Thursday, December 08, 2011

Must I Don a Burka? - My Letter to Joanna Brooks

Miss Ask a Mormon Girl Joanna Brooks posted her thoughts yesterday on the BYU-Idaho skinny jeans controversy. She asked if this was "Sexism, sizeism or standards"? For those not in the loop, the BYU Testing Center is notorious for being more puritanical than temple standards. This latest gaffe started when a "curvier" girl walked in wearing skinny jeans. She was told to go home and change because her outfit was too tight. This reminded me of my own, personal encounter with BYU leadership and dress standards. So I messaged Brooks my experience. Here is the letter:



Hi Joanna,

Thank you for posting about this issue with BYU. I subscribe to your Facebook updates and wanted to message you privately. I used to work for BYU. I worked at Classical 89 as the morning newscaster there for a year. I left shortly after being told I was dressed too provocatively and a man I worked with had complained it was giving him impure thoughts. I cried. The HR gal told me she didn't even want to bring it up with me but she was being forced to by the "men" above her. The thing is I'm busty. I cover up but I'm busty. I was wearing garment covering clothing. I wore garments at the time. I was told it was my problem. [Must I don a burka?]

When I asked who this person was that had complained and was having "thoughts" I was told they weren't allowed to tell me. Talk about creating a hostile work environment.

So I left. I thought of suing. I thought of going to the papers. But at the time I was a faithful member and didn't want to cause problems for the church's image. I didn't want to stand out and risk being labeled something or further harassed.

Sarah



The problem is really a systemic belief among church leadership (all men) that women should be told what to do rather than having an understanding that men are in charge of their own behavior. It's appalling and insulting (to both men and women). And places women in a humiliating position where they have to apologies for having a body (that God gave them). I was young and vulnerable (26 at the time) and felt the hostility in the position I was in. I knew if I complained my career would be over, I would bring bad press to an organization I believed in and I was not in a winning position. No woman (or man), curvy or not should be subject to that sort of hostility in the workplace or otherwise.

We live in a place and time where women are afforded a great many more opportunities than they used to have. We can work side by side with men and hold leadership positions, even be CEO and have people take us seriously. Should we say thank you or it's about time? That's another debate...It is time we ask men with weak and wandering minds to take their heads out of the gutter and not discriminate against curvier women for existing. This skinny jeans incident is just another lamentable example of the "Church" asking women to feel bad about themselves.

2 comments:

Steve said...

The modesty thing in the church always bothered me in how it put most of the fault on the girls. I find the whole modesty thing to be simple minded. If a boy (or girl, yes they have feelings too!) can't control their feelings or thoughts based on what is in front of them, then they have bigger problems than "having impure thoughts", which are just normal feelings and learning how to react and control them is called being an adult, not a bad person. The other religious leaders that treat women like this were/are the Taliban.

IMHO, women are and always will be the most beautiful entities on earth; why would a God or creator want to keep them hidden?!? It'd be like putting a circus tent over the Grand Canyon!?!?

George Marie said...

Thanks for sharing this, Sarah. Do you remember the guy from our ward who always used to set up and tear down for Sacrament meeting and other functions? There was a Gospel Doctrine class, shortly before I left, where we were talking about the temple marriage and the highest levels of the Celestial Kingdom as being for only those who were married. I think his name was Steve, right? At that class, he asked what would happen if he never got married because of his disability, and the teacher said he wouldn't be able to be in the C.K.

It makes me feel terrible that some people have to make others feel like crap because they are built a little bit differently, speak a bit different,etc. They can't help that.

I'm sorry that you had to go through what you did. It makes one wonder what the man's relationship was like with his wife at home, the guy that complained about you. I bet he is the type who looks at porn, drinks a ton, and is just an overall douche, not that it makes the situation any better.