12/14/13

I felt like writing something



I worry that this entry will sort of be like a pop star announcing their umpteenth farewell tour only to keep coming back, so forgive me, and forgive Cher.

I still don't know what to do with this space, but Spouseman is out with Clara, and I have a cold, and the weight of tomorrow seems very heavy. Tomorrow is the second annual Wear Pants to Church Day, and while I'm not in charge of anything, the magnitude of it all seems very big and heavy.

There are days where I feel very proud of what I did. I look at the way a very dumb and hastily orchestrated event I dreamed up at Target one night changed the landscape of Mormon Feminism, and I'm proud to be a small part of the past, present, and future of that heartbreaking terrain.

There are days where I am incredibly angry.  A few weeks ago Spouseman was watching a talk by Elder Holland. Elder Holland talked about how disappointed he was in LDS people for "leaving their religion at the door" when a former BYU basketball player switched teams. A basketball player had some mean comments and Elder Holland writes a talk. I received hate mail and threats, and got Elaine Dalton telling me not to lobby for rights. I cried and made Dan turn off the talk.

I am angry too, at members of the Mormon Feminist community who made Pants a big part of their community, who listened to my endless questions on the phone, who I genuinely considered friends who were very quick to betray and abandon me when they realized I was not the Mormon Feminist they wanted me to be. I am working to forgive, but Lord, that hurt more than the dozens of nasty emails and comments online.

I'm mad at myself. For countless errors and missteps and hubris.

There are days where I know my anger simply masks sadness, so I let myself feel sad. I've moved to a new house since pants, and while every single member I've meet in this new neighborhood has been astonishingly kind to me, I left a "neighborhood" (read: ward) function a few months ago shaking and almost in tears because it is only a matter of time before they discover who I am, and in my experience so far, that leads to all sorts of rejection and pain that I'm not sure I'll survive.

But weirdly of all, the thing that got me through this last is a scripture from the Book of Mormon. Isn't that strange, and funny? The universe is weird. But whenever I've felt overwhelmed with sadness and anger I remind myself of King Benjamin. I remember that he was a kind king, and that he wanted his people to be happy. I've always liked King Benjamin, and I'm okay with carrying his story with me as I move on from orthodox Mormonism. In Mosiah 4:19 King Benjamin reminds us, "For behold, are we not all beggars?" And in Mosiah 4:30 he pleads "Remember, and perish not."

It has been one year, and I have not perished, because each time I felt worn down and defeated I remembered that we are all beggars. Our actions, even our unkindest ones, are driven from our status as beggars in a confusing world. The people who wrote me mean letters, and the women who felt threatened by sudden entrance into Mormon Feminism, and most especially myself, we are all begging for something to make us whole. It's hard to think of other people when begging for survival.

The world seems less scary,and pain easier to forgive, when I remember we are all beggars. Because in the heyday of my literal belief I also loved the "As Sisters in Zion" hymn. I loved remembering that "the errand of angels is given to women." I've learned now that the errand of angels is given to people. To find the things our neighbors beg for, and to forgive them when their begging hurts us. I remember this, and I perish not.

Lastly, in the midst of a year of sadness I've also experienced remarkable joy. There were long days where I was given reprieve from begging and been blessed with happiness. I'm grateful for the people who heard me begging and gave me what I needed. From my Spouse, who is out buying a purple shirt for Sunday tomorrow, because he still believes yet loves me anyway.  To my sweet toddler who does this entirely disgusting thing where she licks my face because she loves my exaggerated response: don't gross your Mama! To my friends who know that spending the evening watching Kayne West's Bound 2 video over and over is true joy, and that mindless crafting is immensely therapeutic. To all these people with the errand of angels, I remember you, and I perish not.









10/6/13

movin on



           I went to the Ordain Women event on Saturday, which was a surprising decision, especially if you read my previous post in which I compare the church to an ex-boyfriend. I'm still working out my very complex feelings regarding my motivations for going. A few of them, in no order of importance:

1. A genuine desire to support an idea I believe in: I do believe in equality, everywhere.

2. A genuine desire to mourn with the women who are currently mourning their place in the church. As I watched countless men walk past us into priesthood, none of them making eye-contact with the women standing a few feet away, I was proud to be standing where I was standing. My believing feminist sisters are the  robbed and beaten neighbors of my world, their birth-right stolen, and desperately hurting. Sometimes they are different from me, but I cannot by the Levite or the Priest in this story, I must be the Samaritan. I was proud to stand with them, and I was proud to ask to be admitted to the Priesthood session.


3. I don't want to be a quitter. Last year I asked Mormon Women to do something, so when they answered my call, and supported me in wearing pants to church, I didn't want to give up on them when they wanted me to stand in line for Priesthood. I don't want to be a quitter.


So I went, and it was one of the most powerfully painful experiences of my life. Surprisingly painful. It hurt to be physically separated from fellow church members, it hurt to be rejected for what should be a reasonable desire. It hurt to realize that to the institution of the LDS church, I am not worth a whole lot of consideration. Lovely words by  Elder Uchtdorf aside, the tangible image of approximately 150 women shivering in line as twelve year old teens walked into the tabernacle reaffirmed a sneaking suspicion that us feminist women don't matter too much.

Especially when church spokesperson Ruth Todd kept reminding people that the women standing in line do not "represent the majority of women" in the church, and called our quiet and peaceful actions "divisive."

In the same breath that church leaders remind us that the church is not a democracy, I'm told that there aren't enough people like me to merit consideration. The church is not a democracy, but apparently you need to have the majority opinion to matter, to be validated, to be welcomed as fellow saints.

As it turns out, the church is not the good Shepard who pursues the one lost sheep.






Then there's this picture. I'm embarrassed by it. I'm embarrassed that I let my vulnerability show to people who don't understand. I'm embarrassed when it is passed around as an example of bravery or courage because mostly I feel like an imposter. I'm a person who has lost a lot in the last ten months, who has given up orthodoxy and belief but is afraid of being a quitter. I don't want to be a quitter. I don't want to feel like this pain is worthless. I don't want to abandon this faith wondering if there was anything I could have done differently or better. I want to do the right thing, even when it is hard and confusing and complicated.

But I also know that I am reaching my own critical mass for pain. My sister posted something I found really hurtful on Facebook page last night, and I lost it. I don't think I can physically handle another person questioning my motives and my heart. I can't. Not after the comments from strangers about pants, not after the messages from old YW leaders, after friends and now family how doubted why I keep going up to the door and fighting for my faith.

 I was explaining how I felt very much alone sometimes to a friend, who reminded me that pain and loneliness is sacred. You can't hide from it, and most of the time you experience it alone, in the Gethsemane of your mind. But instead of viewing my pain as something I needed to escape, she taught me that pain is a Christ-like attribute. It allows us to empathize with others walking their own quiet and lonely paths, it allows us to sanctify our minds and our spirits. Pain can be holy, and regardless of the orthodoxy of my belief system, I'm learning to believe in the sacredness of pain.

However, I also believe that pain is an active feeling. It moves and evolves and changes with growth. Pain is sacred and holy so long as we allow it to progress naturally. The moment we let us consume us, it isn't useful anymore. I hit that point last night, where I realized my pain was no longer changing, but static. I can't keep experiencing it the same way as before, it isn't allowing me to grow anymore.

On the way home last night, alone in my car, I pulled up to the driveway just as Rascal Flatt's "Moving On" came on the radio. (Yes, I'm embarrassed about that too.) But suddenly these words meant something to me. Because I realized that it is time for me to move on. It isn't quitting, it isn't wrong, it's just time. It is noble to want to be a Good Samaritan, but until mine comes along, I'm going to have to save myself. I do that by moving on. The pain might not go away, but it will change, and grow, and I'll keep growing too. I've loved like I should but I've lived like I shouldn't/I had to lose everything to find out/Maybe forgivenes will find me somewhere down this road/I'm movin' on. 

I don't know what this means for this space, this weird little blog that's seen so much. I just want to write about TV again, honestly. But it feels odd writing with the ghost of my old self in the title. I don't know what I'll do, but I think at least for a while it is time to give this space a break. Thank you to everyone who has followed me here. Thank you for your nice emails and comments, and even the mean ones that made me a better writer. May any God (except Xenu, he gives me the creeps,) be with you 'til we meet again.

Also, here are the lyrics to "Movin' On" in case country music is your thing. 




I've dealt with my ghosts and I've faced all my demons
Finally content with a past I regret
I've found you find strength in your moments of weakness
For once I'm at peace with myself
I've been burdened with blame, trapped in the past for too long
I'm movin' on

I've lived in this place and I know all the faces
Each one is different but they're always the same
They mean me no harm but it's time that I face it
They'll never allow me to change
But I never dreamed home would end up where I don't belong
I'm movin' on

I'm movin' on
At last I can see life has been patiently waiting for me
And I know there's no guarantees, but I'm not alone
There comes a time in everyone's life
When all you can see are the years passing by
And I have made up my mind that those days are gone

I sold what I could and packed what I couldn't
Stopped to fill up on my way out of town
I've loved like I should but lived like I shouldn't
I had to lose everything to find out
Maybe forgiveness will find me somewhere down this road
I'm movin' on




10/2/13

boyfriend

                When we first got together, I loved the feelings of safety and security I felt when I was with him. He seemed to have all the answers to life’s big problems. Nothing felt insurmountable with him by my side, guiding and directing me, making it easy to ignore the chaos of the outside world. It felt good to envision my future, our future, together.  Back then, if you had told me that he would someday break my heart, I would not have believed you. Our love, a love that began with pioneer ancestors and grew strong at Girl’s Camp testimony meetings and filled the margins of worn scriptures, our love was the real deal.

Plus, my parents loved him.

                I don’t know when I started to notice the tiny annoyances. Every relationship has its quirks, after all. He doesn't put the toilet seat down; she never calls when she’s running late. Nothing we couldn't overcome. Nothing he couldn't explain away, nothing I couldn't pray away, nothing I couldn't fix with an increase in righteousness.

It’s not like he was mean. Even when he bothered me, I knew he did it because he loved me. Like sometimes, always so lovingly, he would speak for me. Answering questions in my behalf, and worse, answering my questions wrong.

Sometimes I wondered if he even knew me. If he really knew me, he wouldn't say those things about gay people, or working moms, or the ERA. One time he said he felt threatened by feminists. One time he said women who dressed “immodestly” (I still don’t know why he hates shoulders and knees so much,) were like “walking pornography.” I didn't have the heart to tell him I liked the way my shoulders felt in a sleeveless shirt, how I smiled every time a new freckle appeared after spending too much time in the sun. I couldn't tell him I was a feminist, because I couldn't stand the idea of not being together. I loved him so much, how could he see me as a threat?

Plus, all my friends loved him.

Sometimes he wouldn't let me talk to my friends. He promised to pass the message along to God (so long as I paid my tithing,) and in the temple, he sent a message through my husband.  When I asked him why, he told me it was because I was special. I liked feeling special, so I wondered if I really need to be equal. After all, all good relationships require compromise.

But one day I wore pants and someone called me fat (apostate!) and he didn't say a word, and I could tell he kind of agreed.  That wasn't a compromise! How do you stay with someone who says you look fat (apostate!) in those pants?

He’s seeing someone else now. She’s nineteen, and he showers her with gifts. Mission calls earlier than ever before, blessings of the priesthood (without the responsibility of holding it! How chivalrous!) He tells her she’s incredible. I tell her she doesn't know what she’s getting into. I didn't know. I didn't know what it meant to go through the temple at age 20. I didn't know what I was promising when I told him I’d never leave, and he promised me the world, maybe even my own world.

Plus, I loved him.

Sometimes he dates feisty Mormon feminists. I see their pictures all over Facebook, and it hurts to see he’s moved on so quickly. She promises that he’ll change if she just loves him enough. I shake my head. Women always think they can change their man.  But he gives her a prayer, and he broadcasts the Priesthood session (and even though that’s not what she asked for, she thanks him profusely, because she loves him.)

Maybe someday he will change. I imagine running into him at the park. He’ll be on the playground with his wife and their kids, and he won’t preside and she’ll bless the baby, and they’ll be happy. I’ll wonder, “what if?” What if I’d waited just a little longer, what if I’d just been a little more patient, maybe it would be me. I’d be the one blessing the baby.  What if? 

Even when you know you’re not meant to be, you never forget your first love.

I remind myself, as all single girls do, that it is important to enjoy being single. I’m dating myself these days, thanks very much. Maybe someday I’ll even feel that thrill of anticipation as I go on a first date with someone new. Someone who doesn't answer for me, who counts the freckles on my shoulders after a long summer day, and isn't threatened by my gender or my power.

Or I’ll grow old all on my own. Surrounded by friends who still answer my calls without an intermediary (I lost a lot of friends in the break up, but not God, so that’s good.) Who see me as special and equal. I’ll get a cat or take a trip. I’ll be okay.

And someday, maybe, I’ll even see him as my friend. We’ll laugh about our crazy young love, and joke about how disastrous it would have been to stay together.  I’ll wish him and his wife well, and I’ll mean it. After all, I loved him.






9/27/13

haiku






Friday

Friday. Hate outfit.
Teens notice smeared mascara.
No effing pants fit.



8/12/13

A Mother Here: Heavenly Mother Art and Poetry Contest



          One of the greatest and few joys in my faith transition was the discovery of Heavenly Mother. My mother had taught me about her, but I never heard about her in church or seminary. She was a foreign being to me, and now that I have my own daughter, it breaks my heart to think of a Mother, any Mother, being separated from her children for so long. My strongest spiritual moment happened while driving on State Street at 6:30 in the morning, and I prayed to a Heavenly Mother for the first time. I was surprised that the first feeling I felt was strength. I felt physically stronger, my thoughts clearer, and I was suddenly very aware of my own divinity, my own capacity for goodness. My spirit felt like it was a force for good. I think this is what happens when we start to see our own faces, our own gender, when we think of God. We become stronger and more powerful.

          I believe in the inherent divinity of women, and I'm supportive of people who incorporate the divine feminine in their worship. I believe an understanding of the divine feminine helps both men and women see each other as equals, and as divine creatures capable of more when we work together than when we work alone.

         I am very excited to announce a new project from A Mother There. They are hosting and art and poetry contest "celebrating the wondrous truth that we have a Heavenly Mother overseeing our spiritual development." They are awarding monetary prizes for submissions, and winners will be displayed on an online gallery.

        This project is currently being sponsored by WAVE, Peculiar Pages, Segullah, and Exponent II. However, it is currently only half funded. Please consider visiting the A Mother There website and making a donation. Entries to the contest are due March 14, 2014.


6/28/13

out of discord


"Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony." Hereclitus


Confession: I've felt weird about my last post (regarding Laurel Thatcher Ulrich) since I hit "post." One of my few rules in blogging is that I will not use my blog to hurt other people.* There have been times when, in battling feels of anger or betrayal, I've wanted to use this platform to fight back. To reveal how ridiculous or silly someone is, while painting myself as the victim or victor, depending on the circumstances.

But I will not use this blog as a platform to hurt people. It isn't fair, and it isn't right.

At the same time, however, I think it is okay to respond to ideas or concepts I don't agree with. While I struggle with showing emotions in public, it's easy and healthy for me to show them here. Not only is it easy and healthy, but in many ways, it improves my writing. Admitting that I was hurt by something said about me lends an honesty to my writing that I can only hope to duplicate in real life. So while I will not use my blog to hurt people, I will try and find a balance in honestly writing what I know, and what I feel, and protecting the people in my life who did not consent to an online presence on my blog.

 In struggling with how to present certain people or circumstances in my writing, I've discovered an uncomfortable truth about myself. Despite a potentially hyper-sensitive ability to see nuance in theories and belief, I struggle to see nuance in individuals. It is easy for me to see the world as one filled with superheroes and villains. I justify this because I see myself in a similarly dichotomous light. I've written before about my struggles with demanding personal perfection, but I didn't realize how I apply the same destructive standard of perfection to other people.

A few months ago I said something very stupid and hurtful in a Mormon Feminist forum filled with people I didn't know. Some of what I said was rooted in truth, and some of it was just anger and frustration, and all of what I said wasn't very nice. Naturally, many people were angry about my comment. But what surprised me was the readiness in which some people dismissed me as "bad," a villain in our own Mormon Feminist Gotham. Days after (equally unfairly) being praised as a hero, I became the evil genius, identified solely by a misguided comment online.

The most painful part of this experience were the disappointed messages from people who didn't know me, including one that said "It's too bad, I really wanted to like you."

Similarly, a friend recently ended a friendship with me because of a series of small disagreements. To me, they were nothing insurmountable, just a different approach to living. But for her, the disagreements were a sign of disloyalty. Likewise, I failed to be as sensitive and understanding to her needs as a person. It was a painful time for her, too. Both of us unfairly concluded that I was either with her or against her, and the nuance we both shared regarding the rest of the world did not extend to our admittedly fledgling friendship. It was an incredibly painful experience in an already painful time, made even more poignant by my inability to remedy the situation.

Eliciting similar reactions to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich was not the intention of my last post. I recognize that I'm small potatoes and don't have the kind of power to make people like or dislike a particular person. But intent is important to me, and my intention wasn't to cause people to think "Too bad, I really wanted to like her."

A friend recently asked me why I continue to write things when the internet is filled with really mean people, some of whom are convinced that I'm akin to the Anti-Christ. (Potential topic of discussion with a therapist: why do I see these sort of those accusations as a compliment, believing that you know you've made it when someone sees you as a potential sign of Armageddon? Might want to look into that...)

I write because it gives me empathy. I write on the internet because it forces me to recognize and alter the flawed belief that people either exist as superheroes or villains in my personal narrative. The woman who left the angry comment accusing me of hating men (and babies, and Jesus, and...) is someone's mother and someone's wife. She said a really mean thing to me, but she probably volunteers somewhere in her free time. She's probably a loving and devoted Mom.

She's probably in a lot of pain sometimes, too. Interacting with world via the internet has given me a tiny insight into human nature: most of us are in a lot of pain, a lot of the time, sometimes without even realizing it.

When I choose to see people as either good or bad, friend or foe, I limit my ability to really see them for who they are. If Heraclitus (and a bunch of Mormon people) are right about the necessity of opposition in all things, I cannot limit people to the confines of either good or evil. To do so would to see the world as a place full of archetypes, and to continue to force myself to fit into a paradigm of accepting nothing short personal perfection. If I want to reserve the right to forgive myself for the many, many mistakes I make, I must to learn first to stop classifying people as "good" or "bad" based on their interactions with me.

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (or anyone else) isn't "bad" or "wrong" for disagreeing with me (obviously). She exists in the same universe I do, with good and bad irreconcilably  intertwined, and a whole lot of neutral ground as people just try and survive.

So I write to learn enough empathy to see people as humans, not Jokers or Zod, Supermen or Batmen. I write so that selfishly I can learn to see myself as I really am, even if that person may not be as cool as being the Anti-Christ.






* Have sometimes failed. I'm sorry.









6/19/13

Short Lessons on Mormon Feminism



          So I liked THIS article on Mormon Feminism in City Weekly and not just because I was quoted in it, or because my friend wrote it. But I have some thoughts on some things, as one does. Here they are:


1. I agree with the premise of Ordain Women. I think the church should move toward full-equality yesterday and I think it is a good thing to ask for female ordination directly.

I also think small victories and gradual changes in thought dynamics should be celebrated, because life is short and celebrate what you can. I think the two strains of activism need and thrive off each other in positive ways. We don't need to create artificial divisions in the Mormon Feminist movement, for instance, suggesting that you either support small, gradual changes OR you only advocate for full and complete equality. Welcome to 2013, you can have both. This is feminism vs. patriarchy, not feminism A versus feminism B. I can say this now because I used to think this way, and I realized it was wrong.

(I'm not suggesting that was what Kate Kelly meant, but it is an argument I hear frequently, and I don't agree with it.) 


2. I admire Laurel Thatcher Ulrich immensely. I grew up reading Ulrich, and her works shaped my perspective in many ways. So naturally I was a little put-off by her dismissive response to the current strain of Mormon Feminists:

"I don’t think many of the Mormon feminists I know worry much about what they wear to church on Sunday or even whether women pray in General Conference."

Maybe you need to get to know some more Mormon Feminists, Ms. Ulrich. I run a facebook group of about 800 of them who care very deeply about what they wore to church on December 16th. Their feelings are just as important and valid as yours. 

I also refuse to accept that a person who won the Pulitzer Prize doesn't understand the significance of visual imagery (It wasn't about what we wear to church, and everyone, including Ulrich knows it,) or the significance of seeing a woman in a leadership position for the first time in our well-behaved history.

In regards to this quote from the article: "Ulrich knows feminists who are “lawyers, college professors, CEOs, politicians.” These women “raise their voices often and well in local settings where they are usually heard,” she says, adding that they “are too busy trying to make a difference in areas where they have significant responsibility to worry a lot about what is happening in SLC.”

I think it is wonderful that there are female, feminist "lawyers, college professors, CEOs, and politicians" who have avenues in which to express themselves and change the world. But there are also Stay-At-Home Moms and teenagers and college students, and under-employed writers and artists and dreamers who also need to have their voices heard. For those people, Wear Pants to Church Day afforded them the right to express their views in a small and meaningful way. I think it is disrespectful to those men and women to suggest that the only place to be a feminist is the work-force. I also think it is strange that Ulrich wouldn't include church as a place where women "can make a difference." 

I also respectfully reject the idea that it is somehow superior not to "worry about" things that seem "beneath you,"  or which happen in SLC. I believe our Heavenly Father is a feminist. I believe our Heavenly Mother is a feminist. I believe Jesus is a feminist. The same Jesus who counts the hairs on my head and watches sparrows fall worries about what happens in SLC. Small people, and small things, matter. Our Heavenly Family celebrates the victories of both CEOS and young mothers who dressed their baby girl in pants back in December. 

There is also something deeply important about having your voice heard at home. I'm a teacher, I have a wonderful career that I value, and where I feel my voice is heard and appreciated. Not just with my students, but with my colleagues as well. 

But I wanted to hear my voice heard at home. For all of my life, the LDS chapel has been my spiritual home. It is where I was raised to talk to God. I may move away from home, explore new avenues, and talk to God in numerous other places, but for me, wearing Pants to church was a test of the old adage, "you can never go home again." I wanted to know that if I went to church as my true self, my wandering-hearted, angry feminist self, if God would still hear me. Turns out God was listening. 

Which, in the end, means I guess it shouldn't matter (and I will repeat this to myself over and over until I believe it,) if a childhood idol dismisses my actions as less than those of a CEO or politician. It was never about making history anyways. 



6/15/13

daughter, believe me


This poem is a High School English class staple, (Extended metaphors!Enjambment!) but I love it anyway. It is also a perfect poem for father's day. 



First Lesson

Lie back daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you. Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls. A dead-
man's float is face down. You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, where I held you
and let go, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you. 




6/5/13

providers and homemakers


          disclaimer: I'm talking about life choices that work for me, and my family. I recognize the validity of many life choices for many different families, including those incorporating "traditional" gender roles or work/life arrangements.

             I made dinner tonight. Nothing to clap your hands about, but it was edible and mostly healthy, and when we sat down to eat, I exclaimed, "Look! We are eating dinner like a real family!" I know, I know, I'm lame. This dinner was approximately the 28th meal I've made in 6 years of marriage. It is probably the 19th meal that was actually tasty.Not that I'm counting. (Of course I'm counting, I'm obsessive compulsive about numbers.)

           In my defense, I'm married to a man who enjoys cooking, and it made sense for him to be the meal-provider in the first few years of our marriage. He had flexible work hours, he liked it, it worked for us. But in the last few months, his work has become increasingly demanding, and with me working part-time, it made sense for me to bite the bullet and learn that my husband wasn't playing a trick on me when he sent me to the store for white pepper. White pepper is a thing. Shallots look like onions. Things bake differently at different altitudes. Flour and powdered sugar look the same, but are not the same, so maybe taste test first if you are an idiot.

            Tonight was my best dinner yet, and I felt stupidly proud about it. I felt really happy to provide food for my family. I wondered if this is what women felt when they talked rapturously about the joys of "homemaking." You make something nice for the people you love and it makes you feel proud and happy.

           I'm not going to lie, it also felt really good to be successful at something traditionally "feminine." I made dinner! I'm practically June Cleaver! In many ways, I am not great at the "girl" thing. I don't wear make-up frequently. I hate my hips and boobs because it means I can't wear the androgynous clothing that looks so effing amazing on "boyish" figures. My hair sucks a lot of the time. Beauty magazines confuse me. I know those are stereotypes, and not truly "girl" or "female" things, but I live in a culture that values those things, and I can't help feel defective sometimes when I don't measure up. But I cooked dinner, so I'm not a complete girl failure, right?

            I realize though, that the feelings of pride, the feeling of happiness that stems from providing something for my family is something I've felt frequently the last few years. I feel the same thing when my husband breaks his hand during ward ball, and the surgery to wrap his bones in titanium wire is covered by my health insurance. I might not make much as a teacher, but my insurance is good, and has been invaluable to our family, since Spouseman is self-employed. When Clara needs antibiotics, or I need a C-section, I don't have to worry about where the money will come from.

            Similarly, when Spouseman has a slow month at work, I take pride in the stability my income provides us. Every year when I sign my intent-to-return form at school, I am guaranteeing my family one more year of stable income. (Unless I sleep with a teen or something. Cross your fingers THAT doesn't happen.) You can say it is superficial or silly of me to need the validation of a paycheck for my hard work (Shouldn't the kisses and hugs from your child be enough you say?) but I love knowing that I help contribute financially to my household. It makes me feel like a good parent, the same way feeding my daughter home-made enchiladas with broccoli tonight made me feel happy and proud.

            This is why I get so annoyed when people suggest that men and women are inherently better at certain life-functions. I'm not saying men and women are the same, so put your biology book down and spare me the "men are physically stronger" and designed to work outside the home lecture. My annoyance lies with the idea that men are men, so they do xyz, and women are women, so they do abc. Throw a line about how archaic and grossly-oversimplified gender roles are somehow "divine" and I'll have a hard time controlling my eye-rolls.

             Some people would like me, at this point, to say that I may be a great provider, but it's because I'm not very nurturing. That I really am a failure at the "girl thing" that is being a mother. That isn't true. I'm a great nurturer. Like any parent, I'm flawed, but not only do I love my child, but I am good at translating that love into caring for her emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being. But I'm not a great "nurturer" because I'm a mother, or a weirdo who doesn't recognize my divine role when I provide financially for my family. Working and parenting aren't gender roles: they are people roles, and anyone can be good at them, or alternately, suck royally and raise a psychopath.

             Awhile ago, my friend pinned this C.S. Lewis quote: "The homemaker is has the ultimate career. All other careers exist for one purpose only...to support the ultimate career." I didn't like this quote. Mostly because I don't like C.S. Lewis, (I know, I know!) but also because it seemed like something I would read on some mommy-war internet forum, in which the working moms and stay-at-homers battle it out to the benefit of no one.

            But after thinking about it for awhile, realizing I didn't like it because I didn't think I could claim the title of "homemaker." And I want all the things. It made me mad I couldn't be a "homemaker." I mean, I signed a contract to go back to work full-time next year, didn't I? But then I realized that if "traditional" gender roles are antiquated, this word, this "homemaker" thing is probably due for a revamp too.

           I'm a homemaker. I'm a homemaker in the most literal sense, because my income pays for stuff in our home, sometimes including our home.  I'm a homemaker in an emotional sense: my income allows my husband to recognize his dream of starting and growing a business from scratch. We are both happy and fulfilled in our careers (but also sometimes very tired,) and what could be more important in the creation of a home than filling it with happy people? Our daughter is happy and healthy and thriving, and we couldn't imagine our family without her. She is a homemaker too. *

            Even when I'm at work, I'm  homemaker. My work, like everyone's work, influences the world around me, I'm part of my student's homes, and my husband helps build companies that sell the goods and products in your homes. Homemaker. Something no one told me about work-life balance is that work and life are not two separate things to manage. They are two things that have to work together to be successful.

          So yes, C.S. Lewis, even though I think you were occasionally a dickalope, (Did you have to ruin Mere Christianity with that bit about how women shouldn't be allowed to work because they would just gossip and back-stab each other too much?) you might be on to something. My ability to make a home, through my work, through my parenting, through my relationship with my Spouse: it's the ultimate career. But I couldn't do it without Dan, both of us, providing and nurturing and mother-effing homemaking together. 



*This is not to say we don't sometimes screw up, or that I don't come home so tired from teaching that the idea of taking care of Clara until bed-time makes me want to throw-up, or that everything is perfect. Perfect doesn't exist, good-enough and mostly happy does.



         



     






       





5/31/13

who made the world?


              A few weeks ago I went with some friends to see The Righteous and Very Real Housewives of Utah County up at the Blessed U. I liked some parts of it, and not other parts of it. It is still very hard for me to watch people, even fictional people, wrestle with a faith transition. I felt like I was looking at myself in a mirror after a sleepless night. Puffy eyes and smeared mascara: me, before I've put my "people face" on.All the raw energy and feelings, love and pain mixing together in ways I'm too familiar with recently.

            After the play we chatted with some of the cast a bit, and we discussed faith transitions, and the happiness that comes from living an honest and authentic life. Someone (and I'm sad to say I don't remember who,) reminded me "You only live once. It would be a shame to live that one life unhappy."

         Recently, I've described the reaction from people who knew me when I was active with the old cliche "death by a thousand paper cuts." When you live your faith very publicly, as I have, you are often blessed with an amazing support system. But it is also inevitable that everyone who knew your old self, and who continue to believe the things you no longer believe, will hurt you. Often unintentionally. Small comments that you recognize because you used to say them yourself. Veiled judgement and blame that hurts, but is justified as "bearing testimony" and speaking the "truth."

  A few months ago, I wrote a sort of flippant post on what not to say to your Apostate friend, and if I ever wrote that again, I'd probably just say: "Nothing. Say nothing. Unless it is really nice. Because a questioning Mormon has 99 problems but a bitchy comment from your old Young Women's leader (or your grandma, or your friend from college, or your ex boyfriend, or......) ain't one."

But I only live once, and it would be a shame to live that one life unhappy. And while I'll openly admit that I'm probably at capacity for paper cuts, I'm not dead yet. Which allows me to decide how to live this one life. I can live being hurt by the comment made by a relative at my sister's wedding. I can berate myself for the mistakes I've made as I've lived my one life. I can focus on the tiny injustices brought against me, or I can just live.

A few years ago my sister read this Mary Oliver poem at her high school graduation. And I've been thinking of the closing lines recently, as a reminder to keep living this life happy. Because it really is beautiful, faith transitions, smeared mascara faces, weddings, family, all of it is beautiful, and all of it is part of my one life.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to knell down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?



To be honest, I don't know how to pay attention, or how to fall down in the grass. What is it like to be idle and blessed? I still don't know how to stroll through the fields.

But I would like to learn.

That's what I plan to do with my one wild and precious life.









PS: Sometimes I get emails asking me where I find my poems. This one is an old favorite, but I found the text on the Poetry 180 website.  Poetry 180 provides "a poem a day for American high schools," and is a cool resource for teachers and poetry enthusiasts alike.














5/16/13

I'm taking back apostate.



One of my favorite things to do is mess around with words. I especially like to turn nouns into verbs. When we run out of food at our house, I tell Spouseman we are "Grapes of Wrath-ing it." I also like making up words, "dickalope" being my crowning achievement in made-up words.

English teachers always talk about word choice, and words having power, and that's true, but it also isn't true. It isn't the words that have power, it's the intent and the meaning behind the words. Words can mean whatever you want. Some meanings just happen to be more powerful than others.

Another hobby of mine is taking words with definitions don't fit my purposes and bastardizing them until they do. For instance, my Dad is always defending this awful relative* who everyone hates (because he is mean and enjoys his meanness,) so whenever he starts in on how Relative X isn't so bad, I yell HOLOCAUST DENIER, because in my mind, justifying the behavior of Relative X is like denying the holocaust: only crazy people do it.

(For the record, I like manipulating language in really offensive ways, if you haven't noticed already. Hi. Welcome to my blog.)

When the whole THING happened (hint: I suggested some people wear a type of clothing to a religious service and the shit hit the fan,) a lot of people scoured my blog to find evidence of what a terrible person I am.

Um, I didn't make that really hard. Not because I am a terrible person, because I'm not, I'm actually a very good person, but because I try not to pretend to be better than I am when I write. It is one of the truly good things I think I do with this blog, so I am owning it: I'm a flawed person with lots of questions, and I think God is okay with that.

 But in Mormon-land, showing flaws is like breaking the first rule of Fight Club. We aren't supposed to talk about how we swear or have doubts, or how we make mistakes. So if your parameters for "good person" are narrow, some-what arbitrary, and sometimes down-right Pharisaical, I'm probably not going to make your cut of "who gets into heaven." Too bad you're not in charge.

One of the things people found offensive when they read my blog was my self-identification as "Apostate."

"She is secretly plotting to lure in Mormons with her evil pants and destroy the church! She even admits she's APOSTATE! She weighs the same as a duck!"

Yep. I self-identify as Apostate sometimes.

I've been blogging about religion for six years. When I was a true-believing, active, faithful-in-every-way Mormon, I got called apostate for being a baby-murdering Democrat. When I was a questioning Mormon who believed in Gay Marriage I got called an Apostate. When I talked about how art and literature brought me closer to the divine...you guessed it, Apostate.

I realized it didn't matter what I did, someone was going to call me Apostate, so I just decided to own the term, and give it a meaning that works for me. This worked really well for Henri Matisse and the Fauvists, Monet and the Impressionists, and unfortunately, the Tea Party.

When I call myself Apostate, I mean that I have apostatized from many ideas from my youth. The dictionary definition says that "apostates" "abandon a belief or principle," so I didn't even have to work my word-bastardizing magic too much to make it work.

I've apostatized from the idea that questions indicate a lack of faith. I've apostatized from the idea that we can be "too tolerant" and fall into "tolerance traps." I've apostatized from that idea because I'm a parent, a spouse, a sister, a friend, and a daughter and I know you cannot love "too much" or care "too much" about other people. I've apostatized from the belief that little girls are somehow sexual beings who need to be taught about modesty because they will "need to practice how to dress appropriately when they are older." They will also need to learn how to do Calculus, but I'm not going to buy my-one-year- old a graphing calculator.

I've apostatized from a God who keeps score based on ritual alone, and a God who insists on blind devotion to fallible men. I've apostatized from Patriarchy and the mental gymnastics that tell me Patriarchal institutions are gender neutral. I've apostatized from a pedestal that claims my worth is all in my uterus. I've apostatized from sitting three hours in uncomfortable chairs when I can't feel God there under-neath all the presiding and fear.


I haven't apostatized from grace. I haven't given up hope in the divine, whether we find it in the cosmos or in our souls. I haven't apostatized from hope that religious tradition I grew up in will someday be better. It irritates the hell out of some of my truly agnostic friends, but I haven't apostatized from a God who speaks to their children, or a Son who walked on water to rescue the doubter.  I haven't apostatized from the idea that the best way to protect my daughter doesn't involve covering her shoulders, but teaching her about the nuances of rape culture, because Elizabeth Smart was wearing long-sleeved pajamas and pants when she was kid-napped.

 I believe all things, I hope all things, I will endure many things, except not Polygamy because that's crazy.

So there you have it. There is no food in my fridge, we are grapesofwrathingit. I sort of think Brigham Young was a dickalope. My Dad knows the Holocaust happened, but he has really bad judgement in certain relatives, and I am an Apostate.




*not a close relative, just a super creepy one.





4/17/13

Bergeron Equality


I love teaching "Harrison Bergeron," Vonnegut's short-story featuring a dystopia which achieves "equality" by making everyone "the same." Smart people wear devices that chime loudly in their ears, preventing them from thinking clearly, and preventing the less intelligent from  "feeling bad" for not being able to achieve the same intellectual heights.

Beautiful women wear masks, because biologically, some women will never be as beautiful, and it is unfair. The most skilled ballerinas dance with chains and weights, forced to maintain the same degree of clumsiness as their peers.

Rebel Harrison tries to overthrow the system by removing all his man-made handicaps, and likewise "freeing" a beautiful and skilled ballerina. Together, they dance on a televised performance, temporarily proving the beauty of diversity before being shot down by the Handicapper General.

Harrison Bergeron always elicits an interesting discussion from my students on what equality is, and what is looks like in real-world application. Some students decide that equality is bad, because "equality means everyone has to be the same."

I usually use this as an opportunity to talk about how I try and incorporate equality in my own classroom. My average class size is 32. (It's obscene.) In any given class, a few students show a propensity for intellectual greatness. They are probably smarter than me. The majority of students are what I call "average-bright." They are smart and capable...just like "everyone" else, including me. I also work with students who struggle on various levels. Some are very smart, but work with learning disabilities that cause them to process information differently. I would not label any of my students as "dumb," but they are all very different.

So how do I teach the same thing to 32 individuals with different needs, and how do I grade their individual progress in a way that is fair?

Choice.

For most major assignments and class discussion, I provide choices for how a student proves academic growth. I try and make sure there is a choice for most major learning styles, and ability levels. For example, some students will write a formal academic essay arguing a point central to the novel. Others will write and perform a speech. Some will create multi-media presentations. Others will create original art or poetry.

I try and help each student identify the best choice for their learning needs. But the standard is always the same: Show me what you know about X. As the year goes on, I encourage them to try new choices, and adapt their assignments accordingly. But, they are all learning "the same" thing. The standard is the "same," but differentiated (education word!) to who they are. None of my students are the same, but I'd like to think I work with them as equals.

With the Mormon community's renewed interest in discussing female ordination, the one argument I hear over and over again from naysayers involves some variation on the "Men and women are different! They don't have to be the same to be equal!" theme. There is a lot of Valerie Hudson tossed around (that's a whole other post,) and by the end, I am supposed to accept that because men and women are different, I cannot expect them to hold the same privileges, or Priesthood.

The same naysayers also offer this stunning intellectual insight: Men can't have babies. "Maybe we should start a movement for men to get pregnant!" It would be unfair to both sexes to give women the Priesthood when we can never give the equivalent to men. Except we can. It's called Fatherhood. And yes, I understand that carrying and giving birth to a baby is different than providing sperm. But if men and women are to be equal partners in parenthood, despite biological differences, is it so illogical to make them equal partners in Priesthood, despite those same biological differences?

Of course men and women are different.

But the funny thing about people who rail against gender equality in the church, who claim men are women are just so different and therefore must maintain separate roles, is they actually want men and women to be the same. They are the Handicapper Generals of the church, attaching chains to the legs of any woman skilled enough to both nurture and provide, and chiming loudly in the ears of any man who dares to see beyond his role to "preside" in the home.

According to the current model, all men will want and hold the Priesthood the same way, and all women will produce and care-for children the same way. Their argument, "men and women are equal with different roles" really means "all men are the same as all other men, and all women are the same as other women."

But if men hold Priesthood because women have uteri, what happens to the woman who cannot have children? Can she have the Priesthood, because, just like her male peers, she "can't have babies?" Should we stop giving men the Priesthood until they have children, because women don't get their "thing" until the sperm hits the egg? I mean, if things are already equal in patriarchy land, what do we do when different men and women don't fit the same roles?

Men and women aren't different because of their genitals or their internal organs, men and women are different because people are different.  I am not the same woman as my sister, mother, or daughter. I am not the same individual as my husband, father, co-worker, or friend.

Just as in my classroom, equality in the LDS church doesn't mean making everyone the same. It means giving everyone access to the same standard (Show me what you know about X,) and allowing everyone to achieve that standard in ways best suited to their individual needs.

In a Mormon context, the standard we are all striving for is the same: Be more like Jesus. But the way we get there, the way we show our learning, doesn't involve two assignments determined solely on gender. Instead of assigning the same two paper topics to all the students, imagine a world where women could become more like Jesus by offering a poetic Mother's Priesthood blessing to her sick child. Imagine fathers learning how to nurture their own children, not just "babysit" them while Mom is at Enrichment. Imagine all the original art and poetry we could create by offering the Priesthood to all members.

We wouldn't make men and women the same. We would recognize men and women for what they really are: Individuals capable of eternal progression beyond their physical anatomy.


In "Harrison Bergeron" beautiful people wear masks, so as not to remind others of what they do not possess.  Smart people go slowly insane from the constant ringing in their ears. As followers of Christ, what are we masking, and who are we driving slowly insane each time we claim our anatomy as our destiny? More importantly, who do we shoot down as apostates for daring to dance a little differently than before?








3/29/13

Good Friday



A story about Resurrection:

A few months ago I found myself vising the Getty Museum. This trip to Los Angeles was the first time I ever spent more than 6 hours away from my child, and I reveled in the luxury of feeling absolutely alone as I wandered through the museum, listening only to the audio-guide.

I've always maintained a special relationship with art museums. Even in the days of  full religious belief, I found myself turning to art, and the museums that held them, as sanctuaries from my every day world. In my early twenties, seeking therapy for general anxiety and depression, a therapist asked me to imagined my "safe place." It should surprise no one who knows me that I immediately imagined myself in London's National Gallery, surrounded by jewel-tone walls and beautiful art.



Two days before my wedding, which were happy, but busy days, I didn't find myself visiting the temple, like so many other Mormon brides. I found myself at the University of Utah's MOMA. There was a Brian Kershisnik show on display, and Dan and I wandered through the rooms, breathing slowly for the first time in weeks. Everything was going to be fine.




I've experienced more spirituality in art museums than I ever knew at church. Especially more spiritual than anything I ever felt in the temple. Not that churches and temples can't be beautiful, or spiritual, but for me, all those feelings I was supposed to feel at church, I felt when I looked at art. I can feel the art in a way I never felt my Mormonism.

I see myself in the images. In London, the National Gallery has a room filled with Annunciation paintings. (Annunciation paintings depict the moment Gabriel tells Mary she will have the Christ child.) In Duccio's painting, Mary looks afraid, stepping back from the angel Gabriel, hand over her heart, almost dropping her book.

I spend a lot of time feeling like Mary. Afraid of a God who I'm not sure knows or understands my heart. As a person who plans, and plans, and plans some more, I never could trust the Annunciation paintings in which Mary accepts the news of an unplanned divine pregnancy with serenity and grace. I've yet to accept nearly any message I hear in church with serenity and grace, after all.




But I didn't learn to relate to Mary in church. I learned empathy and love for my fellow sister and mother in an art Museum.

Likewise, I made pilgrimage to three cities and three countries to see replications of this statue by Rodin:

These are the Burghers, or city-leaders, of Calais. During the Hundred Years' War, Calais was under siege by the English. The Burghers willingly offered themselves for execution if the English would spare their starving city.They came forward, some with the noose already around their neck, in a supreme act of selflessness and devotion.

I love their faces. I travel just too look at their faces. Some show despair, some resignation, some anger, but I always feel both more human and more divine looking at their faces, feeling what humanity can accomplish when we allow ourselves to become just a little more selfless.



If art museums are my temples and churches, these statues and paintings are my saviors, redeeming me and reminding me that even imperfect humans are capable of wonderful things. I can't look at the Burghers without my heart pounding through my chest, every part of my soul telling me that this, whatever this is, this is truth.

There is one similarity to my religious life and my life as an amateur art historian: I sometimes grow lazy in my devotion. So as I walked through the Getty, seeing my old friends again (El Greco, Giacometti,) I took time to feel the sense of peace settle into my soul. Did you know that all art museums somehow smell the same? They smell like nothingness. Not food, or car exhaust, or even people. Just air. Art museums always smell pure, like breathing inside one will automatically make you smarter and kinder.

At one point in the audio tour, the speaker described his favorite Cezanne painting. Unlike the other art historians and experts discussing the pieces, this man was an artist, and I could hear the emotion in his voice when he described Cezanne's work, his voice breaking as he declared, "I need Cezanne like some folks need God."

I need art like some folks need God.

I need to stand in a space dedicated to human achievement, for all the good humanity can do in spite of all the awful pain and destruction. Because every time I visit an art museum, I'm ressurected. While most days I wear the robes of pain and cynicism, after a day in the Getty, I leave those feelings neatly folded in a marble tomb. I leave, choking down the heart that threatens to pound through my chest, because for one moment, I believe again that people are mostly good. We are flawed, and we get scared, and we bury our head in our hands, but we are good.

It is no surprise that in the same year I moved away from the orthodoxy of my religion, I taught my first humanities class. That class saved my life, as every morning I followed the advice of Ralph Waldo Emerson and made "my own bible." But instead of collecting "all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet," I collected art. I found peace with my prophets and prophetesses, my Van Goghs and Kahlos, and brought myself slowly back to life in the temple of my classroom.


Photo credits:

National Gallery: mine (hence the lack of professional quality.)

Brian Kershisnik: Meyer Gallery

Annunciation: Here

Burghers: mine

Burgher: Jeff Kubina


3/26/13

Hope is never silent.

“Hope is never silent.” 
― Harvey Milk

I remember in 2008 when I was too afraid to write a blog post supporting Gay Marriage. I listened to the angry lessons in church. I listened to the comments made by friends, who didn't know my views, casually dismissing those too stupid to "follow the prophet." I sat in Relief Society meetings where the same woman who signed up to bring sick people dinner and babysit neighborhood kids for free railed against "those people." I was afraid of my own church, afraid of what I would find if I thought too hard about what I knew in my head to be right, and what I heard in my church. I was so afraid.

I remember my heart exploding when I read the letter from the First Presidency, read to Californians over the pulpit, urging them to fight against same-sex marriage.

It was the moment I knew I could never go home again. I would never be the same.

I could never be just a Mormon again.

Now, I was "a Mormon, but I support Gay Marriage!" A Mormon Feminist and LGBT ally. A Mormon advocate and friend, but never just a Mormon. Mormon stopped being enough.

It was sad, and it was hard, and it still hurts. I don't know if the pain of a lost religion ever goes away. I think I will mourn for the rest of my life. The huge, aching wound in my soul, that opened the moment I realized I could be a "good Mormon" or a "good person," but not both.* Not when others are hurting. Not when I had been commanded to love one another, and mourn with those that mourn. Not when I had been promised: "blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

But my pain is so small, and so insignificant in view of the greater picture.

Comparatively, it is easy to be a straight ally. It isn't me being denied the right to marry the person I love. I don't face dismissal without question from my job. No one can evict me from my house for being straight. The way I love, and the terms I use to identify myself, aren't  hurled as insults on playgrounds. No one protests my existence. No one denies the reality of my soul, and who my soul seeks to love.

I've never had to wonder if it would be easier to just stop living than live in a society that often rejects me and threatens me based on the way I was born.

So it was hard at first, but then it became easy to be a straight ally.  After the initial heart explosion, when there was nothing left in my chest except a small piece of the pain felt by millions of people all over the world, it became easy to do the right thing. That small piece of pain motivated me, and every day that wound heals as I consistently live my conscience. Now, I don't listen to old men at pulpits when they tell me how to live.

 I listen to what my heart and my head and my entire being tells me is right. I lost something in 2008, but I've gained so much as I've learned to trust myself, and to risk doing the right thing, despite the hurt, despite the loss, despite the pain.

I can do the right thing, even when it is hard.

It is hard, and then it is easy. It is surprisingly easy, being yourself.

And that means so much more to me than being just a "good" Mormon.

It is cruel, and awful to think that I've gained anything from standing up, even in the smallest ways, against the much larger pain my LGBT brothers and sisters face. That's a terrible world to live in, but it is also a true world. We can change that.

Today I look over my Facebook friend page, the one-stop shop for easy "Profile Picture Activism." Most of the pictures are a red equal sign. Sometimes all you need is a small sign to remind yourself of something important:

I'm not afraid anymore, and from the looks of it, neither are you.



“Politics is theater. It doesn't matter if you win. You make a statement. You say, "I'm here, pay attention to me” 
― Harvey Milk







* I know many "good Mormons" who are also "Good people," I speak only to my own experience.

3/4/13

handcuffs




I think Mormon Feminism is having some growing pains.

It's understandable, and people's reaction to it is understandable. Some people are thrilled at the idea of a lot of action-based events, with media! Radical viewpoints! Handcuffs?* Sure!Some people are really concerned about scaring off newbie Mormon Feminists who feel hurt by church patriarchy, but don't want to "come out" yet to their friends and family. Lots of people fall somewhere in between and don't know how to behave in relation to their moderate views. They are the Goldilocks of Mormon Feminists, and they are important too.

There's a lot of talk about message and image, and the pros of having the media on your side (media scrutiny does often force organizations to change,) versus "going through the right channels," (better preserving the relationship between feminists and church leaders.)

I like aspects of both perspectives. I think both sides have really valid points. While I'm by nature drawn to grand gestures and displays, if I've learned anything in the past few months, it is that there is value in the quiet, confidence-building gestures as well.

It took me a long time to see the benefits of both sides. I'm lucky to have nice Mormon Feminist friends and mentors to show me the necessity of moderation in many things.

But one way I may disagree with some of my peers is my absolute aversion to trying to control or legislate (via the internet or other channels,) how someone else practices their Mormon Feminism. I don't like it when other people try and tell me how to practice my religion. I really don't like it when some tries to tell me how to practice my feminism.Combine the two and you are more likely than not to get a nice view of a certain finger, and a bonus creative swear for good measure.

*Deep breath, attempt to restore the balance I just extolled.*

I think instead of worrying what other people are going to do while living their Mormon Feminist Truth, and how it will look, and what it will make people think, I think we should just do our own things, collaborate when we can, and trust that it will all work out.

Here's why my plan is awesome:

1. People who are scared by the more radical stuff will often become more sympathetic to the moderate view-point in response. I can't take absolute credit for this idea, one of those great Mo Fem friends pointed it out to me. Essentially, every movement needs a radical fringe to make the moderate viewpoint sympathetic.

Worried that the "crazy" feminists with their radical demonstrations will make you look bad? They might. But they also might make you look really good and reasonable. Plus, everything that was once radical eventually becomes the new normal. We need the radical "fringe" people to help normalize the "moderate" stuff we are doing now.

I'm not perfect at this. Recently someone suggested a Mormon Feminist-type event that sounded way too crazy for my liking. I wanted to put a stop to it, (Ego, much?) because I thought it would undo all the hard work I and others had done to try and make Mormon Feminists look more normal. (Hello there again, ego.)

Now, I could try and use what absolutely minimal influence I have in the Mormon Feminist world and try and stop it, or I could let those people live their truths and go on and do my thing. (Which, incidentally, involves a whole lot of glorious nothing at the moment.)

2. History tells us that lots of people fighting for the same cause don't always have to agree on the how in order to be successful. You think the suffragists all got along and agreed on how to fight the man?

Wrong.

Suffragists disagreed on a whole crap load of stuff.

The American Woman Suffrage Association, also known as FMH AWSA,  a more "moderate" Suffragist group advocated worked towards's suffrage for Black males first, and pursuing the proper channels state-by-state laws adopting female suffrage.

On the other hand, the National Women's Suffrage Association wanted universal suffrage added as an amendment to the constitution, refusing to support any revelation amendment that gave Black males the priesthood vote, but not women.

Both groups had really valid points, even though they disagreed, and I truly think both viewpoints were necessary in convincing people that suffrage and equality for everyone was really important.

But the saga does not end there! (Historians will note I'm skipping a bunch of stuff, but remember this is a blog, and be grateful this isn't an outfit post or something.)

So some suffragists decided to form All Enlisted the National Woman's Party. They decided to protest in front of the White House and wear pants.  Many other Suffragists groups were upset when the women remained outside the White House after the outbreak of WWI. It was seen as traitorous to protest a sitting President during war-time and could potentially disrupt other members in Sacrament Meeting with their pants.)  Carrie Chapman Catt (a more moderate Suffragist) even wrote Alice Paul of the NWP, begging her to stop protesting during war-time.

You guys should read those letters. They make all the angsty conversations held by Mormon Feminists on Facebook look like small potatoes. Those ladies knew how to bring the guilt when someone disagreed with them.

And hey, Chapman Catt had a really good point. Soldiers were dying in the trenches, and maybe it would not have been a terrible idea to focus solely on the war effort until peace-time. Sometimes you need to show loyalty to an institution when it is hurting, it hopes that someday it will repay your loyalty with equality.

But maybe if we kept waiting for the "best" time and way to fight inequity, I wouldn't be here preparing to cast my ballot for Clinton in 2016 (IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN, OKAY? AND IT WILL BE GLORIOUS.)

There are so many good ways to be a Mormon Feminist. There are also some pretty lousy ways, but trying to police each other just distracts us from the bigger issues, and makes us crazy enough to think that our way is the only way.

We need to learn to be okay with how other people practice their Mormon Feminism. I truly believe the differences in groups and movements are beneficial, not detrimental to the cause. Moderate Suffragists achieved suffrage on a state-by-state basis, a precedent that surely influenced the ratification of the 19th Amendment, offering a template for future amendments like the ERA (someday, guys,) and further advances in women's rights.

They couldn't have done it without each other. So the slow and moderate approach may drive you crazy (I've been there,) and the scary-fast radicalism of others may terrify you (been there too.) But those are just distractions. Take a deep breath. It is going to be okay.


*No one has actually suggested handcuffs, or handcuffing themselves to anything. But it freaks people the crap out when I mention them, and I enjoy that.

2/6/13

and......nope

Recently, I've been working on preserving my emotional energy for things I really care about. I just don't have the mental "time" anymore to get worked up about stuff the way I used to.

I'm probably getting old. Or less masochistic. Let's pick the one that makes me sound more normal.

 Part of this process has been being more selective about the stuff I read, and the conversations I have, especially online. I realized there is just a bunch of stuff I can't talk/read about anymore. Except for right now, when I'm talking about telling you what I can't talk about.

So without further ado, here's some stuff I just don't read anymore. Disclaimer: All of the things listed here are super important and conversations that need to be had, yada yada yada. By other people. For other people. And maybe even for my future self. Just not my present self. Don't get up in my face because I can't talk about the thing you love anymore, okay? Thanks.


1. Birth stories, articles arguing against epidurals/pro-epidurals, water-births, home births, alien births, FRACKING BIRTH. I just don't even care anymore. Is your baby here? Is he/she/it healthy? Cool. Hurray for you!

I get that empowering women to control their birth experience and their bodies is really important, and on a large scale way, I advocate for that. I'll vote for people who support a woman's right to determine her reproductive health, I'll support any law/petition/whatever that protects my uterus, I just can't read about it all the time anymore. 

I especially can't read anymore of the emotionally charged stuff, the editorials written by doctors condemning midwives as morons, and the sanctimonious writings of home-birthers about how their birth experience is so much more meaningful and special and sacred because they climbed the mountain of birth and you had a c-section. (Does that mean I rode the chair-lift of birth? I don't know. This is why I can't read this bullshit anymore.)


2. Mormon Thought blogs. How much trouble am I going to be for saying this? Oh well. I just can't anymore. Especially post-"pants." I know this sounds hypocritical, because for a long time this was (sort of) a Mormon Thought blog. But I just can't go through the angst of it all anymore. The hyper-patriarchal and institutional temple ceremonies. The inequitable funding between Young Men and Young Women programs. Homophobia.  Shitty shitty stuff everywhere that I just can't talk about anymore.

I realized I could spend the rest of my life being really upset about all this, or I could just remove myself from the situation and build a spiritual life that I found personally fulfilling.

Is this an option for everyone? Probably not. Do I think Mormon Thought blogs are really important and valuable in helping people navigate a faith they love and question? Absolutely. But I need a break.

Naturally, I reserve the right to change my mind, because this is my life and I get to make all the choices. But for now, every time a formerly beloved MTB (Mormon Thought Blog) pops up in my reader, I scroll down to the sewing blog with projects I will probably never do, and recipes I will never make.

I don't think this is what the Mormon God intended when he gave us agency. Oh well.

2b. Mormon Thought Facebook Forums/Private Messages.

Everyday there was an emergency. Lots of drama. Lots of social capital being exchanged and sometimes I had enough, and sometimes I came up short. I never knew where I stood in the conversations, and experience taught me that anything I said would be used against me later.

I also don't have the desire to spend 24/7 online just to be the Gretchen Weiners of Mormon Feminism/Activism. (Meaning people liked me when I said/did what they wanted, but not when I proved myself to be a human person capable of error/did what I wanted.)

Obviously, I have lots of personal ties there, and friends, and meaningful relationships. I go to lunch with those people, or talk to them personally. The rest of them can, (and I say this frankly: suck it.)


3. Ethan Frome. My school teaches this book to the Seniors, so I have to pretend to like it/read it in an attempt to support my coworkers. But no longer! I hate this book and everyone in it. It crosses the line from being sad for the sake of realism into a bizarrely mawkish depressing clusterfluck of "I want to kill myself every time I read this novel."

Look, I get it, books aren't required to have happy-endings. I helped create a Sophomore curriculum in which every book featured the death of a sympathetic character. (Tom Robinson! Caesar! Gatsby! Lenny!) But for me, good literature can be sad and beautiful and meaningful and bad literature can be sad and sad and dumb. I hate you, Ethan Frome, and I am tired of hiding it from the world.

(Incidentally, Ethan Frome is one of the major reasons I refuse to teach 12th grade Language Arts. I prefer to stick with Humanities where, according to one student, we "just look at naked statues all day.")

So, there you have it, stuff I won't read anymore, or talk about. Here is a judging space if you require it:


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Are you taking a break from anything? Stuff you just won't read/talk about anymore? Let's hear it in the comments.









1/24/13

1/23/13

No delete Thursday



Things have been so anxiety-angsty lately and it has got to stop. Thus, no-delete-Thursday.

I realized something when I was thinking about the ol' blog. Gerd. I hate that I just called it the ol' blog. What is the matter with me? That is horrible. And yet, my dedication to my craft remains unwavering.

Anyway, I was thinking "maybe I can just post a bunch of happy pictures on here for a while." And then I was like, "no, you make fun of people who do that, because it is super narcissistic, (especially when it is ten photos of the same outfit or the same meal,)" but then I realized there is nothing more narcissistic than assuming people want to read your unfreakingedited thoughts. Why did I italicize unfreakingedited? I don't know. That's another thing I make fun of people for:

We got with our friends and we went to the Zoo! And it was super super fun.

And somewhere, TAMN rolls around in her grave in her coffin from Nordstrom. Rest in peace (or is it piece?) TAMN.

Anyway. Assuming you want to read thoughts that I don't even bother organizing is terribly narcissistic, so I might as well throw in a photo and just go balls to the walls with things. 


That's a picture of Clara. Tell me she is not the most beautiful baby you've ever seen on my blog. (That was my nice way of saying I'm sure your baby is beautiful too.) Clara was seven months there, I think. 

She's almost 10 months now. Here she is on some cold hard tile, because I am an awesome and attentive parent. She looks happy though, right? And she's playing with a book and not a pile of crack cocaine, so parenting for the win.


I'm kind of running out of steam for my no-delete-Thursday. I'll be honest, I'm burnt all out of fun rage. I've still got some angst rage hanging around, but Lord know none of you want more of that. Soooooooooooooo, I think you might just to be happy with cute baby pictures until I figure this ish out.

the end.

1/17/13

Religiosity and Relationships


Good Morning internet!

My friend Ryan is looking for help on his dissertation project studying the relationship between religiosity and attitudes about relationships and  gender roles. (So something that does not interest me even at all, right? Kidding. This fascinates me.)He is looking for LDS or formerly LDS people to complete a short survey. 

Since Mormons are the most helpful and organized people I know, (I'm saying that without even a degree of snark,) I thought I would post some information about his survey and project here, and include a link to the survey.

Let's help Ryan get that dissertation done, and then convince him and his wonderful wife Lisset to stay in Utah forever and ever amen.

Click HERE to go take his survey!

Here is Ryan's description of his project taken from his Facebook page:


About

My name is Ryan Stevenson and I am inviting you to assist me in my dissertation research project. If you are over the age of 18 and have ever been a member of the LDS church, you fit the requirements. Please click "About" to find link and more info.
Description
I am a fourth year doctoral student in the University of Utah Counseling Psychology doctoral program.

This project has been approved by the U of U IRB. My study is aimed at understanding the impact of religious activity and attitudes and how one views relationships between men and women and aspects of gender roles.

As a participant, you will be asked to answer a number of questions about yourdemographics, and some questions from pre-established measures about your attitudes and beliefs regarding religion and relationships between men and women, and gender roles. No identifying information will be gathered, and all of the information obtained in this study will be confidential and anonymous.

If you are interested in helping me by completing this survey, please click on the link below. This will require about 10-15 minutes of your time. To encourage your participation and involvement in this study you are able to enter into a random drawing to receive a $10 gift card to a retail store of your choice (i.e., REI, GAP, Amazon, iTunes, etc.) to compensate for your time.

Please share this page on facebook or email the survey link and information to anyone who also meets the research study requirements (18 and has been LDS at some time) in any state or country. Thank you very much for your time and assistance with this project. 



You can also click HERE to learn more about his project on the book of faces....












Also, I should probably say somewhere that I was not compensated in any way for talking about Ryan's project. :)