Wednesday, May 06, 2009


My sister Siri and I were sitting on the porch. She was angry. "Melissa attacked me," she said.

"Oh, that's not good," I said. "I bet that made you mad."

"Yeah. She said, 'You have to put on a shirt!'" She crossed her arms over her chest and stared out at the road.

She's five, at that age when clothes - you know, they're just not important. (Okay, actually she should be past that age, but she's a little developmentally delayed). Earlier today I had to threaten to end our front-yard picnic if she wouldn't go inside and put on some pants.

As amused as I was by the situation, I did my best to explain the reasoning. You see, she's been having lots of trouble following certain rules, even rules that we tell her over and over again, and that she gets punished for breaking over and over again. I figured that there was a better hope of her obeying if I told her why.

"You see, Siri, it's important to be modest," I said. "We have to cover up our bodies, because they are temples. You remember learning about temples in Primary."

"Mm-hm." She's interested now, looking up at me instead of at the street, allowing her folded arms to relax. I recall how excited she was when she came home with a temple poster, and how she made me promise to put it up by the bed.

"You remember, that the temple is where Heavenly Father lives?"


"Well, your body is a temple too, and you can have Heavenly Father's spirit live with you and help you. But only if you respect your temple, if you respect your body. And that means you have to be modest and keep yourself covered. It shows respect to Heavenly Father and to your body." I know it's a little repetitive, but she's five. "Do you understand?"


I went back to reading my book - until I remembered what book I was reading. A Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit. It's a book that has been worrying me and making me fervently glad for the Mormon surroundings I grew up in and continue to live in. Ms. Shalit makes the argument that women's increased problems with rapes, disappointing relationships, stalkers, heartbreak, and other problems of the sort are due to a lack of modesty, you know, that thing that men forced on women to keep them downtrodden.

Ms. Shalit talks of past times, times of modesty. Women were expected to cover up and to save themselves for marriage. A woman being pressed by a suitor to do more than was decent had myriad reasons not to - her parents were waiting up for her, what would the neighbors think of her - and if the man still pressed, then he was a boor indeed. And if he went even farther and took, he faced severe punishment.

However, this is what the feminists call "repression." Women have sex drives too, you know. Why force her to keep it all locked up? So the clothes came off, the barriers came down, the parents stopped caring, and now men don't respect women, women think something's wrong with them if they don't want to have sex, and modesty and chastity are largely scorned.

Would one of these feminists be angry with me for telling my sister that she needed to cover herself up? Probably. These are women who dress their preschoolers in belly shirts and short shorts to compete in beauty pageants and are only to glad to say to a TV camera that those who wouldn't put their girls in pageants must have ugly children. These are women who dress themselves in belly shirts and short skirts and blame the men for looking at them like sex objects.

In short, they're people I don't understand.

1 comment:

Sam, The Nanti-SARRMM said...

Did she end up putting pants on after the mini lesson?