You are beautiful. You are beautiful in your original school photos, and you are beautiful in the doctored yearbook photos that appeared in the 2013/2014 Wasatch High School yearbook, which isn’t to say I think the “editing,” or photoshopping, the school did in order to cover more of your bodies than your tops and tanks did was appropriate. It shouldn’t have happened. You should’ve been given full opportunity to represent your personality through your attire. Some may say you forfeited that right by not adhering to the dress code. But a dress code that is not enforced on a daily basis hasn’t the respect of the people who created it and who are charged with enforcing it. By default then, it isn’t reasonable to expect those over whom it alleges power to take it seriously. Each original photo I saw of you depicted a young woman who was dressed modestly and appropriately for school. Your parents should be very proud of you for the brave way you are standing up for yourselves by addressing this in front of Fox 13 News cameras.
I’m no one to you, some distant voice who has been introduced to your private lives through a television news report. But you remind me very much of my own daughter, who graduated high school a few years back and has begun her own life. I’d like to say a few things to you that I never said to her while she was still in my home, things I wish I had known to say.
First, I was wrong. When my daughter was very young, we were at a pool where several teenage girls were swimming, along with some boys. All the girls wore bikinis. I whispered to her, “Those girls hardly have any clothes on. What do you think those boys are thinking? Do you think they admire those girls for their brains and personality?” For this, I am absolutely, utterly, completely ashamed of myself. At the time, I thought I was instilling self-respect in my daughter. In reality, I was doing the opposite.
Instead, I communicated three dreadful things to a little girl who hadn’t even reached the age of accountability: 1) Your body is beneath your brains and personality because it is something unseemly, dirty, and of lesser value, 2) males will lust after your body because it is how they are, 3) you are responsible for their lust, for their sin.
All three of these things are lies. Don’t fall for them.
It’s true that your bodies are sacred. We should all treat our bodies with respect because of their sacredness. But I ask you—and not just you, but everybody—how many sacred things are responsible for sin? I can name none that are. I can name ways sacred things are used sinfully, but I cannot think of a single sacred thing that is, in itself, also a sin.
When the school district or the people at your church say, or suggest, that you must cover your shoulders, knees, or cleavage, because, if you don’t, you might become, as your dress code reads, “a disruption” for males of our species, don’t believe it. Your existence is not a disruption. And trust me, boys will be disrupted from their work by the way you tilt your head when you laugh or the way you drag your feet on your way to Spanish class. Boys are distracted by girls and vice versa. That is also sacred. It is a vital part of God’s plan for His children. If a young man has a dirty thought–or worse, if he tries to take liberties with your body–the sin is his, entirely his, his doing, his responsibility, his fault, his and his alone. The reality is, some males will have lustful thoughts about you or assume liberties even if you are clothed head to toe, as innumerable older women will attest and as you may well already know from your own experience.
At the end of the Fox 13 news story, the reporter says you girls “understand the dress code” but “hope it is enforced on everyone, and not just a select few.” Although I believe in modesty in dress (in modesty in all aspects of life, for that matter), a part of me wants to encourage you to reject the false standard of modesty that caps shoulders and hides knees. Part of me wants to encourage you to stand against the depiction of your male classmates as incapable of self-control. But I can’t do that. The dress code exists and, as minors who attend school in the district, you agree to abide by it. But I applaud you for demanding equal application of the dress code. Your sense of fairness is sharp. I trust that, as you grow forward in your life, that sense of fairness will blossom into a wisdom that defines modesty in more expansive terms, that rejects the body shaming that impairs the self-esteem of so many young women, and rejoice in the sacred nature of attraction that compels us to engage in Heavenly Father’s plan.
I have no right to be proud of you. I don’t know you. But I am proud, little sisters. Very proud.