Thursday, March 20, 2014

OW & Gender, Part 2: Why I Disagree With Ordain Women

ORDAIN WOMEN

First of all, if you haven't yet, please go read Ordain Women's FAQ page and a handful of their profiles.  Now, whether you agree with these men and women or not, please acknowledge their bravery and courage for taking the risk of putting a profile up.  The consequences these faithful members face is real in their lives.....wowza, right?  Looking at those profiles, I am filled with a confirmation that these are my brothers and sisters sitting next to me in the pews and holding callings with me and leading and loving my children in their callings, etc.  I don't want them to leave!!

One of the reasons I am not an OW member is because I look around and see easy changes that could be made in the church organization via policy changes, I enumerated on some in my first blog post:  equal funding and structure of boys/girls programs, an improved conversation regarding modesty and sexuality in the Church, female representation on decision-making boards in the Church, eliminate gender restrictions on callings that have nothing to do with priesthood rituals: stake auditor, Sunday School presidency, etc.  These are specific issues that are important to me based on my life experiences as a Relief Society and Primary President and as an accountant.  Other women have other issues that are important to them.  To me these things seem like obvious, low-hanging fruit that may take years to change and have NOTHING to do with priesthood ordination, but if no one says anything about them, nothing will continue to be done.

For example, in Elizabeth Smart's advocacy for human trafficking and sexual abuse, "Smart said she "felt so dirty and so filthy" after she was raped by her captor, and she understands why someone wouldn't run because of that alone.  I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.' And that's how easy it is to feel like you know longer have worth, you know longer have value."  She was referring to the abstinence only object lessons she received in the church (no one wants a licked cupcake, chewed up piece of gum, manhandled flower bud, or any other really poor, awful, objectifying things that equate a woman's value with her virginity).  Many people criticized her for publicly criticizing lessons she received in Church about her abstinence-only education that caused her harm.  But listen, if no one ever stands up and publicly talks about how "chewed up piece of gum" is a bad, harmful way to teach chastity -- we are still going to get people teaching those lessons. 

How Ordain Women sees things is this:  for decades Mormon feminists have been asking for the low-hanging fruit.  And they've been punished and excommunicated and marginalized for publicly advocating for things like: women praying in general conference.  So Mormon feminists can continue to just talk amongst each other -- but nothing will ever change until women are actually in a position to enact the changes.  They also reason that the MoFem community is alive and well on the internets, but if all we do is just talk on the internets nothing will happen - the Church has shown that they can easily ignore FeministMormonHousewives.org and let them have a community where the complain and explain and listen to others mansplain (ha!) and not really acknowledge their existence.  But the internet created tools of advocacy too, in the case of petitioning the Church for an official policy on menstruating women and Baptisms for the Dead (policies were all over the place and haphazardly enforced to the detriment of many women) or to the action of "Let Women Pray."  (How Social Media Revitalized and Enlarged a Movement, www.academia.edu).  Because of the historical precedent established between Mormon feminists and the church organization, Ordain Women strongly believes ordination is the only answer to solving many issues.  What they see is the Church becoming more like Zion.  They sincerely have this belief that it is the only way to move forward, I do not agree with them.  The public affairs letter referred to their end goal as non-negotiable, I think the Church would be surprised how many OW would go along with an alternate solution revealed from God.  And I disagree with the Public Affairs letter that since they have a certain opinion on the way forward, that their voice is damaging to the discussion (and shouldn't be listened to).  ALL voices should be a part of the discussion, yes even these OW ladies. 

TONE AND ACTION

Kate Kelly is the founder of Ordain Women, and I have found her to be a little rough around the edges.  I have seen her easily dismiss opposing opinions and not conduct herself in a . . . well, a way that we teach our women they should act, she's a bit brassy :-)   If I think about it I'm not surprised, a woman with enough chutzpah to start this thing has got to be filled with so much passion and determination and fearlessness that she's probably the only type of woman who could have done such a thing.  Kelly is a human rights lawyer, and she observed that when working towards rights that in Africa, action received a response.  When women had a peaceful protest and quietly asked for a right which they were due -- they ended up being handcuffed and dragged away.  But the thing that began changing minds is that the men having to drag these women away were now their friends, neighbors, and family members looking them in the eyes and seeing their pain: and they could no longer ignore those feelings, they had to be addressed.  So Kate comes from a political activist background which I believe frames what she does and the words she uses (ie Equality, more on that later).

There are many members of the Church who support women's ordination (many, many of them male) who are not members of OW.  They don't agree with how she does things either or how she responds to their suggestions or correction or criticism.   Most people who are in this camp also disagree with the actions the group takes.  For example, the peaceful "action" being held during Priesthood Meeting is a point of a lot disagreement.  I do not believe it is the best foot forward, but I can empathize with them and their pain -- and I do see OW as a group that needs to be included in conversations about women's issues.

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