Sunday, August 31, 2014

Book Review: Women at Church by Neylan McBaine

Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact
Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact by Neylan McBaine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not most mormon feminists' favorite book. You may think with how I've been promoting the things Neylan has been saying lately that she is my favorite person and that her views match mine. They don't. She may understand and empathize with my position, but she is decidedly traditional and conservative in maintaining gendered spaces and continued complimentarianism within the LDS Church. There are definitely some pages and sections that I was uncomfortable with and are not my favorite; so take heart, ye non-mormon-feminists, there shall likely be much you like herein.

The book's basic premise is this:

1) the policies and structure of the Church will not change anytime soon
2) there is currently a group of women struggling with the status quo
3) why you should care about them, why are they struggling?
4) do our practices match our doctrines?
5) why shouldn't we make small changes that would help women who are struggling? what can we do locally to improve church experiences?

My basic conclusion is this: Neylan wrote a whole book without using the word "feminist." She wants to be able to have a conversation about women in the church without triggering haterz. She's not on my same page but she gets me. I can handle that. I don't think most people in my sphere of influence "get me." I consider her on the middle of a bridge between Mormon feminists and True Believing (never having doubts) Mormons (She was given FAIR Mormon's Award of Excellence 2014). The past few years have been an attempt at these two groups talking at and past each other. There has been very little listening or willingness for either side to make concessions (seemingly, I know I'm oversimplifying, but bear with me). Here is someone who is asking both sides to just listen. Slow down first, and listen.

Some of Neylan's small changes she suggests local wards/stakes might implement include: providing equivalent opportunities for youth, allowing YW to have a female companion in bishops interviews, preparing YW for church service, reviewing the rhetoric of how we praise women in general (instead of individuals), empowering female leaders with appropriate titles, using female sources of doctrine, improve how men speak at and to women, and providing more service/relief opportunities. Each of these can be done without any directives from SLC.

I appreciate how she continually points out that to orthodox members, why wouldn't we want outsiders and even our own "currently investigating" young women to see improved optics? It would only help in the long run, right?

I'm a moderate Mormon feminist who advocates for changes via baby steps. If I had my druthers my top 3 immediate changes would be to:

1) equalize structure and funding of youth programs (activity days)
2) replace all "mother/wife/woman" day worship with RS study and teachings of Christ (ie don't celebrate mother's day at church but use it to speak abt Eliza R Snow, or stories of female disciples during Christ's time, or just Him); in addition have Teachings of the Prophetess Eliza R. Snow for a RS/PH manual
3) recognize not all our daughters/sisters/YW will be wives or mothers, and structure our lessons and programs to focus on discipleship in whatever form it may take, without valuing one type of discipleship more than another

I suppose I could fit all of these changes into her categories, but my desired changes require change from the top down. The opposite direction Neylan suggests, she uses as her "muse" church member and Harvard professor Clayton Christensen's "disruptive innovation" theory that in large bureaucratic institutions, needed change often happens from the ground up. As frustrating as it is to acknowledge I don't see any of my first 3 desired changes coming any time soon - the only option I have left is following the pattern of #womenatchruch.

1) use this book to have uplifting and constructive conversations with friends, family, ward members, local leaders
2) do what you can, then let it go

I fear this is my only option. Yet it still gives me hope.

Further info:
By Common Consent Book Review
The Problem with Local Change, by Julie Smith
Forget Phood, some MoFems seek a middle way

View all my reviews

Monday, August 18, 2014

Beauty Redefine Your Life (or Mirror)

I'm back :)

One morning as I was getting ready for church I was in front of my mirror doing my makeup and my daughter comes in and says, "Ugh, mom!  You are already beautiful without all that stuff!  You don't need to impress anyone!"  This mofem mom was thoroughly rebuked, and it took a minute for me to recycle my thoughts and let her know that even though I know that, it's also okay for us to make a choice to put a little makeup on if we feel like it (as long as our worth isn't attached to our compliments and outward appearance).

So my little 9 yo gets this sassy (empowered) attitude from these beauties I have posted in our bathroom and on our microwave:

 I have been following Beauty Redefined for about a year now.  I'm assuming (and HOPING) if you've been following any of the discourse on modesty and body image you will have already heard of them.  From their website:

We are Lindsay Kite and Lexie Kite, 28-year-old identical twin sisters with PhDs in the study of media and body image from the University of Utah (’13). We have a passion for helping girls and women recognize and reject harmful messages about their bodies and what “beauty” means and looks like. Beauty Redefined represents our not-for-profit work through the Beauty Redefined Foundation (501(c)(3)) to take back beauty for girls and women everywhere through continuing the discussion about body image, women’s potential and media influence through this website, our Facebook page and most prominently through regular speaking engagements in both secular and religious settings, from universities and high schools to professional conferences and church congregations for all ages.
 These two mormon ladies are changing the world, I follow them on twitter and their ideas are catching on in a much wider range than our limited mormon sphere.  One thing they have available for sale on their website (proceeds benefiting their 501(c)3) are these:
 STICKY NOTES!  Last year I bought a pack and haven't used any more than the two sets I have up in my house.  I've thought about driving around to all the church buildings in my stake on Sunday and putting them in the women's bathroom mirrors - but I can't bring myself to do it knowing that the Saturday cleaners are going to trash them and there goes my $20.  But I have found power in displaying them in my home!!  You can buy a pack of all four kinds for $20 (on sale right now for $16!). 

Anyways, they do work, and I encourage you to read more of their work - it would be my highest wish that they gave 'body image' training and developed a video that every leader and teacher in the church had to read and internalize.