first fig

my candle burns at both ends…

Month: April, 2009

How Not to be a Feminist Rocker-Man

As I have stated in some of my previous posts, I am interested in exploring the ways men contribute to the fight for equality between the sexes. One of the bloggers over at The Pursuit of Harpyness posted the lyrics to a song that I thought provided a good example of how to fail at being a feminist man.

This is a song by Ben Lee, entitled “I am a woman.” (You can see a video here).

It’s true, it’s true
I’m a woman too
I move with the flow of the seasons

I do, I do
Cause I’m a woman too
I don’t make sense but I got my reasons

So hear me roar
I will not be ignored
If you’ve ever had to fight
You’re a sister of mine
If you’re heart’s got something to prove
Then you’re a woman too

It’s here, it’s clear
Is what can be unfair
There’s always someone being kept down.
It’s true, it’s true
Cause I’m a woman too
So shut me up and I’m gonna get loud

[chorus: So hear me roar, etc.]

The African he’s a woman too
The American he’s a woman too
The Palestinian he’s a woman too
The Jew? He’s a woman too
The freedom fighter, he’s a woman too
The messiah, he’s a woman too
This planet, he’s a woman too
And you you’re a woman too
You’re a woman too

Now I know that this song makes about as much sense as the language that spews out of my baby monster’s mouth, but apparently Mr. Lee is using the word “woman” as a substitute for the word “oppressed”. I suppose he deserves credit for recognizing that women are oppressed but he would have won more points without the whole “women are irrational” stereotype.

mr. mraynes hates when I tell him he doesn’t understand something because he’s a man. I totally understand why this bothers him, it’s the ultimate trump card and its hard to have a productive conversation after I’ve played it. But I need mr. mraynes to be a man; I need to understand his male experience and thinking much more than I need him to understand what it is like to be a woman…I already get that.

So I guess what I’m saying to all you feminist men out there is be men and be proud of it! Us women-folk have the woman thing down; we need you to confront the gender problems from your male perspective.

Oh, and if you want to write a subversive feminist song, this is how you do it!

Advertisements

At A Window

(My father recited this poem at our wedding and I have loved it ever since. This has been a crazy week for me; I am in the process of hiring a new employee and I was asked to give a lecture about empowerment that I spent the week preparing for. I’m done with the interviews and the lecture went great so I can think about this blog again. I have a really great weekly wacko that I’ll try to get up tomorrow. Till then, here’s a little love.)

Give me hunger,
O you godes that sit and give
The World its orders.
Give me hunger, pain and want,
Shut me out with shame and failure
From your doors of gold and fame,
Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger!

But leave me a little love,
A voice to speak to me in the day end,
A hand to touch me in the dark room
Breaking the long loneliness.
In the dusk of day-shapes
Blurring the sunset,
One little wandering, western star
Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow.
Let me go to the window,
Watch there the day-shapes of dusk
And wait and know the coming
Of a little love.

~Carl Sandburg

Weekly Anti-Woman Wacko

I sometimes feel that I am not grateful enough for the gender equality that I enjoy in my country and in my religion. I am reminded of how truly blessed I am when leaders of other countries pass laws like the one Hamid Karzai just passed in Afghanistan. One provision makes it illegal for a woman to reject her husbands sexual advances, effectively legalizing marital rape. (Although, in an effort to compromise, Karzai suggested that the law should be changed to require women to have sex with their husbands every four days. I’m looking for a way to be sarcastic about this but words fail me.) Another provision would not allow girls or women to attend school or work or even leave the house without their father or husband’s permission. Women also could not refuse to wear makeup if their husband required it.

Yesterday, 300 very brave Afghan women marched in the street to protest this law and demanded that they be given equal rights…that they be treated like human beings! For this action they were called whores and had stones thrown at them.

I am weeping as I write this because it should not hurt to be a woman and I want to know why it does? Can somebody please explain to me why my Afghan sisters have to ask permission from their government not to be raped?

And in case you’re feeling a little too comfortable in the privilege of being a woman living in the United States, spousal rape was only made a punishable crime country-wide in 1993 with the passing of stricter sexual offense codes. Despite the criminalization of marital rape, there are still at least thirty-three states that grant exemptions to the perpetrators in certain cases. There is also one major university granting an honorary doctorate to a famous marital rape apologist THIS YEAR!

We should never be fooled into thinking that we have reached the pinnacle of equality. We are all connected and until our sisters in Afghanistan enjoy the same rights we do, no woman will ever be truly equal.

Egalitarians vs. Patriarchalists

I saw this quote over at Feminist Mormon Housewives and thought that I would share it here to go along with my exploration of the different ways Mormon men are helping move the Church in a more progressive direction:

“The world of men is dividing into egalitarians and patriarchalists–those
men who are trying to learn the language and customs of the newly emerging
world, and those who are determined to keep that new order from taking root. The
former group welcomes these changes, seeing that though they are painful in the
short term, over the long term they provide the only route to intimacy and
peace. But the latter group sees only loss…. The patriarchalists’ world view,
shared by women as well as men, is battling the emerging egalitarian world view,
which is also shared by people of both sexes.”

~ Naomi Wolf

So what do you think? Also, go read the discussion over at fMh, it’s fascinating.

Weekly Anti-Woman Wacko: Hopeful Edition

I got an interesting response to my post “Hope in Feminist Sisterhood” over at the Exponent from somebody calling themselves Holder86:

Mormon feminism? Why does it have to always be about women? Why can’t there
be Masculinism? Feminism is what women use to feel superior to men. There is no
need to be superior. Accept that men and women have different roles for a
reason. Mom’s and Dad’s. Dad works and Mum looks after the children. This is the
Mormon Culture. You can’t change the culture. You don’t like the culture then be
a feminist in another religion. There are many talks by Apostles about how there
is to be no feminism in the Mormon Church. Leave political beliefs to politics
and leave religion to religion. Be a feminist in politics if you want some
action but not in a religion…especially the Mormon one.

My first reaction was, “What? Are you kidding me?” I truly think that Mr. Holder86 was just trying to stir the pot and bring to boil the feminist blood. Seriously, who thinks like this anymore? Normally I don’t respond to people like Holder because, what’s the point? But then mr. mraynes made this excellent point that bears repeating here:

I guess holder86 has highlighted the uselessness of the term feminism. It’s
not useless because of its ideals, but because of the way a few have used it at
times to push a female superiority agenda. And the word itself does smack of
such a doctrine. But that is not its true aim!

Holder86, were I to extend your logic to its conclusion, I could argue that
our church does in fact practice “Masculinism”, better known as patriarchy. Men
run this church, especially its public face. I mean, it is 2009 and TWO women
share talks at General Conference alongside dozens of men. Am I the only one who
finds this ridiculous, especially when we already have an entire session devoted
to the priesthood? Couldn’t we at least hear from one woman at each of the four
general sessions?

At its core, feminism is no different than the set of teachings we call the
Gospel of Jesus Christ. Feminism, like the Gospel, espouses the fundamental
(spiritual) equality (rather than equivalence) of all souls, both male and
female. We all have the same value in the eyes of our divine Parents and
especially our Savior. All deserve love, respect, and happiness.

This is why I have called this week’s anti-woman wacko the hopeful edition because men like mr. mraynes exist and are thinking and saying things like this.

I think these two comments present an interesting illustration as to what is going on in the church today. Holder on the one hand, takes the traditional point of view and thinks that feminism is damaging and sinful, at least in a religious context. He believes that Mormon culture is just as true as Mormon doctrine and any questioning of that culture is an affront to our way of life. Unfortunately for Holder, those who hold his opinion are dying out. His understanding of marriage and the relationship between men and women is rich in its immaturity and lacks a complex world view.

Times are changing and I would venture to say that a large part of the church cannot follow the “Dad works and Mum looks after the children” paradigm, especially now in this time of economic crisis. In fact the apostles themselves have distanced themselves from this paradigm by using the convenient word, “primarily.” The previous paradigm was stifled in immaturity; women remained dependent and men were trapped in a dogmatic system. So yes, I believe culture can change; culture is no excuse for not becoming all that we can be. We are here on this earth to become like our Heavenly Parents and any step towards equality is a step towards them. The apostles and prophets are nothing, if not pragmatic and they understand that most men and women today expect equality. The fact that they have endorsed this kind of existence says to me that our leaders now expect men to be more mature and women more assertive. Though they may not explicitly use the word feminism, the apostles have increasingly turned to the rhetoric of equal partnership and shared housekeeping/childrearing responsibilities…all of which are primary tenants of feminism.

Mr. mraynes, on the other hand, recognizes the potential danger of feminism (like any ideology, it can be taken too far) but realizes that the true ideal of the word is something that is very much backed up by our doctrine and by the leaders of our church. You can find the gospel mr. mraynes espouses in our scriptures and in the words of our prophets. There are more and more men who recognize that there are inequities in our church structure and are open to ideas on how to make it better (mr. mraynes came up with a fantastic idea!). And there are more and more men like my husband who truly do want to be equal to women…Who want to be equally present in the home and to fully share in beauty and complexity of life with their partner. The good news that I see in this illustration is that it is men like my husband, feminist men, who are going to rise up and make the changes with women by their sides.

Over the next couple of weeks I would like to explore ways in which men can join the fight for true equality between the sexes. And to Holder86 and the other anti-woman wackos like him, you might want to start swimming because there is a tidal wave coming.

Hope in Feminist Sisterhood

Cross-posted at the Exponent

I was sitting at my desk in the Smith Institute for LDS History back in the days when it was still at BYU, reading through a newspaper article that one of the professors I worked with had been interviewed for. And I remember feeling so alone. The article was entitled “Where Have All the Mormon Feminists Gone?” and it basically asserted that the Mormon women of my generation had no use for feminism. This was in the days before Feminist Mormon Housewives, back when VOICE at BYU had died a quiet death and a year before its softer re-incarnation, Parity, was born.

But I had a primal need for feminism; feminism was in my blood and in my bones and I felt isolated and assumed that I was alone in my concern for women’s space within a Mormon context. I had professors, both female and male, who nurtured my burgeoning feminism in the academic sphere but there was no one at that time, to gently lead me into the lonely road of being a feminist and a Mormon woman.

If somebody had told me then. that five years later I would be holding my baby girl at an academic Mormon feminist conference, I’m not sure I would have believed them! I, like so many others, thought Mormon feminism was silenced and dead, or at least softer. And maybe this was so for a while but it is certainly not the case anymore.

I have felt the ground shift and have seen the swell of excitement, creativity and thoughtfulness. Patriarchy, beware! We are making history just as Eliza and Emmeline, Laurel, Margaret and Claudia did before us. Mormon feminists are not just passive actors in our theological history, we have been a vital force from the very beginning.

Of course, Mormon feminists today experience a very different church from the one 2nd wavers influenced during the 60’s and 70’s. There is so much distrust and many open wounds still left unhealed. My feminists sisters are also probably less optimistic that things will change. But this new feminist movement has reignited in only five years; think of the change we can accomplish in ten years, twenty!

Being a Mormon feminist is inconvenient and lonely. Other members of the church will think that you are crazy or sinful/prideful/power-hungry/deluded. You will have hard questions left unanswered. You will think really painful things about your community and God. But there is room in Mormon feminism for optimism.

Even if the church does not change or the questions go unanswered, you will always have sisters at your side. They will be there to teach you how to crochet and giggle with you late into the night. They will be there to help carry the burden, to mourn and cry with you. They will be there to walk down the long road with you.

I have posted before how I worry for my daughter’s future as a Mormon woman. But today, I don’t worry because I know that she will have mothers and sisters who will always be at her side. And that is enough.