Thursday, December 13, 2012

On the Issue of Pants and Mormon Feminism

I have been moved. Deeply. In a way that I am not moved every day or every month but only on occasion. It is words that move me this time. Words spoken from an unorthodox Mormon feminist I do not know and probably never will. It is these words that cause me to cascade into tears, sitting here alone at my desk at BYU. I hide the cascade, shelter it from the boy who sits across me in his short haircut and plaid button up shirt. I am not sure why I feel this movement of sadness and ache in my heart. I think it stems from connection. Deeply, knowingly my very core is moved because I know this is my story too. I am far from orthodox. I am far from cookie cutter. My faith is not a blind faith, it is a faith that spans seas and hails God, Al-Fattah, the All Knowing, Father. It is a faith born from years of moments built upon prayer, song, and strong examples. I, who was raised with an unbelieving father and a deeply devout mother. I, who of mixed heritage, raised in an interfaith family, a liberal Mormon girl chose to come here to the Mormon Mecca, BYU. A place where I have found the best of people, not to say that in an elitist way, but in a loving deep-rooted way. The best of people because they are now my people. From the sweet, blonde boy from Wyoming to the dancing, giggly girl with pale green eyes from Utah. These are my people. I have found them, and know them to be cut from the same cloth. Because we are all cut from the same cloth.

And this is why I cry my cascade of tears for Joanna Brooks, who I do not know. Because somehow I do know that we were cut from the same cloth. I realize this is what her book is trying to say, that we are all the same even among our sparkling differences. We are all the same because whether we drink coffee or tea or not or whether we are gay or lesbian or not, we stand the same under God. Under God, we are all children, children of a loving and great Father in Heaven who may fill our very souls with sweet forgiving and teach us charity and love.

What strikes me inside is what her book does not say. She speaks of my culture, our culture, the same roots I have grown from. But she does not lay out what she believes, what she feels about the Gospel of Jesus Christ in plain English. Her testimony is not plainly stated. It is there, woven between the words and carried within her stories, and in the fact that she still clings to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her testimony is there, and though unspoken it still sings out. So this is why I cry, because I feel of her spirit far away, struggling with deep rooted doctrinal questions that I set aside.

Because it is not my struggle to ponder on these things. It is not my personal concern. Not to say that I prefer a blind obedience or to say that I would care to remain ignorant. No, because I know the things I know in the way that I know them. Because I am not overly concerned with matters that do not pertain to my own plan of happiness. Perhaps this is selfishness, to be unthinking of matters of female ordination or progression for women within the Church or even gay marriage. But I have not felt lacking for not having the Priesthood. I have not worried that I will never be able to bless or anoint my children.  Because I have experienced that God will give me what I need. For every time that I have asked, I have received. I too, stand differently on many political issues that many members of the Church are conservative about. But, I have not been crucified for my differences. I have not felt a withdrawing of God's love for my viewpoints. No, it is not my struggle to attend to, not my battle to be fought.

I will not join those who wear pants this Sunday. Though I have often referred to myself as a Mormon Feminist, I do not agree with all the implications of this movement. I do not feel of the gender inequality that these women feel of. I do not feel like a lesser citizen of my community. So no, I will not wear pants in solidarity. But I will say, I am interested. I am both interested and deeply respectful of these women who do dare to speak out in honesty.

Certainly, I applaud the kind of courage Joanna Brooks has in the telling of her story. And I will respect those who wear pants to church this Sunday. I will respect those that wave their signs for Yes or No on this or that. I will respect my gay brother or sister. Because I have promised to do so. I have promised to give the right to choose and to express as I embrace my own right to do so.

So I turn back, away from her intense questions and inward to the battles that are mine to be had. To school, and work, and family.  To the deep knowing that I carry within myself. To the strongest testimony I have which is this: The Gospel works for me. No one can challenge that statement, it is mine to hold, and each must find what works for them and how it works for them.

And though I feel of the pain Joanna has struggled with, though I see in her brazen words flashing across the page the great struggle she has had as she ponders questions of feminism and equality. It is not mine. I must fight my own battle. I have my own things to face, my own questions to find answers to. I must find just how this Church, this Gospel, this entire religion works for me. It is an every day process. I will never weary. I will never stop. I can only say again: The Gospel works for me.

Then turn to you, my Friend, with this question: What works for you?

1 comment:

  1. I am not prepared to read Joanna Brooks's book yet. I want to read with an open mind at some point. However, she troubles me. She has provoked me into questioning gender roles.

    What is the black and white? How does that fit into the gray? I know there are clear distinctions and then everything in between.

    I disagree with these Mormons who consider themselves feminists. They give in easily to rhapsodies and distort the simple logic of the gospel.

    I respect your personal struggle, Marissa. I wish these other people would recognize that their issues are best handled individually like you are doing so.