Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Feminist Mormon's Bucket List

Several things have led to this post. First, a friend's blog that had her "Bucket list," things she wants to do before she "kicks the bucket." I've always liked the idea of a bucket list, but never got around to doing one. But I lately I read an article on Feminist Mormon Housewives about what you would do if you weren't Mormon. While it's hard to answer that question, I've been pondering the direction my life can take now that I no longer consider myself Mormon in the doctrinal sense (though I will likely always be a cultural Mormon.) And then I got myself a copy of "From Housewife to Heretic," Sonia Johnson's autobiography about her excommunication because of her pro-ERA activities. I'll probably write a post just on that book, since there is so much in it and most of it enrages me. But the reason it matters here is because it has galvanized me to start making changes in my life in a way that nothing else has.

So here's my list of things I want to do to move forward as myself, and as a feminist: my Feminist Mormon Bucket List.

1. Get a second ear piercing. I've always thought they were cute, and I no longer give the church the right to dictate what I do with my body.

2. Go to grad school or law school. I've always planned on this, but now it's in the forefront of the plan.

3. Do something to end my ability to have children, or at least something more permanent then the pill I'm currently. I've always felt guilty for not wanting kids, but now I'm going to follow my revelation about not having them.

4. Dedicate my time to the church on my terms. Currently I have a calling in Primary. I generally teach what I believe to be right, but occasionally slip into church talk I don't believe. That's not going to happen anymore. I will teach only what I believe.

That's the list for now, although I'm sure there will be more!

Sunday, December 18, 2011


I've been married for 2 1/2 years, which has been wonderful overall. My husband brings out sides of me I don't normally show, like my silly and fun-loving side. He is not bound by opinions about gender roles, or at least as unbound as any of us can be. He's a better cook and likes cooking more then I do, and has taken over doing the laundry. He is behind the things I want to do. If something will make me happy he's fine with it. There is nothing in our relationship that make me feel as though I need to ask for permission to do things or place his needs before my own. My parents never modeled that kind of mentality. But I always feel that I need to ask his permission to do things that don't involve him, and that his needs should supersede mine.

I don't really know how to describe the conundrum I find myself in. I love my husband and want him to be happy. And he loves me and wants me to be happy. But we both find fulfillment and joy outside our relationship as well as within it. I go to various feminist and liberal Mormon events without him. We work on separate theatre projects. We read different things. Neither of us have a problem with this. We also spend time together and do things with each other. I guess the problem is with how and when we do things is determined. Sometimes if K wants to do something together and I want to be by myself, I will spend time with him to make him happy. That is part of marriage in my mind; paying attention to the others needs. So, in theory, as often as I spend time with him, I should also be able to say that I'd rather have some time to myself just as often. And that's where we hit a problem. I don't feel ok saying that. I feel guilty, like I'm failing in a responsibility. I know if K know that I felt that we he would be very sad. He would tell me to do what was going to make me happy. But even when he says it I feel bad. I am choosing to put his needs before my own because I feel that his needs are more important them mine. So I get angry at him when he hasn't done anything wrong. I don't express how I feel or what I need from him. I don't take what I need into account, or feel guilty when I do. How do I move past this?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Feminist Christmas

My in-laws don't know much about my feminist sensibilities. They are pretty conservitive Mormons, so there are lots of things that I don't say around them to keep things from getting awkward. We only see them twice a year, so it's not hard. But I feel inauthentic; I want them to know me, know what is important to me, especcially as it becomes clear that I'm exiting the church. But how do you let people know what you believe in a way that doesn't make conversation drift into uncomfortable silence?

I had something of an epiphany last night about one way to share my feminism in a none-threatening way. At Counterpoint this year, LDS WAVE was selling copies of their book Words of Wisdom. It's a book of quotes, separated by topic, focusing on quotes by female church leaders and quotes directed specifically towards women. My mother-in-law is in the Relief Society presidency in her ward, so I thought this would be a good gift for her. We won't be there for Christmas, so I want to include a note telling her about WAVE and that I'm involved with it. It might give her an idea about who I am in a positive light, since the book is to help people embrace female leaders and the information addressed directly to women. It's a cool book, and an easy way to give women more of a voice in church meetings. I downloaded it free for my iPad.

It struck me as a really awesome idea, so I thought I'd write about it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Being Hit with a Patriarchy Stick

Last week was my first time going to Sacrament Meeting in probably a month and a half. It's at 9 a.m., and it's just easier for me and K to show up to teach Primary at 10. Last week was fast and testimony meeting, so I figured I'd be safe. I strongly believe that people have the right to express their connection to God, even if it's not how I would do it, and since that's what testimonies are, rather then talks about doctrine, I thought it might be okay.

It's been so long since I'd been to Sacrament Meeting that I'd forgotten how patriarchal it is. I felt like I was being hit over the head with a patriarchy stick. It was all men on the stand, minus the chorister. Men were conducting and dealing with the Sacrament. But what got to me the most was the complete lack of discussion of the female divinity. All prayers were to Heavenly Father in the name of Christ. There were many testimonies about the love of Heavenly Father, about help from Heavenly Father, about love for Heavenly Father. I don't have an issue with that, but it was so sad for me to see the lack of a Heavenly Mother, a women to get help and love from. I really felt for the first time as though half the human race was missing divinity, was missing God. I felt excluded, cut off from God. Men and power were linked, and I felt second class and powerless.

This was compounded by a conversation with one of the Elder's Quorum Presidency. Apparently it was a personal Priesthood interview, but I was there for some reason. He started going off about how K needed to be doing personal prayer because he was the head of house and would be the father one day (I love the assumption that we'll have kids) and he needed to be the strength of the family. I got pissed and walked out. Why does there need to be a head? Why can't we just be seen as two people who work together?

This was all happening in the midst of a Facebook fight, started by this post on Feminist Mormon Housewives. It's been going on for over a week with around 130 comments. Some girl I barely know is reaming me out for not accepting that women and men are different and therefore should be treated differently, even when the treatment has nothing to do with what makes men and women different. I feel like I'm being smothered in patriarchy, like I'll never get away from it. And every time I stand up to it, I get knocked down with the patriarchy stikc.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rewording Primary Songs

I've taken to changing words in Primary songs to make singing/sharing time more bearable. I've been working in Primary (the LDS church's children's organization) for over a year. It's where they tend to stick young married couples in, and after mouthing off to my bishop about my issues with the church, I guess they assume it's a reasonably safe place to leave me. It's not bad; the eight to ten year olds we teach are fun, and I can alter the lessons to teach about the love of God, compassion, that being different is ok, etc. But when the whole Primary meets together and is taught the party line of obedience to leaders, Mormonism as exclusive truth, gender roles, and on and on. So in order to not lose my mind, I try to make things more female-friendly. I got the idea from this blog

My most recent is this:
I kneel to pray everyday,
I speak to Heavenly Mother.
She hears and answers me,
When I pray in faith.

I begin by saying dear Heavenly Mother,
I thank her for blessings she sends.
Then humbly I ask her for things that I need,
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Despite the prayer structure that seems unnecesarily formulaic, the idea of a woman hearing and answering my prayer is incredibly beautiful. I never realized the lack of the Divine Feminine in my life until I started adding her to my vision of God. It gives me a connection to God I've never had before. Like Sue Monk Kidd says in The Secret Life of Bees "Everyone needs a God who looks like them."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

How Does This Happen?

A few nights ago, my husband made a passing comment about his socks being dirty from walking in our apartment, and that the floors should probably be vacuumed. I immediately felt guilty, and told him I felt bad that the floors were dirty. He asked why I felt bad since he hadn't cleaned up either, then said, "It's not because you're a girl is it?" he went on to remind me that it was as much his job as mine to keep things clean, and when I got home from work the next day, he had vacuumed.

I grew up with progressive parents who divided housework up based on who was home, who had time, and who enjoyed what, with things coming out basically even. I was never taught that one job was for boys, and one for girls. I have two sisters, and we all did all kinds of chores growing up. My husband has never said, implied or suggested that I am primarily responsible for household chores because I'm female. He does the laundry most of the time, we split the cleaning based on schedules, and cook and shop together. I've been a feminist all my life, and never bought into the notion that being female made me better at or more responsible for household chores. The only place I heard that was at church. Despite all this, I felt guilty for not cleaning the house. I felt like I had failed in a responsibility, that I'd fallen down on the job. How does this happen to someone like me? How does the church have that much power over me?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Interpretation is as Valid as Yours

It's LDS General Conference, which has become a difficult time for me. Last conference, 6 months ago, I watched all the sessions and spent the weekend being pissed off and outed my disbelief in the church to my mother, which I hadn't intended to do. So this time around, I tried to take a different approach. I spent Saturday with my husband, which was way more fun, and felt like a better use of my time. But today, Sunday, we're at my parents. I thought I could hack it if I only had to watch a few sessions, but I lost it about an hour into the Sunday morning session. I left the room to avoid upsetting my family, and my husband followed me out.

I told him I was annoyed at Sis. Dalton's talk about fathers and daughters, that it felt like it was just re-doing the father as "patriarch" who "presides" in the home, and suggested that women's identity is reliant on a good man loving her. His response was, "that's not what she was saying," to which I responded, "I'm not going to defend myself. My interpretation is just as valid as yours." It's very easy for me to feel wrong when confronted with different interpretations In LDS situations. But reading a recent article, has made me want to change that. Just because people are dismissive or scared of what I am saying that does not mean that my emotional or intellectual reaction is invalid. Mormons are taught to listen to authority, that our personal revelation won't conflict with authority and if it does it is wrong. On top of that, women are told that their nature is passive, selfless, submission. Women who conform and give up their voices are honored and set up as examples. Even though I know I'm smart and speak my mind, I still feel as though my beliefs don't carry as much weight as those of the people around me. Telling my husband that my interpretation was as valid as his was a step forward. I'm done backing down just because people don't like what I say.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Religion Should Not be an Excuse

A few weeks ago I was talking to my dad about my problems with the patriarchy in the church. I've seen the priesthood and " men are the head of the house" used to demean and damage women. Any system that gives power to one group of people and not to another creates a situation where power can be misused in horrible ways. In expressing this to my dad, who was born and raised in the church, is a strong member, and one of the kindest and most generous people I know, he said that people will hurt each other regardless of the patriarchy in the church, so the church isn't responsible for how men in the church misuse power. The church preaches against abuse, so the fact that it gives men power is irrelevant. I couldn't frame a logical argument against that at the time, even though it felt wrong. Last night as I was falling asleep I found my argument, which is that religion should not give people an excuse to damage others.

Religions are all based on a concept of divinity. Most contain teachings on love and compassion. (See Towards a True Kinship of Faiths by the Dalai Lama.) Mormonism teaches that everyone is a child of God, and claims to be God's true church on the earth. And yet it puts women in a subordinate position to men, strictly defining what is and is not acceptable for women to do, calls homosexuals sinners, and on and on. So it preaches love, equality and kindness, but creates situations where abuse, hatred and cruelty can exist and be supported by church doctrine. There is no excuse for a religion, a system connected with Divinity, with a higher plane of understanding and existence, should be giving someone an excuse to damage others.

There is a quote from She Who Is by Elizabeth Johnson, "because God's glory is humanity...because God is the creator, redeemer, lover of the world, God's own honor is at stake in human happiness. Whenever human beings are violated, diminished or have their life drained away, God's glory is dimmed and dishonored. Whenever human beings are quickened to fuller and richer, God's glory is enhanced." a system based on the idea of humanity's divine creation, which Mormonism is, should not intentionally give power to one group at the expense of others. People will misuse power, and there are numerous social and political situations that create differences in power, which lead to abusive relationships. But religions should not add to this problem; their very nature should prohibit that. The fact that people will not misuse power does not mean that religions should add to that problem.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My Mormon Identity

Joanna Brooks has talked a lot about claiming Mormon identity (two examples here and here.) She believes anyone who wants to call themselves Mormon has a right to, even if they don't fit other's definitions. As a Mormon feminist and intellectual, she believes she has a lot to offer even if her experiences and beliefs are outside the realm of traditional Mormonism. She says That we can claim Mormonism based on belief, heritage, community, etc. We have the right to call ourselves Mormon; no one can give or take that definition.

I've been struggling with guilt over not being a good Mormon. Even though I don't believe in most Mormon teachings anymore, I've been raised to think about being a Mormon woman in a certain way and feel guilty for not fitting it. I've been allowing others to define my Mormonism. I've decided to change that. Mormonism is a large part of my life, and has shaped my life in major ways. And more importantly, no one has the right to define my Mormonism other then myself. Claiming or relinquishing a Mormon definition is my own choice, not anyone else's.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I was listening to an episode of Mormon Stories podcast; the episode itself was about improving your sex life, but I got something different out of it. They discussed that many couples feel that they are entirely responsible for their partner's happiness, and make their partner entirely responsible for their happiness. We are often taught in the Mormon church that there is nothing more fulfilling than getting married (except having kids), that nothing will make us happier. So we place all our expectations of happiness and fulfillment onto one person, and take on the job of single-handedly making them happy and fulfilled. When you think about it, this is a pretty unreasonable expectation. We spend our whole lives surrounding ourselves with different kinds of people. We have friends we go party with, friends we vent to, friends we go to in a crisis, friends we shar a certain interest with, etc., etc. We find different kinds of fulfillment with different people. Granted, many of us have a best friend, the role a spouse eventually fills, that fulfills us in many ways. But not in every way. Most people instinctively know which friends to go to for what, and what each person can and can't handle. But often that all goes out the window when we marry or start a long-term commited relationship and expect our partner to be everything, always.

I don't think I expect K to fill all my needs. I have friends I vent to and friends I go out and do things with that he doesn't want to do. I've noticed that I do, however, make myself utterly responsible for his happiness. If he's upset by something at school or work, I take on his anxiety. Often I get more upset than he is because it's my job to make him happy and I can't fix what's upsetting him. Every little problem he has becomes the end of the world in my mind. Granted, wanting your partner to be happy and trying to make them happy is a good thing, but making yourself responsible for their happiness and blaming yourself for their unhappiness is not a good thing. But I picked up the idea somewhere that his happiness and unhappiness is my responsibility and I've internalized that.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Self-defining in the Negative

I'm reading No Excuses : 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power by Gloria Feldt. In the third chapter she talks about how women often deny their own power, intelligence, abilities, etc. We often define ourselves by what we aren't, by why we aren't good enough rather than what we have and who we are. There is quote from Marie Cocco that says, "when Cheerios advertise, the don't say, 'Of, I'm not cornflakes,' do they?" as silly as that analogy is, it rings true. So much of my guilt comes from defining myself by what I am not, based on some random cultural/religious expectations that I dion't even like. I'm not domestic,  don't have kids, I don't want kids. Even when I do define what I am, I often feel I should be ashamed of or apologize for being that way. I'm ambitious, independent, passionate, outspoken, and I shouldn't be.

Cocco attributes women's negative self-definition to the fact that for generations women have been powerless, have been defined by outsiders, and there work has been ignored or mocked. Part of the feminine wound is to not feel good enough, and to feel as though how we define ourselves comes from an external source. As a Mormon, my role as a women has been defined by men or women who buy in to the male party line. The male leaders of the church are constantly telling women how important they are, but only within the confines of the traditional self-sacrificing wife/mother/homemaker role, and the largely unacknowledged service in the church. We are defined as nurturing, sacrificing, self-effacing women who put aside all needs and wants for family, who don't want power or recognition, and who obediently follow the men in their lives. The only other definitions offered are the single or childless woman who serves selflessly in the church until a man comes along, or the feminist who is one of three enemies of the church, along with intellectuals and homosexuals. Even education is set up only as a means to support yourself or family if absolutely necessary. With all that swirling around every Sunday for most of my life, maybe it's no wonder I have guilt issues.

So, what to do this problem? Step one would be to acknowledge my right and ability to define myself, and to use it. One my better days I like my passionate, intelligent, outspoken self, and use those things in causes I feel are important. Often I feel guilty after the fact, and guilt can stop me from moving as far foresees as I want to. Hopefully awareness of this can help me move even with the guilt and eventually get rid of it.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Why I created this blog...

In Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Sue Monk Kidd talks about a feminine wound, or the damage done to women by social and religious expectations. I read the book two years ago, and that idea has stuck with me. Despite my non-traditional parents, and a husband who does not hold any gender expectations as far as our relationship goes ( or at all as far as I can tell) I find myself trying to fill certain gender expectations, or feeling guilty if I don't. This blog is an attempt to recognize and change these feelings in my life.

I grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon church. The Mormons are a conservative Protestant sect with very strong traditional gender expectations, i.e. husband as provider and head of the household and wife as homemaker. These roles have never appealed to me, and have no bearing on my life at the moment. I'm working full time while my husband goes to school and works part time. Whoever is home and has time does the domestic chores, or we do them together. This is following the example my parents set growing up. My husband has never made me feel like he expected me to do or not do something based on his expectations or whims. despite all this, I find myself feeling guilty for not meeting the expectations I have been told I should be filling. The following is an example of this, and the catalyst for this blog.

A few days ago, I went to a storytelling performance with a couple of friends. My husband was at work, so I left him a note so he would know where I was and not worry. It was a fun performance, and I was scoping out the space for a play I want to direct. But the entire night I felt guilty for not being home when K got home. I was worried he'd be mad ( which has never happened), and I felt like I was falling down on the job by not being home waiting for him. It was really hard to enjoy the performance because of how I felt.

I have no idea where I picked up the idea that a wife should always be at home waiting for her husband, I didn't get it from my husband or parents. And I don't feel bad when I'm at school or work and get home after him. But when I'm out having fun, I feel guilty, as though my fun shouldn't deprive him of my being home. I realized this that night, and how insane it was to feel that way. I also realized things like this happen to me a lot. So this is my attempt to document and deal with these feelings, to give myself permission to use the freedom I have.