Wearing your heart on your sleeve: the surveillance of women’s souls in evangelical Christian modesty culture
(2018) Feminist Media Studies, pp. 1-15. Article in Press.
A few years ago, a rash of online debates over whether Christian women should wear yoga pants spread across white evangelical blogs and social media. These were followed by conversations about the meaning of “modesty” more broadly, including who has the ability or authority to “read” women’s piety, or their very souls, through their dress. Drawing on media interface theories and close analyses of these debates, this article examines how some evangelical women resist the surveillant male gaze in their religious communities by implying that their modesty resides not in signs that are legible to others but in their own embodied experiences of pleasure and care. The article argues further that the case of white evangelical modesty culture offers an example of Foucault’s concept of the “soul” and the micro-physics of power that produce it, something that has been overlooked by the literature’s focus on the role of the state and corporations in surveillance. Moreover, absent a more capacious understanding of the sociality of surveillance, current approaches to biometric surveillance have also neglected important limits to surveillance that are suggested by evangelical women’s tactical resistance to the gendered politics of surveillance in their communities.
clothing; Gender; media; religion; surveillance