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.


  1. I've had the same thing happen with how I felt about Hinckley. I adored him. I cried when he died, I cried when Sister Hinckley died. It's been hard to learn these things about him that I didn't know.

    About your friend, that sounds like a really hard situation. Some of what she is doing sounds just plain stupid. I mean, taking all the money out of your retirement account. I'm sure there wasn't much in there at 24, but still. In my opinion, each spouse or partner should have a retirement account of some sort.
    I feel bad for her if she feels like she shouldn't do ANYTHING outside of the home. I guess she's getting that from the Proclamation, but that seems extreme. Most active women I know have jobs, go to school, or volunteer somewhere.

  2. The funny thing about Hinckley, Megan, was that while I was reading I kept thinking "Well, this was 1978—that's almost twenty years before he became my prophet!" As though it was all some kind of youthful indiscretion... Then I realized that in 1978 he was 68 years old.

    And you know, now I'm looking at that last sentence and thinking... "Well, yeah—in 1978 he was 68 years old! Of course the guy was as patriarchal as you can get." But I just... I don't know. I think I'm tired of justifying people's horrible actions by the fact that they were "products of their time". Because you know, in every single one of those "times", there were people who were still fighting against the status quo. And I feel pretty certain that if anyone should be able to be ahead of their time in recognizing and fighting against injustices, it should be prophets and apostles. If these men were really in contact with God, I think they would have had maybe a tiny bit of foresight (instead of being the last ones holding on to the old ways, like they always, always are). This is the thing that's been the most influential in my no longer believing that they are actually led by God. Good men, sure. But not any better than anyone else.

  3. Oh, and yeah (got a little distracted by my tirade). The retirement thing was one that frustrated me a little. I mean you're right, there wasn't much in it. But the outright admission that she never intends to work again... The fact that they didn't even take it out to put it in a savings account or anything (they're going to Disneyland)... I've just known so many women who did this, who got married young and did the stay-at-home mom thing and then were screwed later in life, when their husbands left or died or got sick and these women had nothing to fall back on. She does have a degree, so at least there's that. But she'll have been out of the work force for decades if that ever happens, and that's a big obstacle in itself.

    And yeah, I don't know, I really don't understand the other thing. To be fair, she said that she was wanting to do something so others would think she was "spending her time wisely". And if that's the case, if the only reason she wanted to do something was that she was feeling judged by others, then sure, it's absolutely fine to come to the conclusion she did. But... She basically said that she doesn't even think she needs to read books, and I know she's always loved reading. That part just confuses me.

  4. I think a lot of women embrace patriarchy because they feel they'll have to give up their "soft power" if they reject it. They get the idea that they won't be able to stay home with their children or be sweet to their husband's or do crafts or influence their children positively. I also see a lot of young women get married and suddenly be way more into BEING MARRIED than anything else. Their blogs become all about their married life instead of their own and they don't take an interest in things the way they used to. Some of this is just maturity, but some of it is the product of a culture than tells you that wifehood (made-up word) is the pinnacle of your experience. It's really sad.

    I think people jump onto anti-abortion views because it's easy. It's easy to repeat slogans that to actually consider the realities of women's bodies and that's really upsetting.

    As far as President Hinckley goes, we can't HELP being a product of our time. You can call it an excuse, but we are shaped by our upbringing in huge ways. I'm taking this Chaucer course on the Prioress' tale, which is blatantly anti-semitic and there are scholars that hold such a high opinion of Chaucer that they've invented all kinds of theories on the tale just to get around Chaucer's own prejudices. I can still love President Hinckley and disagree with what he did. And on the other hand, I was always encouraged by the way President Hinckley endorsed education for women. I'm not really loving President Monson as much, to be honest.

  5. Love you post. Especially were you said, "I just don't understand why one great thing has to rule out all other great things." Exactly! Why does motherhood have to exclude all productive avenues of life? And then what happens when your children are grown-up and living their own lives?

  6. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to follow this blog. I feel quite silly because of it.

    I think often people want to be something that they don't have the courage to be. Some people would rather stay in the dark and not rock the boat by admitting that there are kinks to the system in place.

  7. I think you're right, Blythe. Which is totally understandable... Just sad.

    Taylor, I guess I never responded to your comment, which means you'll probably never see this response (sorry!). But your point is a really good one, especially now that people live so much longer than they used to. Women who've stayed at home to raise their children essentially have a whole second life to start in their fifties, when their last kid is gone to college, and if you haven't been in the work force since your twenties, you're kind of screwed. It's just not a system that works with the way things are.

  8. Have you tried adding it to the blogroll on your own blog? I don't have a Google Friends thing on here, so that might be why you're lost. If you put me on that list you should be able to see whenever I've updated it.