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Immodesty: Whose fault is it, anyway?

from the let's-take-responsibility dept.
Mary writes, "President Samuelson's opening semester talk, "Outward Expressions of the Inner Self", was pretty bold in addressing modesty and other appearance issues at BYU. Many will agree it's a problem, but there's been some discussion about the root of the problem. Brian Matteson started some controversy with his letter to the editor, "Where's the respect, men?" asserting that men are causing much of the immodesty on campus because when they look at girls, "there is no hint of respect or reverence in your eyes, only lust." Strong disagreement ensued, as Jason Eldredge contended that Immodest Clothing is not guys fault and Michael Nair pointed out in his letter that Brian's letter over-generalized the topic. What do we think about this, men? Women? Should we be blaming someone? Why is it such a problem?"

Re: Immodesty: Who's fault is it, anyway?

originally posted by Alicia on Feb 25, 2004 - 08:31 AM

President Samuelson pointed out that we all needed to look within ourselves on this topic when he said, "I have chosen my topic with some risk because it is possible that those who most need to hear what I will say will be most likely to think that I am speaking to someone else. I would hope that every one of you, even the most consciously exemplary, would ask the selfsame question posed by the Savior's original apostles when He explained that He would be betrayed by one of their number. The question that applied to them and applies to each of us is, 'Lord, is it I?' " Maybe we all to spend some more time looking within ourselves rather than pointing the finger.

Re: Immodesty: Who's fault is it, anyway?

originally posted by Anonymous User on Feb 25, 2004 - 10:22 AM

I am Brian Matteson. The one who wrote the article in the Daily Universe which stirred up so much controversy and filled my inbox with e-mails from men on campus who decided to call me a "fag" and various other crude things as a result of my desire for women to have respect. One person who responded even went so far as to say "If women don't want to be looked at, they shouldn't go where there are other people."

The problem is apparently more rampant and pestilent at BYU than I would have ever dared suppose. I never meant to stir up controversy. This seemed like such an obvious thing, Don't stare at girls, don't treat them like objects. Keep your language clean, keep your thoughts clean, do not have softporn on your bedroom walls. I never believed ANYONE would openly contest the point that women deserve respect at BYU. I never believed anyone here was so corrupted by evil that they would go so far as to find a picture of David Hasselhoff without a shirt on to blast the words on it "You're a fag" and then send it to me.

How can BYU be so corrupted? President Samuelson wanted us all to work on modesty. Modesty is a key issue at BYU. But the issue that is more rampant is amongst the men, and that is the problem I brought up. It is the more serious problem. But it is one no General Authority could dare address without risking his life and the lives of his family members. I, on the other hand, am alone at BYU. And I refuse to stand idly by and let the condemnation for the actions of my Brethren in the Priesthood fall upon my head because of my unwillingness to act.

The men at BYU need to wake up. They hold the priesthood and many have served missions and have thus made very heavy covenants with the Lord, and yet they refuse to grow up and mature and make wise choices. They refuse to treat women as daughters of God and instead look on them as slabs of meat for them to drool over and lust after. How can these things be rationalized away? How can you shrug it off and say I am exaggerating? How can any man say that "it isn't my fault"? How can any say "You are overgeneralizing"? They know it is true and thus they retaliate against me. The wicked take the truth to be hard. But as Mormon said, if I declare the word with sharpness, they get angry with me and tremble. But if I declare it with softness, they harden their hearts against me.

Wake up and repent. The evil that is pervasive among the male gender has not gone unnociticed by the Lord and there will come a time when all who still hold onto these attitudes and wickednesses will reap what they have sown.

Arise my brethren, and be men!

It is NOT my fault!

originally posted by Anonymous User on Feb 25, 2004 - 05:29 PM
My name is Jason Eldredge and I have already written one response to Mr. Matteson's comments. I would have left the issue to rest but I feel compelled to write a little more of my feelings on the subject. The last response I wrote was semi tongue-in-cheek, but this one is not. I agree that modesty/respect is a problem, no arguement there. I am not contesting the fact that women deserve respect at BYU (and everywhere else I might add).
However, that is where my agreeing ends. I don't think that any General Authority who speaks up on the topic (which was not stated, but I am assuming it is respect of women) would be risking his life and his family's lives. If Mr. Matteson had done his homework before speaking out, he would realize that several times General Authorities have spoken out on the issue of men respecting women. Case in point: 1988 Elder Faust is speaking in Priesthood Session of General Conference (he's a General Authority by the way) and has this to say, "We holders of the priesthood should honor good women in and out of the Church as true sisters, not as objects and sources of service or pleasure. Our consideration for women should spring from esteem for the daughters of Zion and an awareness of their true identity more than from a concern with their functions and roles." Has he addressed the issue sufficiently? If you want more examples, simply go to and search the "Gospel Library" for women+respect - I did and I got 500 matches (I'm sure it would be higher, but 500 is the limit). And, as my wise roommate pointed out, since when has a General Authority been afraid to speak out on something? Our Church has a history of martyrs, and I would be VERY hesitant to believe that Pres. Hinckley or other Apostles would be afraid to address an issue. IF, IF an issue is not addressed by the General Authorities, maybe that issue doesn't need to be addressed at the time. But, as I have shown, the issue at hand has been addressed and has been addressed many times over.
A second thing, Mr. Matteson refuses "to stand idly by and let the condemnation for the actions of [his] Brethren in the Priesthood fall upon [his] head because of [his] unwillingness to act." Where does he get the idea that he is somehow responsible for the sins of this generation? I didn't know he had stewardship over us or a responsibility to call us to repentance. I also think it's interesting that he conveniently leaves himself out of the 'wicked' people by constantly referring to "they" instead of "we". I'm glad that he's the only one who is respecting women.
In response to his statement, "How can any man say that 'it isn't my fault'?" I say, how can YOU say that it is my fault? You don't know me or my actions. You ARE overgeneralizing when you try and say that everyone does it or even that a vast majority does it, lets break it down further - you are overgeneralizing when you say that even a simple majority do it. Where are the studies that show it even happens. I am not denying that it does happen, but where is the proof? I haven't seen any evidence of anything reliable to say that it happens.
"The wicked take the truth to be hard." This is a true statement. But there are problems with the way it is used. "Truth" is an interesting word. I don't know that there is even a shred of 'truth' in his article. All that is done in the article is a person pointing fingers and throwing blame to everyone but himself. Am I wicked? I wouldn't say that. Am I righteous? I sure try to be, but I am not perfect, just like everyone else. I am aware of the scripture Romans 3:10 "There is none righteous, no not one". That would include you Mr. Matteson, however, that scripture says nothing about being self-righteous, which I think you have down pat. I take offense to being called 'wicked' (not explicitly stated, but some strong suggesting going on). Mr. Matteson - you can not call people wicked, because you yourself are not perfect nor are you in any position to pass judgments on anyone.
In closing, Mr. Matteson - I do think that men need to have more respect for women, but women also need to have more respect for themselves. You CAN'T blame guys for women wearing immodest clothing, you CAN'T say that all guys disrespect women. You CAN have your opinions, and you have every right to state them, but I think in the future, you would do well to think them out a little more before flying off the handle and accusing everyone of sins that you have no right to be accusing of.

Re: It is NOT my fault!

originally posted by Anonymous user on Feb 26, 2004 - 06:53 AM
Wow, good job taking my e-mail, misquoting me, and blasting it on the internet.

I'm happy you put in all of those quotations from General Authorities, that only verifies what I said. It does prove there is more than a shred of truth in my article, in fact that it is all true.

Elder Packer recently spoke out "harshly" againt homosexual marriages. Do you know what has happened to him since? He is constantly followed around by as much security as President Hinckley. He gets just as many threats on his life from that not-harsh-at-all message as President Hinckley gets by virtue of being president of the Church. What does that say to you?

Before the days when General Conference was televised and translated into so many languages and then published throughout the world, General Authorities and Presidents of the church would call people to repentence every single time. The messages were more stern, were indeed harsher and used much sharpness. But as my Book of Mormon professor, Brother Merrill, pointed out it is no longer possible for them to do that without chasing away much of the membership and risking their lives and the lives of their family members. I am sure they do not fear for themselves, but their family, and other members of the church who may be persecuted and harmed for their sakes.

The message I broadcasted in my article was one that should have had no opposition at the "Lord's University." But it seems that the indignance of a people at being told what is really wrong here is greater than their common sense. IF you really disagreed with me about the pervasiveness of this issue, you would not have published your opinion in the ProvoPulse and brought my private correspondence to you out in the public. That demonstrates clearly how childish and immature you are.

The problem at BYU which I descriped is rampant. And yes I will continue to use pronouns that exclude me. I don't have this problem. I worked long and hard to get it out of my system. If I were talking about stealing, I wouldn't include myself either, because I do not steal. It is as simple as that.

No, I don't know you. But you don't know me either. You've made more accusations and assumptions than I did. And it has really demonstrated to me the kind of person you are. You didn't read my article carefully. I had a part of it saying that "many do not do these things" Hmm... so clearly I wasn't saying "everyone but me" which you supposed me to have said. But you knew I did not say that, but without that point your argument is meaningless. I said there are a lot of men at BYU who are plagued by this... many of you are not plagued by this. Hmm.. what does that mean? Oh right, your points are fruitless, wrong, ignorant, and hateful.

I don't know what has caused you to have such great hate and loathing for a point of FACT you obviously agree with.

As for the modesty issue... hmm... let's see... why would a girl, who naturally and by all convincing from her leaders and family, respects her body, stop respecting her body? Well, let's say she goes to school one day, she is dressed modestly. No guy looks at her twice. She is ignored, the attention she wants, the affection she wants, the love she wants to feel, is neglected. She looks to her left and sees a girl who has cleavage exposed surrounded by fifteen guys all giving her attention, though it may be attention from a bad source and in a bad manner, it is attention. The next day the girl experiments, wears immodest clothing, hypothesis confirmed, she gets attention.

This simple pattern is what makes girls desire to dress immodestly. They see other girls, on TV and in their own environment, dressing immodestly and getting the attention of guys. Why? Because the men lust. They send signals through that lust that indicate to the girl "This is the kind of girl I want you to be." Would anyone want to marry a girl who didn't respect herself? No, no righteous man would. But men send those signals with their inability to control their hormones.

You're full of anger and rudeness Mr. Eldredge. I wonder what has caused it. I wonder what you did on your mission if not call people to repentence. I wonder why you believe I have no right to call people to repentence about a very serious sin, next to murder on Christ's scale, when I am innocent of it and see it plaguing men and corrupting women through those men.

I hope you can understand.

It's strange, every girl who read my article loved it and agreed with every point saying they noticed the wickedness among the men at BYU as well. So did quite a few men. I wonder why you disagree yet agree, yet disagree. I think you really can't make up your mind what you didn't like about what I said.

I hope people can grow up and realize I was not wrong in what I did. Maybe a little too sharp. But if I were wrong, the sharpness wouldn't have hurt anyone.

-Brian Matteson-

Re: It is NOT my fault!

originally posted by Anonymous User on Feb 26, 2004 - 09:15 AM
This is interesting. As a woman bystandard to these articles, I am concluding several ideas.

One, there is way too much contention in these emails. If these guys are supposed to be "righteous Preisthood holders" then why all the contention?

Next, it IS a woman's choice to dress as a "woman of God" She has free agency to dress how she wants and a man has agency to look if he wants, I don't like guys who grovel. I have experiemented just as Brian Matteson explained and I have concluded that I like getting attention when I am dressed MODESTLY. The "dirty" attention I got (the one time I chose to wear something immodestly) I did not like and I chose to do something about it. People often attract people of their same type. I do not want to attract guys who based everything on looks so I dress modestly. I am saying that women need to obey the honor code of dress and be modest. Men need to obey it as well. If we all signed it when coming to BYU then enough is said right there.

One reality I hate to admit is that women will continue to push the edge of modesty. And generally men will always be fascinated by women. If women are "showing all" then men will look. So, I agree men should not stare immodest girls down and give them attention. We are all grown ups- use your brain, and make wise decisions.

Instead of jabbing this subject to the death one solution may be that it always helps when guys give me positive feedback by acknowledging my choice to dress modestly the way I do. Or if I had something on that was sketchy- to have a guy kindly tell me to change is great because then it shows courage and respect. It shows he does not want to stare at me but that he respects me.

I guess I am trying to say that women have resposability in modesty as do men. It does infuriate me when immodestly dressed girls get mega attention, but then I think to myself, is that really the attention I want? And I remember that it isn't and that my character will shine far more than the girl who shows all.

Re: It is NOT my fault!

originally posted by Anonymous User on Feb 27, 2004 - 07:27 AM
As another female bystander, I want to second everything this wise woman said. The contention is way out of hand, especially when you both agree on so much.

And really, we all know that we're free to choose. Some women may feel encouraged to dress immodestly because of the ways guys respond, but that doesn't in any way remove her agency in the matter. And like she said, do we really want that kind of attention, anyway? I know I don't.

I too really appreciate the positive feedback about my choice of dress. It means more than most guys realize.


Good Point Brian

originally posted by Anonymous User on Feb 26, 2004 - 09:26 AM
To be honest I agree with both of you in a lot of ways. Like you said Brian, in general, guys encourage girls to be immodest when they give them more attention than they do the modest girls. But it goes both ways, girls encourage guys to think lustful thoughts when they are dressed immodestly. Both sexes are giving into temptation and in-turn encouraging the other sex to do the same. It's a downward spiral sort of thing. I don't know that more blame can be placed on one sex than the other, but there's definitely plenty of blame to go around.

As returned missionaries we are probably more to blame than girls who are not endowed and who haven't gone on missions. We have more "knowledge" and therefore more condemnation.

Either way, we all need to do better in this department.

And BTW, I think you two agree on a lot more than you disagree. It's just the approach you think shuold be taken to deal with the problem that you disagree on. I understand how people can take your letter as being condescending and self-righteous Brian, but it doesn't change the fact that your right. I disagree with your approach a bit, but that doesn't make your point invalid.

It's my choice

originally posted by trish on Feb 27, 2004 - 02:03 PM
The way I dress is all my choice.
If I meet boys and enter their apts with pics of girls all over it then I know I won't take those guys seriously and would I date one of them, hmm, probably not.
When I read Brian's argument, I had a sight smirk on my face. Only because my roommates Fall 03 had a man-wall in our kitchen. For like 2 two weeks it was clippings of men with their shirts off and tattoos and eveything else. Then the management sent a letter and said that man-wall needed to be taken down or it needed to pass inspection by the Honor Code office. The girls told management to go ahead inspect it. Before a representative of the office came over, the girls made shirts out of paper for the shirtless men and wrote famous primary hymns on the paper shirts. I have to admit, living there for a month was soo embarrassing because guys at church would ask where I lived and then reply with, "you mean the one with the freaky guy wall?" I'm glad I moved out. It's not only embarrassing but degrading I wouldn't feel comfortable in a guy's place with a girl wall.

but in reference to dress, I would probably tend to be more cautious with what I wore in a house with a girl pics everywhere.

Here is my beef

Both genders are at fault.

Girls are at fault because they want attention and they think that the only way to get it is by dressing in a way that they think guys want.
Guys are at fault because yes we do look at women sometimes lustfully which proves to the women that they way that they are dressing gives them attention.

Both genders need examine there commitment to the savior. The Lord through the first presidency has commanded all of us to wear modest clothing. It helps make an environment that the spirit can be felt and we can grow closer to God. I think that if we really loved the Lord we would follow him and want to know him. the only way to do this is through the spirit. Do we really believe in and love the Lord or do we love the vain things of this world.

All is not well in Zion