not in Primary anymore

damn, girl

Content Warning: This post contains descriptions of emotional abuse. 

She asked me what I wanted to do with my hair and I told her to cut it off. With no announcement, she grabbed it all in her fist and sliced at the nape of my neck. My head fell forward, suddenly weightless.

She secured the ponytail with a rubber band and placed it gingerly on the counter, where it looked dull and lifeless. She paused, gestured to it, and said “Bad memories, but they’re memories.”

* * * *

Self-objectification is the tendency to view ourselves as objects instead of autonomous human beings. In western and westernized societies, women are the most likely to self-objectify because female bodies represented in media are sexualized to an extent that male bodies are not. Self-objectification most readily develops in environments where people—generally women—are judged for their sexual utility instead of their competence.

Environments like these also produce men who feel entitled to control women’s appearances:

  • Men like Dallin H. Oaks, who refer to certain women as “pornography.”
  • Men who honk car horns and say things like “nice ass” and “damn, girl” when I pass them on the street.
  • Men like my male acquaintances who assure me that I am sexy and appealing to them, when I never asked.
  • Men like my ex-husband, who once cursed at me through a dressing room door, threw our Broadway tickets on the ground, and left me in a Manhattan department store because he didn’t like the clothes I’d chosen.

During the year and a half we lived together, dressing each morning gave me extreme anxiety; I worried that my pants weren’t tight enough, my blouse not professional enough, and my shoes the wrong shape or color. On the many occasions I wore something he didn’t like, he compared me to “other women,” the ones who wore dress shirts to class and never cuffed their jeans. Clothing I’d once worn and loved now hung in my closet, untouched, because I was embarrassed to admit that I liked it when he didn’t.

The one time I asked him to get something from my apartment while we were dating, he took the opportunity to look through my closet and pick clothes for me to wear. He made it clear that he preferred long hair and there would be consequences if I cut it short. When I took my clothes off to shower or change, he made sexual comments about my naked body unless I explicitly told him not to.

When I finally asked why he insisted that I look a certain way, he said that he felt I should be taking advantage of my body and dressing to show it off. I told him I felt like a Barbie doll and he laughed. I was objectified more in my own home than I ever was on the street.

Three months after I left him, I finally feel ready to also leave behind the parts of my appearance that aren’t mine: the long hair, the too-tight skinny jeans he begged me to wear, the thongs he bought for Valentine’s Day despite my requests to the contrary, and the Ralph Lauren oxford dress shirts he demanded I buy and then scolded me for not wearing as frequently as he wanted.

* * * *

As hair fell in clumps on the floor, my stylist said what I hadn’t had the courage to say while I was married—“A person who tries to make you look a certain way is not a person you should be with.”

So I’m done dressing for other people—for men on the street, for men at the pulpit, and for men in my bed.

33 Responses to “damn, girl”

  1. gingerblokeblog

    Glad you are now living your life on your terms. No one, even you husband should be able to dictate how you should dress nor should you be made uncomfortable my comments from male colleagues.

  2. Gina

    You always have to mock the Lord’s apostles and prophets, don’t you?

    • E

      Mockery definition: “Teasing and contemptuous language or behavior directed at a particular person or thing. Absurd misrepresentation or imitation of something.”

      Please take the time to go back and reread. That was not mockery, that was fact-stating. He called certain women pornography. She didn’t say, “Morons like Dallin H. Oaks,” or misquote him for hyperbolic effect. You don’t have to like what the author has written but at least do her the basic courtesy of viewing it in an accurate light. If you’re a believing member of the LDS church, you could say that what she said was “blasphemous,” (“Sacrilegious against God or sacred things; profane”) but by the definition of mockery, this was not mockery.”

      I loved this post. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • gracerebeccamiller

      Here is the full quote, from the talk I linked to: “And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you.”

      I quoted a man who is known to make sexist comments. That’s not mockery; it’s honesty.

      • Kate

        If you want to dress in a slutty way, that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean it’s not pornographic.

      • curtispenfold

        Kate, pornography is a genre of entertainment.

        People aren’t pornography, just like people aren’t action movies or Sci-Fi or documentaries. People aren’t inherently pornographic, either.

        If a person was PERFORMING in a pornographic movie or participating in a pornographic photo shoot of sorts, we can say in that instance that they’re being pornographic. We might even say if they’re using explicit language that they’re being pornographic.

        But outside of such a setting, a person is not inherently pornographic, no matter what they wear.

  3. Anonymous

    As a male who grew up in the church I have to say I participated in this culture of female objectification very heavily. We were always told to be obedient as missionaries so we could have a good looking wife and we constantly competed (post mission) to see who could get the better looking girl according to arbitrary mormon (american, utahn, WASP) standards. It makes me sick to think how much I participated in it all. I no longer attend church and I finally feel free to see people for who they are. I’ve never been married but in my dating I look for more important things now and find beauty in every woman. Thank you for addressing this topic.

  4. surprised

    Seriously, as a missionary, you were only obedient because you thought it would bring you a good looking wife? Not sure what mission you were in or who you hung around with but my mission was very very different. That’s completely crazy. I, personally, don’t know anyone whose mission was like that.

    • gracerebeccamiller

      Anonymous never claimed that his mission represented all missions, but that doesn’t negate his point. As far as I can tell, this mentality is fairly common. I heard similar things all the time during my YW lessons, and I know the boys got it, too.

  5. surprised

    Anonymous uses the pronoun “we” and talks about a “culture” which certainly isn’t going to be a single mission. In his mind, it was common enough to stop attending church. Both he (by implication of the term culture), and you (explicitly), are claiming that it’s common. Perhaps it is common the circles you run in. My point is there are very different sets of circles that people run in – even though they may be in the same mission, ward, stake, and Church. My experience has been vastly different.

  6. surprised

    Two people will read the same manual, hear the same sermon, and even pray the same words. But, both can walk away with different experiences. His experience on his mission and my very different experience is primary evidence of the point. I find his experience completely amazingly foreign. When a person reads, hears, etc. something from someone else their understanding is always colored by their own experiences. I consider his views on women from his mission completely revolting. I really wonder how anyone could have served a mission and had that attitude. And, my experience of the “culture” associated with perspectives about women is and was 180 degrees different from his.

    Of course I don’t know that. He is the one who links the two ideas sequentially, in his response implying a causal relationship.

    • Nancy

      Surprised, trust me, it’s not worth it. These “feminists” revel in their self-inflicted victimhood. They simply can’t fathom that men and women are different. That’s also why thy so willingly accepted the LGBTQNXTRZD business because that ultimately leads to androgyny, which clearly doesn’t fit into God’s plan.

      • Dollie

        Seriously guys, do you need links to sites where you’d feel a lot more comfortable? If like you say, it isn’t worth it, I cannot fathom why you keep posting on a site where you won’t listen to someone who doesn’t think like you, and where you won’t convince anyone of us to think like you.

      • gracerebeccamiller

        Nancy, could you explain what you perceive to be the LGBT agenda and how it ultimately leads to androgyny?

        Also, you might reconsider using the phrase “self-inflicted victomhood” on a post about emotional abuse.

      • Dollie

        Nancy, I love my faith too, and like you, I will defend it. So I guess as long as you keep posting and trying to shame those who blog here, there will be people to counteract your comments. From what I gather, followers of the Mormon church are supposed to defend their beliefs with a loving attitude, but you just seem angry. Also, why do you (and several other people) feel the need to pity those who leave? I’ve always been so amused by this notion, the pity that active Mormons feel for those who “have strayed”.

      • curtispenfold

        Every queer liberation activist is going to have their own take as to the purpose of the LGBTQIA rights movement.

        As an androgynous individual, my end goal in fighting for gender justice is not to create a genderless society as much as a genderfull society. One where we can revel in each other’s differences, each of us equally protected and respected.

      • Nancy

        Dollie, I don’t know about the others, but I love God and my faith, so I will stand and vehemently defend it, especially on sites proportions to be “Mormon” (see the name).

        Grace, since the church expects modesty, and that goes for both sexes, sleeves to knees, you consider that “codified doctrine”? Do you even understand what is and is not doctrine? What a warped way of looking at the world. No wonder a vast majority of people on this site are on their way out of the church or already there. It is sad.

      • gracerebeccamiller

        Nancy, I’m not referring to the modesty guidelines alone, although they are unevenly applied. I’m talking about conference talks by members of the Twelve and books published by church leaders. Women are the subject of modesty-related reprimands much more frequently than men are, and their bodies are more often sexualized as a result.

        I find it sad that people who leave are subject to unwarranted pity like yours. If someone is happier without the church, who are you to judge them?

      • Cierra

        Hello Nancy, my name is Cierra and I left the church because I could not support a sexist organization. I would like to address the end of your comment, where you state that you are sad for the people who leave the church. Please, don’t be! At least this ex-mormon is happier now than she ever was as a member. No more having to fight logic to feel as if the church I went to was in the right, no more having to pretend that it was me who has something wrong with them for not fitting into the stereotype the church has set for women. No more telling myself that it’s okay to be treated like a child because I was also adored and taken care of. Of those of us who have left the church, it is true that some pity the ones who are still members, because they think you are being lied to and wasting your time but others of us are happy that you are content in your church and just wish you’d return the feelings.

  7. Otto

    I must say, as a man, it is very hard for me to not objectify women. At least from a sexual perspective. Just being honest. Men and women have been conditioned through the centuries in our cultures as to what is socially beautiful and the opposite, and trying to climb out of that rut is extremely difficult. Especially when I find so MANY women sexually appealing. Do I think that women are less than men? No. My classes have many women in them pursuing degrees in engineering and the sciences. I would love to have these brilliant women working with me on any project, especially since so many seem to have talents in areas that I am weak in. Do I think that women should only be bound to home taking care of kids? Dunno, since the woman in my home, my wife, hasn’t really expressed any goals or aspirations to speak of. As for hair, I’ve always liked women with long hair. I have dated women with short hair though, and it didn’t change my feelings for them. It was just part of their identity at that time. If you’ve always enjoyed short hair, then more power to you. If you cut off all your long hair just because your ex-husband “made you” grow it out, then it was most likely an emotional outburst. It is just hair though, and you can keep it short or grow it back. More power to you.

    • gracerebeccamiller

      Exactly — men and women have been conditioned. This is not an innate, eternal, natural order of gender variation. Hair is just hair, and whatever connotations we attach to it are purely societal.

      But, please, keep telling me about my own haircut.

      • Otto

        I know its hard to keep getting comments about your haircut, but you made a decision, a drastic one, and there are consequences for every action. You may not be your hair, but your hair is a part of you. By having long hair for such a very long time, YOU conditioned all those around you that your hair was part of your identity. And you may not believe it, but it is everyone’s business, since YOU CHOOSE to live in the social-system of these other people. You chopped off something that they identified you with, essentially sending a computer virus into their identity data banks and erasing what image they had of you. I’m not saying right or wrong. I’m saying it disturbed a few people’s neurons. It isn’t fair, or equal as feminists like to say, to expect everyone to just fall in line to your identity change and not say anything about it. It takes time for people to adjust to change. You just need to be fair in their reactions. You need to express with love in your heart to them that you “just needed a change”. That’s the only thing you need to say to them. Don’t get all angry and upset that they question your judgement (they are, but usually for the better), because they are expressing an interest in you and your well being. Most people are good people, and they just want to learn and gain knowledge. You do the same things to others even if you don’t recognize it.
        Love, Otto

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