Total Game Control

Guest Post by Emily Holsinger Butler

the playahs

A Catholic friend of mine once offered the idea that world religions exist for one single purpose: to control women. “A bit reductive, no?” was my response. But this guy was wicked smart—never flippant, never glib. And his assertion has stayed with me like a compass point. I refer to it whenever “things happen” in our Mormon universe. Who is trying to control whom, I ask.

I’ve been controlled, sure. In fact, I’ve often given courtesy control to people out of sheer politeness—like all those times on my mission when I submitted to a young district leader’s efforts to foist a personal priesthood interview on me. That was how the game was played. If there was a priesthood leader present, a sister would hop out of the driver’s seat and let him commandeer the wheel. “Take ‘er for a spin, Elder! Don’t scratch the paint!”* Results varied. It was usually fine, and sometimes funny.

Controlling women—have I been complicit? Heck yeah. I’ve collaborated. I’m not proud of myself. Holy cow, I’ve been Vichy France with a temple recommend.** Like that Saturday in 1994, at some church basketball tournament. As a very lovely break from law school exertions, I played on our ward’s women’s basketball team, coached to great effect by our Stake President. It was super fun. We made it to some sort of regional event, and drove down to a building in southern Virginia on the appointed day. Men were playing in a separate but equal tournament on the full-sized court. We were playing on a smaller one, and I wasn’t about to look that gift horse in the mouth, believe you me. As the female players gathered together, we were addressed by a priesthood leader who may or may not have also been the referee (I don’t recall). He outlined a few basics of the tourney, and then, in all seriousness, admonished us to dress modestly on court.

Incredulous, I looked at my teammates. We were for the most part women of a certain age, some of a more certain age than others. Our power forward was a professional nurse of repute. Our best shooter, the only one who could almost dunk, was the Stake President’s wife (and mother of many). Then there was me—I was a terrible player, but was equipped with two sports bras (worn simultaneously) and shorts that covered my thighs very adequately. I honestly don’t remember the other women’s names, but do remember their tolerant, almost vacant expressions as the brother went on about the necessity of sleeves and such. Nobody batted an eye. We regarded him with distant benevolence. We permitted him to tell us how to dress.

And so it was that we were unprepared for the vision that was unleashed upon us a few moments after the good brother concluded his remarks. It was then that the men’s teams emerged from their changing area. Unlike us, they had actual uniforms with actual numbers. On the other hand, it was clear that said uniforms had been handed down through generations of Mormon men, languishing in a Stake Center closet between basketball tournaments that began sometime in 1972. Sleeves they had none. Manufactured from some sort of skin-tight polyester fabric, the shorts stopped mere centimeters south of the groin area, which (how to put this) was exceptionally pronounced, if not practically articulated—so clingy they might have been codpieces for all intents and purposes. The men’s teams were composed primarily of middle-aged priesthood holders who (like us) were in it for a good time, and who (like us) could stand to lose a good twenty or thirty or forty pounds. It would have been a tender mercy for me to offer my second sports bra to any number of those players. Yeah. Their costumes left very little to the imagination.

Again I looked at my teammates. Bless them, their faces were frozen in alarm, not at what they were seeing, but at what was about to happen. We removed ourselves at once to a secluded area behind the bleachers, and fell to the floor where we rolled around unleashing howls of laughter. Personally, I laughed so hard I pulled a muscle in my abdomen, which didn’t help my game at all. We laughed until the tears ran. Someone almost choked. It wasn’t pretty.

What did I learn that day? Can’t say, really. But it does occur to me that we have a ways to go in our church before we can say that we love each other more than we love controlling each other.

Play on, sisters.

*It was, in fact, literally the case that sisters did not drive cars in my mission. That privilege was reserved for the missionaries who worked in the mission office. Who, incidentally, were all elders.

**I’m paraphrasing the wonderful Caitlin Moran, here. Email me if you want the original quote, which is pretty salty.

Emily Holsinger Butler is a hausfrau living in Utah with delusions of grandeur & survival, a writer of books, a hoper of all things and a believer in several of them.

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Church Games

800px-ChildrenI’m glad I ceded my usual spot to our guest post this morning because what she had to say about mediation was I think very valuable.  I am not part of the Ordain Women movement and did not attend the walk to the priesthood session.  I do believe that the ordination of women would be a good thing for many reasons.  I hope that it happens in my lifetime.  This week it has been very hard to witness the open conflict between church members online.  It seems that every time I log in I see something that upsets me and my response has been to withdraw and refuse to engage.

When I am unhappy, stressed or depressed often my response is to defuse the tension with humor, often inappropriately timed and unappreciated by others.  Maybe that will be the case today as well. However, I’ve decided to go for it anyway and make a post about the silly games my mother and I used to play in church meetings when we got bored or antsy.  After a week like this, we could all use a good laugh.  Lest you think I don’t have a speck of reverence in my body I will say that in general I pay attention and get things out of my meetings, but we all have our days.  Next time you’re at the back of stake conference sitting on the hard chairs for what feels like eternity, why not play one of the following little gems?

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An open letter to a Well-Behaved Woman: What “Frozen” is really teaching your kids

Sorry, Kathryn Skaggs.

My kids finally talked me into seeing “Frozen” (it’s school vacation week here, and we’re catching up on a lot of things that we haven’t found time for in the last few months). I had read your post about the homosexual agenda you saw so clearly in the movie, and I have to say that I looked and looked for that agenda. And I just couldn’t find it.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen the movie three times. I admit that I’ve only seen it once.

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Valentine’s Day

Today I went to ShopKo to buy Valentines. Once I got there I thought “why should I pay four dollars for a card I barely even like?” I love Valentine’s Day but I resent the gouging that goes on as we’re pressured to celebrate in a specific way.  I decided to help out my Exponent sisters by providing you with some Exponent-y Valentines.  I’d had this idea for about two weeks but realized that I have neither the programs nor the ability to do some fancy-shmancy photoshop.  So this is the product of me, Paintbrush and an evening in my jammies watching the Olympics.

Eliza R. Snow:

Eliza R. Snow valentine

 

 

 

 

 

You, single? The thought makes reason stare!

 

Emma Hale Smith:

emma valentine

 

 

 

 

 

I elect me to be your lady!

 

Lucy Mack Smith:

lucy mack val

 

 

 

 

 

Sitting next to you is always heaven to me!

 

From the Exponent II:

Exponent valentine

 

 

 

 

 

My love for you grows Exponent-ially!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all my sisters!

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Least Likely Christmas Lyrics to Appear on Holiday Cards

Have you noticed the trend in Christmas cards? Along with a family photo, quotes and lines from Christmas songs are splashed across the card. Among the most popular are: “Peace on earth goodwill to men;” “Merry and Bright;” “Have a  holly jolly Christmas;” and that old standby, “Joy to the world.” While sitting in Sacrament meeting this past week, my warped mind got to thinking about lines from songs that are LEAST likely to wind up on a greeting card. So with apologies to the families whose images I’ve swiped from the Googles, here you are.

10. Long lay the world in sin and error pining.

Christmas2005web copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. You better not pout, You better not cry!

christmas copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Come Ye Husbands of the Ward!”

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The Exponent Retreat is a highlight of my year. This weekend we had 98 participants convene in NH and still had a wait list. I admit I was nervous that the numbers would detract from the cohesiveness.  But it did not. In fact I felt such a unity this weekend. Here are some of my favorite moments:

A discussion on Feminist Ethics with Javert & Jean Valjean as metaphors for justice and care ethics, and Mother Eve as the proactive model. Nicely done, Caroline.

Pandora’s beauty pageant story. Go Miss Congeniality!

Diane’s choir singing “Hope is a Thing with Feathers” that made me cry. And “Where Can I Turn for Peace” that made snot pour out of my nose. Sometime you need to cry til you’re hideous.

Winning the snack bet with Denise that less than 6 people would take a Pepsi from the cooler. Coke rocks.

Spiritual Autobiographies by Emily, Sarah, and Julie. Soul enlarging and life changing. And funny.

A thorough discussion of Ordain Women where there was much disagreement but nobody said “I think we’re all trying to say the same thing” in that irritating RS way. Because we’re not saying the same thing. It’s not just ok to take different approaches, it’s vital. Mormon feminists are not a monolith. Suzette made me question my assumptions. Thank you.

And now I want to toot my own horn and say that I am particularly proud of the song I rewrote for the talent show.  I’ve thought a lot about how often we are patronized as women and how lame the excuses are for such treatment. Seriously. Sometimes I think women are put on pedestals just so dudes can try to look up our skirts. So here is my own slice of condescension to the tune of “Come Ye Children of the Lord.”(here’s a slideshow I put together to an audio of our rehearsal)

Come ye husbands of the ward,

You are precious to the Lord.

Being manly gives you worth

Even though you can't give birth.

Changing flat tires! Mowing lawns!

Your true strength is in your brawn!

Hearken unto your wife's voice;

Adam followed Eve's wise choice.

Oh how special are the men.

Never doubt your worth again.

Teaching boys to make a fire,

Looking modest in Sunday attire.

For your skills you are revered!

Only men can grow a beard!

Guard your virtue with your life;

For that is cherished by your wife.

When on Kolob women preside,

Men will be right by our side.

Never fear you're second rate;

We need your sperm to procreate.

You are vital to the plan!

Father Son and Brother Man!

Something tells me it is true

You are in Gods image too.

I hope that puts a smile on your face. Next time someone tells you we don't know about Heavenly Mother because she's just too special, feel free to share my ditty with them. But you don't have to twerk during the sperm part. That's just for the Retreat.

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