Thursday, October 31, 2013

saint franken: a halloween story

ruby, cecily, & rose

cecily, aka mini-me, aka princess bubblegum, has written a terrific halloween story.  hope you enjoy! and have a great halloween night.


Saint Franken
by
Cecily Asplund

Saint franken paced around his room wondering the same thing over and over again: ”What am I gonna’ be for Halloween!?”

You’re probably thinking it would be easy to think of a Halloween costume, but Franken was a Stein and you know, Steins live forever. So Franken was stuck in this dilemma every year on the day before Halloween.

His sister Emma walked in carrying her costume-a red cape and basket full of goodies--you can tell who she was being. “You could be yourself. I’m sure you’d scare all the kids away!” she squeaked.

“Why you little--” Frank was interrupted by the sudden thought--What am I gonna’ be??
He sat down on his swivel chair and thought some more. Would I really scare the kids? he wondered.

He picked up the piece of broken glass he used for a mirror. He saw that same scar across his forehead, and an almost green undertone to his skin. It seemed like his green undertone only grew greener and greener every month.

“Time for dinner!” his mother called out from the kitchen. He climbed down the stairs and sat down to the table.

“What is this?” he questioned.

“Umm, turkey roast, why?” his mom asked.

“It doesn’t look like turkey roast, ” Frank replied.

“Hmm.” his mom said. They blessed the food and started digging in.

“Wait, what did you say?” Frank asked in disgust.

“I said, please bless the oozing crushed souls and eyeball salad,” his mom said, dishing herself up a big helping.

“Wha??” Frank murmured.

“I said, please bless the nutritious turkey roast and veggie salad.”
That made much more sense to Frank. He poked his fork into the-crushed souls? Eyeball salad? No. This couldn’t be true! Frank blinked and he saw his turkey roast. He blinked again and saw the souls and eyeballs, but well...they looked sort of appealing. Actually really appealing--especially the souls. So, he stuck his fork in and took a bite.

“First time i’ve ever seen you eat my crushed souls.” His mom said in a surprised tone.

“Hmm?” Frank mumbled looking up at his mom.

“I said, ‘First time i’ve ever seen you eat my turkey roast,’” she repeated.

“Ohh.” Frank replied.

That night, Frank forgot about his Halloween costume and thought about the incident at dinnertime. He fell sound asleep and woke up at midnight-his face looking as if he had spray painted it green, and his scar even broader than before.

“WHERE ARE MY SOULS!?!?” he found himself yelling.

He crashed out of the window, into the shed and took out his father’s biggest axe. His mouth watered at the the thought of dead souls. He made hungry growls and stomped over to the neighbor’s house. He pounded their door open with his axe and stormed into the little boy’s room. He roared in the boy’s face and the boy’s pale screaming soul came floating into Frankenstein’s hands.

He chomped up the soul and repeated the same steps throughout the neighborhood. Soon he was found stomping around eating everyone’s souls throughout the town.

You can still find him stomping through the forest with the rusty axe in his hand and his mouth wide open.   


Thursday, October 17, 2013

i vowed and vowed and vowed and vowed

my dream costume

all during the months of august, september, and october of 2013

not to get up in the internet's grill about feminism,

mormonism, and all that fraught hot mess.

then i did.

&

it was painful. as i had feared.

&

i'm now in recovery mode.

&

***

so, i'm now going to turn to something that just brings me pure pleasure:

my dream halloween costume.

every year i think to myself:

"lara, next year, surely, you're going to sell a screenplay or get an nea grant, so you can afford to have this snow white's wicked step mother costume custom made. in really expensive fabric.  and it will fit perfectly, ensuring that you never gain weight (because it was so expensive), so you can wear it every halloween until you die.  and maybe even be buried in it."

wouldn't it look great on both a live body and a corpse?

i'm still waiting.

***


i give you the first three stanza's, which i made into a prose poem just for fun, of anne "sexton's snow white and the seven dwarves".  click on the link if you want all nine stanzas plus line breaks (i didn't find them all that useful, personally.)


sexton looking very sextonish


No matter what life you lead the virgin is a lovely number: cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper, arms and legs made of Limoges, lips like Vin Du Rhône, rolling her china-blue doll eyes open and shut. Open to say, Good Day Mama, and shut for the thrust of the unicorn. She is unsoiled. She is as white as a bonefish. Once there was a lovely virgin called Snow White. Say she was thirteen. Her stepmother, a beauty in her own right, though eaten, of course, by age, would hear of no beauty surpassing her own. Beauty is a simple passion, but, oh my friends, in the end you will dance the fire dance in iron shoes. The stepmother had a mirror to which she referred-- something like the weather forecast-- a mirror that proclaimed the one beauty of the land. She would ask, Looking glass upon the wall, who is fairest of us all? And the mirror would reply, You are the fairest of us all. Pride pumped in her like poison. Suddenly one day the mirror replied, Queen, you are full fair, 'tis true, but Snow White is fairer than you. Until that moment Snow White had been no more important than a dust mouse under the bed. But now the queen saw brown spots on her hand and four whiskers over her lip so she condemned Snow White to be hacked to death. Bring me her heart, she said to the hunter, and I will salt it and eat it. The hunter, however, let his prisoner go and brought a boar's heart back to the castle. The queen chewed it up like a cube steak. Now I am fairest, she said, lapping her slim white fingers. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bystanding: Confession & Apology


The firs LDS Relief Society presidency.


All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I it" relationship for an "I thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness?”

“I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”                                                   

 --Martin Luther King  A Letter from Birmingham Jail


Ordain Women on their way to ask for admittance to LDS General Priesthood Session.


This weekend, I stood by while a group of brave women showed up in Salt Lake City to request entrance to the all-male priesthood session.  Though the women and allies of Ordain Women were denied access to the meeting, their actions definitively shaped the discourse of the October 2013 sessions of The LDS Church General Conference. Concerns about gender roles, and especially the roles of women,  were addressed in each session.  


The talks about women continued in the beloved and much defended Mormon tradition of benevolent sexism.   (Despite complaints by those who feel this stereotyping and limiting of Mormon women is damaging and offensive.)


These sermons were delivered by all men and only one woman.


None of the speakers, however, answered the main question asked directly by OW: will you pray for revelation about female ordination? Speakers fell back on explanations that were neither fully reasonable nor fully evidence based, even in the documents of our own history and scripture.  Some of the questions I wish we could talk about more explicitly and accurately include: 

1.

Why was female ordination revoked (there was no acknowledgment in the meeting that early female ordination existed, despite the fact that anyone who can Google can discover this fact.) Instead, there was a tacit implication in several talks that the priesthood has always been held only by men.  I believe the wording was deliberately carefully vague in order to avoid statements that might later be challenged by facts of history.  Nonetheless, the implication that priesthood has only ever been held by men hung over the conference without explanation or evidence-based backing.


Where is the sin in asking for and expecting transparent, fully truthful explanations?  If the answer around female ordination is, “we really don’t know right now,” tell us.  If the answer is, “We believe Joseph Smith was wrong to allow women to ask him to start the Relief Society/receive revelation/inquire of the Lord about Word of Wisdom, etc.,” tell us.  If the answer is, “We think female ordination in the early days was different from female ordination now,” say that.  If the answer is, “It says here that only men should hold the priesthood.  We are going with that scripture rather than this scripture here for X, Y, and Z reasons,” please tell us.  If the answer is, “We don’t yet know how to address female ordination in a global church that we are only beginning to understand,” why not just say that?

Parsing words and being opaque can make listeners feel there is a need to cover up or hide.  Transparency shows confidence and belief in what you are saying.  On the part of members of the church, asking for clarity from God, leaders, or in discussion with other members implies that you care, that you want to know—how is this a sin?  We should not be afraid to ask, and we should be answered with full transparency.

2.

Peoples of African descent (and their allies) asked the same question before 1978: will you inquire of the Lord for revelation concerning ordination for all worthy men?  Why were the priesthood privileges of men of sub-Saharan African descent revoked and then subsequently restored?  The revelation to restore priesthood to all worthy men occurred upon many petitions by Mormons concerned about equality to the prophets David O. Mckay and Spencer W. Kimball.  Members of the LDS Church asked McKay, and then Kimball, to inquire of God about this racist practice. Though priesthood privileges have been restored to "all worthy men," there has been no subsequent apology or explanation for why this racist practice was part of our church for so long.

In the October 2013 conference, we heard that the priesthood is God’s priesthood to be restored or bestowed when and where God wants it to be.  What is the difference between the restoration of the priesthood to all worthy men and what Mormons concerned about sexism in the church are requesting right now?  Why was it seemingly okay to ask about that, but not about this?  Why were African-American men able to "get a meeting" with the First Presidency while women have not been able to "get a meeting" about female ordination despite decades of petitioning?

3.

What is our common definition of equality, and do Mormons really believe in equality? Do we agree on the definition of the word “equality” contained in the dictionary, basically:   “Being equal in status, rights, and opportunities?” If the answer is yes, we all agree on this definition, then we need to admit that our church is okay with inequality, and we need to explain why. 

In fact, I think we need to acknowledge that equality is not our primary goal, that it is secondary to other purposes, such as our belief that enacting separate gender roles is important to preserving order on earth and in the church.  9 and 1 are not equal.  They are different numbers, and they have different roles in different equations.  By definition, equal means same or exact in terms of quantity.  This fact of equality is quantitative.  Most discussion of gender roles in the LDS cosmology addresses qualitative issues.  Qualitative issues can not replace quantitative in discussions of equality. In true equality, both the quantity and quality of opportunity, status, and rights have to be the same, not 9 and 1, but 1 and 1, or 9 and 9 .  

Or am I misunderstanding the definition of "equal"? (As opposed to the "feeling" of equality.)

Most people who lived through “separate but equal” have agreed that there is no such thing as "separate but equal."  Dr. King says, “Segregation is morally wrong and sinful.” As a church, though, we continue to hold on to this notion of “separate but equal," without a fully articulated defense of how “separate but equal,"  in the case of gender, operates as simply “equal" in the case of the LDS church. "Separate but equal" is the main rebuttal I've heard given over and over again by those who do not believe inequality exists in the Mormon church.  I want to know how those holding this view believe that "separate but equal" can work in some spheres and not in others.

If you are white and you don't feel discriminated against, you can't claim there is no racism.  Personal experience can't determine whether  equality exists in a system or institution.  Only weighing and measuring can accurately tell us whether or not equality exists in any particular realm.

Private institutions have the right to determine how much equality they will enact, and individuals have a right to participate or not participate.  I mostly wish we could be more honest about how much we value equality in our religion.  If we feel it is less important than other concerns and purposes, we should admit that and explain why, not continue to claim, against reason, that there is no inequality in our organization.

***

For months I’ve been trying to work out why I continue to be a bystander on this issue of female ordination.  For months I’ve been feeling guilty for acting like (and being) the “white moderate” Dr. King talks about, the one who is worse than the out and out bigot, the one who has an investment in the status quo and therefore upholds the status quo, the one who covers up the ugly boil of injustice so it cannot heal in open air. 

Why did I not speak out and show up at the OW event?

1.  

I’m tired and scared.  On a daily basis, the balancing act of children, work, and church leaves me feeling like I could fall off the tightrope at any moment if anything tips slightly or goes even slightly awry.  Maybe I felt like I couldn’t take the emotional fall-out of involvement in such an event—an event that would surely take a large emotional toll on my psyche.  The difficulty of living in an all-Mormon community when I have such strong objection to inequality takes a daily toll on me.  The pain of misunderstandings and differences with the most beloved people in my life, all Mormons, is something hard to explain to those who say, sometimes in honest bewilderment and sometimes in angry callousness:  “Then why don’t you just leave?”
Beginning in my teen years, I was upset about inequalities for women in the church, and was shut down by mansplainers in leadership meetings when I raised issues of sexism and gender discrimination in the youth organization.  I watched my feisty Laurel teacher also get shut down when she tried to defend me. Eventually, I stopped talking, at least publicly. 

I suppose I wasn’t sure I could take the shut down one more time. 

2. 

I’m conflicted about ordination.  Let me be clear:  I am not at all conflicted about the righteous act of questioning and inquiring of the Lord and our leaders for clarification on issues we don’t understand or want further light and revelation on.  I am in full solidarity with the women who attempted to attend priesthood on Saturday, October 5th 2013.  I believe the act of doubting, questioning, and searching for answers is following the model Joseph Smith set forth when he received his first revelation, and then subsequently organized the church to allow for a hybrid theocratic and democratic institution.

I am conflicted about what priesthood is, what it means to hold it, and about my personal connection to it.  What would it look like to ask a sister or mother to give me a blessing?  I can’t even imagine.  And perhaps because I have a more ecumenical notion of worthiness, I don’t want to think that some of my sisters are more worthy to bless me than others simply because they have followed a checklist of church and temple attendance, adherence to word of wisdom and tithe paying, and have been ordained.  Many of the sisters I know who bless me the most are not “worthy.”  They are not and have never been Mormon, or they are what we call “apostate”.   The sisters who seem most worthy to me are those who bless others because of their goodness, tolerance, wisdom and love.  Some of the best women I know would be worthy to hold the priesthood, and some wouldn’t. In short, I don’t place priesthood power above the power of good behavior, whether or not you drink a cup of coffee in the morning. 

3.

I still haven’t worked out the whole gender roles thing.  Being of the generation of second wave feminists, the generation who is feeling around in the dark for how to enact a more equal society, I feel quite muddled at times.  I was raised in a very traditional household, and I am myself a rather traditionally hetero-normative woman.  I like to cook and be home with my children (I also hate to clean, decorate, and craft), to wear heels and lipstick, and I love my career.  I have loved receiving priesthood blessings from my father and husband.  I have loved praying with my children when they can’t fall asleep at night because they are afraid, or when they are hurt or sick.  And that act does indeed feel separate but equal to me.  

We are a family of women’s college alumna and attendees (currently three alumna from Mills College, Barnard and Sarah Lawrence –after it was made coed, however--and one attendee at Bryn Mawr).  I value homo-sociality, perhaps more than most, and am not sure how this fits with priesthood and relief society respectively. 

Women of the first Relief Society.

Although I suppose Relief Society is no longer truly homo-social as, unlike at its inception and continuing through the 1960’s, it was when it was administered by a female leadership. 

And, contrary to popular belief, men ARE invited to the General Relief Society (they preside over and speak at this meeting, and a few random guys were coming in and out during the session I attended at our Stake Center. There were no female ushers there to tell them, “This meeting is for women only.”)

Finally, I’ve always loved the sound of words containing the suffix “-ess” and have been only too happy to reclaim this diminutive as an act of feminism:  poetess, authoress, speakeress, etc.  Being a “priestess” just appeals to me more than being a boring old “priest.”  I suppose I would rather have my own thing than borrowing his thing. 

(And by thing, I don’t mean to imply any(thing) in the Shakespearean sense.  By thing, what I mean is no(thing).)


Women leaving the LDS Tabernacle after being denied entrance to the Priesthood Session.

4. 

  
 I adamantly support the right for a Mormon woman to choose whether or not she can be a priesthood holder.  Equality means equal access.  Period.  If women cannot make their own free choices, if their choices are dictated by an all-male leadership, then it follows that they are not equal in “status, rights, and opportunities.” 

This is a denotative fact. 

The end. 

To continue our current paradigm of what Mormons call “ gender equality” is to say something along the lines of what Victorian men said about female superiority in the 1800's:  “Sisters, you are better than us, and therefore we need to make decisions for you in order to make up for our inferiority to you.”  Holding women on a pedestal is not the same thing as equality, although this is a popular argument used against those who hold that there is gender inequality in the church. 

Popularity does not equal truth, though Ruth Todd, spokesperson for the LDS church, used this as one of her main defenses when asked about the OW movement when she said in her official statement:

"Millions of women in this church do not share the views of this small group who organized today's protest, and most church members would see such efforts as divisive.”

Those who listen to General Conference each April and October will remember that we hear a “popularity does not make it right” sermon at least twice in every session.  

When is this reasoning correct and when is it incorrect?  Can the same flawed reasoning be used in correct and incorrect ways?

5.

I am deeply concerned with the disenfranchisement and exclusion of Mormon women from the leadership of the church.  I am one hundred percent sure that we would have a stronger organization if our leadership was split equally between men and women. 
I’m not sure this can happen unless women can be ordained.  We heard in October 2013 Conference that women have a special role in the lives of children.  The lives of Mormon children are shaped by decisions made by the church leadership.  Having a female primary leadership does not cover the gamut of decisions being made for and about Mormon children.  If we really believe that “working with children” is a special dispensation for women, then we need women working in every single capacity of LDS administration, because every capacity of the church affects our children. 

Today, the Monday after my sisters were turned away, shunned, and dismissed. My daughter Eva was there, holding a card for her sister Ingrid, who has never, ever been afraid to speak out against inequality and oppression.  

Today, I’m relieved I didn’t attend.  

I still don’t know how long it would have taken me to recover. 

And, today: 

I’m sad and ashamed that I didn’t attend. 

I wish I had been strong enough to stand up with my sisters.  

I’m sorry that I didn’t. 

This is my apology, and my timid attempt to continue the discussion around equality in the Mormon Church.


p.s.--

I am thrilled to hear opposing viewpoints, especially ones that use sound reasoning and evidence, are thoughtful, seek greater understanding, and are nuanced.  However, you should, before posting your rebuttals, read this list of reasons that I've already researched, considered, and discarded.  If you don't have a fresher or more nuanced perspective to offer in rebuttal than the ten reasons in this post that I've heard hundreds and hundreds of times without being convinced, you may not be able to convince me now with those same reasons.  

I will however, cherish every kindly and sincere attempt at dialogue and understanding, whether or not we agree!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

cook-crastination & other forms of delay

a suggested tight to wear to the opening of BLACK LACE BBQ

eva came up with a brilliant term for a phenomenon i've been undergoing for years, but didn't have a name for:

cook-crastination.

it's when you have a pressing deadline, so you decide

instead of working on, say, a job application, a grant proposal, a paper, or the laundry,

to plan and cook an elaborate meal.

today i decided to work on creating a barbecue sauce recipe. i don't know why, because i don't even like bbq that much.  it involved dark chocolate.  the sauce would be called:

L's  Sweet Silky Smoky Spice Sauce

and i planned in my head that i would bottle it up for holiday gifts

and wrap a black lace garter around the top.

because it would TOTALLY go with my new restaurant concept (also conceived today):

Black Lace BBQ

The sauces would involve dark chocolate and smoked chiles, kind of mole-esque, and the rubs would be made with cocoa and chile.

The mac n' cheese would be sexy.  Silky Golden Orr Mac.  The mashed potatoes rich and creamy.  Of course there would be lava cakes.

The servers would be sexy.  Of all shapes, ages, sizes and orientations.  In tight jeans and sexy aprons. Black lace.

As if in New Yorker's fantasy about eating BBQ in the country, lickin' sauce off a hot person's fingers.

Maybe in Texas.

Probably Texas.

And when they show up at Black Lace BBQ, they're like:

this is way better than my fantasy. 

Everyone's hot!  And wearing Black!  And sexy boots.

Everyone's feeding each other ribs and licking sauce off each other's fingers!


lemon ricotta crepes


***

and rather than finish my reading of romantic poets today (why are there so many romantic poets, and why do i have to read so many defences of poetry written by them? and why do they tire and annoy me so?  and fill me with such dread?  i've decided it's because they're so damned anxious about their reveries, reputations, and readers.)

i also:

-online shop-crastinated

-blog-crastinated

-wiki-crastinated

-envied-other-poets-by-checking-out-their-bios-and-websites-crastinated

-onlinechat-crastinated-with-julie

-plan-crastinated (this is my worst habit:  i thought about:: my new puppet opera, various grants i should write, a hand-made book series i want to write, starting a restaurant, a new screen play, and a radio show i would produce, create and host.  that's just for starters.)

now i'm off to cook-crastinate by making dessert crepes with lemon ricotta filling and fresh peaches. because it's the end of peach season.

so i have to do things with peaches now.

legwear:


my legwear of choice for fall '13
i only have one viable pair of tights from last season.  heather belnap jensen gave me a beautiful pair of sky blue tights i was saving to wear when it got cold enough, but they were kidnapped by lula.  i haven't seen them since.

it's time to find some fall tights.

i'm wondering if tights will even be a thing this year.

and dreading the day when, as in the early zeroes, bare legs, even in winter, were your only possible option.

also, i'm wearing a pair of wine-colored velvet cords from the gap a lot lately.  they're stretchy, skinny, and tights-esque.

p.s.  i'm so glad it's october.  my favorite month:

by T.E. Hulme

A touch of cold in the Autumn night—
I walked abroad,
And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge
Like a red-faced farmer.
I did not stop to speak, but nodded,
And round about were the wistful stars
With white faces like town children.






Wednesday, September 25, 2013

ladies, step up and out!

i always love these twenties flapper shoes like grandma eva wore
yesterday i wore tights for the first time since last spring.

i pulled on a pair of last season's tights (cranberry colored) under a dress that is now three seasons old--a grey sort of shift type thing that has seen better days.

i had two simultaneous thoughts:  1) i'm not ready for tights! and 2) i miss blogging.

i thought about starting a brand new blog--and why not?  

it still might happen.

but at least for today, i'll stick with the trusty old girls in tights blog.

it's gloomy out today, in a beautiful way, and the mountains are just barely turning their fall colors.  at the advice of my daughter, i wrapped in a quilt and sat on the back porch in the middle of the day and just looked at the mountains.  she told me to say out loud, "there is a rhythm and flow to life, and i am part of it."  i did what she told me to do, and it made me feel a lot better.

did i mention the part where i was feeling super crappy today?  

well, no one wants to hear about that old thing.

but, i was having a bit of a melt down.  

the kind that a daughter shouldn't have to witness in her trusty ol' mother, but she got me through it.  

so one thing i can't feel crappy about today is my wise daughter.  

and all the wise ladies i know.

i had already reached out to my baby sister.  actually, i was about to call her when she called me instead.  she always makes me feel better.

as i thought about who i could turn to for support, so many women came to mind.  

it's a stale line, but it's true.  and until i come up with a fresh line, i'll just have to use this one again:

i feel so grateful for the amazing women in my life.  

the lack i was feeling today began to fill with daughters, sisters, aunts, and mothers. 

i simply can't wallow in the face of such feminine, goddessy richness.

***

there's a lot of lady times stuff going down in my neck of the woods:

1) the ordain women action taking place a week from saturday.  a lot of hateful chatter is darkening the internets right now, relating to the ordination discussion.  this makes me sad.  but it also shows that this topic needs addressing.  by everyone.  no matter what your opinion is on the subject.  if someone in our midst wants to talk.  if anyone in our midst wants to talk, of high or low profile, of any walk of life or "worthiness" as determined by our ill-bestowed judgements about other folks's moral purity, it is our sacred duty and obligation to listen and respond with thoughtful, kind, and sincere reply.

my other wise daughter, ingrid, who has actual professional training in direct action, told me something like, "it's a really bad sign when you get NO reaction to your work.  it's a better sign if you get a lot of blowback."  so, i'm hoping the discussion will continue, but that it will get smarter, more nuanced, and more productive.  i hope with every fiber of my being  (that's more utah church-speak, in case you're not familiar) that shaming, judging, and name-calling will have no part in mormon sisterhood.  that behavior is shameful and harmful to us all, as a self-proclaimed body of christ.

if we're gonna talk that much talk, mormon people, we better get right on up and walk the walk.  i'm not seeing that happening right now.

i have many feelings on this ordination subject, but i still haven't figured out the right time and place and way and venue to talk about them.  i don't even know exactly what i want to say.  

sadly, i don't feel all that safe discussing these things in a public forum, and i'm pretty sure i'm not the only one.  

in the meantime, this is the most important thing to me right now, and the thing i feel most sure about:

mormon ladies, give your sisters a safe place to talk.  if we don't feel safe airing our questions, doubts, struggles, etc. in the sistership of church, then where?  i've known too many women, starting from the time i was thirteen years old, who leftthefold (that's mo-speak, too) because they were judged, shamed or criticized for having the wrong something or other:  skirt length, body type, mannerism, make-up, piercings, marital status, economic status, job or not job, number of children or not children, visual aids, boob job or not boob job, level of household cleanliness, enforcement of dress and grooming standards in offspring, attendance at movies of a certain rating, sexuality, etc.  i've even heard, on a few occasions, horrible, disgusting name calling and labeling at church.  i can't ever forget that, and it makes me not want to speak out even when i know i should.  

it's truly sick.  and not sick as in "rad", sick as in super twisted and wrong. this is a terrible "tradition of our fathers (i.e. mothers)", and we sisters are fostering and continuing it. it makes no sense for us not to be, instead: 


a fluffy bed of down 

or a green pasture for anyone 

who is hurting or questioning to lie down in, 

to rest and repose in

a cool drink of water on a hot day


and i don't mean in the sense that 

"oh, ladies are so much better at empathizing with folks than non-ladies."

i mean it in this way:  ladies need to take a leadership role in making our community a kinder, more open, more transparent, more welcoming, accepting, and safer place.  

and not because we're ladies, but because someone better do it.  why not us?  why not now?

from what i'm witnessing in my daily and weekly church interactions, in the heart of the sometimes twisted heart of the bosom of mormondom that is utah county, there's a crisis looming. we'd better do something fast.  

sister claudia bushman has said in my presence, at least a half dozen times, "the mormon church is a hierarchy, and women can't climb that ladder.  you have to make lateral space for yourself." 

i've never know how to interpret that exactly, but since sister claudia bushman said it, i keep on trying to figure out how to implement her wisdom in my life.  and i figure that making safer, more open spaces for discussion is, for sure, a lateral move, in the best sense.

let's show everyone we know how to talk in a smarter and nicer way.  

this might sound too optimistic, but i honestly think we can create a sea-change in the way dialogue happens in our church, community, culture, neighborhoods, and families.  regardless of where you fall on this issue, what possible harm is there in trying to understand someone else's point of view or feelings?  can empathetic listening ever be a bad thing?  let's change some of the negative actions we sometimes unwittingly adhere to, those unexamined traditions around our "duty" to condemn those we disagree with.  this is a practice that is purely cultural, and can be discarded without a second thought.  it does no practical or spiritual good to anyone.  and we don't need any one of authority to tell us this is the right thing to do.  we already know it. we've known it for years.  we just haven't practiced it widely or well enough.


warm, and with a nod to sherwood forest

2) i'm reading for my ph.d exams scheduled for december 5th.  this has been one of the most exhilarating and enjoyable things i've ever done in my life.  i've never felt so focused or invigorated by my daily work.  it feels like a miracle that i have ten more weeks to revel in poetry.

my google drive is now cluttered with empty folders and documents of new creative and scholarly work i want to do as a result of my reading.   i vowed not to start new projects until after my exams, so i now just entitle empty documents so i can come back to them if they endure the length of my reading months.  

my mantra for the past few months has been, "focus on finishing."  everyone in my life keeps warning me not to start anything new.  i tend to chicken out on the  finishing part of things.  i'm working on that.  

so i got a little off the gender topic there.  what i was going to say is that i'm reading, of course, tons of gender theory, but also my favorite writers, like sappho, harryette mullen, and emily dickinson, to name a very few, and one of the themes of my reading list is gender performance. i'm trying to figure all that out by december 5th.  

but one thing that has really impressed me, though, beyond a shadow of a doubt, as we say in utah church speak, is that more female voices in the world equals a better world.  in fact, more voices from any where we're not hearing from, or hearing enough from, improves the world.  more voices do not diminish the ones already out there, despite the defensive posture human beings almost ALWAYS take when they feel their territory threatened.  a plurality of voices can co-exist.  

can be beautiful.  

we should try it out. 

more lady poets doesn't diminish the work of gentlemen poets.  

more ladies asking questions about the status quo doesn't hurt a thing.  

does it?  if you disagree, tell me, and i'll do my best to listen with an open mind and a soft heart.

but you would think, given some of the over-the-top responses to ladies' questions that i've seen lately, that lady questions are the scariest thing in the entire world.

i would say, not to put too fine a point on it, that questions 

are always the thing that saves the world, 

and right now, 

it seems like we might need a last-minute save.  


who's gonna step up in her milan 2013 fall leg wear?

who's gonna step up? 

ladies?  are we?

i'll leave you with these two poem thoughts, from emily dickinson and harryette mullen, and an urging for us all to pipe down and listen up, 

lest we miss the best and quietest sounds:

I was a Phoebe — nothing more —
A Phoebe — nothing less —
The little note that others dropt
I fitted into place —

I dwelt too low that any seek —
Too shy, that any blame —
A Phoebe makes a little print
Upon the Floors of Fame —


--Emily Dickinson, Poem 1009

Elliptical


BY HARRYETTE MULLEN

They just can’t seem to . . . They should try harder to . . . They ought to be more . . . We all wish they weren’t so . . . They never . . . They always . . . Sometimes they . . . Once in a while they . . . However it is obvious that they . . . Their overall tendency has been . . . The consequences of which have been . . . They don’t appear to understand that . . . If only they would make an effort to . . . But we know how difficult it is for them to . . . Many of them remain unaware of . . . Some who should know better simply refuse to . . . Of course, their perspective has been limited by . . . On the other hand, they obviously feel entitled to . . . Certainly we can’t forget that they . . . Nor can it be denied that they . . . We know that this has had an enormous impact on their . . . Nevertheless their behavior strikes us as . . . Our interactions unfortunately have been . . .

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Abstinence

Author’s Note:  This story is inspired by translucent tights, desert Mormons, half-slips, the taboo of bare legs in religious settings, mobile homes, flimsy shelters, disrepair, trade paperbacks, heat and ironing, boredom and baked goods.



Abstinence


The door of the backyard trailer had been tied open with a fishnet scarf, but that didn’t mean anything more than the girls from church were just hot, and the dad hadn’t yet installed the swamp cooler.  The girls were inside with their Young Women’s advisor, who at the moment, had her head on a stack of Erma Bombeck’s paperbacks, and was beginning to doze off.  
What kind of example was that?
A good example, the advisor thought.  Look at me, taking care of myself.
The cookies they were baking, the girls decided right then, would be for her--their beloved advisor, and not for the needy family whose name they had drawn out of a sock last Sunday at church.  
That was nice of them, the advisor thought, adjusting the books under her, but why had not one of them thought to go into the house for a pillow?   
“If she’s asleep, do we have to open with prayer?”
“Yes,” the advisor said, scaring the girls.
Did the girls really think she would fall asleep, lose all consciousness while they were in her care?  How comfortable did they think these Bombeck books were? Still, the advisor did not move except to pull down her shirt that was riding up.  The skirt, too.  Only halfway on the trailer’s built-in davenport, the weight from her dangling Famolares made her ankles hurt.
There was that song on the radio again, the one that scared the girls.  “Turn it down,” the advisor thought she heard herself say, but wasn’t sure, and then one of them turned the radio all the way off.
See? These girls would be fine.  Already, they could pull cookies out of a hot oven, assemble condiment canisters for future college kitchens.  They knew when to run away, to not look down into the driver’s seat of a car that might pull up next to them, to layer something under all the stringed shirts and wraparound dresses that she’d been seeing at the mall and in  the mail order catalogs.
Someone asked where the bathroom was and the girl whose family owned the trailer  held a batch of cookies with one hand and pointed out the little ceramic sign dangling from the  bathroom door with the other.  “Duh,” she said.
If the advisor had had more energy right then, she would have said something.  The girl latched the bathroom door from the inside. She also would have said this:  “It is not safe to be walking around shoeless in a junky trailer like this.”  
Those pantyhose would not protect you, the advisor thought from the davenport, but she let both things slide.
The girls called them “Nylons.”
“I have a snag in my nylons,” they said.
“My finger went right through a brand new pair.”
“If you have a run in your nylons,” they advised each other, “use a little nail polish.”
“My dad should bring out that thing that will keep us cool,” the girl with the cookies announced to everyone else.  She set the hot pan down on the trailer’s little counter.
And now the girls would have to restrain themselves.  They could have one cookie, but no more.  As usual, the cookies were for others, for service, for people who really suffered in life, while they all these girls had to do right now was kick off their shoes and bake.
The advisor opened her eyes for a moment.  The girls faces were sweaty, but smooth—
no lines, except when they cried during the bearing of their testimonies, or paused with concentration before making a move in the difficult part of a French braid.  
        Soon, there would be a closing prayer, and for this the advisor would sit up, pull herself together, put the book pillow away.  “Those cookies can’t be for me,” she’d have to say, and sternly if needed.  And then she’d have to make sure they got delivered to the chosen family, maybe even driving them over herself,  her broken front door held closed with one leg slashed off a pair of hose, one of the girls beside her—cookies on a disposable plate moved from her lap to the needy family’s trailer stoop, their door fist-pounded just before the girl dashes back breathless to the advisor’s little car.  “They’re coming!” the girl would say, putting her hand over her own pounding heart.  “I heard something move inside.”


--JT