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The Costs of Misunderstanding Modesty: Op Ed on Meridian Magazine

Yesterday, Meridian Magazine published my article on the unintentional consequences of narrowly defining modesty and hyperfocusing only on “what girls wear.” I have written many blog posts in the past several years that have been well received, but this one has spread like wildfire. Since it was published, yesterday the article has over 90 comments and has been shared 21,000 times on Facebook! It looks like I’m not the only one who is concerned about the modesty obsession all too common phenomenon in Mormon culture and the pattern of hyperfocusing on what teen girls are wearing.

Here are a few of my concerns:

When we reduce the concept of modesty to what females wear, we are reinforcing the very thing that modesty is supposed to help avoid: the sexual objectification of women’s bodies.

Overemphasizing modesty gives others implicit permission to judge and measure a woman’s dedication to the gospel, or “worthiness,” based on physical appearance.

Read the full article here

Suggestions on how to balance modesty discussions

Balancing Modesty Discussion-1
About Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW:
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to TV Shows and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available. Dr. Hanks is currently accepting coaching clients.


mark whitney

Dr Hanks:

I have pasted below my comment I tried to post today on Meridian in respect to your recent Meridian article on Modesty. For some reason it does not show up on Meridian, so I am pasting it below. I value your article.


I apologize now if I am repeating someone, since I probably am.

I am reminded of a story told about President McKay.

When people complained about some girls in a July 24th parade being in swimsuits, and not dressed appropriately, he reportedly said “I didn’t see anyone who wasn’t beautiful.”

For purposes of this post, let us assume that this story is accurate. What is the point, if any, of the story?

That President McKay did not care about modesty? That the suits were actually modest or he would not have said what he did? That it was neither the time or place to discuss the suits, so he chose to say something nice about the girls, assuming the risks that people would later speculate about what he meant?

Of course he cared about modesty. We do not have enough detail on the suits to opine that they were actually modest. We also do not have enough detail to access whether he deferred because it was not the time or place to discuss the swimsuits.

One meaning that validates the perpetuation of this story, which is normally recited as a tribute to President McKay, but which could be used by the cynic as a sword against him, is that it stands for the proposition that God looks on the inner man/woman, and does not judge by outward appearance. I think the injunction is the same for us.

This does not mean that we don’t highly value and obey the law of modesty. Nor does it mean that we should not teach the law of modesty, especially to our children. Quite the contrary.

It does mean that we introspect and make certain that we do not judge others by focusing on their faults, especially their outward appearance. There are dangers in doing so, and these dangers are fittingly addressed by Sister Hanks in her article on modesty.

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