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For decades, I've been more than willing to address problematic gender disparities in the church, here, at Times & Seasons, on social media, wherever.

When we discuss those issues, we serve the cause of more equality best by presenting arguments that are logically articulated.

More Modesty Disparity

The other day I saw a post by Julie Hanks. She is very popular in some LDS circles. Given her reach, I think her perspective warrants scrutiny. The post (embedded below) was a comparison (apparently repeated) of the packing lists given to Young Women/Young Men for their respective camps.

To be sure, the Young Women list was far more (in fact, excruciatingly) focused on modesty in dress, whilst the Young Men list didn't touch on that subject.

Enequal? Yes. Unfair? Perhaps not.

Reality Bites

As a past youth and adult leader, my focus was almost always on the issues at hand. In other words, while there have always been a nearly unlimited number of possible problems at a week-long youth camp, our ward/stake discussions/lists/safeguards were geared around the realities on the ground. They dealt with either past problems or current anticipated problems. And those determinations were almost always based on personal observations and knowledge of the attendees.

Let's not be obtuse. It's almost always the girls who are pushing typical clothing modesty guidelines. It's the girls who are exposing as much skin as they can get away with. It's the girls who are using their bodies as an attraction.

[There's a word for that: objectification. And it's so strange how many feminists decry objectification…until they don't. Men cannot objectify women. But women can objectify themselves all day long. (And, if men happen to glance toward the self-objectified women, well, all hell breaks loose.)]

As I've written before, I dressed down myself as a young woman/adult. Because it worked. It attracted young men. (I've also written repeatedly how that is a problem on its own.)

If you disagree with the particular dress code for your camp, have a rational discussion with ward/stake leaders. Understand, of course, that the powers that be cannot make everyone happy. (And maybe, this time, it's your turn to be less than satisfied.)

Young Men Escape the “Shaming”

The Young Men almost never get this treatment. With the exception of the occasional (and generationally necessary) admonition to keep their waistbands above their crotches, no on harps on the guys to cover up…because the guys are almost never uncovered.

How many speedos have you witnessed at a Young Men camp? How many guys did you see on a 50-mile hike in booty shorts?

For the same reason young women get more direction/criticism with regards to prom attire. Men wear tuxedos. (Have you seen any teen boys with buttless chaps or tearaway pants?) Girls, on the other hand, often emulate women at the most recent Hollywood gala.

Do Young Men also have rules that are generally exclusive to their gender? Yes, ma'am. Having two sons and dozens of camps behind me, here are a few:

  • Don't urinate outside the tent window.
  • Don't urinate at the base of the tent.
  • Don't urinate on another YM.
  • Don't cross streams.
  • Don't urinate on an animal.
  • Don't build a fire inside your tent.
  • Don't harm/torture small animals.
  • Don't kill small animals.
  • Don't chop down trees. (A rule made for one unnamed son of mine.)
  • No alighting farts.
  • No porn allowed, in any form.
  • No rolling boulders.
  • No free cliff jumping.
  • Don't shoot other boys or leaders or animals or tents or cars or… (archery; marksmanship; etc.)
  • Any dangerous attraction, became a geographically-specific prohibition.

Historically, most girls were not thusly instructed…because girls haven't typically had those same problems.

Let's Be Honest

Back to body-specific modesty…

If you had a family pool party at your home, and a bunch of tween/teen gals showed up in thongs and pasties or a bunch of tween/teen guys showed up wearing slings, would you be the totally chill mom? Just happily passing out towels and soda and oblivious to their near-nakedness?

In all likelihood, you have a modesty standard, too. And that's fine.

It's OK to have a standard. Even a dress standard. And it's even OK for church camps to have a dress standard you think is too conservative.

No, it's not body shaming, it's not sexualizing kids, and it's not traumatic.

It's 100% fine. You (and your daughters) will survive!

Frankly, I think it will do them less harm to simply say, “Hey, this standard is more strict than I think is necessary, but I'm not in charge of that decision this year.” than it is to say, “They all think your shoulders are pornographic! They hate your bodies and want you to hate them, too! They are misogynistic body-shamers who are destroying your confidence and psyche!”

When I worked at Burger King my freshman year in college, I had to wear a brown polyester pantsuit uniform with elastic-waist pants and bright orange and yellow stripes up the sides. Trust me when I say that did far more damage to my inner oozing of young adult sexiness than the expectation to cover my midriff ever did. (I was in good company with Elizabeth Shue, here, but I bet she got more than minimum wage for her gig.)

Modesty Schmodesty

Yes, in our church was have a rather robust modesty dress standard. We do and have since at least since the Retrenchment Society. We can talk about it, disagree with it, and try to change it. But we don't need to behave as if it's the ultimate act of patriarchal oppression.

If you really think modesty in dressing is a persecution worth fighting about, please, for the love, start posting on social media about the horrors of the burka. Send me the links. I'll wait here.

Modesty is a topic I've been unravelling for a few years. Would love to hear your input.

Alison Moore Smith is a 60-year-old entrepreneur. She has been (very happily) married to Samuel M. Smith for 38 years. They are parents of six incredible children and grandparents to two astounding grandsons.