ask not for whom the garbage bag tolls.

Aunt Emilia Will Solve/Compound Your Woes: I will address your deepest feminist concerns very ardently on Mondays. You need not be a woman, nor LDS, to seek my ill-informed MoFem* opinion, which will in any case be worth what you paid for it.

(*Mormon Feminist — you knew that already)

DEAREST AUNTIE: how shall I respond to this party favor from the latest meeting of The Young Ladies Retrenchment Association? 

DEAR FRIEND: Isn’t this the sort of harmless artifact over which one should avoid getting one’s undergarments in a twist? After all, it’s nothing more than (1) a garbage sack, (2) given to a girl who is, in all likelihood, dealing with issues of self worth, which are (3) exacerbated by a relentless focus on appearances, under (4) the auspices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hmmm.

Before we open up a big can of freakout on the person who spent a LOT of energy knocking this “challenge” together, let us agree that teaching young women to respect themselves is valuable. I deeply appreciate the sisters and brothers who give their precious time to help me rear my bambinos. I know what that sacrifice is. So I want to believe that supplying a girl with a garbage sack for her slatternly clothes is mired, somehow, in a swampy bog of good intentions. I want to believe that a lot.

But alas.

“Standards” of dress are, at their core, an incredibly efficient way to pass snap judgments on people. And when I say people, I mean women. In less time than it takes to say “the Lord looketh on the heart,” a girl can experience the tidy sensation of taking another girl’s measure, and determining certain things about her. It’s natural, maybe. But Jesus didn’t come here here to buck up the natural woman, okay? Perhaps you feel, as I do, that you would rather have your daughter WEAR that plastic sack than fill it with articles of clothing that do not fall within the rubric of “standards.”

How to respond to the Garbage Bag Challenge? I’m afraid you have to be the fly in the ointment, the person who says to your daughter’s (or son’s) youth leaders, “Hello, this makes me uncomfortable–may I explain why?” Yeah, be that woman. It’s the hard work of feminism. That’s why so many people don’t do it.

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