Saturday, January 17, 2015

Where Feminism Went Wrong

Yesterday I watched this speech by Christina Hoff Sommers that went into a little more of the history of the women's movement, not the modern women's movement, but a little before that. She included summaries of Hannah Moore and Francis Willard.  Although, as we call it in historic reenacting terms, the "original cast" did not call themselves any type of feminists (as the word did not exist), Sommers divides the different types of female thought into egalitarian feminism and maternal feminism.

Egalitarian feminism is the feminism we see, for the most part, today, which is why so many women do not want to be associated with the word. Maternal feminism has been nearly silenced on a broad scale, yet this more conservative, family-loving approach, is much more agreeable to most women (and men) throughout the world.  Sommers argues that maternal feminists in the past actually made much more progress overall than egalitarian feminists, and we need to bring back this more conservative approach rather than the extreme approach.

Sommers also brands her own type of feminism, freedom feminism, which brings in the best parts of both maternal and egalitarian feminism; although, this speech does not go into specific details.

The thing that I appreciated about Sommers' talk was the idea that most women appreciate the maternal side of things; it's something women can take pride in.  In fact, she shares, even in Sweden where they've tried to de-gender everything and make an equal playing field for men and women, women still choose to have children and want to be with them by choosing to work part time.

This was definitely worth a watch if you're into this kind of thing.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Sacred Duty by Rasband & Wilkins Book Review

Yesterday I finished A Sacred Duty by Ester Rasband and Richard Wilkins. This was a 1999 publication from a 1996 experience of Wilkins' with the UN in Istanbul at the Habitat II conference. Now, yes, this doesn't sound very exciting, but this book had me so interested that I couldn't sleep. It didn't help that I read it right before bed!

I minored in International Development at BYU ('98), so it was fun reading and thinking about where I was and what I was doing as this story unfolded. In fact, I took a class where re read a lot of UN docs (I think that's what they were) in '97 or '98, so I wondered if I'd read anything influenced by this Istanbul conference.  The book is easy to read, as Rasband provides a simple narration with inserts by Wilkins.

From the beginning, page 9, I recognized that the book was trying to share that the UN basically sets the "community standard" for the world in regards to what is socially acceptable and what is not. I became familiar with the term "community standard" some time within the last decade when I met JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton who worked so hard to maintain a conservative community standard in my own community. She passed away just last month.  It's amazing that once we accept a certain standard, whether at a close community level, or at a world-wide level, those standards and values do eventually become common practice and even law.

On page 10, Wilkins felt that by going to the UN he would become the "whipping boy" for the traditional family. I thought that was pretty funny; really, with what he was doing, he indeed felt like a lamb before the slaughter. (Interestingly, although he felt like a minority, when he got there and met people, there were plenty who believed as he did, they were just thwarted by those parties with more power, influence, and money.)

On page 11 he says, ". . . but my prayers were more in the nature of 'Please, I don't want to go' than they were 'I'll go where you want me to go.' I suppose I was fiddling on the roof [like Tevye]." Oh how I could relate! I felt like I went out on a limb when I started this blog.  I so did not want to, but I felt the Lord needed another voice from the average Mormon woman. There were too many dissenting, rebellious voices out there and I thought, what will people not of our faith think of us if all they see are those other voices?

On page 24 it was interesting how people didn't think these UN documents made any difference. The representative from India even said, ". . . My nation doesn't really intend to enforce any of this. We negotiate and sign these agreements because we want to go home. . . ." How often do we take that approach?

Around page 40 is a really good summary of how the UN policies and practices and infiltrations came to be and where the power and influence comes from.

On 43 this question came to my mind, Who defines good? God or wo/man? That determines practice. On just Sunday, my neighbor shared that she was talking to her atheist brother about something and he questioned, "Well who says?"  She rebutted, "Well our Heavenly Father. It's God's laws" and he silenced, showing that there may just be a particle of faith left in him. If we're not going by God's laws, everything is arbitrary. His laws are the only stability.  Also related, on page 45 where Wilkins is trying to decide what he'll really stand for he decides, "he had better be true to a source of truth over and above his own perception" because God is the only one with the full picture.

On 44 I was reminded of the movie, The Giver (I haven't read the book, only seen the new movie). I think the only way the state could be allowed to be in charge of family & children would be if people didn't have emotion, which was exactly what happened in The Giver.

Also on 44 I was reminded of My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding where the wife says, "The man is the head, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head any way she wants" because the book suggests that influence is the great power. So, just as a wife has great influence on her husband, whatever group has the biggest influence in the UN, in this case, will have the most power.

I enjoyed on page 62 how Wilkins compared himself to Jonah. Here he wanted to run away, but he went in and did what needed to do.

It's interesting in 1996 that the Women's Caucus wanted (page 64):

1. Women must make the important decisions regarding resource allocation. Men, they said, are incapable of making those decisions because they simply could never understand.
2. Alternative forms of sexual partnerships must be recognized.
3. Women must have ready access to pregnancy termination.
4. We must have government-sponsored day care.

I didn't realize (or remember) in 1996 that these things were being lobbied for at an international level. I know they are things we face now. Perhaps because they were brought to the table in 1996 is the reason we do face them now.

I remember in that class where we read those political documents hearing a story about women in Africa who were fed up with the men in their communities. The men sat around intoxicated, so the women were the breadwinners and caregivers; the men were useless. In that case, I can see women fully needed to be in charge of financial and pretty much all other decisions, but not all men are like that. There are still good men out there who do fulfill their God-appointed responsibilities, and we should let them.

On 64-65 there's an account of a woman speaking of how "women could be freed from this conflict [of family & profession] by a combination of twelve ours a day of government-sponsored day care, distribution of labor-saving devices, and a proliferation of fast food restaurants (so women could feed their children on the way home from day care)." She received a "thunderous ovation." I'm guessing that woman didn't have children because there is no emotion in this. I don't know anyone who wants such a sterilized, segregated family life. There is no joy, no connection in this.  But then again, when you read the history pages (around page 40) you realized that a lot of this compartmentalized thought has come to the world from people who have been hurt and neglected by their parents, so they see the world through their dysfunctional, sad paradigm, but the paradigm of happy, connected families is not represented, and eventually overthrown.

I do understand the hardships of raising a family; it's not fun (sure it can be), but it's work and it's learning. However, just because it's hard, does not mean it's not valuable or not necessary.

68 - "Be careful. . . before you discard thousands of years of tradition. Do not do it quickly or without great care. The family is the basic unit of society. It is central to our communities. If our problems are to be solved, they are to be solved in the families of the world. Do not adopt policies that will lead to disintegration of our families. We must, instead, strengthen them."

69 - From a delegate of one of the Arab countries to Wilkins, "'Where have you been?' To have support for traditional families from a Western nation was more than the developing countries had hoped for. . . . These delegates felt new hope that anyone form the Western world was on their side." How sad that non-Westerners feel that the Western world has abandoned the traditional family, when few really have.

83 - "At one point a group of Muslims asked Richard: 'Why do you do this? What is in it for you? Is this based on your political belief, or is this based on faith?' Richard responded quickly. The answer is easy. 'Both,' he said. 'I think it is best from a political perspective because history tells us and shows us that societies that recognize religious rights and parental rights, that work to retain the values that religion teaches---clearly those societies create more stable regimes. But ultimately, I'm doing it because I believe it is what my God wants me to do.'"

Pages 97-98 are the most beautiful in the entire book. Wilkins believes that the people at the conference clung to his words because he shared the words from the "prophet of the God of Abraham." They were all fighting to maintain the standards of the same God; they were united. Wilkins felt such great love for all the people, and wanted a better world for everyone, and the way for the better world was to follow the words in The Family: A Proclamation to the World.

Even with those he once saw as enemies to his cause, he now believed, "I wanted them to understand that unborn children are our brothers and sisters, and if I used to want to regulate abortion because I thought it was "bad," now it was because I loved those children. I knew that those who saw me as their enemy were concerned about the women---and I was moved by that, but I wanted them to know that I loved both the children and the mothers.
I remembered what President Hinckley had said about those "burdened with same-sex attraction," and I grieved at how heavy that burden must be. At the same time I understood that as caring as it was to want gratification for those so burdened, it was not what was in their best interest. God had something more, something better than that for them.
It all came down to comprehending something as basic and obvious as life. I saw that it was all about life giving, life sustaining, and life nurturing. It is the only part of Godhood that we can begin to understand here, and if one is not engaged in it one's entire life loses its most important aspect of meaning.  [Emphasis added.]
What a testimony! I love how Wilkins turned everything to LIFE and the bigger picture. To understand that bigger picture, we really need the Gospel (which he recognized others believing and loving at the mosques, so obviously this is not something unique to Latter-day Saints). I haven't really struggled with the abortion issue, but, honestly, understanding homosexuality is beyond me. I just don't even know what to say about it.  I know it does not follow God's plan and will not lead to further progression in the eternities, but why the trial? Why do people feel this way? What's the cause? I'm at the point where I understand that I don't understand and cannot be quick to judge. OK, enough of that.

The epilogue concludes with a conference the next year where the Habitat II conference was overlooked. Wilkins recognized, "The price of liberty, it seems really is eternal vigilance" (104). No matter how we'd all like to have this be a done deal on God's side supporting His laws, it never ends; the fight goes on and we have to keep representing Him.

So, even though on the outset, this book sounds like it would be boring, it's actually fascinating and full of miracles! Because I read it, I even understand better how God views His children.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Womanhood, motherhood, feminism, priorities, and roles

My friend, Becca, at My Soul Delighteth, made some profound statements on Facebook the other day concerning the divinity of womanhood, feminism, and the opposition we face in mortality, particularly in regards to women who want to be married, but aren't, and those who want children, but can't.  She also shared some thoughts she's had about respect toward working moms. She said it was ok if I wrote a post about it because she didn't have time to. I won't really expound on what she said, I just wanted to save it for future reference.


On womanhood & motherhood:
I believe that the divinity of womanhood is expressly linked to motherhood. . . . 
For a little while, in the past year or so, I started getting a little sympathetic towards Mormon feminists. Not, "They are right" but "I don't understand them, and I want to understand them" sympathetic. I started talking to a lot of different people with different ideas, etc, and I found myself slowly starting to wonder if motherhood really was the definition of womanhood. 2-3 years ago I would have said "Asbolutely", a year ago I would have said, "I'm not 100% sure", but now I am back to "Absolutely."
I was called to be an assistant primary chorister back in April, and the song they are learning this year is called The Family is of God, and at first I was unsure of the words (they basically say the same thing as the Proclamation") but as I have taught those words to the primary I have gained a sure testimony that they are true. Absolutely true. The Proclamation to the World is true. Every word of it. Every single word. I don't think that it was written erroneously, I don't think that it matters that it was written entirely by men - because I don't believe that it was written by "men" - it was written by prophets of God who receive revelation for our day.
...

On why we can't always have it the way we want it:
I also believe that this life is imperfect, our bodies are imperfect, and life just sucks sometimes. That is the way this mortal probation is meant to be.
When Adam and Eve were in the garden, Heavenly Father gave them two commandments that seemed to be conflicting - multiply and replenish the earth, but don't eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I feel like He gives us similar commandments today (what? You mean God is the same yesterday, today, and forever?!). The commandment to multiply and replenish the earth is still in full force, but we must, as Adam and Eve, in a way partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and live a corrupted mortal existence. Basically God is commanding us to do something that WE HAVE NO POWER TO GUARANTEE. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to have children, yet to bear children IS a commandment. And I think that God doesn't withhold marriage and offspring [as a punishment?] from His children. That would be nonsense. Rather, the condition of our mortality at times prevents us from doing what God wants us to do.
Those who ARE able to multiply and replenish the earth should not feel that they are somehow better, or more blessed than those who cannot. We are blessed in different ways.
...

On working moms, feminism, family priorities, and roles:
I have done both the SAHM thing and the workplace thing, and I have to say I feel like people respect me 100 times more as a working mom than they did as a SAHM. I don't care one whit what other people think of me, so my point isn't to point out how hurt I was (because I wasn't - I honestly didn't care. I do what I feel is right for my family and no one besides me and my husband and maybe my bishop and parents - at times - could possibly have any insight into what is right for MY family) but my point IS to show that SAHMs DO seem to be less respected. [I thought this was really interesting to hear Becca say this as she's lived both the SAHM life and the working mom life. Personally, as a SAHM, I don't think I'm in too many situations to be able to notice any lack of respect, but I find her dual-perspective fascinating.]

I have not felt that feminism says "equality of opportunity" but rather says "women who put children above education and career goals have their priorities screwed up and are damaging opportunities for women everywhere". As a math teacher I definitely feel that. We are no longer pressuring our daughters to grow up to be good mothers, we are pressuring them to grow up and go to school for 6-7 years to chase the corporate ladder, or to work long hours as an engineer, or otherwise chase goals and dreams OUTSIDE the home. And those goals are fine. As long as they come second to raising children (for MEN as well as women - my husband is a fantastic provider, but his #1 career goal is to be able to provide for his family without having to spend a lot of TIME away from his family - something I admire very much in him).
I want to encourage my daughters to get an education - my parents encouraged both me and my sister. I have a degree in math and physics and I am working on a Masters of Education, with a goal to pursue a PhD in education. My sister has a degree in clinical lab science and has plans to go back to school to become a pathologist.

HOWEVER, for BOTH of us, our #1 priority is having babies and raising them. The education and career paths we want to pursue come SECOND.

Which means our earning potential will never be as great as a man who's #1 priority is probably providing for a family. But that's okay, because neither of us have "providing for a family" as a priority. I'm cool with that.

I am NOT cool with a woman who does as much (or more) work as(than) a man having less earning potential or respect or advancement opportunity simply because she is a woman. I believe that is absolutely ridiculous. . . . And I don't agree with it, and it's absolutely abhorrent.
While I do believe that bearing and raising children should be a woman's (and a man's) #1 priority in life, I DO believe that women who don't have that opportunity should not be punished by our society for it.
Thanks Becca for your "guest post." Ha.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Godly Parenting Advice

I've been meaning to write this down for over a week now, and it's taking getting a baby sitter to be able to do it. How ironic is that? I need a babysitter so I can write something about parenting?

1. My husband and I have started attending the Gospel Principles class in our ward.  The lesson a couple Sundays ago was on the nature of our Heavenly Father.   I was impressed when the teacher brought up God's response to Adam and Eve after they ate the fruit.  God didn't yell at them and immediately kick them out of the garden for making a mistake, but he asked them what they'd done and why.  It struck me that when my kids make mistakes, rather than losing it with them, I should stay calm, ask them what's happened, to get the full picture of the situation, then give the consequence.  I loved it. That's some of the best parenting advice I've ever gotten from the scriptures.

2. I wish I'd written it down, but I heard (or read probably on Facebook) recently somewhere that when a child is put in time out, the reaction in the brain is the same as when the child is spanked, so really, I guess it doesn't matter how you punish because the child will feel the same isolation.  This reminded me of a conversation I had with my friend Gina.  She said that when her little girl acts up, rather than having a "time out," they have a "time in," where they talk about what happened and try to figure out what went wrong.  I bet with a "time in" the child doesn't experience that same negative brain activity as he or she would because of a spank or a time out.  More good advice, and it also parallels Heavenly Father's questioning reaction to Adam and Eve.

3.  As I've been studying about domestic violence for a post I'm preparing to write, I came across this wonderful advice from Joseph F. Smith in 1939 from the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church manual:

… If you will keep your boys close to your heart, within the clasp of your arms; if you will make them to feel that you love them, that you are their parents, that they are your children, and keep them near to you, they will not go very far from you, and they will not commit any very great sin. But it is when you turn them out of the home, turn them out of your affection—out into the darkness of the night into the society of the depraved or degraded; it is when they become tiresome to you, or you are tired of their innocent noise and prattle at home, and you say, “Go off somewhere else,” it is this sort of treatment of your children that drives them from you.

You can’t force your boys, nor your girls into heaven. You may force them to hell, by using harsh means in the efforts to make them good, when you yourselves are not as good as you should be. The man that will be angry at his boy, and try to correct him while he is in anger, is in the greatest fault; he is more to be pitied and more to be condemned than the child who has done wrong. You can only correct your children by love, in kindness, by love unfeigned, by persuasion, and reason.
Fathers, if you wish your children to be taught in the principles of the gospel, if you wish them to love the truth and understand it, if you wish them to be obedient to and united with you, love them! and prove to them that you do love them by your every word or act to them. For your own sake, for the love that should exist between you and your boys—however wayward they might be, or one or the other might be, when you speak or talk to them, do it not in anger, do it not harshly, in a condemning spirit. Speak to them kindly; get them down and weep with them if necessary and get them to shed tears with you if possible. Soften their hearts; get them to feel tenderly toward you. Use no lash and no violence, but … approach them with reason, with persuasion and love unfeigned.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

What would happen if we really respected people?

The other day I was talking to a friend about domestic violence.  We were discussing men and how they talk about the women in their lives when the women are not around.  If men speak negatively of the women in their lives, that's a huge indicator of a man's behavior toward her when she is around.  My friend suggested we could use more lessons in church on relationships and how to treat people, and it doesn't really matter if it's marriage relationships or friend relationships, we just need to know what are healthy interactions and what are not.

I began to wonder, what if we did really did treat people the way we should?  What if we didn't put ourselves and our selfish desires first, what would happen?  What if we actually did unto others as we would have others do unto us?  Well, for one, men wouldn't beat their wives.  They'd respect them and listen to them and be a partner.  People wouldn't abuse children.  Enron wouldn't have happened.  The housing crisis wouldn't have happened.  Perhaps even Ordain Women wouldn't have happened because women would feel represented and listened to?  Maybe.

I guess this isn't a very coherent post, but these two quotes came to mind:

"One of the most radical things you can do is believe women when they talk about their experiences."-Jen Bekman
"The Mormon people teach the American religion; their principles teach the people not only of Heaven and its attendant glories, but how to live so that their social and economic relations with each other are placed on a sound basis. If the people follow the teachings of this Church, nothing can stop their progress — it will be limitless. There have been great movements started in the past but they have died or been modified before they reached maturity. If Mormonism is able to endure, unmodified, until it reaches the third and fourth generation, it is destined to become the greatest power the world has ever known.’”-Leo Tolstoy
So what do Mormons teach?  They teach the ways of Christ which are anything but violent.  They teach integrity and forgiveness.  They teach mercy and kindness and. . . .  I think we learn these things, but we fail when we don't put them to practice (which is why we need a Savior).  I still keep thinking that one of Heavenly Father's goals must be to have all his children get along.  When we do live His commandments and live like Christ, we will get along and won't have to deal with all the junk that happens.  I guess actually living the way they should is what happened in the city of Enoch.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Little Bit of Hope in the World

Diane, Dawn, Me, Jan, Kembe
So it's slightly weird to me, too, that I'd go to a premier of a movie and a prescreening of a different movie within the same week! That just hasn't been my thing in life.  Today I was invited via Mormon Women Stand to see Meet the Mormons.

Let me be honest, I wasn't super excited about Meet the Mormons because why would I need to meet any more?  I also was indeed surprised that the LDS Church was going to release a film in theaters.  By the way, this particular movie was originally created to be shown in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, but had such positive reviews at other prescreenings, that they decided to take it to THE big screen, not just one big screen.

If you are a Latter-day Saint you will enjoy the film and might even cry.  If you are not a Latter-day Saint and are curious about Mormons and what they're really like, this will give you a feel for what they are trying to accomplish in life.  If you don't like Mormons and don't want to know anything about them, but for some weird reason see the movie anyway, if you take the Mormon element out of the film, you are left with stories of humanity where people are trying to better their own lives and the lives of people around them.  You realize there is goodness left in the world.  Some people are drawn to that goodness, and the people in this film happen to be tied together after the pattern of Christ because of their religion.  No matter your feelings about Mormons, you won't go away from the film feeling yucky.

Now, because this was a prescreening, those of us there had some little perks.  For one, I got to meet and sit by Kembe Sullivan from Atlanta who is the wife of the bishop in the movie.  During the question and answer period after the film, we learned that she was born in Kenya, lived in South Africa, immigrated to California, and now lives in Georgia.  Her cute kids are now 10, 8, and 4, I think, which is really close in age to my kids!  Someone asked if there were any "I wishes" after the filming. Kembe said she wished she wouldn't have sounded so whiney getting the kids ready for church. At the time of filming she said she was working at a "brick and mortar" school, so her husband actually got the kids ready for the day most of the time, so I guess she didn't feel justified complaining when she only had to do it one day a week.  Either way, though, for whomever gets the kids ready, it is hard work!  Another funny thing Kembe shared was that her husband asked the public affairs person in their ward to find someone to be interviewed for the documentary.  She tried, but returned to him without luck and asked, "why don't you do it?" and he said ok.

I was also able to meet Dawn Armstrong, "The Missionary Mom" from Utah.  Again, I have to be honest: I knew her story was last, so it had to be good, but I seriously wondered how the story of a mom from Utah could warrant the finale of the film?  I don't know how much I want to spoil it, but her story did not disappoint.  She has overcome really hard things, but because of good choices, she is in a great spot now.  She's had eight children, and her oldest son, now returned from his mission, encouraged their family to participate in this project.  I don't think Dawn thinks she has such a powerful story, so it's wonderful that her son pushed for it.  She said she only wishes that there could have been more of an introduction to her family in the film.

The story of the football coach was great, as was the boxer, and the humanitarian, but I have to say always one of my favorites is that of Gail Halvorsen, the Candy Bomber.  I cried through most all of his.  Maybe it's black and white pictures that make me cry.  We'll blame it on that.  I just love how he gave so many people hope in such a dreadful time of history.  I think I also get emotional because he came in 2012 to the Christmas Concert at Temple Square where they shared his story and dropped candy parachutes from the Conference Center ceiling and it was magical.

I was impressed with the spread of women bloggers represented at this prescreening.  There were women from Feminist Mormon Housewives, Exponent II, WAVE, Juvenile Instructor, The Small Seed, Holly on the Hill, LDS Women, LDS Women of God, Sistas in Zion, Mormon Women Stand, and others who I can't remember.  I admit, because we wore name tags with which blogs we represented, I was less likely to talk to some of the others in the beginning, but afterward, when feelings were so good, I think the tone had changed, or maybe it was just my attitude.  I think we realized we're here to spread Christ's goodness, and not to argue with one another, and maybe that was Public Affair's intent of inviting us.


I've always wanted to meet a Sista!  Wow I'm pale!

Q&A with Jessica Moody, Kembe, and Dawn

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Heart of the Matter Movie Premier

Tonight I was able to go to the premier of The Heart of the Matter, a non-denominational Christian documentary that brings HOPE to the pornography problem. It was so well done and leaves you with this wonderful feeling of reliance on Christ.

Obviously, because most people will feel dumb going to a theater to watch a film about overcoming pornography, it will not be released in theaters, but will be available October 1 at http://theheartofthemattermovie.com.  You can also buy the DVD with additional footage. The producers will additioally be working with churches and recovery groups to license the film for use.

The goal of the film is to get people talking about the pornography problem because once it's out in the light, that's when people can start to heal.