BYU & women’s leggings stirs debate…again

 

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.

Brittany Moline shows the outfit she wore when a male BYU student handed her a note criticizing her adherence to the Honor Code.

Brittany Moline shows the outfit she wore when a male BYU student handed her a note criticizing her adherence to the Honor Code.

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.

 

33 comments

  1. Where is this widespread on the Internet?

  2. “Many guys I’ve talked to say that it’s disrespectful and distracting when girls refuse to follow the Honor Code.”

    Angry feminist here. Really? It has always irked me when we’re told to be modest so that we don’t tempt guys; the argument is disgustingly misogynistic. That’s steps away from saying that a woman being raped was “asking for it.” Everyone is responsible for themselves, they shouldn’t be judging others or putting blame on them for their own thoughts. If a professor approaches me after class and mentions something about my skirt being too short, I’ll respect it, but it is not the place of anyone to partake in what is known in more extreme forms as “slut-shaming.” Modesty is about a personal commitment, not about pleasing those around you. To bring in kind of a gospel element (I guess), pleasing those around you is what the world encourages, am I right?

    I feel like judging others is contrary to the honor code and a worse issue than skirt length. A general authority once said at a fireside (I remember this from the ridiculous skinny jeans controversy) that “one of the secrets of the Honor Code is that it’s not just a test to see if you will obey or not. Sometimes it’s a test to see how we respond to those who do not obey.” The kid who wrote the note responded in the self-righteous manner that is unfortunately characteristic of BYU in general, according to my peers back home.

  3. For all the many who have accused, and will yet accuse, the note’s deliverer of being a pervert who won’t control his own thoughts or a self-righteous jerk or any number of other things, here are some things to consider:

    I couldn’t help but notice that the note never mentions anything about its author or its author’s own thoughts. The only first person is the first person plural referring to the whole student body. There was nothing to indicate that the author couldn’t control their own thoughts. It seemed more that they were concerned about the thoughts of others.

    I would think that a self-righteous jerk would sooner have tattled on her to the honor code office than asked her personally to reconsider her choice of outfit.

    The idea of a pervert prompting someone to dress more modestly is just ridiculous.

    We don’t even know if the messenger was the author. The note may have been written by a girl who asked her guy friend to deliver it.

    Despite the harmless appearance of her outfit in the photo, (which was taken afterward in a nearby bathroom) Brittany may have unwittingly been seated in such a way as to expose more of herself than the photo shows. Her dress may have ridden up, her neckline may have fallen, or any other number of things may have differed from her study position to the bathroom photo.

    And lastly, if you’re not familiar with the terms look up Fundamental Attribution Error and Self-serving Bias. We only know Brittany’s side of the story. We don’t have a perfect understanding of what happened or the thoughts in the mind(s) of the author/messenger.

    • Josh, calm down. You seem really defensive.

      Just wanted to point out that it was a guy who wrote it. Here’s a little more about the guy:

      http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/02/16/self-fulfilling-or-why-fetishizing-girls-bodies-fetishizes-girls-bodies/#comment-248229

      • I’m perfectly calm. I’m just trying to point out while everybody’s making judgements they have about as much to go from (one note) as he did in giving the note (one outfit).
        Identification based on an amateur’s analysis of the handwriting? I’ll take that with a few grains of salt if you don’t mind. With as many students as there are here at BYU I’m sure there are several whose handwriting matches. Though if it is the guy that commenter claims at least everyone across the web could feel a little justified in their seething and venomous remarks.

    • I couldn’t help but notice that the note never mentions anything about its author or its author’s own thoughts.

      Of course not.

      The only first person is the first person plural referring to the whole student body. There was nothing to indicate that the author couldn’t control their own thoughts. It seemed more that they were concerned about the thoughts of others.

      Yep. Rather than own up to his own biases and weaknesses, he foists responsibility for them off onto others.

      Despite the harmless appearance of her outfit in the photo, (which was taken afterward in a nearby bathroom) Brittany may have unwittingly been seated in such a way as to expose more of herself than the photo shows. Her dress may have ridden up, her neckline may have fallen, or any other number of things may have differed from her study position to the bathroom photo.

      then the guy should have said, “Hey, watch how you’re sitting,” not “rethink your outfit.”

      duh.

      We only know Brittany’s side of the story. We don’t have a perfect understanding of what happened or the thoughts in the mind(s) of the author/messenger.

      Oh, so we are supposed to avoid judging him, but it’s fine to judge Brittany?

      We have what the guy wrote. We have what he felt entitled to say to another person. We have clear statements that reveal his unearned moral superiority.

      With all my heart, I wish Brittany had snapped a picture of this guy. I hope that she runs into him on campus, takes his picture, and publishes it somewhere. I hope that any woman who gets a note like this one in the future takes a picture of the guy who gives it to her. I wish this guy was being forced to defend his actions and statements. I wish he would consider his commitment to the honor code (which he agreed to) before doing something that makes BYU and even all Mormons look like uptight perverts and judgmental jerks.

      • “Yep. Rather than own up to his own biases and weaknesses, he foists responsibility for them off onto others”
        You don’t know there was any bias or weakness on his part. For all you know the man could be gay. I’ve known a gay latter day saint who felt uncomfortable around immodestly dressed women not because of unclean thoughts but because they were disrespecting their bodies. Essentially, you don’t know what was going on in his head. All you can do is make assumptions.

        then the guy should have said, “Hey, watch how you’re sitting,” not “rethink your outfit.”
        Hindshight’s 20/20. Maybe he’ll learn more tact from this experience.

        “Oh, so we are supposed to avoid judging him, but it’s fine to judge Brittany? ”
        If you missed it reread my comment. I never made any judgments on Brittany nor did I suggest that we do so. Brittany’s side of the story may be flawless, but one flawless side of a coin is still only one side. The coin’s not complete without the other.

        You have clear statements that you interpret to reveal what you deem ” his unearned moral superiority.” He could be a thoughtful and sensitive yet absolutely tactless young man. You don’t know. Any assumptions you make based on the note are just that, assumptions.

        Fundamental attribution error. Think about it. You may curse at the jerk who cut you off and flip him the bird but you’d feel like the jerk if you found out his daughter had been in a wreck and he was rushing to see her before she died. It’s just as wrong for anyone on the internet to make scathing and venomous remarks about him, while actually KNOWING so little about him, as it was for him to give her that note.

    • There has been an attempt to contact the guy we think it is, but with no luck yet… see comment number 6 here.

  4. jaron summers /

    I would worry about a woman running around with camera in a bathroom TAKING PHOTOS. Oh my.

    • As is everyone with an iPhone is an oddball? Sheesh, what planet do you live on?

  5. Nathan Grout /

    I wish we were better about talking clearly about why we have the rules we do. I wonder if this would have happened if people in Sunday School taught about modesty by saying simply, “Endowed or not, what you wear should be able to cover the Temple Garment.”

    Brittany’s clothes live up to that standard, so they’re good enough for me.

  6. Joshua, you are exactly the type of person I would imagine writing a note of this type.

    • Orwell,
      Fundamental attribution error. Look it up. You know next to nothing about me. Imagining all you will won’t make it true. I would not pass such a note and the fact that you think I would reveals how little you know about me.

  7. Jack Spratt /

    All of this hubbub is absurd.

    ” Dresses, skirts, and shorts must be knee-length or longer. ”
    ” Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code ”

    Her skirt was technically too short, and he encouraged her to comply. His approach was unusual and unexpected, but not wrong and shouldn’t be seen as offensive. If she didn’t want to be encouraged to comply, she should have picked a skirt in keeping with the Honor Code.

  8. JakeStarkey /

    The issue still focuses on “not your business.” The attire is proper. The girl is modest. Thus, the gaze must be directed at the naysayers who apparently objectify their own inner sexual inadequacies and fears on targets of that relieve their own self-loathing. Two words for the naysayers: grow up.

  9. The chap who wrote the note was probably a freshly-returned missionary. You know the type; filled with piety and self-righteous fervor, but so sexually confused he would have a small coronary if a young lady sat next to him in class or church. I’ll bet this one grew up home-schooled, too (morally sheltered with no social skills).

    University is a place to learn to become a more functional member of society, not to barricade one’s self from it.

  10. What a gutless wonder. He did not identify himself in the note. If it is so important to him he should sit down, introduce himself, and show love and respect. I am afraid a self appointed fashion cop like him has the narcissist qualities to hurt people. Find something positive to say! Quite frankly this coward is bullying the girl.

  11. Joshua, I’m afraid you’re dead wrong. Let’s take your point about how her dress may have slid up/unintentionally revealed more to its logical extreme: Suppose she was wearing a skimpy low-cut top, a short skirt, and no leggings. Suppose she was brazenly flaunting the honor code and seated in a seductive, come-hither pose. Even then, there is no excuse for what happened. Whoever wrote the note (and from a few other things I’ve read the candidate is known to some people), the act of passing it along like that shows severe lack of tact, and that should be the end of it. Doesn’t matter what his thoughts or perspective were. But, since our hypothetical girl is now flaunting herself in such a suggestive way, is anonymous-note-giver justified in being upset about it? Absolutely NOT! If she’s making him feel uncomfortable, he should have the spiritual fortitude to avert his gaze and think about other things – maybe even move somewhere else. He is responsible for his own thoughts and his own actions regardless of what she does.

    The “she was seated in such a way…” argument is offensive, because it goes back to, “women are responsible for men’s thoughts.” If a neckline happens to be a little loose and a woman (God help her) has curvy proportions, she’d better not THINK about ever leaning forward lest she offend/excite the men around her. If a slit in a skirt shows a little more leg than intended (or a shirt skirt shows exactly as much as intended), it’s the responsibility of men and priesthood holders to THINK ABOUT OTHER THINGS! To see the woman as a daughter of God and respect her as such! To not fetishize her body because of what may or may not be showing. And most especially, to not judge her or become passive-aggressively angry about the “effect” she’s having on others. That’s for her, and nobody else, to worry about, and others can make their choices accordingly.

    I realize you’re trying to take a middle road here and be understanding, so forgive my venom, but in this issue there can’t be a middle road. Women’s bodies are their own responsibility, men’s thoughts are their own responsibility, period. Let BYU officials police morality if they must, but as church members and free agents we should be showing love and understanding, not indignation and resentment, towards others.

  12. pangwitch /

    although i still believe in the book of mormon, i’ve stopped believing that the current LDS church is being led by god and jesus. theres no way it would like this, if it was.

    • your brother and friend /

      Pangwitch, I’m sorry you feel that way. I don’t necessarily agree with what everyone is saying, but I do know that they are entitled to their own opinions and that everyone is at their own point on their way back to Christ. I encourage you to keep reading the Book of Mormon and pray about the message it contains. The presence of a true God-guided church doesn’t mean that its members would be perfect, rather that they might have the tools to follow Christ and be able to be perfected when they return to Him.

  13. I agree with Joshua, and others here who realize that leggings do not make a short skirt modest. It really bugs me that so many girls don’t get this, especially in Provo, where they really should know better. It’s trendy – that’s the only reason they wear the outfit. If it went out of style, they’d stop wearing it, and perhaps realize how immodest they were being. This girl’s attitude makes me cringe – she WILL throw the honor code out the window and laugh about it, and she WON’T change her attire or her mindset about what she looks like.

  14. Casey,
    I’m afraid you can’t say that whether I’m wrong or not (unless you know something no one else does and are not sharing) until the man is positively identified and his character rightly evaluated from evidence beyond just a single note.

    Let’s take your hypothetical extreme example: Severe lack of tact granted; I never said otherwise. If your hypothetical girl really is being so brazen would someone have a right to feel upset about it? Depending on the person, YES! Alternate hypothetical: Are the righteous justified in their grief over the sins of the world? The Lord thinks so. (Clarification: I do NOT mean to imply that the man was righteous and Brittany sinful. I’m just using a hypothetical, like you did, to demonstrate a point.)

    You assume that his issue with her “immodesty” is based on his unclean thoughts and/or lack of control thereof. This assumption has no direct evidence in the note.
    Alternate hypothesis: The man is gay. He has never had an unclean thought about a woman his entire life. Despite that, immodestly dressed women still make him uncomfortable. Why? Because he’s a faithful priesthood holder that knows their bodies deserve more respect than that so he’s concerned about her disrespect for her own body and the unclean thoughts of other men. (Not that a man would necessarily have to be gay to be bothered in that non-incriminating way. It’s just easier for at least some to imagine.) If such were the case then no amount of averting his gaze or even going somewhere else would (necessarily) change his concern.

    The “she was seated in such a way” argument in no way blames women for men’s thoughts. Not necessarily anyway. I never made that point. Here’s a quick demonstration though: Don’t think of a red sweater. You just thought of a red sweater didn’t you? Who’s responsible for that? You because you thought of it, or me because you wouldn’t have thought of it if I hadn’t typed it? Both, I’d say, at least to an extent. Women are not responsible for men’s dwelling on unclean thoughts. That being said, I don’t think the Lord holds people blameless for their influence on others. He certainly wouldn’t appreciate any of his priesthood holders being unnecessarily exposed to temptation by any of his daughters operating under the mentality of “They’re responsible for their own thoughts so it shouldn’t matter what I wear.” We’re all here to help each other out women helping men and men helping women. No one is an island. Sure this help should be done tactfully and appropriately but I’d rather people be tactless with me then not offer any help for fear of offending me. As for it being men’s responsibility to think about other things I refer you back to the previous paragraph. Unclean thoughts are not the only reason a decent man might be bothered by a woman’s immodesty.

    What I’m trying to do is emphasize Fundamental Attribution Error, the fact that we don’t know the whole story, and that it’s just as inappropriate for people to make scathing and venomous remarks passing horrible judgments on this man based on just one note as it was for him to write such a tactless (at best) note based on just her outfit. Am I trying to take the middle of the road? Not really. I don’t want or intend to take either position, for or against the guy. I’m trying to point out the fact that it would be wrong for anyone to take a position without hearing his side of the story. He may be an absolute jerk. He might also be an amazing guy in all ways other than his complete and total lack of tact. If someone asks me which he is I’d say I don’t know and I couldn’t say. It wouldn’t be right for me to judge.

    Women are responsible for their bodies. Men are responsible for their thoughts. And we’re responsible to each other. The honor code suggest that students encourage others to abide by the honor code and the Lord expects all his children to help each other make it back to him. Hopefully this ordeal will be a lesson to all to do so with tact, not to avoid helping and encouraging others to live righteously for fear of offending someone.

  15. Jack Cuse /

    Somebody out there knows who this guy is. Let’s put technology to good use; get his name, his image, his Facebook profile, etc. and splash them across the message boards. If we publicly out this self-righteous tool, other would-be honor enforcers will think twice before judging others. Such behavior, even if well-intentioned, only breeds hostility and distrust, particularly towards women.

    Get to work!

  16. I can’t believe everyone is overacting over this stupid story! How do we even know that this girl was truly wearing this outfit in the library exactly as shown in her photo? The news media outlets are un-objectively taking her story as the whole truth. How do we know that she’s even a BYU student? She’s probably some Utah County chick not smart enough to get into BYU, who doesn’t even know the honor code, and who hangs out at the library dressed to hook a future husband. By twittering her story, and allowing herself to be interviewed on Fox News, she got something even better than a husband, 15 mins. of fame, and if you watch her TV interview, you can see she’s lovin it. Hey Brittany, If you really ARE a BYU student, spend more time on school, or get outta there so someone who really wants to be there can get in. After all, every student at BYU is getting an IVY league education for less than the cost of school at Utah’s public universities, and less than half of the people who apply to the Y are able to get in. So, stop wasting our tithing money, that helps supplement your education, and get serious about BYU and it’s honor code — or hit the road, bimbo! Hopefully the next big news story, generated about you, will be about how BYU gave the boot to BrittanyJMo, the attention-seekin Ho!

    • Dustin Robinson /

      Jo, having gone over the facts surrounding the situation and having interviewed Brittany I can assure you she is a BYU student in good standing at the university. The debate about appropriate dress standards at the university is one that is constantly ongoing, and has had fair commentary from both sides of the debate. That being said I would encourage you to spend less time making comments about Brittany’s sexual mores with words like “bimbo” and “ho”, comments that belie an unfortunately masochistic viewpoint, and spend more time contributing productive points to what can be a pertinent discussion regarding the issue at hand. If you have an opinion concerning BYU dress standards please share it, I’m sure many people, myself included, look forward to hearing your appropriately expressed and productive views.

    • JO- You are obviously uneducated and do not know how to research her before opening your mouth. She is an extremely smart accounting major at BYU. What she has done so far in her 21 years is more than you will do in your life.

  17. Jo–She simply posted the note and her picture on her twitter. That’s it. She didn’t contact anyone or flaunt the story or seek attention. In fact, she was at first terrified by all the attention–she thought she might get in trouble.
    And thank you for talking about tithing money and using the words “ho” and “bimbo” in the same sentence. Classy.

  18. So what about visitors to our campus? How did this guy know this girl wasn’t a visitor (non-student) who was just doing research in the library? A visitor is not held to the honor code and are still allowed to utilize BYU’s facilities. For example, a visiting father of a student can buy whatever he wants in the bookstore, even if he had a (gasp!) beard. He could also use the library. I don’t see why a woman with a short skirt or even a tank top couldn’t use the library. We’re welcome to visitors.

    The only place BYU can enforce the honor code is in instances that are limited just to students–the testing center and I’ve heard of an instance where someone was turned away when trying to pay their tuition having some facial hair (Okay, it was me!).

    In light of this–despite the fact that we KNOW she was a student–I think what he did was reprehensible and would have been an absolute disaster if that girl was a visitor. Perhaps we should slip notes to visiting non-members here to do genealogy in the library or to visiting lecturers/professors who rock the facial hair. I don’t think there is any place for peer-to-peer correction in terms of a dress/grooming honor code violation. It’s laughable, frightening, and oh so sad. I wish it was a big joke, because well, it is a big joke.

  19. karen /

    It would be lovely if the honor code asked men to also act with honor, and not just women. Honor should not be calculated in the technicalities of how many inches a skirt is above a fully covered knee, but I would opine that there is lack of honor in making it one’s object to sit there and measure it with your eyes when sitting in a place of academics and studying. That’s lewd, and inappropriate, and then to blame the object of that ogling and make her feel objectified due to your *own* lack of control is outrageously lacking in “honor.”

  20. Constansce /

    Joshua -

    Regarding your ‘red sweater’ comment – there are two parts to this example, and you are not mentioning the second part. There’s a difference between (1) forming an image of something in your mind… and (2) how you then decide to react to that image.

    What would a woman ‘siting provocatively’ suggest to you, even after you have unfortunately set your own definition of what is provacative? In your example, you put the cart before the horse and remove the result of your imagination from your own responsibility.

    What if you were to become a doctor and are forced to look upon any woman’s body during surgery or examination? Would you apply your justification on how she’d “make you feel”, and be unwilling to take ownership of your own feelings and reactions?

  21. Very informative article post.Really thank you! Will read on…

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