Saturday, April 19, 2008

We're gonna party like it's 1849


A friend of mine recently journeyed to the infamous polygamous outpost of Colorado City, Arizona--this is the land of Warren Jeffs (the currently-incarcerated former leader of the Fundamentalist-LDS church.) She took lots of pictures.

Coincidentally, several days after talking to my friend at length about her experiences in Colorado City, The Oprah Winfrey Show featured an escaped victim of this polygamous sect. They also ventured to Colorado City.

There are so many big obvious issues here, on both sides of the compound--freedom, misogyny, child abuse, etc. However, I can't help but be a little fixated on a seemingly smaller issue--the aesthetics involved. Oprah made a good albeit simplistic observation when she kept referring to the "1800s dresses" the women wear.
It's so much more than that, however. Specialized clothing for the flock goes along with religion. Mennonites, Amish, Muslim, etc. So picking on the FLDS for their lack of modernity or simplicity seems too easy.
I just wrote a bit about my observations in my column at BoA...
read more here.

Women in Colorado City photo by bigbrownhouse used with permission.

2 comments:

Regan Lee said...

Richelle, I don't think your pointing out the aesthetics of their dress is trivial, or shallow. It might be for some people, (and, in a reverse maybe ironic way, the opposite can be true of those who dress with lots of glitter and accesories; equally shallow in its showiness.)

The lack of joy, the sour sad -- as you put it, the "anemic" quality -- of their style says everything about their place, spiritually and in every way, in the world.

It's a fine line between aesthetics and being shallow, but aesthetics has a lot to do with how we respond to the world, to ourselves, to the inner and the outer.

Lesley said...

It isn't trivial. It reminds me too much of those bee keeper costumes that certain Muslim sects force women to wear. Oh sure, it isn't as bad as the bee keeper outfits. Still it is rather like a uniform, a constant reminder as to their place in society and that they are not even free to choose how they dress.