Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Ex Or Sexism

A post about sexism and religion. The data is new (2018), but the words I express are not. Same as it ever was. And yet, I need to say it, so here it is:

Yesterday I sat down to read this post on Religion in Public about sexism in religion. The Voter Study Group measured six models of modern sexism. Unsurprisingly to me, Mormon responses ranked near the top on all six models.When it came to measuring the gender gap between men's and women's sexism, there was nearly no difference for Mormons. Mormon women are as sexist as the men, and the men are pretty terribly sexist. As an example, one of the models Mormons scored high on is the belief "when women demand quality they are actually seeking special favors."

On one hand, it's validating to read the data that confirms the depth of feelings I have around this subject. I was once a woman who tried to convince myself and everyone else that the sexism I experienced in the church was OF GOD and therefore and honor ("God's ways aren't our ways!"). And then I tried to explain the sexism with scripture using symbols and holy sentiments (like benevolent patriarchy). And then, because creeds run deep, my life fell apart (it seemed) when I allowed myself to consider that my religion was incredibly sexist. At that point I could see sexism everywhere, out of the shadows, cemented in the doctrine (not "just cultural" or a "Utah problem") illuminated by gaslight ("you think too much").

On the other hand, reading this study also gave me a *hot minute of anger because it's a self-sustaining problem. If most of the people who go to the sexist church are sexist, no one cares enough to change anything. And the problem with that is real consequences to women starting at a young age which means it  hurts people I love. Internalized misogyny is a deeply painful disease, but even more so when you believe it's necessary to accept for your own eternal salvation. It hurts women in all ways--stunts their emotional and intellectual growth, promotes body image issues and eating disorders, puts them at risk for poor educational performance, heightens depression and anxiety, opens the door for economic vulnerability and encourages environments where abuse thrives (child brides comes to mind). And for girls who are queer or have melanin in their skin things get far more complicated.

This is why I can't bring my kids to church even if it's a "place for community!" or "good for them socially!," or "there are some good things!" etc. They already have a mom who was baptized in her own internal sexism, they don't need any more of that influence in their lives. And I know how it all seeps in, carefully, kindly, sliding into your morality as it blends with seemingly noble values. It all seems so normal, and wonderful, impossible to tell what is sexism and what is God. It's sustainable I suppose, until you are angry all the time and you don't know why, but you know you've felt it all your life. Even the men experience the anger, because misogyny hurts men (which surely should be an argument worth listening to in a sexist church, no?).

But I get it. I think about this all the time living in Provo. My Provo is a very different town than the one I was raised in. I mean, I think to a lot of people living here things haven't changed much (besides those pesky buses!) but to me, this town has provided very interesting experiences. It's as though there's an underbelly in Provo and once you stop going to church it sort of opens up to you. And just like awareness of sexism spotlit deeply painful truths in my journey, this counter-culture has illuminated all sorts of joys for me and my family without having to move. It's totally exquisite to see this gorgeous life open up just out your front door. However, this is what I used to say about my religion, right? It's just a matter of perspective--you see what you want, you notice what you choose to notice. If I choose to focus on the good, does it make the bad go away?

No. It doesn't. The grace I witness to now is that once I was blind, but now I see.

*I say a hot minute of anger because I have spent so many years inexplicably angry all the time, and once I could identify and hear my anger it didn't need to be so big in my life. I can now say, "Hey Anger, looks like you're here inside my chest. I am going to let you say your peace and then I am going to get on with my day kicking ass and showing up."

Monday, June 17, 2019

To do To da

My To Do List Today:

Wash the gunk out of the bottom of my walking shoes. I've traded early morning walks with early morning writing, but promised myself a good hike once a week. So I pushed myself this weekend and hiked along a really rocky trail. Felt great. Came home with weird crap IN my shoes. And it smells. You're thinking it's poop, but it's not. More like silt? I don't want to talk about this before breakfast.

Make a vat of lemonade. I like to have it on hand and because oddly, water always tastes weird this time of year. Sort of like it has silt? (That word seems like it should be very naughty, for instance did you know it's also a verb? As in, "the basin was silted up." Scandalous!)

Help Erin repair her art project from yesterday. She asked me all day to help her with a craft. Like, that's the line from my parental nightmares, "Mom, can we do a craft?" But I was too busy trying to make Father's Day dreams come true so I put her off. Eventually she did one on her own (SEE HOW THAT WORKS? FREE PARENTING HACK!) but it was a beaded banner and it collapsed twice! And now I have to help her start all over so jokes on me.

Make the kids clean the Green Room because it looks something a president would look at from a helicopter and order a National State of Emergency.

Send this image to CK and convince him once and fall to join me in converting all of our house to wicker--something I started doing last year even though he mocked me ("You mock my pain!"). I just like wicker ok? It's natural and it's witchy and if it's good enough for 1970s Stevie Nicks, it's good enough for the Kendricks!

Make an appointment to see if that recurring side pain is what I think it is: gallbladder. Or what I think the doctor is going to say to me: in my head. There's really no gaslighting like medical gaslighting am I right ladies?

The girls have Book Club today, and Anson and I have a goal to do something active together. On Saturday we biked two miles and he hated it. Maybe we'll try a hike to some wildflowers. It's trendy in Utah right now.

Before we venture out though, I've got to get those silted up shoes cleaned and absolved of filth. See how this is going?

It's 8:42 and I'm already tired.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Parting Shot

I appreciated all the feedback this week as I attempted blogging again! Because this isn't a full-time job for me, and internet comment moderation is really a ton of work, I would like to post some reactions here. I very much value the ability to converse with readers (just not in the dreadful comment box).

"We are all on this crazy journey of discovering ourselves and our voice in this world.  In my humble opinion, the best way to take that journey is to expose ourselves to other "thinkers"/"writers" who sometimes agree and support our point of view.... and other times challenge us to look at something from a different perspective."--email from New Jersey (cjanekendrick@gmail.com)

Never want anyone who reads my writing to think I am trying to convince, only consider. Thank you for coming here with an open mind!

"Hello--I know you are working on being woke, so I thought I'd help you. The word "Hispanic" can be considered offensive to people as it's a government word used to classify people. A term that is more acceptable to that/my community would be Latinx."--Instagram DM (cjanekendrick)

Post corrected. Grateful reader took the time to send me the message. I apologize for not taking the time to research the term before I used it, and will take note for future usage.

"I'm always happy to see new posts at your blog. I enjoy your honesty and humor and unapologetic badass tone. Such a breath of fresh air around here. I worry that if I ever run into you in public in Provo (like at the grocery store) that I'll be a tongue-tied fanboy."--Twitter Response (cjanekendrick)

At this point in my writing career if anyone has something nice to say to me while I am out and about in Provo I am surprised and grateful. ;) 

I just read your short post about moving to your own room and I cried. Tears of joy. Because I didn’t even know I wanted and NEEDED that until I read that. I don’t have the extra space (yet) to have my own room, but I WILL find a way. Even if it’s de-junking a closet, adding a lock and a tiny squashy mattress on the floor - I will persist.--Facebook Comment (Courtney Clark Kendrick)

I am so happy this post was helpful! It has been beautiful pushing boundaries past the tired rigidity of "traditional" spousal expectations. BTW been in my own room for five days now! I am sincerely like a new person! But I have yet slept alone in my room because turns out I get a particular lonely at night. And I might be slightly afraid of ghosts. But seriously, yes, find that closet or corner or whatever and live! I am the new Dr. Laura.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Make America Get Shakes Again

We attended our kids' neighborhood drama camp performance last night. All four of our kids were in the play--Anson was a politician, Ever was a society woman, Erin was a sister in the central family, and Iris was a lamb. How cute is that? She even had a solo part of just passionate lamb-tail shaking. They all were fantastic thespians last night, we were so proud.

As it customary in America, we took the kids to get shakes after their performance. Two strawberry, one chocolate and one vanilla. CK got to talking about his thespian days at BYU. He even had some old pictures of him in Shakespearean costumes on his phone. This is neither here nor there but one time CK was in a production of The Tempest which was re-imagined taking place in the old west, and he had to deliver all of his lines as Foghorn Leghorn. Nothing makes sense in this world. Now that I think about it.

Anyway, this lead us down a path of taking about a local theater professor who was widely known to use power dynamics to sexually prey on his female students. I knew about this from a companion on my Mormon mission who experienced some weird stuff, and CK knew about it from some of the students who had experienced it. We're not exactly sure what happened after it was reported by students, but you'll never guess what happened next! His career bloomed! Still blooming! "Intellectual" Mormons love his stuff! I'm getting testy so I am going to move on to the next paragraph!

At this point our kids had checked out, we thought.

"Mom, that guy your talking about reminds me of the law professor in Legally Blonde," Ever chimed in, swirling her shake. "You know, the one who harassed Elle Woods."


Ever and I watched Legally Blonde a couple weeks ago. I was contemplating taking the LSAT and needed some inspiration. Yes just wrote that sentence.

I was nervous about some of the stuff in that movie to show a nine year old girl. Not crazy about "bend and snap" or some of the autopilot cultural tropes, but I did want Ever to consider that all women--even the type you might write off for being fluffy and trophyesque--can surprise you. Also, don't let your life become central to a boy. Also, use your innate assets to your advantage and to show up for the less advantaged. Also, the ability to work hard in whatever endeavor you pursue is the most valuable of all human achievement. Also, "law school is for people who are boring and ugly and serious."

Which is why I am probably not going go, but anyway...

But anyway, how does my nine year old budding thespian daughter understand (partly from pop culture references) so easily what men are still struggling to grasp? It's not that hard fellas! Consider women as independent human beings that owe you nothing. That's it! COME ON.

"Well, my body feels like it's done having this shake," Ever wrapped up the conversation. She's been working really hard on listening to her body's cues about food, stress, and safety. I can't believe how much she can grasp self-care and prioritize her intuition at this point. I still struggle every day of my life.

The next generation of thespian sexual predator professors are screwed. And I DO NOT mean that literally.

Makes me want a hot dog, real bad.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

This Is Water

Yesterday at the Rec Center water complex.

I sat by Ever as she read a book smiling.

I also read a book, This Is Water by David Foster Wallace.

My friend Rich gave it to me.

It's about choosing how you see the world--what you worship, what you notice.

So I made a choice to notice.

I noticed:

The bubbly toddler in the ballerina swimsuit running in a circuit--to her mom in the red swimming suit wading in the pool, to her dad in the blue swimming suit reading on a deck chair underneath the tree. Totally caught up in a narrative she was clearly composing for herself, she talked out loud as she ran. Sometimes she would pause and laugh.

I worried she was going to trip and skin herself on the concrete. Old habits, I told myself.

I observed mom bodies, like mine, with stories written into their skin. I noticed boobs (I never notice boobs) how different they all are, and some, like mine, bounce and sway.

Moms bring a ton of crap to the pool. Like, a ton. My kids bring flip flops and a towel. But I used to be a mom who brought a ton of crap to the pool. It was my friend Sarah who taught me to lighten up, "They don't even need a towel, really," she told me. She was right.

I noticed skin color. Provo is pretty white, but when you go to the Rec Center you see a lot more diversity. Years ago when Provo City was asking taxpayers to bond for a new Rec Center that could be accessible to more of our population, many white rich people protested and said they shouldn't have to pay for people to have a place to get exercise. These are people who could afford nice gym  memberships, or had gyms in their spacious basements. Some people even owned their own gym franchise! They didn't have to think about where all those people who made it possible for them to be wealthy were going to swim! That's the privilege of being rich!

But the bond passed and now we have a great swimming complex where nearly everyone in the community can go and I love to see how different Provo looks when all feel welcomed to show up.

I noticed I tend to politicize easily.

Four Latinx teenagers took up four chairs behind me in the shade. They were dressed long black tshirts, baggy low-riding jeans, fat sneakers, wide brim hats. They talked loudly in Spanish and animated, like they were having a good time. I wondered if everyone in the pool thought they were gangsters. Admittedly, I wondered too.

One of them called out to his mom in the splash pad. A rippled woman emerged, tattooed and dressed in a black tshirt and cut-off jeans, fully dripping. She talked to her son for a bit and then her son turned to the others and yelled, "Bombay House it is!"

They all cheer.

Bombay House is known for being a top Indian restaurant in Utah. It's good. Chefs in our valley consistently rank it as the best place to eat. I didn't see that coming. Ignorance runs deep.

I'm working on it.

Ever finished her book. She gets up to stretch and I see how tall she is getting and how she is changing. I never notice it, until I do. I feel a certain joy about my children's growing bodies. Sometimes it's like my girls' LOL dolls--you know the ones that come in the packaging meant for unboxing? That's how it feels for me--a surprise package.

I didn't anticipate my body changing, it just did. Took me by total surprise. One day I was a child and the next day boys were trying to flip my bra. There was no suspense. No waiting period. It was more like a wave that rushed over me and left my body strange. So, we talk a lot about body changes with our kids. I want them to know the next move.

But I try to play it cool. Of course.

The young mom (they're all young moms in Provo) to my right is breast-feeding with a blanket over her plump baby. I remember the sweaty head, matted curly hair of my babies when I fed them like that--you know, to stay modest. I don't fault that mother, she's a victim of the sexualization of women's bodies. But I will never not rage when I see women having to worry about others' sensitivities when they are feeding their babies. Especially on these hot, dry days of summer, cover-ups are nothing but tiny saunas.

I want to yank that blanket and let that baby (and mother) breathe.

Screw the patriarchy. I notice their work everywhere. I cannot dissociate from it. Even if I could, what good would that do? Isn't that the point of being a moral person? To help right wrongs and show up for the marginalized? And yet, I feel a blush of shame every time someone suggests I get "easily offended" or "obsessed about women's rights". I try to tell myself I shouldn't be the one who feels ashamed, they should be ashamed. I'm getting better at it, I don't blush so easily now.

But, still I want to shout:

Boobs are not sex. Boobs are not sex. Boobs are not sex.

(If I want my boobs to be about sex, you'll know.)

Erin comes back, shivering, looking for a towel.

In the distance, mid-way between her father and her mother, the toddler's toes get caught underneath her own foot and she nose dives down into the concrete. Her mother jumps out of the pool and rushes over.

Boobs swaying, like mine do.

This is water. This is water. This is water.