Thursday, June 28, 2012

Primary Sharing Time: One Would Think Feminist Mormon Women Would Be More Supportive Of LDS Modesty Standards For Kids

Is this modest?
On the Post Partum Progression blog, Jewelboxcreek discusses her proposal to discuss modesty during a Sharing Time segment in Primary. The Sharing Time theme for the month of June is "I Choose the Right by Living Gospel Principles", and on Week Four, the specific presentation is "When I dress modestly, I respect my body as a gift from God".

To the basic lesson, Jewelboxcreek proposed some additions. First, she created a story to explain the origin of the modesty standard. She traces it all the way back to Adam and Eve, and notes that the clothing supplied to them by the Lord had sleeves, shirts and that the pants/skirts go to their knees -- or, at least that's the way it is in the representations of them.

Second, Jewelboxcreek proposed to play a game with the Primary class entitled "Modest or Immodest". She would hold up various pictures of kids dressed in various ways, and ask the class to make their best guess. She presents a number of examples in her post. I'll admit that I do not agree with all of her characterizations of immodesty; I don't find the picture of Peter Pan to be immodest. But Jewelboxcreek's heart is in the right place, and maybe a bit of overkill won't hurt.

One would think that Mormon feminists would be amongst her most ardent supporters. After all, feminists constantly chide men for sexually objectivizing women and minimizing their other characteristics. Yes, in some respects, feminists have played a useful role in getting men to take women more seriously. But in a post on Feminist Mormon Housewives entitled "An Open Response Re: Modesty Lessons For Children", Rune expresses some serious misgivings about Jewelboxcreek's method and unintended messages. Like other extremists, feminists are frequently plumbing for "hidden" and "unintended" messages; they often assume the worst about the greater society and project their bad experiences upon everyone else. Here are three interesting points that Rune brings out:

"Teaching concepts of clothing modesty to very young children is problematic for quite a few reasons, especially when our own cultural discourse on modesty is so heavily skewed to mean coverage in order to obscure sexual characteristics and prevent others from viewing us sexually..."

But I thought the objective of feminists was to convince men to view women LESS sexually and pay more attention to other attributes. Which is it -- make up your mind.

"There is a lot of danger in putting pressure and responsibility on children to keep from being inadvertently sexual".

There is also a lot of danger of pedophiles exploiting kids who are inadvertently sexual. The pedophile doesn't really care whether or not it's inadvertent.

"There are lots of ways to teach a child to truly love and respect their bodies without inadvertently giving the impression that parts of it are bad, and need to be hidden away".

I agree with this in part; we shouldn't teach kids that their sacred parts are "naughty bits". But they do need to be "hidden away" so that they don't become the central issue. After all, I always thought that feminists opposed a woman's sexuality being viewed as the central issue.

A comment appended to the post also deserves to be addressed. Type A wrote, in part, "...My (almost) 7 year old was getting dressed on Monday and told me that if you wear a tank top you’re not allowed to go to church. I’m so sad that was the message SHE got, whether or not it was intended. I of course, corrected her and told her that she could wear any clothing that she feels comfortable in and that her father and I feel is appropriate for church". A seven-year-old is old enough to be asked to dress in more traditional worship clothing for church. Although a tank top may be O.K. for a Monday, is would not be appropriate for Sunday services. When we attend church to worship the Lord, we owe Him the best we have. It doesn't have to be a Brooks Brothers suit -- it can be a cheap Mr. Mac missionary suit. But whatever your wardrobe contains, wear the best you have for Sunday services. This is in the tradition of the ancient Israelites, who, when they brought an animal to the priests for sacrifice, brought the best of their herds -- without blemish.

Modesty can also be attractive for adults as well.

There's also another reason why we need to maintain and enforce high standards of modesty for our kids. The media-driven campaign to sexualize our youth is unprecedented. Remember Miley Cyrus? She made a rather abrupt transition from Hannah Montana to a half-dressed pole-dancing pop tart after the manner of Lady Gaga, Christine Aguilera, Rihanna, and Britney Spears. We need to continue offering a clear-cut alternative to those poor role models.

But Jewelboxcreek got a very effective last word at her blog, writing "To the New Order Mormons: the wheat and tares are bundled together for a short season prior to the separation. Enjoy our company while you can". I strongly suspect the father of JonBenet Ramsey might be more sympathetic with Jewelboxcreek than with Feminist Mormon Housewives.


Amber Whiteley said...

I really think you misunderstand feminist views on this topic. I would love to have a (peaceful) in-depth conversation with you on this.

Kim Simón said...

Agree about the importance of teaching our young people (female AND male) about the importance of respecting their bodies, and being cautious of the messages they present to the world through their clothing. Question re: the 7 year old in a tank top (and it was my understanding that it was a sleeveless dress, which is not at all the same thing as a tank top). What about people who are visiting our church? What if one of these visitors is the young woman wearing a sleeveless dress? Is it really showing Christlike love to suggest to this child that they need to wear different clothes if they want to come to our church? Or a less active family attending again for the first time? (I have several children in my senior primary class that fall into this group) Sincerely curious about how you would handle this.

TypeA said...

My 7 year old is the one mentioned in your post (and on the FMH blog). I perhaps didn't include enough details. She was not dressed in a sleeveless dress (this week). She does wear sleeveless dresses from time to time. She does have tank tops that she wears during the week, especially on very hot days. I wasn't aware that a modesty lesson was being taught in Primary, and I'm sure it was done with ONLY the best of intentions. The problematic thing, is that the take-home message my daughter got was that "You can't go to church if you wear a tank top." Upon questioning her a bit further, she really believed that people can't come to church with uncovered shoulders. I don't know about other 7 yr. olds, but mine is very outspoken. She would repeat this to someone, ANYONE in sleeveless clothing. I honestly don't have a problem with talking about modesty standards to young children, but I would prefer it were approached from a WHY are we modest, not HOW to be modest. Jr. primary children rarely even pick out their own clothing, and they certainly don't purchase it, so the resposibility to have children appropriately clothed belongs with parents. IMHO, this lesson while well intentioned taught my daughter to judge people's worthiness to attend church based solely on their appearance and I am grateful I had the opportunity to rectify the situation.

Jack Mormon said...

Amber -- I don't censor contrasting viewpoints, so long as they are expressed civilly. Post whatever comments you like to make your case.

Jack Mormon said...

Type A -- I also see that you had the conversation about the tank top with your seven-year-old on a Monday, which is NOT a day of worship. My bad for overlooking that distinction, and I've now re-worded that part of my post slightly to reflect the distinction.

Nonetheless, your comment provided me an opportunity to explain to the general public why we ask people to dress up for Sunday services.

Anonymous said...

Paedophiles do not abuse children because they are dressed "sexually". what a preposterous, deeply disturbing notion.

Jack Mormon said...

Anonymous 3:54 A.M: You're in denial. Some pedophiles are attracted to children for that reason. There is no single motivating factor involved.

Still, there is no acceptable justification for dressing up a pre-pubescent child like a Hooter's waitress.