The title of this post came from my apartment manager, who was letting me know that the owner approved my request for a new kitchen light, a new front door, and new blinds for the windows. Whee! Those three things were the most broken and I finally asked about them. I should have asked a lot sooner.
Her words made me think about feminism (as many things do) and about how mad I get when people say crap about feminists while enjoying the very rights that feminists faced so much opposition and disdain to bring about. Do you think men were just sitting around one day and thought, "You know what? I think a bully thing would be for women to start voting and going to college and owning property and taking birth control and joining the work force." Because (spoiler alert!) they didn't. I don't know that a group in power generally spends a lot of time worrying about whether everybody else is happy with the arrangement and how they can spread that power to others.
It seems that for change to happen, a wheel needs to squeak. You have to point out a need to get it addressed. Inequality must be acknowledged before it can be rectified. You have to ask the question if you want to get a "Yes." Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys being squeaked or pointed at. It can make people feel attacked, or disrespected, or stressed, or as if the askers are just being really out of line and ungrateful and want to destroy everything and think of the children and wouldn't the Founding Fathers be ashamed right now. And that is what is called pushback.
(Speaking of which, excuse me while the Dark Lord and I dance around the room to this awesome "International Women's Day" video. Feel free to join in!)
Grrrrr. Stupid thing won't embed. Ahem. How enjoyable.
And now on to . . .
About five years ago I wrote a post about feminism, specifically about being a Mormon feminist (and then people made awesome comments, yay for the people!). Am rereading it now for the first time in years, and while part of me is nodding along going, "Yes, that's exactly it! Well said!" there is another part of me going, "Oh . . . you sweet thing." I think there is a bit of naivete there, especially during this part:
Some people don't understand how one can be LDS and a feminist, because they think that our church is inherently sexist and descriminates against women. I don't feel that way at all. I think that there are definitely members of the church who are sexist and old and misunderstand basic principles . . . [but you] will find no justification for that kind of attitude in any scripture or in any statement made by any authority of the Church. Because there just isn't one.I still want to believe in the spirit of what I said, but having read a bit more about the history of women in the Church, and of feminists in the Church, and now that I'm attending family wards and noticing more of the "unwritten order of things," my feelings are a bit more complicated now.
One thing I notice now is that there are some habitual practices regarding women's participation in church. They do not appear to be policies or rules--just habits. I do not think it would be a harmful thing for leaders to consider whether there are ways for the sisters of the Church to be better represented. My concern is that when women's voices are unnecessarily absent, not only do leaders miss out on an important perspective, but the resultant (and likely unintended) message could be that this is because their perspective is not important.
So. Here are some things I would squeak for:
How about asking a sister to give one of the prayers in General Conference? Doesn't it seem kind of weird that this doesn't already happen? And, to sweeten the deal, we promise not to do that whole giving-a-closing-prayer-that-is-really-a-talk thing that some of our dear brothers do.
While we are on the subject of prayer, could you maybe stop asking only married couples to give the opening and closing prayers in sacrament meeting? I realize this is maybe done more out of laziness ("Sweet, only one phone call to make!") than to marginalize those who attend church without a spouse, but seriously, my ward. Even the Handbook says to cut that mess out.
How about putting some quotes by women in the lesson manuals? Just a thought. Belle Spafford seemed pretty awesome, if you're looking for somewhere to start! I think the new Daughters in My Kingdom book is meant to address the desire many sisters have for female voices and role models to look to, which is wonderful. How many men, though, do you think will ever read it? (And if any guys want to jump in here and ask whether the women read stuff about men . . . yeah. We do. It's called The Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, Church history, biographies of the prophets, and the lesson manuals for Priesthood/Relief Society. I think it's safe to say we spent plenty of time looking at things through the male perspective. Preshaytcha!)
Could you please demonstrate confidence in the sisters' ability to teach doctrine? This may be more of a "my ward" problem, but for the eighteen months we've lived here (and however long before that), all of the Gospel Doctrine teachers have been male. One could infer from this that women are fine for teaching children and other women, but when it comes to teaching adult males . . . well. They just barely added a woman to the teaching roster and even though I can't go support her in person I'm really glad.
Get out your smelling salts for this one: What if we mentioned our Heavenly Mother a bit more often? I'm not saying speculate or make up stuff about Her, but a simple acknowledgment of Her existence (other than when singing "O My Father") shouldn't be taboo. Last year on Mother's Day two men mentioned Her--one in his talk and another in the closing prayer--and I was really touched by it. I think it would be helpful to have these reminders that Divinity is made up of both a male and female counterpart.
These last two aren't about representation, but I'm tossing them in too:
Could we please lose the false parallel of priesthood and motherhood? It's kind of insulting, especially to the many, many women who do not have children. Any first grader could tell you that the parallel to motherhood is fatherhood--which may or may not involve priesthood. Priesthood is a power, not a gender. And motherhood, I feel, is one aspect or path in a woman's earthly life. It should not be the one thing that defines and qualifies her worth before God.
And speaking of the worth of women, I am so, so, so very glad that they are working on new manuals for the Young Women. It's an update that's about 40 years overdue, which is too bad. At best they are outdated and shallow and completely inadequate at preparing women for a life that involves anything other than making beds and buying vacuum cleaners (which, I learned from the manual, you should do with your babysitting money while you are still in high school). It reminds me of the public librarian's weeding mantra: old information = wrong information. You can create all the supplements you want, but that doesn't change the fact that there are things in there that should have been weeded out a long time ago. (Anybody remember the one about how if you take a sip of beer at a party you will get raped and then you will have to mourn the loss of your virtue because that's totally how rape works? That was awesome.) I would ask to have that story taken out, along with, oh, every single other story in them.
See? These suggestions wouldn't change doctrine, nor would they shake anybody's testimony. They would just make things a bit more fair. This could be one way of showing women that we really are respected and valued (rather than just being told that we are respected and valued).
Anybody else have some that they would add? Anyone want to tell me that I'm a crazy disrespectful pot-stirrer? Feel free, but please keep it polite.