Around the dinner table tonight, Avery told us that her teacher shared the extremely relevant opinion today that “Ms.” is a foolish construction. It was Avery’s turn to tell us one thing about her day. We were fairly swimming in complacent self-congratulation up to that point. Molly got an Elmo toddler bed from the 24/7 yard sale classifieds on Facebook and Lucy won the afternoon kindergarten spelling bee and Callie had all As in her progress report except an A minus in math for sloppy homework-turn-in.)
And then: “Ms.” is stupid. And you know what? I can see his point. Or, I almost think I kind of remember thinking or hearing something that sounded reasonably like that and almost good in a smug “we’re above political correctness/lameness” and “we prefer simplicity and the unwritten order of things” sort of way.
I don’t know the history of “Ms.” (I’m going to have to look it up now.” But this is what we came up with on the spot:
Is there an equivalent male title that denotes a man’s marital status? Why?
Why do we need to denote a woman’s marital status but not a man’s?
Is there a reason people need to know whether a woman is married or not?
Are there or were there things a woman could not do if she were married? (Like teach school a century ago, or own property at different times in history or retain custody of her children or have the right to not be raped or beaten by her husband?)
Is there a good reason for society to know if a woman is married or not in the sort of situations where a title is used?
If it is illegal for a prospective employer to ask an applicant if they are married or not, is there a way for a woman to retain her legal right to that privacy if she must title herself either “Miss” or “Mrs.”?
And then –
What about, I asked her (skimming over the littler ones’ hears, I hope) the rape case in California where the state appeals court ruled that a man cannot be charged with rape if he rapes a sleeping woman while impersonating her boyfriend. It is only rape, so the archaic law goes, if he is impersonating her husband.
Is it fair if the same action with the same intent by a man is judged differently by the law based on the marital status of the victim?
No, no it is not.
Almost every day, it seems, I reach the breaking point. That’s it. I’m done. I wash my hands of this misogynistic, crappy world. I’m not happy that my blog has turned in to feminism and the church* all the time blog, but it’s not like I blog every day, any way. But I could, and every day I could write more about how this is just so not the way things should be. So not.
*I know school is different from church, but sometimes they’re the same in small town Utah. Avery’s teacher said last month that the women planning to wear pants should be worried about not following the prophet. And he is an old family friend of my grandparents, and Avery happens to really, really like him, as do we, most of the time. But she wore pants that day to church so I think she can like him and stay in his class and learn a lot from him while not agreeing with everything, and I told her to tell him she’s sorry he doesn’t understand these things but he’s probably just suffering from White Male Privilege.
Today in Primary the theme was “God is my Heavenly Father. He knows and loves me.” Evidence for this personal relationship and paternal love were three scriptures in which God (or Jesus) calls a person by name. Those people were Enos (Enos 1:5), Moses (Moses 1:6) and Joseph Smith (Joseph Smith–History 1:17). We were then asked, “If Heavenly Father visited you, what would He call you?” This is perfectly fine, of course, and definitely something I want my own children to learn, something that, if we could get each person in this world to believe about themselves, and about each other, would theoretically solve every problem, right?
But is sharing those three scriptures the best way to teach children (all children) that they are the offspring of God? The primary presidency’s mandate is to each week “1) identify the doctrine, (2) help the children understand it, and (3) help them apply it in their lives.” They are also told to “Supplement the ideas provided here with some of your own.” So I think it’s valid, even necessary, to think, to actually ponder, how to best teach our beautiful doctrine.
I sat in Primary today wondering if/why I am the only person in the room to see anything wrong with a lesson whose sole purpose is to convince children that they are known personally and by name to God and yet the only examples given are of men that God knows? Does God only know men? Does He know His daughters and simply prefer His Sons? Does He respect His daughters so much He would not approach them personally? Does God wish to know and love me as a female or does He prefer to be inscrutable to me?
I would like to see this lesson taught with both male and female examples. The most easily parallel female example happens to be in the book of scripture we’re studying in class this year. Can you guess? Do you know? (Tom didn’t. And I’ll admit it took me a while to think of her, and now I am more heartsore than ever.) In Doctrine and Covenants 25 :1, the Lord says “Hearken unto the voice of the Lord your God, while I speak unto you, Emma Smith, my daughter; for verily I say unto you, all those who receive my gospel are sons and daughters in my kingdom.
The only other textually comparable example I could think of off the top of my head was the Annunciation — in Luke 1:30 the Angel Gabriel (sent by God) says “Fear not Mary, for thou hast found favor with God.” The angel also mentions Elisabeth to both Mary and Zachariah byname. There are several scriptures about the Lord “remembering” women by name (Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, Hannah, Ruth) and allowing them to conceive.
In the temple we learn that God and Jesus spoke to Eve by name (and in Moses 4:19 it reads: “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living; for thus have I, the Lord God, called the first of all women, which are many.”)
And, speaking of names, when the Lord changes Abram’s name to Abraham He also changes the man’s wife’s name. Genesis 17:15 reads ”And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.” So not only did God know Sarah by name (and remember her eventually in conception), but it was important to Him to change her name as part of the Abrahamic covenant.
Finally, beyond the personal, loving relationships Jesus* had with His female disciples while on earth (e.g. Mary and Martha), in John 20:14-17 there is this beautiful exchange after the crucifixion:
14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
in which Jesus both comforts Mary and makes Himself known to her by saying simply her name.
When I was first lamenting about Sharing Time to Tom, he apologetically reminded me that there are just not that many women in the scriptures, we just live in an unfair world, it’s just the unfortunate way things are.
But that isn’t true! There are women in the scriptures! Of course I wish there were more, and that more were known by name, and that they were more often discussed in terms outside their maternal function. But they are there! They are known by name to God and Jesus, even if they aren’t known by name to us!
I want my daughters to know that God knows them, and all other people, male and female, by name.
*I am a little stumped as to whether there is a doctrinal issue with saying Heavenly Father (Elohim) knows us versus Jesus (Jehovah) knowing us, but for the purposes of instilling a sense of divinity and divine love in children, I’m going to say it doesn’t matter. In the original examples, Moses and Joseph Smith are pretty clearly addressed by God the Father, but I have always understood Enos’s interlocutor to be Jesus Christ.
The pants thing is done and gone ad nauseum. In our house, too. But I have some thoughts.
First of all, imagine this: A friend, a sister, comes to you and tells you that she is hurting and that she has found a way to feel less alone, to feel more understood, to stand up for what she believes in and show solidarity for those who have made her feel less alone, a way to show God what is in her heart, a way that God has told her is an okay offering of her broken heart and contrite spirit, a way to feel more herself in God’s presence, in the community of believers that she aches to be a part of even as she too often feels marginalized, misunderstood and misused. She has decided to wear pants to church.
What is your response? And how would Christ have us respond to such a friend and sister?
a) Your contempt betrays you.
b) Your hurt for her hurt and your massive indifference to her attire is the best possible evidence that all is well in Zion.
c) Your compassion and desire to understand what is incomprehensible to you, your yearning to reach out in fellowship even when you are righteously convinced that you are right and she is wrong, your humility and love, your turning of the other cheek against such (insolent!) provocation is magnificent.
When I was nineteen I shaved my head. At the time I had no thought of gender social norms. I was in Europe for the first time, I had left a heady, consuming and ultimately wrong-for-me relationship, and I wanted an outward expression of my inward change of heart. I shaved my head.
Sunday I wore pants to Church.
Both times I felt like I was right with God again, that I had re-adjusted my course to walk more fully with Him, and that Jesus knew, loved and accepted the offering of my heart. That I was, and am, okay with God, and that what anyone else thinks or thinks they know about me, is immaterial.
And now some posts and articles to answer your questions (I don’t agree with everything in these posts, but they are marvelous food for thought and worth your time):
But I’ve never felt marginalized or hurt. Does anyone really? (And here is that contempt again, as the subtext is: Does anyone who matters feel hurt by patriarchy? Does anyone who is righteous feel marginalized? Does anyone with a testimony think that gender inequity is a problem?)
Neylan McBaine at FAIR, CJane Pants Part I and Part II, Joanna Brooks in Huffington Post, Wearing Pants
Why pants? What is a social norm?
Feminist Mormon Housewives, Mormon Women Who Wear Pants to Church: A Manifesto
But our church, like our country is one of the most progressive about women, can’t you be happy with that? (i.e. it could be worse!)
The dignity of your womanhood
But why must you protest in Sacrament Meeting?
The Politics (say it ain’t so) of Pants
Why do men feel so threatened by women doing something that the Brethren have specifically NOT counselled against?
How to Silence a(n LDS) Woman: You’re Doing it Wrong
People didn’t really respond so viciously, did they?
Women Wearing Pants at Church Bingo (this is a humorous aggregation. The text of the death threat on the original Facebook event page was “every single person who is a minority activist should be shot .. in the face . point blank . GET OVER YOURSELVES ..” I was also appalled at comments such as: “these dumb bitch feminists don’t understand what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is even about.”)
But you started it, haven’t you brought this response on yourselves?
Less than 1200 words on on pants
If you don’t like the church, why don’t you just leave?
“If you don’t like it, leave” and Religious Pluralism
How do women look in pants at church?
Wear Pants to Church Day
What is wrong with feminists? Why can’t they just accept the church?
How Mormonism Changes and Managing Liberal Expectations,
If women have agency, the same as men, how are they not equal in church?
Women in the Mormon Church: The Limits of Agency
(And even though the pants thing was really about culture and not about challenging doctrine, here’s a bonus post. Do any (faithful, intelligent) men think women should have the priesthood? Gender and Priesthood)
Did any women consider themselves feminist and choose to wear a dress?
How I feel about pants
Doesn’t God hate it when we ask questions?
Joseph Smith — History, Hear me
I am proud of my Utah blogging friends (like Emily and Stephanie) who ran a memorial campaign for the Newton shooting victims. I don’t blog often enough to merit a pause, and I’ve always distrusted and disliked the impulse I have to personalize things. But I think this is a failing we all share, evidenced most obviously and distressingly by things like our sweeping ignorance about the 168 children killed by drone strikes in Pakistan or the 3000 children who die daily from diarrhea.
Yesterday I got an email from my children’s school saying a lot of appropriately broken-hearted things about the Newton children and teachers, and then describing the lockdown drill they ran on Friday. My kids had mentioned it in passing, and mostly I tried to shield them from the news. Until Callie complained about what we were having for dinner and I cried and told her she was lucky to be alive. We are all lucky to be alive.
And though I had cried when I listened to this and teared up at the sight of this, what brought me to sobs in a parking lot was this from my children’s school. In an effort to make the lockdown drill more realistic, they shouted in the hallways and banged on the classroom doors. They had explained to the children beforehand what was going to happen, because their intent wasn’t to frighten but to show what it may be like.
It should never be like that.
Not for any child. And the only way to make anything good come of this is to make life better for someone else.
My many failings overwhelm me. My inadequacy for even my small, simple calling of mother shames me. And the numbers of the suffering are an ocean. I keep repeating to myself:
Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.
― Mother Teresa
This afternoon Callie changed out of her uniform, unloaded the dishwasher, finished her math homework, wrote her testimony in her shiny new “Faith in God” booklet, passed off the first Article of Faith and nagged me to get her to Activity Days on time. Normally I send Avery and Callie off on the three-minute walk together, but today Avery was finishing up her contribution to her school’s Winter Store.
We drove to the church (sad, but it’s sprinkling and we were a minute late, despite Callie’s persistence) and sadly, Activity Days was last week. Turns out we are not on the email list for the eight- and nine-year olds, just the ten- and eleven-year old group. I apologized profusely to Callie, who was not mollified.
If only it were every week, I mused aloud, then it would be easier to remember, rather than keeping straight whether this is a first and third Wednesday month or a second and fourth, or, as in December (and June, and July, and August) a once-a-month on the first or second or third or fourth Wednesday month. Callie knows Scouts is every week because every Wednesday Dad leaves dinner early, as he will tonight and next week and probably they’ll skip the actual day after Christmas but even so they’ll manage to meet three times before the year is out.
And Callie wants to know why. I said it’s one of the things that frustrates Dad and me most. She asked if I’d told anyone about it, and I said we both had, quite recently, and she wanted to know why it hadn’t changed, then, and I said I don’t know. I’m sorry. How do you think we could change things? How could we make people realize there needs to be change?
And she said, “Because the Declaration of Independence says boys and girls are equal.” And I said, that’s not exactly what it says but I certainly agree that that’s what it means. But our nation’s founding wasn’t perfect either. That whole three-fifths compromise and all.
Only in the case of Scouts versus Activity days it’s more like girls are one- to two-fifths. On a good month.
The past few months have been hard. Sometimes I feel like feminism has ruined everything, ruined my ability to enjoy everything. From James Bond and his Madonna/whore complex to nativity creches that erase the female midwives who most likely would’ve been there and insert wise men who most certainly were not present in that humble stable. (This is not a plea for explanation or rationalization — usually that only serves to underscore my reasoning, exclamation point my feeling of despair.)
A few weeks ago I started tutoring a Jordanian immigrant lady in conversational English. Last Wednesday morning as I rushed to leave the house I got a little careless with my words, letting my frustration spill out in angry imprecations at my children, my house, my husband. Later, as I drove north from my comfortable exurbia to a cramped apartment complex, I called Tom to apologize. He was more understanding, as always, than I deserve. He said, “if it stresses you out so much, maybe you shouldn’t do it.” And I pointed out that before leaving the house that morning I had baked cranberry muffins, started the dishwasher, changed the laundry, nursed the baby and tried to prepare an English lesson.
Tom took a shower and left.
(On school days he makes lunches and drives them on his way, but this was the first day of Thanksgiving break, and Avery was babysitting.)
That’s not the point of this, the moral of that story is simple and one I teach myself unfortunately about five times a week. (i.e. prepare in advance, prioritize and let it go.)
The point of this is that today we had our lesson and that weekly hour I spend comparing pilgrims on the Mayflower to pilgrims on the Hajj is rapidly becoming the most rewarding of my entire week. This week I planned ahead, took a cheap Advent calendar from IKEA as an icebreaker for talk about Christmas and calendars and ordinal numbers, and took Lucy and Molly along, where they watched cartoon Mr. Bean with Arabic subtitles.
I was telling Chrysanthemum all about this, bubbling over in my enthusiasm for the way my new friend showed me how she makes cheese in her small kitchen (practicing “first” and “then” and processes), and I mentioned how we’re starting to study for the naturalization test also, and how the coordinator who matched us up also advocates for the medical and other services the immigrant ladies need.
And Chrysanthemum said it sounds like visiting teaching on steroids, for people who actually need it. I like that. Not that I’m trying to evangelize in any way — possibly my favorite parts are when I remember Arabic words for things (like “bint” for daughter and “mumkin” for possibly) from our time in Cairo, and when we discover that we were born in the same year, and that she was named for the queen of Jordan. And Jesus is on our Christmas flashcards, but I know that Mohamed came later.
Anyway, it’s really good. I feel really good about it. Thanks to L for introducing me to Samira, founder of Women of the World.
« Previous Entries
» Next Entries
How to Teach Primary Manual 4 Lesson 39, Feminist Edition
Step One: Read the lesson and accompanying scripture references and wonder if the Nephites were an all-male society.
Step Two: Pray about the purpose of the lesson and ponder if there are any scripture stories that include women and fulfill said purpose.
Step Three: Realize there are several, including a recent personal favorite just a few books away.
Step Four: Read and re-read the scriptural account of your chosen female character. Does her story compare to the suggested male story?
Step Five: Review secondary sources.
Step Six: Compose a children’s hymn verse for this week’s elect lady.
Step Seven: Prepare to teach that both men and women can make personal commitments to God.
Step One: Read the lesson and accompanying scripture references and realize it has never met a Bechdel test it couldn’t fail.
Primary 4, Lesson 39: Mormon Witnesses the Destruction of the Nephites
To strengthen each child’s desire to remain true to the teachings of Jesus Christ in spite of the evil influences around us.
Teach the accounts of Mormon abridging the large plates of Nephi and the destruction of the Nephites from Mormon 1–6.
(Tom, who taught this lesson last week, says that Mormon is maybe his favorite character in the Book of Mormon, not least because he is the writer/compiler of most of it. The story of Mormon and his son, Moroni, is inspiring, interesting, and sad. After wars in which Mormon reluctantly led the wicked Nephites to battle, he is one of only twenty-four of his people alive. He is a great spiritual and military leader and a wonderful example for the children to follow.)
Step Two: The purpose could possibly be fulfilled by only speaking of Mormon, but given that my class is five-eighths female, and that they are unlikely to ever be the spiritual or military commander of a nation, how could they more easily envision a personal, relatable way to remain true? Heavenly Father, have any of thy daughters likewise pleased thee?
Step Three: Women who stay true to the faith despite what is going on around them: Eve, who brings life (and death) into the world in order to obey the Father’s first commandment; Ruth, who leaves all that is familiar to her to make Naomi’s God her own; Rebecca, who also leaves her family in order to marry Isaac; Esther, who risks death to save her people; Hannah, who prays for a son for the glory of God despite the torment her sister-wife inflicts; Mary, who agrees to carry a child despite the whisperings of whore that could follow, even (especially) from her betrothed; Eunice and Lois, Timothy’s mother and grandmother, who raised an apostle; and Abish. Ah, Abish.
Step Four: Alma 19. King Lamoni’s wife, the queen, is another great (though unnamed) female character in this story. She watches over her unconscious husband and refuses to bury him, saying he stinketh not to her. She sends for Ammon who praises her faith, calling it greater than any among the Nephites. Ammon raises the king, who testifies of Christ and then sinks back down in joy. The queen is also overcome by the Spirit. Ammon prays and is likewise overcome. Abish, the queen’s servant, finds the three of them, and, having been long-ago converted by a “remarkable vision of her father,” runs out to knock on doors and gather the people to witness a miracle.
The people gather and argue over whether Ammon is a monster or the Great Spirit. Abish comes forward and “took the queen by the hand, that perhaps she might raise her from the ground; and as soon as she touched her hand she arose and stood upon her feet, and cried with a loud voice, saying: O blessed Jesus, who has saved me from an awful hell! O blessed God, have mercy on this people!” The queen then turns and raises the king in the same manner.
There is so much here that I am overcome. Abish is a Lamanitish woman who had a vision* of her father, became converted to the Lord and, “never having made it known,” lived a life of servitude while remaining faithful, ever-watching for an opportunity to share her beliefs. Despite a hidden conversion many years old, she was brave, wise and spiritually in tune enough to change the lives of many. Abish’s faith extends to her raising the queen from her unconsciousness. The queen’s faith in turn (remember, greater than any among the Nephites) raises the king. Abish’s spiritual gifts (visions, healing/raising, speaking in tongues as commonly attributed to missionaries) and personal commitment to the teachings of Jesus Christ are awe-inspiring.
Does the story of Abish compare in inspirational value to the story of Mormon? Does her story in fact illuminate the stated purpose of the lesson? Can it also be of instructional value to the male members of the class?
Step 5: Secondary Sources:
Elaine S Dalton Love Her Mother
In the Book of Mormon, Abish was converted by her father’s sharing with her his remarkable vision. For many years thereafter, she kept her testimony in her heart and lived righteously in a very wicked society. Then the time came when she could no longer be still, and she ran from house to house to share her testimony and the miracles she had witnessed in the king’s court. The power of Abish’s conversion and testimony was instrumental in changing an entire society. The people who heard her testify became a people who “were converted unto the Lord, [and] never did fall away,” and their sons became the stripling warriors!10
By Common Consent: What to Make of Abish?
From Joanne’s comment, a verse to the tune of Book of Mormon Stories honoring Abish:
Abish saw Lamoni and the queen hear Ammon’s word.
They believed and sank for joy; their hearts he truly stirred.
Abish shared her testimony, then bent on her knee,
And she raised up the queen righteously.
Step 6: Abish verse to the tune of Nephi’s Courage. (This is a bit redundant now that I’ve found Joanne’s great verse, but I actually wrote it a month ago, so here it is.)
The Lord commanded Abish to go and preach the word
To her friends and neighbors and the queen she served.
She had been converted and waited for sign.
Abish was courageous and she would reply:
[I will go I will do, the things the Lord commands,
I know the Lord provides a way, He wants me to obey] x 2
Step 7: I plan to present the stories of both Mormon and Abish. To complement the suggested attention activity (six statements about Mormon), here are six statements about Abish:
- I was born around a hundred years before Christ.
- When I was younger I had a remarkable vision of my father and was converted to the Lord.
- Because my people were wicked, I kept my faith a secret for many years.
- I was a Lamanite and a servant of the queen.
- I wanted to be a missionary.
- Because of my courage and testimony, many lives were changed – I helped convert the parents of Moroni’s Stripling Warriors.
To complement the discussion questions about Mormon, I want to especially ask the children how they think they would feel and act if they had been in Abish’s shoes. What qualities did she exemplify? How can we be like her? How was her society blessed by her actions? How can we be blessed by learning about her? How can we show our gratitude and admiration for her courage?
*It has been interpreted (including by President Dalton) that Abish was converted by a vision her father had, but the scripture reads “a vision of her father,” NOT “a vision of her father’s.” I think that assumption (apparently perpetuated in other language editions of the Book of Mormon) is an unwarranted one.