Showing posts with label Feminism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Feminism. Show all posts

The F Word

I'm an elder millennial and I've been in LDS/Mormon online spaces since I was a teenager. Since 2007. Sixteen years. That's almost as long as some of you have been alive. And there's something I've never talked about before that I want to explain to those of you who need to hear it. And you need to stick around for THE WHOLE THING not to misunderstand what I'm going to say.

The vast majority of you end up okay. You'll make it. You'll figure out your happiness and embrace it fully, and it'll all work out. You'll be okay. I care about you all tremendously, but I've seen your stories play out enough times that I know how it ends. If we can keep you from yeeting off the mortal coil prematurely, you'll be just fine.

There is one group this isn't true for. They're the ones I worry about the most every time I see them: the trad wife cohort. The women who have already decided that their only plan for their future is to get married, have an undetermined number of children, and leave everything after that as a giant question mark, to be decided for them by other people's choices.

I'm the only LDS person in my family. I come from a family with three generations of divorced/separated women. To be financially independent enough to take care of myself was instilled in me from birth. Protect yourself and your financial freedom from abusive men, from men who do not have your best interest anywhere near their thoughts.

That's what I learned from watching my mother work herself to the bone to pay for my father's attorney from the constant legal trouble that alcoholism, drugs, and nonsense behavior from untreated mental illness brought upon us. There were times we didn't have food, but there was always a case of beer in the refrigerator. That's what I learned from my grandmother, who divorced her husband at a time when that was unheard of because he abused her. That was what I learned from not one, but two great-grandmothers who, as southern women with all of the cultural baggage it entailed, left their husbands and lived on their own rather than putting up with disrespectful behavior from the men they married. Women who believed that it is better to be alone than with any man who doesn't respect you.

This is my backstory, my lore, if you will. And I swore I would honor it by never putting myself anywhere near situations that looked like these. To be financially dependent on any man, no matter how kind and generous, was something I never wanted for myself. I wanted my own job, my own money, the ability to travel, to do as I pleased. I wanted financial freedom, the security of knowing I would always be able to take care of myself AND him AND our children if it ever came down to that.

That's not the life I have. In all but name only, I'm a trad wife. Chronic illness and disabilities have made it so I cannot work. I am fully financially dependent on my husband, and every effort I have made to change my situation has come at great financial expense, as well as compromising my physical and mental health. I've had to let go of the life I wanted for myself because I've never found any employer who was willing to give me the accommodations I need to accomplish even a fraction of my goals. And even if they did, it's impossible for me to work enough hours for me to ever achieve them.

I'm a trad wife, not by choice, but out of necessity. And it scares me every day.

If my husband dies in an accident, or a mass shooting? If he becomes disabled? If he ever becomes as sick as I am, or worse? What will we do? We have plans for this. We have multiple retirement accounts, including one in my own name, that he puts money into. He sees my situation, understands it, and prioritizes it in how he manages our finances. But if it were to happen today, tomorrow, any time before we both can retire, we're screwed. Shit Creek, no paddle.

If he leaves me? If I ever have to leave him? How will I support myself? Honestly, I don't know. I don't have an answer to that question. It scares me more than I can articulate. I hope I never have to find out because I'm too disabled to take care of myself. That's the only thing I know.

There are too many women who are far too eager to put themselves into this place of financial insecurity and precarity. They don't even realize how dangerous that path is, for them and for their children, to have nothing that truly belongs to you. Not really. Not if the money that paid for it wasn't yours. Not when everything you treasure and recognize as the life you want has his name on it.

Being a trad wife is built on an agreement of mutual exploitation. In exchange for providing unpaid, undocumented labor, your spouse has agreed to pay all of your expenses indefinitely into the future. If this were a job, you would never agree to those terms. Trad wives don't understand that when it comes to marriage, however, they're jumping into that exact situation head first.

All of this to say: I'm not morally or ideologically opposed to anyone being a house wife or SAHM. I understand EXACTLY what happens to women to make that a necessity. I don't judge anyone who ends up in that position, either by choice or by force. But I'm not going to let anyone go into or remain in that situation blindly, having never once thought about how to finance the life they're dreaming about. I'm not going to let anyone walk through life somehow thinking that everything is supposed to magically work out for them like some sort of fairy tale. That's not how the world works. That not how life works. And I hate the thought that the first time all of this occurs to someone is when their life comes crashing down around them.

If "feminism" is the dirtiest word you know, you're not in any kind of position to advocate for yourself. If you don't see yourself as your husband's equal (which is what feminism, by definition, HAS to mean), how could you even begin to negotiate for yourself in a divorce, a job interview after being out of the workplace for 10+ years, or to family who you'll be reliant upon to get you back on your feet? If you don't even have the courage to say you deserve to be treated like an equal in society when everything is going to plan, how would you do it from the floor with the wind knocked out of you?

I'm not here to argue about the superiority of trad wives OR working wives. I'm not here to fight for anything but Universal Basic Income so we can all exist in a more secure financial state, independent of individual circumstances. And I'm definitely not here to scare you.

I'm simply here as the person you will inevitably be turning to in that moment of crisis, where faith and devotion fall short of giving you everything you wanted in life. I'll be the one with the bottle of water and saying "You are brilliant and strong. You can figure this out." I'll also be the one nodding in agreement that your husband took for granted all the love and labor you gave to him, purely because he was socialized to think he has a right to do that to you. No, I don't think you're crazy. No, I don't think you're asking too much. YES, YOU NEED A LAWYER FOR YOUR CHILD SUPPORT CASE. I'll be there for all of it, to say all of the things to you that you can't imagine ever needing when you say "all I want is to be a trad wife."

How do I know? Because I've been doing it for sixteen years now with people who sounded just like you do now. In person and online. In public and in private. With friends and strangers. I've never had the luxury of being anything but a feminist, an advocate for women they don't even realize they need, that they don't (and won't!) have the vocabulary to ask for.

Not as long as "feminism" is the dirtiest word they know.

Mormon Feminism and Me

I'm finally getting around to reading Mormon Feminism and I've made an important discovery.

Claudia Bushman was the bishop's wife over what eventually became the units I attended in the stake where I was baptized. The Elkton Ward was in my hometown. Doug and Susan Taber were the very first people I met when I was in the Neward 2nd ward as a teenager.

This is the ground where my discipleship began.

Claudia Bushman assembled women in dignity, dedicated to making the Church a more equal place everywhere she went. That's where I was baptized. The ripples of her presence are still felt there.
The sexism and deprioritization of women and their contributions I have experienced in other corners of the Church never happened to me there. Claudia Bushman and so many of the women she knew were the reasons why. It was a garden they tended carefully where women could grow.
I just bought a copy of Susan Taber's book, Mormon Lives: a Year in the Elkton Ward. Flipping through the index, I see so many names I recognize. These are the people who gave me my foundations as a member of the Church. They were the people who taught me the gospel, baptized me, and gave me the foundations I needed to walk through the Church expecting to be treated like an equal.

I'm going to end up getting similarly derailed with a lot of the writers, works, and projects that get mentioned in passing in Mormon Feminism. It'll probably take me a long time to finish because of that. I don't mind though.
As it turns out, my reflexive reaction of "this would never happen to me back home" wasn't just wishful thinking. It wasn't an accident or a fluke. It's the legacy of Mormon women who came before me who did the work to make the Church a better place. And if there's anything to take away from a book called Mormon Feminism, surely that is it.

Why Supporting Gender Affirming Care in the Church is Important

A bot asked me on Twitter if I support gender affirming care for minorsno doubt to stir the pot with the people who were already in my comments. Thing is, I don't need help to stir the pot. So lets talk about it.

Under the umbrella of gender affirming care are all kinds of treatments for both queer folks and non-queer folks of every age. Let's talk about some of the ones I use and receive.

I have a chronic illness called PCOS that affects the natural balance of male/female hormones in my body. I am a cisgender woman with male hormones in my body that I don't want. I take medication to remove those excess androgens from my body. That is gender affirming care. I receive it to make the hormonal composition of my body match my gender. Without that medication, I would have male pattern baldness, I would grow a beard, and that testosterone would create chaos inside of my body.
My condition is genetic. My paternal grandmother and her mother both had some version of it. My great grandmother had a lot of the same unwanted hair growth. My grandmother struggled with her fertility ended up having a hysterectomy before she could finish having children.
I was born with this condition. I had it as a teenager. I didn't get any kind of healthcare for my condition as a teenager. I needed gender affirming care that I didn't get because my mother didn't think it was important. I live with the consequences of those decisions every day of my life.  
There is no cure for my condition. I will be managing this circus, which was allowed to progress unchecked for decades because of conservative attitudes towards women's healthcare, for the rest of my life. I am sick all the time and I'm never going to get better.
Between my Catholic mother, BYU, and my mission, I didn't get any real treatment for my condition (because the first step is usually using birth control as hormone therapy) until I was in my early twenties and already married. That allowed my disease to progress to a point where I will never have children without spending $20-30k on fertility treatments.
This is what denying me gender affirming care has done to my life. 

So do I support withholding gender affirming care from underage people? 
 No. Not at all. I had that decision made for me in the best interest of others and their agendas, not what was best for me, and I will be dealing with those consequences for the rest of my life. Children and young adults deserve to receive the healthcare they need, not the healthcare that strangers in churches think they should be receiving. Especially when folks in those churches don't know the first thing about the people they're restricting treatment from.
Russell M. Nelson is a doctor. Nevertheless, he is not MY doctor. He is a surgeon, not an endocrinologist. He doesn't know the first thing about my health, my needs, or the treatments for my conditions. No one in a medical setting would let him anywhere near my case because he's unqualified to practice this type of medicine. So why should I, or anyone else, be comfortable with him or anyone else in the Church, being allowed to interfere in these decisions for church members through policy changes and church discipline?
Nothing about an ecclesiastical office qualifies someone to make my medical decisions for me. Conservative folks with a Twitter account, a cable package that includes Fox News, and the email addresses of politicians aren't qualified to treat my medical issues. 
The same way that preventable suffering during miscarriages and pregnancy losses are the consequences we're now living with because of anti-abortion legislation, the same thing will happen with bans against gender affirming care. The collateral damage goes far beyond underage transgender people. Conservative folks are so determined to punish transgender kids and their parents for being different, they're willing to destroy the lives of anyone and everyone else as collateral damage along the way.
Why? Because punishing trans people never was ultimately what this was about.
Remember: all culture wars, moral panics, and identity politics are the cheap Party City disguises for class warfare. When rich people in power can keep our lives in shambles, we're easier to control. They want you to hate me so we won't ever organize against them.

When Abortion Bans Aren't Pro-Life

I recently encountered a pro-life person trying to justify abortion restrictions by saying that it's better for mothers with fatal fetal abnormalities to be able to hold their babies instead of them being "thrown away as medical waste."

They say it like that from ignorance and heartlessness. They need that malice from mothers and doctors to exist to justify doing this to women, to mothers who never wanted to be in this position with their babies. The trouble is, in an effort to punish hypothetical women who are allegedly 'just trying to throw their babies in the trash,' they harm women like this.


For Amanda Zurawski, it wasn't a choice between getting to hold her dead infant or not. She was dying of sepsis, which is what happens when women who genuinely need abortions don't get one. Her body was being ravaged by infection because the state of Texas had legislated that her life didn't matter and wasn't worth saving as long as her non-viable baby still had a heartbeat.

Pro-life folks almost killed her. She's lucky to be alive today. She's suing the state of Texas and I pray to God she wins. Because here's the thing: you can be a religious person and see that regardless of how you feel about abortion, THIS? This isn't any better.

This isn't the holy and humane treatment your pastors, priests, and prophets told you would happen by making abortion illegal. Supporting forced pregnancy doesn't save lives. It just switches out who is going to die. They reassure you that it's justified, that it's better this way, that these women deserve it because only "horrible" women would "throw away" their babies like that.

But who gave them the authority to decide that a woman they don't know is worthy of death? Who appointed them to decide that a failed pregnancy should be a death sentence to every woman who has one, just in case?

A kind, loving, merciful God who is no respecter of persons, who cannot show favor to one life over another without ceasing to God, does not do that. Those who represent him shouldn't be okay with standing in for him to make those decisions either.

Which then leaves me with the real question: if not God, then who? From whom does this suffering, this indifference, this death by tyranny come?

Making abortion illegal and punishing doctors doesn't save lives. Abortion bans fail to save the pregnancies that were going to fail anyway and makes women like Amanda less capable of surviving them. Abortion bans don't save babies. They kill women.

That is the objective truth.

And no matter how much you don't like it, no matter how much you try to spin it any other way to suit the narrative your church has given to you, it doesn't stop being true.

There are No Small Offerings

I received a thank you card this week for my ward bulletin.

It was from a senior who wanted to let me know that she appreciates having all the information I provide in it because "not everyone is comfortable with smart phones."

It's going in my collection of notes, cards, and letters that I keep forever. Not only because it was so sweet and honest, but because it reminds me of something I remind myself of often. 

There are no small parts. Just small actors.

There are no insignificant, unimportant, inconsequential offerings in the Church. 

What a bishop does is not more important than the person who puts their name on a clipboard in Relief Society to bring meals to someone who is sick.

It's not. Period.

The person who makes the flower arrangements for the podium.

The person who shows up for cleaning the building.

The person who brings their extra garden zucchini and puts them on the foyer table to share.

They're all important in building the kingdom of God.


Because they all can answer someone's prayer. They can all be just the thing somebody needed. They all can be a blessing to someone.

If you're phoning it in, but don't want to give up whatever you're doing because you might be asked to do something that "isn't as important"... Nothing you do is unimportant. Not in comparison to anything else. And especially not in comparison to the thing you could be doing instead of phoning it in.

Do the simple thing with earnestness without telling yourself that a simple thing can't be important.

It can be important to someone, even if the only person it matters to is you.

How to Address Domestic Violence in the Church

Source: World Bank
From a domestic violence survivor: take all of the outrage you feel for what Michael Haight did to his ex-wife and children, and direct it into helping the people around you who are in that exact same precarious position.

Every community, every congregation, every class in every school, every neighborhood, every group of people you have ever been a part of has had victims of domestic violence in them. No one ever wants to acknowledge that. But that's the truth.

I'm not telling you not to be angry. Be furious! But don't just express your disapproval on social media and expect anything to change. Be the safe place a family like Tausha's could've gone to. Then go find the Tausha near you and help her.

I had people around me in my community who did that, over and over again. They pulled me out of the toxic environments my parents had created. Make sure the people around you know they can come to you if they're in trouble.

The most important thing I could ever tell you as a survivor is this: never assume that anyone you know is immune to abuse, that "if she was really in trouble, she'd tell me." Never assume that to be true. Never think you'd be able to spot them if you weren't actively seeking them out.

No matter how safe and happy things appear in the intimate relationships around you, all it takes is one phrase to let people know you're a safe person to them.

"If that ever changes, you can come here." 

That's all you have to say. Say it explicitly to anyone you care enough about to want to save them if they found themselves in real danger with nowhere else to go.

In a church setting, take advantage of opportunities to plant seeds in lessons, at activities, during talks you might give, Family Home Evenings, or any other gatherings in your home. Quote the section about abuse from the Family Proclamation. Teach those around you what it means and why it matters.
We warn that individuals who... abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.
Share the Church's resources about abuse and where to find them in Gospel Library. Make sure those with whom you serve are familiar with those resources and their content. Wherever you serve or worship in the Church, be prepared to help families who are in these situations.

It's also important to prepare you children in age appropriate ways how to respond to these situations appropriately. Teach them that preventing domestic violence begins in their own choices in how to treat others. Teach them how they can help friends, teammates, and classmates if another child confides in them that they're being abused. Don't wait until after that confidence has already been placed in them by someone else.
Be a safe, discreet person who can be trusted with these kinds of confidences, whose goal is to empower others to make the choices that will keep themselves and their children safe.
I'll give you an example from my own life.
I taught in Young Women for many years in my last ward. During that time, a family who lived near us had their youngest daughters take the missionary discussions in our home. The oldest daughter was indifferent, if not outwardly hostile to any kind of religious messaging. She was disruptive during lessons. She was the type of teenager that someone could've looked at and thought "I can't wait until you leave my class and never come back." I didn't treat her any differently. I could see real pain inside of her and treated her with kindness, no matter what she said or did. I refused to give her the reaction she was looking for. I treated her with the love she deserved, rather than matching the energy she was putting out.
At 10 p.m. on a week night, she showed up at my house. She and her father had gotten into a fight. She asked if she could stay the night. I didn't hesitate. I brought her inside. I made up the guest bedroom, set out towels and toiletries in our guest bathroom. I made her some chamomile tea. We talked for a little while. Her father guessed at where she was. My husband spoke to him outside while I continued talking to her. We kept everyone separate until they both were calmer. I asked her privately if she felt safe going home. She said she did. That was the only time I pressed her for the truth. 
I told her if she ever needed to come back, she knew where to find us. She wasn't the only one from that Young Women group who reached out to me when they were in dire straits. 
That's what this looked like for me because I was serving in Young Women. For you, it might be relatives in your own extended family, the friends or teammates of your children, coworkers, or anyone else around you going through divorce. Divorce always has the potential to be dangerous, especially in the first year.
I had a person I worked with at my first veterinary clinic who filed for divorce while I was working there. I checked in on her repeatedly to make sure she was okay. It didn't matter that we weren't that close. We didn't have to be for me to care about what happened to her.

When you do these things from a place of love, or even just concern, it won't be weird or awkward. You're making it clear that there's space in your life for them if they need it. They'll come to you if that need arises. 
All you have to do when that happens is say, "Come over."

Maybe Don't Advocate for the Church's Version of "Health Care"

I recently saw a take that the Church shouldn't be building more temples in Utah when they've never built or operated medical clinics in foreign countries.

As a woman who was forced into using the BYU health center, women deserve better than what church-sponsored health care looks like.

My PCOS went undiagnosed and untreated for the entire time I was at BYU because the only doctors I had access to were dogmatically opposed to women receiving treatment for ovarian cysts. 


Because the treatment is birth control pills. Those doctors don't prescribe birth control pills and the Church-sponsored insurance plan doesn't cover them, even when they're being used as hormone therapy instead of contraception.

Religious dogma does real harm when it combines with medicine, especially since that intersection inevitably passes through denial of care to the detriment of patients. 

We should want to see less of this in medicine. Not more.

We're all going to be much happier if the Church sticks to what they know.

On Women Being Absent from Scripture

I read this post from The Exponent this morning, and I related so profoundly to what the author was describing in how we teach a male-centric view of scripture in the Church. From that place of frustration, I went to the scriptures on my own in search of women and their stories. 

Women are present in the scriptures, especially in the Old Testament. Women are not named in scripture at the same frequency as men. That's isn't the same issue as the women not being present, or being actors in the stories, especially in stories where men in those collectives also aren't named. The Book of Mormon especially is a text that focuses primarily on community impact and reactions. Women are present in every story that it tells of crowds, tribes, multitudes, and factions

We could blame these factors for why don't talk about or study women in any detail at Church, at least not to the same depth or degree that we have studied the lives of male prophets, living and dead. But when you realize the multitude of women whose lives and experiences are recorded in scripture, that's not enough of an explanation. The women's lives and experiences are there. So the questions we have to ask ourselves are: 

  • Who taught us to look at a collective of people in scripture and assume the audience is dominated by men, or that men are the actors in the stories and women are passive? 
  • Why aren't we teaching from the lives and experiences of women in the scriptures that do exist? 

There are answers about men becoming the default, specific moments in time we can point to that has had this impact, regardless of what the Church's intent was. The Topical Guide and footnote references for the 1981 edition of the scriptures were created by a mostly (if not all) male team of returned missionaries under the direction of Bruce R. McConkie. These are the same references in use today. The perspective they teach from is ignorant of, if not hostile to, the spiritual needs of women. Any woman who has ever seen the Topical Guide entries for Birth Control and Interracial Marriage, or has gone looking for an entry on Infertility, has felt that hostility.

We project what our lived experiences are in church onto the scriptures we read. We also view our scriptures through the examples we use and emphasize to teach various principles. There are plenty of scriptures featuring women that get no play time in church for teaching the principles they represent. Sometimes, this is because a man's story gets emphasized for that same principle instead.

But more often than not, I think the male default in curriculum happens year after year because the stories starring women make men uncomfortable. In many cases, they exist to detail the disrespect and violence that men have shown to women throughout time, and how God rejects and punishes men who abuse women. Some of these stories are graphic in nature, featuring sexual violence against women as a key feature. It would be impossible to study these stories without confronting those elements. 

So if you don't know that there is a story in the Old Testament where God nearly destroyed the entire house of Israel because men in the tribe of Benjamin brutally raped and murdered one woman, there's a reason for that. (See Judges 19-21)

The Levite of Ephraim, Alexandre-François Caminade

Stories featuring women in scripture often exist, at least in part, to condemn the selfish, inexcusable behavior of men. That's why men don't tell those stories. In many cases, they've never heard of them. The ones they have heard of, such as David and Bathsheba, they've grossly misinterpreted. They've been raised on a steady diet of church instruction that emphasizes the stories that entrench their own roles instead. That's all they know.

When you sit down with the standard works and read them through the lens of actively searching for women, you start to see them everywhere. They're not absent. There's a filter over the scriptures and how we've been taught to read them that makes women disappear that has to be dismantled.

The Good Shepherd

Let's talk about sheep.

Jesus taught that we are his flock of sheep. And the likes of Greg Olsen have made that sentiment way more endearing than I think it was intended to be. When you actually know something about animal husbandry, his meaning changes from the way we typically understand it.

If you had to describe sheep, here are several words and phrases you could use:
  • helpless 
  • vulnerable 
  • fragile 
  • able to be injured or killed remarkably easily, especially by accident
I'm learning animal husbandry for my certification as a veterinary nurse. Sheep scare the shit out of me. Handle them wrong and you can literally snap their necks. Their skeletons are fragile. They can't regulate their body temperatures much beyond 50°F. If you handle them roughly, you can break their back legs. You can't grab them by the fleece because you can permanently ruin their skin. They can't jump especially well. They have no natural defenses of any kind. If you remove a baby from its mother before she can bond with it, even to save its life, she will abandon it entirely. Touch them wrong and you could do irreparable harm to them.
There's no such thing as a little "oops" with sheep. Every sheep has to be treated like the slightest injury is a big deal. There's no such thing as being too sensitive or too careful with sheep. Their feelings matter because they are incapable of withstanding any kind of violence. There is no place for violence in a sheep herd. 
The shepherd's biggest worry for the sheep isn't just that a predator could come and wipe them all out. It's also that he could literally kill them by accident through bad husbandry.  
If you fancy yourself any kind of shepherd like Jesus Christ was, in any kind of ministering capacity, you need to recognize that one of the greatest threats to its survival isn't wolves. 
It's you. 
Specifically, you assuming you know what you're doing whenever do not. Because in that scenario, it's not a question of if you will do irreparable harm to some of the sheep in your care. It's when and how.
To be a good shepherd is to love sheep in all of their "I'm allergic to tap water" glory. To care enough to know how to handle them with love, meeting all their needs, no matter what they are.
When we talk about Jesus being the Good Shepherd, that's what that means.

Not All Men... But Maybe You

Here is some gentle instruction for our mutual edification, directed at bishops and other men who have the responsibility in their callings to edify, uphold the voices of, and respect women.

When you witness a woman expressing their frustration with how they haven't been or aren't being shown the respect they deserve in their LDS congregations or their homes, you don't have a responsibility to contradict them. Your responsibility is not to defend the Church by saying that "Not all men" engage in bad behavior, or "Not all women" are experiencing that pain.

You have a responsibility to listen.

What do y'all think the value is to a woman who is telling you she is hurting and struggling in hearing that some unknowable number of other women throughout the Church are just fine? How does it help to consider there are women in the Church who are not hurting or struggling? How does reminding her that there are women who are having their needs met help her at all? 

To me, all this has ever done is reinforce that the pain and frustration I'm experiencing shouldn't be happening because men in the Church are obviously capable of doing better. It reinforces to me that my expectations are not unreasonable.

1 Corinthians 12:26 reminds us that we all are a part of the body of Christ. If any one of us is in pain, we are all supposed to suffer with them. It is our duty to care, to alleviate pain, to correct the harm that is being done. Not to minimize it, to say it doesn't matter, or to pretend it's not happening.

I don't care where you are in the Church. Not every woman around you is happy, well-taken care of, listened to, respected, and treated with the dignity she deserves. If you think your leadership is perfect on this front, it's because you aren't being trusted with the way women actually feel.

If you're more worried about The Church and its reputation than you are about acknowledging the real harm that has come to women through their Church membership, you aren't going to be "one of the good ones." 

Know that. Sit with that.

To be "one of the good ones," an ally to women in the Church, that's not something you can claim for yourself. That has to be earned, given to you by the women you have helped. And just because you do that with your female relatives doesn't mean you can use them against every other woman in the Church to minimize their struggles. Treating a handful of women with respect is not currency, so don't try to use it against women who don't know you.

If this behavior has to be explained to you, let's just go ahead and say that it may not be all men, but it's definitely you.

Lamentations and Betrayal

To all the men who said to me that I was overreacting when I said Roe v. Wade, my constitutional right to self-determination, was in jeopardy: I hope the thing you fear most happens to you. I wish threefold suffering upon you. Full offense intended.

Except I don't have to wish. I won't have to wait long. The betrayal you have chosen for all women everywhere will find it's way back to you through the suffering of the women you care about most.

The miscarriages, the criminal prosecutions of the innocent, the usurpation of dogma over science, the infiltration of medicine with violence and fear, the loss of life of the women and children you don't know how to live without. 

That is the price you will pay.

Every man who views the women in his life as nothing more than incubators, I pray they suffer. I hope they are undone in grief. I pray for a scourge upon this land that will not cease until every living, breathing person has full bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom.

The suffering and uncertainty you have imposed upon women through your machinations, through your silence, through your refusals to act. May they fall upon you all in full measure without mercy, for you deserve none.

Why do I feel safe invoking death and destruction on men in this fashion?
Because that's what their conspiracy against women means for me. My life is in danger because of what you all have done. You have turned any pregnancy I may have into a death sentence.
You wanted to practice medicine without a license? You wanted to set yourselves up as the supreme authorities over reproductive health, despite being wholly unqualified? 
May every life you extinguish follow you to the judgment bar of God. May their blood cry against you from their ground for justice. 

How I Feel About My Mission

Somebody asked me how I feel about my mission. It gave me a moment to reflect on what I carry with me from that experience.

Everything I loved about being on my mission was because Brazil and Brazilians are beautiful. I love them with my whole heart. I would go back without question.

Everything I hated about it had everything to do with mission bro culture, sexism, and indifference to female pain.

There is a subset of men within the Church who hurt and disrespect women because they want to, and nothing in our culture prevents them from doing so. I served with men like that. They destroyed my faith in priesthood leadership being called of God. I've been picking up the pieces ever since.

There is no amount of failure and indiscretion that will undermine a man's trajectory in the Church once he has a certain pedigree and grooming for leadership. Nothing a woman can say or do against him will ever matter.

Women being under the exclusive control of men while also being isolated from their family and support systems is not okay. That's how abuse happens. It happened to me. It was real. And nothing any man in the Church will ever say or do will erase that.

That's what I learned from my mission.

Why "No" Needs to Become a Complete Sentence in the Church

I remember the "What am I doing to myself?" moment the last time I got talked into going to girl's camp after I initially said "No."

I had the undeniable prompting that I needed to leave, drove home in the dark on terrifying mountain roads in rural Idaho. At one point, a bat flew right into my windshield and scared me half to death. 

I didn't get home until 1 a.m.

My mother-in-law was actively deteriorating from either Lewy Body or vascular dementia. She ended up falling on the floor the next morning. She would've been stuck like that for hours had I not come home early from girl's camp.

I still haven't recovered from how angry I was at that entire situation.

Just once, I want a man in the Church to hear me say "No" to something and just say "OK."

The Online Harassment and Violence of Matthew Cicotte


I'm not saying I want Matthias Cicotte kicked out of the Church. 

I don't want anyone to ever have to get kicked out, to be honest. Excommunication is a violence of its own. I don't know if we can correct violence with more violence. 

But clearly, doing nothing about #DezNat isn't working. Not giving any meaningful correction isn't working. Punishing all the wrong people isn't working.

I just want consistency. If what the September Six did was worthy of Church discipline, why isn't racism, sexism, antisemitism, and white supremacy? 

Why isn't actual violence and harassment of anyone, especially other members of the Church, considered apostasy?

Why is saying you love Heavenly Mother enough to pray to her a sin, but instigating actual physical violence and harassment against other church members is... fine?

Prejudice is a sin. So why aren't we treating it like one? 

Setting Boundaries in a New Ward

Now that we're in a new ward, I've been practicing and rehearsing all the weird boundary conversations I get to have with the folks around me.

"It's not that I'm unwilling to serve in a calling. It's that if you're asking for anything that takes more than an hour on a Sunday to do, the answer is No. I don't have the time or energy for that."

"For the sake of clarity from the outset. I don't have kids. Yes, it's because I can't have them. Yes, it does mean I don't particularly enjoy being around your children. Do not ask me for free babysitting or callings in Primary."

"Do not ask my husband about my infertility (or anything else about me) behind my back. He will tell me. It will upset me. Talk to ME about me, please. Thank you."

"I am perfectly willing to say 'No' to you if you ask me for something I don't want to do. This is not an invitation to convince me. It means my decision has been made."

"If you ask me what I think about something, you're going to get an honest answer from me. That's the way God made me. Deal with it."

"If you want a good relationship with me, don't assume that because I've served a mission and been a temple worker that I am an endless reservoir of time and talent for you to pull from. That is not my life anymore."

When Blessings of Healing and Comfort were Performed by Women

I was at distribution to get some more Jesus Jammies yesterday. We always like looking at the artwork. I was being flippant about White Jesus when my husband showed me this one. My heart caught in my throat.

Relief Society Healing, Anthony Sweat

I stood there looking at it, speechless, for a long time. The contradiction between the way things were for women in the Church and the way things are, after more than a century of losses in autonomy and ability, made plain for everyone to sit with. Right before my eyes.

I pushed back tears because this comes so close to what is painful for me about being a woman in the Church. To be loved continually, but not trusted to accomplish the calling God has given to me with all the tools available to me in my religious community. It hurts so much.

I discovered that I have a gift to heal others through my prayers of faith and through my (artificially limited) access to God's power. That's part of how I decided to become a veterinary nurse. What the Church won't allow me to do with consecrated oil, I will do with medicine and prayer. 

I have a gift. I can use it to benefit the Church in its fullness, or I can go elsewhere with it. Either way, I will not hold it under a bushel or bury it in the ground. That was never an option. 

Those are the words that caught in my throat yesterday and I needed to get them out.

[UPDATE: I need every middle-aged Mormon on Twitter yelling at me because I call my garments Jesus Jammies to: 

  1. Back all the way up. 
  2. Sit all the way down. 
  3. Realize what I do is not up to you.

Garments are not inherently sacred objects that will make me spontaneously combust if I handle or speak about them differently from you. This isn't the ark of the covenant. You're picking fights with a stranger on the internet over fabric. Get a grip.

My garments go through my actual life with me. They're stained from my period blood and vaginal discharge. They have sweat stains and smell like dog half the time because I work in a vet clinic. Be precious with yours if that's your life. Don't get pissy with me because I don't.

I know the covenant I made in the temple in relation to the garment. I've performed the ordinances in which they are given. At no point did I vow to be a humorless scold in relation to how other people choose to wear or relate to them. I promised to wear them. Period.

When y'all get the opportunity to return to the Temple, take some time to reflect on the fact that no where in those covenants is a license to police anyone else about anything.]


Maybe I'm just speaking from the experience of having cut both of my parents out of my life at this point. But how do I reconcile, through a Mormon lens, a parental relationship I don't eventually outgrow? Even with Divine Parents?

Like, I don't envision Heaven as a place where I become a child again. I imagine it as a place where I will be an adult, functioning as a fully capable and independent equal.

Maybe this is why I just don't resonate with depictions of Heavenly Mother where she dotes on tiny children. I never had that with my own mother and I'm not having that experience now with any children of my own.

Someone please make a Heavenly Mother depiction surrounded by a menagerie of animals. That's what I need in my life.

Why I'm Still Trying

I've talked quite a bit about how I've arrived on the other side of my crisis of certainty and the fuller embrace of my faith. I don't want to call this a "Why do I stay?" because that implies that I'm physically present on some consistent basis.

It's more like "Why am I still trying?"

The answer may not be profoundly feminist or original. But it's the truth. My husband and I have our own weird little corner of Mormonism that we occupy together. Our own private planet where our beliefs and experiences have a life of their own.

Because of his sense of humor, he's allergic to ever taking anything too seriously. He loves an irreverent joke. His favorite thing is when someone pops off with nonsense in sacrament meeting because he finds it endlessly funny. He goes to church, in part, to laugh at people.

As an uptight overachiever in recovery, I can't express to you how unnaturally this came to me. To me, Church was not for laughing. Church was for doing serious things for serious people who are serious because that is correct. 

So much of what bothers me about the Church experience doesn't phase him because he doesn't care at all about what other people think. I can't express to you how little he cares that there are people at Church who are openly ridiculous in what they say and do. He says to me over and over again, "They aren't why I go." What this means is our shared religious life stays largely between us. Other people aren't a part of it. It's just us, discussing thoughts and ideas together in a shared language of belief.

When institutional Church became unbearable for me to sit through, I still had him and our weird little space together. He didn't withdraw that from me. He didn't try to force orthodoxy on me. He just gave me the space to figure out my own inner world and shared in it with me.

I've seen a lot of cases where Mormonism becomes another thing that pulls a couple apart when one of them chooses to distance themselves from the institutional Church. My husband never did that to me. He didn't let that happen to us. He went through it with me. I'm not the same person I was when we got married. I will probably never be that person again. He didn't view that as some violation of some contract we had. I don't owe him that. Change is part of the messy business of being human. He'd be the first person to tell you that.

I don't want the version of Mormonism that doesn't believe in science or vaccination, endorses insurrection, disrespects women, and turns a blind eye to racism and the torture of LGBTQ+ people. I want the version of Mormonism that exists in my home, where none of that is welcome. I want to inhabit the version of Mormonism that lives in my husband's heart, where respect, equality, and good sense are paramount. Where nobody is ever a second-class citizen, least of all me. 

Why do I believe there is a future in the Church I'm willing to try for? Because I see it, fully embodied, in the person my husband already is, and in the person he's becoming. 

In our home, we don't have to wait for some unknowable future to see it. It's already here.

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