Sunday, September 14, 2014

Why I Speak

On Sunday it *may* have been the last fast sunday in my current ward. Since mormon open mic day is one of the few ways my voice and testimony is heard, you may see my face up there about 50% of the time (this was the first time I was never asked to speak in a ward I lived in).

I bore my testimony about telling the story of how I hate scratching backs. It's just really annoying to me. But my husband loves it and often asks for a back scratch, esp cuz I have killer nails. So I scratch his back and do something I don't want to do because I love him, because I want to show my love for him.  Similarly sometimes the church "experience" is hard for me and other people, whether they be LGBT, single, divorced, etc. Even my mom said it was difficult to go back to church after my younger sister died. And even though it's hard, I show up because I love my Savior. I want to show my love for him.

For the rest of the meeting I felt there were topics covered that could have been considered rebuttals: ie if you just read your scriptures you won't be confused, just obey and don't have questions and you'll always be safe, etc.  I felt like there were similar rebuttals given after I was on the front pg of the Rexburg paper for wearing pants to church.  There was a definite uptick in the number of topics of "obedience is the first law of heaven" and "don't have any questions" in church talks after that.  Now whether any of these have any correlation or causation is anyone's guess.  I guess whether they are or not is beside the point. 

The point is, is that it is hard to speak.  It's hard to be a minority opinion.  It's hard to disagree with a majority and know that you are doing good in this world when they see you as wrong and harmful.  A few weeks ago I asked for comments to be submitted from readers if they felt me sharing my story had helped them at all.  (1) reading these definitely helped me because I'm going through a "tired" period right now and (2) hopefully those who disagree with me can see I can still do good in a different way then they can.  We're all just here building the kingdom in our own ways y'all:

You have helped me see that it's okay to ask questions. It's okay not to know the answers. Mostly, though, you've showed me what it is to love. Even in the face of open hostility, which is something I greatly admire. I think we need more open thought, discussion, inclusion, & yes -LOVE (the very kind Christ himself espoused in sermon after sermon). I am thankful for your thoughtful discussion, insightful study, and Christlike spirit of love towards matter their reaction to you (which can be hard, I admit). You've also made it possible for me to see that we don't have to agree to talk & then still be friends. :) The world needs more of that. The world needs more Kristine!

Hi Kristine! I for one do not want you to stop blogging or speaking out. Venturing into this world of Mormon Feminism has been scary and downright lonely at times. I have found a kindred spirit in you, and I appreciate that I can reach out to you across the internets when I'm feeling isolated in my own ward. I especially appreciate your experience with your Bishop that you shared on BCC. It gave me hope that someday I can talk with my priesthood leaders without fear of punishment. I'm really struggling with this fear in the Kate Kelly excommunication aftermath. Should I speak out about inequalities that I believe are so hurtful to our youth? Or is the risk of rejection from my family or the risk of punishment from my ward too great? Keep writing. Keep thinking. Keep feeling. I like having you around.  -Elaine

Just having a friend who is MoFem helps me. Knowing that you struggle with the same sorts of questions but find a way to make it work helps me keep going. Your blog has led me to articles that have helped me articulate my feelings on feminism as it applies to churchy things. 

Over the last few years it has been such a relief to find an entire community of like minded people when it relates to the gospel/church. I've always struggled with some of the positions the church has taken on topics such as gay marriage and women's issues. Contrary to the beliefs that more "liberal" blogs like these cause people to stray, I have found my testimony to be strengthened. Knowing that there are others with the same concerns as me who have managed to maintain a positive relationship with the church, hold a calling and stay active in the temple gives me hope. It shows me that there is room for me in the church. I completely believe, as you said Kristine, that there is more than one way to be a Mormon, and that it's important to have every kind of Mormon in our congregation. I am grateful for your words, and even more grateful for your courage. I know that what you do is not easy and has caused pain, but I have definitely been strengthened by your words, especially since they are filled with so much love.  -Teresa

I have really enjoyed your blog. I was randomly googling a few months back and found this site. It has definitely made me feel less alone. I only wish you blogged more often! I was excited to see your post on By Common Consent and have since enjoyed your "Kristine A" comments on different sites.  To further encourage you (or maybe freak you out a little), you have even become a household name in our home. When talking about my online reading with my husband, I describe you as "my Kristine" and the Dialogue editor Kristine as "the other Kristine". We have both cheered "my Kristine" on as you have bravely asked important questions and exposed yourself to criticism. Go Kristine go!  On another note, you also helped me discover Rachel Held Evans, whom I now love. So thank you for everything and keep up the great work!

I've enjoyed your writing, both here and in comments on all the blogs. Sometimes I need to hear someone being calm and reasonable instead of only angry about the deficiencies in the church. I can do angry on my own very well! So it helps me to have people who can discuss issues without bringing in all the hate we're seeing too often in the blogosphere. I'm not as moderate as you seem to be, but I love discussions where we can all look at each other's ideas respectfully.

Your blogging has helped me! I have had similar feelings in and about church for a long time. I just felt like I was the only one, which shows me there are probably many who feel this way. I have felt a connection to everything you have written about. I've been through too much in my life to not have shaped some of my views. Sometimes I think the people with the 'Let it go' sentimentality have simply never experienced much of life outside their bubble.

So I love reading your blog because you ask the right questions and you are looking for answers in the right places, like through prayer and contemplation. You rationally try to see both sides of the issue. You give me hope that one day I will have the courage to actually tell people my true inner thoughts when the difficult subject of feminism comes up in conversation.

Although I can't say that I've really been struggling in the time that I've known you and been reading your blog, I know that I have been inspired and intrigued by many of the ideas you've shared and discussions you've started. I remember when we first became friends on Facebook I felt very defensive about some of the negative comments that were being made to you and about you -- I felt defensive about someone I had never even met! I believe that the main reason for that (besides generally not wanting people to be hurt) is that I could sense your goodness and sincerity right from the start. I'm so glad you're you and you're here, on the internet, so that our friendship can keep growing even from a distance. -Lindsay

Kristine, you have helped me to see the importance of communicating with clarity, effectiveness and

compassion. I know that this is a weak spot for me so I have become determined to improve. You have shown me that we can disagree without being disagreeable. Thank you for your example, I truly appreciate it. Our friendship means a lot to me. -Annette

Saturday, September 13, 2014

I'm tired, too

I feel like I'm just tired. I'm a little battered and bruised. No matter how much time I take off to recuperate from being on the front lines in mormon feminism (in my own way), I get bruised by misogynistic, sexist attitudes in american culture (FYI #Condi4Commish).  So I come back to the mormon community, and no matter how much we try to share that we think modesty will sink deep into our daughters' hearts if we teach the doctrine instead of application via hemlines; we still get that blasted harmful, inaccurate Jessica Rey video repeated in our newsfeeds and hundreds of white shirted young men telling us they NEED our modesty or trendy-wannabe-viral bloggers begging us to consider their husbands! The general response for my plea for doctrine based teachings is, "I can't believe those feminists don't believe in modesty!"

No matter how much I share about the things I have questions about, or that I would like you to try to walk in our pink moccasins (this even applies to women who disagree with my questions, read that plz); nothing ever changes.  Well one thing has changed. We're getting more pep talks! ZD blog has a great post that went up this week, Tired of Pep Talks, Zelophehad's Daughters:
For the last 5 years or so, I think we have seen a definite uptick in the number of pep talks us LDS women have been getting. We’ve been told how incredible (!) we are. How needed we are. How moral we are. How important we are. And it seems to me we can’t go even one General Conference (not to mention a single Sunday) without being told how equal we are 10 times. It is clearly a priority that we be buttered up.
Hoo-rah, sis-boom-bah, goooooo WOMEN! (My mom was a Rigby Trojan Pep Team Girl, in case you're wondering where my mad cheer skilz come from) You know I do think this church values women. It cherishes them. Holds them near and dear.  But there is only so long I can listen to people talking AT me telling me how incredible I am in one sentence and in the next to make sure I don't talk too much in meetings.  Part of the reason I can't just let this slide as the jovial harmless joke of an octogenarian is the paragraph he wrote in last month's ensign:

So Elder Ballard has shown a pattern of consistently saying: women speak up, we need your voice, but ONLY in an advisory capacity.  We are decision makers and we will decide if and when to listen and encourage your participation when we choose to and then we make the decisions.  That was what his joke was about. If men and women really ARE different, our thoughts and experiences and perceptions are different and should be considered as equally as the next.  (remember, I am not an advocate for female ordination. this issue could be remedied in a number of ways).  Men and Women are different.  And we can't have one in an appendage/advisory role without one gender's perception carrying more weight.

So there are women out there like me saying, "um I love this restaurant but I think there's a fly in my soup!"  And the response we get is, "God's purpose is for you to have that fly in your soup.  And oh, by the way women are the best customers at this establishment and we couldn't exist without you!  You play a special equal role in the running of this restaurant, and you are INCREDIBLE!"

Back to the ZD blog:
What I personally don’t think the church office building is aware of is how ineffective their pep talks are to the people they are trying to pep talk– the people who see problems and inequalities. They have a very effective echo chamber up there. Consider the time the church PR counseled with the women behind Mormon Women Stand to “discuss” women’s issues. I picture the PR team asking in concerned voices “Does the new book about women and the priesthood by Sheri Dew alleviate your concerns?! What about our talks in General Conference? Did they make you feel equal?!” Of course those women said yes, they were fine and felt totally equal and we can prove it by putting quotes about womanhood on pastel chevron backgrounds. They are a group that already agreed 100% with the status quo. They didn’t represent those that leave. 

So here’s my point: the clip of Elder Ballard is an absolutely perfect example of the problem. And I hope that church leadership watches it a lot and realizes that all the pep talks have got to stop as long as the follow up message to them is going to be *but not THAT equal!
Amen, amen, and amen.