Sunday in Outer Blogness: Responding to women edition!
Womens’ issues continue to be the hot topic in Mormondom this week!
First off, the dust hadn’t even settled on last week’s fiasco when LDS PR chief Michael Otterson decided to explain to Ordain Women (without actually mentioning them by name) the reasons why the CoCJoL-dS will not have a dialog with them. (Also note: faithful members of the CoJCoL-dS are not to have unauthorized dialogs among themselves.) He sparked quite a lot of discussion, allegories, parallels, and mixed reviews. Some problems are quite evident from what Otterson said:
So Otterson is telling Mormon feminists and others that his PR supervisors are all male. Really? And the LDS Church couldnâ€™t have women in this oversight group? If it did, it might not be in its current bind. The overwhelming male dominance in the LDS Church organization/leadership needs to end, with or without women getting the priesthood (preferably with).
It’s a little disturbing to see Ordain Women publicly thanking Otterson for the letter, considering the preemptive passive-aggressivity of it:
Ottersonâ€™s aim in his last few paragraphs is to convince the audience of his text be nice to him: we are not to respond with cynicism, criticism, animosity, or basically, close-reading (the sins of â€œparsing wordsâ€ and â€œstraining at a gnatâ€ have in common an excess of focus). I frankly donâ€™t think these are entirely reasonable demands to make in a public document, especially one that addresses controversial topics. If I find the language or ideas coming out of the church odious, I retain the ethical right to respond with animosity. If something (like this document) strikes me as doing rhetorical work that exceeds its own admission of meaning, I think thoughtful criticism of it is merited. Without being rude, personal, or snarky, one ought to be able nonetheless to disagree rigorously. Civility does not preclude criticism. But beyond these concerns of principle, nothing in this document suggests to me that I will be on the receiving end of the respect and understanding that Otterson requests for himself and his staff.
And the Catholic women are in the same boat…
Another big topic was sparked by misogynistic mass-murderer Elliot Rodger — specifically, people are arguing that by dismissing him as “mentally ill” we’re misrepresenting how common his toxic beliefs are. And so new hashtags were born for women to talk openly about the times they’ve been harassed, abused, and victimized.
In probably-related news, a Utah High School edited students’ yearbook photos for modesty, with a glaring double-standard. And if that’s not enough to scare you away from Mormonism as a teenager, just look what’s in store for you when you hit Relief Society!
This week’s Old Testament lesson was on the importance of making your family stick to the gospel (and about some very weird stuff like golden haemorrhoids), and our Book of Mormon lesson wrapped up last week’s run-on cliffhanger.
In interfaith encounters, a nevermo has been having discussions with some mishies, and a Christian has recommended a whole list of questions that suggest that the CoCJoL-dS is wrong.
Exmormonsunite explained the case for atheism after Mormonism. Thinker of Thoughts discussed the magic of volunteer work as PR. Runtu has posted the ninth installment of his story. And Cheryl L. Bruno reviewed a book about six of the original members of the Mormon Quorum of Twelve Apostles: the six that left the church.
In random stuff, the dogs of the Sidler-Lartey family love their new place in SLC, Knotty has been visiting Europe, and Uomo Nuovo has some entertaining tales from his trip to Europe as well. And we can always use some fun memes!
And for a bit of my own news, this past weekend I had a fantastic party this weekend with the Switzerland post-Mormons! For fun, we like to use the term “Leprechaun” as a code word for “Mormon” — and it turns out that Profet just provided a test so you can tell whether you might be a Leprechaun!!! Coincidence?! Yes, almost certainly. Anyway, my son (whose favorite color is green) was thrilled to discover that he might be one! 😀
I hope you’re having a nice weekend as well!
That OT lesson about hemorrhoids is hysterical! I don’t know if the original story is truly inspired, but the send-up of it certainly is!
Personally, I was worried that Ordain Women would take too much of a second-wave feminism route, and would lose its steam very quickly as a result. For example, back in October, Kate Kelly made the egregious error of pigeonholing prominent Mormon feminists who didn’t agree with Ordain Women’s position as having “a high sense of entitlement [due to] internalized patriarchal beliefs.” This turned off so many people, and the organization began to be seen as a one-woman show.
Thankfully, the focus now seems more “third-wave,” meaning that a thank-you to Otterson is not necessarily self-deprecating. Recently, I’ve seen the name Chieko Okazaki come up a lot (first non-white woman to be a general presidency member of an LDS Church auxiliary organization). A quote from her:
It’s the kind of quieter feminism that still gets the job done, and isn’t so ego-driven. ^_^ And really, the more ego Ordain Women harnesses and makes public, the more they will be thought about as “selfish women” among those who might otherwise start to hear their message.
@1 His whole series is great — have you been following it?
It’s amazing that people can take these Old Testament stories seriously, and study them to try to tease out the profound meaning that they must have for us…
@2 I don’t recall that quote, but it was clearly wrong and understandably off-putting, but I certainly wouldn’t jump from that to “Itâ€™s the kind of quieter feminism that still gets the job done” — nor make a similar mistake by dismissing other feminists as “ego-driven”.
My reason for calling it “disturbing” was not about feminism, but about the bind that people put themselves in when they try to agitate for change within the CoJCoL-dS. To even want the priesthood, you kind of have to believe that the priesthood confers real power, and that it confers real divine insight to the guys at the top (no matter how hard they’re working to prove otherwise).
Otterson’s letter was rambling and passive-aggressive, and although it was clearly directed at Ordain Women, it didn’t even acknowledge the existence of the group. If he were to write a letter like that about the exmos (which maybe he has), I would just blow it off, thinking, “What do you expect from a guy like Otterson?”
But OW doesn’t have that luxury. Their goals are about getting positive acceptance from the guys at the top, and this is the best they’ve gotten. They probably are genuinely grateful. Their ideology basically requires them to take such rotten scraps and reply with “Thank you master, may I have another?” Which disturbs me because I like OW and I want to respect them.
If you want to be in administration in Mormonchurchland, then you need to have the priesthood. That means the men have the real power.
I prefer ” may I have another”, to those who have internalized patriarchal beliefs and say to the man,– go ahead and eat it. You need it more than me.
Actually I’d prefer it if they dumped the rotten scraps of food on the administrator’s head, then took his keys and opened up the pantry. I don’t care who would be turned off at such unsightly behavior, as long as people got to eat.
I think the gratefulness is more like: “I’m grateful to be part of this community despite this ongoing issue. I am grateful that you responded, as problematic as the response is, and I will continue to be patient as I share my personal insight with you and work on this issue.”
As opposed to, “I’m grateful for the rotten scrap you gave me, master.”
In other words, I see Ordain Women as having more integrity than being thankful for accepting rotten scraps, which is what I mean by they’re using a non-ego-driven feminism.
That’s a good interpretation.
Another positive way of looking at it is in terms of the church’s polarization strategy that I discussed last week.
If OW were to respond to Otterson’s pettiness with anger or hostility (or even criticism, really), they would be helping the PR department to paint them as antagonists; as apostates who just want to attack the church. Instead OW chooses to overlook the nastiness and says, “Yes, let’s have a discussion, thanks for starting one with us!” — and then responds to his points with civil, constructive discussion. When the CoJCoL-dS PR department can’t respond to civil dialog with civil dialog (and they’ve amply demonstrated that they can’t…) it becomes glaringly obvious which party is trying to have a constructive dialog and which party is bending over backwards to turn it into a fight.
So, upon reflection, I think Kate Kelly’s strategy is the right way to go.
I haven’t, but I will now.
by and large, they’re so clearly examples of what NOT to do. The amount of time and mental energy required to find viable object lessons for people today is staggering.
So true! The stuff the Lord commands people to do is so arbitrary (Samson is allowed to do anything except allow his hair to get cut?) that it seems the only possible interpretation is that we’re supposed to do whatever we think God says to do, no matter how crazy it may seem.
OTOH, the stories are actually kind of interesting as a window into the mindset into this particular ancient culture. But because people are so used to trying to apply them to our lives somehow, it makes it difficult to discuss them anthropologically, without getting mired in all the baggage.
Yes. That seems to me the primary reason to read them: because you want to understand how people several thousand years ago saw the world and what they did, not because you want to figure out what God wants you to do.