Eupepsia

It has acutely come to my attention that there is a subdivision of psychology devoted entirely to food and peoples’ relationship with it. They (the governing body of all things psychological, I suppose) have creatively named it “Food Psychology.”

I’ve been desperately searching for tried and true tricks to intervene before I subject myself to a situation like the episode I had last week, and the psychodynamic side of me feels that searching for the origins of my peculiar relationship with food would be helpful in selecting an effective treatment, because, frankly, I’m done being the kind of weirdo whose biggest concern is what she is going to eat today and lives in constant fear of losing control of the abundance of food around her. It’s time to be a different kind of weirdo.

In the beginning, I was a chubby kid. I loved KFC and pasta with parmesan cheese, sue me. It just so happened to deposit itself right on my abdomen. I was a hopelessly picky eater, and refused to eat all things produce and lean protein. Though my parents never said anything, I could sense their concern-even from a young age. I was NOT a happy camper. Ever. Still to this day, you can see the sadness in my eyes in the sparse stack of photographs from my youth. I didn’t like me, and lived in a constant state of self-consciousness, always trying to make myself disappear, though not through starvation means quite yet, which would account for the sparse stack of photographs from my youth.

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In the interest of time, let’s jump forward to adolescence; everyone’s favorite life stage. Moderate body dysmorphia is relatively common among young teenage girls, but what I experienced fell far outside of the bell curve. I can’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t self-conscious, but my early teenage years were certainly the most severe in this regard. It was at this time in my life that I had finally gained the motivation to transform myself into the only thing that I thought could make me happy-skinny.

As soon as I turned 13, I signed myself up for a calorie counter account, and began logging every bite. Anorexia had reduced my calorie intake to a mere 250 calories per day, and my diet consisted mostly of baby carrots and a fourth of a cup of Multigrain Cheerios.I weighed myself seven, eight, nine times per day. The rapid weight loss was energizing-I was above hunger, above the need for food. I was strong and I was beautiful. And people were noticing. I was 5’2, and 72 pounds.

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My eyes had sunken in, my hair had thinned, I had constant goosebumps, and every vertebrae on my back was both visible and palpable. I remember making my own mom cry one day when she accidentally walked in on me changing my shirt.

The folks dragged me to therapy, but my therapist left a bad taste in all of our mouths, so I was only forced to attend the initial session. While all of this was going on, my parents had begun seeing a personal trainer and nutrition coach, so food and exercise dominated a lot of household conversation, which reinforced my preoccupation with “healthy” eating.

I remember spending a lot of time in the kitchen. I’d bake sweets for my family on almost a nightly basis, the aroma of the baked goods forcing me to salivate, but I was strong. I never gave in. I ate the exact same food every single day, at the exact same time, and in the exact same quantity.

Sleep was hard to come by, initially due to the audible pleading of my stomach for sustenance, but later due to hunger pains that only increased in severity as the night wore on.

I wish I knew what exactly made me “snap out of it,” but eventually (and thankfully), my body took over my prefrontal cortex, and forced me to slowly restore my weight to a sustainable range. Strangely, I don’t remember much of the weight restoration process, but I can imagine that it was excruciatingly devastating to watch myself gain the weight that I had worked so hard to starve off.

My level of self-consciousness has remained fairly constant throughout my development into adulthood. Today, I am right smack in the middle of the “healthy weight range” according to the BMI chart. But my relationship with food is nowhere near healthy.

Last semester, I took a 20 credit hour course load. (Full-time is 12.) However, I couldn’t bring myself to focus on anything school-related until I had a Maddie-approved meal plan prepared for the day. I’d spend upwards of an hour per night just packing food for the next day, because my anxiety would be far too severe for me to cope with if I didn’t.

Every time I visit the ladies room, I will spend 2-3 minutes examining myself, pinching various areas of my body in disgust, regardless of who might see. I have to forcibly pull myself away from the mirror before I burst into tears. I visit the scale multiple times per day, and threaten myself with starvation if I don’t like the number I see.

Sometimes, when my anxiety is unleashed, I hide in the pantry and scarf down entire boxes of cereal. After which, I go to the gym and attempt to purge it all with hours of cardiovascular exercise.

Weight gain is by far my greatest fear, and I structure my entire life around avoiding it. I have isolated myself in order to ensure that I don’t slip up. I am prisoner to my obsession with food.

I am ready for a life without this, but unfortunately, I won’t let me let it go.

M.

 

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Ontogeny

Please excuse my extended absence from the blogging world as my time, energy, and soul have been completely consumed by collegiate education and self-discovery over the course of the past quarter-year.

I am a Psychology major, and even though I have no intention of working in this field, I feel that my studies have facilitated a complete shift in the framework of my worldview of humankind, in addition to the pace and style in which I conduct my day-to-day life.

I am a new person.

Okay, perhaps not a NEW person. I am still definitely myself, idiosyncrasies and all. But something clicked within me and created a (hopefully) permanent change in my outlook on life, and how I want to live it.

Perhaps the most impactful thing I learned all semester was a concept coined by Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist. He calls it “existential living.”

Existential living can be summarized by living in the “here and now.” This requires being fully present, both mentally and physically, in every moment and every environment you are placed in, which, as you can imagine, can prove exceptionally difficult to do when you have six upper-division level courses constantly competing for your attention, among other things like, I dunno, men? Facebook? Grey’s Anatomy? Philosophical podcasts?

I am guilty as charged for my preoccupation with the future, which I feel has robbed me of having meaningful experiences in the present. My former self never made time for actual experiences, other people, or simply stopping to smell the roses every now and then. Fortunately, a series of interrelated events and individuals have yanked me back from the future, and I am much more open to experience, flexible, and, dare I say it, relaxed.

I’ve learned a thing or two ever since this lightbulb went off in my little head. Let’s list them off, for organizational purposes.

  1. You don’t have to protect yourself from everyone. My previous self was so concerned about my own endeavors that I put relationships with other people on the back-burner. I had such tunnel vision that I had convinced myself that I didn’t need anyone else until I’d maxed out to my fullest potential. In retrospect, I admit that I was making excuses for my self-induced isolation as a defense mechanism. However, my newfound understanding of the human psyche has convinced me that people aren’t meant to go through any part of life alone. Attempting to do so can make you crazy, but, then again, so can people. It’s all about balance.
  2. More often than not, there is no definite answer. This concept terrifies me to this day, but I’m becoming more and more comfortable with it. The reason why I do not intend to work in the field of Psychology is due to the fact that there are so few, if any, definite answers as to why people behave the way they do, and, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t like that one bit. I’ve decided to focus my energy on the biological sciences, which are arguably significantly more concrete than theories attempting to account for human behavior. Take Freud, for example. The guy was a total nut case, and any theory I can draft up pertaining to psychological phenomena is just as valid as his were.
  3.  I can’t be good at everything. I suffer from chronic perfectionism. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Poor M, what a curse, to HAVE to be perfect at everything. Cry me a river.” Where’s your empathy, folks? Claiming perfectionism is not intended to draw attention to my accomplishments. It’s a symptom of anxiety, and it has claimed more years of my life than I would like to admit. Anyway, the reason I include this in my “Life Lessons Learned Spring 2016 Greatest Hits” is because, for the first time in my life, I faced the possibility of failing a class. As it turns out, I am no statistician, and I don’t play one on TV. In all honesty, I exhausted my mental resources in the fight for a satisfactory grade in my Statistics course, and no matter how hard I tried, I was incapable of earning an A in this class. My previous self would have been devastated, my self-esteem shattered. I got a B. My current self thanks the heavens that I passed the class, and has severed the tie between my grades and my own perception of self-worth and competence.
  4. There is no rush. I plowed through my undergraduate degree. This December, I’ll be receiving my diploma at the ripe age of 21, just three years after graduating high school. While I am extremely proud of this accomplishment, a part of me wishes that I’d allowed myself to enjoy the journey a little bit more, and perhaps I could have achieved a higher level of authenticity and security in what I want to become. Besides, I have the rest of my life to go to graduate school, and then work until I can retire in the next 50 years or so and live happily ever after with an obscene amount of dogs at my side.
  5. Breathe. This one was probably the most beneficial to my physiological health. I am a frequent panic-attack victim, however, despite this semester being my heaviest course load, I experienced minimal panic-attacks, and my heart thanks me, due to my newfound ability to control my own stress levels. Rather than allow myself to activate full freak-out mode, I am now able to withdraw from the stressful stimulus, recompose myself, align my Chakras, and return to the task at hand as a much more composed and serene individual.

I’m sure that I’ve learned numerous other lessons over the past four months, but for some reason, we as a species are comfortable with the number 5. Besides, I’m sure that you all are tired of hearing my enlightened self express how enlightened I am.

Anyway, I exited this semester more sane than I entered it, which is refreshing, because I only have a week to recuperate before I dive into the summer semester.

I don’t know who I am without academia.

Onward, ever onward.

M.

 

Purposive

Now that everybody’s done sharing their tentative New Year’s Resolutions with their online social circles, I think i’ll finally reveal my plans to make myself a less-shitty person than I was in 2015.

 

Though I love the person I’m developing into since my faith crisis, nose-dive into feminism, and increasingly curious mind, I find myself becoming exponentially more cynical, which is something I hate about myself.

I find myself often looking for reasons to be pissed off, which makes it really, REALLY hard to be the happy, energetic ball of sunshine I once aspired to become, but will never be, due to my chronically sarcastic and brazen personality. Indeed, since I’ve been exposed to a whole new world of liberalism, I seem to have the tendency to search for things that people do that strike me as problematic, and will consequently set me off.

There are specific groups of people that are extremely hard for me to get along with (i.e. meninists, anybody who still subscribes to traditional gender roles).  I totally feel justified in avoiding individuals who fall under this category completely, but I also feel that I am much too hard on people.

For example, my dating life is a literal train wreck. Most of my interactions with men are terminated by me giving them a lengthy, wordy lecture about how sexist it is to not be interested in a girl who can’t cook, or won’t send a racy snap-chat after the first date.

I feel like I’m constantly having to defend my feminist views; nothing flips my bitch-switch faster than when a gentleman i’m dating says anything that could be seen as sexist, even if you have to flip it upside down and squint with your left eye.

So i’m going to work on that. Perhaps instead of ripping his head off every time a suitor says something I don’t agree with, I can calmly present my point of view on the matter, and then change the subject as I squeeze the hell out of the stress ball I just bought.

This resolution’s due date might extend into 2063, but it’s all about progress, people.

Additionally, I am going to get out of my own way when it comes to relationships with other people. This is a very poorly-defined goal, but I have very specific quirks that I use in order to build sky-scraping walls around myself, thus protecting my isolation.

First of all, I have got to make peace with my relationship to food and to my body. I’m talking about my obsession/preoccupation about eating in a manner that will cause me dramatic weight loss, and dutiful, religious, nauseating exercise. When one is as engrossed in the aforementioned activities as I have become, there is little time or energy left to spend on stuff that matters significantly more, and after 6 years of eating-disordered behavior and body dysmorphia, I’m tired, damn it. And ready to invest myself in building some meaningful relationships and kicking ass even harder in school.

This problem is never going to resolve itself, so I’ll have to look back into going to therapy.

I always complain about how pathetic it is that I’ve attended my current university for two years, and haven’t made a single friend, but if I’m being honest with myself, I have never once initiated any kind of effort to make friend at college. So this year is going to be different. I am going to focus on becoming more inviting, friendly, and talkative. I am going to take some risks, start some conversations, hell, even ask out a hot guy from my Stats class (after checking his finger for a ring, obviously. We have lots of super young, married folk where I’m from.)

In addition to all of these resolutions, if I have time to spare, perhaps I’ll attempt to kick my caffeine addiction.

Just kidding, I’m taking 19 credit hours. There is no way in hell I’m decreasing my latte consumption.

So there you have it. An outline of how I am going to go from a shitty person in 2015 to a noticeably less-shitty person by the end of 2016.

Happy New Year!

M.

 

 

 

 

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.

Guest Post

I get it-you’re all sick of metaphorically hearing my whiny voice. So I’ve decided to start doing some research on others’ viewpoints on topics that interest me, and share their responses with you. I am fortunate enough to know many diverse people from various backgrounds, so finding content was a snitch.

My first guest author is a young woman whom I’ve come to know, respect, and love as we endured our teens and early adulthood together. Without further ado, I now present her take on the YW program. Take it away, Sam.

Cognitive Dissonance

How was my experience in the Mormon Young Women’s program? Thanks for asking.

To a budding pre-pubescent, the prospect of joining older girls in Young Women’s at the age of 12 made the misery of sharing Primary class with the 7-11 year olds…bearable. Once you reached that fortuitous age of 12, a few of the Young Women would sit in the back of Primary class until “announcements”, wherein the Primary leader would announce that this was, indeed, your time for that coveted rite of passage. BOOYAH.

I remember heaving nervous breaths through my A-cup chest (I’m still an A-cup, so that’s the only thing that never changed through puberty. Damn it.) I finally got to sit in the same room as 15, 16, even 17 year olds! My sister was already in the program, and I was more than ready to join the big leagues.

At the beginning of every Young Women’s meeting, we would simultaneously recite the Young Women’s Theme.

“WE ARE DAUGHTERS of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. WE WILL “STAND as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:

Faith • Divine Nature • Individual Worth • Knowledge • Choice and Accountability • Good Works • Integrity • and Virtue

WE BELIEVE as we come to accept and act upon these values, WE WILL BE PREPARED to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.”

(Virtue hadn’t been tacked on the end of the values until I was 14, so that was a pretty exciting change-up).

Basically, the first two or three years are bliss. You’re surrounded by peers, taught by beautiful women of God, and conditioned to giggle, flirt, and regurgitate sexist language verbatim. But then…the boys start getting cuter. You start your period. You are exposed to a greater pool of friends in school.

And…you start to pay attention to the words you are reciting.

Strengthen home and family? Sacred covenants? What sacred covenants? What even is ‘divine nature’”?

Then, you hear the boys recite their theme:

The purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood: become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and live its teachings. Serve faithfully in priesthood callings and fulfill the responsibilities of priesthood offices. Givemeaningful service. Prepare and live worthy to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and temple ordinances. Prepare to serve an honorable full-time mission. Obtain as much education as possible. Prepare to become a worthy husband and father. Give proper respect to women, girls, and children.

It doesn’t take a genius to see the reinforcement of traditional gender roles here.

Women: be a shining beacon of virtue and divinity. Be the kind of woman who supports your man in the home!

Men: don’t be a dick to women. Take the role of leadership in the home (priesthood). Get an education.

I’m not opposed to gender roles, but the roles of each gender in the church should not be predetermined by a panel of older men (the General Authorities). They are between the two partners. Girls shouldn’t be taught at a young age that they are meant to be the family support. Men shouldn’t be taught that they are to be the provider of the home, regardless.

And that was my experience in Young Women’s. Constant reinforcement of gender roles. We would be decorating scripture bags while the boys would be playing basketball in the gym, or mowing people’s lawns. For summer camping, we would stay in a condo while the boys would embark on a 5 day high-adventure trip into the mountains.

What upset me is that most of the girls bought into it! When I would help put away tables, people would chastise me for doing “boys’ work”. The boys were always required to clean put away chairs while we had the first go at the dessert (which was awesome, but totally not fair to them). I always felt very isolated with my blunt, “masculine” personality. The things I was told…I couldn’t believe it. They told me it was okay to be educated, but I was ultimately to support my husband’s Priesthood authority. I was to raise the kids in the light of the Gospel and be an example of chastity and virtue.

My initial aversion to the church wasn’t even an aversion to the Gospel itself. It was an aversion to the attitude of the Young Women’s program, and the expectations to which I was held.

If any Young Women are reading this right now, I ask you this: are you completely satisfied with the role that is required of you in life by the Mormon Church?


Interested in becoming a guest author at DownWithTheNorm? Head on over to the Contact Me page and fill out the form with your article and a quick bio so the rest of us can absorb your wisdom and insight. 

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.