#VisibleWomen: Women in Church Art

relief-society-general-presidency-2012-busath-1031310-gallery-noticeThis week I decided to do an informal survey of the representation of women in my ward building.  I had the general impression that there were few women, but I decided to actually go through and count.  The numbers are a little imperfect, for several reasons.  First, I did not have access to any of the male-only rooms which were locked, including two Bishop’s offices, the Stake offices, the High Council Room and the Clerk’s office.  Second, many paintings and posters feature images that include very small or indistinct figures that can’t really be counted one way or the other.  A few paintings include androgynous angelic figures that I decided not to count either way.  As part of my survey I included both framed paintings and images on bulletin boards, but excluded any snapshots or local images.

In my ward the various auxiliaries are assigned bulletin boards to decorate as they choose, but most feature pictures taken  from church magazines, lesson manuals or the Gospel art kit.  A few have posters produced by the church or affiliated organizations promoting conferences and programs. I figured since I was doing the survey I might as well keep track of ethnic representation as well, since most church art tends to depict the people of the Americas or the Fertile Crescent as looking like they are from northern Europe.  Accordingly, my stat numbers of non-white people reflect only individuals who are clearly represented as not having pale skin or light hair, rather than people who are supposedly of a non-white ethnicity (the Nephites) but actually look like Vikings. Here are my findings.

Representation of people with special needs or disabilities: 1 boy with Down syndrome on a pass-along card tacked to a board.

Number of non-white women depicted: 2

Number of non-white men depicted: 11

Total number of women depicted: 48

Total number of men: 245

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Valentine’s Day: Women of the Bible Edition

It is that time of year again…that last minute scramble to find the ideal way to tell someone you love how much they mean to you.  You want that perfect card: something visually beautiful that can be displayed with pride on a desk or at home but also with the message that perfectly captures the feelings of your heart.  Last year The Exponent Blog proudly (reluctantly? unwittingly until it was too late?) introduced a line of tasteful and timeless Church history Valentines, featuring your favorite friends from Nauvoo.  If that theme better fits your Valentine’s style, check them out here!

This year we’re thrilled to offer a new collection of Valentines featuring the ladies of the Bible.  Print them off on cheap copier paper, scrawl your name, and show someone how much you care!  Bonus points if you tape candy on — everyone knows the best Valentines have sweets.  Candy not included.

Full disclosure:  Every Monday night I check my feminism at the family room door and watch The Bachelor for two beautiful, glorious hours.  What can I say, I love the journey of true love.  I drew these while watching and ran out of time to finish.  Needless to say, I accept no criticism of the quality of the art…because there is nothing here you could possibly criticize.

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Religious Freedom and Discrimination

PregnantWomanLast week I listened to the church’s press conference about balancing LGBTQ rights and religious freedom.  One thing stood out in particular that really troubled me.  Giving examples of when religious freedom should come first, Elder Holland said:

For example, a Latter-Day Saint physician who objects to performing abortions or artificial insemination for a lesbian couple should not be forced against his or her conscience to do so, especially when others are readily available to perform that function.

I feel concerned by this because I think there is a fundamental divide between the two examples he gave.  I agree that physicians who believe abortion is wrong should have the right to say they will not perform them.  However, in that case the problem is the procedure itself, and so doctors who object refuse the service to everyone equally.  Other doctors may draw the line elsewhere — perhaps he or she is comfortable performing abortions when the fetus has no chance of survival, or when the mother’s life is endangered, but not when those conditions are not met.  Again, I think this is fair because the line of when the doctor will perform an abortion is defined by medical circumstances and is applied equally.

The decision, however, to refuse artificial insemination to lesbians is not in the same category. In such a case the doctor would be making the decision not in terms of medical necessity, or objections to the procedure itself, but out of an objection to the perceived sin of the patient.  Where then is the line? If the doctor has the right to deny medical attention based on a belief that the person has sinned or is actively sinning, should all sins be subject to such penalties? Could that possibly be just?

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Christmas Series: The Best Ward Christmas Party Ever

4870085601_bd3e4c2dc8_mAlmost everyone that I know has a decided opinion on the ward Christmas party.  I have discovered that what constitutes an ideal party varies so widely that it is absolutely impossible that everyone would be pleased.  Last week the woman who has been asked to organize ours called me.  She asked if I would be willing to put together a program for before the dinner, because she likes to have everyone gathered and busy in the chapel while food is set out and organized.  She feels it brings the Spirit, and she hates it when dinner is interrupted for singing songs or other things.

Unfortunately, my view is almost entirely opposite from hers.  Our ward is actually putting on a concert the night before in which I am heavily involved.  I told her that given my involvement in the other program I didn’t feel I had resources to put together a new program.  I put forward the idea that maybe we

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Physician Assisted Suicide

HandskelettRecently the story of Brittany Maynard, a woman with terminal cancer, has been in the news a great deal. She moved to Oregon in order to take advantage of the Death with Dignity law that allows for physician-assisted suicide.  On November 1 she chose to use the medication and ended her life.  I wanted to discuss the topic of physician-assisted suicide, though not specifically Maynard’s case.  Her choices are her own and her death deserves the respect and honor we would accord to any life.

I happen to live in Oregon, and have my entire life.  I was young when the Death with Dignity act was passed — it was first passed in 1994 and was reaffirmed in 1997.  In order to qualify under the law, terminally ill patients must prove their residence in one of the states that allows it (Washington and Vermont also have similar laws), be over 18, be able to make and communicate their own health care decisions, and be diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months. 

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