Brigham Young University has again become a widespread Internet topic after a note written to a female student chastised her for the apparent inappropriateness of her outfit.
Brittany Molina was studying in the Tanner building Wednesday when a fellow computer-lab user she didn’t know approached her, handed a her note, and walked away.
The note, among other things, reminded Molina about her commitment to the school’s Honor Code and suggested she “consider what you’re wearing has a negative effect on men and women around you.”
While the note didn’t specifically state what part of Molina’s clothing was inappropriate, she believes it was probably written in regards to her dress’s hemline which rose a few inches above the knee — this is in spite of thick leggings worn underneath.
Molina maintains that she does not feel her outfit was against the Honor Code and considers the note given to her to be out of line.
“At first I was embarrassed,” Molina said, “and then I started reading it and realized it was mean. I’ve had several girls tweet at me their similar experiences as the one’s I had. One girl told me a boy called her out in front of her entire class on the shirt she was wearing. Another girl got called out in front of her co-workers.”
BYU student and blogger Joseph Trevor Antley refers to these men as the “little appreciated group of awkward-acting men known as the Volunteer Modesty Militia,” emphasizing that this event underscores a school and perhaps Church-wide issue of “morbid self-righteousness.”
Catalina Sanchez, an engineering student at BYU said this kind of behavior from men reveals what she feels is a shallow focus on the outside appearance of a woman.
“It makes me feel like if it really bothers [boys] that much then clearly they aren’t trying to get to know me — they’re just judging me based on my looks,” she said. “There’s a lot that comes from what you’re wearing, but there’s a lot that comes from beyond that. If you’re just concerned about what a girl’s wearing then you have issues too.”
While the note has garnered quite the backlash from some, it does have its supporters. BYU students like Shannon Sorensen argue that outfits like Molina’s are inappropriate and that given the current environment, students should be allowed to write notes similar to the one given to Molina.
“Leggings and tights do not compensate for too short of a dress,” Sorensen said, later adding, “I’ve had this conversation with a lot of guys before. If the girls won’t follow the Honor Code and no one is enforcing it, is it really so wrong for him to take matters into his own hands? Many guys I’ve talked to say that it’s disrespectful and distracting when girls refuse to follow the Honor Code.”
In support of Sorensen’s approach is the past existence of “pardon me” cards which BYU officials began distributing in 1968. The cards, which featured a similar message to the one given Molina, were distributed on the school’s campus to female visitors and students alike whose dresses and skirts did not meet socially acceptable lengths. The cards were not met with much support, however, and were quickly phased out.
Another look at the history of BYU’s dress standards shows a great degree of fluidity in comparison to other rules, such as those regarding sexual activity. For many years female students were forbidden from wearing pants outside of designated activities (usually involving athletics), but in 1971 they were allowed to wear slacks.
While there have been posters featured at times around campus explaining that dresses need to come to the knees even with leggings, there doesn’t appear to be an official rule concerning the matter and the Honor Code office declined to comment on the issue.
“You go to Salt Lake and you’re going to see things you don’t see here,” she said. “Provo really is a special place. It’s cool that we can live in a place like that, but if someone is going to react to something small, then I don’t know how they’re going to make it.”
Update: Read what Brittany had to say on her blog.