So BCC is having a poll about what topics people are sick to death of discussing, and “gender inequality” is currently well in the lead. I don’t know if I should be annoyed about this, or pleased by the fact that Bloggernaclerites are clearly well aware of issues of gender inequality, even if they don’t agree with feminists, or want to talk about it ever again. (I’m reminded of my conservative friends in high school who were baffled by my feminist views, but when they heard a talk about gender roles in church would tell me that it was probably good that I missed it. They might not have been feminists, but they were aware of what things make feminists crazy. That’s something. How’s that for taking lemons and making feminist lemonade?)
But I don’t really want to have a debate about how much this particular topic should be discussed–I figure that if you regularly read ZD, you either have some interest in the topic, or just like to make yourself crazy. (Or quite possibly both.) But I couldn’t resist such an opportunity to navel-gaze. Why do we keep having these conversations? Is there any point? Are we–as someone asked on the BCC thread–just rearranging the chairs on the Titanic, since there’s not much else we can do?
And then there is this problem where it doesn’t matter what your actual post is about–almost inevitably someones sees a feminist discussion and come by to say things like: men and women are different; women don’t have the priesthood because their role is to be mothers; we don’t talk to Heavenly Mother because she’s being protected; someone needs to be in charge in a marriage; preside doesn’t mean that you are a dictator; God is running the church, and this is how he wants things; women only have to follow their husbands as long as their husbands are following God. And so forth. And because we’ve discussed this all over and over and over, it starts to feel like every conversation turns into the same one, and I wonder if it’s even worth it to blog about feminism.
But I still do (obviously), and I can think of a couple of reasons why. One is simply that if you’re going to survive as a feminist Mormon, it helps a lot to have a place to talk about it, even if a lot of the conversation is repetitive. When I talk to my siblings we often re-tell the same stories and the same jokes and sometimes it makes me crazy, but it’s also a way of keeping us connected. And when you go to church and hear yet again that women are more innately spiritual, and you want to demonstrate your superior spirituality by gagging someone with that oh-so-feminine Relief Society tablecloth, it’s nice to have an online world where people are critiquing this stuff.
Another reason is that I really do think there’s something important about naming the problem. Because often stuff bugs me but I can’t say exactly why, and then I’ll read someone’s post or comment and think yes! That’s it! And writing about the things I find troubling can help me clarify where things seem off. Where it hurts, so to speak. And then sometimes people say things that give me an entirely new way of looking at something. And I get to hear all kinds of interesting experiences and intriguing ideas. (And okay, I also get the pleasure of being all self-righteously worked up about something, even though I sometimes have to repent afterward.)
Also, participating in these conversations for years has given me a lot more faith in my ability to talk about these questions. I’m a more confident feminist than when we started blogging, I think–though I hope also a somewhat more nuanced one. And while I hate to say this because it’s such a cliché, it really has given me a place to find my own voice. Which is kind of a classic feminist thing to do.
But probably the biggest reason–at least for me–is the whole community, the “I’m not alone with this,” aspect of blogging. Which really is a big deal, especially if you’re feeling isolated. I’ve always been lucky enough to know some feminist Mormons (given that they were related to me), but now I know tons, and that’s pretty cool. And it makes me a happier Mormon overall, I think, even if sometimes it makes me madder about particular things.
But does any of this actually change anything? In terms of the church, I doubt it. It’s very much a top-down organization, as we all know, and I have to admit that I’m on the pessimistic side about change. (Though I hope I’m wrong.) But I don’t think it’s a bad idea to at least have feminist ideas percolating, and to have more vocal feminists. And in the end, the truth is, I don’t really have grand ambitions for blogging. I do it because it’s generally fun, and because I like to write, and because it’s a way to work through some of my frustrations–and especially because I’m very fond of this blog and the community here, and I think we still do manage to have good conversations even amidst the inevitable re-hashing of the same arguments. And at the end of the day, that’s not bad.
- 5 May 2011