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.

Disconsolate

It’s 8:00 AM, and i’ve already had my optimism toward the world crumpled into a ball and thrown out the window of a high-speed train for the day.

I’ve already scrolled upon multiple problematic, and frankly, triggering posts and memes that devalue women, gays, and pretty much any other marginalized group you could possibly think of.

One of the most maddening memes of the morning was a pro-bulimia post that was shared by an individual whom I once thought was at least not contributing to the oppression of women. The post was a picture of a woman leaning over a toilet, and the caption said something to the effect of “Call your woman fat because you enjoy the gagging noises.” I wish I could find the original meme, but as of 15 minutes ago, I am no longer friends with this individual on Facebook, which restricts my access to his timeline.

Typically, I do my very best to be a saintly member of society, especially on the internet, but I took this particular post a little personally, as eating disorders just so happen to be one of the battles I have to face, so my impulsivity got the best of me.

“This is pretty offensive.” I commented on the photo.

Now, I know that the individual that posted this admires me visually, so he is typically pretty nice to me. Give or take five minutes after I commented, he sent me a personal message, apologizing for offending me. I explained to him that the content of his posts were harmful and actually pretty triggering to some individuals. His response was that not only does he understand that when he posts it, but that he knows that it will offend people, and that he will continue to do so.

I hit the “unfriend” button faster than you could say “misogynistic jerk.”

I am not sensitive. I completely understand the whole concept of “nobody can offend you without your consent.” I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart. But guys, if you KNOW that you’re hurting people, why would you deliberately continue to do so? I was under the impression that a lot of the marginalization and sexism in our society is ingrained and therefore, somewhat subconscious, but perhaps I was being a little too optimistic.

Am I naive and over-sensitive for being so disheartened by this? That somebody would intentionally be trying to hurt somebody else? Maybe.

A Perhaps Too Sensitive 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.

Adjudication

“M, how do you feel about the SCOTUS ruling of nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage?” none of you are probably wondering.

My short answer can be summed up by an excerpt the lyrical masterpiece that is “Same Love” by Sir Macklemore.

“Damn right, I support it.”

My long answer is more for me to put my feelings down so they can take a break from zooming around my cranium for a bit. Also, i’m not here to offend anybody or engage in any type of argument, so if you’re looking for that type of thing, jump on your Facebook home feed and comment on the first rainbow post you see.

The reason I support the legalization of same-sex marriages is because I feel that the message that anti-same-sex marriage folks are sending is that that the feelings that same-sex couples have for each other are somehow less valid or less significant than a straight couples’, thus not deserving of the same marriage rights as a straight couple.

Now, I am heterosexual, so I cannot speak for anyone who is homosexual, but I just don’t see how there was ever a ruling to be made in the first place. It frustrates me that there is any kind of discrimination in the first place, even if it has been resolved decades before i was born. I just don’t see anyone (or anyone’s marital union, for that matter) as lesser than anyone else’s.

I know that people against same-sex marriage are against it because it ‘offends the traditional family,’ but guys, legalizing gay marriage does not devalue, de-legalize, or harm straight marriage in any way. We’re just getting progressively closer to treating all humans as equals, so calm down and keep believing whatever it is you do, and realize that regardless of which side you’re on, same-sex marriage is now legal in every state in the U.S.

This is a hot topic in my family, as we have members that are strongly for the ruling, and members that are strongly against the ruling, and the drama is better than the Kardashians, to be honest. What i’d like to say to them (if I had the balls) is that because all parties involved are heterosexual, this ruling does not affect any of us in any way, so any type of arguing, both for and against, is completely redundant and irrelevant.

So let’s celebrate! Because a marginalized group of our society has become a smidge less marginalized, and that is always cause for celebration. How exciting is it, that we are here for such a significant point in our nation’s history?

M.

Feminists Can Like Flowers, Too.

I am very open about the fact that I identify as a feminist. I love talking about my philosophies on the matter of equality, and I DON’T like people opening my doors for me.

Because feminism is such a huge part of who I am, I think I give off the impression that I don’t want to be taken care of. People tend to think that ALL feminists are bra-burning, anti-chivalry, prideful people. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I do not fall under any of the aforementioned categories. (Well, I might be a little prideful, but I think that we can attribute that to my German-ness more so than to my feminist attitudes.)

I LOVE chick flicks. I would literally melt if someone gave me flowers and/or chocolates. I’m soft and love polka dots and bows. Sometimes, I want somebody to take care of me. I want to be wined-and-dined as much as the next girl, and no, none of that invalidates my membership in the feminist community.

What it does, though, is make me feminine, and that’s not a bad thing.

And maybe that’s the problem-we tend to think that feminism and femininity are contradictions. By my understanding, however, the whole point of feminism is to put femininity on an equal playing ground as masculinity. To eliminate the stigma that feminine traits are less desirable than masculine traits.

Wanting to be taken care of and “swept off my feet,” so to speak, does not make me anything but human. The need to be taken care of is a basic human need, and one that man and womankind alike spend their lives pursuing. Wanting romantic gestures all that jazz in no way undermines my desire and belief that I should be treated as an equal.

It goes both ways. In order for a dating relationship of any sort to work, that romance thing has got to be going on. Both partners are equally responsible for keeping that “spark” alive, and co-dependence should be the desired outcome.

I am obviously capable of taking care of myself 100%. An ideal romantic interest would be able to take care of himself 100%. The co-dependence thing comes voluntarily. If people are interested in one another, they will do cute, cheesy, romantic gestures because they want to make the other person happy. Not because they are so inclined to fulfill certain roles. And I definitely don’t believe that allowing a man to court you puts you in a submissive position, especially if the both of you are putting in equal work to date each other.

The other day, I was discussing this topic with a friend of mine, and she presented me with an ultimatum. Either I put down my equality guns and let some knight in shining armor place me on a pedestal, or I keep my “independent woman” front. Why can’t a girl have something in the middle? I understand that it’s a delicate balance, but I don’t believe that it’s unattainable.

Just thinking.

M.

The Problem of Modesty

“Modest is Hottest.” The all-too familiar chant for anyone who grew up in the LDS Young Women’s program. We grow up being taught that as women, it is our responsibility to cover ourselves up, in order to protect the thoughts of the young men in which we interact with. Exposing the shoulder, midriff, cleavage, or thigh causes young men to have lustful thoughts, and we best not corrupt them.

I never bought into this whole “modesty” thing, mostly because in this instance, the word “modesty” is being completely misused. I would suggest we substitute “modest” with “conservative,” but “Conservative is Hottest” isn’t nearly as appealing to say, and doesn’t rhyme, either.

Also, I never felt that the burden of controlling someone else’s thoughts was a burden assigned to me. After all, if I was busy controlling my dude friends’ thoughts, who was controlling mine for me?

Back to my point. So I was always that girl in high school who stuck out like a sore thumb in homecoming pictures because my dresses lacked sleeves, and rarely reached past my mid-thigh. Tank tops in the summer were a staple, as were two-piece swimsuits. (Except at Girl’s Camp, of course.)

Today, I was at the gym, minding my own little business on the weight floor, when an older man (estimated age 60) approached me.

“Excuse me,” He said as I ripped out my headphones, DMX blaring. “I know i’m an old man, but I just wanted to thank you for not wearing those tiny running shorts.” I looked down at my Ultimate Yoga Pants, my cheeks growing hot. I blinked.

“I’m new to this gym,” he continued, “I switched here because at my old gym, all the girls would wear these tiny, little running shorts. I’ve been coming here a week now, and I haven’t seen a single girl wearing those. I appreciate you covering up.”

Dumbfounded and jaw agape, I mumbled, “I like stretchy pants.” and marched out of the gym, ears fuming, and cursing myself for not having a better response.

To be frank, my dear old gym friend, I did not choose to wear pants as opposed to shorts for modesty’s sake. The last thing on my mind when dressing myself this morning was “gee, how can I present myself in a way that will promote clean thoughts from the men that see me?” Because let’s be honest, I will be objectified regardless of the length of my leg wear.

This cultural attitude that women must cover themselves in order to protect men from entertaining lustful thoughts and desires is problematic at best.It ingrains a sense of shame in young girls over their bodies. Girls as young as they come are being told that tank tops are immodest. The shoulder has been sexualized. Girls are shamed into conforming to some arbitrary dress code and told that if they don’t, they are causing men to have lustful thoughts.

And we layer EVERYTHING. Which is fine, if that’s what you’re into. But when it’s 112 degrees on a July afternoon, you can bet your bottom dollar I will not be sporting more than one layer.

So sure, let’s keep the fun “Modest Is Hottest” motto. But let’s stick to the literal definition of the words within that phrase, and let’s hear the boys chant this at scout camp, too.

According to our friends at Merriam-Webster, Modesty is defined as “freedom from conceit or vanity.”

Where, exactly, does the shoulder coverage fit in there?

M.

Cyber Courtship

Alright humans, we need to have a talk.

Have you heard of Yik Yak? Maybe it’s a very well-known app, and i’m just behind the times as per usual, but it has been installed on my SmartPhone as of recently. I love it. It’s like, you can post anything you freaking want to, and every Yik Yaker in your area can see it without having a clue as to who the author is.

This app can be used for good, or it can be used for evil. For the most part, the newsfeed consists of humorous, slightly embarrassing entries. But, as with most things, there’s gotta be a couple of assholes who ruin it for everyone.

I’ve noticed a lot of posts on the Yak from young men (assumption) complaining about girls catfishing them on online dating sites, i.e. Tinder. One of the posts was complaining about girls that look “thick” or whatever terminology the kids are using these days, but in real life they’re just fat. I dunno, a lot of really fat-shaming comments were made in response, which was completely problematic on its own, but it got me thinking about this whole catfishing and online dating business.

So, we have social networking platforms that enable us to share everything from photos of our food to photos of ours and others’ faces with our dear friends, enemies, and strangers from Ethiopia of whom we’ve never met before, but accepted their friend requests anyway to be polite. (Guilty as charged.)

It’s no secret that basically anything posted on the World Wide Web can be viewed by anyone with access to it. Because of this, we tend to shed ourselves in the best light possible, because let’s face it, at one point or another, someone is going to see something we’ve posted on our personal pages, and it will change their opinions of us forever.

This applies especially to dating or “hook-up” apps such as Tinder. The intended use of these apps is to find an attractive being to date or make out with or whatever activities you guys do when you meet up with a Match from Tinder. I don’t wanna know.

With the objective of making oneself attractive to others, it would only make sense that we post only the best photos of ourselves, complete with the best filters that Instagram has to offer. That’s not just us ladies, I know dudes be using that Sepia as well. And yes, editing photos enables us to present ourselves in completely unrealistic ways.

Back to the catfishing, I don’t think that enhancing one’s profile photos is considered catfishing. People on dating websites should be going into these accounts with the knowledge that the information presented on anyone’s profile is a reflection of them on their very best days, plus or minus a filter.

So stop getting upset when the individual you are meeting up with from these sites doesn’t look quite like his/her photos. That would be an unrealistic expectation.

Actually, y’know what, scratch everything I just said. My real advice to you would be to get yourself off the computer and go meet some people face-to-face so that you can avoid the whole catfishing problem all together.

Swipe right!

M.

On Acceptance

I just noticed that an annual charge to my debit card to maintain my web address, so I guess i’ve been at this blogging thing for a year now. How fun!

I have a question for you guys. How does anyone justify the marginalization/oppression/degradation of any community of people?

Perhaps peoples’ prejudices are engrained in them on a subconscious level, thus disabling them from seeing that they are marginalizing a specific type of person?

I mean, even from a religious perspective, there is NO viable justification for holding any type of prejudice toward anyone. Hate the sin, not the sinner, am I right?

I dunno, I’m not excluding myself from holding prejudices, and i’m sure I have them. But what I don’t do is treat others differently based on things as silly as their ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

If you think about it, all of the characteristics that a person can be marginalized for are just that-they’re characteristics. An individual’s gender identity, ethnicity, SES, or sexual orientation are a PART of a WHOLE person.

I don’t think it’s fair at all to stereotype individuals based on these parts of them. For example, Alan Turing (the WWII war hero) will always be labeled as “that gay guy who broke Enigma.” What in the hell does being gay have to do with breaking Enigma?

We wouldn’t say “that straight guy who became the first president of the United States,” would we?

And why so?

Because it’s entirely irrelevant to the aspect of a person that we are discussing.

I know it’s childish of me to say, but I just don’t and can’t comprehend why we can’t all just treat each other like equals. I hate stereotypes. And I hate the marginalization and discrimination of any group of people. And it kind of tears me apart that it happens so frequently and drastically and can affect virtually every aspect of a person’s life.

It’s not right.

M.

The Mommy Paradigm

The other day, i’d sparked yet another heated discussion on my FaceBook status. We were discussing gender roles, primarily, and who should take on the role of the primary care giver. One of my friends said that he believed that women shouldn’t be limited to being “just a mother.”

When a woman describes herself as “just a mom,” I find that completely problematic. You see, when individuals who have careers are describing their occupations, they rarely say, “I’m just a salesman,” or “I’m just a doctor.” Though not equal in compensation, each of these occupations is as equally demanding and deserving of equal recognition.

Though I, too, agree that a woman should not be limited to the role of the homemaker, I don’t believe that any woman is wrong for choosing to do so. People seem to forget that feminism is all about choice. The whole issue is that women are taking on this task by default, rather than choice. Both genders are sliding into their predetermined roles without really considering what would fulfill them the most and bring them the most satisfaction out of life.

Aside from the fact that being a mother requires a 168-hour workweek, (that’s 24/7, for mathematically impaired individuals) mothers, as well as stay-at-home fathers (which, frankly, there could be more of) are burdened with an immense task of influencing the direction and values of our future. And no, they don’t have a bi-monthly paycheck that keeps them motivated to maintain their quality of work. They get tantrums, messes, and chronic fatigue.

Though I don’t believe that a woman should, by default, become her children’s primary caregiver; I think that those women who do dedicate their lives to the raising of children should start giving themselves the recognition they deserve. Trust me, all the stay-at-home daddies are getting ample extrinsic recognition, because it defies the norm.

Which brings me to my second issue of the “mommy” paradigm. When it comes to occupation, how is a girl to win? You see, if she chooses to remain in the workforce, with or without children, she will have the label of “selfishness” slapped on her forehead, and will be looked upon disapprovingly. Conversely, if she stays home with the kids, she’s “just a mom.” Seems a little unfair, doesn’t it? Welcome to the patriarchy, my friends.

The stereotypical gender roles provide a blanket solution to a very individualistic problem. Not only should the parent who is most suited to raise the children take on the role of the primary caregiver, but a couple should also consider who would be most fulfilled in that role. I think that if we evaluated those two criteria before assigning roles, we’d be surprised by how many bread-winning moms and stay-at-home dads would result.

Just a thought.

M.