Monday, February 27, 2012

Being Small for the Sacrament

I just remembered, while reading this post at Doves & Serpents, how my Young Women leaders used to tell us that we should never make eye contact with the boys who were passing the sacrament because we didn't want to distract them from their priesthood duty. I remembered how vigilant I was about that, how I'd try to be unobtrusive in my seat... How I'd always make sure my leg wasn't sticking out into the aisle when I was sitting at the end of the pew, that my hand didn't brush the hand of the boy handing me the tray.

I felt very sad just now when I remembered. I felt sad thinking about how my leaders thought it was impossible for the boys to see their female peers and have anything but a distracting, sexual thought. In fact, now that I'm thinking about it even more, I'm remembering that there was something in my mind that whole time—whether it was put there by a leader or one of the other girls, I don't know (I'm praying it was one of the girls)—about how embarrassing it would be for the boys if they got an erection while they were walking around with everyone's eyes pretty much at their crotch level.

And now I am absolutely mortified that such a thing was on my mind. That I, the most naive and sexually un-experienced Mia Maid in the world, was not only aware of this but felt responsible for it, thought there were actual steps I needed to take to prevent it from happening—without the boys' knowledge, even! That we were supposed to do all this on their behalf, as a way of showing support for the priesthood... It's making me actually feel the tiniest bit sick to my stomach.

Friday, February 24, 2012


My old friend has a blog, and lately it's been getting more and more depressing to read. A mutual friend and I were always kind of liberal, even before we were actually liberal, and this other friend used to tell us how much she loved being friends with us because we helped her to broaden her thinking and consider points of view she never would have before.

She got married and moved to Missouri for her husband's med school just before her first baby was born, and I feel like she's just gotten more and more conservative since then. The thing is that I know I should just talk to her—she's the sweetest, kindest, most loving and wonderful person in the entire world, and I've never met anyone who's better at listening to (and actually considering) opposing arguments. But I don't want to open that can of worms. I post things on Facebook and on my regular blog, and when people comment on them, I respond. But almost every time a conversation has gone personal instead of public, I've ended up burned and the relationship has soured. And the problem is that I feel so strongly about these things that I'm sure I would offend her, which I couldn't bear to do.

Nearly every post she writes now includes something that's hard for me to read. The other day it was a random entry about how grateful she is for the temple (which is a particularly sore spot for me). One day it was about how, at the age of 24, she retired and withdrew her entire retirement savings. A couple weeks ago it was a post about abortion, which contained several points that were painful for me: how she knows that a baby is a human literally from the instant of conception, how she's always been bugged by some women thinking they have the right to "take another's life simply because it's inconvenient to her own body" (oh, the simplification and judgment), how "no matter how a baby is conceived" (I really wish I knew if she was consciously including rape in this statement) it is a sacred gift from God and only God has the right to take that life, and how touched she was that her husband recently had the opportunity to bear his testimony to other med school students about how the argument that "a woman's body is her own" is an "absolute misconception" because a woman's body is a gift from God in the first place. (Yeah... The fact that it's a gift from God doesn't give other humans the right to control it. When people say "a woman's body is her own" they just mean as opposed to belonging to other humans.)

Then there's what I read the other day, about how she's been feeling like she needs to do something. She mentioned that she hears other moms talking about taking online courses or reading books, but then she was thinking about the Proclamation on the Family (grr) and realized that although she has great potential to do things in the world, she has even more potential within the walls of her home, and she knows that what she's doing there is the best thing she could be doing. 

Oh, that made my heart hurt. I just don't understand why one great thing has to rule out all other great things. I don't understand why, when she feels the desire to do something for herself, she needs to talk herself out of it by reminding herself that she's already doing the most important thing she will ever do in her life. It doesn't have to be mutually exclusive

Sigh. I've just been so depressed the last couple days, reading about the ways that women's equality still does not exist—and how the LDS church has actively, aggressively opposed it; how very very active Gordon Hinckley, the man who became the prophet I loved so much in my adolescence, was in organizing church members against it. (Reading From Housewife to Heretic, Sonia Johnson's account of her excommunication over supporting the ERA.)
"The Mormons say they don't want the ERA because it would release men from having to pay alimony... yet they helped defeat a bill which would have made it possible for officials of Virginia to cross state lines to apprehend those men who were dodging alimony and child support and make them pay. Mormons say they don't want the ERA because it would remove 'protections' from housewives. Yet they lobbied against a bill that would have given the housewife's work in the home monetary value at the time of property settlement in divorce."

"I gradually began to discover that the Mormon women of Virginia, with those 'Equality Yes, ERA No' buttons on their breasts, were lobbying against [not just the ERA, but] every single women's bill before the legislature that year, bills that had been in the making for years and were considered so good that surrounding states were plagiarizing them... All four of our women's bills in Virginia, as well as the ERA, were killed that year."

"Another reporter not long ago interviewed a Mormon woman in Illinois who was involved in the church's coalition there. [That woman said,] 'Do you know what we're most afraid of? Do you know what we're all fasting and praying about in the church here? We're praying that Carter won't appoint a female to the Supreme Court!' She is, of course, for equal rights and for women; she's just not for the Equal Rights Amendment."

"I remember what author John Fowles said in the February 19, 1978, Saturday Review: 'I do believe that almost all human evils in our world come from betrayal of the word at a very humble level.' ...If you say you believe in equality but fight against all bills that would give women real protection under the law—such as men have—what have you done to the meaning of the word 'equality'?"
It just really hurts to see women I love being suppressed and not knowing it. Why should you be told that you can only do one thing in life? How can anyone really feel that that's why God wanted us here on earth? How can we still have a culture in which women must feel guilty for wanting to do anything else—not instead of motherhood, just in addition to it!

Patriarchy, you are a smothering, overpowering drug.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

It's a Generational Curse

I don't want to post this on Facebook because I can't help feeling like it sounds as though I can't wait for people to start dying.

But I think real change in this country is going to take another couple of decades yet, because I don't think it can happen while the current generation of politicians is still around. Have you seen the news this past week from Rick Santorum and Darrell Issa? Have you been listening to Tea Partiers talk about abortion the last few years? To Foster Friess talk about "contraception"? To this crap about modesty at the Conservative Political Action Conference?

As long as these people are still around, still teaching the people who grow up to be pathetic little creepers like these guys, still telling boys that they have the right to judge women on their clothing, still telling girls that they are responsible for making sure they don't tempt males, still using garbage phrases like "guardians of virtue", we are going to have a sexually abusive and repressive society.

As long as church leaders (both Mormon and otherwise) are teaching that women need to go through men to reach God, that men should "preside" in their homes, that women should be submissive to their husbands, that motherhood is synonymous with womanhood and is the only important thing a woman can do, that it is mothers who are responsible for raising children, that it is selfish to "delay" having children or to work outside your home, that "gender" is equivalent to gender roles and is more important than humanity, that being a Christian means judging and actively persecuting everyone who doesn't conform to your beliefs, we will have a society in which everyone is oppressed except Christian heterosexual white males.

I just finished reading Moving Beyond Words by Gloria Steinem, and got the impression that the age of feminist activists goes down with every wave. In the time of suffrage, of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth, the majority of activists were above fifty. In the 70s, in Gloria Steinem's time, most of them were above thirty. Now we don't have feminist activism in the same way we did then, but what I see in Feminist Mormon Housewives tells me that the age has dropped even lower to include women in our twenties.

Maybe soon we will be active in the way those other women were--and maybe in twenty years the average age will include teenagers, girls who can finally learn these things before they become adults and are already started down paths in the patriarchy.  And in combination with that, as callous as it sounds... Twenty years from now a lot of the current "rulers" are going to be dead. We'll have some new Supreme Court justices and Congresspeople. We'll have some new voters. When people are crazy sexist like Rick Santorum, or downright misogynistic like that despicable excuse for a human being Liz Trotta, maybe we'll finally have a constituency that will stand up and say "Hell no, we will not take that shit."

*Sigh.* This isn't the first time I've wished I could have been born about twenty (or fifty) years later than I was. It's so hard to be in this stage, where we know we should be past this already, and we've already made some progress, but it's just enough that the opposition is freaking out and holding on even tighter and more desperately. It's selfish of me, but God I wish I could have skipped this agony and come in when we're just a little more evolved.

Monday, February 13, 2012

I've Just Had an Apostrophe.

I just read this (here):
First off, I believe in God. Why? Because I choose to. I have no proof one way or the other, but I find comfort in the concept of God, and therefore choose to believe. 
 and am sad to say that it sparked something of an epiphany for me. Sad, because this was not a natural line of thinking.

I decided I don't need to worry about the nature of God, because I can believe in whatever I want to believe. I don't need to accept someone else's vision of him, not even that of the church I've spent my entire life in. If it doesn't feel right to me, then I don't need it. God is not prove-able, and I believe that I have my own authority to know her/him in my own way (yes, I wrote "him/her" first and then deliberately switched it). At the beginning I sort of knew that this was the point I needed to reach--being able to feel comfortable with my own vision of God regardless of what the church said about it--but that isn't something you can force. I had to wait for it come, and I think it finally did. Mostly.

At this moment I don't know exactly what I believe God is. I do know what God isn't, though, so I will start with that.
  • I believe that God is not a man who would hide his wife from view and prevent their children from knowing and communicating with her. 
  • I believe that God does not endorse the patriarchal order, does not want women to be "guided" or "led" by men, does not want women to do nothing in life except raise children and keep house. 
  • I believe that God is non-violent. I do not like analogies of Christianity as war, and I don't think God wants to be "crusaded" for.
  • I believe that God doesn't care what religion you are, doesn't care about missionary work, doesn't require us to parade our religious beliefs in front of everyone else. I don't think that she/he necessarily dislikes people sharing their faith, if their personality is inclined to do that (as mine is not); I just don't think it's a universal requirement. 

As far as what God looks like, for now I think I may as well continue picturing him/her as a man and a woman, as heavenly parents, though I'll confess that I no longer feel very confident about the idea of that being literal, and us being literally their children (because what does that even mean? God sex? Actual pregnancy and delivery of billions of spirits? Seems unlikely). But right now this doesn't seem very important to me. I needed to know that the God I believe in is not sexist. I needed to prune some of those unhealthy beliefs I've been carrying around since childhood. With those gone, maybe it doesn't really matter what God looks like or how we came into being. For the moment, at least, I have much more pressing questions to answer, so I'm happy leaving this where it is.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Martyr's Prayer

Dear God,
I would not turn
From the test of fire.
No flame burns
So hot that
I would leave Thee.

But often,
At weary bedtime,
I cannot hold
My knees to the floor--
So cold,
So very cold.

Weirdly enough, some of the poems from Beginnings have kind of a true-blue feel to them (aka, would have appealed to Molly me, but to this version of me seem either inaccessible or representative of things I don't like about Mormonism), so I don't know what Carol Lynn Pearson's intent was with this. But it's a pretty perfect description of how it is for me.