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12/28/12

feeeeeeeeeeeelings


Well, that was a lot, wasn't it?

Nobody wants to talk about the damn Pants thing anymore, except maybe me. Mostly, I just want to work through some thoughts, confess some sins, offer penance (ten hail Heavenly Mothers?) and move on.

Here are some things I learned about internet activism:


1. I am not always good at being in charge. I feel like I get a lot of undue credit for the pants thing. The day and event were certainly a group effort, and honestly, All Enlisted has some wonderful administrators who made the entire thing possible. From managing press stuff, moderating group interactions, a mysteriously crashed Facebook page, and fielding thousands of comments and questions from all over the web, the volunteers for this event made everything possible.

I mostly tried not to make things worse, and even then, didn't always succeed.

I think the hardest part was the suddenness of everything. Suddenly, my world was on fire, and there were moments where I dealt with pants stuff from the moment I woke up, until late into the night. This was the case for all the group administrators, and it is just not sustainable. I don't care what the cause is, martyrdom helps no one.

So I thought I did a reasonable thing, by asking someone to step in and co-run some things with me. The person seemed enthusiastic and on message, and more importantly, able to spend the time helping while I worked (remember, that thing I do?) and took care of a very upset baby who doesn't give a shit about pants.

Turns out homegirl was straight-up nuts.

2. So, I learned to be less trusting. Isn't that a sad lesson? But it's true. You can't trust everyone. You can't trust people on the internet to be kind, but you also can't trust kind people to be sane. I learned to be a bit more discerning, because nothing is more humiliating than emailing/calling people you really respect and letting them know you made a mistake. It was really hard and tricky to feel like you were loosing on all fronts.

3. In expressing my feelings of frustration with the Mormon Feminist movement, I'm afraid I did not give due credit to other organizations that shaped me, and helped make Pants Day possible. This article on FMH set me straight, and I apologize for being one sided in my analysis of Mormon Feminism. Yes, I am frustrated with the movement at times, and I think that is okay. But the movement has also made incredible advances for my MoFem sisters, and I acknowledge and respect that. Consider me rightly called to repentence. As the linked article above states:

"... Feminism is just as much internal as it is external. Searching through beliefs you didn’t know you had, choices you made that you didn’t understand, reactions that took you by surprise. And as you excavate your true self out from under the weight of patriarchy, you can join the generations of women who have kept putting one foot in front of the other to get you where you are today. And then you can get walking down that road in preparation for the women who are coming."


Here are some thoughts in general:


1. A lot of people had really valid criticisms of the day, to which all I can say is: of course it wasn't perfect. But it was meant to be an exercise that unified a lot of people. It was also meant to be a place of brainstorming  so naturally some of the ideas were a little nuts. Especially some of mine. My brainstorming process goes from nutty to normal, not the other way around.

In the end, the message was deliberately broad, so that lots of people felt comfortable participating, and we could rally the troops, and start conversations. Nobody expected women to be ordained to the Priesthood by December 17th.(Although Clara did play baby Jesus in my family's Nativity Story, so, there's that.:)  )

So when our event went viral: NY Times! NPR! Daily Mail! We did the best we could in a short period of time, and dang it all, I think we did well.


2. Despite some very, very difficult feelings I still maintain, I think this was a good thing for many people. Conversations happened, relationships happened, and in my very darkest moments, people came out of the woodwork and helped. Just helped. My mom came and cleaned by bathroom. Friends brought cookies and ice-cream, (which made me feel like I was recovering from a break-up, which, now that is is all over, I realized I was.)

Friends sat and listened to me talk, and tell them I didn't want to talk about it anymore, and then listened as I talked about it more. 

People emailed and messaged and even snail-mailed me love and support even though I am not perfect. Even though I am not very good at being in charge, and am perhaps too trusting, and speak without thinking sometimes. People loved me through it, and even though I have a much more guarded heart these days, I can't ignore the outpouring of love and support from friends and strangers. 

If Pants Day helped create the that love and support for anyone else, I consider the day a success. 

For me, this was an end of something, and I'm not sure what. I'm wary and hurt by my church, I feel rejected and abandoned and a lot more guarded in my relationship with Mormonism. It's the end of a lot of idealism, trust, and yes, participation for me (and for now,) but I think it must be a beginning of something wonderful too. Something happened. All at once, people stood up and confessed to feeling hurt and isolated and in pain because of practices many other people say are not just good, but divine. That dichotomous relationship can only lead to questions, and I think questions are a good thing. It all started from a question in the woods.  

That's not true. Classical religious mythology tells us it all stared when a women, not a man, asked a question, broke a rule, and started it all. :)

Lastly, I'd like to address a frequent comment I received in regards to social activism. I got it from really angry people, and I even got it from a friend (who is still my friend, and who I respect, even when we disagree.) 

"You can't petition God/the church. God/the church will change in it's own time."

I genuinely don't understand this perspective, from an organizational, theological, or personal stand-point. 

If people tell me constantly that the "Church is true, but the people are not," then is seems reasonable that we can petition the people in charge for changes. We can all participate in making the people more perfect. 

Furthermore, it works. Living in Salt Lake* the past few years, I've watched people actively petition for changes in the way the Church interacts with the LGBT community. I've seen the rhetoric change from the very painful and damaging approach exhibited in 2008 with Proposition 8, to a new church-sponsored website (which is far from perfect, but also a huge improvement,) in which we are told to love and accept our LGBT brothers and sisters. 

That change was petitioned for. Literally. But also figuratively as Mormons marched in parades, made video campaigns, protested, prayed, and yes, even left with their feet in an act of solidarity. 

Beyond the LGBT movement and the Priesthood extension in 1978, some of the biggest changes to the church have stemmed from members openly petitioning for a better church. This is a good thing, not something to be afraid of. We shouldn't live in fear of questions or "petitions." 

During the pantstastrophe, some truly horrific things happened in the world. I will not pretend to know why these things happen under the watch of a loving God. I don't know. I don't know why, and I cringe every time someone shares a story of  successfully praying to find their keys, because it seems to mock the pain of those who pray for safety and peace and are continually left abandoned. 

All I know, and the only thing I truly believe at this point is a quote by Elie Wiesel. "Mankind must remember that peace is not God's gift to his creatures;peace is our gift to each other."**

If there is a divine power in the universe that loves us, I do not doubt that they want a better world for their creatures. For men and women to be recognized as equal partners in the human experience, defined not by anatomy, but by spirit. For men and women to somehow learn to live together without inflicting so much pain. 

But I think it is our responsibility to act as God's creatures and give the gift of peace (and equality, and safety, and love,) to each other. I think it is morally irresponsible to assume that if God wants something to happen (or not happen,) then he/she/they will cause it or prevent it. God is waiting for us to act, not necessarily the other way around. 

So yes, I petition. I've been calling it prayer all these years, and while I hope someone is listening, I hope more that I can become a person who offers the gift of peace through my actions. One day, my actions included wearing pants to church. I only hope I can do more. 






*Stuff happened outside SLC, too, that is just where I live.
** I know. I've said this before. Whatever. You say the same thing every time you bear your testimony too. 

    




12/14/12

the end



Did you guys know that Jessica Simpson might be pregnant again? I saw an article about her today. Her baby is one month younger than mine? Holy cow.

Also, I caught up on Covert Affairs tonight, and good heavens, half-naked Auggie frantically trying to get dressed so he can run after his fiance, only to fall down and cry into his perfectly sculpted cheekbones.

I cried. I'm not ashamed. I cried.

I may have been a little emotional today, I haven't spent much time on my usual pursuits lately: cross-stitching while watching bad TV and reading celebrity gossip. I've been busy.

Before being busy though, a few months ago, I went to a member-submission Art Show at the Church History Museum. I cried a little then too, because the art was so beautiful, particularly the large painting of a man receiving instruction from a female angel. The description explained that the artist often felt like his mother offered him revelation and guidance, despite passing away.

There were pictures of Jesus teaching women, and women celebrating the news of his Resurrection.

The art represented everything I loved about Mormonism. I felt myself being called home. If Mormons could create art that transcends the cultural and yes, even doctrinal inequities and quirks of their own religion, couldn't there be a place there, for me?

When my friends and I organized All Enlisted and Wear Pants to Church Day, the motive was pure, and rooting in a simple desire to point out inequities within the church, and to stand in solidarity with the many, many men and women who feel simultaneously constricted and ostracized by a religion they care about. We wanted to question, but we wanted to love, as well.

It was a simple way to introduce action to a Mormon Feminist movement that raised a generation of women and men devoted to the church, but devoted to equality too.

The support and kindness we received was overwhelming. The sense of community reminded me of what I felt when I looked at the art created by my Mormon siblings. Maybe there was a place for me here, in Sacrament meeting, with my pants.

What better place than Church, the place where we promise to be more like our Savior, than to practice what we promise? If not church, where? Where better do we learn? In a place dedicated to a Messiah who frequently challenged social norms and angered many in the name of love, what better place?

When things got bad though, when the threats came, and the phone calls, and the media explosion, my soul told me something different. Every fiber in my being told me to run from the group of people who simultaneously condemn me to hell and bear testimony of the Savior.

A long time ago, I learned that questioning my testimony is hard.Today I learned that is is infinitely more painful to question the testimony of your tribe. While I understand, and even empathize with their anger, I can't forget that feeling, that desperate need to run far away from the people who a few weeks ago, may have seen me standing in the Church History Museum and seen me as a sister.

I don't generally feel regret, and I don't regret standing up for a cause I believe in, and a cause I still hope for. But I can't help but feel regret my loss of innocence. My pure and innocent belief that no matter what, I could always come home again.

I question my motives, I want to believe I am good and kind. A week ago, I knew that. A week ago, my biggest problem was wondering if Jessica Simpson really was pregnant again. What a beautiful life.

My long-term, looking-toward- the-future-brain wants to feel hope. I hope I did some good today. Have I made anyone feel glad?


But my weary, weary heart says "Perhaps I have failed, indeed."


All I know is that I have a husband who loves me, and a child who loves me, and a beautiful life, here on the other side of the Pantspocalypse. (Did the Mayans know about PANTS?)

That is my new home. With my family and my needle and thread, and the art I guess I will have to create on my own.

Welcome home.


12/13/12

here.

Dear Internet Friends and Foes,

I am the mother of Stephanie Lauritzen. Over the past few days I have watched as like minded friends rallied in support and friends with different views express themselves respectfully and with kindness. But as a mother reading death threats, angry tirades, and unkind pejorative rants attacking my daughter brought me to tears. No one really knows another persons hea
rt, but I think a mother sees most clearly the heart of a child. I have often felt in my years of mothering that my Heavenly Mother knew my heart and blessed me with insight and instinct to raise my children. So, my mother’s instinct leads me to share a little of what I know about Stephanie’s heart. First, it is not cold or stone. In Ezekiel the Lord tells his people that he will take their stony heart and give them a new heart. That transformation that happens through Christ took place when Stephanie was a child. The Lord gave her a soft heart that feels the ache of others. She has always championed the underdog, looked for those who were lost, listened when people struggled for words to express their grief  She has kept her baptismal covenants to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those in need of comfort. Many of you who have responded to her request to wear pants have treated her as the enemy and addressed her with hatred that defiles a Christian. I am proud of her goodness. While we don’t agree on everything, we agree that the most important commandments are still to love God and to love our fellow man. She’s tired right now, and hurting from some of the stinging comments. If you don’t agree with her I love you because I know your mother loves you with a mother’s heart that sees clearly. If you have been hateful, I love you because you are a beloved child of Heavenly Parents. With all the power of a mother’s love I plead with my fellow members, my fellow Christians to remember we have all been bought with a price. I bless you with peace in your hearts and a knowledge that there is a place for us all in the kingdom of God. He invites all to come unto him, male and female, bond and free, the confused and the struggling, those with the gift of faith and those like Stephanie with the gift of a soft kind heart of flesh.






12/6/12

uh hi?



So one thing I never understood growing up was the assertion that people with ADD are impulsive. I am not impulsive, generally.

For example, I remember, almost to the day, I sat in my AP U.S. History class and decided I wanted to be a History/English teacher. I was 16.

At age 22 I graduated with a Masters in arts and Teaching. I never changed my major.

Now, at age 26, I'm entering my fourth year as an English teacher with two classes that are cross curricular with...AP U.S. History.

Not exactly impulsive.

I plan. I plan and plan and plan some more. To a fault sometimes, because some plans must be abandoned, and it is really hard for me when that happens.

But yesterday, I did something impulsive: I wrote about my sometimes disillusionment with the Mormon Feminist movement, and I suggested some Civil Disobedience.

It was not a call to immediately chain ourselves to the Church Office Building, though many people took it that way. And boy howdy, spared no expense telling me how dumb they thought I was. Thanks.

I do think it is time to think about ways faithful Mormon women can engage in peaceful resistance and Civil Disobedience. I'm a planner. I know plans take time, but what yesterday represented was a call to plan, and a call to act in the best way possible for all concerned parties.

I don't want to pull the rug out from any other Mormon Feminist organizations, and I am aware that it is a delicate balance, to challenge an institution and want to remain part at the same time. That's why I suggested Civil Disobedience: to my knowledge it is the only form of protest that works to change the institution and the radical for the better.

I think Civil Disobedience comes in the form of peaceful resistance, when we simply say "no" to things that hurt our souls. I think it comes from challenging social norms on a wide-scale, like praying to Heavenly Parents in church.

I think it can also be as a big as a pray-in, an service project, or a media campaign.

The possibilities are endless, all I know is that I'm tired of seeing my Mormon Feminist sisters die a slow spiritual death.

So, again, impulsively, I started a group on Facebook. Because I am Facebook illiterate, I did not close the group initially, and probably offended a lot of people when I started posting non-stop and clogging up their stalker feeds. (A trait characteristic of ADD that I do have? The ability to hyper-focus for brief, and prolific periods of time.)

The group is called All Enlisted. The administrators are working on a mission statement, and the members are brainstorming ways to faithfully and peacefully advance feminist causes within the church. I hope to see you there if you are interested, because this is your fight.

Thanks for listening. I now return this blog to the realm of bad-TV, excessive swears, and general tom-ragery.




12/5/12

The dignity of your womanhood...



"Remember the dignity of your womanhood. Do not appeal, do not beg, do not grovel. Take courage, join hands, stand beside us, fight with us."  Christabel Pankhurst, Suffragette. 




Yesterday Jezebel published an article titled "Mormon Women are Admired, But Still Not Equal to Men."   I agreed with the article, simply because I find the author Katie J.M. Baker's assertions to be true: "who wants to be different if different means treated as lesser than?"

However, both  Mormon Feminists and non-Feminists disagreed with aspects of the article. Queen of all the Mormon Feminists, Joanna Brooks, referred  to the article as "mildly condescending," claiming that the article did not truly reflect the attitude of Mormon Feminists when Baker hinted that one truly cannot be a feminist and a Mormon simultaneously.

I like to consider myself a Mormon Feminist, most of the time. Mostly, because I consider myself a Mormon by birth, culture, and tradition, and a feminist by common sense and self-respect. But in the short-time I've spent participating in the Mormon Feminist movement (speaking at Conferences, writing articles for various publications, blogging, and podcasting,) I've found myself thinking treasonous thoughts about the movement I otherwise love and respect.

With the perseverance I formally reserved for clinging to my faith, I find myself trying not to doubt the  Mormon Feminist movement. But I can't ignore what I see. At conferences, I see women, often the same women who started the conferences forty years ago, discussing the same issues I find troubling. Modesty, lack of female ordination, the lack of support extended to non-traditional thinkers, the church's systematic excommunication of people who disagree. 

The same fight, generation after generation. Petitions signed and sent, marches organized, pamphlet's distributed. 

As Mormons and Feminists, we are desperate to play nice with the establishment. We don't want to be perceived as unfaithful, because the minute you cross into apostasy, no one hears your voice. We want to rock the boat, but not capsize it. We love Mormonism, and our love causes us to tread softly, bowing our head against blow after blow from the patriarchy.

But are we moving forward, Mormon Feminists? Year after year, I sit in yet another conference, on yet another panel, and still a woman does not offer the opening prayer in General Conference. Our Heavenly Mother remains ignored in her churches, and our petitions to the First Presidency ignored.

Perhaps we could learn a lesson from our suffragist sisters, who, like Mormon women who love their church, loved their country enough to change it. 

But they did not succeed with petitions podcasts, and conferences, they won the vote only after concentrated and active civil disobedience. They won only after love for themselves, and for their dignity, matched their love for their country. 

In 1848 the first Women's Rights Conference was held in Seneca Falls, outlying the goals and concerns of American women. In 1866  Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the American Equal Rights Association, an organization dedicated to universal suffrage.

It wasn't enough. The conferences, the petitions, the marches, none of them granted women the right to vote.

Not until women openly opposed the President of the United States, and chained themselves to the gates of the White House, did people start to listen. You can ignore a petition, but you can't ignore the woman chained to your front gate. 

the Suffragists won when they stopped playing "nice." Many were arrested, many saw them as traitors for protesting the President when the country was at war, their devotion to their country questioned, and their freedom to speak as Americans denied.

But by 1920, a mere three years after Alice Paul's first act of civil disobedience by picketing the White House, women gained the right to vote.

As it turns out, the Suffragists weren't traitors, but liberators. 

Can you imagine what would happen if the Mormon Feminist movement stopped playing nice? If faithful, devoted women stood as Silent Sentinels outside the gates of the Church Office Building. If the women who loved the church enough to face accusations of apostasy and potential excommunication organized a sit-out, so that one Sunday no Mormon Feminists came to church. If we stopped organizing Friends of Scouting banquets until our daughters sat at the table, likewise recognized for their own accomplishments.

History has proven that civil disobedience works. Martin Luther King Jr., Alice Paul, Harvey Milk, and countless others faced accusations of treason when they apostatized from the status quo because they loved their country. 

Our Mormon Feminist ancestors have set the stage. Their conferences and petitions have created a beautiful community of women and men who love the church, but want to make it better. But there comes a point where petitions devolve to groveling, conferences resort to begging, and appeals are simply silenced.

We need to remember the dignity of our womanhood. We need to honor the Mormon tradition of not just asking questions, but starting revolutions. Starting new churches and new traditions that honor our Heavenly Parents even when the establishment condemns us as heretics. 

""Remember the dignity of your womanhood. Do not appeal, do not beg, do not grovel. Take courage, join hands, stand beside us, fight with us." 


Mormon feminists, I think it is time for some good old-fashioned Civil Disobedience.








This post is dedicated to my friends Natalie and Amber, whose texts and Facebook comments woke me up from a nap and inspired me to write.




12/3/12

Counterpoint 2012


Back in October, I was asked to speak on a panel at Counterpoint. My panel discussed "Women in the Mormon Church: The Limits of Agency."

I felt honored to participate in the panel, and my co-panelists did a wonderful job discussing the role agency plays in the lives of Mormon women.

However, I still feel deeply conflicted about my comments. My initial reaction to the subject matter was very abrupt. Women exist in the church under the direction of men. That is how a patriarchy works. Their agency is limited to what men allow them to do, which, really isn't agency in the sense that they are permitted to choose for themselves. The one choice truly allowed women is the choice to remain within the patriarchal institution (either happily or with the hope that change is coming,) or leave. 

I am beyond the point in my faith where I feel inclined to quibble about this. Yes, the church "honors" women and motherhood. We are incredible. That isn't agency. But our roles are equal, just different, we hear. Okay, but we still don't get to choose those roles. They were assigned to us by someone else. That isn't agency. 

For a church that claims the ability to choose as the act that saved us from damnation, they sure are stingy when offering that act to women.

As you can see, I still have strong feelings about agency and Mormon women.

However, the last three years taught me to see and embrace the gray. I recognize that many Mormon women do not see things as abruptly (or as cynically,) as I do. So, responding to outside pressure from many to "stay positive" and offer a message appealing to both apostate and faithful alike, I wrote some remarks for my panel.

I tried to write honestly, but offer some ideas for how women could expand their agency.

In the end, I feel like I offered breadcrumbs to a starving population. I feel like many women interpreted my experiences about blessing Clara as a way to circumnavigate the patriarchal institution, and that was not my intention. I shared by blessing experience to show just how limited I was in my interactions with my child. Our problems cannot be solved by simply insisting on holding our children. 

Furthermore, I have no business instructing women on how to stay in the church and exert agency. It isn't a decision I made for myself, after all. 

Anyway, the true sign that I am unresolved on any opinion is my ability to write about it endlessly. I'm starting to do so here, so I will end by including a link to my original comments. (This is what I wrote, I made some changes in the actual delivery, but nothing major. I also stopped a few times to get emotional, because that's how I roll.)

I re-read my talk before posting it, and I feel better about it now. I can see myself more in my writing. But I am still reminded of the Anne Bradstreet poem "The Author to Her Book," in which Bradstreet regards her poem as "My rambling brat (in print.)"  All I can do now is go forward.


HERE