Fatigue

I’m tired. So so tired. Part of it is physical; I have a chronic thyroid condition that decided that this was the perfect time to implode my hormone levels. Part of it is that I’m the full-time caregiver to three children, ages five and under, and three years into a graduate program that seems to never end. But part of it is that the thing that I’m most passionate about–women’s rights–seem never to get any better.

I hit this state just about the time Rep. Todd Akin made his asinine comments about rape. I just…there are no words.

And it’s not just the War on Women, politicians defending rape and pundits telling people to move to Saudi Arabia where it’s legal to beat your wife, it’s the Mormon thing too. I have been self-proclaimed Mormon feminist for ten years. I have blogged here at Exponent for just over four. I helped WAVE get off the ground and still participate when I have extra time. And I go to church every. single. week. I have given so much to the church and Mormon feminism and the progress is disappointing.

There was a great article at Jezebel about “rape fatigue”, responding to the Akin controversy which perfectly described the way I feel in general (Warning: the language in this article is quite strong). I am fatigued–I sometimes feel like I have nothing left to give. And I wonder like the author wondered: “How much longer are we all going to have to stay angry, after our mothers spent their lives angry.”

That line kills me because I don’t want to spend the rest of my life being angry and I certainly don’t want my daughter to have to feel this way. But what other option is there? When church leaders police the bodies of women and young girls? When women’s voices are still considered optional to include? When women’s experiences in Sunday meeting, scriptures, temple ceremonies, council meetings are not even considered? When church members spout off so glibly apologetics for women’s inequality? What other choice do any of us have but to keep on fighting.

I was sitting in Relief Society last week listening to a dear friend wish that more female voices were included and then actively request for the women in that room to share their female models of faith. The sisters responded, telling story after beautiful story. It was a sacred moment. Until a woman visiting from another ward told us all that the voices of women are not necessary to hear because we are too sacred to be included.

She is wrong. Just like Rep. Todd Akin was wrong. And in this matter, the church is wrong. Women are human beings and children of God and our experiences are just as valid and important as men. We still have so much to do and we have to go on to fight another day. No matter how tired we are, there is no other choice.

Mraynes

Mraynes lives in downtown Denver with her husband and four children. She spends her time lobbying at the Colorado Legislature, managing all the things and preparing Gospel Doctrine lessons.

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16 Responses

  1. Unfortunately, I think the only way Church leaders will see a need for change is for women to drop out.

    Sad that the only thing they seem able to hear is the sound of footsteps going away.

    • Mraynes says:

      I think you’re right and this is already happening. I know the general authorities are aware of the problem and I think they are trying to take steps to fix the problem but I’m not sure they know how to do it. It seems they still think that if they tell us a little louder how amazing Mormon women are, that will stop us leaving. I don’t think it will work and I hope for all of our sakes they figure this out soon.

    • Deborah says:

      I don’t know if I believe that, CC. I’ve heard reports that SLC is concerned about “hemoragging young adults, young women, and singles” But on a local, practical level once someone leaves, she also loses that certain “street cred” within the system . . . and it leaves local units more homogenous and therefore more likely to see the status quo as honky dory. Change is sooo slooow, but faithful agitation has produced results. I don’t begrudge anyone for saying they need to rest from the fight — for a season or longer — but I’m so grateful for those who push on from within.

      • sartawi says:

        This is where I am. I so desperately would like to just walk away from it all. I wouldn’t have to be constantly bombarded with things I just don’t agree with. I wouldn’t have to fight so hard. I wouldn’t have to “reteach” my kids each Sunday afternoon when they came home from Primary. Even at their tender ages, they are aware of the gender divide in the church. They are aware of the hierarchy, and they are aware that it makes them uncomfortable. Instead of reinforcing it, and forcing them to push past the uncomfortable-ness, into conformity, I just tell them what I want them to know about the truth of life. To just walk away would be so much easier, I have fought for so long. But to walk away in this church, a person, and all of their ideas, suggestions, beliefs and hard work are immediately put into the category of “apostasy” and “gone astray”. So that is why I stay, that is why I fight, and that is why I feel it is so important to raise my kids in the church, but not of the church…or rather, in the gospel, but not of the church. It is the support of others that are willing to put themselves in the line of fire that give me strength. For that, I applaud, respect, and thank all of you in this forum.

      • Holly says:

        Fifteen years ago or so I came across a discussion of a way people undermine their happiness and limit their choices: they base their behavior in the present and their choices for the future not so much on what will actually make them happy, but on what will justify past decisions. They’d rather continue with a course of action that makes them unhappy than admit that they’d made a mistake–often a whole series of mistakes–and change directions.

        The intentionally mundane example the book used was watching a video you’ve gone through a lot of trouble to rent on your way home from work on a night when the weather is bad, even though by the time you get home, get dinner prepared and eaten and cleaned up, and settle down on the couch in front of the TV, it’s late and all you really want to do is go to bed–especially since you have a fairly early morning the next day. But you went through all that trouble! And you paid $4.00 for a new release! So you watch it and you don’t enjoy it because you’re so tired from today and anxious about tomorrow. You think more making sure that the money and effort involved in getting the video isn’t wasted than you think about making sure that the time remaining to you is spent in a way that will bring you the most satisfaction and happiness in the long run.

        But to walk away in this church, a person, and all of their ideas, suggestions, beliefs and hard work are immediately put into the category of “apostasy” and “gone astray”. So that is why I stay, that is why I fight, and that is why I feel it is so important to raise my kids in the church, but not of the church…or rather, in the gospel, but not of the church.

        With all due respect: to walk away would put you in the same category as our collective pioneer ancestors and anyone else who joined the church: someone who left an outmoded belief system–which likely got them labeled fallen and apostate in their old community, don’t forget–and adopted a new belief system they thought would grant them and their children greater opportunity for happiness and meaning.

        People do what they need/want to do when they’re able to do it. If someone doesn’t want to leave the church, then of course they shouldn’t. But I do find it ironic when people say, “I really sort of want to leave the church, but I can’t leave, even though it makes me desperate and miserable, because my ancestors sacrificed so much so that I could have the gospel, and I’ve sacrificed so much of my life to it as well.” In other words, they’re saying, “Because my ancestors swapped one belief system for another, I can’t do what they did.”

        the same thing goes when they say, “I gave up so much when I joined the church, that to walk away now would be too hard.” They’re saying, “Because I did this once, I don’t dare do it again.”

        I get that it’s hard to leave a prison you’ve slaved to make habitable–it was hard for me to leave the church too, especially since I left over 20 years ago, before the internet, without a support group. I was so alone. People who have been able to ask questions and explore problems in communities like this one have no idea what it was like to have absolutely no one to turn to for help with these concerns, to feel like the only one who couldn’t just make it work. Leaving was so hard. It felt like a kind of death. But I knew that the death I was dying by staying in was worse.

        And at some point a decade or so later, it occurred to me that the best way I ever could have honored the sacrifice my ancestors made in crossing the plains and so forth might just have been to repeat it.

        And I also realized that being miserable and desperate not only didn’t make me a happier person, it didn’t make me a better person, either. Fighting the “good fight” on behalf of an institution that didn’t really value me damaged rather than strengthened my self-esteem, and depleted the strength I had available for battles I could win.

        And I realized that being labeled an apostate isn’t really so bad–much less worse than being labeled the person who asks awful questions in Sunday school or Relief Society, frankly.

        Which isn’t to say that you should leave the church, sartawi. But I am saying that you might think about whether the reasons for staying you’ve given above are really worth it after all.

  2. Mraynes says:

    Ha! I’m apparently so tired I forgot to title the post. Updated now.

  3. EM says:

    Our SP taught RS last Sunday and in his comments he told us women that: “Besides striving to be like your Father in Heaven and need to also be like your Mother in Heaven”. My jaw dropped – I was speechless – and I can kick myself for not reacting faster in saying “how do we do that when we don’t know Her or learn of Her”, before he moved on to another topic. I’m going to ask him that next time I see him. This is the first time I’ve heard any male say something like that – it was astounding, but made me teary. While HF is important, HM is important as well – we women need a Mother.

    • Mraynes says:

      That is awesome! I absolutely agree that we need a Mother as well as a model on how to be divine and female. It absolutely matters and it shocks me that some people think it doesn’t. I hope you do ask your SP how we should go about emulating our HM–it would be very interesting to know his viewpoint. Maybe you could write a guest post for us when you learn his thoughts. 🙂

  4. Angie says:

    A few thoughts:

    Maybe anger doesn’t work? Anger is justified and is a logical response, but is it effective? If it didn’t work for our feminist fore-mothers, the it probably won’t work for us.

    Then what will be effective? This scripture came to my mind as I read your OP: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, and of power, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). The examples of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ghandi also came to mind. I’m sure they felt rage, but that is not their legacy. Jesus Christ is the epitome of power, but seldom anger. In my opinion, it’s perfectly normal to be angry… but it doesn’t seem to work. Let’s try something else.

    • Mraynes says:

      I agree completely, Angie. I really am not angry–a point I don’t think I made in the OP–I am tired. I couldn’t continue to go to church week after week if I was angry but the tiredness I’m not sure what to do about. And a lot of my active, Mormon feminist friends have expressed their fatigue at this fight. I guess my point was that anger is an effective fuel for activism but it’s quick burning and not sustainable. So what can it be replaced with? I think you provide a good option in your comment.

    • sartawi says:

      Anger leads to action. Anger alone is not constructive, but that initial anger is sometimes necessary to spur great change where change is needed, like the initial rocket boosters on a space flight. If you want to reach great heights, you need a great, strong, and forceful catalyst, and anger can serve well in that respect. But like the boosters, they fall away once momentum is obtained, and only small bursts of anger are needed from time to time if momentum decreases. But I agree, anger alone can be detrimental to a person. But anger with action can be the greatest thing they ever do.

  5. EBrown says:

    Anger did work. The Suffragists got angry, got out of the house, got arrested, got jailed, and got the vote. The 2d wave got angry, got educated, got arrested and got the world to acknowledge that believing on a pedestal is damned uncomfortable.

  6. Markawhy says:

    Your post hits close to home. Advocating for change can be such a lonely road. I try to support Jessawhy best I can but, honestly, I just feel helpless.

  7. d. says:

    Wow. I left Relief Society 1o minutes early today because as much as I loved the teacher, I just couldn’t sit and listen to another lesson where there were no women’s voices included. I’m pretty sure our lesson was the same as the one you had last week, it was on faith and every example in the lesson were stories of men from the scriptures. Not that those aren’t important stories, but I feel like RS should be, at the very least, a place where we can share women’s stories, women’s history of faith, etc.

    This week I have felt very weary from every single thing you have described in this post. I’ve been told (by men, of course) that I come across as angry and that I should be “softer” when sharing my frustrations and concerns. However, I’m raising daughters and I want so much better for them. Lately it feels like everything is going backwards in society and in church and it’s so very depressing. But what can I do? Give up? No, even if I really wanted to, I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut, especially when I feel oppressed. But it doesn’t mean I don’t cry myself to sleep in frustration some nights.

    Thanks for this post, it was great to read this today and know I’m not alone.

  8. Michelle says:

    Feeling a little teary. Teary and tired, just like you. As I prepared the lesson you spoke about, I was angry. I absolutely did not want to teach it. EVERY story, EVERY scripture reference, EVERY quote from the prophet directed to men. I was shaky and unsure as I expressed that anger to our Relief Society, knowing that it may not be received well. How touched I was by the discussion that followed! Beautiful stories of faith from women in the scriptures! Lovely personal stories of the women who have touched our lives! As they were being shared, I felt the warm blanket of the spirit wrap and comfort me, whisper to me that our Heavenly Father and Mother feel our pain, that they are leading our journey. They want and intend more for us. It was an amazing answer to my prayers.

    The spirit in the room was stomped by the visitor’s comment, but it is, after all, what we all have all been “taught.” So as much as I wanted to run screaming from the room, I will forgive her that. I will not focus on her ignorance, I will instead treasure the love I felt from my sisters and from on high that day.

    I am tired, too. But I will hang on for the “more.”

  9. MB says:

    Take time to refill your reservoirs. Please.

    Striving for a cause takes energy and stamina. If you are not making time to refill your reserves the exhaustion will overwhelm you.

    Please be sure that you make and schedule time in your life for the things, in small doses or large, that will fill you with peace, perspective and charity towards others. I assume that you know what those things are for you. Otherwise you will burn out.

    Years ago, at a time when I felt I was being stretched to the max and was soooo tired I sat in on a talk by Spencer Kimball encouraging us to take time to fill our reservoirs so that we do not drain them dry. It was wise advice. Make time to stop, hand up your burden for a bit, and refill your soul. My experience is that leaving will not ease the burden, but refilling the reservoirs will.

    “There should also be reservoirs of knowledge to meet the future needs; reservoirs of courage to overcome the floods of fear that put uncertainty in lives; reservoirs of physical strength to help us meet the frequent burdens
    of work and illness; reservoirs of goodness; reservoirs of stamina; reservoirs of faith. ” ~SWK

    Take the time to keep water flowing in, not just flowing out.

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