Trigger Warning: Mentions of Sexual Assault and Perpetrators of Sexual Assault
I won a drawing last week because I donated to a scholarship that helps single Mormon mothers go back to school. My prize was an artist’s rendition of me however I wanted it. Of course I chose Wonder Woman, the goddess of the Geekiverse.
Thank you to my friend Rune and her crazy awesome artistic talent. She is the best in every way possible. We’ve had a many a late night convo about Mormon feminism and she is so smart and someone I respect so much. Love you, Rune!
As a child my mother worked very hard to teach me to be an independent person. She came from the era that women couldn’t rent an apartment, buy a house, hold a credit card or bank account in their name without a father or husband’s consent. She wanted her children to be able to take care of themselves once they left her home. My mother and father both had childhoods where they had to work hard and they both grew up with a good worth ethic. They never wanted to have children who were helpless.
It was because of this I learned that when it comes to my actions, my thoughts, my words…I am responsible for myself.
It’s because of this belief that I’m really tired of the lie that gets told in (mostly) religious cultures that says men are so base, vile, and corrupt that they cannot control themselves when it comes to their sexual passions. And because of this we women must cover ourselves up so as to not excite these men because they can’t help themselves. And if they do help themselves, it must be the woman’s fault, right? Wrong.
This idea isn’t new. The Victorians were so proper, a glimpse of an ankle was provocative. In some Muslim countries women are forced to be covered all over with burquas. Apparently in American religious contemporary society, a picture of a teenage girl not wearing a bra on Facebook is so shocking a mother has to write a shaming post about it telling these girls to keep away from her sons. The subtext being these sons are in no way capable of moderating their own reactions and mommy must do it for them.
Am I crazy to think that men are human beings and, therefore, capable of controlling themselves? Millions of men walk around this planet every day who are able to restrain their sexual passions and not act out on every sexual impulse that invades their brain. You’ll have to excuse me for not thinking that all men are just potential rapists waiting for the right trigger. The reason why I give men so much credit is because I know too many wonderful ones who are able to control themselves.
I think there comes a time in all of our lives when we realize that the only person we can control is ourselves. We can’t make people dress or act in the way we want them to. We can’t make them cater to our desires. We can’t make women cover up so as to not entice heterosexual men. Heterosexual men are going to be attracted to women that they are attracted to no matter what they wear. And, if I might add, how very self-centered of anyone to think that everyone else should cater to them.
I hope, with all sincerity that if a mother of teenage sons sees a girl on Facebook posting a “selfie” she finds provocative, she teaches her sons to control their own passions. Once they leave her home they are responsible for themselves. They need to be able to conduct themselves around women with propriety and respect. The way she does this is by teaching her sons that girls are human beings. Like Nate Pyle says, they need to be able to “see” women as human beings regardless of what they’re wearing.
The world doesn’t revolve around one single person (no matter how much Donald Trump wished it did) and we can’t expect people to be perfect and never make mistakes. I’m bothered by anyone who states that someone doesn’t get a second chance with them and then proclaims to be a Christian. I’m so grateful for the people who have given me a second chance. I know that there are some people who will never give me a second chance, and that’s fine. That’s their loss. But I want everyone to know, you’ll always have a second chance with me. (Unless you continue to try to hurt me or someone I love. I do have boundaries).
“Jesus wasn’t about perfection. He was all about redemption. He said that he didn’t come to save the righteous, but the fallen. He gathered around him the prostitutes, tax collectors, and other ‘broken’ members of society and delighted in their company, not in the company of the self-righteous pharisees who stood on street corners exhibiting to the world how ‘perfectly’ they kept the letter of the law.” -Lorian Franklin Dunlop (someone I’m lucky to call a friend)
There might be people in this world who look at teenagers on social media and judge them as not worth their time based on a “selfie” they posted. They might decide that their sons or daughters shouldn’t be allowed to interact with these people any more. They might decide that these kids don’t ever deserve a second chance. They might feel superior to these kids because “they’re so perfect.” I’d like to remind them of my friend’s Lorian’s words and know that how you treat “the least of these” is a reflection of your character, not theirs.
That’s right, teenage girls who were shamed on the internet this week for daring to take a picture of yourself with pouty duck lips, what anyone has said or written about you is a reflection of their character, not yours.
And so I leave you with this, as my children go out into this world I want them to know that they are only in control of themselves. And if someone can’t get past the way their body looks enough to see the person behind the body, (their sparkling personalities, their wicked senses of humor, the kindness they show to others) and only seeks to make a sexual object out of them, that sin is not on their heads. There is no way that they dress or act that can cause someone else to sin. None. They are only the guardians of their own virtue, not anyone else’s.
I’m really, really tired of the fact that being called a girl or a woman is the worst insult you can throw at a boy or a man. There is nothing shameful about being a girl and a woman, so why is it so insulting to be called one?
I was thinking about this recently when I was watching “The Sandlot” with my kids. I triple love that movie and part of it was filmed in my hometown. I’ve loved that movie for 20 years, but there is one part that has always bothered me. When Ham is trading insults back and forth with the rival baseball team his penultimate insult is to tell the other player that, “you play ball like a girl!” Everyone is shocked! How dare he go there? THAT WAS THE WORST DIS IN THE HISTORY OF TIME!!!
What does that even mean? This movie is set in the 1950s during a time where America had a professional girl’s baseball team. Shouldn’t playing ball like a girl be a compliment since back then there were professional female ball players and they were just kids in a sandlot?
There is a company in Salt Lake called Pick n’ Pull and they have rather annoying radio commercials. In one of their commercials the two guys in the ad are arguing over telling each other’s secrets. One of them shouts out at the end the other guy used to ride a girl’s bicycle that was pink. So what? What about him riding a “girl’s” bicycle as a child should be embarrassing or shaming? He got to ride a bike as a child. Congratulations, you’re richer than 90% of the world’s population.
Speaking of bikes, my son rode his sister’s bike to school the 2nd day of school because his scooter is broken and he didn’t want to walk. He was mercilessly teased on the way home. He came home bawling his face off because people were so mean to him about riding a “girl’s” bike. My daughter’s bike is black and just has a tiny butterfly sticker on it. Why the hell does it matter so much what bike he rode to school? Why is supposed to be so humiliating for a boy to ride or have anything remotely feminine? The sickening thing was that the child who teased him the most was a girl. It makes me sad that at a young age she is internalized the message that being a girl is wrong and shameful and she should attempt to humiliate any boy who does anything remotely feminine. It makes me so angry.
I’m still trying to figure out what “like a girl” even means! One time this kid told me I ran like a girl. My response? “Good because I AM a girl, dumbass.” Why was this kid trying to insult me by saying that something I was doing was feminine? What is so wrong with being feminine? What is wrong with being a girl? What is wrong with being a woman?
So, dear culture at large: stop trying to insult boys and men by saying they are girls. It’s not an insult to be a girl. Stop calling them names like the p-word that rhymes with wussy and all the other “delightful” euphemisms for female reproductive parts. There is NOTHING wrong with being a girl. There is nothing wrong with being feminine. There is nothing weak about being a girl. There is nothing shameful about being a girl. There is nothing wrong with having a vagina and the ability to bring forth life. That, my dear, is the very essence of strength. (Pop 4 kids out of your reproductive parts and we’ll talk about whether you can use the p-word as another word for being weak, bucko).
So boys and men, next time you’re insulted by being called a girl or a woman, think about why. Think about it. Sit with it for a minute. Is it because our culture has sold you the lie that it is shameful to be feminine? That it is shameful to be a woman? The culture is wrong. The culture is misogynistic and hates women, otherwise being called one wouldn’t be such an insult to you. Just like being a more masculine woman is not insulting. One gender is not better than the other (I’m totally aware of intersexed and transsexual people, but I’m talking generally here and I could write a whole other post about why transwomen are more likely to be killed and/or hurt because of transitioning to a female).
Next time someone tries to insult you by saying you’re “like a girl” in some respect, turn around and say “thank you!’ Because there it nothing wrong with being a girl. Nothing. And I refuse to let my children grow up in a world where being half the population is considered an insult.
Almost 3 years ago (March 2010) I read a post by the infamous Mormon Mommy blogger, cJane Kendrick, about why she is not a feminist. It inspired to me write my own post about why I do identify as a feminist, but it took me 15 months to write. On Monday cJane published a post about why she now realizes that she is a feminist and why she claims that title. She cites growing up believing boys were better than girls, her abusive first marriage, and working out an egalitarian marriage with her current spouse that has helped her evolve her views in her life.
How I came to feminism was much, much different than cJane’s. I didn’t grow up believing boys were better than girls. In fact, both my parents strove hard to teach me that boys are not better than girls, girls are not better than boys, and that girls were every bit as capable and smart as boys are. My mom worked for the federal government in Washington D.C. for 10 years and was the first woman to go against dress code and wear a pantsuit to work. My dad was raised by a strong, hard-working woman and has three very smart and capable sisters and has always shown that he believes in equality of the sexes (and by equality I mean of equal worth). Because of my parents, I was raised to believe that I could be and do anything I wanted. The truly shocking thing for me was going out into the world (you know, the cold harsh world of elementary school) and having people treat me like I wasn’t as smart, capable, and strong as the boys because I was a girl. And this has pretty much continued whenever I have left the safety of home and family my entire life. Like the boy who laughed at me at church because I said my dad was at home doing laundry, (“boys don’t do laundry, you idiot! That’s a girl’s job”), or my Geometry teacher who on the first day of my sophomore year explained to the class that us girls should expect a lower grade than the boys because girls’ brains just can’t compute Math the way that boys’ do, or when I was expected to do the dishes in my cooking class because I was the resident keeper of that magical vagina that makes dish washing possible, or when I got into the adult world and found out people’s expectations of me were based on my gender and not on my capabilities or interests.
Feminism to me has always been about choice. In cJane’s article she talks about the growing pains she and her husband went through when figuring out parenting responsibilities and that ultimately they have a system now that works for both of them and respects and honors each other’s life paths. That is great for her and shouldn’t we all be allowed to decide what is best for us and our families without some 3rd party trying to enforce gender roles or what they think the “ideal” is on us? Shouldn’t my husband and I get to decide together that both of our educations and careers are important to us and work together to support each other in pursuing those things? While co-parenting, while sharing household responsibilities, while being partners to each other? Why should my life fit into some box because someone else said so? And if someone wants to pursue a more traditional path, shouldn’t they be allowed to do that without judgment?
In my last post about why I’m a feminist, I listed some reasons why (and I apologize because switching to WordPress from Blogger made it so it did not format the same and it’s not as pleasing to the eye as before). Here are more reasons I have accrued in the last year and a half.
- Because a 14 year old in Pakistan named Malala Yousfzai was shot by the Taliban on October 9, 2012 for demanding to be a girl and receive an education.
- Because I read Half the Sky this year and it changed my life.
- Because I care that women are being sold into sexual slavery all over the world, including my own country, like they are chattel and not real human beings with real lives, emotions, and pain. They are treated like objects of someone else’s base pleasure and discarded and used like trash.
- Because this past election season men like Todd Akin (R-MO), Richard Mourdock (R-IN), Roger Rivard (R – WI), Joe Walsh (R-IL), Tom Smith (R-PA), John Koster (R-WA), and Paul Ryan (R-WI), made some horrifically awful statements about rape, pregnancy, and women. But what restores my faith in humanity are the voters who turned out in droves to tell these men to stop talking about rape and women’s bodies like we’re too stupid to understand science, fact, research, and duh, our own life experiences.
- Because a 20 year old newly married girl with no life experience told my sister-in-law she wasn’t doing the right thing for her child by working full-time and going to school. Because 20 year old newly married people with no children and no life experience should be considered the experts on what’s best for individual children and their families.
- Because I’m tired of man splainers trying to tell me what I really mean, what my experiences really are, and what I should think and feel and believe and say and do. Stop it, man splainers…it’s really old.
- Because it really bothers me that at McDonalds my kids can’t just have “the toy” they have to say whether they want the “boy toy” or “girl toy” as if toys had genders and it is only acceptable for boys to play with one type of toy and girls another.
- Because I should be able to leave my house and not worry about being sexually assaulted, but that’s just not a reality for women.
- Because 11 year old girls (little girls) are being blamed for being gang raped.
- Because I am a human being with autonomy over my own body, thoughts, feelings, experiences, knowledge and I allow all other human beings domain over their own lives as well.
- Because I’m a child of Heavenly parents who love me and my sisters just as much as they love their sons.
So, I have to say brava to cJane. Not because she came out as a feminist and all, because I read her blog regardless of how she self-identifies, but because she is a famous Mormon woman who has been speaking her truth a lot recently (her political leanings, her abusive first marriage) and it takes a lot of courage to speak your truth and let people say what they will about it. It’s not easy to have a big platform that reaches an audience of hundreds of thousands and invite them all to judge you.
On Thursday, August 23, 2012, NBC’s news program, anchored by Brian Williams, featured an entire hour on “Mormons in America.” Knowing that two of my friends, Joanna Brooks and Mitch Mayne, were going to be interviewed I was very excited to watch it. However, I approached it with a lot of apprehension because you just never know how the media is going to examine your faith. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, here are the five segments of the show.
I read this in February but in honor of my friend Joanna being on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” on August, 9, 2012, I thought I’d post this review somewhere other than on Goodreads.
Brooks’s memoir of growing up as a Mormon girl in the orange groves of Southern California is one of the most personal memoirs I’ve ever read. As a Mormon girl myself, there was much in this book I could identify with. Not growing up in a particularly religious home where Mormonism was worn as a badge proud upon our chests, I couldn’t really relate to how Brooks describes her devout childhood. However, Brooks description of her time at BYU and her faith transitions after that is something that is very close to my heart.
It felt like my heart was weeping while I read the last few chapters of this book as Brooks describes what it is like to be a liberal/feminist in a very conservative church. While she was at BYU people would leave alcohol on her doorstep because she opposed the Gulf War. They’re reasoning was that opposing the war was already an act of apostasy, so why not take it the whole way? This is a mentality that I’ve never understood. Just because we have political differences, does not mean I’m any less a member of this church. Brooks describes how hard Prop 8 was on her, being both Mormon and a Californian, and this is something I could perfectly relate to. How do you rectify your God given feelings of love and acceptance for all of God’s children with direct mandates from your church? I related to Brooks’s struggle, and her last chapter gave me a lot of hope. I refuse to give up, and so has she.
Brooks was at BYU the same time my sister was there, and they were actually friends and involved in the feminist group on campus. Because my sister has such a fondness for Brooks, and because I’ve gotten to know her through online interactions with her blog, “Ask Mormon Girl,” and we’re Facebook friends, I regarded this novel with much more warmth than I would have reading a total stranger’s memoir. Basically, I’m saying I’m already biased for Brooks, so it’s not a surprise I would love her book and give it a good review. Ignore my bias, and know that it really is a wonderful, brave book. Brooks has a lot of chutzpah living her live to publicly when Mormonism and questions about the church are on the forefront of so many minds right now.