Thursday, November 7, 2013

More Seperate = More Equal, Right??

  I've made mention before about the Ordain Women movement that is happening in the LDS Church. The short version is that there is a growing group of people that think women should be more equal in the church. Equal in terms of leadership, administration, priesthood, and authority.
  They organised a meething this past October, in which women and male supporters would try to gain access to the Church's semi-annual Priesthood session. Which is a conference for, by, and in behalf of men. Men being males aged 12 and older, Mormon and non-Mormon alike. They were turned away by the door keepers and spokeswoman, and eventually, a garbage truck was placed in front of the door to block them from individually asking for tickets.
   I've already posted my feelings on that, but something new has come up. A few days ago, the Church officially announced a new Women's Meeting to be held the Saturday before General Conference. This is historic for a few reasons. First, there was no Women's meeting in the church since the days of Joseph Smith. Yes, there are Relief Society Broadcasts, but they are for adult women. Though sometimes they allow Young Women to attend. Now they're adding kids. This new women's meeting will be for females ages 8 and up.  Second, because (according to the press release) this meeting will be conducted by the Presidencies of Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society. This is new, because in prior conferences, the First Presidency of the Church (Prophet or 1st Presidency) would conduct and give the keystone address. I'm unsure of whether there will be male speakers, or males presiding. I guess we'll have to wait until April to find out.
   The Bloggernacle is, as usual, divided on this issue. So I'm going to chime in with my two cents.

I think it's a bad choice. I will let my husband sum up why. When I told him about this new meeting, he laughed and said "So the Church's response to women wanting equality is to give them more separate meetings?" That is pretty much my first complaint in a nutshell. History has proven over and over that separate will never, ever be equal.
  Another reason that it bugs me is because of the age range. So now "women" are considered from 8 to adults. Call me crazy, but there are tons of different developmental stages within that age bracket. At least with the Priesthood meeting, there is a general point from which to gather talks : the Priesthood. Honestly, the only thing females from 8-100 have in common is their gender. Which may be the point, but it feels like (once again), the church feels that women are rather like children.
   Along those same lines, how can the speakers present things that can be understood by an 8 year old, but not too dull or trite for an adult? And 2 hours of walking that balance? Not to mention the problem of female Church speakers and their "Primary voice". (Imagine the high pitched, small worded way people sometimes talk to children. Now imagine that voice speaking for 10 minutes.)
   Also, this meeting will not be held during general conference, nor will it be called a Conference. It is a women's meeting. It really seems to me that they just took the Relief Society Broadcast idea and said "Oh, just let some younger women show up. It's just like the Priesthood session now, right?"
   A concern I have about this meeting, is that it enforces the idea that men and women are radically different. Instead of it being a church of people, it's a church of men and women with very different roles. Roles that, in my opinion, should be based on talents, experience, intelligence, and desire. Instead, they are based off antiquated gender roles and genitalia.  "See, Janey? You're a girl, so you go to the girl meeting. Ricky is a boy, and he goes with Daddy to the boy meeting."
   I'm really curious to see what they talk about in this Women's meeting. Half of me thinks it will be "YOU ARE A WOMAN. RAISE YOUR CHILDREN. GET MARRIED. STAY A VIRGIN UNTIL MARRIAGE." The other half thinks it will be a mishmash of varying opinions (like this past session of conference), just so there's an "out" for the leadership. "We care about feminists' opinions! Read Brother XYZ's talk!"

   So while it does seem like a (baby) step in the right direction, I think the First Presidency has a ways to go. I think they should start by concretely answering the question that has been asked of them : Will women ever be able to receive the Priesthood, and have the authority to act in God's name?  I feel like the longer they try to wait in limbo, the more harm they are doing to people on both sides of the issue. Because women's ordination is such a divisive issue, people have strong opinions. And sometimes it gets difficult to separate the disdain for someone's opinion with disdain for the opinion holder.
   That's what we're seeing in church, especially on blogs and Facebook. Here is a great word cloud gathered from various Tweets, Status updates, and comments. Yes, it was gathered by a FeministMormonHousewife blogger, and may be biased. But having seen reactions that people in my ward have had when I mention things, I don't' think it's that far off.

  Though I have left the Mormon faith, I am still interested in it's progress. I still feel connected to it, even as I try to disentangle myself from the dogmas.  And even though I no longer attend, I still care about those still practicing. Having been hurt so much by a church that preaches love and acceptance, I want to be able to provide love and acceptance to those that may disagree with my choices. So though I no longer consider myself a Mormon, I will always be a Mormon activist.


  1. I'm not a huge fan of the segregation but wouldn't mind quite so much if it actually was equal. I mean if they incorporated this session into general conference and elevated it to the same importance as Priesthood session that would be a step in the right direction. Even better would be if the church relinquished the control of the Relief Society to women. If women were able to call their own leaders and preside over their own meetings and run their organization without interference then THAT would be real progress.

    As far as the Ordain Women movement I would love to see them succeed but I have a hard time believing it will happen any time soon. I have to say that the whole Priesthood session debacle played out pretty much exactly like I expected it to go. And I also know that while it may have seemed to us that the church handled the situation extremely callously and insensitively that the vast majority of the Church perceived it as kind and loving. After all, the church spokespeople were polite and civil. They didn't get security to forcibly evict the women and in the minds of most Mormons that's more than these women ever had a right to expect. Even on FMH people are much more likely to be compassionate and accepting of the movement but I really think that only a small fraction of them are fully supportive of female ordination. I live in Utah surrounded by Mormons but have yet to hear anyone voice support for female ordination in real life. The truth is that I suspect that Mormon feminists will gain more traction if they lay off female ordination for the time-being and focus on smaller, less threatening changes.

  2. Probably so. Though maybe that's the point? Say you want something huge, that way getting little things that are pretty good, too, is a lot less threatening (and more likely to happen?)