Tuesday, April 17, 2012
A PLUG FOR MODESTY
(This is a rerun of a blog I wrote in 2007, which was on my old Yahoo website which has been discontinued.)
A recent newspaper article caught my eye—a story about an “alternative prom” held for LDS youth, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (or “Mormons”). The article talked about teens and chaperones from the Chicago area who gathered in a church facility for their own special prom, where they could “dress up, dance and enjoy themselves in an atmosphere that reflected their religious beliefs.” The youngsters could still attend their regular school dances, of course, but this was just something special for them as well, which would be a safe place for kids to gather without encountering alcohol, smoking, immodest dress or sexually suggestive dance moves. Some of the Mormon youths brought friends from other religious denominations. Admission was free. The theme was “Reflecting Eternity” and the article talked about how expectations were clear as far as dress: “Show up in Sunday dress or better as per LDS standards, clearly outlined in a little white booklet issued to church youth. That meant no short skirts, tight clothing, plunging necklines or backs, exposed stomachs, bare shoulders or anything else that flies in the face of what the church deems to be neat and modest.”
The article noted that these days, it takes some effort for young ladies to dress modestly. “For years Mormon girls have complained about being unable to easily find formal dresses that have sleeves,” the article stated. “Most off-the-rack dresses have either spaghetti straps, low-cut necklines or open backs. As a result, the girls have had to creatively find ways of covering up with jackets, scarves or shrugs.”
The article included quotes from kids about how they enjoyed the dance and the activities, etc. One of the church leaders who chaperoned the event said that these kids are right at the stage in their lives when they are watching peers start to make choices that are going to have long-term impacts on their lifestyles, such as alcohol and tobacco use, drugs, and sexual issues. “It’s starting to draw some childhood friends down different paths and that is upsetting to young people when they see that happen. We hope this gives them places to gather that they can come and enjoy each other.”
I just thought this was a good article, and wanted to share a bit of it. I was not raised LDS (I converted as an adult) so I never knew about these modest dress guidelines of the Church when I was that age. But then, I never went to a dance in high school, either (nobody ever asked me on a date!). I did go to a few dances in college, but my formals were not at all revealing. I don’t even remember having any trouble finding gowns with sleeves, such as the formal I wore as a college senior in the late 70s (see photo above). These were the types of dresses I picked out, even though I did not really have any religious beliefs back then. I do remember sometimes wearing a halter top in college, but I was so skinny that I didn’t think a thing of it. Had I been more voluptuous, I certainly was not the type to want to show off my chest. It would have creeped me out having guys look at me for something like that.
This is why it bothers me so much when I hear about such things as Hooters waitresses walking around serving food in skimpy outfits, and posing with their exposed cleavage for Hooters magazine and on the company’s website. How can they DO that? What kind of example are they setting? And then there are the revealing gowns you often see in beauty pageants and on awards shows. And of course there are the racy and pornographic magazines common in today’s society, not to mention strip clubs and the like.
I can’t help but look at these young LDS teens, the standards they have. I am not saying they are perfect, because of course nobody is. But I think that virtually all of them would agree that it would not be a good thing to work at or go to Hooters, or to pose for FHM, Maxim, Playboy, or even the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition or Victoria’s Secret. I highly doubt any of them would think being a stripper is something one should aspire to, and I don’t think these young girls would want to marry a guy who would go to a strip club. These LDS youths would all know that this type of behavior is wrong, that it sets women back, no matter how much they are paid. I think they know that it is degrading to everyone involved, both men and women.
Yet I have chatted with women online who say they would pose for Playboy if they lost weight, or that nothing is wrong with posing for FHM Magazine or being a stripper or going to strip clubs. Their reasoning astounds me. “They get paid big bucks!” “How are they being taken advantage of? They’re laughing all the way to the bank!” “How does this set women back? My partner and I think that women get everything!” “If you’ve got it, flaunt it!”
Statements like these drive me crazy. It scares and saddens me to think that so many women (and men) simply cannot understand why this type of behavior is wrong. I have posted with a young British woman who told me that had she been alive in the 60’s, she would have loved to be a Playboy Bunny (the women who dressed in skimpy bunny costumes and served food and drink at the famous Playboy Clubs). She felt that this occupation was “empowering” to women. I asserted that it was far from empowering, but that it was degrading. I told her about TV shows I watched in the 60s which portrayed jobs like “bunny girls” as something scandalous. A “nice girl” just didn’t do that sort of thing, and decent men did not go to such places. There was a “That Girl” episode where Ann filled in for a girlfriend at a nightclub for the evening, and found out that she had to wear a skimpy outfit. It wasn’t nearly as revealing as the bunny costume; it was sort of a one-piece leopard print swimsuit, not low-cut at all, and with a little skirt attached. Yet to Ann, wearing something like this made her feel very uncomfortable. As the episode went on, the nightclub was raided and Ann ended up in jail because of some misunderstanding. Her boyfriend Donald came to get her, and was shocked at what she was wearing! He immediately took off his trench coat and put it around her. Ann was embarrassed, too, and said that if her parents found out, her father would be yelling and her mother would be sobbing. At the end of the show, Donald told Ann to never go back to that nightclub. Ann said she had to, in order to get her paycheck. Don said to have them mail it to her, and that she could mail the costume back “in a very small envelope.”
And then there was a “Gidget” episode where Gidget got a job as a waitress at a teen club, but through a misunderstanding, her father, sister and brother-in-law thought she was working at the “Tomcat Club” as a “kitty”. The women there wore outfits similar to the bunny costumes, only not as low-cut. When they were talking about going to this club to find Gidget, her sister was upset that her husband would even think of walking into such a place, and insisted on going with him to help find the teen. Gidget’s father went into the club and couldn’t find Gidget. At the end of the show, when they found out that she did not work there at all, Gidget said she was surprised that her family went to the Tomcat Club, and especially chastised her father, telling him that a place like that was hardly appropriate for a university professor (which he agreed with).
I told this British woman all these things and more, but it was like talking to a wall. This young lady simply could not see it, and stated that we would just have to agree to disagree. Women like her and those in various other groups with whom I have become acquainted, who have good families, jobs and education—I keep thinking that if THEY can’t understand how it sets women back, then what hope is there for the real “jerkface idiots” of the world--those who would publish racy magazines and run places like Hooters or strip clubs, and have bachelor parties with strippers, etc. I have heard men claim that women work at Hooters willingly, and seem to be happy. I have replied that of course they seem to be happy, because they want a big tip! “Do you really think they care about you as people?” I ask. And even though these women appear to be happy on the outside, I firmly believe that they cannot be truly happy inside. Certainly not in the way those Mormon youths are with their beliefs and standards. People also have asked me if I would rather we be under Taliban rule. Well of course not, I reply. But I try to explain that this behavior sets women back in a different way, even more than the Taliban.
I agree that it is a woman’s choice to work at Hooters or to be a stripper or pose for racy magazines or even to wear revealing dresses. That is why we are all here on earth, to make wise decisions, to learn and grow, so that we can return to our Father in Heaven someday. But I also believe that most parents would be appalled if their daughter grew up to make the choice to engage in this behavior (I know my parents would have!), and that most little girls have higher aspirations for themselves than that when they grow up, anyway. No little girl thinks, “I want to be a stripper (or work at Hooters or pose for FHM) when I grow up!” Just because a woman gets paid does not make it right. In fact, that’s what makes it so very wrong! No amount of money is worth that. It makes men disrespect us and sets a terrible example. In my opinion, a woman who flaunts her body for money does not “get everything.” She gets nothing, really. And I feel glad that most of these LDS youngsters know that, so that it will help them continue to make wise choices for the rest of their lives.