Underbelly

In this short post, I want to ask, Who are we forgetting? Who are we leaving out?

In the ongoing journey for equality and civil rights for all, often times we forget about the underbelly of society (underbelly meaning hidden or vulnerable).

I currently work at a non-profit that works with active drug users and sex workers. A population that society has forgotten. A population that my organization seeks to include in conversations relating to policy and health. We constantly search each day for methods to better the lives of this group and to make them feel included within society. We work with those who are transgender and seek to protect their best interests with their help and input.

At our monthly trans support group last month, one transwoman remarked how she never leaves home without her long metal chain. It’s the only way she’s feels protected and it’s the only way she can guarantee her safety. Another transwoman from the group mentioned how often she has faced discrimination in searching and keeping jobs.

I live a bustling metropolis that prides itself on its open-mindedness and liberalness. How do we still have people feeling unsafe and unwelcome here? How do we do nothing to include them in conversations regarding their problems and safety? For such an open minded city, we close our ears to those in our midst whose voices need to be heard more than ours.

And so it is within the modern Mormon feminist movement. At least in my eyes.

We have made great strides in our community in making Mormonism more vast and egalitarian. We pride ourselves on being more open to change than the traditional orthodox LDS Church members. We’re ahead of the curve.

Yet….

When we talk about feminism, are we including transwomen into our conversations?

When we talk about equality (within and outside of the Church), why do we often forget our sisters of color?

When we talk about defending ourselves from the patriarchy, do we also include those who are gay, lesbian, or queer?

Courtesy of mormonfeminist.org

I still read and hear stories of Mormon women of color who still feel left out of the conversation (myself included). It is painfully obvious that there are few voices in our movement from those who are LGBTQ. And is there even a space for those  among us who are transwomen? Just because the numbers are small, doesn’t mean their voices shouldn’t be heard or included.

So, who are we forgetting? And how can we remember them?

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Should Women’s Meeting be part of General Conference?

womens meetingThere was quite the kerfuffle over Women’s Meeting a couple weeks ago. Prior to the meeting, Ordain Women supporters pointed out that “the General Women’s Meetings are not considered part of general conference. They are auxiliary meetings and, as such, represent women’s secondary status in the LDS Church.”

But during General Women’s Meeting, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said that “we open another general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” and referred to the five sessions of General Conference to follow as the “remaining sessions of our worldwide general conference” as  if Women’s Meeting were the first.  The Salt Lake Tribune reported that “for the first time, the charismatic German leader described the meeting as the opening session of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 184th Semiannual General Conference. Until now, General Conference has referred only to the two-day gatherings held during the first weekends of April and October, with the women’s meeting seen as a separate event.” Some feminists rejoiced because women’s status was improving in the Church and some anti-feminists gloated that General Women’s Meeting had always been a session of General Conference and Ordain Women simply didn’t have their facts straight.

However, the following Saturday morning,

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But what if everybody has sex?

You might think that Mormons should be able to avoid having sex when we work with colleagues of the opposite sex, since many of us manage to abstain from sex with our own fiancés. However, Mormons aren’t too sure about that, judging from how often the objection, “But what if everybody has sex?” is raised when we talk about women’s ordination to the priesthood and how that could lead to the possibility of having mixed gender branch presidencies, bishoprics, high councils and stake presidencies. Many Mormons claim that women and men could never work in church presidencies together because committing adultery is a practically inevitable outcome of working several hours per week with members of the opposite sex.

I have not served in a mixed gender presidency since the powers that be wised up and outlawed female Sunday School secretaries—a necessary move to safeguard male Sunday School presidents and their male counselors from the lurid influence of a sex object/notetaker. However, I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on the topic of not having sex with colleagues of the opposite sex because I have been employed throughout my whole marriage, working in mixed gender offices, and yet I have never committed adultery once! Really! I should get some sort of award.

Spouse of the Year: Didn't even commit adultery

Today, I am sharing how I successfully abstain from extramarital sex in hopes of preparing our community for a future in which men and women can serve together in church presidencies without having orgies.

Strategy 1: Keep your clothes on.
I never get naked during business meetings, even if the room is hot. Or even if the coworker is hot! I also stay dressed when working alone in my own cubicle—a simple precaution in case someone walks by seeking sex.

Strategy 2: Just say no.

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A Book Review (Of Sorts): Way Below the Angels

Craig Harline

Not very long ago, I read this post, that made me want to read this book, Way Below the Angels: the pretty clearly troubled but not even close to tragic confessions of a real live Mormon missionary. Even shorter ago, I did.

While it isn’t a woman’s story, I still feel that it is worth reviewing here, in this women’s story space for two reasons. 1) The author, Craig Harline, does a fairly good job pointing out when women’s stories, voices, and presence are forgotten.

One example of this is when his Salt Lake Mission Home President tells a mixed group of Elders and Sisters that they are to dress like “local businessmen.” Another is when his going-Belgium group was moved to the Rexburg, Idaho LTM, and they held a nightly devotional with the older going-Belgium missionaries, that fully excluded the Sisters because it was in an Elder’s dorm room. The saddest examples took place in Belgium. The first question they asked women who answered the door was if they could speak to their husband. Not because they weren’t allowed to speak to women, but because they were taught that they should focus on the man. A woman named Lieve demanded focus, because she had a dream and a wish to be baptized. She also had a husband who did not share that dream or wish. He was required to sign a permission slip, which he did. But then he took it back. Lieve learned that if her husband had the dream and wish, her signature would not be needed.*

2) Harline’s ofttimes funny/ofttimes insightful words created a space for me to remember my own mission story.

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Filling the Seats – General Women’s Meeting

Last night I listened to the General Women’s Meeting in the company of my sisters from the Mt. Vernon, Virginia Stake. I enjoyed the added international presence, the messages from our leaders, and the inspiring music.

As the camera captured the large stand in the Conference Center I noticed the many, many empty seats. These seats will be full to capacity next weekend during General Conference with quorums of our leadership, but last night the General Boards of our female auxiliaries filled only a couple of rows.

I had a vision – as I looked at those empty seats.  A vision of hope.  One day – I see quorums of women filling those seats! A happy thought.

Do you have this same vision of hope? Do you see women in leadership filling those seats?

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The Family is of God

LDS congregations will soon have their annual Primary programs. This year, the theme song that the children will sing is The Family is of God. I love the catchy tune and clever rhyming pattern of this song, so I created this meme about it that you can add to your Pinterest boards or print as a scripture bookmark.

Our Father has a family. It’s me! It’s you All others too We are His children. He sent each one of us to earth Through birth To live and learn here in families. God gave us families To help us become what He wants us to be. This is how He shares His love, for  The Family is of God.   Working together parents Guide Provide And love And teach the gospel to their children. A family kneels in family prayer To share Their love for Father in Heaven.   The parents’ calling is To care Prepare To nurture And to strengthen all their children. They teach their children To obey To pray To love And serve in the family.      I’ll love and serve my family And be a good example to each family member. And when I am a mom or dad So glad I’ll help my family remember: God gave us families To help us become what He wants us to be. This is how He shares His love For the family is of God.  Adapted from the song by Matthew Neeley

 

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