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.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Whiny List of Complaints

Hey friends, remember when I had a blog?  I haven't forgotten, I've just been busy/lazy.  I'm in grad school now, dontchaknow, so I'm kind of consumed with that.  So why do I choose the week before finals to finally write another blog post?  Because I'm a procrastinatory glutton for punishment, of course.  Also because of the ongoing Great Pants Debacle of 2012.

A quick update on my life: I now live in New York, and I now have cats.  Two kittens, to be exact.  Named Kevin and Linda.  That's about all that's worth mentioning.

And now, to our featured presentation.  People have asked me, on the interwebs and in person, what particular feminist beef I have with my religion and/or its accompanying culture.  Well, in the midst of the Great Pants Debacle, I stumbled upon this old post over at LDS WAVE (LDS Women Advocating for Voice and Equality).  This list pretty nicely sums up most of my issues with the differential treatment of males and females in the LDS Church.  And, because I know several readers will see this as proof of my apostate nature, let me say that I love the majority of the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I have no intention of leaving.  Instead, I intend to stay forever and stand up for these issues.  I believe that God is no respecter of persons, but that many of the practices in the church do not reflect that.  I want everyone to feel equal in Mormonism, but I know that is not currently the case.  So I am hoping that my thoughts, actions, and example will contribute to positive changes in the church.

Sometimes the inequality I see is very hurtful.  My faith is still shaken, and my resolve wavers often.  But I'm trying.  So, please, I would appreciate it if no one would question my personal worthiness or righteousness in the comments.  Also, please don't tell me to find another church.  I find that to be incredibly insensitive.  I have feelings too, you know.

So, after that little explanation, here is my list of grievances, as copied from WAVE.  (I hope they don't mind my copying it!)  I understand that many women and men will not be bothered by these things at all.  Many women may feel completely equal despite these things.  That's okay.  But my feelings are valid too.  I feel kind of weird posting all of these complaints, with no qualifications or explanations.  But people keep asking, so here's my answer.  Remember, if you don't like what I have to say, you may stop reading at any time.

"I feel unequal when there are more (a lot more) men’s voices in religious texts, meetings, leadership positions, and decision making bodies.

"I feel unequal when callings that don’t necessitate the priesthood are given only to men: Sunday School Presidency, BYU, BYU-I and BYU-Hawaii Presidents, Church Education Commissioners, Ward Mission Leaders, recommend takers at the Temple, etc. (Similarly, men are not currently called in Primary Presidencies and could be.)

"I feel unequal when women doing the same job are called by different titles (i.e. Sister vs. President) and/or are accessories to rather than serving equally with their husbands, i.e. Mission President’s wives.

"I feel unequal when I have a calling as an auxiliary leader and have to get approval of every decision by men and/or when I am not invited to attend Priesthood Executive Committee meetings (PEC) which directly influence my stewardships.

"I feel unequal when my value is primarily linked to being a wife and mother rather than by being a child of God.

"I feel unequal when the men in my life acknowledge that they have no female spiritual leaders in their wards or communities.

"I feel unequal when women have less prominent, prestigious, and public roles in the church, even before and after child-rearing years.

"I feel unequal because even one of the most inherently female-dominated time periods, having a new baby, is publicly displayed at church in an all male ritual of the baby blessing.

"I feel unequal when males handle 100% of the church finances.

"I feel unequal when I am taught at church that my husband presides in my family, he is the head, and all things being equal, he has the final say.

"I feel unequal when people preach that men and women are completely equal and in the same breath say the above sentence.

"I feel unequal when I realize that at church all men have the final say. Good leaders might consult with female auxiliary leaders, but ultimately even after being called to a position via inspiration, men still make the final decisions.

"I feel unequal when cub scouts and boy scouts have a larger budget (they are allowed to do fundraising- although this might be a local issue) than achievement days and Young Womens and thus, they often have better activities.

"I feel unequal when the Young Women and Young Men’s programs have such different manuals, budgets, activities, etc.

"I feel unequal when fathers and mothers are encouraged to fulfill primary roles to provide and nurture, but only the fathers are given the freedom to seek out the best way for them to provide, whereas, mothers are told the best way for them to nurture—to be stay at home moms.

"I feel unequal when men teach me that being a stay at home mother is the most important thing a person could do, and yet most of them do not do it.

"I feel unequal when people do not emphasize fatherhood as much as they do motherhood and when we have numerous annual lessons on the priesthood and I’m not taught anything about the woman’s role as a priestess.

"I feel unequal in primary when most of the lessons and songs are about men although most of the teachers and leaders are women.

"I feel unequal because church disciplinary courts are made up of solely men and there are no female voices in the very sensitive matters of church discipline.

"I feel unequal when women have to talk to men about their sins, especially sexual ones, and have no other church sanctioned options.

"I feel unequal because most men, even inspired ones, can’t fully understand or provide enough resources for sexual abuse.

"I feel unequal when young girls are taught about modesty and chastity from older men, especially because females make decisions about these things for very different reasons than males.

"I feel unequal because many of the official church declarations and proclamations have no female input, regardless of how drastically they affect women.

"I feel unequal when there are no checks and balances for females who experience abuse in the system. While abuse may be rare, it is terrifying that women have no resources to go to outside of the male hierarchy.

"I feel unequal because the Relief Society’s autonomy was taken away and it became an auxiliary presided over by men.

"I feel unequal when women’s financial autonomy isn’t encouraged as much as men’s at church and/or church schools.

"I feel unequal because men conduct, men preach, men speak.  Men teach us how to be women.

"I feel unequal because local leaders rarely use gender inclusive language even though church manuals and General Conference talks try to do so.

"I feel unequal when men speak at Relief Society and Young Women’s meetings, but women never speak in priesthood meetings.

"I feel unequal when there are very few women’s voices in our official correlated church manuals.

"I feel unequal when women don’t pray in General Conference and usually only give 2 or 3 of the many talks.

"I feel unequal because men and women can be sealed to different numbers of people.

"I feel unequal in the temple because women a have different script and role.

"I feel unequal when female employees of the Church Educational System and temple ordinance workers are no longer allowed to keep their positions after they have children.

"I feel unequal because we know very little about Heavenly Mother and her role in the Godhead and there doesn’t seem to be any emphasis on the part of our leaders to pray and find out more. I don’t know what my divine potential means as a female and that makes me feel less important.

"I feel unequal because all of these concerns are mediated by male leaders and that they are only as important as these men deem them so. While most of our leaders are wonderful, there is very little in the structure or doctrine to prevent male leaders from misogyny or benevolent sexism.

"I feel unequal when these gender inequalities are not acknowledged by leaders. It is difficult to be a female in a patriarchal church and we are trying our best to make it work. Acknowledgement of that difficulty would go a long way."



Kyle Pratt said...

Jenna, thank you for sharing your feelings calmly and thoughtfully. As I see it with my limited level of understanding, I think there are practices that Heavenly Father would be willing to direct and encourage change with if His children prayed for item and petitioned leaders for them. I suspect there are even things that he wants to change, and may be waiting on faithful action of the members of the church to inspire those changes to be made through the leaders of the church.

I would also love for it to be ok to talk about things like ths in church. It would be nice if people said more often "I actually don't know why this thing is the way it is. For now that's what's been revealed and that's really the only reason we have." Just that acknowledgement would help people e a lot more open to new ideas.

Brooke said...

The way that repentance is handled for women, especially for sexual sins, can be so hurtful for women. I would love to see a few women in each ward (maybe the RS Presidency?) given the keys and stewardship necessary to help their fellow sisters so that there was another option for women besides meeting with a man about a very sensitive and often very gender influenced topic. It could take a very shaming and humiliating experience and turn it into an empowering one. It would also drastically reduce the chances of women who are seeking counsel and spiritual support following sexual violence (one in four women have been raped so this is can't be all that rare of a scenario) from being revictimized or placed in a situation that feels threatening, no matter how well intentioned the male leader.

Angela Andersen said...

I love you, Sista Jenna! I think a lot of these things could very easily change. I wonder why people make such a big deal out of wanting to change things. Don't they realize that most revelation comes when a human being has an idea, and then asks Heavenly Father? Why wouldn't it also work for a church member to have an idea and express it to the leadership?

vainlikeyou said...

I forgot what i was thinking so i typed that and here you are! I didnt read the whole post but i caught the drift and am super inspired and reassured that my brain's thot process concerning this matter is on the right path.

Thank you, Jenna!