01 July 2014

Confessions of a male feminist

While my feelings are not necessarily new, over the last year I have begun to accept the possibility of self-identifying as a feminist. This has come from a lot of reading of academic feminist thought as performed in the human geography studies. And I have come to realize: once your eyes have been opened to the patriarchy, it cannot be unseen.

The reason I am writing this is related to the recent excommunication of Kate Kelly, the whole Ordain Women movement and the discussion that has been raging in the Mormon bloggosphere for the past 6 months, yesterday's SCOTUS ruling on the hobby lobby v Sebelius case, and finally having reached a tipping point in my personal experiences with a 'conversation' I had today with a worker doing a job at my house. Let me start with that.

The man is the owner of a paving company, has a family, and at least an undergrad college education. He asked what I was studying, I responded, and his next comment was "How 'bout that pussy'?" When I didn't immediately give a manly grunt and chest bump him, he clarified his meaning that I can summarize as 'the best part of IU campus is all the hook-up opportunities, amirite'. I still didn't really respond, not because I was 'uncomfortable', but because there was just no reconciling his world-view and mine. I said I was married, which luckily changed the subject, but came across as some sort of excuse. Like if I wasn't, I would be out there 'hittin' that!' So why didn't I just shut him down, and tell him how disgusting that kind of comment and mindset are? 'It was neither the time nor place', but really, its just not in my nature to stir up conflict. So here's the question - what's a guy to do? Breaking the patriarchy is also about men standing up to other men when they degrade women, but what's the playbook for doing it in everyday, casual conversation with people with whom you hold no rapport? My confession: I feel ashamed for not doing more. I feel more ashamed for not knowing what to do to do more.

Interlude rant: carl's jr./hardee's: I know that 'sex sells', but you do not have to be a 'man' to eat a burger, dripping barbecue sauce on women in bikinis in a 'cat fight' is... I can't even..., and when you imply that a chicken breast sandwich 'brings all the roosters to the yard', you sound like a middle schooler saying 'bewbs, heh heh heh, boobies, heh heh heh'. And PS (not food related) shampoo is not orgasmic!

I see a lot of my conservative friends/family celebrating (on social media) the hobby lobby decision. I believe, or at least what I'd like to believe, is that in the rush to vilify obamacare and to celebrate any political defeat of the current 'regime' they cheer the ruling. Even if that is true, it's still wrong-headed, but that's a discussion for a different day. It is not a victory for religious freedom. It's not. Under the guise of religion, a certain class of corporation just got the green light to nickle and dime on healthcare costs that would cut into their profits. I immediately thought about B Corporations (http://www.bcorporation.net/) that publicly state, and certify, that their purpose is to benefit society as much as, or more than, making a profit. It's like that, but the opposite. I'm not going to add to the commentary on women's health issues, and the political crusade against providing adequate care. There are already enough voices doing that, and I'm just saying that I agree. If my view is unclear given the context of the post...

On the issue of Kate Kelly's excommunication and the Ordain Women issue. I'm not including any links for background, so educate yourself if you're interested. I first heard about the movement earlier this year before the push for admittance to the priesthood session. A lot of the issues they brought up were valid, and I was totally in agreement. Why can't Sunday school presidencies have women? Why should welfare focused bishopric meetings exclude the Relief Society president? Why don't young women have opening exercises with the RS and serve as companions to adult visiting teachers? I even incorporated a lot of the ideas into discussions I was leading in elders' quorum trying to encourage a more open dialogue and welcoming atmosphere for people that think differently than the Mormon norm. I''ve started emphasizing that church policy/procedure ≠ church doctrine in all cases, and that Mormon cultural practice is another thing entirely. So there is plenty that the church can do to change culture and policy that would be more equitable toward women without any questions of doctrine. I do think that the way OW has gone about some things, including the appearance at the priesthood session of conference, have not been the right way to do it. I also think that Elder Oaks' talk in conference made long strides to answering some of the essential questions posed by OW, but left others utterly unaddressed.

As for excommunication, I will not say whether I agree or disagree with the decision, but that from what I have read, I do believe the local leaders went about the whole thing inappropriately. But in moving on, I hope we have learned that there absolutely has to be room to ask questions, and that simply 'closing ranks' will not bridge the divide.

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