Irascibility

I thought I was over my self-proclaimed “angry feminist” phase. Boy was I wrong.

I am a sucker for a good podcast, and I scrolled upon one this morning featuring the topic of feminism, which naturally peaked my interest. The discussion participants included a male host, and a male political science professor at a notoriously problematic university (I won’t name names, but this particular university can’t make it into the Big 12 due to their some fundamental, problematic issues in the way they run their institution). You can listen to this podcast for yourself here.

Anywho, I was expecting this professor to advocate for feminism, and to support the progression of gender equality within society. You can probably guess from the title of this post that this was not the case. This political science professor spent his allotted interview time defending traditional gender roles. The take-away message he presented was that perhaps some of the things that feminists have (and will) accomplish are categorically good things, but come at a devastating cost to society.

Professor Bigot’s argument was that yes, women should obtain Bachelor’s degrees, in agreement with the counsel provided by the leaders of his church. However, if women choose to continue on to develop themselves academically, they are delaying childbirth, and neglecting to fulfill their divine roles in the home, even if they have no desire to become a housewife. He feels that a woman should spend the “prime of her life” reproducing and raising the resulting offspring. Ring, ring, the 1950’s called. They want their societal norms back.

He then later in the interview expressed that if it were his daughter that had a more “brainy” predisposition, he would support her in cultivating her fullest potential(presumably after she’d taken full advantage of her child-baring years).

This professor, full of contradictions, argued that one of the many problems with feminism is that feminists view women who choose to be housewives as inferior, and this makes housewives feel unfulfilled and consequently unhappy with their decision to become housewives in the first place. To the contrary, the feminism that I’ve come to advocates a woman’s right to choose for herself what her life will look like, whether that be a life of motherhood and domesticity, or that of scholarly study and professional development, or anything in between.

Because this man obviously knows what the female experience is like, he explained that women who devote their prime years to academia and professional spheres tend to experience a crisis at age 30 because they did not devote themselves to motherhood when they had the chance.

However, I have plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that perhaps it’s the ones who did not pursue their interests because they felt obligated to give up what they really wanted out of their lives to set aside their desires and dreams to adhere to traditional gender roles. Multiple women that I know personally have shared with me that once they become empty nesters, they feel a sort of crisis in which their primary role as a mother has been fulfilled, and she is presented with this newfound free time in which she begins to contemplate the “what if’s” and feel remorse for not choosing an alternate path.

That, my friends, is my worst nightmare.

Now, let me make one thing VERY clear. I have no objections to a woman who willingly chooses to abide by traditional gender roles, so long as it is a conscious choice, made after years of serious contemplation. Additionally, I am the biggest advocate of education for all genders. This is an issue that I am extremely passionate about, perhaps due in part to growing up in a community where traditionalism was emphasized, and nonconformity was regarded as disobedience.

I have not been this upset in well over a year about the issue of gender roles, but this podcast tore open some wounds that I thought I’d partially mended.

I guess what it comes down to is the issue of control and power. I refuse to allow anyone, especially men, impose their myopic worldviews and values on the lives of women. Men of this type seem to think that they are entitled to control the opposite sex, and that their opinion on what women should be doing with their lives is somehow significant.

If you think about it, societal norms were implemented by men, and for men. I’m no history expert, but I am not aware of an active form of consent to traditional gender roles by women. Nobody asked us what we want for ourselves, they told us. And that makes me physically ill.

I will not be controlled by anything or anyone. The only thing dictating my life is my own cognitions. Women, what you want out of your life matters. In fact, what you want out of life should be your priority. We only get one shot at life, and there is simply no time for regret.

My views on feminism can be summed in one simple statement: Everyone deserves to live authentically and everyone else should mind their own damn business.

Enough with the pressure to conform to some silly, arbitrary role. This burning anger I’m experiencing this morning has revamped my drive for accomplishing my academic and career goals, none of which include any kind of adherence to a “predisposed” role that some have decided is a one-size-fits-all, but in reality has no consideration for individual differences.

I typed this entire post with shaking hands and burning cheeks, and my first draft had a much more colorful vocabulary, which I have censored for the children.

I know I’ve beat a dead horse here, but until society eases up on dictating peoples’ life decisions, I will not be at peace.

Down With The Norm, indeed.

M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dubious

I think it’s really important that when discussing women’s issues, we keep a safe space for men to express their concerns, as well. Don’t get me wrong, with some issues, I stick with the motto “No Uterus, No Opinion,” but in the interest of making the feminist movement as effective as possible, it only makes sense to get as many folks on board as we can.

In order to contribute to this idea, I have taken the liberty of interviewing a couple of male feminists to get a feel for what they find problematic in regards to the Church.

I am so blessed to have not just one but TWO feminist parents in my life. The first male feminist I interviewed is my dad, who, unfortunately, has not developed this viewpoint until recently, which meant that I suffered some blackmailing in order to attend and participate and comply with YW stuff as a teen.

The prompt I provided my interviewees is as follows: “As a father (or father to be) of a daughter in the YW program, what themes, if any, taught by the program strike you as problematic, and what will you do as a parent to ensure that these themes are not absorbed by your daughter?” 


“The first thing is how limited women are in the church. We are taught that a woman’s role is in the home raising children. Women who chose a career are guilt-ed into thinking they are being selfish for wanting a career. They are guilt-ed by the GA’s, local ward, friends and family. It is a cultural problem created from the top down. Women are being taught to be subservient to their husbands and that they can’t obtain eternal life without one. Our lesson manuals teach that and it is taught all the way up to the temple. Women can’t talk to God directly or covenant with God directly. They must do it through their Priesthood holding husbands. The problem is that most of these women are more worthy than their husbands in terms of keeping commandments, serving God, and being Christlike, but when it comes to rank in the church, they are not considered equal. As long as he [the husband] pays his tithing, he’s in good standing. But a woman who stays at home to raise the kids can’t have a recommend if her husband doesn’t pay tithing. Keep in mind this housewife has no income and cannot pay tithing, yet is punished because her man doesn’t pay tithing. Where is the equality in that?

“The church needs to teach that women can be anything they want to be. They should strive for education, strive for success professionally. They have so much to offer than this male-dominated society. Women are capable of amazing things but we as men are afraid of that, of losing control, just like the church is so they try and keep everyone in their little boxes and roles. I teach my kids they can be anything they want to be and should strive to be anything they want to be. God wants us all to be the best and most we can be, not just men. Women matter.”


My second interviewee is a colleague of my father’s who is married but has not had children yet. He had some insight to share on how he intends to raise his (hopefully) future daughters.

The first, focusing on a very specific role to define a women’s divine purpose, makes a young woman feel that if they aren’t wired with these exact traits or desires that something is wrong with them in the eyes of God. Even when a women has these desires, it makes them feel that this is the only thing essential to their happiness.  I do not wish the devalue the importance of being a mother and bringing and child into this world but I do NOT want my daughters – or anyone’s daughter- to feel that their eternal worth and overall happiness in this life is intrinsically linked to motherhood. If you want to have a career, you can still be an incredible mother. If you do not wish to have children or cannot have children for whatever reason, you still have the same divine purpose and value. If you do devote much of your life to being a mother and a homemaker, there are still other things you should seek after as well. Whatever makes you, YOU is your divine worth and using that to make this world a better place and enrich the lives of those around you is what makes you worthy in the eyes of God.  It all seems very simple but I hope to instill this in my children by encouraging them to find who they are and develop all the goodness in them into whatever type of individual that may be.

The second, which I think can be even more problematic, indirectly teaches women that they lack a fundamental connection, and have to rely on their husbands, fathers, brothers, bishops, or other “worthy” male influences in their lives for some divine inspiration and guidance. I hope to teach my future daughter(s) that she has a personal connection with God that is just as strong as mine. He will give her as much personal inspiration, guidance, and power to make decisions as he will to me or anyone else. Pray and receive inspiration. Ask your heart and your soul deep questions and God will direct you. The questions you have in this life, the inspiration you receive, and the decisions you make never have to be filtered through any sort of male counterpart. This ties back in with divine worth. Your worth in the eyes of God is equal no matter who you are or what path you decide to follow. Embrace all the goodness in you, develop who you are, make decisions for yourself, and know that God will empower you with as much inspiration as anyone to make this world a better place.

The most difficult part of your question is how do you teach these things in your children. My wife and I actually disagree on this because sometimes she thinks it isn’t possible. I try to remain optimistic that it is. Maybe we have trouble answering it because we haven’t experienced parenthood yet. But how am I going to  get my kids to believe something differently than what they hear in Sunday school and what most of their peers subscribe to? I would hope the answer lies in my ability to connect with my children and the trust they will have in me. I would also hope that I can always provide them with an environment that really encourages them to focus on developing into a unique and inspiring individual.  Be who you are and I promise there is as much happiness and divine worth available to that person as there is to anyone else in the world. I have to hope they can live that and find it for themselves.


Not that women’s issues require acknowledgement from men in order to be validated, but it is definitely encouraging that these issues are being recognized by more than just the oppressed.

Special thanks to my interviewees for contributing to today’s post. You guys are number one.

M.

Exclusion

Can someone please point me to the part in the bible that says “Yea, forsake thy bretheren/sisteren who differ from thee”? Because I can’t seem to find it. Which is funny, because that’s the law that people seem to be living by these days.

It seems that the more I advocate for inclusion, the more excluded I become.

I feel like a plague or a parasite that people are protecting themselves from. Apparently if you drink coffee, wear tank tops, and think that all people deserve to be treated as equals, nobody will want to play with you. Even the people that have been in your life for years.

The more I think about it, though, the more it makes sense. Even in Primary, I remember having discussions about the importance of choosing good friends who have the same standards as you, which, where i’m from, meant that mormons stuck with other mormons for the most part.

I love mormonism, and I love the people within it. I don’t necessarily agree with everything in it, but I am doing the best I can. And it stings that through my well-known “struggle,” I am having to try my best all by myself.

Every Sunday, I sit through my meetings by myself and try my best to stay calm and keep an open mind, and return home either in tears or in a flurry of frustration or pain.

I can’t seem to find my tribe. Even through grade school, I’ve been in constant pursuit of finding a place to fit in. But now that i’m starting to figure out who and what I am, even the few people I though I had are turning their backs.

Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but I had to get this out there. I feel better already.

A Very Solitary M.

Canonical

I am an intellectual. And we intellectuals, well, we listen to podcasts.

Perhaps “intellectual” is a slight over-statement of an adjective for me, but I do listen to podcasts, which makes me feel sophisticated, educated, and frankly, keeps my mind alert as I commute 45 minutes to and from work each day.

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with the Mormon Matters podcast, which focuses on problematic themes and societal issues through an LDS lens. The latest episode I listened to is titled “Mormon Women and Equality” and discusses the blatantly sexist practices and policies within our church’s structure, and offered some great solutions, or, at least, steps in the right direction toward gender equality within the church. Good stuff.

The panelists suggested an intermediate solution to the sexism problem that doesn’t involve women’s ordination to the Priesthood. What if we started including women in the decision-making when it comes to church policies and procedures? What if we started allowing women to hold callings not explicitly prescribed to Priesthood holders?

I firmly believe that by not including diverse representation in leadership and decision-making positions, there will always be oppression and marginalization, thus making true equality entirely unattainable among the members of the church.

I mean, even within the senior leadership of the church, there is very little diversity among the Brethren, which means that very few perspectives are being considered when it comes to policy-making.

At one point in the podcast, a panelist noted that prophets receive revelation by asking God what is to be done in regards to His church. I think that maybe some significant questions in regards to women in Mormonism are not being asked, simply because women have a history of being an afterthought, perhaps due to their lack of presence when policy-making matters are being discussed?

And that’s why women have been and will be an afterthought-they are not given the privilege of having a platform to influence decisions that directly impact their lives or voice their concerns in a manner that they will be effectively addressed. Their voices are not being heard, and their pain is being muted.

Women make up half of the congregation. That’s 50% of church members whose concerns are not being adequately examined. The only people who understand what it’s like to be an LDS woman are LDS women themselves, and I think that it only makes sense that they therefore should hold positions of influence over their sisterhood.

The Relief Society is made up entirely of sisters, and yet, no Relief Society meeting can be held without a presiding Priesthood holder. Why is this? There matters discussed in a Relief Society would have absolutely no bearing on any male member of the church.

The Church has a habit of placing its women on a pedestal-there are numerous talks on how wonderful and lovely and delightful we are. These messages are maddening and feel rather condescending when spoken by men, who are superior to women in every aspect of the structure of the church.

You can listen to the full podcast here.

I dunno if any of this would lighten the oppression of women within the church, but why not give it a try and see what happens?

M.

Intrepid

I felt a little less solitary in my stout feminist endeavors this past Sabbath.

There I was, sitting in Relief Society, listening intently to our lesson on Marriage and Delighting In Homemaking, which, as you can probably infer, is a topic that tosses me into a tornado of fury.

The lesson was going about as i’d expect it to, and I did my best to focus on my breathing so as to not loose my tongue. My attentiveness decreased as the lesson carried on, until one sister raised her hand.

“I’m a feminist, in the best way, I promise,” a shaky voice proclaimed, as my eyes searched anxiously for the source. *cue giggles of discomfort from surrounding sisters.*

“…and I really struggle with the topic of homemaking and motherhood,” she admitted.

Tada! My faith in my own generation had gained some much-needed restoration.

She continued on to tell us how she’d finally made peace with her beliefs in Feminism and her religion’s traditional family values, which, after much contemplation, I’ve decided to discard, although I am thrilled for her for having found a way to settle her internal conflicting beliefs, something that i’ve spent the better part of my post-high school years attempting to do, but to no avail.

But i’m no quitter.

Anyway, I truly admire this sister for her courage in not only proclaiming her feminism in front of a conservative group of Relief Society sisters, but also for admitting that she struggles with the topic we had been discussing. What bravery it must have taken her to make such a strong statement, regardless of the fact that the majority probably wouldn’t agree with her.

I’ve yet to muster up the courage to express my beliefs so strongly in a face-to-face situation. For the time being, I will hide behind my keyboard and express my beliefs via the written word. But hey, I’m working on it.

Thank you, publicly proclaimed feminist in my ward, for being brave enough to speak up. You’ve inspired me to not give up hope, and to speak up. Maybe my comments will inspire somebody else someday. That’s how change happens, slowly but steadily.

M.

Innominate

Due to a series of unfortunate events and frustrating assumptions being made about me, I’ve decided to become faceless here. I feel that right now, removing my identity will keep my blog a safe place for me to therapeutically express my feelings without backlash that will inevitably affect my personal life. Cowardly, maybe, but thou hast no right to judgeth me.

For my own sake, I am now going to put an assumption or two to rest. I used to share new posts on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, which granted access to both friends and foes, simultaneously labeled as “followers” on the Internet.

One individual, whom I can only assume was a dedicated reader of mine, concluded rather falsely that I am “struggling,” (in my faith, perhaps?) and felt the need to share this conclusion with a mutual peer. Because people talk, this got back to me and honestly, it angers me deeply that someone whom I haven’t spoken with in over a calendar year would have the audacity to assume that I am “struggling,” and then proceed to share his/her false conclusion with others.

Like I said, for my own sake, I am going to clear the air here. I am not struggling. If anything, I feel that I am becoming my most authentic self. I feel that I am approaching a place in my life where I am beginning to make peace with all of my contradictions and inner conflicts. If anything, I am flourishing! I am happy, truly happy, for quite possibly the first time in my life. I am accepting the pieces of me that make me different than most others, and embracing them. I am building a mature belief system by consciously deciding what I do and do not believe, what I am and what I am not, and am maintaining my integrity by not allowing anything or anyone to change me. I am in a good place. A strong place.

So, if you’re new to DownWithTheNorm, and have the time and/or interest, you can read my personal introduction here.

I’d also be delighted to receive an introduction from you! If anything, the purpose of this site is for me to be understood, and to understand differing viewpoints and learn from the diversity of humans.

If you’re a returning reader, it’s still me, and I am so grateful to all who take the time to read.

M.

No Prorogation

Today was YSA Stake Conference, which is when a large congregation made of sub-congregations meets to hear their regional and general leaders speak.

My solitary self arrived fifteen minutes early as instructed, and already, the parking lot and a quarter mile of the roads in either direction of the stake center were filled with cars.

I rushed into the chapel and chose a seat almost to the very back of the overflow, actively avoiding eye contact with others, and praying that i’d be left to sit alone for the duration of the meeting. Due to the overwhelmingly large number of attendees, we were all forced to sit shoulder-to-shoulder in order to accommodate everyone.

So there I was, sitting on a fold-up chair next to a red-headed gentleman in a sports coat with above-average singing capabilities, who probably came by himself, too.

To my delight, we avoided each other perfectly.

The fun thing about YSA anything is that the main goal is to get us all hitched. YSA Stake Conference is no exception. Our first speaker was our stake president, a man whom I love and respect. He counseled us to pray to find an eternal companion, and to not delay marriage. He then continued to emphasize that our biggest and most important decision in life is whom we choose to marry, which I agree with (if we decide to marry.)

This counsel seems contradictory to me for a couple of reasons. First off, if marriage is the most important decision we make in this life, why are we being told to rush it? Isn’t the universal advice to “sleep on it” when faced with big decisions?

Secondly, getting married complicates educational and career goals, especially for women in a lot of cases. My mom (whom i’d been texting throughout the meeting) told me that a woman in her ward told the story of how she’d achieved her dream of getting into medial school, but then she got engaged and gave it all up to raise a family. It breaks my heart to hear stories like this, because I don’t see why a person can’t pursue the career of their dreams and raise a family.

I do believe that it can be done, if timed and prioritized correctly.

This is not to say that I think that those who chose to get married young are wrong in doing so. We’re all individuals, and different circumstances yield different decisions.

I’ve been twenty for three days now, and at this stage in my life, I can’t imagine rushing much of anything, much less decisions of whom I choose to spend the rest of eternity with.

Hmmm.

M.