Ex Or Sexism
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 equality 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."