People commented?

Well hello there Kadi and Lindsay. You may have just opened a can of worms…

Kadi said:
“Having experienced this for myself firsthand, here’s my suggestion for finding a purpose… pick something. You are no longer accountable to professors or bosses – you are your own boss. Write down goals for your hobby, side job, morning, etc. … So pick something.”

Kadi, that’s exactly my point: homebodies* are constantly on the search for a purpose. It’s a great victory (and relief) to find that SOMETHING to do — to make meals for RS members, to find that project on pinterest, to be busy. That incessant attempt to fill the empty days with something of purpose…it’s not right. I’ll address this later in the post. And let me be crystal clear: I’M NOT ATTACKING HOUSEWIVES; I am attacking the system.

Which brings me to Lindsay’s comment:
“Here’s my question for you: You say, “without being given Responsibility, those are just some very big, very empty, words.” Who gives or is supposed to give this Responsibility to women?”

Trust YOU to nail down on what I was trying to be so tidily vague about. There’s a cycle I’ve witnessed these last few years in Utah — the ferris wheel of women’s self-worth. We go up and we go down, and we seemingly have no control over it. But we** do realize that, regardless of where we are on the ferris wheel, about every six months, we’re suddenly on top of the world. Why? Well, because God’s spokesman told us we are important. “You are so important!” [they] say. “You are needed, and special, and God’s greatest creation. You are so valuable!”

Go with me on a tangent. Last night I watched a western called “The Magnificent Seven.”(Mexican community begs the help of American gunmen to save their village from marauders.) As I watched this movie with my (mexican) father, a little ball of anger grew and hardened in my chest. Why?? That subliminal racism! (not to mention that sickening nationalism!) Don’t see it yet? Let’s turn the tables around: Suddenly it’s Mexican gunmen saving the desperate white, American farmers.

Have we found the next box-office hit?? I don’t think so.

[I need a disclaimer before I we go further in this discussion: It is not my intention to offend anyone. I only want to share, in a free-thinking conversation, how I feel. No hidden attack here.]

I’ve heard dozens and dozens of Conference talks directed to women — pep-talks, I call I them. They build women’s spirits and make us feel so important! But, we’ve grown dependent; Relief Society General Meetings have become a collective group of drug-users staring red-eyed for the next big hit (I believe “Forget Me Not” was this year’s). Someone lights the match, we women all breathe in, and suddenly our “high” equates to communing with diety. (Something to think about: Christ didn’t spend His time on earth telling everyone how “special” they were. )

That effect is what we LDSers try to achieve whenever there is a gathering of women (and if we reach it, SUCCESS!). But, we’re just putting the bandaid on the bullet-wound — stops the bleeding, by there’s no eradication of the real problem.

But the men…where is their constant stream of pep-talk? Humor me and do a little activity and turn the tables. Listen to a General RS Broadcast talk, and picture it as if it was being given to a group of … men.

[waiting for you to do it….]

Whoa — jarring much? (If you’re not jarred, that’s another issue entirely.) Think about it. Come to your own conclusions.

So, Lindsay, back to the issue at hand. Responsibility. Women are constantly told about their own importance and value… But have you noticed? Nothing has changed. Nothing in this great, God-led community has actually created a lasting change in the collective of women’s self-worth. Why? Because we’re just a bunch of yellow wall-paperers. Pat ’em on the head, lay ’em in the bed … and keep telling them how special they are.

I don’t blame the men. Or the women. Or the community. I don’t blame anyone. I just don’t like the way things are.

Men, collectively, don’t need the pep talks. Why would they? You KNOW you’re trusted when you are asked to pilot the plane. The words “I trust/love/value you” are superfluous at the point.

So my beef, Lindsay, is that women are not at the point. Those words SHOULD be superfluous — but no matter the fact that our wombs act as little carrier planes — those words are still the fuel our smiles run on.

Well, I still managed to be vague, didn’t I? Eh. This new religious stance of mine is like wearing a new pair of running shoes — no matter how perfectly they fit, blisters are inevitable, so I’m going to tread lightly.

But in the meantime, where are the holes in my reasoning? If I’m going to believe something (again), then it needs to be Right. And, besides, I need something to mull over this holiday season…

*separate and distinct from: housewives
**I say “we” only for the sake of rhetoric

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4 responses to “People commented?

  • Sabrina

    What do you mean exactly by “this new religious stance of mine”?

    I’m really not jarred by visual of the pep talk. Here’s one given to the men from last month: http://lds.org/general-conference/2011/10/the-power-of-the-aaronic-priesthood?lang=eng. It’s in the priesthood session, and they usually do receive “pep talks” though perhaps men don’t analyze them as such, as much as women might. Don’t you think that women might need a different approach than men? Any smart communicator knows the audience and speaks to their needs and desires.

    I’ve seen them do both things – pep talks and repent talks. If you remember a few years back, Sister Beck gave a talk where she said in essence, Sisters you are good and do a lot, but there is more you need to do and be. And the Mormon feminists threw back their heads and howled. Articles were written, petitions signed to have her removed from office. It was a big deal. It’s like the scripture in Mormon 9 – “I am laboring with them continually; and when I speak the word of God with sharpness they tremble and anger against me; and when I use no sharpness they harden their hearts against it.” Are you bothered more by the talks or by the members’ reactions?

    “That incessant attempt to fill the empty days with something of purpose…it’s not right.” Anyone can do that, whether they’re at home or at work. Sometimes wish I had an empty day. 🙂 The demands have changed from being an accountant to being a mom, but I have felt hollow and empty in both places. It’s more of an internal thing, not external. Do you see yourself without purpose? Do you see other women as being without purpose if they’re at home?

    So, from all of what you said, is this your big issue: “Women are constantly told about their own importance and value… But have you noticed? Nothing has changed. Nothing in this great, God-led community has actually created a lasting change in the collective of women’s self-worth.”? Are you saying that you feel like you/women are not important and valued? because men have the priesthood and we don’t? I’m really just curious about what is behind all the vague-ness you keep alluding to.

    PS – I miss you. 🙂

  • podpeas

    Hi Sabrina. I’m so glad you responded! If there’s one person to go to about General Conference talks, it is you.

    Yes, the speakers do to both things (build up and call to repentance) to both people (men and women)…but both SPEAKERS don’t. Men and women tell women how good of a job women are doing … ok, that’s fine. Except it’s not reciprocated. I have only ONCE seen a conference talk where a women told men how special they are, and it was intended to be humorous. Why? Why humorous?

    Thinking about THAT moment in that talk (maybe you know it?) led to this whole train of thought.

    And, it’s interesting … both you and Kadi (who commented on my last post) have seemed to question how I feel about my OWN value. (With questions such as: “Do you see yourself without purpose?” “Are you saying that you feel like you/women are not important and valued?”) I sat back in my seat, both times, puzzled and introspective. No…no. I’m not questioning the system with the intent to find value and purpose for myself. I’m questioning it simply because it raises questions.

    And, I miss you too.

  • llcall

    Picking apart your reasoning from a couple of blog posts would definitely be impossible — I spent the last year in Provo attending a monthly Mormon feminist book group, so I know discussions about these issues can take days/months/years. I can only speak for myself and my experience, but since you’re looking for some food for thought, you might like to mull it over.

    I agree with Sabrina that men and women probably do require different communication styles. When we look at relationship research, women and men tend to have some differences (whether these are inherent or socially constructed is too long a question to delve into right now) in how they perceive and act in their relationships. One relevant example here is that women tend to be more “striving” — i.e. how can my relationship improve? what could I be doing better? should we go to counseling to work on our issues? I have seen this in countless relationships in my personal life, many of the students I taught in marriage enhancement and it bears out in much research. I believe this often applies in a religious context as well: women are “striving” so hard, it might be a huge kick to continually hear, Nope, you need to try harder (but as Sabrina pointed out that does happen). As far as the issue of women and men giving pep-talks to women, but only men giving them to men, well, the reason seems pretty apparent: we have a male-only priesthood, they make up the majority of the speakers in General Conference and so women seldom speak directly to men at all. You say you’re not blaming ___ but unless I’m misreading you, it sounds like you are struggling with the male-only priesthood concept. I’ve definitely been there before — I had kind of radical teens and early twenties. Ultimately, some spiritual experiences confirmed to me that the LDS Church was the place I wanted to stay, and so I’ve put certain issues on the metaphoric shelf, to mull over from time to time, but not have them dominate my life or thinking. Everyone has to make their own choice about whether they can or want to do that.

    I’ll tell you though, two of my biggest frustrations with a few of the Mormon feminists I’ve encountered over the last several years is 1) how much they are seeking external validation for their ideas and choices. They hear about some of my choices or some of the “unorthodox” things about my marriage, etc. and they want to know how can I do X when nobody else does that. Or when some of my choices seem like something an orthodox member of the church wouldn’t do, etc. Or they ask if I get shunned for certain ideas and opinions… I have had to learn (and be told, over many book club meetings) that somehow I was blessed with an (over)abundance of self-esteem/worth that helps me to do whatever it is I feel is right for me even when it clashes with my family, or the external world or my religious community. I mean, I have a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and that the LDS Church is the place to learn that true gospel, so I obviously think it’s a good place to be, but sometimes I just want to shake some of these friends and say, “Then just leave the church — for heaven’s sake, do something! Do something to chart a course in your life that feels right to you!” because many of them want someone, anyone to tell them that their feelings and choices are okay. And at times, that feels so frustratingly passive to me.

    The second frustration, and I would take some issue with you on this point, is how some people characterize other LDS women. You call them “yellow-wallpaperers” or “drug-users,” but I don’t think just because a woman wants a “traditional” family life or likes Conference pep-talks makes her unthinking or dependent or less worthwhile, which feels like the ultimate implication. One of my best friends is pretty much my polar opposite…we honestly have very little in common. She told me before she got married (I still hope she was joking :)) that she wanted to be dominated by a man. She doesn’t question things like I do or think about them in the same ways, but she has taught me a lot about exercising faith. And she has been a great friend in hard times. She goes about her very traditional marriage with two kids (hoping for more) and she enjoys it and doesn’t think too much about it. And in her spare time, she battles a brain tumor with a lot of grace. It takes some crazy strength to keep moving forward each day and not let yourself dwell on the fact that you might not live to see your kids reach age 5. The point of that story is just that all women are different, and come with different strengths, weaknesses, inclinations, modes of inquiry (or satisfied lack of inquiry) and it’s hard to see LDS women painted with such a broad brush.

    Still, I enjoy reading what you write. I like to see people grappling with important topics like you are.

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