Monday, November 26, 2012

It's Been a Crazy Time.

My brain can't keep up with itself, guys. I have great ideas for posts all the time, but then they sit in my drafts for months and months because I can't quite manage to flesh them out into something that's publishable. It's very sad; I look through the drafts every so often and just feel my thoughts moving like sludge. I'm not sure when the getting stupider began, but I'm reasonably certain that by forty I shall be completely useless.

In other news, I absolutely adore my job at the library, but it has taken a sad turn in the form of a total lack of hours—I've worked five shifts in the entire month of November, and have none scheduled yet for December. Obviously I cannot afford this, and so I spent the last few weeks applying and interviewing for a second part-time job. I went to a screening at the Salt Lake library—which isn't even an interview, it's the step that decides who gets an interview—and I had two interviews at Barnes and Noble (plus some other applications that never even got phone calls). I heard back from Barnes and Noble on Saturday night... and I started training yesterday morning. :)

Yes, I have to use a post smiley, because I now have both of my dream jobs. Which is kind of amazing when you consider that I've been applying for positions at bookstores and libraries for almost ten years now, and these two are the first ones that have been successful. I'll work part time at Barnes and Noble, and take shifts at the library whenever they are offered to me. Unfortunately I will still be making very little actual money, since Barnes and Noble pays minimum wage and I'll be lucky to get twenty hours at the library in all of December. But together, with Mike's job, I think it's going to work.


Monday, November 19, 2012

The "Truth" About Mormonism and Women

[Blog readers, this is a post about the LDS church. It's a response to a post on Mormon Perspectives called "The Truth About Mormonism and Women," and it is basically a point-by-point rebuttal. (1) You should read the original post to see what I'm responding to. (2) If it's going to hurt you to hear criticisms of the church, please consider not reading any further; I really don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and this will be a very touchy one to read. I did not like the original post, and that will come across in my response. If you do want to read the post and are interested in discussing it with me, I will, as always, be glad to hear your thoughts or explain mine.]

Title: "A Post Which Claims to Speak for All Mormon Women and Solve the Problem of Feminism vs. Patriarchy Once and for All"
Date: November 19, 2012
Author: Steve P. (on the blog Mormon Perspectives)

Introduction

Statement One: A professor thinks Mormon men make all the decisions.
Statement Two: The Washington Post thinks LDS women are agitating for more institutional power.
Thesis: Professor and the WP imply that the LDS church disenfranchises women, but it doesn't. It empowers them.

Body

Paragraph One: The LDS church loves women. It has the biggest women's club in the world. Church leaders say women are more spiritual than men, and talk about Esther, Ruth, and Deborah all the time. LDS doctrine is that Eve was making "a conscious, enlightened, and necessary decision" when she took the fruit, and men can't be exalted without marrying women. Feminists think women don't need men.

Paragraph Two: If men and women are allowed to become equal, it will be bad for women because then they won't be exceptional or sacred anymore.

Paragraph Three: Separate but equal means everyone has value. Society claims to celebrate differences, but actually only wants parades.

Paragraph Four: Yes, but...

Paragraph Five: My mom is on a lot of committees. She is really intimidating to kids, and my dad always listens to her advice.

Paragraph Six: My sisters all went on missions and got degrees. In fact, one of my sisters is such a good leader that she was given a nickname describing the job in which she would have excelled if she'd only been a man (and therefore allowed to hold that job). So that's all the proof you need. Even The Huffington Post knows that all Mormons, including girls, are supposed to get good educations.

Paragraph Seven: The WP article kind of makes Lisa [who it quoted] sound like a radical Mormon feminist, but don't worry, she's not. She's really, really not.

Conclusion

Individual Mormons aren't any more perfect than anyone else. But we do know the truth. We know that men and women aren't equal, and we know that it's better this way.

So the thing is... I'm kind of tired of having men "explain" sexism to me. I think a lot of women are. And that's kind of where this post goes wrong from the very beginning. Steve is going to tell us why Mormon Women Have It Good. Well, all right, Steve. Let's hear it.

In the first place: "Mormonism empowers women. The LDS Church celebrates and reveres women and motherhood more than any other organization I know." That is fabulous. But guess what: Sentence Two does not mean the same thing as Sentence One. Being revered does not make you empowered. Being celebrated doesn't make you equal. This is called putting women on a pedestal, and it's a way of distracting them from the fact that they don't have the same rights you do. You know what goes on pedestals? Vases. Trophies. Pretty, shiny things that are For Display Only. Pedestals are not for people.

It is true that Mormon doctrine says Eve made her choice knowing that it was the only way God's plan could come to fruition. This is a beautiful piece of doctrine, and it is—as far as I know—the most feminist interpretation of the Fall that exists in all of Christianity.

But you know what's interesting? Even though Mormons have this glorious piece of information, we talk about Adam significantly more than we talk about Eve. When I read Steve's point about how church leaders "quote frequently" from the stories of Ruth, Esther, and Deborah, I thought I'd do a quick General Conference search to see how often their names came up. For those three, there were several results that were about someone else with the same name (like Ruth Faust, the wife of the former apostle) so I glanced through to find the ones that referenced the Bible stories.
  • Ruth: 15/60
  • Deborah: 0/1
  • Esther: 13/20
For contrast, I looked up a few other significant names—but with these, I didn't look to see which were relevant to the actual search. You'll see why.
  • Joseph Smith: 1700
  • Moses: 790
  • Adam: 437
  • Abraham: 361
  • Eve: 196
  • Emma Smith: 30
  • Mary: 273
This was a quick search, and I didn't go into very much depth. But to pretend that these results aren't indicative of something would be... well, just that—a pretense. Even Mary's 273 results seem incredibly misleading; I went through the first three pages and of those 30, only seven were actually about her. It's a popular name. So if we assume that one third of the results will be relevant (which is generous based on that initial count), that's 91. This means that if you add the results for all six of those women—the most important women in Christianity and Mormonism—there are fewer than there are for Abraham. No, Steve; it looks like our leaders actually don't talk about the women much at all.

"Feminists try to prove that women can do everything alone." There isn't really much to say about this except that Steve needs to do a little bit of research and come back later. This statement does not reflect any kind of understanding about what feminism is or does.

"By fighting for 'equality' on the terms dictated by traditionally male spheres, we can in fact do a disservice to women." How lovely of you to be concerned, Steve. Now butt out. We'll decide for ourselves whether we want equality, thank you. You don't have to worry your pretty little head about how you're doing us a disservice by letting us be equal (insert eyeroll here).

"Society often talks about celebrating our differences, but then absurdly cries foul whenever those differences entail any sort of real world effects beyond an annual parade." This is some seriously convoluted spin, right here. It actually took me several minutes to be able to unpack it enough to explain, because the problem is the word "differences"—it means two separate things, but is being used as though they're the same. The differences "society" celebrates (and by "society" I suppose Steve means "feminists and gay people") are individual, not categorical. Feminists do indeed talk about celebrating differences—in the sense that we would like people who are different to still be treated like human beings. People who aren't straight, or white, or male. You know. The others. But the differences Steve is advocating—those differences with "real world effects"—those are gender roles. Not individuals celebrating our diversity differences, but men go to work and women raise the babies differences. He's pretending that they mean the same thing, but they don't. In fact they are very nearly opposites. Feminism celebrates individual differences, and wants people to be respected as human beings—not categorized as genders.

"My mother is more of a leader than my father." My friend Emily pointed out the obvious: "His mother was empowered by something other than the church. That was her personality and the personality and privileges she was able to give to her daughters. The church did not do ANY of that." It is fantastic that his mother and sisters are such strong people. But who says their being Mormon has anything to do with it? Many non-Mormon women are strong leaders. Many Mormon women aren't. This point proves nothing.

The previous points prove nothing, too. The entire post proves nothing—nothing except that mansplaining is alive and well, which no one was doubting. Women are not equal in the LDS church, because you cannot have gender equality in a patriarchy. You just can't; it is semantically impossible. Women have no institutional authority in the church, and they must depend on men for access to the priesthood. Even that famous women's organization, the largest one in the world, is not actually run by women. It used to be; it was originally. Before correlation in the 1960s, the Relief Society had its own budget and manuals and even meeting houses. But now it has none of that, and all the final decisions are made by male leaders. The group itself is an auxiliary of the church—a subsidiary. And "subsidiary" is exactly the position of women in a patriarchy.

It would be really nice if I thought this response would cause men like Steve to stop explaining women in the church and listen to them instead. I don't think that. I know that because Steve knows some women who have no problem with the church, he will continue to dismiss the words of other women who feel differently—because, you know, there can be only one valid experience for a woman. 

The point brought up in The Washington Post is true—there is a pretty dramatic movement happening in the church, and I can't see it getting anything but bigger as time goes on. Every day, more women like me start to realize that feminism isn't just that thing that happened in the 70s with bra burning and protests. Every day more young women are learning that feminism isn't finished. There's a lot of work left to do, and more and more LDS women are ready to start doing it. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Currently...

  • Humming the Mumford and Sons cover of "The Boxer" (so good, so good, so good).
  • Drinking a caffe mocha.
  • Worrying about not being able to get enough hours at the library, and Barnes and Noble not calling me back after my second interview there...
  • Working on rebuilding my wardrobe after a several-year period of no money and weight fluctuation that has reduced it literally to shreds (remind me to take a picture of the last pair of jeans I just wore out).
  • Wondering when we're going to be able to get an apartment again.
  • Reading all the picture books and junior fiction I can get my hands on, plus Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Half the Sky
  • Dancing (ish) at Zumba classes with Emma.
  • Wishing that November 28 would get here sooner, so I can go see my family!
  • Remembering all the movies I've ever watched so I can add them to Jinni, like that early phase after you joined Goodreads when you had to go back and fill your shelves.
  • Beginning the job hunt process again... Sigh.
  • Getting excited for Christmas. Favorite holiday, favorite time of year.
  • Saturday, November 17, 2012

    Let's Talk About Sex.

    This is my question for discussion: Do parents have the right to keep their children from learning about sex? 

    Parenting and parental rights are such tricky subjects. Where is the line between this child came from my body; it is my responsibility/right to care for it as I see fit and considering the welfare of the child? As a community we agree that child abuse is not acceptable, but no one's ever sure how to decide exactly what constitutes child abuse and what's just a parenting approach with which we disagree. 

    Is it abuse to refuse medication for your child because of your beliefs?

    Is it abuse to use physical punishment, like spanking?

    What exactly is abuse? Parents have so much control over how a person first becomes formed, and this can be a really good thing or a very damaging one. 

    So the question is... sex. How the human body works. What sex is, what its potential effects are. Because that's the thing to consider—sex can 100 percent change the course of a person's life. There's pregnancy, and diseases, and emotional impact that for many people never fades. And one person's knowledge (or lack thereof) also affects all the people with whom that person will have romantic or sexual relationships in their lifetime. Basically, there's a lot riding on a parent's decision.

    So where are the lines drawn? What are parents' rights regarding their children's education about sex?

    And furthermore, what do we do about it if we think a parent is beyond their rights? If they refuse permission for their child to participate in sex ed in school, but don't provide the education themselves, at home? What can anyone do? What should they do, and who should "they" be? At what point does a child's need become more important than a parent's stewardship?

    Sunday, November 11, 2012

    #Hashtag Universe

    I'm weirded out sometimes by how things seem to follow me around. It's like when you learn a new word, and then you start hearing that word everywhere and it seems like everyone else just learned that word too. In fact, it feels like the world is one big Twitter, where things are organized by topic and when you click on one, you see related posts with the same hashtag.

    First example: It has been at least a year, if not more, since I have seen, talked about, or even heard mentioned one of my old favorite shows, Whose Line is it Anyway? But the other day—or rather, a few months ago, when I started writing this post—we were in the car with our nieces, and something made me think of that sound effects game they play. I told the girls about it and they played in the backseat (which was, incidentally, hilarious). Then I got on Pinterest that night and saw this meme:


    [These are the bits I wrote up several weeks ago, when I started this post:]

    I'm going through a book that's a timeline of history, going through each year and charting significant things that happened in politics, music, visual arts, religion, science and technology, and so on. Somewhere in the 1700s I read about the capacitor being invented, and noted it because of course it made me think of Back to the Future. I don't think I've ever heard of a capacitor outside that context—but then just a day or two later, there was a How Stuff Works article in my Facebook news feed about them.

    Mike worked at Vivint for a little while earlier this summer. It's a security company I'd never heard of before (used to be Apex, I think) and their logo is a bright orange circle. I've seen signs in his neighborhood recently, and stickers on minivans outside Starbucks—but now they're advertising on Pandora, too.

    A few days ago, Mike brought up Community and we talked about how I don't really like it, so I won't be interested in watching season three. I had completely forgotten about that show—hadn't seen or heard anything about it in several months. Then the next day I got on Facebook and there were ads for it all over my sidebar.

    Yesterday Mike came home with three $1 coins, and I thought they were cool because I've never gotten one of them before. Ever. Then I went to hear a speaker at the Salt Lake Public Library last night, and when I paid for parking, the machine gave me back three $1 coins.

    [And these are the new ones I came here to add:]

    Last week I read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, essentially on a whim, because a patron handed it to me and asked if I could just check it in for her instead of putting it in the bookdrop. I'd never thought of reading it before. Then on Friday, on my way to work, I turned on NPR and heard them discussing Georges Melies and his movies (which feature prominently in Hugo).

    The other day I was thinking about Around the World on Eighty Legs, just remembering that I'd liked it. A few minutes later I picked up the book I was reading, and the protagonist mentioned that his two favorite books were The Three Musketeers and Around the World in Eighty Days.

    I finished that same book—Black Radishes, by Susan Lynn Meyer—and liked it so much that at work that night, I went to NoveList to find read-alikes. One of the first recommendations was Waiting for Anya by Michael Morpurgo—who I'd never heard of until earlier that evening, when a patron was looking for a book by him that was missing from the shelf.

    I find it really unsettling when these things happen, but in a way it's also kind of fascinating... as though there really is synchronicity in the universe, and even the smallest things are all connected.

    Tuesday, November 6, 2012

    Election Day Thoughts: Or, It's Almost Over!

    I posted some of this on Facebook just a little while ago, and I guess I'm not done talking about it yet, so I brought the conversation here. I haven't been on the internet since last Thursday, because Mike's parents' internet is throttled and sometimes it's just not worth the effort of trying to use it when each page takes two minutes to load. I happened to see his Facebook news feed last night, though, when my phone's battery died and I borrowed his to look at something—and I realized that I might not mind so much about the crappy internet right now, thanks to the timing. The new internet cycle starts on November 10, and I think that's just about perfect; I suppose it'll probably take a few days for the hateful rhetoric to die down even after the election's over, because whichever side loses is going to be pretty pissed. (And I'm predicting lots of doom and gloom either way, because you know, it's the end of the world and all.)

    But I'm so glad it's almost over for this year, and I'm so frustrated that this experience is ruined for us the way it is. Talking about politics is important, and it can be FUN when everyone's mature about it! Thoughtful, intellectual, mind-expanding philosophical conversations are so satisfying. So... edifying, for lack of a better word. Learning about perspectives you've never imagined, having the opportunity to refine or support your ideas... I feel so good when I get to have those experiences, so in touch with the universe and my fellow human beings and the knowledge that my own experience is just a small, small piece of something much bigger. Joining Facebook groups and reading blogs that focus on these kinds of discussions has really been an amazing thing for me (and it's saved my sanity more than once). 

    Wouldn't it also be fantastic if election day could be about celebrating our voice, all of us participating in making our society work, and knowing that "the people" really did decide how it should happen? Knowing that it mattered if we voted, and that what we have to offer could really make a difference? Wouldn't that be so much better than the hateful attacks we have now, the desperate rhetoric about "taking back the country," as though it's a battle, or just hiding and waiting for it to all be over?

    There's so much about our political system that could really be awesome, but instead the whole system is absolutely terrible. We need legislation to fix some of it, like the fact that only people with lots of money and connections have a shot (which is why our government is, as a whole, very wealthy and disconnected from the majority of Americans' actual needs), and that corporations and interest groups—with spending power completely out of the realm of possibility for actual people, and with "needs" that are usually not in the average person's best interest—can basically buy candidates who depend on their money to stay in office. We need legislation to change those things.

    But there's a lot we could do ourselves, without any kind of organization at all. Like truly listening to the "other side" (not our side's explanation of what the other side thinks), and wanting to be able to see things from their perspective. Like not having "sides" to begin with—because your political beliefs shouldn't be about membership in a clique—or at least having more than two options. (This one would require organizational changes as well, but it could start with people actually voting for third-party candidates instead of just the one they think has a chance of winning, and not shunning those who don't subscribe totally to one party's view.) 

    What else could we do? It'd be amazing if we could actually participate in discussions (not arguments) with others—discussions in which the goal is to learn about others' needs and ideas, to expand our understanding of the world, not just to make a point. And it'd be so, so helpful if we could refuse to make generalizations and assumptions about what others believe, and realize that it's absurd to think you know what someone else's motivation is. A huge part of the problem is that people talk about "liberals" and "conservatives" as though all liberals feel the same way, and all conservatives. When you're posting on Facebook about needing to protect our country from the liberals, you're (1) ignoring the fact that you probably have liberals among your friends, and (2) making it much less likely that those friends will ever feel like they can have a discussion with you. When you say things about how no self-respecting woman could vote for a conservative, you're (1) making assumptions you're not qualified to make, and (2) pissing off self-respecting women who might have thought your ideas were interesting and been willing to have a discussion with you about them, if you'd shared them in a less offensive and judgmental way. 

    Mostly, I think what we could do is learn to care more about doing what's right for everyone than about being part of the clique that wins. People get very immature in the month before election day, I have noticed—they post childish memes making fun of candidates for things like the size of their ears or some really ill-advised 90s-style photo shoot; they respond to people's harmless status updates with comments that are the political equivalent of "I know you are but what am I;" they pick fights and deliberately read things in the most negative way possible, and it all ends up feeling suspiciously like junior high again. This is, to quote Demetri Martin, crappy behavior. It's crappy in any situation, and it's especially bad in this one, because the thing is that this stuff actually matters. It's important to be able to talk about politics in a reasonable, adult manner. We need to be able to make decisions together, and the running of our country is not something to leave in the hands of that little part inside each of us that never left junior high school.

    Thursday, November 1, 2012

    Halloween's Over and I Barely Noticed.

    I kind of like it that way.

    Last night Mike and I went on a walk, and as we passed some of the neighbors' yards with their Halloween decorations, I realized that they'd all be taken down soon—probably this weekend, if not today. There were a few fun moments this month as people began celebrating the holiday: seeing Effie Trinket and whatever-that-guy's-name-is that Stanley Tucci played in The Hunger Games standing at the circulation desk at work; coming in on Saturday morning to find a crowd of people in costumes getting ready for the 5K we sponsored; standing in the front yard talking to Dan and Candice last night, while trick-or-treaters walked past and we admired some of the costumes and tried to figure out what others were supposed to be. I enjoyed seeing friends post pictures of their costumes on Facebook all day. It was fun. 

    But I don't really care for Halloween, and last night it was with relief that I realized it was over almost before I'd even noticed it. Mostly, I feel kind of neutral about this holiday; I don't hate it, but I don't like it either, and there are certain things about it that I do actively dislike.

    I don't like that everyone always wants me to watch a scary movie, and I don't like that it means I always have to disappoint someone—either by making them watch a different movie, or by not participating with the group that's watching a scary one. I just don't do scary movies. I don't enjoy watching them, and I don't like them after they're over. It's just not my thing. 

    I don't like a lot of the decorations, either, especially food. I don't like zombies or guts or gore. I have really hated Pinterest in the month of October, because pictures of asparagus made to look like a witch's finger make my stomach turn. Bloody intestines, brains, eyeballs, scabs, maggots, and cockroaches absolutely destroy my appetite. The idea of biting into a cupcake that has a giant spider on top makes my skin crawl. I do not find these things amusing. And I don't like how difficult they are to avoid during this month that would otherwise, weather-wise, be one of my very favorites.

    But I don't really mind those other things as long as I don't have to participate in them, or can look the other way. The real problem with Halloween is that a lot of people like scaring others. This is also why I don't like April Fools' Day, or practical jokes in general. I don't think it's funny to scare people, and this post by Jana Remy is a really good example of why I feel that way. Each of the three stories she shares made me feel a little knot in my stomach as I read them. It is not funny have a group of people stand around and laugh at your fear. It is not funny seeing that happen to someone you love. It's fine if you like being scared yourself, and if you know—I mean actually specifically know—that someone else enjoys it too. As long as everyone is a willing participant, pranks and practical jokes are fine. But if you don't know that someone is a fan of that kind of humor, I think it's really cruel to spring it on them. I think the only fear it's okay to laugh at is your own.