She Said, She Said: Mormon Women Bare

Our girl Jennifer Borget has a blog segment called “He Said, She Said” where she shares her and her husband’s views on a subject. While we’re the same gender over here at SiZ, we thought we’d give it a whirl. Same topic, both Sistas share their thoughts.

Disclaimer: **If you are recovering from an addiction to pornography DO NOT VISIT THIS SITE!!! We do not want to be responsible for pushing anyone off the wagon.**

Last week photographer Katrina Barker Anderson, was interviewed by KUTV  about her project, “Mormon Women Bare” which features nude portraits of Mormon women, accompanied by personal essays from each woman. Regarding her project, Katrina says; “It’s about reclaiming our bodies from a culture that teaches us that we belong to men, to God, and to the society that objectifies us.”

Below each of the Sistas sound off:

SISTA BEEHIVE

My kids forbid me to leave my house wearing this….
I did, and they freely accompanied me.
I got this!
From what I can gather the overall message of “Mormon Women Bare” seems to be: “I have felt objectified, marginalized, controlled, manipulated, and made to feel shame. Just by the nature of me being born into this female body, I am deemed inferior to men and an enemy to God. Therefore in order for me to be the God of my body, I must let go of all the guilt, in an attempt to purge myself of the burden I’ve been taught to carry. As part of my personal repentance to self, I’m going to bare it all! Freeing myself of the shame, and guilt that I’ve been made to own and forced to lug around. I’m taking control from (insert name here) and reclaiming what belongs to me!” Ladies, if this is how you feel, I feel ya! I understand your pain and know your struggle. If my preception of your message is incorrect, I apologize. However, from an outsider looking in that seems to be the overall tone of your message.
As a woman, who is African American and Mormon, I too have felt feelings similar to these sistas. Have I felt marginalized? Yes! Suffered rejection? Of course I have! Just as I have suffered unfair and hurtful treatment from men, religious and other. I’ve also experienced it from women who I thought I had a natural connection with because of my religion, and (or) race. I have experienced unnecessary biting comments from some of my Mormon Sistas (White). As well as painful rejection from women (even Black women) belonging to varies sects of Christianity. I have to admit that I consider such treatment more vicious when it comes from people I thought I could trust because of an assumed commonality. As sobering as it was when I realized that the very people who should have been protecting me and treating me like I was something “more”, had defied God’s plan and treated me like I was less. Even that realization didn’t make me want to shed my clothing and bear ALL my “lil” birthday blessings to the world.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t have an opinion of MWB, because I do. I’m not entirely comfortable sharing it because even though I’ve seen them naked, I don’t feel that I know them well enough for that, not yet anyway. What I am comfortable sharing is this, It’s obvious to me that these ladies are hurting, they are in pain, and as much as they claim that baring their bodies has been a spiritually uplifting experience, I can’t believe that  is their core truth. This site and these Sistas have left me with many questions, I see where one has decided that she no longer believes in the LDS church. Is it just the church she has stopped believing in or is it God too? Is it true for the majority of the women who’ve decided to bare “it”? How has this experience change you? Has it had an impact on your families and how does that make you feel? Is that burden something your children will have to carry, and process at some point? I have so many unanswered questions, like: Was there a way you could have removed the layers of shame you feel were forced on you without stripping yourself of your clothing? Are you also interested in telling the stories of Mormon Women who want to shed their shame without showing their bodies? 
It seems that some think and feel they needed to claim their bodies back from their husbands, children even God. This made me wonder if they thought Adam objectified or shamed Eve. I find it interesting that the first thing that both Adam and Eve did after partaking of the forbidden fruit was to make aprons out of fig leaves, and cover themselves. Adam and Eve had obtained knowledge, and with that knowledge they made outfits. The women who participated in MWB gave various reasons for participating in the project, a few of which I will share:

 Katrina:“I grew up with a fairly healthy body image and sense of self. But as an adult woman, I have struggled with feeling like my body was not entirely my own– it belonged to my husband, to my children, and ultimately, to my God more than it did to me. It has taken a drastic change in perspective for me to reclaim my own body for myself. It is not perfect by the standards of beauty magazines and runways. Like many of us, I should move more often and eat less sugar. But it is strong. It has birthed two babies without drugs. It experiences pleasure and pain. It is soft and firm. It has scars and stretch marks. And it is beautiful. And it is mine.” 

~Or~

Ann:“Just three months later, I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, prepared to peel my garments off. I no longer believed in the Church. Thus, I thought it wrong to remain clothed in covenants which no longer controlled me. With the same detached fascination you stare at strangers in a airport terminal, I saw the woman in the mirror pull off the garment bottoms. Slowly, deliberately. She waited through every inch for something to happen, sat and monitored her feelings. Wondered how soon the Spirit would leave. I saw her carefully, cautiously, lay the lifeless silk leggings on the countertop. She patted them tenderly, as if to say, “thanks for the all the memories.”Suddenly, she was me again. I was her. No longer unfamiliar with the infidel in the mirror, this girl without garments. It was mine to feel and command and care for. It was mine to dress and sunbathe and sit in. It was mine to walk as I pleased, to the places I pleased, in the moments I pleased. Forever following the whims and will of my own heart, my own head, my own sacred understandings. It was mine. This body belonged to me.”

I grew up with two religious influences in my life. I feel like the influence of the LDS church was a little more lenient then the Pentecostal church that I attended as a youth. There are truths that I learned at both churches that allowed me to  know when the “Word” was from Him and (or) when it was from “them”. Adam and Eve, even in direct disobedience were able to partake of His love and receive the blessing of knowledge. And with that knowledge they got dressed (as much as they could with fig leaves). Until then the two of them dwelt in the Garden of Eden and in the presence of God who was not bothered by their nakedness.
 
One of the things that I find odd about some of my Mormon friends, especially the ones born and raised in Utah with the influence of the LDS Church; Is their belief that ours is the only religion that believes in modesty. The church I grew up in was Pentecost, the dress code was strict and at that time seemed rigid and difficult to follow. I was the 9 year old girl who had to run track in a dress because pants were considered “worldly”, and telling someone from my church that they were “worldly” was like telling them they were going to hell. Likely, the bishop of most LDS congregations would be in a frenzy, ‘cause them tube socks and slacks they be rockin (not my bishop, of course) would disqualify them for any type of leadership positions in the church I grew up in. It was considered irreverent and inappropriate by the board (the folks that do the hiring and firing) and disrespectful and (or) ratchet to the congregation. Male leaders had to look spiffy! They either wore a suit with a tie or a bishop’s collar, matching shocks (silk/dressy) and a pair of nice shined shoes. Anything less, I actually don’t know what anything less would have meant, because all the “members” followed the dress code.  
 
I guess what I have taken a very long time to say is we all experience some carry over from our youth. Some people view it as shame and others refer to it a baggage. I have luggage, I recognize it, acknowledge it and at times when appropriate clear out my suit case leaving the majority of my things at the therapist office, nonetheless, I have carry over because I’m living fully the life I’ve been granted. Even with the strict dress code that was enforced at my previous church, I have never equated modesty with clothing only. Nor was I raised to believe that it applied only to women. I was taught that my body was sacred and a gift from God (who I know to be The Creator of it) and because I view it as a sacred gift, I have a desire take care of it. As a mother of several children my husband and I are the co-creators of their bodies. I recognize small familiar traces of me, my body on my children. There are times that I fight the urge (sometimes I lose) to smack or pinch specific body parts, not in anger but because I find my children sooo incredibly irresistible! Most of the time when I give into my impulses I’m quickly reminded that even though I helped create their bodies, they are individuals, their bodies don’t “belong” to me and they don’t appreciate my playful gestures. I perceive our Heavenly Father to be the same way. Actually, I know he’s much more tolerant of us and what we do to our bodies, then I am with my children and what they want to do to theirs. I believe he marvels at all of us with our unique personalities. He sees glimpses of Himself in us that bring Him joy. However, when it comes to what we chose to do with our bodies He allows us to exercise our own agency over it. It is my personal belief that God created us to expand in His grace not shrink in mortality. Viewing MWB blog and thinking about the profiles of the Sistas who participated, I’m grateful for Eve, and her tenacity and the bold way in which she handled the knowledge that partaking of the forbidden fruit yielded to her. I can only hope that women not only in our church but throughout the world will discover that being bold and speaking their truth is not equivalent to being bare and speaking out.
Seeking Fig Leaves,
Sista Beehive

SISTA LAUREL

Can I “bare” my testimony too? Now don’t get it twisted, cause this Sista plans on keeping her clothes on, and here’s why. Nakedness does not always reveal the truth and covering up does not automatically equal a cover-up. I believe that my body is a temple and a long time ago I set standards for myself on who was going to have access to my temple. Yeah, that’s right…not everybody has a recommend to this hizouse.

I think my face has a good side and a bad side.
I’m that annoying girl who wants to switch sides every time we take a photo together.

When it comes to healing the many body and image issues that exist within our sisterhood, I actually think we need to put some things back on. THE GLOVES! The reason people take their gloves off when they REALLY want to fight is because you can do more damage with a naked fist than you can with boxing gloves on. Is it just me, or does it seem like women are always taking something off when we want to be heard. The gloves come off when we’re ready to rumble. Make a sista mad enough, she’s ‘bout to take her earrings off. Make your mama mad enough and she might take her shoe off.

I don’t like to comb my hair. I am convinced that my hair doesn’t like me to comb it either.

Can we stop taking stuff off for a second? Can we approach legitimate concerns in our sisterhood without out a “chick-fight.” Sometimes we get so lost in debating the package that the message is wrapped in, that we never even get to the message. And no, that doesn’t mean that the only way to focus on the issue is to start “unwrapping” err’thang.

This jiggles when I lead the music at church.
I know I’m Mormon, but I’d rather the jiggle be on my Jell-o.

I won’t engage in putting down my sisters. Instead, I’ll use my breath to offer up my words and my experiences. We women gotta learn the difference between putting down and speaking up. I don’t think that we have to undress to address issues of dress. I said earlier that nakedness doesn’t always reveal truth. My doctor has seen more of my body and knows less of my body issues than my therapist, who has never seen me naked. A picture is not always worth a thousand words.

I have stretch marks on my calves. They have been there since high school.
I didn’t know they were there until a boy at school pointed them out to me. Yeah, thanks for that, Shane.

Believing that my body is sacred doesn’t mean that I think that it’s secret. A private property sign doesn’t keep a building hidden, it just means that the owner wants to decide who, how, when and why access is gained. So you bet your bottom dollar that there are G-14 classified areas of my temple, and if you don’t have the clarifications, you can’t view em’, plain and simple. The standards I choose to maintain about my body have been influenced by my upbringing, my culture, my faith, my life experiences, etc. Sadly, outside influences can also have a negative impact on how I feel about my temple, how I treat my temple, and how I allow others to treat my temple.

I have a muffin top. It most likely came from eating chocolate, not muffins.

I too want to contribute to healing body and image issues within in my sisterhood and society. But hey, this desire only makes me want to shed some light, not clothes. So, my photos bear witness of my body, without baring my body. I have no make up on, no nail polish and unfortunately that’s how my hair settled when I took my bun out. I did take my earrings off too, but not cause I want to fight.

I am a Mormon woman. I have been objectified. I have been victimized. I have felt ashamed and confused about my body. And I have kept my clothes on. I have also experienced, healing, peace and love. And I have kept my clothes on. Why? Because no matter how many layers of clothing I take off you could never see my deepest scars. But gloriously, no matter how covered I am, my Savior still sees my pains and works with me to heal them.

It’s no secret; I am a sacred woman, and that’s the naked truth.

Our bodies are beautiful, we are created in God’s image, we should feel fabulous about our temples, and teachings of modesty should never be used to make a girl or woman feel otherwise. I don’t usually put Jesus and John Mayer in the same sentence, but John did say “Your Body is a Wonderland”. I believe that our bodies, our temples are a “marvelous work and a wonder,” that’s also why I think it’s ok to leave parts of them for folks to wonder about.

Cloaked in the armor or God,
Sista Laurel

24 comments

  1. Both of you did a beautiful job sharing your feelings on this subject, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. Thanks for representing me and others like me so well.

    =)

  2. Y’alls are awesome.

  3. Such a great post! Thoughtful and considerate but also honest. You ladies are da best.

  4. Well said! Thanks sistas. I was so sad when I first heard about this project. Sad for them, sad for all hurts, but all hurts can be healed through the Master. If we let Him.

  5. Love this so much. I read that one site you mentioned and I could understand the why but I didn’t connect how undressing for the whole world to see was healing. It really bothered me. Then I read your blog and you totally nailed it. Thank you!

  6. Wow, wow, wow! Your responses are beautiful.

  7. Love, love, love this….and I totally agree with all you said, 1000%! You two sistas definitely rock!!!!

  8. You ladies nailed it! And we’ve all had our mom shed a shoe when she’s really burnin’ hot! ~cynthia w

  9. You ladies are beautiful. Thank you for your comments.

  10. WELL DONE SISTAS! You are both beautiful.

  11. My muffin top is bigger than yours Sista Laurel (ha) and I haven’t found my face’s good side yet, and my Relief Society Arms jiggle more (the better for quilting?). I have wondered about my body the entire time I’ve been working on it, just wasn’t meant to be I suppose. Sista Beehive you are very in-tune. Maybe it was the wandering life of an Air Force Brat but I never heard anyone mention Mormon’s were the only modest folks out there; in fact my Mom asked why my non-Mormon friends never seemed as focused on wearing a mini-skirt with vinyl knee high boots as I was. Had I read the original blog, I would have gone ballistic, crazy and probably judgmental. I’m thanking the Lord I read your version first. Restores my faith, thanks.

  12. AuntSue

    I was born smack-dab in the middle of this Mormon valley, child of four generations of pioneers, born in 1953 and graduated HS in 1971. And I have never felt “objectified, marginalized, controlled, manipulated, and made to feel shame. Just by the nature of me being born into this female body, I am deemed inferior to men and an enemy to God”

    I have lived all over this country, and traveled about, and I have never seen or felt anything but respect from the men in this church or any other church. From what I can see, it is the men who only see women from their base instincts that treat women as objects to be controlled, manipulated, etc. When men see us as Daughters of God, then we truly have respect. Thank you my Sistas, for sharing your modest thoughts with us.

  13. Love your perspectives and your pictures!

  14. Thanks for sharing your thoughts sistas! I really enjoyed reading your opinions. Sista Beehive, I liked that you brought up the story of Adam and Eve, because that sequence of events is so full of symbolism and little nuggets of wisdom that have affected so much of our lives. I like to point out, however, that it was Satan who told Adam and Eve that they were naked and that they should cover themselves. I think that is a very important detail in the story.

    This project has affected me in a very positive way, and I’m thankful for the bravery of these women. It gives me hope that I can heal the damaged relationship I have with my own body.

  15. Analisa, Thank you for your thoughts! I appreciate you sharing how the MWB project has had a positive affect on you.

    As far as Satan telling Adam and Eve they were naked, I’m mostly familiar with the stories and the KJV of the bible, and of course the triple combination used by the LDS church. That is the perspective that I chose to tell the story. However, I’m interested in where I might be able to find the scripture where Satan tells Adam and Eve they are naked. Because up until this point in my life I always thought that eating the fruit made them knowledgeable.

    Thank you,
    Sista Beehive

  16. I like your perspective. I hadn’t heard of the MWB project before. It sounds really sad. Those women have missed beautiful truths. The first woman you quoted said she had a hard time reconciling the fact that her body is not hers, it is God’s. It’s true. We are not our own; we are bought with a price. We must care for, guard, protect, and appropriately use our bodies, rising above the temptations of the world and the feeble attempts of the natural man to “master” a thing it cannot and has no right to (yet). These women are falling into the trap all the worldly women fall into: that they must show more skin to be appreciated, when in fact all they are doing is objectifying themselves. The world has worked a mighty change in them, instead of the other way around. You know Satan has made progress when you choose to bend to the pressure in such an extreme, feeble, and totally ineffective way. I wish they hadn’t. :(

  17. Hm, I guess I’m referring to the account of Adam and Eve given in the temple endowment. (Don’t worry, this is not one of the things we covenant not to reveal)

  18. Thank you! Amazing post and well thought out. I’m sharing it with my daughter as well. And, I loved how you point out that modesty is not simply a “mormon” thing. I am a cultural exchange coordinator and it’s kind of funny when we host students who are much more modest than us as a culture. People are so shocked. We kind of put a claim on modesty and also we can tend to use it as the validation for the shame thing when that’s totally NOT what modesty is about. I think I was blessed to not ever feel religious shame about my body and I have a very supportive husband who has always been positive for 20 years now. I have friends who have felt this way though and a teenaged daughter, so thanks again!

  19. Some really interesting perspectives here. I have a friend who participated in this project and while I confess to not fully understanding her reasons for doing so, I respect that she is doing something she believes in. I appreciate that you provided another perspective, Laurel, without putting down the women who were part of MWB.

  20. great post and great perspective. Along with the story of adam and Eve, I believe in Genesis 3:21 it states that God did make coats of skins to clothe the two. I was born mormon, and truthfully, the only negative message I have ever got about my body came from tv and magazines. My dad, leaders of my congregation, peers and other religious leaders always made me feel incredible just the way my Father in heaven created me. I realize this is not the same for everyone. We are all fighting hard battles and I appreciate you being considerate of that fact when writing about those who participated in that project.

  21. Good for you.

  22. This post is a gem. Smart, loving, funny. This really sets the bar for how we treat each other as sisters–lead first with love and solidarity, even when we may disagree at times about details (and about big things).

  23. “Because no matter how many layers of clothing I take off you could never see my deepest scars. But gloriously, no matter how covered I am, my Savior still sees my pains and works with me to heal them.”

    Wise and inspiring. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this delicate issue with such care and thoughtfulness.

  24. Love this, ladies. You both are so fabulous. I just saw the sight and knew I didn’t feel great, but I wasn’t sure how I felt exactly. You ladies articulated it so well…and so positively! I love the differentiation of “putting down and speaking up.” Thank you for being such positive voices.

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