Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My Feminist Summer Reading List

Since it is summer and I have all the time in the world, I decided to spend my time reading more feminist books. I'm not in school anymore, so I really don't have very many scholarly feminist articles to read anymore. And while not all of the books I've read are strictly scholarly, they have helped me to understand feminism a little bit more.

Bossypants by Tina Fey - The reason why I love this book is because it is how one woman has taken feminism and interpreted it in her daily life. I think lots of women can relate to her experiences of learning about being a woman in this patriarchal world and how feminism fits into things for her personally. Of course, this is not intersectional feminism - Tina has a lot of white, heterosexual, cis, etc. privilege, and she does not address that. But a lot of feminists are in the same position (like myself), and that doesn't make any of the issues she's dealing with less important. Though it does mean that you, as a reader, should probably be aware of the lack of intersectionality while reading it.

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran - Similar to Bossypants, this book/memoir is another personal interpretation of feminism. It is not deep feminism or even the bottom line of feminism. But it does do a good job of showing everyday sexisms and how one woman interprets the events around her. I think for both books we can learn that it's okay for feminists to make mistakes and not be perfectly feminist-y; that standing up against sexism isn't always clearcut and can be very difficult; and that many events in our lives are actually subtle sexism. I also loved the way Caitlin treated childbirth in this book.

I've also written about Bossypants and How to Be a Woman here.

Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts - So this book is pure history. And sometimes that can be kind of dry and hard to get through. But also, the lives of these women are FASCINATING. As feminists, it is important that we try to rewrite history with the women included. As it is right now, history is dominated by male figures, and the women are completely ignored. But women existed! We can't just assume that they were all gossiping and sewing, completely ignorant to what was going on outside of the sphere of the home. This book shows that women played an important part in founding the country, from Eliza Lucas who single-handedly made indigo a cash crop in the South to Mercy Warren who greatly inspired the rebellion against England through plays and poetry. Without women, we wouldn't have this country, even if they weren't always on the battlefront. We need to remember that.

Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists edited by Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan -
This book is a collection of essays by different feminists describing the moment when feminism "clicked" for them. Men and women from all different kinds of backgrounds discuss the parts of their lives that lead them to embracing the label of "feminism." They discuss what they do and don't like about the feminist movement as a whole. They explore what being a woman means to them, the female figures in their lives, and their personal stake within feminism. I think it's a great read because sometimes emerging feminists can get anxiety over the fact that their origins in feminism were for selfish reasons. We don't always think about rape victims or child brides in developing countries. We generally start out with rejecting the sexism that immediately affects us. And that's okay. I do think it is important to have a kind of selfish stake in feminism, as well as being aware that it extends beyond you to all the other women in the world.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg - This book has been pretty famous this year. Sheryl Sandberg is currently the COO of Facebook, which is HUGE. I absolutely love Facebook, by the way. But she's also an awesome person because she's helping to shatter the glass ceiling in the tech industry, as well as by being high-up administrator. Lean In discusses the reason why women now outnumber men in terms of college graduates, but still are not CEOs or very high up in business hierarchies. What I liked about this book is that it discussed societal issues, but also had some practical solutions for women (and men) to do. It made me feel very empowered, especially since I had just started my new job when I read it. Again, this book has been criticized for being "white" feminism. Most women in this country aren't even in a position to take Sandberg's advice of Leaning In. I guess I'm technically not either since I'm in an entry-level position. But I would absolutely recommend it for any working woman.

Summer is over! Looking back at these books, I've realized that they are all pretty ... white. Click is the only exception, but even then I believe it was dominated by white women with a few great chapters by women of color.

I do have a good reason for this, though! I was actually halfway through Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan (see! Not just white women) when I got distracted by the Game of Thrones books. Can you really blame me for getting sucked into those???

Next time I do a feminist reading stint, I'll make sure to include more women of color.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Smashing Arguments Against OW Part I

So hey everyone. Sorry I haven't posted in a while. To tell you the truth, my sister actually found my blog. I'm not open about this blog because, honestly, being a Mormon feminist is difficult. She didn't really approve, confirming the need for me to be discreet.

But the thing is, I'm a writer and I'm opinionated and passionate. I have lots of feelings and I cope with them by writing them out.

There's been a lot of fuss among Mormons on the Internet lately about Ordain Women. The leaders of OW decided to bring more attention to their cause by hosting an event where they wait in line at the Priesthood session of this October's General Conference. This is because women have never been allowed into the session before, despite it being broadcast and shared publicly after the event. Also, because they see themselves as future priesthood holders. You can read more about the event here. And probably some other locations.

Of course, many Mormons are in an uproar against this. They've flocked to Facebook to tell OW and Mormon feminists how unrighteous and wrong we are. And I'm getting really sick of it. First of all, they are being extremely rude, divisive, and not at all Christlike. Which is pretty ironic considering that they're calling us "apostates." But also, their arguments are completely illogical, offensive, and just plain wrong. 

So I've decided to tear apart some of these awful arguments, one blog post at a time. (I should probably preface this by saying that while I have no interest in obtaining the priesthood for myself, I support the efforts of OW and find it absolutely ridiculous that people are so vehemently against it. I mean really, why can't we even entertain the notion?)

Here's the first argument I've been hearing: 

"If women get the priesthood, they will have no need for men. Women shouldn't get the priesthood because they should depend on men."

These are two different arguments, but they essentially amount to the same idea. Women should need men and if they have the priesthood, they won't. 

This argument is wrong for a few different reasons. I'm sure if the people making this argument really thought it through, they would realize how illogical it is. 

The idea that women wouldn't need men would supposedly have two manifestations:
  1. Wives wouldn't need men in their marriage or as a father to their children. 
  2. Women wouldn't need men to help run the Church.
The problem with #1 is that women do not marry men for their priesthood. Women marry men because they love them. Women and men complement each other not because one is a priesthood holder while the other is a nurturer, but because they are both individuals with unique attributes. 

I'm gonna use my marriage as an example because that's what I've got. My husband and I complement each other in many ways. One of them is that I tend to get passionate and angry much more easily than he does. He's more even-tempered. Neither of those attributes have to do with our sex - come on, guys, we've all seen hot-tempered men and women! 

The other issue with #1 is that most women in the world aren't married to men who hold the priesthood. Even many LDS women have husbands that have never been members or are inactive. Most of those women still need their husbands, even though they don't hold the priesthood. They still have very happy, functional marriages. 

This is also a very sad argument to me. I really hope the women (and men) who use this argument as a reason why women shouldn't receive the priesthood don't really mean it. They may not realize it, but when people use this argument, it makes it sound like the only reason why they are married is for their husband's priesthood authority. What would happen if their husband became inactive and no longer had his former priesthood authority? Would the wife leave him? And for men who use this argument - do you really want your wife to think of you this way? Do you really want a wife who is spiritually dependent on you, rather than able to have her own spirituality?

Now to #2. Again, an out-of-church comparison makes this one fall apart. The Church is an organization, much like a business. Probably moreso like a business than most other churches. And businesses all function with both men and women. Sometimes women are the bosses and the authority figures, often the men are. Either way, businesses absolutely need people of both sexes to help it run to its best capacity. 

If women were to be ordained in the future, men would not be kicked out of the Church. They would not stand around with nothing to do while women covered everything. Men and women would work together, both holding about half of the callings, doing half of the work, and having half of the authority.  

Essentially what this argument amounts to for me is "woman, know thy place." 

I have no problem with a member of the Church believing that women are not meant to receive the priesthood at this time, or ever. However, there are absolutely no good arguments against it. I'm okay with anyone who thinks that we just have to trust in the Lord, but I'm not okay with anyone who does any sort of mental gymnastics in an attempt to come up with any sort of reason for why women don't and never should have the priesthood. 

I had an uncle-in-law who simply and authoritatively said to me "not gonna happen" when I told him about the existence of OW. It annoyed me that he said it that way, but I also appreciated that he didn't have any sort of argument against it.

I repeat: We don't currently know why women don't have the priesthood. That is something Heavenly Father has never revealed to us. Therefore, there is no good argument against it other than "it just is."

I hope you can appreciate that and understand that. If not, well, then, even though it is tough to be a Mormon feminist, I have pretty thick skin.