are dodgy. Some will, there are liberal mormons out there but the majority will let bad things happen because they think that the leaders know best. There are plenty of cases of abuse within the church but they are covered up just as in other institutions. It freaks me out to have discovered how close I came and my children have come to sexual predators in the church.

  6. I have another friend who left her own 'community' which she was born into after finding out about abuse by leaders - she left 20 years ago and still finds it difficult to talk about, and hers had a roman catholic base! For me, the difference between a religion and a cult is whether or not you are discouraged from questioning the rules, and whether you are free to leave at any time. My other friend's family (still in 'the community') are forbidden to have contact with her. Seems to me if you have to lie, cheat and steal to maintain a membership, you're doing something wrong.

    Thank God I'm an Aetheist

  7. I'm curious about what you mean by 'cult' - are you using it in any special sense that separates it from religion in general? If so, what makes the LDS church a cult as opposed to just another religious movement?

  8. You're right yes, i should find a better word since I suppose most if not all religions fit under the term cult (a system of religious devotion directed towards a particular object or person). I wanted to convey more than that, so to be specific I should say that the church teaches its own version of history, it discourages members seeking info outside of that. It operates outside the norms of society. It is secretive. Joseph was a charismatic leader and I believe that he lied and set up a cult around his own whims and ideas.

  9. My view: I don't find 'cult' a useful label. It seems to be mean 'an unpopular religion'. Christianity was once a Jewish cult.

    Here are some definitions from WordNet:

    followers of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices

    Moronism is esoteric, certainly, but not exclusive.

    followers of an unorthodox, extremist, or false religion or sect who often live outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader

    One man's orthodoxy, etc. Extremist? It's on the high end, as far as what it expects of members. False? No more so than any other religion.

    Some people find the designation of 'cult' useful, insofar as they're describing certain behaviours. Like: does the religion try to convince members to disassociate from disbelieving family members? Do they try and control the information that members get? Do they let you leave?

    A few Mormon tendencies raise a few flutters on the cultiness scale, but not enough to tip the balance, IMO. More culty than, say, Anglicans. Considerably less culty than Scientology.

    As in many things, the definition makes all the difference.

  10. ...and these days cult can refer to a very popular thing, such as a book or movie attaining cult status.

    Since leaving the mormon church I have referred to it a few times as a cult. I would have use the term when I was expressing my anger about the religion so I suppose I was using it in terms of considering it to be a harmful religion.

    From your definitions above I would agree one could argue for mormonism having cultish characteristics. As for labeling it a cult, I think that the word religion is damning enough.

  11. Hey Maureen, have you ever read Clifford Geertz' essay, "Religion as a Cultural System"?

  12. Thanks Cavalcanti, I have downloaded it. I just started 'On Equilibrium' by John Ralston Saul and have a number of books waiting for me to get back to them but I very much appreciate suggestions. As you know I am a wounded soul at the moment and need to mend, knowledge is king!

  13. "'followers of an unorthodox, extremist, or false religion or sect who often live outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader'

    One man's orthodoxy, etc. Extremist? It's on the high end, as far as what it expects of members. False? No more so than any other religion."

    Daniel, surely you're misreading this statement as 'followers of an unorthodox, extremist AND false religion [...]'.

    How does this read?: The Mormon Church in more than one instance can be regarded as followers of an unorthodox, false religion who lived outside of and removed themselves from conventional society under the direction of charismatic leaders. At least two of these leaders instituted and enforced religious beliefs and practices some of which are exclusive to certain members and/or members alone.

  14. Yes, you've reminded me about the exclusivity that we were talking about earlier. The religion is somewhat exclusive. You do have to meet some requirements to be baptised. You have to meet even tougher requirements to enter the temple. Family members (and friends) who don't hold temple recommends are excluded from attending temple marriages (so that when I got married I didn't have a single family member in attendance!!), women are excluded from holding the priesthood, blacks used to be excluded from holding the priesthood. There are few 'offices' that women can hold. I'm sure there are more but I'll leave it there for now.

    And yes, I think that the earlier definition of a cult does allow for 'unorthodox' and 'false' to qualify Mormonism as a cult. It doesn't have to be 'extremist' as well to qualify. (according to the 'or' in the definition) :)

  15. I agree that women should dress modestly - as a guy, it's very hard to keep your mind clean when girls seem to be throwing everything at you. Having said that, I HATE people saying "dress modestly otherwise guys will not be able to control themselves"! By all means, girls, dress modestly, but guys! Learn to control your sex drives!!! The way girls may dress is no excuse! Be a man and take responsiblity for your thoughts and actions! Treat women with respect or don't go near them! Trust me, I know how hard it is to keep your mind out of the gutter. I have struggled as much as anyone, but it's seriously worth it!

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  17. Have you ever found that just seeing a beautiful bare shoulder can sometimes be more alluring than a bare breast? I'd like to think that women can dress however they want to. At the same time I do understand that men are very visual beings and I am going to need to wrap my head around 'the male gaze'“male-gaze”

    before my daughter grows much older. I have actually found that since I have left the church I have been dressing more modestly in some ways and less in others. The main difference is that I feel better about myself and I dress to please me, not someone else.