Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Worst Thing Is Pants

A general word-vomit post, not well-edited. Again, Mormony. I retain the rights to re-examine all I've declared here. So let it be written, so let it be posted, so let me laugh at myself in seven years time.

Last night I got a text from my sister Lucy,

"Are you wearing pants to church on Sunday?"

It's my first week of declaring myself a feminist and suddenly Mormon feminists are asking all those who believe to wear pants to church in a show of solidarity? Pants? Look, it was enough to open myself up to some vulnerable, deep, dark core issues for the world to read and now I am being asked to make peace with my mortal enemy (PANTS!) for one day?

This is getting exhaustive. Already.


Seriously though. Of course, I did read about the Wear Pants to Church Day starting on my twitter feed with Peggy Fletcher Stack's article in the Salt Lake Tribune. Then I read about All Enlisted group on facebook. And I picked up a few tweets by readers which inspired me to do more research and reading until landing inevitably at Feminist Mormon Housewives for more information, which linked me to one of my favorite blogs to read (for years now), Mormon Child Bride.

From what I gather, it's not a day to obliterate the differences between male and female, meaning pants aren't representing the desire for females to be more like males, it's a day to show strength in number. I have argued against labels before, but more and more I see how joyful it is when those labels help you find like-minded individuals. I mean, we certainly do that as Mormons. We do it as bloggers for sure (lifestyle bloggers, political bloggers, mommy bloggers, design bloggers...)

(The other day I had attended a business lunch with some musicians, and as I sat down they immediately said to me, "We are feminists too" and with that, we were free to discuss matters of our hearts and the interests of our minds. There was no uncomfortable disagreements with our core belief system. It was really nice.)

Lucy and I then had a quick exchange about equality and it was a great opportunity for me to clarify what I mean by equality. I mean respect. I hope for and pray for and strive for equal respect between human beings. I do not mean, in anyway, to disrespect the natural differences between man and woman, although I think there are less differences than I have ever believed. We are far more similar than I could've imagined.

Here are some examples of equality meaning respect:

Growing up the men in my extended and immediate family went on a male-only deer hunt. My sister Page and I joined a few female cousins on occasion to call for female opportunity. We were told that as soon as we could "pee up a tree" or "grow hair on our chest" (give me a few years and I could've done it on my chin, to be honest) or until we stopped "throwing like a girl" or "crying like a girl" we could go. Is this respectful? No.

If my family wanted to keep the deer hunt a male-centric bonding time because they felt it was important for the morale for the men in the family, I think we could've understood that proposition. Instead, we were told our bodies were the very problem with our being able to attend. Our bodies weren't good enough, strong enough, solid enough. Outside of that being ENTIRELY untrue, it is also disastrously disrespectful.

(How could I tell my children a woman's body is too weak to climb a mountain and sleep in a snow-covered tent for a weekend, when their own mother is an unapologetic pro-body birth advocate and unassisted home birther?)

(Or how in the world do we explain our Mormon pioneer mothers who did more than climb a mountain, eat candy and shoot guns for a couple days? They trekked across the country for months, had babies and buried husbands? In dresses. WHERE IS THAT LEGACY?)

This seemingly small family tradition was far more harmful to me and my aunts and cousins and my sisters than I think we could've ever supposed. This tradition continues today, and I think a family vote would sway the way of keeping it males-only. Personally I'd like to see gender-segregated activities kept at a very rare minimum, but in the light of equality and respect, I should join with my sisters of the family and offer a female equivalent, asking the men to carry on our responsibilities and babies while we take the girls camping. My vote would be the desert of Southern Utah. Stay tuned.

Another example:

Sister missionaries are called to serve 18 months. The brother missionaries serve for 24. Honestly, I was more than ready to come home after 18 months. I was obliterated. I couldn't even walk--I literally couldn't walk. I had a ingrown toenail that had to be dug out by a Mormon podiatrist in a dark hallway classroom at church. No kidding, he gave me a Popsicle stick to bite on as it felt like a bear was ferociously gnawing at my toe for a straight fifteen minutes. You know. Mission stories.

But the elders were no better off. We were all weary. We were all tired. Some of us carried our missions more emotionally--an intensity that manifested itself physically. I know Chup  as a missionary was so stressed and concerned about obedience, his mission photographs show a tall, skeletal human form our own children don't recognize.

When we try to fill in the gap of service time by saying, "Well, sisters can't last as long as elders" or "Sisters are more righteous and more effective, so they don't have to serve as long as the elders" I think, where is the respect in any of those ideas? We are both children of God! I don't know why we don't serve the same amount of time, but I do know it's not because we can't. There were sisters on my mission who could've gone for five years. And I suppose I would've hobbled on for six more months, if that was required. Respect and equality says: we both can serve 24 months if asked. Certainly, we could.

An example here at home:

When I have a meeting downtown (let's say) Chup gives me the same respect I would give him if he had a meeting downtown. He arranges his schedule to be here with the children. My meeting is as important as his meetings. No one's agenda is more important.

On the other hand, when there are needs of our children, I am trying not to assume ultimate control. I respect that he is my equal companion in parenting, which means his voice and opinion are not trumped by mine just because I am the mother. Sometimes I am too narrow-minded to make a good choice about our children, sometimes Chup can see more clearly. And sometimes, might I add, I am spot on. Ding ding!

We are trying (WE ARE FAR FROM PERFECT) in respecting each other, our responsibilities and ideas. As I write this it seems so simplistic, and yet I don't know how well it's practiced or modeled. And it's horrible hard work, actually. My hope is that it's worth it. Who knows?

I guess I am at a point where teaching my children love and kindness is more important than teaching them gender differences. I am growing a baby that Dad's body helped create (fun!) because our bodies are different that way. That's about all I have right now, everything else is still working itself out. To be honest.

(I don't want to teach my children that men have the priesthood and women don't because they have motherhood. First because, this idea DESTROYED me when I was experiencing infertility. Second because fatherhood and motherhood are equal pairs and third, because I actually don't think it's doctrinally true that women do not have responsibilities and rights of the priesthood...)

When I read comments from readers who have never experienced gender inequalities in their lives I have so much hope for the future. I think, it really is possible! I can raise my children to believe in equal respect. And yet, I also hope those readers can appreciate the pain and hurt some of us have felt because of inequality and disrespect. Please, give us your patience, it hasn't been pretty--perhaps you've seen in my Life Story?

I do think my prayers are being answered, I do think the Lord wants to hear me, Courtney Jane Kendrick express my concerns along with my gratitude. I think He does hear me. I disagree with this statement I heard this summer from a family member, "The last thing the Lord wants to hear is a bunch of women tell him how unequal everything is"--it's my belief there is no end to what the Lord wants to hear, about anything, from anyone. It's not the subject matter that matters, it's our willingness to communicate with our loving Heavenly Parents. Our entire religion was born because one boy with a torn, confused, frustrated heart decided to ask a question. And God respected his heart, like He would equally respect mine.

And I simply don't believe we are done learning about any of this. I don't think we have all the revelations, all the changes, all the pieces. That's why I will continue to pray for more information--offering gratitude for answers when they come, both to our general church and in my heart. And as I said before, I am committing to waiting upon the Lord in His own time, in His own way.

So will I wear pants on Sunday, expressing my hopefulness and faith, overcoming my deep hatred of such a garment and my long-lasting disavow of their constricting ways?

I am thinking about it...

Speaking of respect...over the weekend I was asked to judge Velour's Winter Battle of the Bands and I was blown away by the The Blue Aces an incredibly talented and musically-mature group of teenage rock stars.
Must see: