Clare responds + some context

I think the biggest confusion in this whole my-sister-is-a-viral-blogger-after-her-first-post thing (besides the part where everyone is assuming her surname is Ettinger — it isn’t, and she’s a minor. So, my parents have requested anyone using her real name please redact it for her privacy), was about why Clare cared about the modesty guidelines more than getting kicked out of prom.

Everyone is reacting along the lines of “oh how HORRIBLE that she got kicked out of this momentous life event!” or “she’s being a drama queen and just wants attention because she didn’t get her prom night.” Neither are true.

While I won’t deny that Clare is an extrovert with a Just Plain Fancy sort of joie-de-vivre about her, she is not a drama queen out for attention. She didn’t write her post because she was upset about missing her prom. And she didn’t lie about what happened — my sister has always had a fierce sense of justice and I’d encourage everyone to actually read her original post rather than just the news articles or petty reactions by her peers. (I’m sorry your prom got so much heat. No one, least of all me and Clare, expected this would generate so much attention.)

For those who aren’t familiar with our background or what going to a homeschool prom like this one implies, let me give you a bit of context.

1) It was a big deal for Clare to be allowed to go to prom. I wasn’t allowed to go to a prom (though there was one and many of my friends went). The homeschool scene in Richmond is rich in cultural appreciation, and some awesome ballroom cotillion groups exist for extracurriculars. But my dad and I had lots of fights throughout high school because he would not permit me to participate in any of their Friday night dances, out of moral objections. Obviously, this standard has now changed, which is pretty awesome for Clare.

2) Our family was part of a cult group (see here for coverage of a sex offender’s trial that shows how the pastors in this cult have been exposed for covering up sexual abuse and pedophilia) and if you’re confused about what that kind of childhood looks like, go read my piece for about growing up in this culture. More details on this stuff and how it related to sexuality and autonomy can be found in my Immodesty Rail series. And a great response to the parental angle in all of this, written by my friend Ashley, can be found here.

3) HOWEVER, that prom (while it was held in a church), wasn’t explicitly Christian. That said, homeschool culture is predominately conservative Christians and the majority of people at that prom were probably your good old-fashioned family values voters who chose to homeschool their kids because they wanted to keep their children away from corrupting influences in the public schools — sex, drugs, gays, abortion, global warming, mini skirts. (I jest. Partly.) But that’s why it was convenient for the parents to hold it in a church rather than another facility, and that’s why modesty standards were imposed on attendees (this year the rules were actually a lot less stringent than in years past).

4) Modesty standards do not hold the same social weight as your average dress code. Which is why a homeschool dad would feel himself legitimately entitled to comment on a girl’s outfit at such an event.

Point #4 there is really the crux of all this, and it’s why Clare originally called the people who shamed her for her dress “rape culture activists.” I’m going to follow up on this with a post later this week, but for now, I’m going to let Clare speak for herself once more. And this time, she made you a video. Enjoy!

36 thoughts on “Clare responds + some context

  1. Hannah, how odd it is, that I find myself at your blog twice in such a short time. I have a sneaking suspicion we know some of the same real life people, perhaps. I found my way here the first time when Jezabel picked up Clare’s prom story, and again from your Cracked story, via the tale of your friend Jori’s forced recantation of her rape. I know a few Quiverfull families here around Smithfield/Surry, VA way, and some of the conservative Christian homeschool.crowd (though I am a secular home schooler mysellf). It’s just a smal, small world to have never heard to you at all and stumble on you twice in a few days from totally unrelated.directions. Look me up on Facebook some time. Promise I’m not mental.

  2. Hannah and Clare, I am curious as to what you both would give for your reasonings on whether males on public high school diving or swimming teams be allowed to wear the uniforms they wear during competition to the prom for the public high school they attend. I sometimes see males who are members of college swimming or diving teams wear the uniforms they wear during competition to open air stadiums for football games at the college they attend.

    Do either or both of you think males on public high school diving or swimming teams be allowed to wear the uniforms they wear during competition to the prom for the public high school they attend? Why or why not?

  3. So glad Clare made that video hopefully people can see what the point of this whole thing is now! And on a lighter note I think they make such a cute couple! <3

    1. Really dude? She posted to a blog run by her sister with a fairly small regular audience and it’s “her grab for fifteen minutes of fame?” Not her fault Jezebel picked it up. An anonymous person sends you a letter and your first instinct is to call Clare a liar? And you got her name wrong. No matter what happened that night, I believe this makes you an idiot.

      1. Hopefully we’ve all learned to make sure if you are going to make accusations to make sure they are true.

        Want to say “The Dads were ogling”, then are you willing to stand behind that they were staring leacherously? That’s perverted if true. So don’t say it unless you truly mean it.

        1. I’m sure they were ogling. Your reflexive defense of pervy dads is weird and suspicious. I’m way, way into adulthood now, but I had my fill of ogling dads as a teenager. The religious nuts are the worst. When the bodies get covered up by an abaya, the Saudi “virtue & vice” squad accused women of having “beguiling eyes.” If you’re a male who can’t control himself, blame the woman! Or in Clare’s case, blame the girl who looks womanly. Been there, been groped, been blamed.

          1. Did you watch the response? Unless I missed it, there was a pretty big backtrack on the behavior of the dads… No longer is there any mention of ogling, and even an frustration with how the dads were painted as pervy…

    2. Haha this story is such crap. F’reals.
      Let me know if you would like to discuss why I think so… I’m a slow writer, but if it would help, I can get into it.

    3. This journalist can’t claim she was lying when he simply wasn’t there and could not have understood the circumstances. The point wasn’t the presence of the fathers. The point was that she was subjected to unfair, disrespectful and sexist treatment at her prom. Even if she was twerking like Miley Cyrus, she shouldn’t have been kicked out because her body is hers and hers to express in the way she wants. A prom is a sort of dance after all so getting kicked out for dancing at a dance and having long legs isn’t fair. If her dancing was inappropriate, a warning would have sufficed.

  4. I still believe the dads are pervs, even if not ALL the dads are pervs. This is why slut-shaming exists, because men get turned on because of *how they think* about what they see, and then blame it on the girls. Plus, I’m a twenty year veteran of the home schooling movement, and I know a lot of home school parents. Yup, I would still title the whole thing “pervy home school dads persecute young girls in order to power trip and oppress women, and *bonus* get too leer at young girls as a perk of their place in the religious heirarchy.” Experience keeps my opinion unchanged.

  5. This is fantastic. Posted an update that links to this. (circular lovin’)

    Hugs and props to you, to Clare, and to James.

  6. OMG Clare and James are adorable together. How beautiful to see this young couple supporting each other and speaking with such kindness. Thank you all three for sharing and encouraging others to share. More light, less heat.

  7. To be fair, be careful using the term “ogling” unless you really mean it.

    So there is no confusion. Here is the dictionary definition.

    “stare at in a lecherous manner.”

    From your response here now, it sounds like you did not mean they were “ogling”. Most people when they think of an ogler is the guy at the gym who will not stop staring at one person. Or the guys on the street corner pointing and whistling. It generally refers to a specific behavior by someone, not that there were just lots of men.

    1. Ogling probably is the right word. These home school parents and the prom organizers are very concerned about “modesty” and what they consider to be inappropriately suggestive behavior and body movements. One of the reasons they homeschool their kids is to “protect” them from being exposed and “corrupted” by the immoral and scandalous images and attire they think is everywhere in society. it’s also important to note that the concern about modesty almost entirely about their daughters, sons have a lot more leeway in their clothing (shorts and a tank top are not immodest, they are athletic wear.)

      And it’s fathers who feel they must protect their daughters from boys with impure thoughts, because they had LOTS of impure thoughts when they were teenagers. (They may have acted on them also, coercing or assaulting girls back in their day. Why else would they be so worried about thoughts in teenage boys head, which in themselves pose no risk to their daughters, unless they are convinced from personal experience that thoughts will likely lead to their daughters finding themselves in a situation where saying NO will be ignored.) Mothers may lecture their sons to believe like gentlemen, but sons are not subject to the same intense scrutiny and supervision.

      So fathers are constantly appraising their daughter’s clothing choices to judge whether it’s modest enough (ie. does my daughter look sexual?), scanning crowds to protect their families from inappropriate images and clothing choices, and constantly identifying immodestly dressed women on TV, in magazines and on the street (There’s yet another one of those overtly sexual sluts!) They may be consciously aware of it but fathers who are zealous about protecting their daughters’s purity and modesty, must have a heightened sensitivity to spotting, identifying and talking about sexually attractive and proactively dressed teenage girls and women.

      Protecting your daughters’ modesty and constantly looking at sexually attractive girls are two sides of the same coin. So ogling (looking at a women as a sexual object) fits.

      1. It is common for Haredi Jewish men to look down at the ground when it seems like from their peripheral vision that they are going to pass a immodestly dressed woman or to look in some other direction away from such a person. Very many Haredi Jews don’t watch television or any channel besides religious programming and very many of them don’t read any publications that would have images like you have said. So, I believe it is not impossible for a man to behave like you say regarding his daughter while also not constantly looking at sexually attractive women.

        “I have to wonder if they acted on those thoughts, coercing or assaulting girls back in their day. Why else would they be so worried about thoughts in teenage boys head, which in themselves pose no risk to their daughters?”

        They might worry about teenage boys even though they have never assaulted or coerced girls when they were a teenage boy for the same reasons women who have never been assaulted or coerced by a teenage boy or man might worry about teenage boys or men coercing or assaulting them. The primary reason would be that they have heard of other people doing such things.

        1. It sounds exhausting! I can only imagine how that much hyper vigilance must mess with your head. A wonderful thing about ‘impure thoughts’ is that they are just that – thoughts. Teenagers are biologically pre-programmed to have lots and lots of ‘impure thoughts’ about each other.

          I do wonder how much the fear of your own thoughts and your own bodily functions impacts negatively on your ability to have normal sexual relationships, or even just friendships or family relationships?

          I mean if a father is eaten up with worry about the ‘purity’ of his daughters and the ‘impure thoughts’ of his son and lives in constant fear of their ‘corruption’, how does he have any kind of meaningful relationship with his kids? He has no choice but to be overbearing and obsessively controlling and conversely the kids have no choice but to completely repress themselves to please him or lie and live life behind his back.

          There is a lot about how negatively this type of upbringing and culture impacts on women, but what does it do to a young man if he grows up thinking that allowing yourself to have sexual fantasy, to feel aroused or ‘horror of horrors’ masturbate will turn you into a depraved, raping, uncontrollable, sex-addicted monster?

  8. I think she looks perfectly delightful. And me an old enough lady to be both your grandmothers, for pete’s sake.

  9. Thank you for clearing some things up in your video. But one thing I would like to address is respect, as I feel it is a topic that’s been neglected. Most people are claiming this is ‘slut shaming’, but I think it’s our society’s view on respect. Respect is not something you are entitled to. Respect is not something you are given by everyone. Respect is not something everyone deserves.

    Respect is earned.

    Dancing provocatively, dressing inappropriately, and being rude to adults will make people lose respect for you. Plain and simple. You can’t just do anything and everything you want because it’s ‘within your rights’ and expect people to respect you- that’s not how life works.

    1. This is an interesting comment. I do wonder what Claire did as she walked into the prom that brought attention to herself and appeared disrespectful? Having family members with long legs, it is always a problem for them, and men do stare. I agree with Claire and James, as young people, they should have been respected. I have seen many young people treated poorly by clerks in stores, respect is a two way street, not something to be earned after being singled out in this manner. In their video they admitted their frustration was not expressed appropriately after trying to to point out the problem.

      It was their prom too, this is disturbing on many levels, respect only one of them.

    2. If you are a human being and you breathe in and out, you should expect to be respected. And you should expect to respect others. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them or stay silent, but you do have to acknowledge them and apply the ‘golden rule’. Respect IS something everyone deserves.

      Whose respect are you working so hard to ‘earn’? And what happens if you behave like a ‘good girl’ and obey all the rules, and they still don’t respect you? And how do you treat anyone who doesn’t live by your rules and standards?

      As soon as we start creating categories of people who should and shouldn’t be respected, or vague guidelines like ‘provocatively … inappropriately … rude’ or arbitrary rules about who will and won’t get our respect we set ourselves up for failure as individuals and as a society.

      I agree that unfortunately life does not always work like this, but imagine if it did? Imagine if we could live in a world where some of us didn’t feel entitled to be disrespectful because others of us were too fat, young, old, sexy, slutty, queer, disabled, mentally ill, dressed differently, talks with an accent, poor, drunk, addicted, unemployed, homeless, works in the sex industry, had unusual sexual kinks, less educated, religious, and any of the 1000s of other reasons major and minor we use to disrespect others.

      Clare did not ‘deserve’ the disrespect or attempts to make her feel small and ashamed. She stood up for herself and for that she should feel very proud. Many young women, myself included at her age, might have slunk off to cry and feel terrible, like we had done something wrong. I for one admire her for this.

      Because if she can stand up for herself now at 17 and refuse to allow others to define her choices as ‘acceptable’ she is already so far ahead of the game that later on when life tries to push her around she has already learned how to stand her ground and asset her right to be how she wants to be in the world, not how others want her to be. It takes some of us a long time to claw back our sense of self-worth and to learn that we do indeed have a right to expect to be respected as ‘who we are’ not who ‘others want us to be’. Nicely played Clare!

    3. With all due RESPECT to you, Nicole, you are wrong. Everyone deserves respect. Elevated forms of respect (such as we give to leaders we look up to, or good parents, or anyone else who has earned our esteem in some way) is earned, but basic respect for the dignity of all people is not earned. All people deserve this. The idea that respect should be, in all cases, “earned” is dangerous to society. It is a poisonous idea. Clare was not “dancing provocatively”. She has already stated that she was only standing and talking for most of the time. She barely moved at all and she even had witnesses attest to the fact that what little dancing she did do was totally appropriate. She also was not dressed inappropriately- she complied entirely with the dress code. And she was rude only after she had been treated extremely unfairly by the adults involved- but she has already admitted to this and apologized for it. Clare is well-aware that she can’t just “do anything she wants”- she has never claimed that she can. This story is not about people doing whatever they want and getting away with it. This story is about a young woman who was unfairly judged; how other people attributed motives to her that were not hers and assumed she was behaving in a way that she was not. People who felt that she was behaving inappropriately because their prejudices told them so; when in fact she had done nothing wrong. And yes, this IS a form of slut-shaming.
      And everyone does, absolutely, deserve our respect. The basic dignity of all people should always be respected. It is monstrous to suggest otherwise.

  10. “I felt violated by the sheer number of male parents” That I think is the beginning of where Clair went wrong. In this video that tone is sort of taken back. And I’m happy it was. “Those dads are perverts” was the message that I saw all over the place. And it was very wrong to say such things. No one had any good reason to say that about those men. Nor was there any good reason to say “rape culture” . What was done with Clair was wrong. And yes pretty girls are treated differently than average girls. Its not fair and I agree that it is not fair. But it really looks like the men at that dance were not even the ones who kicked her out. Because Clair was treated unfairly, that is not a good reason to treat the fathers at that dance unfairly.

    You should be proud of your sister. Clair is a very bright girl and she is handling her sudden fame well.

  11. Wow, just came across this story and I would’ve flipped if that happened to me. The way Clare handled the situation was uber mature. I don’t know the particulars of school systems in the US but I would have made it a personal vendetta that the school was majorly scolded by their higher-ups in the system for letting something so sexist and disrespectful occur. I might have even contacted every feminist organisation in the area and started some sort of protest. In fact when I first saw this I thought ‘bring in FEMEN’…..but I’m a bit melodramatic. Anyway, HUGE thumbs up to Clare for the way she handled it and I hope you guys got your refunds!!!!

  12. I read your Cracked article the day before yesterday and totally failed to connect to this story, despite the fact that I clicked over to your blog and thought, “…this blog looks familiar…”

    Jori’s story is absolutely stomach-turning — both the forced recantation of rape, and the forced burning of her manuscript. (I’m a writer, so I may actually have gotten more upset over the manuscript story.) I’m glad your parents have lightened up and that your sister is having more opportunities than your parents gave you.

    I’ve mostly been avoiding the comment threads after seeing a bunch of self-appointed modesty police officers scolding your sister for wearing red lipstick. (Like, seriously, guys? SERIOUSLY? You’re really that disconnected from what normal teenage girls wear to dress up?….yeah, apparently you are.) I wish those people would move to Iran where they belong…

  13. I’m glad one of these is still open for comment!

    I’ve read all three articles, the stuff about the fundamentalist upbringing, and I’ve read the article below from the other side. So here’s my thing:

    First, you’re both really cute in that video. I can’t say for sure if the dress is too short or not, but I can see where it might ride up a little without you realising. I can’t say if there were others wearing shorter dresses or dancing more provocatively, of course, because I wasn’t there. I do think the lady who challenged you should have been more receptive to your peers, instead of dismissive, though this can be difficult when you’re faced with too many people, and I guess she could have been trying to avoid being outnumbered.

    I, myself, have faced much older people telling me what’s best and trying to impress that upon me, and it’s really scary. My situation was not about sexism or appropriateness at all, though I do fall into the category of those who struggle with clothing to be appropriate – I’m either prudish or slutty, there’s no inbetween. But, for my pennies worth, I don’t think this was about race, I doubt the male chaperones really complained – or, if they did, perhaps it was just a case of who was watching at that moment compared to who may have been watching later when the other things were happening. In the letter linked in the comments it said only 4 or 5 of them were on the balcony at any one time. I doubt from there they could see how short your dress was if they were above you, in any case. And, if they took turns and someone did complain, it could have been just bad luck for who was watching.

    Some men aren’t animals controlled by their sex drives. Some men are. The whole thing is a fine line. I have been guilty of telling someone they shouldn’t wear something because it’s inappropriate, though it was in the presence of an older generation and, contextually, I would have been just as concerned if a boy had been wearing the same amount of clothing in front of a female of the same age, not because of sexual context but for common decency. I don’t think girls should be told to do something or follow certain rules if men weren’t expected to adhere to the same standards when the context is flipped.

    Still, I think you’ve both handled all this quite well, with the fame it’s garnered. In your shoes I’d be panicked and probably say or do something that contradicts my previous words. If so many people think I’m wrong I must be wrong, sort of thing. But you’re very brave for sticking to your convictions and using your voice so eloquently to communicate how you feel. I understand it’s about a culture (the homeschooling thing) that doesn’t exist in my country, but the concept that women should be in charge of dissuading men’s thoughts and actions exists everywhere. I would be proud of you, too, if you were my sister as hannah said she was in the first post, and as I am of any of my younger female relatives who seems to be strong and stand up against any injustice. Again, I can’t be sure in this one instance how right or wrong any one person is. but the bigger issue you make reference to does exist, and it’s wrong.

    I wish you all the best for Graduation and College. And I hope you stay for ever this strong and proud and beautiful. You’re an inspiration.

  14. LOVING THESE KIDS. So adorable and stylish and so well spoken. In addition to the whole well-adjusted part.

  15. I’m late to this story b/c I haven’t been online for awhile. I just want to say that the video was terrific, Clare articulates her points well, and I wish her good luck in her endeavors. Her boyfriend seems very nice, too.

  16. Clare,
    You’re such a beautiful young woman. I’m sorry you had to deal with this situation. I’m proud of you guys for standing up, as young people, against slut shamming. As a former homeschooler I understanding a lot of your story, a lot of this is simply christian culture unfortunately. Lots of love to you both and happy graduation!

  17. Actually, Clare’s testimony pretty much matches that of her detractors. She noted she was hot, talked about her hips and legs at some length and with some vulgarity, and that her dress was about exactly the required length for the dance.
    In other words, met the “letter of the law”, sort of–dresses can indeed hike up when a lady moves, after all–but was not “on board” with the concept of modesty that the event organizers were trying to imply.
    It’s also worth noting that schools around the nation can and do use the “fingertip rule” to put some bounds on the display of flesh seen at proms, and they also use teachers and parents as chaperones to “redirect” or even remove those who insist on pushing boundaries, which would include telling a young lady that the dress she confidently thought was “long enough” while standing still was revealing a bit more when dancing.
    And if one is “redirected” or removed at such an event, it’s generally not a good idea to flip the bird or use obscenity, as this will tend to make the removal process a bit more vigorous. So to call this kind of thing somehow distinctive of homeschooling really takes an ignorance of how public and private schools try to maintain order.

    1. Yep, she looked hot. And you know what? SHE IS ALLOWED TO LOOK HOT. She is allowed to get dressed up and feel beautiful for her prom. That is a big part of what prom is for.
      Her dress met the dress code. If fingertip length wasn’t good enough for them then they should have set a stricter rule. Telling her that following the rule isn’t good enough is like a police officer giving someone a ticket for going “exactly” 80 in an 80 zone. “You weren’t following the spirit of the speed limit! Your car exhibited a speeding tone! I know the type. You red cars are all the same.”
      She was treated unfairly because she happens to have a very developed, womanly body at a young age and she has the confidence not to be ashamed of it. I am sick to death of people teaching girls to be ashamed of their bodies. She was not dressed inappropriately. Her dress met the dress code. Yes, she has curvy, womanly body. And if men out there have issues with that, if it gives them “impure thoughts” or whatever, they are welcome to LOOK SOMEWHERE ELSE. It is not the job of girls to carry the weight of everyone’s social consciences OR to look modest. Why do girls have to look modest? No one ever talks about boys needing to look modest. It is because girls have to dress modestly to “protect” the boys from having impure thoughts or temptations when they look at them. Well, guess what? No person is responsible for another person’s thoughts or reactions. The boys need to look after their own thoughts and control their own eyes. If they can’t handle the sight of a young woman with hips in a slim-fitting dress, they are welcome to look somewhere else.

      1. Well, it’s a free country, and you are free to look as hot as the law allows, and I am, yes, required–by morality and law–to treat people with respect no matter what. Fair enough.

        But that said, I looked up the usage of “hot” at Merriam-Webster and, and both seem to suggest that “hot” is defined as “sexually available.” So as for me, unless I’m alone with my wife, I aim for “handsome”, which does not have the overt sexual connotations.

        And if you doubt that modesty applies to men, just send a guy into a corporate meeting in tight jeans with a tight t shirt exposing part of his belly, or watch most men respond to a “peacock”. Men tend to isolate them almost instinctively. It’s more subtle than what our hostess is talking about, but it happens.

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