Monday, April 29, 2013

Not Really a Mommy Blogger

I have this cool part-part-time job that consists of reviewing all of the master's theses that go through the BYU graduate program. This semester I reviewed fourteen, so you can imagine how little time I spend on this work, but it's nice to see what people are doing, and I do like helping them format it right. It is easy enough for me, even though I sometimes have weird conversations with James like "Is that an adjective or a pronoun in this sentence?" and we review the content until we are satisfied with the answer.

The latest thesis I read (which isn't yet published, so I won't tell any details) was a rhetorical analysis of readers' responses to Mormon mommy blogs. It was a really interesting take on how people perceive themselves through the lens of the optimistic, domestic Mormon mama. It was obviously inspired by an article that appeared on Salon a couple of years ago. The author feels like she's nothing like the women who post photos of their pretty babies and make elaborate birthday parties for their children, but she feels hopeful about motherhood when reading about these women's lives.

So, I'm not really sure where I fit in the Mormon mommy blog world. I'm not a consistent blogger. Obviously. I haven't posted beautiful photos of my children for months, maybe even a year. I like to cook, but I can't bake anything pretty. Ever. I tried on Friday, but the brownies that were beautiful in the pan came out crumbling and cracked on the plate.

But I do scrapbook. And I throw a mean birthday party. I mean, I like crafts. Hobby Lobby is a fun store to wander through. I used to bead and watercolor and draw. I'm not really sure how anyone can sew and craft and bake and pintrest and all of that with a bunch of little kids.

I guess I'm a domestic Mormon mama with a bit of cynicism and playfulness who sings "You're So Vain" and "This Is Halloween" with my children and has pillow fights and crawls around like a tiger (or tells the tiger to go away because we're not afraid), and takes really, really long naps when James is able to take care of the kids. I'm also the mama who snaps at the older two to get ready for bed and forces them to pick up toys. So mean. I have a good job and a good family. I like them both, but I also like getting away from them both sometimes.

I think the main thing is that I'm not the mama that other women envy.

And I like that.

But my children are beautiful.

I'll show you.

Monday, April 8, 2013

What Are Women's Issues?

I am sort of a Facebook moron. I don't have a Facebook account of my own, but I sometimes look on James's page to try to figure something out: to read comments about a contest we're running, to look at photos of friends, to laugh at my brothers' insults to each other.

But since I don't have a Facebook account, I'm not really sure how to maneuver it and end up scrolling around forever. About two weeks ago, I was scrolling and found several people had shared an article or editorial or commentary about how women will give prayers at the next General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Sisters did give prayers during General Conference this weekend. They were sincere, heartfelt prayers. Like prayers I've heard from men in general sessions and women during the Relief Society or Young Women broadcasts over the past thirty-odd years.

It's cool. But I have to admit: I've never really thought about who was giving the prayers. Mainly because my eyes are closed the whole time and I'm trying to listen to the Spirit and participate in the thanks and blessings.

I remember when I was a little kid thinking the prayers at General Conference were the longest prayers ever given. Part of me wanted to absorb everything and be able to pray with such calm conviction, but most of me wanted the prayer to end so I could open my eyes again. I didn't think about involving myself in the prayer, nor did I consider any of the thanks or blessings were mine. I knew what amen meant, but I didn't understand the gesture of amen.

So I guess I've always taken for granted that members of the Quorums of the Seventy would be giving prayers since they don't always give talks. It never bothered me that men were the ones praying. And it's cool that women are being invited to pray also. I mean, we all have the capacity and right to pray, so I am fully supportive of invitations to pray.

But I'm also a little weirded out by the number of people who shared the article link. And how some people were touting this as a real gender-equality triumph in the Church. I feel like I am an educated, independently minded woman who believes women can accomplish anything. So why does wearing pants to church and women praying in General Conference feel so arbitrary?

Maybe it's because I think there are real issues out there affecting women that go way beyond who prays in General Conference.

On my way to work a couple of weeks ago, I listened to a broadcast of Fresh Air with author Shereen El Feki talking about female genital mutilation in the Arab world--and how this practice is mostly perpetuated by mothers and grandmothers who have religious, social, moral, or political beliefs that drive the practice. She also talked about college students who earn money as sex workers in Casablanca but are completely unaware of the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases or infections. Another problem she described is marriage expectations: men can't afford all of the financial demands during this economically and politically tumultuous time, so couples will enter into short-term "pleasure marriage" contracts that last only a few weeks or months.

The broadcast two days before that featured Emily Rapp, a woman whose baby was diagnosed with a terminally degenerative disease and died in February after two years of struggling to live.

And most all of us have heard of the sixteen-year-old girl who was molested, raped, humiliated, and threatened in Steubenville, Ohio.

These seem like very serious issues affecting women. A woman losing her young child to a terminal disease is much closer to my heart than a woman being called as an LDS bishop. Children who are sexually molested by family members, women who are blamed for enduring abuse, pre-adolescent girls on near-starvation diets, and elderly women who cannot afford to pay for heat in the winter, seem like they are at a much greater risk of degradation and suffering than a middle-class, educated woman who thinks equality means sameness.

Maybe I'm old fashioned. But I don't think so.

I like being a woman, a daughter of God, with unique thoughts, attributes, and challenges. I would rather be recognized for who I am as an individual rather than thrown a line because I'm female. I think real empowerment for women comes from valuing what women create, think, feel, and do. It's not a matter of making women into men or men into women. It's a matter of celebrating who we are individually--even if we have been sociologically molded into specific gender roles.

I'm okay with that. I'll keep working here at the university. And scrubbing bathtubs. And changing diapers. And analyzing literature. And praying with my family.

I'll keep doing what I'm doing and thinking how I think.

And those people who feel that women wearing pants to church one week or getting ordained to priesthood offices is better can keep thinking how they think.

But let's consider real issues that hurt women every day. Let's talk a little more about what we can do for each other as sisters, rather than how we can battle against men.