Guest Post: Built for Women #MormonMeToo
Natalie Ware Gowen
There are three things I can’t do:
Cook in someone else’s kitchen.
Run to someone else’s playlist.
Navigate someone else’s church.
My mother-in-law is a gem, but she keeps the measuring spoons in the most obscure place. If mixing up a gooey batch of my famous brownies takes 15 minutes in my kitchen, it takes 20 in hers. All because it’s set for her, not me.
Before we shared music in the cloud, I’d occasionally borrow my husband’s MP3 player to take on a run. It was okay but I always ran slower to his music. He doesn’t listen to the songs that light a fire under my feet. His tunes are curated to his tastes, not mine.
The more I navigate my LDS faith, the more I feel like I’m cooking in someone else’s kitchen and running to someone else’s playlist. It doesn’t have anything to do with my personal devotion to God. And it’s not for lack of effort. Heaven knows I’ve tried to pray away the discomfort for years.
I’ve managed, but it’s awkward because the church is built for men and not for women.
It’s not built for women when our Individual Worth is tied to our ability to marry and bear children.
It’s not built for women when we miss out on spiritual nourishment during Sunday meetings as we disproportionally spend sacrament meeting in the hall with a kid who needs to nap and then spend the second and third hours serving in our callings.
It’s not built for women when mothers of sons are systematically removed from our children’s spiritual milestones starting at age 12.
It’s not built for women when we have to temper our leadership with sweetness or risk being written off as bossy and controlling.
It’s not built for women when every general church meeting, even the female-only ones, ends with the voice of a male priesthood leader.
It’s not built for women when a husband confesses to pornography use and a wife is counseled into silence.
It’s not built for women when the bishop holds the purse strings to the ward’s fast offerings and has free reign to give counsel that ends in shame and embarrassment for the sisters in need.
It’s not built for women when they are asked to sacrifice their physical and mental safety to preserve a temple marriage.
It’s not built for women when our dear sisters are hurting from abuse and crimes committed against them and are counseled about forgiveness.
It’s not built for women when men, some of whom are perpetrators of abuse, are the only ones with access to hotlines for help.
It’s not built for women when she is disbelieved and dismissed because her abuser is such a “nice guy.”
It’s not built for women when crimes go unreported, pleas for restitution unanswered, and dossiers about the victims are compiled by outside counsel.
What if our Divine Nature was unbound from the fruit of our wombs?
What if we all could gather together in greater numbers for our Sunday meetings?
What if we could stand in the circle of the spiritual milestones of our sons and our daughters?
What if we stopped valuing the reputation of men over the anguish of women?
What if we honored each sister for her individual talents and contributions, regardless of her marital or economic status?
What if we took strong action to protect women from the illegal actions of men in powerful positions?
What if the full potential of LDS women was released into the world?
What if we reshaped the church to work for women too?
What if the church was safe for women?
What if we had a say in making that change?
Like many of you, I’ve felt powerless over the past few weeks as the case involving Joseph Bishop has unfolded. I’ve watched in dismay as the institution circled the wagons to protect itself and sent warning shots signalling they would rather women not speak up.
But they can’t shoot us all.
We need to keep rallying together. We need to continue to share our stories. We need to have hard conversations with our family and friends that raise awareness. We need to talk openly about the deep institutional problems that make the church unsafe for women.
We need to talk about how the 2008 policy on abuse isn’t enough and neither are the recent updates.
If we persist, I believe things can change.
The source of this pain isn’t found within the gospel of Jesus Christ. The flaws are in the institution administering the gospel which was established by men for men.
Let’s remodel. Let’s turn the kitchen into a workspace designed to meet the needs of both genders. Let’s install high-quality speakers and create a his and hers playlist.
Let’s make the kingdom of God roll forth in the later days to fill the earth with the light of the gospel that elevates men and women together.
Let’s change for the better.
Natalie runs on roads and trails. During the week she runs a digital marketing agency and on Sundays she runs the dog and pony show known as Singing Time.