A Christian youth pastor is apologizing for dictating what types of swimsuits were “acceptable” for girls to wear at summer camp for years and years.
Bryce Brewer has worked as a youth pastor on and off for 20 years, and during that time, he required female students at the camp where he worked to wear one-piece swimsuits so as to appear appropriately modest and covered up for the boys.
The realization that he was wrong started with something fairly innocuous—taking his fiancé and her 10-year-old daughter shopping for church summer camp and realizing how difficult it could be to find a “cute-but-appropriate” bathing suit that fit his own requirements.
“I watched a frustration build with both of them, almost a dejection,” he told TODAY Parents.
It’s a little bit head-scratching that it took a simple shopping trip and some disappointment for Brewer to come to the conclusion that he shouldn’t be dictating what literal children wear at camp just because they are girls, but he seems to have ultimately scratched the surface a little deeper.
“I am sorry that I didn’t teach boys to control themselves,” he wrote on Facebook. “I am sorry I laid the weight of purity on a girl’s swimsuit while she was swimming, and not on the boy’s responsibility to not be gross.”
Organizations for young people—camps, churches, schools—have long put the “weight of purity” on girls rather than boys and male authority figures. Archaic dress codes that offer up a laundry list of “don’ts” for girls have been the target of ire and frustration in schools for years, with students protesting them constantly.
They’re not only unfair and go a long way towards interrupting whatever educational experience children and teens are supposed to be undergoing, but also teach girls to be ashamed of something they have literally no control over—and, in some cases, teach boys a lack of responsibility.
Brewer seems to have finally figured out as much, after 20 years.
“I am sorry if you felt sexualized by us telling you to cover up. I am sorry I didn’t teach boys to be men and laid that responsibility on young women,” he wrote. “Youth pastors (male especially) – stop being chauvinist and making female students feel bad for having breasts.”
His apology went viral, with many expressing their gratefulness that he not only had a change of heart but was willing to admit his mistakes and encourage others to readdress their own way of thinking.
But others also pointed out that just as there are deeper issues in general society that cause the sort of misogynistic thinking that leads to telling girls to cover up, there are similar issues at the very core of many church teachings.
“This is a patriarchal society and your religion still teaches that,” one Facebook user commented.