Pithy Phrase

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a woman, I put away childish things.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Red Pill: Learning the Language of Sexism

Well my last post certainly generated some controversy.  When writing it, I thought a long time about how to phrase everything, constantly thinking, "is this too controversial?"  Husband told me it was good, and eventually I just said screw it and hit publish.  I genuinely feel bad that some people think that my emerging feminism has made me little more than a whiny complainer.  I have been told by several people that I'm looking solely for the bad and ignoring the good.  One person even suggested that the negativity on my blog attests to my need to see a psychiatrist and be medicated.  Let me borrow a metaphor from this article.

I took three years of Spanish in high school.  Before freshman Spanish 1, I was barely aware when Spanish was spoken within my hearing.  It blended into the background, a part of the white noise that hums along unnoticed.  Once I started learning the meaning of those words and syllables, Spanish jumped out of the white noise.  It suddenly had meaning.  I heard it everywhere.  In fact, it was everywhere.  Similarly, have you ever learned the meaning of a new word and suddenly begun hearing it all over the place?  Did everyone learn that word at the same moment you did?  No!  It was being used all around you the whole time, but you didn't know what it meant, so you didn't notice it.

Learning about sexism and other forms of discrimination is akin to learning a new language.  You learn what it sounds like, what it looks like, what it feels like.  You learn the common usage first (say, sexual harassment in the workplace), and move on to more advanced topics later (understanding the scope of the patriarchy and rape culture).  As you learn, your eyes are opened.  You see what "wasn't there" before.  What used to be unremarkable business-as-usual jumps out and proclaims its true meaning to you.  In reality, it was there the whole time; you just didn't see it.  As you become more fluent, you see sexism everywhere (because it is everywhere).  With time, you start to see that it is inescapable.  It is our world.  It is in the air that we breathe.

So here I am now.  I see sexism everywhere.  I feel like Neo, who has recently discovered the matrix.  Oh, I saw a few flaws in the matrix before I took that red pill (why have I never read a book in school written by a woman?  Why do all the ladies in young women's look uncomfortable when I talk about becoming a geneticist?).  But now that I'm fully unplugged, the world looks different to me than it did before.  It looks different to me than it does to those who have not learned the language, who still think the matrix is reality.  And you know what?  The view from where I now stand is profoundly frightening, infuriating, depressing at times.  I'm not going to lie, it's hard to be a feminist and stay positive.  I often feel like I'm the only one who is aware, who speaks this language, who sees the matrix for what it is.  I feel like everyone else is content to live a virtual life, to be hampered in by the patriarchy.  I feel like I'm struggling against an insurmountable enemy.

This is why I don't write shiny happy unicorn and rainbow posts.  I do see good, but I can discuss that with anyone, anywhere.  That is not the purpose of this blog.  I write in the hopes of finding people who speak my language, who notice the green tinge of the world.  I write so I can at least pretend that someone understands me - so I can express my thoughts and feelings somewhere.  I write to show the world a small portion of the inequality I see in't, in the hopes that someone else will start to see the matrix for what it is.

To you who chose the blue pill, know that I sometimes envy you.  I often wish that I could go back to my life of unquestioning faith.  I wish I could believe in a just world.  I wish I could believe in the benefits of rigid gender roles.  I wish I could believe in infallible, non-racist, non-sexist leaders with black-and-white answers.  It really is so comfortable to believe every word of your culture and religion, to feel like you belong.  But that world is no longer mine.  I made my choice.  I left the cave, went down the rabbit hole.  I can't go back - it's not possible.  Sorry to disappoint.


Lori said...

Brava to you. And WHY if you compliment a group performance of 100 women and 1 man you have to say Bravo???

Lisa and Bennett said...

The Matrix was on in the background while I read this. Perfect touch. Thanks for being you, Jenna. Hugs. Don't worry about crappy people - hang on to those who love you for who you are, and stick with you through life's changes. Those are your real friends.

Liz Brown said...

I can completely agree with you. I have seen the world for what it is and I can no longer just sit by and believe in the same things I used to. Yes it is easier, but no my conscience will not let me. I can't go back to the life I lived because of what I've experienced and come to know. You are not alone. And I am not alone (kind of feeling that way right now).

Mhana said...

You're not alone. I also see it in everything. I cringe when women say "I don't want the priesthood" because I know they're thinking of it as "I don't really care if bless the sacrament" not "I am systematically excluded from having a voice and this signifies that I am a second-class citizen." I don't know. I see it everywhere, and it hurts and it makes me angry. On the other hand, the church overall makes me happy and gives me an avenue to serve, to make friends, to love, to be happy. So, I've chosen to stay, to be active, do go to the temple, to do it all and just say what I think at all times and in all things and in all places. I'm not saying everyone can do that, but it makes me happy and I feel like I'm making a difference.

Erin Knutson Lyman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Thank you Jenna for being you and for this blog. Sometimes I truly feel like I’m the only woman who feels this way. It is comforting to know I’m in good company.

It is a horrible irony that my membership in the church has brought me my greatest joy and also my greatest pain and confusion. Sometimes I wish I could rewind and go back to where everything was black and white in my world. But like you, I feel like it’s too late. I’ve heard, read, and seen too much. I will never be satisfied being an appendage to a man in this life or the next. I can’t feel that this is inspired in any way. It pains me to see my fellow sisters glorying in their “appendagehood” and calling it righteousness. I love the pure, simple teachings of Christ. I try to make them the focus of my life and worship and let Mormanity (what a lovely term you’ve created for our culture) and everything else go. Some would accuse me of being a cafeteria Mormon. I believe I’m choosing to focus on the “better part.” Christ said to an overwhelmed Martha:

“Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

Unknown said...

What is your plight? Are you frustrated that women don't have the priesthood? Do you want female apostles? Or are you after more secular changes such as fairer maternity leave and more equal pay? What is it *specifically* that you want to see change?

You make it clear that you see inequality, but I am curious to hear what you want to be different.

Valentine said...

GENIUS. Thank you for writing this! It is exactly what I've been wishing I could express. I've received my first "What are you trying to accomplish? Do you know you sound totally anti-Mormon?" emails recently and it's pretty laughable considering how tame the stuff is that I've been saying in public (if only they saw what I wrote in private!). The Matrix comparison is absolutely perfect. And thank you for linking to that Shakesville post; I'll be sharing that, too. Seriously, just all around a great post.

Jenna said...

We are the same! I hope this isn't freaking you out, but I'm just so happy to have found someone who is going through the exact same thing I am at the exact same time (and the fact that we share a name is an added bonus).

Have you seen this? http://staylds.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=557

You need to listen to the podcasts that describe the Stages of Faith. It's so enlightening. And I love the attitudes of the men featured on the podcast, who helped me see that I don't have to get everyone to come on this journey with me (although I of course will always want to fight sexism/racism/homophobia/etc).

My email is thatwife at gmail. Let's talk!

(I found you through the most recent post on FMH about sex, btw)

Juliette Faraone said...

This is an older post, but it came up on Google for a search I did, so I feel compelled to comment. I wholeheartedly agree. It is everywhere. And it's disgusting that for noticing and pointing out (and getting justifiably upset with) the sexism so inherent in our system, we're the ones punished for it--or branded "bitches"--a word which still surprises me with its frequency. It's definitely hard, if not impossible, to remain positive. Knowing others are out there helps.