Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Thoughts on Feminist Blogging from a "Non-Feminist"

Kiskilili said the following:
I would be interested, though, to hear from a non-feminist who nevertheless participates regularly on feminist blogs and feels its net effect has been damaging, in what ways, and what draws them to such discussions.

My response, too long to post at ZD, follows.

For what it is worth, I will share my point of view since I don't identify myself as a feminist (at least not in the way feminism is usually framed in the 'nacle). (I'm a little hesitant to do so...please treat my words with kindness, even if you don't agree.) This is an issue I have been thinking about for months, so forgive the length. (This is also quite stream-of-consciousness. I have a headache and just can't do much more than this today...as it is, I have spent a lot of time trying to pull out some of what is swimming in my brain....)

During the last few months in the 'nacle, I have come to understand that for some women, finding out that they are not alone in their struggles is incredibly helpful. They are able to talk about things they don't talk about at church. I respect and appreciate that.

But I think that benefit may be limited, at least to a degree. Looking at it analytically at least, I think it doesn't take long to be able to say, "Oh, look, I'm not alone." But then what? Even getting other people's ideas seems to have a limited scope, because often the same issues are brought up over and over again.

Lynnette acknowledged that blogging can intensify feelings of anger, and I think it often does. What saddens me is that like-minded people group together, but often end up just re-hashing the same points, venting and expressing frustration about what they don't like about Church or the leaders or whatever, or how they wish the Church would be different. Often, it seems (my perception) that those expressions outweigh efforts to move forward with faith. Fixation on frustrations can often make the frustrations seem bigger and more in need of attention than perhaps they were before, which leads to more focus on frustration. It's a potentially vicious cycle. And I think it often creates a false sense of reality.

When I'm upset about something, and I give voice to frustrations for long and I feed them too much, they just gain a unrealistic life of their own. In the 'nacle, what often seems to ensue is not clear understanding but a false sense of reality based on (usually negative) perception and experience alone (a potentially dangerous sort of groupthink), especially when very few voices on "the other side" are heard or considered. Can focus on the frustrations really bring resolution and peace? I doubt it.

Following are other ways I see feminist blogging as potentially detrimental:

- There is often contempt toward mainstream Mormonism, leaders and people who even want to express their mainstreamish points of view. While criticism is directed at the Church for being closed-minded, it seems that there is little room for considering merits of the mainstream viewpoints, life, etc in discussions. If such things are not given voice, I see no chance for anything but frustration to breed frustration. Much of the "Mormon" is often stripped from these discussions, except to express anger toward what makes the Church what it is (priesthood, prophets, temple, etc.) It lacks in objectivity and seems very one-sided to me.

- I believe feminist Mormon blogging has the potential to damage those who are tender in the gospel, who might have more doubt heaped upon them before their foundation of faith can handle it. Those who blog often don't seem to think of the ramifications of feeding doubt when faith is needed, even crucial. I think we will be held accountable for the impact we have on others, even if those people are people we never meet. (See this brief article for reflections on that topic.)

- I feel that feminist blogging intensifies a rift that exists between women who struggle with the Church and women who don't. Mormon feminism seems to only care about women who share its views – not about women in the Church in a general way. Feminism is a rather exclusive club. (I know that doesn't necessarily translate to feminists only caring about feminists in "real life" but it's often the way it feels online.) On "both sides" we often become untrusting of each other and so we continue to congregate based on differences, instead of trying to find ways to come together and find similarities. Frankly, I don't want there to be an 'us' and a 'them.' Perhaps it's inevitable at this point. Yet, I still yearn for a Mormon sisterhood that we can ALL enjoy, not just if we are "feminist" or "not feminist." I personally don't believe the Savior wants us to compartmentalize ourselves into so many subgroups, and that is the kind of compartmentalizing that I think is potentially very damaging on the 'nacle. Unity is impossible in this kind of forum, for in the bloggernacle, familiarity breeds friendship, and differences often breed contempt. That doesn't do much for building bridges.

- On a personal note, there have been several occasions where, especially on feminist-themed threads, I have been personally attacked and treated unkindly. I am accused of being insensitive yet treated insensitively. I am accused of not considering other points of view when mine is treated with contempt. So, frankly, for personal reasons, I'm having a hard time feeling positive about feminist blogging. The tone and tenor of discussions often lends itself to such unkindness, particularly to those who may not share feminist concerns. (I do need to say that there are those who, even though they disagree with me, have showed patience and kindness – that in spite of my sometimes-overzealous thought-sharing, and to you, I say thank you.)

- As much as blogging feeds the fire of revolution-minded, radical feminism in the Church, then feminist blogging is not a good thing. Frankly, I don't see feminist blogging as being a vehicle for change in the Church. I am confident the Brethren are aware of the issues discussed in the 'nacle long before any critical mass on any issue can congregate toward a goal of change. If feminist blogging causes more people to want to rise up against our leaders, then it's a bad thing. Not that the Church or leaders can't handle it, but because I believe it is bad for the individuals themselves who engage in such efforts. In general, anger and criticism shut out the Spirit, and I think there is particular risk of spiritual harm when criticizing our leaders. (Elder Oaks has said as much.) (Perhaps I'm reacting more to things I have read on my own and less here online, so this may or may not be relevant to blogging in particular.)

- I feel that sometimes the feminacle becomes a place to pretend that mainstream Mormonism doesn't exist, or to mock it, or even to escape --or replace -- it -- rather than help people figure out how to really embrace it in spite of the concerns and frustrations. Again, as much as the 'nacle helps someone not feel alone so she can go back and tackle her concerns in "the real world" with faith, it can be good. I'm glad to hear women have decided to stay in the Church because they don't feel so alone, thanks to sites like FMH. But too often I feel people stop there – relishing in a community built on the foundation of frustration that leads some to compartmentalize their lives. ("My real sisters are online; I simply endure my RS sisters and others at church, or endure the church altogether."). This kind of double-life doesn't seem like a good thing. (This can also underscore that sometimes RS sisters need to do more to reach out – I realize this can cut both ways. But that really isn't possible if women turn exclusively to the bloggernacle for their community fix.)

Now, I fear I may be misread here. I don't say any of this to imply that those with concerns don't have a place in the Church. I hurt when I hear women thinking they may not belong. Don't lose hope! The Savior is there with open arms. But we have to come to Him. The 'nacle is not the way to ultimately do that. We can't fully come to Him with one foot (or more) in a pool of frustration and doubt. We have to be willing to give HIM the doubt and look for ways to build faith. Inasmuch as feminist blogging lingers on sources of doubt and frustration, I think it can easily hinder someone from completely coming to Christ and laying burdens at HIS feet (rather than at the bloggernacle's!) Come to the 'nacle to find you are not alone if need be, then go back to church and to God to find out how to overcome the frustration. Don't give the frustration primary focus. His yoke is easy; His burden is light. His gospel is one of love, acceptance, peace and joy. He doesn't want you to feel frustrated, so find ways to move past the frustration, not feed it!

This is another downside I see of Mormon feminist blogging. It seems to be designed primarily as a vehicle for venting and discussing the frustation. Where, then, do such women go to plant and feed the seed of faith? (Think Al. 32 - give place for the seed, have a desire/hope that it's good and take great care to feed that seed - not seeds of doubt ("do not cast it out by your unbelief").) I don't see a lot of that feeding the seed of faith in places where women with concerns congregate. (I realize I haven't much of a clue what goes on at the personal level - can only share perceptions of the 'nacle itself.) Controversy is what breeds conversation in the bloggernacle. And I think that is one of its most unfortunate characteristics.

I guess I've seen too many people put their frustrations at the forefront and never seem to be able to move past them - to move toward reconciliation in their hearts – a reconciliation that is not contingent on change or revolution, but sought with the help of God who is the author of peace. Feminist blogging is at best a temporary solution to a problem that demands something more. I'm NOT saying that women with serious, heartfelt doubts don't turn to God for help already. I know that many do, and exert a lot of spiritual energy in doing so. Perhaps this struggle is their cross. To them, I would say, don't give up. Keep pressing forward. Keep feeding the seed of faith. Make place in your heart for that seed. But realize that the answer will not lie in re-hashing the same ol' frustrations over and over again – not without an eye toward faith and reconciliation.

I think an example might be useful here. Consider the recent post at BCC – "Why I Stay." Such a post acknowledges that there are issues and concerns ("I'm struggling, but I'm staying. Here's why."), but instead of feeding those concerns, the post focused on and fed faith. Everyone's foundation was a little different, but it was uplifting to read what everyone wrote. It was constructive. I felt it was forward-moving, not jumping on that cyclical, cynical bandwagon of complaint. Contrast that with posts that examine and rehash points of frustration over and over again, feeding that frustration and not leaving much of a place for faith. Frankly, I think we need many more posts like "Why I Stay." (Note how that was also a safe forum for both those who doubt and those who don't. It was a bridge-building post.)

I don't see faith having a significant and consistent voice in feminist blogging. Doubt has more of the stage. I think that easily can do disservice to its participants, especially those already struggling. I worry about people on the fence finding feminist blogs and being blown to the side of doubt, where, had there been a focus on faith, there could be a different outcome. In fact, sometimes, feminist blogs just create more questions -- questions that can crowd out faith – or gives unhealthy reinforcement to frustrations that might be best left to cool for a while.

And so, I would say, give faith a voice! Again, find ways to build and express faith, even in the things that feel frustrating. If the temple causes angst because of some of its elements, find what about the temple brings peace and perspective instead! If there are prophetic teachings that tear at your heartstrings, find those that resonate with your soul and build from there! And so it can go.... I would love to see more posts like "Why I Stay" from our feminist sisters. ("Why I love the temple." "How the priesthood has blessed my life." "What I [do] love about being a woman in the Church." "What I [do] love about the Church." "Anchor moments in my life that ground me at tough times." You get the idea.)

My one experience with feeling "oppressed" by a church leader led me to his office, where, when I expressed my frustration, he kindly explained his side of things, and I realized that my frustrations were basically based on faulty assumptions and perceptions. Isn't it possible that some of the frustrations expressed in the feminacle are based on faulty assumptions as well? How often are these assumptions honestly challenged? How often is the mainstream approach given honest, open-minded consideration discussions? Again, how often is faith given a voice?

OK, one last thing. I realize not all feminist blogging is comprised of feminist Church-related discussions. Some discussions are just about interesting issues – some not even directly related to women. This is something that can be very enjoyable for a broader audience. There are many of us out here who love the connection and intellectual stimulation that the bloggernacle can offer. That is its strength, and perhaps those are the kinds of things that should be given more attention, rather than rehashing the same old things over and over again. (There are many who have spoken about this bloggernacle burnout, so I'm not the only one who feels this way.)

In answer to Kiskilili's last question, I read and participate (although lately, less frequently) in feminist blogs for a variety of reasons:
– To understand others' points of view, struggles, etc. Believe it or not, I do care about that.
– To understand what issues are tender points. I have learned about some of our history that I was not aware of before. I don't believe we need to know all of the history to have a testimony, and sometimes I think it's actually rather pointless, but nevertheless, I know some things that have helped me in conversations with friends who have come across stuff and wondered.
– To share a differing point of view (although too often I feel such a point of view is not wanted).
– To sort through my own feelings, to ponder and study, and then to articulate how the "party line" answers bring me peace. This has strengthened my testimony of the gospel, the Church, of prophetic leadership, of the Proclamation, and other elements of "Mormon" life in various ways.

I know that was long and repetitive...like I said, this is about as well as I can do today. Sorry it wasn't more succinct. :)

35 comments:

Eve said...

M&M, I'm a little hesitant to respond to your post, but since it's a direct response to a ZD thread, I do feel a need to address a few of the issues you bring up.

I am very sorry that you've been treated badly on the Bloggernacle. It is a very unfortunate feature of blogging, and I think we'd all like to see it decrease. But it's important to point out that the personal attacks and contempt are not limited to any particular viewpoint. I'm truly sorry that you've experienced contempt and the sense that your point of view is not welcome, but I've found similar contempt for my point of view on women's blogs that purport to speak for Mormon women collectively. I find this particularly distressing when it comes from people who claim that their testimonies are stronger or more valid than those of people who question or doubt. Perhaps the testimonies of more orthodox women really are stronger, but if they are, I'd like to see that greater strength manifest in more Christlike behavior rather than in the labeling and the dismissal and the unfair assumptions that others with different viewpoints are less committed to the gospel or to the church.

You decry the dichotomy between feminists and non-feminists. I too find that very unfortunate, but as you observe, it is a dichotomy maintained from both sides. You say that feminism feels like an exclusive club. That is often a fair criticism--there's much about many brands of feminism I could not in good conscience embrace. But when you trivialize or dismiss the concerns of others--when you seem to assume that faith must resemble your faith, that testimony must resemble your testimony, in order to be valid--you make the Church itself feel like an exclusive club, one to which people like me can never belong despite all of your warm-hearted--and, I believe, sincere--invitations.

I agree that we are responsible to use the Internet and other media in responsible ways, but I think that narrow definitions of the church and the gospel that presume that the slightest expression of question or concern about any issue somehow renders that person's testimony or commitment less are just as problematic as expressions of doubt are. For example, I've known people who were told they could not accept evolution and be members of the Church and so were driven into inactivity or hesitated to get baptized. Surely our responsible use of the Internet also includes a responsibility to constantly represent the gospel and the Church inclusively even as we maintain standards. If this truly is the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth--as I believe it is--then we have a profound responsibility never to drive others away from it.

In some ways my greatest concern about the way you share your perspectives is your tone. I suspect you don't mean to come across this way, but you often shift to the imperative voice and start telling your feminist sisters what we need to do to resolve our concerns--concerns that you don't share, and therefore may not be in the best position to understand. I also find it a little frustrating that you constantly invite people to come to Christ as if you stand closer to Christ than we do.
I suspect you wouldn't feel very understood or very welcomed if we started preaching the feminist gospel to you or started telling you what you needed to do to enhance your spiritual life. I suspect you would find such preaching condescending and presumptuous. Can you see how you might sometimes come across that way?

Perhaps, ultimately, we find different things faith-promoting. I find nothing more faith-promoting than hearing the faith of those who are able to be honest about their doubts, sorrows, griefs, problems, or complaints, whatever they are. I realize they're likely to be very different for each of us, but there's nothing that builds my faith more than accounts from the trenches, faith in the face of struggle. For that reason, I'd like to see posts like "Why the temple was a horrible experience but I still have faith in Christ" or "Why I can't make sense of Genesis literally but I still find the Church a source of spiritual nourishment." I believe that faith that cannot take account of challenge is empty, a pre-existence faith; it's in challenge that faith comes to be, and it is for challenge that we are here.

For the record, I too liked the post at BCC. Maybe posts like that can become a meeting ground to cross the divide that I think we both would like to see crossed. I hope that both feminists and non-feminists can find common ground in such discussions.

Eve

M&M said...

Eve,
You shouldn't feel hesitant to respond on my personal blog. I recognized this would be possible with my link here from ZD. I will try to respond, although I do fear being misunderstood. (It seems that this happens with us on occasion, so I hope that won't be the case here.)

I'd like to see that greater strength manifest in more Christlike behavior rather than in the labeling and the dismissal and the unfair assumptions that others with different viewpoints are less committed to the gospel or to the church.

This is completely legitimate. On the flip side, please understand that when direct attacks are made on prophets and their counsel, on the temple, on the Proclamation and its principles, on the church structure (which many feel is inspired), or whatever else might come up in a feminist discussion, it's hard to feel that commitment shine through. So, part of what I was saying was, let's hear more of that along with the struggle. As a general principle, I think that helps the one sharing it (hence the reason we have testimony meetings) and also is helpful to those reading.

I did not write this with any one person in mind. I was writing about general trends I see in the 'nacle. What I see is those struggling with commitment (many even say as much). This makes your comment a bit confusing. I suppose I have hit yet another nerve, and for that I am sorry.

In short, it would be wonderful to hear more of that commitment (which I know many feminist women do have) along with the struggle. I think that would be something that would be helpful for everyone. That, in fact, was some of what I was trying to get at.

But when you trivialize or dismiss the concerns of others--

I have made a concerted effort not to do this. I fear you are not being fair here. I am sorry you feel I'm being dismissive, but that was not my intention.

when you seem to assume that faith must resemble your faith, that testimony must resemble your testimony,...

I understand this comment, and yet I don't at the same time. For me to share what is the party line of the Church, as preached by our prophets, as testified to week after week by members all over the world, seems hardly uncalled for when discussing the Church and issues related to it. This is not about "my" testimony vs. "your" testimony (hypothetical "your"). This isn't a competition. Believe it or not, my comments are made in a spirit of concern. If they don't feel that way, then just ignore me. I'm not trying to make anyone feel "left out" of some "exclusive club." I'm sorry for anything I say that makes people feel that way. (If sharing my testimony makes people feel that way, which is what this feels like you are saying, I really don't know what to say in the end.)

I agree that we are responsible to use the Internet and other media in responsible ways, but I think that narrow definitions of the church and the gospel that presume that the slightest expression of question or concern about any issue somehow renders that person's testimony or commitment less are just as problematic as expressions of doubt are.

I feel like I clearly push buttons with you, but you have misrepresented what I have said. I am sorry that I can't explain myself well enough to avoid that.

Please note that I never said anything about "presuming the slightest expression of doubt or concern as rendering a testimony less." My comments left plenty of room for expressing doubts and concerns at some level. I even openly recognized that for some women there is benefit to being able to articulate those doubts here in the 'nacle. All I was saying is that it appears to me that sometimes that is where things end. I was sharing my perceptions of dynamics in the 'nacle specifically, acknowledging openly that I don't know the personal lives and faith that is not shared in the 'nacle. I don't know how else to share my thoughts in a way to not sound like I'm trying to stifle people's feelings.

As for your other comments, I am sorry I sound condescending. This is yet another example why keep leaning toward pulling back from commenting. Efforts to simply share what is shared all the time in a general sense in the Church --general doctrine that applies to ALL of us is met with hostility and cries of "you are being consdescending." For the record, I can and do remind myself of these very same principles constantly. (Read the talk I posted on my website -- it's something I am having to discover myself. It's something we all have to seek for to overcome pain and grief in all its forms in our lives. You may struggle with feminist issues, but I may struggle with other life concerns that test my faith. Aren't the answers the same?

The answer is the same for ALL of us, Eve. I can go back and read my own wors to myself to help me with my doubts and struggles and frustrations associated with chronic health and not being able to have more children because of it, with prayers that aren't answered the way I want them to, with questions about how hard life can be.... My heart breaks that my words -- words that just are helpful for anyone struggling with any kind of doubt -- can be twisted to be made offensive and labeled as condescending. I am truly sorry you have felt that way. And I am truly sorry to anyone else who feels that way.

For the record, I need the same things I said in my comments. I am not immune to doubt, struggle, anger and concerns in my own life -- just over different issues.

Talking about the journey of struggle coupled with faith is not so different for any of us, is it? I simply know not what to say when generally-applicable principles are met with such frustration and accusation. I need to increase my faith in Christ, you do -- we all do.

If I were to share my pain and struggles with health or prayer and you shared your testimony of how you found peace with struggles in your life, how could I really fault you for doing that? I feel that is what you have done here. I only hope that someday you will be able to see that I have wanted to help. And I'm imperfect in that desire. And I share from a definite position of imperfection in my own life and my own faith. Do I need to make that more clear? I AM IMPERFECT. I NEED MORE FAITH TO DEAL WITH MY STRUGGLES. I NEED TO COME TO CHRIST MORE IN MY OWN LIFE TO FIND MORE PEACE. WE. ALL. DO.

Please forgive me for any offense I may have caused.

M&M said...

p.s. I think the topics you suggested would be good ones, too. Any topic that adds a measure of faith to the struggles with doubt is great. I personally haven't felt a lot of that in much of the discussion on these topics. Maybe I'm selectively remembering, or expecting too much, or.... But I was asked to share my perceptions and that is what I did.

One other thing...you said:
I believe that faith that cannot take account of challenge is empty, a pre-existence faith; it's in challenge that faith comes to be, and it is for challenge that we are here.

If you think any measure of faith that I might have is sanitized and gained in a vacuum, you are mistaken. I struggle through things, too, and my faith is gained and strengthened through the process you described, just as yours is.

You said you like hearing stories of "faith in the face of struggle." I do, too...and I was just suggesting that more of the faith part in the stories might add something to the 'nacle. The hashing and rehashing that so often occurs usually involves more focus on the struggle, with little resolution through/with faith. I see little benefit in that latter process.

Would my sharing of struggle make my words more palatable? Is that what they lack?

M&M said...

One more thing -- I am sure there are ways that those who struggle with feminism could help strengthen my faith if they would share more of that aspect of their spiritual journey. I just wish we could hear more of that. And in feminist blogging, I personally haven't read or felt much of that.

Eve said...

M&M, I apologize. I've clearly hit some very deep nerves with you, and I'm afraid my comments were hasty and clumsy. I really am sorry.

If I can venture a rephrase: I'm not trying to say that you are condescending or twist your words--I'm really not. I was only trying to say that you might comes across that way without meaning to, but I'm afraid I really inserted my foot in my mouth there. I am sorry. You do seem to have a sincere and admirable interest in communicating with others with whom you disagree, and you seem to have a sincere heart.

I suspect that the heart of our disagreement may lie in your statement that the answers are the same for all of us. I believe that's true, but only in the most eternal sense. The answers that any individual person needs at any given time are extremely individual, just as our testimonies are extremely individual. That's one reason why I'm more comfortable with people sharing their personal experiences, what they have discovered for themselves, and so on, than in offering advice, for example, no matter how well meant. I definitely think there's a time and a place for giving counsel, in bishop-congregant or parent-child relationships, for example. In those situations people are entitled to the inspiration to know what others need to hear. But on the Bloggernacle there's no spiritual authority, and we're simply not entitled to that inspiration for each other. So I think we're better off--and that we avoid a lot of misunderstandings and hurt feelings--if we speak from our own experience and apply the gospel to ourselves rather than to others. But that is, of course, just my point of view and my personal preference. That's the kind of dialogue we want to foster at ZDs, but of course that's just our little corner of things, and other people have other legitimate goals.

Maybe another way to say this is that I absolutely believe you when you say that you find your own words deeply comforting. They are clearly the answers that you need at this time in your life. But they may not be the answers that others need at precisely this moment, and they may not be in quite the language that speaks to others. I don't mean that to deprecate your answers or what comforts you in any way; I know that many of my answers and what comforts me wouldn't help many other people. That's just the joy and the frustration of dealing with the infinite differences among people, I suppose.

I am really sorry I hurt your feelings.

Eve

(And just for the record, many of my comments to you, like many of yours to me, weren't aimed at you or at any particular person--I was speaking more of certain trends on the Bloggernacle in general, as I think you were too.)

Seraphine said...

m&m, I think I see a lot more expressions of faith on the feminist bloggernacle than you do. While there is a lot of rehashing of particular hot-button topics (women and the priesthood, polygamy, etc), I see so much more happening than this. For example, on ZD (which I consider part of the feminist bloggernacle), the last 5 (serious, religious) posts have been:

1. an intellectual post about the scriptures and how we interpret them

2. a report on the feminist blogging session at sunstone

3. a post about the importance of learning how to "move on" in one's life

4. a post about one's person's experiences with depression and the grace of God

5. a post asking about how one approaches a particular spiritual problem (not feeling the spirit when one attends church)

Two of them were directly about people sharing their faith and determination in the face of struggles. One was a report on a conference, one was a post asking for helping thinking about a particular spiritual difficulty, and one was an intellectual conversation about religious issues. None of our most recent posts have been on hot-button feminist issues, and none were posted to get people riled up about particular issues.

I wonder if our differing perspectives have to do with some of difference in what we find faith-building (though it does seem like you and Eve agreed on some overlap). I truly believe that you have the best intentions when you share quotes from General Authorities--you've said before that these are the kinds of things that are faith-building to you, and I'm guessing that you post them because you hope that they are faith-building for others. However, these kinds of things are generally not faith-building for me.

It's not that I don't appreciate the words of the GAs, but much of the time they don't address my particular concerns. I suppose I've had too many experiences where people have tried to call me to repentance by using quotes from General Authorities (which is not necessarily what you are doing), and so I tend to interpret posts quoting GAs as a call to repentance.

I think another issue that adds to the miscommunication between feminists and non-feminists on the bloggernacle (and why you end up feeling attacked) is that while you are in the minority on the feminist part of the bloggernacle, feminists are in a minority in the church. Many of us struggle on a daily basis to belong to a church that has caused real pain in our lives, and on top of that our concerns are ignored/dismissed/etc (I'm talking in a general sense--not about anyone in particular). Quite a lot of us (myself included) end up feeling spiritually cut off from those around us precisely when we need spiritual sustenance from others the most. We have been repeatedly burned, and as a result, can be a bit oversensitive. :)

The reason our conversations can also feel like an "insider's club" is because it can be so difficult to find others to talk to about our difficulties, that when we do, it makes us very happy. While I value all women in the church, I often spend more time trying to build bridges to those who have had similar experiences (I think this is a common human tendency). Certainly I could do better about building bridges to others (as you encouraged), but I think most of the feminists congregating together comes not from a desire to keep others out, but out of a intense sense of joy and relief and find others like us.

M&M said...

Eve, thanks for your follow up. I'm weary of having to tiptoe with my comments, and that is what you are sensing. I'm very, very weary.

A couple of thoughts in response.

You said: "I definitely think there's a time and a place for giving counsel, in bishop-congregant or parent-child relationships, for example."

Just so you can understand the way my brain works, I see the words of the prophets as fair game to share with fellow members. I realize the 'nacle often doesn't like that approach, but I personally see it as something often done in our parallel relationships in Church all the time. (We do it in VTing, in RS lessons, in SS, between spouses, between friends....) We are encouraged to nourish each other in the good word of God. This is the way I live my life and is the basis of most of my closest relationships. To limit the sharing of gospel teachings to teacher-learner, stewardship-driven relationships is not reflective of my experience at all. (Besides, in a sense, we all have a stewardship over each other.) My marriage, my closest friendships, my richest family relationships -- all are based on such parallel gospel discussion. This is life to me...does that make sense? To put bounds on that has never made sense to me, and to declare that such is not "experience" simply doesn't acknowledge that this is my experience. I'm still trying to figure the 'nacle out. I think I'm getting it, however. I realize that both parties need to want such discussion, and that most feminist bloggers simply don't. I'm slow, but I'm getting it. (Or I have gotten it but don't want to believe it, especially when those few voices say that they appreciate hearing my point of view even if they don't agree.) But because this is how I function in life with everyone, maybe that can help people understand that I'm not usually trying to stand on some pedestal and "give counsel." (And if I ever am, I shouldn't be.) I'm just trying to discuss and apply the counsel we have been given, which is something I just do.

You said, "Maybe another way to say this is that I absolutely believe you when you say that you find your own words deeply comforting. They are clearly the answers that you need at this time in your life. But they may not be the answers that others need at precisely this moment, and they may not be in quite the language that speaks to others."

But the answers and experiences and language of others won't necessarily reach me, either. As I said above, these are my answers and my experiences. Nearly everything I experience with the gospel is based on the kind of study I reflect in my comments. Run into a problem, find counsel that can help in the scriptures and words of the prophets. That's the sum total of most of my "experience" that I can share in a discussion. Does that mean I don't have questions or concerns? No. But I don't dwell on them. I hold onto the answers we have been given and let them distill on my heart. As I do, more and more peace comes. But the only way for that to work for me is not to give voice to the negative. That is my experience in a nutshell, and that is what my comments reflect. Again, I am thick-headed and realizing very few people care to hear that. But I guess I keep hoping that it can make a difference somewhere. I am an idealist. But why pour so much of myself into something when it seems to create so many problems? Yeah, I know, I'm slow to really accept this reality. Commenting just probably shouldn't be my thing. (Problem is, I have a hard time keeping quiet...have you noticed?) :)

Thanks again for your follow up. This is obviously all very difficult for me and I appreciated your sensitivity to that.

Lynnette said...

Thanks for sharing your perspective on this. These are issues that I've thought a lot about, and it's helpful to know where others are coming from, particularly those who disagree with me.

I'm rather intrigued by your observation that feminist blogs seem to emphasize doubt and neglect faith. I'm hardly an unbiased observer here, but I honestly haven't felt that way. At ZD, we do obviously ask a lot of questions and critique the Church. But we also post a fair amount, I think, about our experiences with trying to live a religious life— and I see that kind of thing at the other feminist blogs as well.

I can see how some of the conversations about the same topics might appear fruitless, or even counterproductive, like people just re-hashing their anger again and again. I don't know if this will help, but for me it's not a situation of, okay, I talked a couple of times about my frustrations with the Church, and now I'm ready to move on. Staying in the Church when I find aspects of it so difficult is a continuing challenge, and I find that I need continuing support to do it. However, I'm not insensitive to the issues you raise; the challenge of talking about my feelings both honestly but in a way that's constructive is something I keep coming back to. It's something I'm trying to learn to do better.

I've also thought a lot about that question about accountability; it's an issue that probably comes up for anyone running a blog. ZD has gotten flak both from conservative Mormons for not being faithful enough, and from ex-Mormons for not being critical enough. I certainly don't want to be faith-damaging; we've actually jokingly played with the idea of rating our posts for potentially inflammatory content. ;) But while I agree that for some people this kind of conversation can be harmful, I don't think that's a problem unique to feminist blogs; in my view, the more conservative or orthodox blogs have their own set of potential spiritual hazards to navigate.

In any case, if people are finding feminist blogs to be spiritually detrimental, I would certainly hope that they wouldn't linger but would instead seek out other sites. But when people who've had negative Church experiences get on the internet and start poking around, I think it's a good thing if in addition to a bunch of anti-Mormon sites which will cheerfully discuss those experiences, they also find people who've had similar problems but have nonetheless stayed in the Church.

Again, while I disagree with you on various points, I appreciate you explaining where you're coming from; it helps me understand some things better.

M&M said...

Lynnette and S,
Thanks for your comments. I appreciate understanding your points of view a little better.

Please note at the end of my original comment there was the realization that not everything in the feminacle is doubt-based. I should have been more specific about that. That said, when we talk about whether feminist blogging can bring about change (one of the questions Lynnette brought out in her summary post), we are usually talking about those issues based on doubt and frustration, right? It is often with those issues that I don't feel a real connection to faith-based answers, and that is more what I was addressing. There are plenty of good things going on, too, though, and I want to reiterate that I know and see and appreciate that. But those kinds of discussions aren't really directly feminist, either, at least not usually. So I guess I was focused on feminist blogging dealing specifically with feminist issues.

Once again, a sincere and heartfelt thanks for your kind way of sharing your thoughts, and for directly responding to my comments to help me better understand why my style just doesn't work for most women who struggle with these issues.

ticklethepear said...

M&M, I'm glad you posted this, and your previous entry. I can say (in public!) how much I appreciate your POV and benefited from our discussions. We are all imperfectly struggling toward the same goals....

Deborah said...

M&M: You really do view blogging as a labor of love, don’t you? This exchange highlights one of the advantages of blogging: a thoughtful conversation between people who have contrasting perceptions and emotional reactions to the word “feminism” – and who may not have found the time or trust to engage each other in a different sphere. If we can get a little more of this listening and give-and-take in our wards as well, then perhaps that is a “good” to come out of this little experiment.

Other “goods”? I’ve found that participating on the ExII blog has increased my compassion for the ward Relief Society sisters. Why? Because I don’t need Relief Society to be my only spiritual communion with LDS women. When that was the case, I often felt frustrated and a little isolated – and this would too often colored my perceptions of lessons, etc. By sharing the burden, so-to-speak, it’s easier to let my ward family be what it is – quirky, varied, loving, well-intentioned, profoundly human. In other words, feminist LDS blogs fills a need and that, in turn, has opened up new wells of compassion. Fear and love, as Jesus points out, do not coexsist easily. Mistrust can be a companion to fear.

Here is one more thought in the name of establishing common ground. In your original post, you seem to define feminist-themed threads as those that “ax-grind” the status quo. In other words, posts on the priesthood or temple are “feminist” while “Why I stay” is somehow less so. If that were my read, then it would seem that feminist blogging was only about “discontent.” However, perhaps because I have a positive association to the word feminism, I interpret it more broadly. If I were to catalogue the posts I have written that expressed my feminism, I’d point to my most recent post (“A Reason to Believe”), my positive review of the Ensign’s date-rape article, musings on my interfaith marriage, and excepts from Eliza Snow’s speeches. Each came from the part of my soul that fervently believes: we worship a God who wants us to flourish. I imagine we agree soundly on that point.

Eve said...

Michelle,

Thanks again for taking the time to respond. I am sorry that you find this all so difficult and wearying. For what it's worth, my impression is that it's a fairly common bloggernacle experience to get burned out by the whole thing and need some time away. Disagreement and misunderstanding really can be emotionally exhausting--I know that there are many discussions I just stay out of because at any given time I just don't have the emotional resources to participate.

I realize that both parties need to want such discussion, and that most feminist bloggers simply don't. I'm slow, but I'm getting it. (Or I have gotten it but don't want to believe it, especially when those few voices say that they appreciate hearing my point of view even if they don't agree.)

It looks like my experience with feminist blogging has been really different from yours, but I don't think this is a fair characterization. As S pointed out, we discuss a wide range of topics, theoretical and personal, and we welcome a wide range of viewpoints. (We ourselves are far from agreeing with each other on every issue--there's actually quite a wide range of viewpoints on various issues on our blog :) ). We truly do value discussion; we just ask, in our comment policy, that you "focus on your own experience, ideas, and interpretations." It's not that we don't like discussion; we just tend to find that the situated viewpoint, one that says "this is how I understand the gospel" "this is how I think about this issue" fosters it better--for us--because it acknowledges the possibility of multiple perspectives, viewpoints, and experiences. But of course different kinds of discussion speak to different people, and that may not be the kind of discussion you feel most comfortable with.

That is my experience in a nutshell, and that is what my comments reflect. Again, I am thick-headed and realizing very few people care to hear that.

I really think there may be some misunderstanding and different stylistic preferences at work here. It may not be that other people just "don't care" to hear what you're saying--it may be that we really don't understand where you're coming from very well, that we're hearing you as calling us to repentance when that's not what you're trying to do. I think your comments here have helped illuminate that better, and I do appreciate your willingness to share how you think about these things.

Just so you can understand the way my brain works, I see the words of the prophets as fair game to share with fellow members. I realize the 'nacle often doesn't like that approach, but I personally see it as something often done in our parallel relationships in Church all the time. (We do it in VTing, in RS lessons, in SS, between spouses, between friends....) We are encouraged to nourish each other in the good word of God. This is the way I live my life and is the basis of most of my closest relationships. To limit the sharing of gospel teachings to teacher-learner, stewardship-driven relationships is not reflective of my experience at all. (Besides, in a sense, we all have a stewardship over each other.) My marriage, my closest friendships, my richest family relationships -- all are based on such parallel gospel discussion. This is life to me...does that make sense? To put bounds on that has never made sense to me, and to declare that such is not "experience" simply doesn't acknowledge that this is my experience.

But because this is how I function in life with everyone, maybe that can help people understand that I'm not usually trying to stand on some pedestal and 'give counsel.' (And if I ever am, I shouldn't be.) I'm just trying to discuss and apply the counsel we have been given, which is something I just do.

I appreciate your remarks here as well. Again, I think that part of what's at issue here is a genuine stylistic difference that's causing some misunderstanding. Personally, I'm not at all opposed to hearing how the words of the prophets, or the scriptures, but I like to hear people apply them to themselves and consider how they have been helpful in their own lives. As Seraphine mentioned, people have often quoted the words of the prophets to me as a way to call me to repentance, so that's how I tend to hear it, especially without the context of personal application. Your remarks here make it clear that's not how you mean it to sound. You're just carrying over your style of discourse from other areas of your life. I think I understand that better now.

Just to say a word or two that I hope might clarify my perspective--I tend to stay away from quoting the prophets and the scriptures in responding to others NOT because I don't believe in them, but partly because it so easily degenerates into proof-texting and the ineffective, angry bashing that was rampant on my mission. (I'm not suggesting that's what you're trying to do--it's just the road I've seen too many Bloggernacle and other discussions go down.) In other words, I think we can all probably find prophetic and scriptural support for our various points of view, but I'm not comfortable with using the prophets or scriptures to show how we're right and others are wrong. That approach too often takes words out of complex, contradictory contexts--and more important I also think it's a fundamental misuse of the gospel to argue with others. Again, not at all to suggest that's what you're trying to do--just to explain why I tend to avoid those kinds of quotes myself, unless I am applying them to myself or asking some kind of (I hope!) innocuous question about them.

My ideal of gospel communication--one which I fall very short of, and I fell very short of in my first comment on this thread, for which I again really apologize--is, first and foremost, the application of the gospel to ourselves. It's the old "Preach the gospel; use words if necessary" we've all heard over and over. To my ear it's a softer, more humble, more inviting way of communicating the gospel that places the speaker and the listener on the same ground of the struggle to live the gospel when the speaker acknowledges her own struggles. That's what I much prefer to hear over the pulpit, in RS lessons, in VTing, and so forth. But I can see that you prefer not to acknowledge your struggles in a gospel context because you want to avoid being negative.

I don't think either style is preferable. They're just different, and unfortunately, that difference in preference does seem to lead to misunderstandings. People like me hear people like you as preachy, and people like you hear people like me as resistant to gospel truths or uncommitted. I'd like to hope that neither of those things is true, that they're both misperceptions. And I appreciate the chance to understand where you're coming from better and hopefully clear up some of those misperceptions.

Kiskilili said...

Thanks for your perspective, M&M; I'm glad you took the time to respond to my question in such civil but honest tones, and sincerely wish you all the best in your own personal struggles.

I absolutely agree that misunderstandings in tone are almost bound to occur on a medium like a blog, and navigating that can sometimes be a minefield!

What I've sometimes found even more difficult than misunderstandings, though, are "understandings." Genuine differences of opinion fascinate me, because in some situations, two people with two different beliefs or experiences simply cannot understand their differences--otherwise there wouldn't be differences. One thing I'm still struggling to learn how to do is to respect this fact: to respect difference even that I can't make sense of. (That isn't at all to say that I don't think there's value in continually trying to refine our own views through discussion.)

Likely because of our different orientations toward the Church, we're going to approach issues very differently, and what looks like "rehashing" to you looks to me like fruitful exploration of an idea (for the same reason that we discuss faith over and over again in church, for example).

Anyway, I harbor no ill feeling toward you and recognize your genuine commitment to the gospel. I'm grateful the bloggernacle is large enough to accommodate both of us and hope we can learn from each other. I hope I've never come across as dismissive of your perspective or of your own struggles.

The Wiz said...

Great post, M&M. Enjoyed it throughly. I, too, would like to see more uplifting rather than tearing down in feminism circles.

I have decided that I don't have the 'feminism filter' that some women seem to have. I don't view every little thing (from cartoons to conference) mainly looking for how it adversely (or positively)affects women. I know some women do. It's either inherent or learned, but often they are walking around looking for ways that women are held down. I just don't have the energy for it.

Some feminists are harder to please than others. I realized when I read (a while ago - and it may have been a guest? I'm not sure) on FMH when someone was upset that the PH and RS manuals were the same - that the manuals for RS had not been changed to reflect the unique needs of women. I knew without a doubt that if the manuals were different, the cry would be raised - "how come PH gets the words of the prophets unfiltered and RS gets it all changed around?"

I understood that this particular feminist would not be pleased with anything in any form. If IDENTICAL manuals upset her, I don't think anything would please her.

Obviously, not all feminists are like that. Some of them are quite easy to please. There is a spectrum, just like any other group of people.

Anyway, rambly comment, when all I meant to say was 'great post'.

Melanie said...

M&M,
Thank you for an excellent post. You've put into words many of my reactions to feminist blogging, and I think your feelings are shared by many more women than you know.

I hope you realize how much your viewpoint (and eloquence in describing it) is appreciated in the 'nacle. You're definitely not alone in what you called your "mainstreamish" views. There are a variety of reasons I don't often comment, and one of the major ones is that I usually find you've beat me to it! So often I've found myself formulating comments, only to find that you've already expressed what I've been thinking, albeit with more power and scriptural/apostolic support than I could come up with offhand.

Sad to say, another big reason I'm often silent is that I've seen the way you've been treated. It continues to surprise, perplex, and frustrate me that you take such flak for your POV and your ability to back it up with the statements of church leaders. I think the essential thing that binds us as Mormons is our belief in modern prophets. Everything else--the temple, the priesthood, our understanding of the nature of God, etc. etc.--stems from our prophetic leadership. It strikes me as foolish to attempt to discuss Mormon topics without incorporating (or at least acknowledging) prophetic counsel in these areas.

FMH was my first introduction to the bloggernacle, and I was a regular reader of it as I slowly learned about the rest of the 'nacle. It's been quite an education--a whole subculture I had never dreamed of! However, the same frustrations you've described above have ultimately led me to decide that I'm not a fan of feminist blogging and I am not going to seek out those sites. I still read FMH, ExII, etc. when others link to specific posts. But I just can't handle the bitter taste I get from so many discussions. I'm tired of watching you (and others who share an orthodox take on the gospel) being criticized for your commitment and faith.

I think there are lots of ways to be a good person, lots of ways to understand and internalize the gospel. I'm grateful that Heavenly Father knows us each and helps us along whatever path our faith takes us. I don't doubt the sincerity of the feminist bloggers, and I do admire their tenacity in the face of what are obviously big obstacles for them. I think it's unfortunate that blogging strips away so much of the personality and humanity of each of us, so we just get the stark statements of deeply-felt personal views. Battle lines aren't usually so clear in "real life" since it's easier to see the many, many things we all share. I just wish that feminist-oriented discussions acknowledged those commonalities more often. The fact that I do not self-identify as a feminist and do generally subscribe to the "party line" does not mean that I'm ignorant or naive or oppressed or mean or stupid or silly. I'm not blindly obedient; I'm faithfully obedient. That difference is important. I'll respect the feminists' genuine faith and testimonies--I ask them to do the same for me.

Thanks again for a great post.

M&M said...

Thanks to all for your comments...I'm dashing off to dinner with the fam, so I don't have time to respond personally right now, but I will try later.

M&M said...

I think this has been a worthwhile discussion. I appreciate those of you who have differing views, but have expressed them with kindness and also clarity. I feel I understand a little better, and hope you have gained some understanding as well.

I also appreciate those who have expressed their support and agreement...especially as sometimes I just feel a bit lonely in the 'nacle. :)

I could respond to individual points, but I think for now, the above suffices. (I might be more specific another time, but this all has worn me out a bit (and taken a ton of time...that beast-of-a- comment yesterday took half my day!) :) Thanks again for your contributions to this little side-discussion.

Bored in Vernal said...

M&M
Thank you for your post and your thoughts. I'm afraid I'm another one who hasn't found your posts very uplifting. I had a RS President once who was so nearly perfect that she had absolutely no friends. She said that none of the sisters asked for her advice or counsel, or shared any of their concerns with her until she shared in RS one day that she had once weighed 300 pounds. After that, her ministry became very effective.

I'm sure I would be much more amenable to your posts quoting scriptures, prophets, etc. if you noted specifically what it was that you struggled with and how the scripture had comforted/affected you. Sometimes you seem to me as if you are coming at us from a position of perfection and showing us the "only true way" to find spirituality. Some of us have tried that way and don't find it helpful. Your way is only one way. I don't know that you are yet willing to recognize this. But if you are, you will find that your comments will be much more meaningful to the rest of us.

Tom said...

M&M, I just want to say, you go, sister! I appreciate your comments around the blogs and your approach. I don't think I always agree with you, though I often do, but I always find your contribution valuable.

Before I write my next paragraph I should say that I have been wowed by the intellect, faith, and fortitude of many of my feminist sisters in the faith. I'm glad that they find value and nourishment in the Church and I'm proud to call them sisters.

Now the part that might peeve some of my feminist sisters: pro-woman anti-feminist that I am, the nacle feminsit blogs have been useful to me in that they have helped me understand specific ways of seeing things that I find wrong and/or harmful. That understanding will help me do what I can to shape my children's worldview so that they don't see the world through feminist lenses. The feminist blogs have actually helped galvanize me in my anti-feminism because I come away from reading many of the discussions with the impression that the feminist worldview leads to angst and frustration more than to peace and happiness.

There have also been some great, uplifting things posted at feminist blogs. On balance, much more of their output is good or neutral than negative, but the negative stuff, like anti-Proclamation rants and all the anti-Temple sentiment, sticks out.

M&M said...

Bored in Vernal,
Thanks for piping in. I don't know if you read some of the comments earlier on, but in one I explain a little more why I approach things the way I do. I don't know how to really capture that my "experiences" as everyone wants me to share are simply centered around putting faith in the answers of the prophets, regardless of the issue I may be grappling with. I don't know that I can think of a question I have had where I have been able to find peace in prophetic counsel -- even if sometimes it is "God loves you. Have faith." I often can't find a way to pull out one story I can tell, because this experience is something that is simply repeated time and time again in my life. In a sense, it is my story to share. It is my experience to share. Whatever tears at my heartstrings sends me straight to the words of the prophets and the scriptures. Always.

I'm sorry if that makes me sound like I think I'm Miss Perfect -- because I am far (FAR!!!) from that. But I DO have a testimony that we are led by inspired leaders. I simply can't share a story where I think they led me astray or goofed on something they taught when I have searched for answers. But often, there is not one specific "experience" that I can capture or articulate to make my expressions more palatable. Conforming to that blogging "rule" on some sites has been very difficult for me, which is part of why I am wondering if I need to pull back where more direct comments and quotes are not desired.

I am sorry for the times I come across too strong. I hope that maybe understanding how experientially-based my approached is might help you when reading me. I don't expect that will help you agree with me, but maybe at least you can understand how personal my sharing is. It represents years and years of testing questions and concerns and problems and pain with the words of the prophets and the scriptures -- and finding they provide what I need. For me, that process just works so I just share their words because they work for me. I trust them with my life and every aspect of it. Does that mean I'm without questions. No. But I know where to find the answers. For me, that's true. And I know I'm not alone in that feeling. But it's not necessarily one that people in the 'nacle want to hear because they come here to get away from people like me. :)

If you feel inclined to read some posts that I write here or on Roxcy (A Prayer of Faith), you might come to know more of the struggles I face, because I do share those things on occasion when I am the one writing proactively (not reacting in a comment). I plan to do more of that in the future. In comments where I'm reacting to someone's post, I find that extremely difficult. So, again, I am considering backing down from sites where my approach simply is not welcome. I have already done that on some sites.

I hope you will know that I am so very imperfect. Read my post on the pain of imperfection here, for example. If you take the time to get to know me in places where that is more possible (here, Roxcy), you may be able to see more of me than just my passionate comments that have rubbed you the wrong way. I just haven't found a good way to share experiences on comments in the way people have mentioned here. (OK, now I'm repeating myself...it's late and I am too lazy to edit.) And, I would say, that approach (pure narrative) isn't always everyone's preferred approach. I think a mix of narrative and exploring doctrine for doctrine's sake is valuable. That's MY preference.

I'm rambling...sorry. Please be patient with me (assuming I continue to comment where you might hang out). I am listening to suggestions made here. This is something I will try to be more aware of. I realize I have a lot to learn in many ways, including blogging. :) But I also have to be true to myself as I try to express my point of view. And sometimes trying to contrive a story to get a point across may not work. That is the case for more than just me...I have seen many people quote sources besides their own experiences, and I think there should be room for that too.
OK. Enough. Sorry for carrying on. LIke I said, it's very late....

M&M said...

Tom,
Thanks for your comment.

I agree with you wholeheartedly about how there is much positive on feminist sites. My comment really was very narrowly-scoped...directed specifically at those blog posts that attack and complain about the very things that are so near and dear to my heart. But there have been plenty of other posts, from deep reflective posts about life and struggle and other issues to lighthearted posts like chronicles on poop :) that have been enjoyable, and probably part of the reason I haven't stopped reading "feminist" sites. Because in my mind there is much there that is independent of the feminism that rubs me the wrong way -- just more about life.

I must say that I agree with the second part of your post as well...I am learning things I want to help my children avoid as I teach them. One of the things I have a hard time articulating is that, for me, feminism can never be a complete lens to interpret life, and especially not to interpret the gospel. I want to teach my children to use the gospel as a lens to understand life, feminism or anything else that might come their way. Come to think of it, I guess that is what I end up doing in my comments. I test ideas against what I understand the gospel to teach. Hmmmm....

M&M said...

Alas,
I still found it in me to respond more specifically last nite, so I should do the same for the others.

Deborah,
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I was especially interested to hear you describe how you have more compassion, patience, etc. with your RS sisters because of blogging. Also, I want to go back and read the posts you list that I missed. As I have said before, I should have been more specific. The elements of feminism about which I wrote are specifically of the "ax-grind" variety. It pains me to hear people complain about the things that mean so much to me, if that can make sense. Clearly you view feminism in a different way, more broadly.

As a side note, I am sure there are parts of my point of view that could be considered "feminist" (I care about women in many respects; however, I am not willing to adopt that label for all the negativity I feel it also carries. Thanks again for your comments.


Ticklethepear, thanks for chiming in. I have always appreciated your willingness to discuss these issues with me in a way that we can both honestly express our viewpoints and still be friends. :) You're awesome!

Kiskilili,
Thanks for your response. Since my original comments were in response to your request, it was nice to hear your thoughts in return. :)

You said, "One thing I'm still struggling to learn how to do is to respect this fact: to respect difference even that I can't make sense of." I suppose that could sum up a lot of my struggle too. There are things on the 'nacle that simply baffle me. But I need to remember that what I see in comments, etc. is usually not the whole story. Blogging has helped me in my efforts to try to give people the benefit of the doubt, although I don't always succeed in that regard.

I want to add that you have been incredibly respectful toward me, and for that I am grateful. (Thanks also for your fun comment on my ice cream post. I like to think that if you and I were to go out for ice cream, we could have a fun time, regardless of our differences. I would hope so. :) ) Thanks again for being willing to "listen" and seek a different point of view.

The wiz,
I agree with you about the feminist filter -- or rather, I am in the same boat. That's not to say that I'm not aware of or sensitive to issues that affect women, but I don't find benefit in analyzing things to the degree feminists might...especially not in regard to the gospel. I think feminism is just like any worldview -- it provides a limited lens at best, and often can provide a distorted view if not approached carefully. That's my opinion anyway. I appreciated your supportive words.

Melanie,
Thanks for your support as well. I appreciated your comment that "I think the essential thing that binds us as Mormons is our belief in modern prophets." That is part of why I have been so baffled at people's responses to my sharing their words. I simply think they are important to consider when discussing anything related to the gospel. Their words make up a huge part of the lens through which I see and analyze everything. And it's been hard when other members reject that approach as preachy or self-righteous. But I understand a little better from comments here why that is sometimes the case.

I also appreciated your last paragraph. Blogging really does limit us in many ways -- it's hard to really get a full view of the person behind the comment or post. You have reminded me of the need to give the benefit of the doubt and understand that I don't understand everything from a comment or two. (I hope others can give me the same benefit! ;) )

Anonymous said...

Not to derail the discussion and move to a (futile) exercise of defining terms, but I'm confused about why people would say they don't want to teach their children about "feminism". I don't understand what this means, and am curious as to what you have in mind when you label someone or something as "feminist".

Also, based on my experiences and personal observations, women who are married to good men and stay at home with their children instead of working outside the home are generally unsympathetic to "feminism". As long as the Church encourages womens' dependence upon men, I think "feminism" (however defined) will always be a term of derision.

Melinda said...

I don't have anything profound and substantive to say, but I wanted to tell part of my story because it's relevant to your post.

I found the Bloggernacle at a point in my life where feminist questions were causing me serious problems in my relationship with the Church. I was relieved to find that I wasn't the only one who felt that way, and that many who shared my concerns were still doing their best as faithful Mormons. I read all the "ax-grinding" posts and agreed with the issues they brought up.

I know the feminist blogs post more often on non ax-grinding topics than on ax-grinding, but originally it was the ax-grinding topics that held my interest because those were the issues that concerned me the most.

About a year after I'd found the Bloggernacle, M&M started showing up in discussions. Quite frankly, I would skip your posts if I knew they were yours, especially on those ax-grinding topics because your assurances and faith bothered me because I didn't feel that way. At some point, I started reading your posts because it would frequently happen that I would be reading a comment and thinking, "I don't agree with this commenter, but the comment is well-written." And it would be yours.

Months after I started reading your comments and silently disagreeing, I happened on yet another ax-grinding topic. I think it was women and the priesthood, but I don't exactly remember. I got to a lengthy comment. As I worked through it, I was thinking, "I agree with this commenter more than I agree with the original post and the first 27 comments." To my surprise, your name was at the end of that comment. I read the rest of the discussion, in which you'd commented several times, and found that I agreed with your mainstream take on things more than I agreed with the frustrated feminist statements.

It suddenly hit me that if I was agreeing with you, then I must be done with being frustrated on that particular topic. My frustration had gradually dissipated over time, so I didn't realize it was gone until I realized I agreed with your take on the matter.

Thank you for your comments.

M&M, your original post mentions the danger that people simply stay and dwell on problematic issues rather than moving past them. I know that many people do need to talk out certain topics again and again. I spent two years on the same topics. I've moved past several topics - the all-male priesthood simply doesn't bother me anymore. I'm still reading other ax-grinding feminist topics and working through them. I don't know that I'll ever make peace with every problem, but just knowing that I've made my peace with a few topics gives me hope. And I appreciate hearing your point of view on the topics on which I'm still struggling.

And I thought it was really funny on that one thread when someone accused you of being a COB spy who was covertly making sure that the mainstream viewpoint got represented, complete with prophet quotes. :)

M&M said...

Anonymous,
I don't know exactly how to answer your question, since feminism doesn't always seem to have a clear, consistent definition (if you saw a recent FMH post, you will know what I mean.)

But to help you understand what my approach is with regard to my children...I am simply working to teach my children the gospel. I don't put qualifiers on that. I don't plan on teaching them every specific philosophy that is out there. They will learn things as they go along. I will teach them to analyze things through the lens of the gospel. I will encourage them to always err on the side of the gospel if there is ever a contradiction between something they learn at school or in their own studies or from the news or whatever and what they learn about the gospel. I will take Pres. Hinckley's approach in that, however, realizing that the gospel usually won't address specifics about what the sciences teach us, for example. But if there is ever a question, I hope they will err on God's side, not man's.

In addition, I am teaching them about gender roles as defined by our prophets (while teaching also the importance of education and preparation for the future for both boys and girls -- again, according to what the prophets teach). I am teaching my son to prepare for the priesthood, and teaching all my children that God's plan includes the males getting the priesthood. I teach these things unapologetically, always reinforcing the fact that God loves all of His children. I want them to have the conviction that I have that things don't have to be "equal" by mortal definitions to be equal in God's eyes. Father knows best.

We are also teaching them to look to the prophets and follow them in faith.

About feminism specifically: Let me say that I realize that some of what happened in my life (being able to get an education and work before I got married and had children) was in part to progress from the feminist movement. I realize there is good in almost every philosophy. But I will not make any movement or philosophy a gospel to teach my children. I hope they will embrace the idea of looking at everything through the gospel lens, freely studying science, history or whatever else, but never letting those things threaten their testimonies.

Does that help?

M&M said...

Melinda,
Thank you so much for sharing part of your journey here. I think you are a person whose experiences sort of bridge a gap between me and those who don't like what I say (or how I say it). I appreciate you underscoring the fact that what may feel like "re-hashing" to me may somehow help others sort through things. (Others have mentioned this as well, and that has given me a greater level of understanding.)

I'm thrilled to hear that you have been able to work through some issues and find some peace. THAT gets at the heart of what I hope for those who struggle -- to find peace.

I hope YOU will continue to share your story as you have here, to help give hope to other women who struggle.

I really can't express how uplifting your words were to me, on many levels. Thank you!

(Yeah, that whole spy-for-Salt-Lake thing was kinda funny. I suppose I could be accused of worse things.) :)

M&M said...

Melinda,
Thank you so much for sharing part of your journey here. I think you are a person whose experiences sort of bridge a gap between me and those who don't like what I say (or how I say it). I appreciate you underscoring the fact that what may feel like "re-hashing" to me may somehow help others sort through things. (Others have mentioned this as well, and that has given me a greater level of understanding.)

I'm thrilled to hear that you have been able to work through some issues and find some peace. THAT gets at the heart of what I hope for those who struggle -- to find peace.

I hope YOU will continue to share your story as you have here, to help give hope to other women who struggle.

I really can't express how uplifting your words were to me, on many levels. Thank you!

(Yeah, that whole spy-for-Salt-Lake thing was kinda funny. I suppose I could be accused of worse things.) :)

Tom said...

Anonymous,
I am very much in favor of anti-discrimination laws, of everybody getting whatever education they want, of everybody being treated fairly in the workplace, etc. I don't believe men or women should be subservient to their spouses. I'm fully devoted to social justice according to my notions of social justice. Many of these things overlap with the goals of the feminist movement.

But I am against many of the notions espoused by modern feminists. I don't think male-only priesthood is at all harmful to women, nor is it inherently oppressive, nor does it imply that God values women less than men. I don't think that men and women being assigned different roles denotes anything about the relative value of men and women, nor are disparate gender roles necessarily harmful to men or women. I don't think anything about the gospel puts women under the control of men. I don't believe in licentiousness. I abhor abortion except in rare exceptions. I don't think men or women need careers or worldly power in order to have fulfillng, happy lives. I don't think disparities in income necessarily indicate injustice. I don't think disparities in numbers of men or women in certain fields or positions necessarily indicates discrimination.

I know that that preceding paragraph doesn't describe all self-professed feminists. But many of these positions of mine are in direct conflict with those of prominent feminists that I am familiar with, including Maureen Dowd, Linda Hirschman, Katha Pollit, etc., as well as many feminists around the Mormon blogs.

My observation has been that seeing the gospel through the lens of feminism leads to angst and frustration. Reading the Proclamation from a feminist perspective leads people to become frustrated and question the brethren. From a feminist perspective, the power disparity in a male-only priesthood is discriminatory and oppressive, and so on.

The women to whom I am close who don't have a feminist worldview don't have problems with these things. They are also strong and won't put up with being mistreated, won't be subservient to any other person, and they live full, happy lives.

So I don't want my children to experience the Church and the Gospel from a feminist perspective. I don't see much upside in it and I see plenty of downside. I'll teach my children to be respectful of themselves and others, to be smart and empowered, and all that good stuff. But I'll also help them understand that disparities and differences are not the same as injustice and devaluation.

M&M said...

Tom, thank you for your thoughts, which reflect a lot of how I feel as well.

I wanted to add, too, that it saddens me to hear women in the 'nacle saying that it is their feminist concerns that are driving them out (or have driven them out) of the Church. Whether that is the only thing or not, to hear that association made various times has left a significant impression on me of the potential pitfalls of feminism with regard to the Church. It just breaks my heart that they would choose feminism over the Church. I ask myself, What does feminism really give them in the end? Does it really address the core of life's questions?

Mary A said...

M & M, I really appreciate this post. It is very much the way I see things, too. Eve and others, I am appreciative of your comments because you have helped me to understand more about your points of view. This has been a very interesting and enlightening read for me!

Anonymous said...

Hi, M&M (and Tom)

Thanks for posting and answering my comment. I think women should have just as much power and authority in the church as men do. I say this, not only as a feminist, but as someone who has suffered physical and emotional abuse repeatedly by men in the church. The first time it happened, I was willing to work hard to forgive the person and move on (although I'm still incredibly bitter because this man (who was a returned missionary) took away my innocence).

I had been taught that men in the church have special power, and that we should defer to our leaders. But the abuse happened again, and I have not been able to forgive the men or the Church for allowing them to be in a position to hurt me.

Therefore, I believe that women and men should both be given the authority to lead in this church. And that male leaders should never, ever be alone with women or girls.

I guess my circumstances have made me a feminist. I wish I could have a more faithful outlook and sustain the patriarchy in the Church, but I can't.

M&M said...

Anonymous,
I am deeply sorry to hear of the terrible experiences you have had. I want to say how experiences like yours are exceptions are not tied to the patriarchy per se, but I realize it may be very difficult for you to separate your experiences from the structure itself. I am so very sorry.

I pray you may find peace, and, as you move forward, you will be blessed with leaders who can help you have positive experiences with the Church. I admit that because I have had basically positive experiences, it must be much, much easier for me to be fine with the way things are.

For what it is worth, please know that in my passion about the Church, I don't want to come across as not being sensitive to women like you who have been victims of abuse. My heart truly goes out to you and others like you. And I hope you will be able to find healing enough to find some peace.

With love,
M&M

Alison Moore Smith said...

Just came across this. Awesome.

"I feel that sometimes the feminacle becomes a place to pretend that mainstream Mormonism doesn't exist, or to mock it, or even to escape --or replace -- it"

Amen. And I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about the blogs being a place to gripe. This, however, is not limited to feminist blogs. I've been repeatedly taken aback at the amount of negativity and gossip on some email lists. LDS women should know better.

M&M said...

You are right, Alison. It's one of the things about blogs that makes me sad. Especially because the negativity can often sort of perpetuate itself. Thanks for your comment.

ticklethepear said...

While I miss our one-on-one conversations (oh for a computer of my own!) I am really glad and thankful that you've been able to articulate what we've discussed off and on. I don't think you need to be apologetic for your opinions, just as others don't have a right to be judgemental. From your friend, a Faithful Feminist.