Scene from the Life of a Mormon Feminist
Last semester in Claudia Bushman’s class called “The Spiritual Autobiography of the American Woman,” our final project was to write our own autobiography. In one chapter, which I called ‘Scenes from the Life of a Mormon Feminist,’ I starkly described seven distinct episodes of my life, episodes that were seminal moments in my feminist journey. In the following weeks, I plan to post a couple more.
Here is one of the earlier ones.
I am fifteen years old. I try to distract myself during dullish Sacrament Meetings by looking up ‘women’ in the topical guide of my scriptures. I am directed to several verses, but the ones by Paul particularly stand out. I am baffled by his inexplicable statements about women not braiding their hair, not wearing gold, not speaking in church, and being subject to their husbands. I am distressed. I have been taught in church that the Bible is the word of God. I believe this.
When we get home from church, I ask my mom what she thinks of these verses. She isn’t disturbed since she doesn’t take them seriously. “Caroline,” she says. “Paul was probably a short, hairy, ugly little man that women wouldn’t give the time of day to. No wonder he said these unflattering things about them. He was probably just bitter.” I find it disconcerting that Mom is so easily able to slough off these misogynistic Bible verses, but I also find it comforting. I realize different Mormons have different ways of approaching the Bible.
Years later, I remember my mom’s response and find it delightful, hilarious and oddly similar to my own approach to the problem. I wouldn’t put it quite like she did – I would go more in the direction of Paul being a product of a cultural climate that devalued women, and how on earth could we expect him to be able to shake that off, etc. etc. – but I am tickled that our approach to the problem is essentially the same in that we each try to locate a very human and fallible Paul in his social context
Do you have scenes that stand out in your mind as seminal moments in your own spiritual journey?
And on a completely different note, how do you deal with Paul’s problematic verses?