Just Ask or the Most Important Thing I Learned During My Time as an Exponent II Editor

fmh coverI’ve learned much during the past 6 years working as an editor for Exponent II, but I wanted to share the skill that I felt has been most important for me.

I learned to just ask. Ask for help, ask for essays, ask for people to do permanent difficult positions for free, just ask because when they say, “no,” at least I knew I had done my best, and when they said “yes” wonderful things came about.

I believe that there is a part of Mormon culture, at least in the United States, that teaches women not to ask. Mormon women are taught to wait.

  • We wait for callings.
  • We wait for a man to call for a date…or to ask us to marry them.
  • We wait to see if we’ll need that career since stay-at-home motherhood is the ideal.

What happens if we’re not attracted to men? If we aren’t given the opportunity to serve in callings that help us grow and satisfy us? What if we want careers in addition to or instead of motherhood?

I don’t think that waiting is an explicit message we are being given at church. It’s insidious side effect of patriarchy in our institution, and it is something we need to push away.

The Gospel teaches us to ask. We have hundreds of scriptures about asking God for help, for confirmation, for guidance. And, I’ve learned that asking from other people has enriched my life by helping me get more done, but more importantly, it builds richer relationships and allows me to feel more connected to others.

When Aimee and I took over the magazine in Fall of 2009, Mormon feminism and Exponent II were emerging from a difficult and quiet time (mid 1990’s to early 2000’s). Blogging had become the new way Mormon feminists got their message out quickly and to found each other.

Many people had forgotten or never heard of Exponent II. Our first issue was a compilation of Exponent bloggers and our friends with us asking (sometimes begging) to help us get things off the ground.

I spent the majority of my time those first couple years soliciting writers in order to be able to meet our quarterly schedule. We combed blogs and later Facebook, looking for people who would be willing and vulnerable to write (for free) about issues that are often too scary to discuss in a Church setting. We tracked down the writers who used to publish in Exponent II and asked them to submit again.

We learned again and again the power of asking. I may have drafted my first email to Margaret Toscano about 7 times before I actually hit, “send.” Her essay on symbolism in the temple for our special-themed issue on the temple is one of my favorites.

I may have blanched a little when I hosted the first Arizona fMh snacker at my house almost a decade ago and realized Starfoxy (the STARFOXY!) was coming. That snacker started relationships with three new Exponent permabloggers (Starfoxy, Jessawhy, and mraynes).

I remember sending a friend request to Lisa Butterworth on Facebook…surely, she wouldn’t accept. Later, Aimee would ask her to do the first guest edited issue of Exponent II by another Mormon feminist magazine.

The wonderful thing about Mormon feminists is that we are doers. I have yet to ask a Mormon feminist who was not flattered to be asked to participate (having the time to participate may be another matter). We create retreats and magazines and blogs and activist events.

Our community is a great place to try out this skill of asking.

  • Do you long to do something for FEMWOC or Ordain Women? Email them and make a few suggestions of what you would like to do to help!
  • Send a guest post to your favorite blog, like Zelophehad’s Daughters or Young Mormon Feminists. (Follow up if they don’t respond after a couple weeks…sometimes things get lost!)
  • Do you see something not being addresses by a current Mormon feminist group, blog, publication? Ask others to join you and start one!
  • And also, ask for clarification when you’ve been wronged. I am so happy when someone points out a mistake I’ve made instead of assuming I had ulterior motives.
  • Ask if you can help, and if you get in over your head with something you volunteer for, ask for help to finish it or to pass it on.

The practice of learning to ask has helped me in my professional, personal, and spiritual life. Because I had kind Mormon feminists to practice on, I have no problem asking my stake president how we can do better including queer people at the local level, I found a career that I probably wasn’t quite qualified for but got because I asked for it, and I’m getting better at asking others for help when I need it even when I feel undeserving of that help.

Have you developed the skill of asking? What other skills have you learned being a part of this community?

EmilyCC

EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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8 Responses

  1. Micky says:

    The overall message is good, but why are we so tempted to clump “mormon women”or “mormon feminists” as having the same qualities. I am a mormon woman and didn’t identify with feeling any of these sentiments. And yet, we love to generalize. Point and case.

  2. Jason K. says:

    I love this post. I find the stories around the founding of Exponent II so inspiring, and it makes my heart happy to see the same spirit at work today. Thanks for all your work!

  3. kalani says:

    I love this. Just ask. YES. Well done and wishing you the best.

  4. Emily U says:

    Such good advice! Thanks for this. I think asking gets easier the more you do it. I ask myself what I have to lose by asking, and it’s usually nothing. That makes doing it easier.

    I admire you and Aimee so much. Your work in making Exponent II thrive has mattered so much to me and many others.

  5. spunky says:

    You are spot on with this! Asking is scary- but it is also powerful. I’m so glad that I have felt ‘asked’ to be a part of the Exponent family.

    A part of me is also sad that to see you and Aimee leave. but I am also in awe of the legacy you have created. You should be proud of this; you also did ask to leave such a powerful legacy, but it is your’s. Many thanks to you and Aimee for all you are and all you have done for the Exponent.

  6. MDearest says:

    Thanks for some much needed wisdom for me tonight. I have mixed feelings about our experiences during your time as editor, not due to you at all, but I’m glad for my limited involvement and for the chance to contribute. I’m struggling to learn to be more proactive, and I’m grateful to have your example close at hand. Godspeed to you as you bloom in new fields.

  7. Jenny says:

    Great post! This is something I’m learning too, and I’m finding that when I do ask, the answer is most often affirmative. I think sometimes my fear of asking comes from the fact that I anticipate a negative reaction. I’ve had to let go of my fear of being told “no.”

  8. Liz says:

    I love this. You continue to inspire me!! I’m going to try to do better at just asking!

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