Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Second Only to Murder

I have puzzled over the question of sin: Is an action inherently sinful, or is it ascribed that meaning by God?  It seems to be the latter, because the same action can be either laudable or a sin depending on the circumstance (e.g. Nephi was justified in killing Laban because God told him to, yet God told Moses that killing is a sin; sex outside of marriage is wicked and filthy but in marriage is beautiful; polygamy was once a commandment but now you can be excommunicated for it).  If that is the case, why does God ascribe that meaning to it?  It seems that the consequences (either feeling happy or sad) of either abstaining from or committing the sin only come because of the value God ascribes to the action (e.g., Nephi didn't feel enormous guilt and spiritual darkness after killing Laban).  So why ascribe negative values to these actions in the first place?  Are they just arbitrary and used as a test?  Is sex not inherently bad outside of marriage but God created the confines of marriage to create separate circumstances to test us?  This larger issue is a topic for another day; right now I want to focus on the Law of Chastity in all of its glory.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A small irking

I am in a ballet class this semester.  Our required attire is pink tights and a black leotard with pink ballet shoes; for the gents it's a fitted t-shirt or leotard with black tights, leggings, or biking shorts.  There is an addendum to the dress code requirements in the syllabus: "Proper modest cover up is required for hallways if the distance traveled from the locker room is half the length of the RB or more."  Our classroom is quite close to the locker room, so this doesn't apply to us; however, it still irks me.  

This is why: Why is it OK to be dressed in a leotard and tights in front of men in your ballet class but not in front of men in the rest of the RB?  Are they not properly prepared?  Have they not mentally steeled themselves to fight against your tempting ways?  (This is all based on the assumption that the covering up is for the students of the male persuasion, of course.)  Why is it so wrong to walk through the athletic building, which also features an observation window of the pool where team members are wearing bathing suits, in ballet attire?  I could see the point of not walking around campus or through other buildings in ballet attire, but this is the athletic building, where it's expected that people will be in workout/athletic clothing. 

I know it's a small rule tucked away into the syllabus, but the principle of it still bothers me.  It's one thing if you are personally uncomfortable with showing your body and want to cover up; it's another thing for that action to be mandated as a rule.  Although the context is different, you're actually being more modest than you are wearing a bathing suit.  Why is the context of the hallway versus the classroom so different? 

I'm not blaming the syllabus, but this rule actually makes me feel some shame for walking around outside of the classroom in my outfit.  I feel like I should feel bad because the rule implies that there is something wrong with it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Response to a Viewpoint Which I Didn't Send In Which I Now Wish I Had

After I read this lovely Viewpoint (which, in my memory, originally had the subtitle of something like "Confessions of a Former Man Hater") in my favorite publication, the Daily Universe, I wrote this down in a notebook during class:

I'm sick of having my role defined for me. If I fit the role of nurturer (which, to be honest, I do), then let me own it; but if I don't, don't tell me how I should be—respect my personality for what it is.  I've seen the nurturer/provider dichotomy become a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially among men.  I've seen them think that they somehow don't have the capacity to love and nurture as much as they actually do, so they don't try to cultivate it.  I am nurturing and I happen to be a woman; many, but not all, of us are. There are certain men who are more nurturing than certain women. 

It may seem easier to just say all men are one way and all women are another, but there are always exceptions. I imagine people of both sexes who don't fit the stereotypes must feel alienated.  You only make people feel like misfits when you assign such strict gender roles. Let people be as they are instead of telling them how they should be (in other words, be descriptive instead of prescriptive).

I would also add now that believing that women in the church are oppressed doesn't make you a "man hater.  The author makes it sound like if you don't accept traditional gender roles, you must be an angry, bitter woman.

The Fiftieth Post

I started this post more than a month ago.  It's been difficult to write because the experience contained herein hurt me so much, but also because I've been afraid of representing the other people unfairly.  At the time, I would even use hyperbole and tell them, "I don't want to sound like an angry man-hater, but...".  It's sad that being branded as that is a fear whenever you're talking about women's rights.  Anyway, here's the post that was started on February 4th:

I had a particularly frustrating conversation with two young men last week about a woman's place in the church.  It's very difficult to have these conversations because you can just be dismissed as an angry feminist man-hater (a gross exaggeration).  

I realize that people reading this may have different opinions than I do, and that's fine, of course.  It wasn't the differing opinions of these two guys that upset me—it was their unwillingness to even try to see my side of things and the methods they used to back up their opinions.

First of all, let me say how much I noticed the irony of two men telling me that they believed that everything regarding women in the church was as it should be; I even pointed out to them how messed up that was, but they didn't seem to understand.

I've probably taken more than an hour to write what I've already written because I keep putting it off; there's so much to tell, plus I worry about somehow representing these two guys unfairly.  So I will merely sum up. Some highlights: I basically brought up the points in  these two posts.  One guy said how it isn't even an issue because women have the priesthood in the temple—to which I said that that was only in the temple, so it still means that I can't baptize my friend who joins the church or bless my own baby (or even lay my hands on his/her head during the blessing).  The fact that women use the priesthood in the temple is even more reason for why they should be allowed to use it everywhere.  I was also told that in the "eternal perspective," this will be such a small issue and it doesn't really make a difference (to which I said, "Because you're a man!").  Plus, that's extremely dismissive of valid feelings to say that it doesn't matter anyway. 

It was mainly them talking with me sitting there and listening, simultaneously fuming and sobbing on the inside.  Like I said, I even brought up the point that they were two men speaking about women's issues to a woman and saying that I should be content with my place—since when is that OK?  In a context other than a religious one, that would be clearly sexist.  But since they veil it with spirituality, it supposedly makes it OK because that's the way that "God wants it."  

I'll give this disclaimer because I mean no disrespect to anyone: If I were given the choice between being able to have the priesthood or being able to carry children, I would probably choose to carry children—but that's because I love kids.  Not everyone does.  I'm not trying to debase motherhood at all.  I just wish it wasn't presented as the end-all/be-all of a woman since not all women find satisfaction and fulfillment in motherhood.  The role just seems more limited than a man's.

Apparently, my personal revelation isn't as valid as theirs is, according to them.  I must have been asking the wrong way or just expecting an answer and that's why I have feelings that contradict theirs.  If my feelings disagree with current church policy, then I am automatically wrong.  One guy said that sometimes when you go into prayer expecting to get a certain answer, that's the answer you think you get, which is true.  However, I pointed out that I could say the exact same thing about the "answer" that he got, to which he had nothing to say.

This same guy testified to me that he knew that the church leaders knew the will of God and that he had even met some of them.  Well, zounds!  You've even met them!  I totally trust you then.  After all, general authorities met Mark Hoffman, and by meeting him they knew he was a counterfeiter!  (But that's an issue for another day.)

I'm reading a book called Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine, which explores how many characteristics of gender are actually innate as opposed to shaped by society (answer: fewer than public opinion currently thinks).  One of the sad sides of believing in strict gender roles is that both men and women discredit abilities that they have that are not stereotypically either feminine or masculine.  An example from this discussion: this young man asserted that women have more of a capacity to nurture and, as a man, he just couldn't match that.  That actually makes me sad for him because he underestimates his potential and probably doesn't  nurture that characteristic in himself.  He thinks that he could never be as nurturing as a woman, so he doesn't even try to be.  I think that women should also preside and protect and that men should also nurture and that both sexes have potential for both of these traits.

To fully back up his claim that the ability to nurture was equal to the ability to hold the priesthood, he had to diminish men's capacity for nurturing, making it something that was physically impossible to have.  Since women can't hold the priesthood, men would have to not be able to nurture as much. as women can.  I think it's damaging to both sexes.  Although the main issue with women's rights is sexism toward women, there's also a great amount of sexism toward men that goes on in those same discussions.  No one wins.

The whole conversation was filled with antiquated ideas of gender roles, faulty logic, dismissing of my opinions, no attempt to understand further what I thought, and (in my opinion) self-righteousness.  In the end, in an attempt to be civil, I thanked the two guys for discussing this with me, then went out to my car and cried.