Birth/Rebirth: Mother and Model, The Birth of The Exponent II by Claudia Bushman

ExIIcropped                Sherrie (Spunky) invited me to write a blog about motherhood and birthing for her series.  When I asked what she had in mind, she suggested something about the birth of Exponent II, the remarkable journal now celebrating its fortieth anniversary. 

                People over the years have asked why our little coven of LDS feminists in Boston was invited to edit a volume of Dialogue and why we felt called, worthy, able to write a book and begin a newspaper.  Surely we must have had some secret license, some mystical call.  Otherwise, how did we have the nerve to set ourselves up like that.

                I love those questions which accord us an authority we never had and a position of some importance.  Nobody asked us.  Nobody invited us.  Nobody really encouraged us.  We just did things.  We didt worry about permission from the far off Rockies.  We thought we were pretty much invisible out there by Plymouth Rock.  We originally met to talk about our lives as Mormon women.  We were church members, mostly wives of students or young professionals.  It was a time when women were rising, expressing some discontents, and we certainly had some, although I think those issues would seem pretty tame today.  Mostly, though, we just wanted to talk, to share our ideas and our grievances.  Much sturm and drang attended those sessions and many anxious tears were shed.

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Announcement: Summer 2013 Temple Issue’s Letter from the Art Editor

Exponent II Magazine_Summer 2013 Edition_Cover PosterIt’s still summer, right?

Exponent II’s long-anticipated temple-themed issue is surely worth the wait. Mormons’ unique culture surrounding our temples and temple worship has made this issue rich with work ranging from humor to heartache.

This issue also has a fantastic Letter from our Art Editor, Margaret. Enjoy!

I was just a baby really, just twenty years old, when I went through the temple for the first time.  I was getting married in three months and had just moved across the country to join my fiancé in Maryland.  For those three months I was living with my future sister-in-law, Julie, and her husband, Karl.  I barely knew them but immediately counted them as kindred spirits and a safe refuge for the faith crisis that was beginning to envelope me.  I walked into their kitchen one evening after an endowment session and blurted out, “Do you think it’s okay to not really like the temple?”

Karl deliberately put down his work, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Absolutely.”  I talked to them both for a long time that evening and they were unfailingly supportive, loving, and calm.  I don’t remember much of what any of us said, but in the years that followed, I returned often to the love and empathy Karl showed when he answered my question.  It took me many years before I could get through an endowment session without crying.  It took prayers of wrestling with God before I could come to a place of peace about my decision to stay in the Church.  But often along that difficult and rewarding journey, when I felt lonely, confused, and angry, I steadied myself by remembering that people I loved and deeply respected thought that my feelings were valid and believed that I still had a place in this Church.

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Guest Post: Carnival Rides and Mormon Feminism

Coin OpBy Aimee Hickman

The beautiful cover artwork for this quarter’s issue of Exponent II speaks directly to my own emotional state on the eve of what may be an historic General Conference for the LDS Church. Although it was likely not artist Corinne Geertsen’s intent, I see in her painting, “Coin-Op,” an allegory of this particular moment in the long history of Mormon feminism. For me the woman appears as an early twentieth-century Mormon suffragette. Her sly smile and stoic posture as she sits side-saddle suggest a woman whose expectations for what will happen when coin meets machine seem confidently set. I see a woman whose efforts to promote the suffrage agenda, to fulfill the measure of her feminine creation by expanding the possibilities for her sex, have been galvanized into the coin she holds so gingerly in her fingers. She’s ready for the ride. The tiger’s expression is what makes me nervous. Though our lady can predict that her coin will earn her a ride, it’s artfully unclear whether she’s in for a bouncy little jaunt, or a thrill ride that will see her soon abandon her side-saddle pose and have her wrestling the tiger, fully astride.

The parallel between her moment and ours as Mormon feminists is not lost on me. As a Mormon feminist, I can’t help feeling a bit like that woman perched precariously on the tiger’s back, coin in hand, ready for a ride. Never has the time to use this hard-earned currency felt more tempting. Mormon feminism’s emergence as a powerful voice during the Obama/Romney presidential campaign has emboldened our movement in ways and on a scale I would not have thought possible a year ago. Seeing a rising generation of Mormon feminist activists merge with a path that was trail-blazed by previous generations has been exhilarating, nerve-wracking, and thrilling.

The growth of Mormon feminism in the last year has meant engaging in spirited and sometimes dispiriting discussions about what methods, rhetoric, and ultimate goals will best serve a Mormon feminist agenda. As a community, our handling of these discussions hasn’t always lived up to our own ideals. Nevertheless, I feel grateful for a growing community of women who have entered the fray. I feel gratitude to my foremothers who have laid a groundwork that has helped a new generation of Mormon women find a community in the midst of their own feminist awakenings. I feel grateful to that new generation and the boldness of their ideas and actions that are contributing to a great Mormon feminist tradition. Each of us who has written an article, or read a blog post, or made a Facebook comment, or shared our struggles in church, or silently sought out other voices in our own loneliness, has earned a coin for this ride.

But at the end of the day, we can’t really know what our coin will purchase. Will this tiger reward our efforts with the thrill we seek, putter out after 10 seconds, or race off out of control, leaving us in a heap? Unlike most democratic social movements, the changes we seek in the Church can’t come about just by swaying public opinion. The LDS Church is an institution—a machine all its own. The cogs and gears are individuals within that structure who direct the entire mechanism with their unique interpretations of God’s will. Yet the membership as a whole provides a metaphorical shot of WD-40 to move those directives forward or slow them down. And that is where Mormon feminism is doing so much good.

I don’t know if this weekend’s ride will reward Mormon feminists with an exhilarating thrill or an “out of order” message, but I’m dropping my coin in the slot anyway. I hope that however the ride goes this weekend, we can all find a way to come back on Monday and say “again, again!”There’s no one I’d rather be on this ride with than all of you.

Aimee Hickman is Co-Editor of Exponent II. She lives in Baltimore, MD with her husband and three coin-op ride-loving children.

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Poll: Commenting

Comment, comment, commentA few minutes after I found the Exponent website for the first time, I sent in my first guest post. Now it seems that I am always commenting when I am not posting. But not everyone likes to hear the sound of their own voice (or rather, the sound of their own keyboard) as much as I do. Our stats show that we have many more people lurking about our website besides those who type comments. My fellow frequent commenters, why do you enjoy commenting at the Exponent blog?  Silent lurkers, if any of you would be willing to break pattern and leave a comment just this once, could you tell us why you prefer to read without commenting?

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