Opinion: Religion Weaponized When Body Shaming Women

Stacy Ann

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I was fifteen years old when I was informed that men would be tempted by my body and it was a dangerous weapon that I should shield from their eyes, lest I cause them to lust.

Let me backtrack for a moment.

For my entire adolescence, I had been the nerdy, tall, glasses-wearing girl. Although I was attracted to boys and craved someone’s attention and admiration, it hadn’t happened yet.

Finally, a boy, Jeremy, in my strict evangelical Christian group noticed me.

For the first time in my life, I was desired. Night after night we spent on AOL instant messenger pouring our hearts out to each other. There were nights that the sun would be rising and we would tell be talking to each other. He even wrote me flowery poetry that felt like something out of a movie.

Eventually, Jeremy asked for me to be his girlfriend. I was elated. I had never wanted to be something so badly, as I wanted to be someone’s girlfriend, and finally, someone wanted me the way I wanted them.

That being said, I was extremely innocent. During that period in my life, I was very religious as well and had every intention of staying “pure.” Just talking to Jeremy was enough to get my heart fluttering.

The excitement waned when I discovered that our parents had found out that we were “dating.”

You would have thought it was the scandal of the century, as Jeremy’s mother, Lana, asked to meet with me and my mother, along with my best friend Mila who had been talking to Jeremy’s best friend, Steven.

“We have to protect our boys from these girls, who are parading their bodies around as if they aren’t holy temples made by God himself.”

I kept my eyes directly on the floor, shame and humiliation coursing through my veins.

Steven’s mother, Beth, looked at us with anger in her eyes.

“Men cannot stand temptation girls, what do you think you’re doing?” She singled out my best friend, Mila, who was wearing a tank top. “Why are you showing your shoulders? What message are you trying to convey? ”

Lana scowled at me. “Carrie has been up messaging my son into the early hours of the morning without our approval. I would never let him date a girl that isn’t modest. I’m glad that we caught on to this early.”

Tears filled my eyes and I kept my gaze on the floor. My mom had been involved in the meeting as well, and I could tell that she was uncomfortable. Her clothes were no more modest than mine, and I could feel her anger.

As we left I remember her scoffing to herself. “I’ve never seen such a show, I know that you two just had a crush on each other. I’m sorry.”

I often reflect on the shame my mom carries with her about her body image to this day, and wonder if someone made her feel that way too.

It was a long time before I identified that I had grown up in a sector of Christianity that contained religious abuse.

As women, we were told to cover our bodies, hold out for a husband, and our voices were silenced. We were not enabled to protect ourselves, either physically or emotionally… and it truly affected us.

Mila ended up covering her body from head to toe in tattoos. I ended up going through phases where I wore things I didn’t feel comfortable in simply to rebel. That experience made me so angry, for many years afterward, as I realized that I simply wouldn’t be able to win. I would either be too modest, too scantily clad, too fat, or too skinny… my body felt like a prison.

When I get dressed, there are still questions that pop into my mind that I know comes from my childhood programming.

What will people think if I wear this outfit?

Is it too low-cut? Does it give off “the wrong idea?”

Do I look stupid? Do I look like I’m trying too hard?

After filtering through the questions I push them out and try to ask myself the questions that matter.

Do I like the way this makes me feel?

Does this convey who I am?

Does this make me feel strong and beautiful?

This has been a lifelong journey and one that has been extremely difficult… in fact, I believe that accepting and appreciating my body has been one of the hardest personal challenges I have ever faced.

All of that being said, I tell this story in a body that I like. These days, I experience new styles and remind myself that I only have one go around in this body… I’m going to start soaking up all that it’s worth.

My hope is that you are able to do the same. Society may tell you one thing as a woman, but if we continue to lift each other up without shame or judgment, I believe anything is possible.

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I am a writer & relationship consultant that primarily deals with narcissism, overcoming abuse & trauma, and self-love. Contact me @ Blog: carriewynn.com Instagram: carrie_wynnmusings


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