Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ladies in Waiting: World-Wide Pants

Note: I am still uploading blogs that were written a long time ago and put on hold. SO you will notice that the topic is out of date to say the least. But anyway...I often get asked to use my blog as a public forum for politically charged Mormon topics and usually I refrain because my answer is always the same "love each other." But this one seemed to hit me in my "sore spot" and I couldn't resist. This is not going to be anything you haven't heard at this point. Nothing new to add. I don't deny anyone the right to exhibit their dissatisfaction with the Mormons, least of all the Mormons themselves. I have a half finished blog about the Ordain Women Movement, but the vapor coming off of it is still too green and stinky things should sit a while before being touched. Stay tuned for that.

Recently a group of Mormon feminists unleashed an idea on Facebook and other social media that was an effort to bring attention to the gender inequities in the church. I read somewhere - "to build power by exhibiting a small external sign to the leadership in the church that we are tired of the inequities."

They wanted us to all wear pants to church.

I was asked by [a reader] if I would express my support via this blog. I swallowed hard. Then I thought about it. No need to overreact if I didn't need to.

Right out of the chute I wanted to take over their cause (That's the marketing director in me...because I thought it could use a little re-direction... hehehe...why is that always my first instinct? And why does it seem like these groups are always so much younger than me?) Did they have a mission statement? Who was at the helm? Pants? Really, just pants? It sounded like some out of control book club idea. By the time I was asked to participate it sounded nuts. It had lost its clarity. Did the greatest path to gaining perceived equality involve a passive aggressive movement? "...A small external sign..." Yeah, right. That was surely inviting ridicule... 

And it did. And death threats. (REALLY, MORMONS?)

I admit...I didn't do my research before I balked. I posted a snarky comment on my Facebook page. Shame on me. I would never deny anyone the opportunity to use a little "protest" as a way to bring attention to something. But...p.a.n.t.s? It felt a little like burning your bras in church, but not as dramatic and fun to watch. Can't I just go to my leadership and express my concern? I could throw my support behind something like a worldwide "...listen, bishop..."

But they felt..."oppressed" she said to me, "...this is our way of bringing attention to the inequalities that lie within the budgets of the church. We are begging for transparency..."  etc....

I have always felt like a "liberated" woman. When I was a kid the news was full of "women's liberation." I thought it wasn't my issue because my mom was such a strong woman. She could do anything. I felt sorry for them because I thought that's what it was - women who felt weak and imprisoned so they needed to be liberated. I thought they were all in jail and they needed someone to let them all out, but that's a problem for the inventors of the movement. A marketing issue if you will. Again...choose a better catch phrase, though I must say it did put the whole era right up there in the history of the world with the Continental Congress and Michael Jackson (before he went nuts.) I am infinitely grateful to the work of those women from Elizabeth Cady Stanton on because I have been an independent working woman since I was 16...and who's kidding who...just because I'm married now does not make me less independent. My handcart seems ultimately heavier now than it ever did when I was single. Right?

I asked my mother WHY they burned their bras and she said "because they're dumb...bras are expensive." That was about the extent of our conversations on women's lib. I wasn't really wearing a bra yet so it befuddled me a little. However, when Jean Partridge, my English teacher for a bunch of years, talked about symbolism I finally got it. Symbols were heavy things. They had intrinsic value. Families carried their crests around on flags heavy with the symbols that gave them value and in turn power.

If the bra is the symbol of a woman, it's because breasts, though not always equal, have always been the great equalizer. Consider the women of the Renaissance. No political power at all, but why do you think they wore those whale boned corsets? It wasn't because they were comfortable. It was a reminder to their men: Don't forget that I have what you want. Woman have always used them as a good source of power. (I know I do. ;-O) 

There are so many tangible things that I have turned into symbols that I put value in...

1. The Written Language/Books. I can't throw books away and I can't put them on the floor or touch them with my feet. I picked that last part up from the Thais. The mere act of putting something as ethereal as thought on paper, permanently for all to know, makes every book ever written sacred to me somehow.

I own a lot of books. Though it isn't the symbol of knowledge to me because I rarely feel smarter having read a book, most times it opens the door inside of me entitled "See How Much You Don't Know - COME IN." I feel joy at having read someone else's thoughts. It's the purest kind of creativity and it doesn't require money, status or much education. Though education does elevate the thought process and I love that too...some of my greatest relaxation has come from reading cheap teenage fiction. I'm grateful to find something that takes my mind to another place sometimes. And if I remember right, men and women both have a brain. That's God's way of equalizing us.

2. My old car has intrinsic value and great symbolism. Andy and I dubbed it "Norah" because we used to listen to Norah Jones CD's and make out in it before we got married. I bought it right after I had a terrible engagement break-up as a kind of reward for getting through that. I paid for the whole thing myself when I was single and it will forever symbolize overcoming weakness, hard work and success to me. I bought it in 1997 and I still drive it every day. It has been a good friend. It drives me to work, waits all day to take me home and has for 17+ years. Men and women can both drive whatever car they want.

3. The cross. I feel the weight of this symbol through the tree that gave it's life to have that awful responsibility through no fault of its own. I'm that girl that loved Bob Ross and the "happy little trees and flowers." So I have a weird sorrow for the tree, and a kind of reverence for it's sacrifice. And I know it would disdain the result of it's fame as a mechanism for death. Though human thought, manifesting its ugly power was the real cause of the death, that tree stood tall and accepted its fate. If the Mormons saw it my way, I'd probably have a drawer full of crosses.

4. Bridges. I love them. For me, they symbolize people coming to together and two sides of something agreeing to work together. I also love that they usually cover deep revenues of water or canyons, another great symbol of man conquering an obstacle by using creative thought.

4.   Dresses. It was not until I was in second grade that Alpine School District lifted the policy on girls having to wear dresses to school. I've told you about the incident where I was high riding the "Witches Hat" on the playground and some boy reached up and pulled my underwear to my knees. It was right about then that Women's Liberation was in full bloom, though the mini-skirt was all the rage at the time which is strangely ironic to me. It's probably safer for girls to wear pants to school however, pants can come off just as easily at school as a dress I suppose. ;-) (Remembering the reason we no longer watch Glee.)

Now, we aren't required to wear dresses to church. It's just what we do, here in America...D.R.E.S.S. up. It's a symbol of respect. So whatever your culture deems "Sunday best" works for me. In my culture, it's a dress for women and a tie for men, for whatever reason and on varying levels of "formal." It has certainly evolved. We aren't Downton Abbey that's for sure. Most Americans wear dresses to formal occasions like weddings, funerals, graduations...Vanna White wears dresses to change the letters on Wheel of Fortune and no celebrity would walk the Red Carpet without some kind of couture gown. You know, in the 18 or so PROMS I've been to in my life, I've very rarely seen a pair of pants. 

Would we do less for the Godhead?

So every Sunday morning I dig through my humble collection of gray and brown tweed just-above- the-ankle-length (because I have bad veins - not because I'm some kind of fundamentalist) skirts and a white shirt and hey! it's cool enough to add a cardigan! (and I have about 27) and go to my worship services. It's not Christian Dior, but it's Christian Du' Jour and it humbles me enough to sit in front of the sacred sacrament table and beg for forgiveness of my sins, which are abundant. My level of dress, directly affects my level of humility. My humility, directly affecting my level of preparation to receive the spirit.

Still, there is no church policy on what we wear to church. I've seen some crazy things worn to church but usually it involves prom dresses and wilting corsages. I just LOVE it when the prom dress is strapless and the old ladies in the ward are whispering about why the bishop allowed his daughter to wear her strapless prom dress to church! (Truly, I'm just impressed that they are IN CHURCH the day after prom. Way to go!!! The bishop is probably just as glad!) Last week I saw a sweet old man in Sunday School wearing a brown suit coat and navy pants and I thought "Ahhh...his wife died and I'll bet he's color blind." We don't ridicule...we should NEVER ridicule or judge anyone for what they wear to church. I have been in sacrament meetings around the world, in the humblest conditions, where few members of the congregation were even wearing shoes (or bras for that matter) and I have felt the spirit stronger there than anywhere on earth. 

So what? Let me re-focus...

What did this young group of women want again... "to build power by exhibiting a small external sign to the leadership in the church that we are tired of the inequities." But it didn't turn out small did it? There were a few women in our hipster Salt Lake ward that wore pants that day. They huddled together. They laughed a little too loudly...I heard one woman say, "This is what I wear to work!" I was not friends with that group, they are much younger than I am and well, I work too much to have any real friends unless you are in a play with me. Why was I SOOOOO bugged at them? I did not want to be a hypocrite, a judger. Let them wear what they want. I just want my one day off a week to be peaceful...THAT'S IT!!! 

I was just irritated that this group willfully chose a world-wide distraction on the day when the real reason I go to church is to focus on worship and reaffirming my covenants with my D.I.E.T.Y. If I had a problem with inequity I would approach it on a Tuesday, over the fence, with cookies and a jug of chocolate milk:

"Hey, bishop..."

But then again, I have never felt oppressed because I was born a Mormon woman. Does that mean it doesn't exist? Heavens no. I've always hated that argument as well: just because I don't feel oppressed doesn't mean oppression doesn't exist....but in my Mormon neighborhoods I have only seen Mormon women raised on pedestals and families fighting the world to stay together and love each other. Oppression is always wrong. If you feel that you are being oppressed because you "have to" stay home and raise your kids, and it makes you feel subordinate to your husband, I'll trade you. This is my blog and this is my issue - I would LOVE to be at home raising kids - I would KILL to get up and make pancakes for my bunch of kids every morning. KILL. But that's not my lot in life. The grass is always greener, isn't it?

I digress. 

"Men (and women) are that they might have joy." When I feel true joy I am max-ing out the measure of my creation. I feel that it is God's way of liberating me from within. 

Everything else takes care of itself when you are truly liberated from within. Remember, this is coming from someone who has worked full-time since she was 16, didn't marry until she was 40+ and had eight miscarriages. I am just now coming to terms with the fact that the measure of my creation is different from my sisters. Just now. I'm right in the middle of it.

I am a child of GOD. He is my power from within. He liberates me. 

I assert that it is not a change in our outside appearance that gives us strength. It is a power from within. I see it in all my sisters, this way of thinking: that personal sacrifice isn't sacrifice at all but and investment in yourself and others. It is fulfilling the measure of your creation in every way possible...from within. Lots of things come from within. Knowledge, creativity, babies are created within. The priesthood is a power from within. All power we are given and that is expressed from within, is used at its best when used for the good of the world, for the good of the family. 

Does this mean that you should sacrifice all that you are for those around you? 

What will we have left to give? We have to also take care of ourselves. Oxygen mask on ourselves first!

I assert that this is where all of these feelings of oppression come from. 


We Mormon women are such martyrs. We are. We guilt ourselves into saying yes to everything and serve everyone and spend every ounce of ourselves on everyone else because we believe that this will build us into the superwoman that we are to become. We see that we are not as good as the women down the block that are taking meals to people every other day, bottling their homegrown vegetables, reading "Jesus the Christ" in Hebrew and weaving the cloth for their children's school clothes and this drives us. It drives us drives us crazy.

Know what? WE ARE ALREADY SUPERWOMEN! And those women don't exist. 

If they do - tell them I have some bathrooms that need cleaning. 

I can't speak for them, but I can only speak for myself. Sometimes, I go to the movies with my husband when I should be doing laundry. Andy does more dishes than I do. He's also great at vacuuming. When we clean our house we each take a floor of the house and meet back at our chairs an hour later and fall asleep in them with one dog in each lap. When we first got married I used to have terrible guilt about making my husband clean "my house." 


I got over it. 

Here's a favorite quote from another liberated woman:

“Many Mormon women do not have clear boundaries for themselves. They feel a sense of confusion about who they are, because many competing voices lay claim to them and they try to accommodate them all. For example, when I became a member of the Relief Society general presidency, I was appalled at how many women were tormented by guilt about their responsibilities as mothers. They seemed unable to see a boundary between themselves and their children. . . .
It is a strength for women to be able to cross their own boundaries easily when they are meeting the needs of their children and serving others, but it is a great disadvantage when they feel every call for service as an imperative which they are obligated to meet. Remember, a boundary has “yes” on one side and “no” on the other. A woman who never feels that she can say “no” is lacking an important element of personal identity and, hence, personal safety.”
Chieko Okazaki, (Former member of the Relief Society First Presidency) from her book "Boundaries"
So today I have to say "NO." I won't wear pants to church. Sorry. To my beloved reader that asked me to join the "Pants Cause," I love you but I just can't. I would be glad to talk to your group about what is really bothering you and re-marketing/directing your cause though. I'm old and I've seen so much happen for good!

Be patient. Things take time. Pray. It will all happen in its due time. Women are God's favorite after all!