April 9, 2013

Some thoughts

4 generations of women in the church

General Conference was last weekend.
Seeing that little #LDSconf pop up on the corner of my screen was exciting! I jumped into the instant worldwide discussion of various talks, stats, and principles wholeheartedly. Being encouraged to use my phone?? I was so on board.

As I read through tweets, re-tweets, and links I began to feel uneasy though.

There has been an ongoing movement in the church (that's been building lately) surrounding feminism. I consider myself a feminist. I'm obviously a Mormon. Logically that makes me a Mormon feminist. But wait, no.

For a few reasons, I don't feel comfortable aligning myself with the current Mormon feminist movement:

1- Upon hearing the mission age change (last conference) I immediately thought, "More missionaries! More spreading of the gospel!" It wasn't until I read what others were saying that I realized a lot of people saw this as the church "finally taking a step towards gender equality." Had I missed something? Staggered mission ages hadn't made me feel unequal before, should they now?

2- Then a few women decided it was time to wear pants to church. Again, I felt like I'd missed some memo. Many women in the wards I've been in over the years have sported dress pants to church. It was their Sunday best and it was a non issue. Pants to church because you're honestly trying to dress your best for Sunday worship? Awesome. Pants to church because you're trying to make a point and draw attention to yourself and away from the meetings? I don't get it.
I'm aware that I haven't lived very long and am pretty dang naive. Maybe all those women I saw wearing pants on Sunday throughout the years were also being rebuked by priesthood leaders because of it. Maybe they were all made to feel unwelcome. I don't know, I just know it never seemed like a big deal before.

3- A lot of the conference tweets also seemed to focus on tearing down the speakers. Collective cyber eye rolling whenever a speaker said something like: "Motherhood is the noblest and greatest of all callings."  Women were outraged, "I'm SO much more than a mother!!!" "How dare they say that again!!"
I've heard lots of people say that the greatest downfall of the church is that *all it encourages and prepares a women to be is a mother. This one stumps me. More than all the rest.
  Some background (on me, yawn):  By the time I had Bronson, I'd earned two degrees (an AS in Family Therapy Studies and a BA in American Studies). I'd worked at several different jobs, some were awesome and fulfilling. The greatest perk of others was simply a comfy dress code. I had Bronson at *21.5 after being married 2 whole years (barely a drop in the marriage bucket!). We'd been trying to get pregnant for over 10 months. Living in Provo, surrounded by newlyweds and their babies, it felt like an eternity. When those 2 pink lines "finally" appeared, I was thrilled! I'd been to college, worked full time, juggled finals and marriage; I was totally ready to be a mom. Guess what I learned (and still learn daily) 41 weeks later? Nothing prepares you for motherhood. Nothing compares to it. 
   When people say, "Oh, don't pull the mom card!" I'm just like, "I am the mom card." I don't need the church to tell me that motherhood is the greatest calling of my life. I feel it every minute of every day. Whether I'm ready to scream my head off in frustration or burst into tears of gratitude, I am a mom. Forever. My soul is drowning in maternal love, guilt, anger, anxiety, gratitude, fear, exhaustion and every other emotion out there. 
  Yes, there's more to me than motherhood (I like to sew, cook, talk, read, write, watch crap TV, make Topher laugh, EAT, etc.) but above all else, I've pushed (so far) two people into this world and that has forever changed me. There's no way around it. 
  We're so quick to proclaim that relationships are the most important thing in life, while simultaneously shouting that women shouldn't emphasize motherhood so much. The relationships that literally wouldn't exist except through motherhood are some of the most important to me. Don't belittle them. 
  The mom card? How much more do we love President Obama when he "plays" the dad card? When he relates to tragedies on the human interest level of a father and not just as a military or political leader? When he shed tears over the little ones lost in December because, as a parent, he couldn't imagine anything worse, I for one loved him even more.

*For more info on what the women in the church are up to, here's an interesting interview. 
*I graduated HS two years early

So how in the heck do you consider yourself a feminist in the church then, Meredith?? 

In a few ways:

1- I believe that women in the church should strive to fulfill their callings as well as the men in the church. No matter the calling, take it seriously. If men in your ward belittle it or talk down to you, a pox upon them. You can rise above and turn the other cheek or whatever. I have a testimony that the church and its members aren't perfect, but I have an even bigger testimony that the gospel is and always will be.

2- In the same vein, I believe that women should give sacrament meeting talks as doctrinally sound and as long in length as the men in the church. No more of this, "I'll just let my husband/the other speakers fill in the rest of the time." I've had my fair share of nausea inducing public speaking fright. I struggle every time I'm asked to speak, but I really strive to prepare something meaningful. Delivering it with feeling and honesty usually requires me to be up there for more than a few minutes. Public speaking is a legitimate hurdle, but I feel like it's our duty as women in the church to show that we can speak on gospel principles and be taken seriously. 

3- I believe wearing our garments the way we've been advised to in the temple is huge. I'm obviously not the underwear police and I know for a fact that I'm way too judgmental. On that note, all I want to say here is: If you've been to the temple you know that women play a MAJOR role in the gospel work there. It's amazing and a blessing. 

4- I believe that women should never back down from answering questions in Sunday school just because they may feel that the men could know more than them. Maybe you didn't serve a mission, so what! Add your two cents. Better yet, teach Sunday school (or volunteer to sub if it's not your calling)! I've done it and it's an awesome way to further your knowledge of the gospel. (Again, some of us are shy, that's fine!)

5- I believe that we shouldn't roll our eyes over "Molly Mormon" comments in Relief Society. I'll admit it, I struggle here. Some women seem so backwards to me! I always tend to lean towards sarcastic and angry so all those cheerful ladies can make me want to gag. I'm trying to stop. I'm trying to hold fast to the instant sisterhood the church can afford us.

6- Most importantly, I believe every woman in the church should have her own testimony. If you honestly feel like Heavenly Father and the Prophet don't see your value as compared to men, figure out why. I've been there. I've been angry, bitter, offended and depressed. I've cried, prayed and questioned everything. I've cursed the church and the way it made me feel. I've been in a dark place and have come out on the other side. I like it better on this side.

If you made it through this whole post (with its typos, and over use of commas + question marks, etc.) you win!
I won't be turning comments back on for this one but I bet a lot of people (if anyone still reads here) have something to say. I'm not looking for a fight. I generally reserve thoughts like this for my journal, but I just feel a great divide within the women of the church right now and I don't want anyone to question where I stand. 
I know the gospel is true. I'm incredibly grateful for it in my life. I know I matter and I never want to question that again.