Monday, January 31, 2011

Oh Vanity!

Two articles came in my Google Reader today:  Atlanta gave a new perspective on wedding dresses that I've never thought of before, and Steph has an explanation for why Utah is high on the anti-depressant and general vanity lists.  Here's part of what she said:

I’m obviously not an expert on these sociological matters, but I think I can see where some of this struggle originates.  LDS women are like other women throughout the world; we have struggles and sadness and insecurities.  There are also rampant mental health issues throughout our society, to which we are not immuned.  As I have become more and more of an adult, I have begun to see how many people, including many friends and family, struggle with depression, anxiety and consistently high stress.  Life is a pressure cooker that seems to take a great toll on our mental health.  We often need help.  It is safe to say that we all self-medicate.  When pressures are high and our ability to deal with them feels low, we turn to something to help us feel better.  Within the LDS faith, because of our doctrinal principles, we do not turn to the same things that many, many other people turn to in times of stress– drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, pornography or self-serving sexual behaviors, for example.  Perhaps our anti-depressant numbers are seemingly skewed because of this.  Other people with the same struggles self-medicate differently.  (I want to make clear that I do not have an anti-medication stance.  At all.)  Perhaps this also explains, in part, the obsession with beauty issues.  When women feel overwhelmed and empty, they look for ways to make themselves feel better, and for LDS women, fake eyelashes is not “against our religion.”  Whatever the reasons, which I really don’t know, I think we all need to do a better job of turning to the right place for help.
2/2/11:  I was thinking about the vanity thing this morning and was continuing to wonder why the Utah culture falls into it so much.  I was wondering if at least part of it is that "everyone else is doing it."  A few years ago we lived in a neighboring neighborhood.  Many of the people who lived there just happened to not be into "the bling" (gobby jewelry, purses, fancy pants, boots, etc.)  so it made it easy to go out without makeup, or to have very plain hair, etc.  In the neighborhood we live in now, many, if not most, people are into "the bling," and I admit, I do feel pressure to wear more makeup (at least some) and to look put together to be accepted.

An example, I showed up to a group activity a month or so ago.  Everyone was commenting on each other's tall, trendy boots.  All 5 other ladies were wearing them.  I wasn't; I don't have any, nor do I plan on getting any.  I was wearing my clearance mesh top summer shoes that I haven't bothered to replace with something warmer for winter yet.  So, I did feel a little left out because I wasn't wearing my trendy tall boots for everyone to admire, but then again, I don't care enough to go get some, particularly because it's a fad.

Once I asked my mom about this phenomenon, too.  Growing up we lived in a lower-economic and simple part of Salt Lake City.  When we grew out of that house, we moved to a more affluent city and my mom noticed the same thing happening.  Because some people were into "the bling," others felt pressured into it, too.  And if they didn't buy into it, they felt less acceptance by the blingers.

So, in sum, perhaps part of the reason we Utahns fall into the trend trap is that so many others already have, and we feel pressured to do so because everyone else seems to be doing it.  If we're lucky enough to land in a neighborhood where bling isn't a big deal, count your many blessings; simplicity will rub off on you, too!

2/17/10:  I've been thinking about this post and have to make a confession -- I'm not too vain about clothes or makeup, but, boy am I vain about my weight!  There ya go.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Mighty Elephant

Tonight I went to the Women for Decency kickoff meeting with my sister-in-law.  The speaker was Jill Manning who wrote Let's Talk about the Elephant in the Room and What's the Big Deal about Pornography?  There weren't a ton of people there, but it was nice to see other people who want to make a difference.

Manning told how she was reading 1 Peter 5:8:  "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."   She wanted to learn more, so she studied up on lions and their habits and learned that the only animal the lions can't get are the elephants, so she learned about elephants.  She learned that the elephants in a herd are females, young, and injured/ill males.  The healthy males are solitary and don't join the pack.  She learned that when these herds/packs of elephants are in danger from such things as lions, they form a circle, faces out, with the young or ill in the middle to protect them.  She compared us to the elephants in protecting intelligently and diligently our young.  So not only are we now lionesses at the gate, we are mighty elephants!

What I found interesting was that a few things she said regarding porn and the acceptance of it, were similar points made by Wendy Shalit in A Return to Modesty and The Good Girl Revolution.

For instance, Manning said women are showing tolerance to pornography by dating and marrying guys whom they know have the addiction -- they think it won't be that big of a deal.  Shalit says similarly that if women will allow men to sleep with them without commitment, then men won't feel a need to commit because they can just find someone else to sleep with.  We need to stand up to them (society/the porn industry/immoral men) and let them know the expectation whether it's that porn is unacceptable, or that no, men cannot sleep with us without being married to us.

Manning said that our initial response to porn is typically disgust.  We don't need training in the subject, we need to trust our instincts.  Shalit says typically women do not want to show it all, they don't want non-committal sex, so listen to your instincts -- they're there to protect you!

Another interesting and different point was that Manning said that the porn industry is always whining about being censored.  She says it's really the porn industry censoring out the real truth!

The Dangerous Digital Vortex

Because this blog is becoming a "file folder" of sorts for cool things I find regarding women and raising families, I thought I'd link to The Dangerous Digital Vortex by Sue Bergin.  The article discusses many ways to safeguard our families against falling too much into the digital world -- avoiding pornography, teaching children, communicating, etc.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Miss Representation

This might be an interesting one to see:  Miss Representation.

From  "Miss Representation" focuses on how the mainstream American media objectifies women focusing on youth and beauty. The filmmaker spoke with high-profile women about how they rose above it.

Saw this also on facebook that relates:

From the Deseret News regarding Miss Representation: 
"We want to change the media message which is, 'women and girls are less important than boys,' " Davis said. "And we want to empower women and girls to reach their full potential."
From the article, I'm not sure if they believe staying home to raise a family is included reaching one's full potential, but I guess I'll have to watch the film to really find out.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mormon Blogs

This article, Why I can't stop reading Mormon housewife blogs, cracked me up!!!  She makes Mormons sound all gooey-perfect, which, of course we're way not, but it was a fun read.

The grass is always greener. . .  (isn't that all what we struggle with?)

3/8/11 update:  Here's a little addendum to this topic.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Courageous Parenting

J Tolman over at LDS Women of God posted her thoughts on the Conference talk, Courageous Parenting, by Larry Lawrence.  It was a nice reminder.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Women's Movement in Early Utah

A week ago I listened to a radio program on Eliza R. Snow.  In it, the commentator and Jill Derr were speaking of Eliza R. Snow and Emeline B. Wells in the late 1880s, and quoted Emeline as saying "Relief Society will help women's emancipation from error, superstition, and darkenss, etc., will bring educational and economic opportunities to women." The program host then asked, "Where did [Emeline] come up with these particular concepts?  Was it the [original Relief Society] minutes or something more along the lines of women's rights?" (minute 44:46).

Jill Derr answers that she believes it was, at least in part, a result of Emeline's life:  Emeline was married at 15, a mother at 16 and deserted by her husband, later married two more times, and during her life had to support herself.  You can understand why Emeline was a supporter of women's rights and suffrage because she saw that women needed the ability to care for themselves when life gave them lemons.

After that part in the program, the commentators talked about how women in Utah had the vote in 1870, lost it when the government felt Utah had too much voting power, then received it again in 1896 when Utah became a state.  They suggest that it was easily acceptable for women to have the vote in early Utah because women naturally voted in church affairs, so why shouldn't they in civic?

Women in early Utah are so fascinating to me.  They had a different culture than the rest of the United Sates; they were quite liberated in many ways.  I'd continue to like to learn more about:
  • how did women's rights affect the women in Utah
  • how did Utah women influence women's rights, and who
  • how much did polygamy enable women to participate more in the community and politics
Any suggestions on where I can learn more?

I've found

Girls Gone Mild/The Good Girl Revolution

I just finished reading Wendy Shalit's Girls Gone Mild (or in paperback: The Good Girl Revolution).  Shalit focuses not only on modesty, but on the influence of pornography on our society and our relationships; sense of self, dignity, and altruism; friendship; bullying; and feminism.   In a nut shell, Shalit says maybe we can make the world a better place by being nice, good, and virtuous.  She still uses some pretty explicit examples throughout, which I hope are not the norm, but they do help her make her point.  It seems to be written for a younger audience (maybe high school), versus a college audience in A Return to Modesty, so it's an easier read.

On Friendship (chapter 5)
  • Women need to be more supportive of one another; knock off all the competition, sexual and otherwise.
On Feminism
  • ". . . the meaning of feminism is up for grabs right now.  The ground is rumbling, and the ideological fault lines are shifting. . ." (206-7).
  • "'. . . the sexual revolution's excesses have led to a devaluation of women and men.  We're playing into the dumbness of men and the dumbness of women'" (208).  I like that she includes men here.  If women want to be like men, why don't we try to copy good men, rather than the most base?
  • "The word itself [feminism] has become almost meaningless---and can refer to diametrically opposed ideas---and yet hearing what feminism means to others is still interesting and can tell you a lot.  Some people use the term to signal that they care about the dignity of women.  Others use it to indicate that they want to fight the notion of being dignified at all.  Usually to the youngest feminists, the idea of decency is tremendously appealing. . ." (208-9).  I identify with the dignity side.
  • One woman who went along with the feminist movement of the 1970s said, "'Now that I'm on the other side of life, I feel completely ripped off by the feminists.  I ended up with [STDs] and two unwanted pregnancies which I terminated. . . .  My supposed sexual liberation brought me lots of heartbreak and regrets, far outweighing the jollies.  The feminists simply don't acknowledge the downside of this supposed liberation'" (211-212).
  • '"To become a mother". . . is something that nearly "every girlfriend that I know" wants. . . .  "We're in our early thirties and there is that time that you have, and most of my friends do want that, and that is just the reality. . . . Your priorities change"' (216). 
  • ". . .I came to think of these younger feminists as part of a fourth wave. . . . The  fourth-wavers question pornography instead of wishing to star in it.  They are more likely to be fans of Florence Nightingale than Nina Hartley [I don't know who that is, and I'm not going to Google it].  They are most taken with earlier feminists, the nineteenth-century women who were temperance advocates as much as suffragists.  The suffragists argued that women should own property and have the right to vote precisely so that they might improve society with their moral perspective and their feminized heroism.  The early feminists also believed in the sacredness of sexuality, it's interesting to note" (219).
  • [Caring for a family] can seem less significant only if your sole criterion is external approval. . . .  . . .Does this mean that our private actions are intrinsically any less significant [than public]? (223)

I didn't find the book as amazing as I found A Return to Modesty, probably because the topic wasn't so new to me anymore.   I don't know that you need to read both of Shalit's books, but one will broaden your perspective on modesty.

Monday, January 10, 2011

It Pays to Wait

Study:  Couples who delay having sex get benefits later, BYU News Archives, Dec 22, 2010

Body Power

A while back I read Kathryn Soper's Why Standard's Night is Substandard.  She suggests that when we teach intimacy to young people, we tend to focus on young men bridling their passions and young women trying not to ignite that flame in young men.  She feels that we also need to discuss why some young women let their standards down:  the need for acceptance, love, joy, fulfillment, and one I hadn't thought of -- power.

I can't say power has been a huge factor in my life. I tend to fall in the Wendy Shalit camp where I'd rather be known and respected for my intellect than for my body (p. 30 Girls Gone Mild). However, I think Soper had a valid point that affects a lot of girls and women.

For example, I was at the grocery store on a busy day last December.  A woman was walking toward me wearing a tight, see-through, lacy, long-sleeved top with a skimpy tank top underneath.  The man walking in front of me noticed her, too.  I can't remember if he turned around after she passed to check out her back side, but I did notice the look of satisfaction on the the woman's face after she'd noticed she'd caught the man's attention!  I tried hard not to laugh!  Soper was totally right!

I believe Shalit would agree with Soper's point (p. 107, Girls Gone Mild), but she would also add more to the discussion regarding modesty in general.  After I finish Girls Gone Mild, I'll share some of her quotes.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Taking a Stand at Barnes and Noble

Here's another one.  Someone's got to do it, right?

To Whom it May Concern:

During December, I was at your store purchasing a gift card.  As I approached the checkout counter, I noticed several magazine covers that do not fit our community standard for decency (i.e. those containing scantily clad women).  I immediately thought how glad I was that I hadn’t brought my children shopping that day!  I purchased my gift card and went on my way.

The following week, I requested that a volunteer from our elementary school, where I sit on our PTA board, purchase additional gift cards from your store for prizes for our upcoming Geography Bowl.  After I asked her to do that, I remembered the experience I had with the magazines the week prior.  I realized by giving out the gift cards, we would be bringing elementary school aged children into your store and exposing them to things they do not need or want to see.

I know it would be too much to ask to remove magazines with inappropriate covers and content from your store, but could you please move them away to at least the magazine section, or merely provide covers if they must remain by the checkout counter?  It would make your store a much more comfortable place to shop.

Taking a Stand with the Dentist's Office

I don't normally write things like this, but I thought I'd take a stand:

Dear Dr. M:

We have been coming to your office for some time now; I’m sure you’ll remember us.  I’m the one who always has to tell you how my cute brother in law is doing in dental school.  Anyway, thank you so much for taking care of our oral hygiene needs!   We’ve always enjoyed your skilled staff and the services you all provide.

I wanted to write and bring up a concern that I’ve had on this visit and on the last.  Specifically, last week, when I walked into your office with my three kids, right within our view was a inappropriate picture of a woman on a magazine.  I picked it up before the kids could see it, intending to flip it over.  In the meantime, the lady at the desk needed me to update some paperwork, so I took the magazine with me and flipped it at the counter.  To my astonishment, an even more scantily clad lady was on the other side!  Not knowing what to do with the magazine, I handed it to the gal at the desk and told her to something with it.

Across the room I also noticed magazines that I didn’t want my kids to go near, so I kept them close.  I know you’re a family guy and run a family-oriented dental business, so I hope you can do something with the magazines, thus making it a more comfortable place for us all to come.

Thank you again for your service and hope to see you in the future!

1/13/11 Update:  I went in for my dental cleaning today.  I noticed ALL the objectionable magazines were GONE.  I hadn't sent my letter yet for two reasons. One, I thought I'd see what would happen between the kids' appointment and mine; and two, honestly, if I sent the letter when I wrote it, the dentist would have gotten it before my appointment.  I didn't want to feel awkward at my cleaning.  Anyway, I did mention the situation to the dentist about the magazines being gone.  He said he hadn't even been aware they were there since he rarely even goes in the waiting room.  Sometimes they also get the magazines just sent to them from the publishers.  He's seen similar situations in other offices, and the dentists just don't know the magazines are there.  He said please let them know if there are questionable magazines in the waiting area because he doesn't want them there either.  I knew our community had a higher community standard!  And... thanks to the desk gals who just took care of the problem!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Daughters in My Kingdom

I was reviewing Sister Julie Beck's great talk from our last General Relief Society Meeting and I was struck with the warnings she gives. I know that this is a long quote, but I thought that it was very interesting, she says, "

Because we are living in the last days of this earth, there are signs of a great struggle everywhere. Myths and misperceptions regarding the strength, purpose, and position of Latter-day Saint women abound. Prevailing myths imply that we are of lower importance than men, that we are generally sweet butuninformed, and that no matter what we do, we will never be enough to beaccepted by our Heavenly Father. As the Apostle Peter said, there are “false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denyingthe Lord that bought them.”

The Book of Mormon describes what is happening: “For behold, at that day shall [Satan] rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.“And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security,that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.“And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains.”

In the growing climate of entitlement, excuse, apathy, and enticement, daughters of God who are not watchful, prayerful, and inspired are increasingly at risk of becoming what the scriptures describe as “silly women” who worship a variety of“strange gods.” Sadly, as a result of life’s difficulties and the world’s popular heresies, many sisters believe the myths more than the truth. Their misalignment with God’s plan is demonstrated in findings that many are not doing essential things such as praying and reading scriptures. The Lord Himself has said that “this is a day of warning, and not a day of many words.”"

Looking over those myths I have to admit that I have let myself believe at least some of them at different points in my life. Sister Beck goes on to say that reviewing our history with the great women that our church has had will strengthen us in these days. I know that for myself looking to other strong women has taught me more than just about anything else concerning who I want to become. I know that Heavenly Father expects amazing things from His daughters and I know that through the gospel we can deliver what he needs for us to do.

For Sis. Beck's full article check this link.

So What Else Do You Do?

I ran across this post the other day and loved the reminder about how important the seemingly endless tasks of taking care of our children really are. I love the comparisons of mothers' work to that of the Savior and how when He walked the earth he made sure to care for the physical as well as the spiritual. This was definitely a great reminder for me!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Lion and the Lioness

I just finished listening to The Lion and the Lioness regarding Brigham Young and Eliza R. Snow.  With my love of history, I just loved hearing about women in Nauvoo, the Relief Society, and early Salt Lake City.  I love to hear how women were involved in society and how the interactions between men and women were.  As I listened, the thought crossed my mind, and it may be completely absurd and the details out of context, but that some of the LDS polygamous women back then (1800s) were getting out into society the way feminists of the 1960s also wanted women to get involved in society.  One example was women getting involved in medicine.  How's that for an idea?

(Now I'm not promoting polygamy here, nor am I promoting liberal feminist causes, but I thought it was an interesting observation.)