A young woman was recently barred from taking an exam at BYU-Idaho because an employee at the University testing center felt her pants were too tight. Now some Mormon bloggers are coming to her defense.
According to the BYU Scroll, senior Rachel Vermillion returned to the testing center that evening after having already taken a test there in the afternoon — she'd also had a meeting with her bishop. But apparently the clothing that had been appropriate for the first test — and for a meeting with a religious official — wasn't okay for the second. A testing center employee told her she wouldn't be able to take the exam because her pants were too form-fitting. Other students and employees argued that their pants were in fact tighter than Vermilion's, but to no avail. Says Vermilion,
It was really frustrating because there were skinny girls who were wearing tight pants who were getting admitted, but I'm curvy so my regular-fitting pants were a little bit tighter on me and he wouldn't let me in. It was offensive and humiliating.
She also says that the testing center dress code isn't clear. A sign at the center specifies that "Skin tight clothing is NOT appropriate attire," but also reads, "If you don't understand the Dress and Grooming standards, we invite you to go to the Lord ‘and ask in faith, nothing wavering' for approval of the clothing you wear. The Spirit will tell you whether what you are wearing is appropriate or not." Interestingly, testing center manager John Dexter already knows what God will say in this situation:
If a student prays and they think that the tight ‘formfitting' clothing is accepted by the Lord, they have not asked, or have not asked the right question, or they have chosen an answer for their own gratification. I don't believe the Lord would give approval to anyone to be disobedient to the CES Dress and Grooming Standards.
However, not everyone agrees that the BYU dress code is the undiluted word of God. In her coverage of the story, blogger Joanna Brooks writes,
Some Mormons emphasize the importance of obedience for obedience's sake as a key principle. Others ask whether disproportionate attention to dress standards sends the right message about the relationship between appearance and spirituality to LDS youth, especially when the brunt of conservative dress standards enforcement falls on young women, and particularly on curvy young women or young women of size. Curvy girls bear a burden of attention — negative and positive — to their bodies anyways. Faith-based "modesty" enforcement compound those body issues among young women.
It's easy to criticize religion as an outsider, especially when it leads its adherents to behave in ways that seem to harm others. But the voice of someone like Brooks, a religious scholar who was raised Mormon and is often cited as an expert on Mormonism, might be more helpful to Vermilion. She's clearly committed to her religion, and just wants to be treated with fairness and respect. Hopefully now that she's told her story publicly, BYU officials will take a hard look about whether their dress code places an unjust burden on some of their students.
BYU Skinny Jean Controversy: Sexism, Sizeism, Or Standards? [Religion Dispatch]
Testing Center Reminds Students Of Dress And Grooming Standards [BYU-I Scroll]
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