He Calls Me Honey Hole
Names are important. What we call someone or something frames our perception and impacts the meaning in our minds. It offends God when we use the wrong name or nickname as President Nelson recently reminded us,
He is serious. And if we allow nicknames to be used and adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, He is offended.
We are called to repentance by this prophetic declaration that using the wrong name offends God. Churchwide we are called to revise our naming practices. The names we use for classes of Young Women in The Church stand out as a naming practice in need of correction and repentance.
Who controls the naming power in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? My 97-year-old grandmother is at the young end of a large family. Her name was hotly debated and settled with the family majority (siblings and mother) reaching a consensus that her name would be Betty. When it came time for her naming and blessing at Church her father ignored the majority consensus and declared her name to be Martha. This declaration was thoroughly rejected by the band of siblings who persisted in calling their sister by the nickname Betty throughout her life as did the rest of their hometown. But the legal name recorded on her birth certificate is Martha. Males control naming power in The Church. As the exclusive proprietors of priesthood power, they wield ultimate control over branding, labeling and other forms of naming. And as demonstrated by President Nelson, naming is a priority for the ultimate authority of a prophet.
In her book, Dance of the Dissident Daughter, author Sue Monk Kidd explores the power of naming and women’s use of this power. She states,
To name is to define and shape reality. For eons, women have accepted male naming as a given, especially in the spiritual realm. The fact is for a long time now men have been naming the world, God, sacred reality, and even women from their own masculine perspective and experience and then calling it a universal experience.
Fellow blogger Violadiva writes on the dangers of this masculine perspective in terms of a Mormon Male Gaze here. How does this gaze show up as we name our adolescent children forming adult identities? If they are boys we name them using scriptural titles of Deacon, Teacher, and Priest, describing them as officeholders with sacred responsibilities. They are called to action and are labeled as sacred actors rather than as objects. In a 1995 General Conference talk titled Acting for Ourselves and Not Being Acted Upon, apostle James E. Faust reveals,
Holders of the priesthood of God are to not only be accountable for their own acts, but provide moral and physical safety for the women and children of their families and of the Church. You young, single men who hold the priesthood and are dating the splendid young ladies of the Church have a duty to do everything you can to protect their physical safety and virtue.
Young men are called to provide moral and physical protection for the “acted upon” objects of The Church: the women and the children.
An egalitarian religious culture would call all adolescent children to offices with biblical names and scriptural descriptions of their duties and responsibilities as they prepare for adulthood. Girls too would be encouraged to act, rather than being acted upon. But in The Church, the names and labels assigned to the 12-18-year-old girl children are not sacred. The names we assign objectify and sexualize.
Beehive is the oldest name and classification for girls in The Church and a favorite symbol of industry, productivity, royalty, and Masonry in early Mormonism. As a freshman in college learning to identify symbolism in Renaissance literature, a helpful classmate directed me to, “Pay attention to the poles and the holes. That’s where the sex role messages are represented.” Applied to the Beehive label it is evident that there is a hole at the entrance of the beehive. Inside of the hole is sticky sweetness to be guarded by bees with pole shaped penetrating stingers.
12 and 13-year-old girls are labeled with a word that means holes of sweetness. Repositories of sugary goodness made by bees penetrating flowers and bringing the fertile essence back to the hive. Duties and responsibilities? None stated, but several implied. A beehive is an object. Be acted upon. Be full of nurturing sweetness. Be valued for what you can give up to the males entitled to take. Be a honey hole. While boys your age pass the sacrament you can be symbolized as a sticky sweet sacrament in a hole. One day you might be feasted upon by a famished prophet seeking holiness in the desert.
Do our labels for girls get any better as they age? What are they encouraged to become as they grow and progress? Per the LDS.org website: “The name Mia Maid refers historically to the Mutual Improvement Association, which adopted the emblem of the rose as a symbol of love, faith, and purity.” Unfortunately, Mia Maid sounds like, “MY maid” which many a teenage boy has mockingly pointed out to his girl peers at church. Duty and responsibility of a domestic nature are implied in this name. Labor performed is in servitude to another who enjoys ownership of the labor performed.
In addition to the meaning: female domestic servant, maid is also defined as an unmarried girl and as a virgin. Why choose as a name for young girls a word that refers to whether or not they have been sexually penetrated? The emblem of the rose associated with Mia Maid reinforces the sexual message. Flowers long have been used to represent female genitalia (as in this anti-circumcision ad by Amnesty International).
The focus on purity represented by the unplucked rose or the virginity associated with maid implies that experiencing sexuality removes virtue or value from a girl. Purity and virtue messaging teach that a girl has greater worth if a male with a legal claim to her(marriage) is the first to use her for sexual service. Messages embodied in the Mia Maid name: be servile, clean up other people’s messes, be sexually clean, be a virgin. Boys of the same age are Teachers.
Since at least the 1740 publication of Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson, maids have carried erotic symbolism as an easy to rape object of sexual violence to be preyed upon by the master of the house. The plot of Pamela centers on a 15-year-old maid attempting to resist the seduction, kidnapping and other coercive efforts of her adult employer. The maid as an erotic figure endures today in anime, pornography, and sexual role play.
Beehive and Mia Maid are the labels assigned to classes of girls who have not yet reached the official dating age of 16. Per For the Strength of Youth, these girls are too young for courtship. They are at an age when it is a crime for an adult to engage them in sexual activity of any kind. There should never be any talk of Beehive or Mia Maid bodies tempting adult men. But historically, girls this young were considered marriageable among Mormons as documented by author Connell O’Donovan in the article, Pedagomy: Sealing Girls to Old Men.
…Girls aged 11 to 16 were married in Utah to men at least a decade older than they were; some men were even in their 60s when they married these girls. These girls were giving birth to children within a year or so of marriage, proving that these marriages to child brides included sex.
In a Victorian era that abhorred polygamy (particularly the inclusion of child brides in the practice), Mormons had sexual relations with children. An institution with a history of pedophilia should reject the optics of naming classes of girl children with sexually objectifying labels. Today, girl children in The Church progress from Honey Holes (Beehives) to Erotic Virgin Servants (Mia Maids) before finally becoming Crowns for Men (Laurels).
For centuries the laurel wreath has been a crown woven from the leaves of the laurel tree. It is given to someone who finishes a significant achievement as a symbol of honor and accomplishment.
While 16 and 17-year-old boys actively engage in the duties and responsibilities of being a Priest such as baptizing or blessing the Sacrament, 16 and 17-year-old girls are coached on how to help their missionary boyfriend focus on his mission with modest dress and inspirational care packages. Priest aged girls are the crown to be given to someone who finishes a significant achievement as a symbol of honor and accomplishment. Is it any wonder that some missionaries believe they accumulate “Hot wife points” in reward for their missionary labors? While they are defined with a heroic label of Priest and aspire to be Elders, girls of the same age are Laurel crowns, a ring of glory for the conqueror to wear on his head as a symbol of completion.
Why are we allowing the sacred reality of our defining names for girls to center on their utility to men? We send a message with our naming that the young women values are: 1. Fertility: Their ability to bring forth children, 2. Labor: Their ability to work for men, and 3. Sexiness: The sexual desirability of their bodies to men. In a church devoting considerable budget and resources to eliminate the Mormon nickname, how can we tolerate the labeling of God’s daughters with offensively loaded words that reduce and objectify?
Returning to the naming concepts explored by Sue Monk Kidd, her words sound like any Mormon woman when she states:
I had also unknowingly forfeited my power to name sacred reality. I had simply accepted what men had named. Neither had I noticed that when women give their power away, it is rarely used to liberate and restore value to women. More often it is used to shore up and enhance the privileged position of men.
The larger context of this quote is a call to repentance from colluding in the denial and injury of the feminine soul. It is a reminder that when men hold the naming power they will in their imperfection commit grave errors. And if Jesus Christ is offended by our failure to faithfully use his name in references to his Church, how much more offense do we cause to our Heavenly Parents when we package and brand our girl children as objects for the use and pleasure of men?
Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
In the days before the Girls Camp program moved to name classes of girls by their year at camp, our girls were Yearlings, Mountaineers, Inspirators and Adventurers. Perform a Google image search for any of those labels and notice the feelings and values the images represent. They are not overtly sexual or objectifying. Divine daughters of Heavenly Parents are so much more than Honey Holes, Erotic Virgin Servants, or Crowns for Men. We can do better. It is far past time for women to reclaim the sacred naming power.