Created: March 8, 2016 17:55pm - Last Modified August 24, 2016 14:19pm
A few nights ago I watched Mad Max: Fury Road and was once again gob-smacked by all the emotions it pulls out of me. On the surface, it's not the kind of movie I would expect to especially like; an action movie with explosions, car chases, and violence. And yet I cried. I turned to my husband and told him how I could write a thesis on why this movie moves me. It's probably silly, but I feel like it revealed some angst-ridden bruise within me that I didn't even know was there.
The Top 10 Reasons Mad Max: Fury Road Gave Me All the FEELZ
So while husband slumbered beside me, I stayed up late, sloppily typing out my jumbled thoughts onto my iPhone in the dark. Here they are, translated into something legible. And oh yeah, SPOILER ALERT.
1. When Max doubles back to take out some bad guys, he tells the women to go on without him if he doesn't get back in time. Just as he does when he allows Furiosa to take the last shot, he doesn't seek to make the story about him, or suppose that they can't make it without him. His sober pragmatism leaves no room for ego, and this makes him a true ally to the women.
2. This movie does not pander to the male gaze. Though there are scantily clad, gorgeous women who are sex slaves, they are not sexualized. There are no titillating sex scenes or slow shots of their bodies or men ogling them. The only naked woman in the movie (and little is shown of her anatomy) is knowingly using her body as bait to entrap possible enemies, effectively flipping the male gaze around and using it as a weapon. The subtext of this movie is clear: the women are not for male consumption.
3. The women turn back to conquer the citadel, the stronghold of their enemy, when it might've made more sense to just ride off into the sunset and leave it all behind. Max warns them that if they cannot fix what is broken, they'll go crazy. I see the citadel as a metaphor for patriarchy. You can't simply run from it. You have to turn and face it because it holds the power. "And because he owns it, he owns all of us."
4. When Furiosa discovers there is no promised Green Land. There is only more struggle. Her silent scream. We must keep fighting. Even still, even after all this, her scream seems to say. A feeling I see echoed in women across the world still struggling for power over their own lives and their own bodies.
5. Immortan Joe, the villain of the movie, does not love or respect his wives. It is what they can do for him that he prizes. Their potential for being perfect vessels for spreading his seed. They are means to an end. Objects. Assets. Meant to multiply his glory. For far too many women, their power to bear children becomes a liability, and they are objectified and de-humanized because of it.
6. When the women are first confronted with Max's presence, they are not scared. They are wary, grim, but determined. Their expressions convey that they are long used to the sort of violence and threat a man can bring into their midst. He presents a risk. Will he take? Will he hurt? But despite not knowing, Furiosa asks for his help. And women do need the help of the men in their lives. With Max by their side, the women are stronger.
7. When the war boy infiltrates their rig and confronts the girls with his aggressive devotion to Immortan Joe, they don't want to kill him. They take pity on him, but they do argue back. Theirs is a perspective born from being close to the Immortan Joe himself, seeing him as just an old man who lies, while the war boy has only ever seen him from a distance as a heroic figure. The girls are quick to challenge his worshipful view. "Look how slick he's fooled you, Warboy."
8. Furiosa has had to play the game of being a pawn in Immortan Joe's army before she has the means to seek her redemption. She learns the rules, she even masters them, so she's perfectly poised to break them. This underscores the importance of females assuming positions of power so they can represent the voices of disenfranchised women.
9. The older women pass on a bag of seeds to the younger women, and it feels like a passing of the torch. To defend and protect those seeds is a hope for peace. They are the nurturers of life. It is a sacred trust that, as women, they uniquely understand.
10. Back to Max. Though he is ostensibly the main protagonist of the movie, he takes a side seat to the character of Furiosa (though at times he takes the wheel as needed, another metaphor for working together.) At the end of the movie, he leaves while she is literally elevated into a position of power having conquered Immortan Joe. He doesn't claim the glory or the girl. There is no romance between them, and I'm someone who loves romance, so imagine my surprise to be so delighted at finding none. They simply nod to each other, silently acknowledging the other as an equal. As a friend. Human to human. This is the most powerful moment of the movie for me, the part that revealed that angsty bruise I didn't know was there. Perhaps because in most action movies, women are treated as the prize men win for saving the day, and to see that cliché thwarted was like glimpsing the Green Land Furiosa so longed to find.
Besides just being entertaining as hell, I feel like this movie wants to say that we're connected. To each other, and to the earth. And you cannot hurt one without hurting all. That if you want the earth, or a woman, to bear your seed, you better damn well treat her right.
WE ARE NOT THINGS.
Happy International Women's Day.
Created: July 2, 2015 12:38pm - Last Modified August 24, 2016 14:19pm
I take the dog out, and can see waves of blurred heat flowing up against the back of our house. Only 9:30 and it is already uncomfortably hot. Not a day I will want to be in the garden, or even at the pool. I make coffee, wipe up stray crumbs, but the table still looks grimy. The boys want to play outside, and I tell them as I always do to stay where they can see the house. Don't play in the street. I ought to be able to relax when they're out of my hair, but I can't. When they're out there, anxiety is like that mysterious buzz of electrical sound that you can't place or ignore and it's probably just a light bulb or the fridge, and you wonder if you're just noticing it now or if it's always been there.
I bring coffee to my husband. I make breakfast. The boys play at the neighbors, and eventually I bring them home, putting off their demands for pancakes because I just cooked. And it's hot, and I don't want to cook again already over a hot griddle.
They want to play on the computers. Their lives seem to be lived in two modes: being on the computer or wanting to be on the computer. Peace is just a power button away. But I resist giving in. I must. That's what good moms do.
But I would like to be a good writer today who isn't interrupted by squabbles over imaginary gun battles, or the repetitive snack request. I would like for my space, my time, my attention, to be a well appointed cavern that is cool and dark, where no one can find me, and where I can't hear anything past the noise of the waterfall my cavern is hidden behind. Maybe dappled sunlight comes though the waterfall in a dance of light and color, and maybe I'll allow my dog to be there, because she'll ask for very little except to curl up on my lap and sleep. And when all the circumstances are just so, I'll write something so brilliant, so true, so lovely as to make you weep.
Satisfied, I'll go make pancakes for the boys.
Created: June 25, 2014 14:39pm - Last Modified August 24, 2016 14:19pm
Kate Kelly, the founder of Ordain Women, was recently excommunicated from the church I was born and raised in. The sad thing about this is she believes in that church a lot more than I do, wanted to belong a lot more than I do, but my name is still on the records and hers is not.
I wasn't a part of Ordain Women because it didn't feel like my fight anymore. But I can't help but sympathize with them as I've watched this controversy go down. I can't help but relive the frustration and disappointment from my own struggle. It's hard for me to turn away and not care.
I think what has gotten under my skin the most is to see the things said, and the blogs posted by members. Most of which I found either illogical, misinformed, sexist, or insensitive. So to my Mormon friends, I'm not going to try to change your minds. But let me at least try to explain why the arguments you throw at Mormon feminists just aren't sticking.
"Feminists just want everyone to be the same."
No, actually, feminists want everyone to be free to be different. To be their authentic selves even when it disagrees with prescribed gender roles.
"If women had the priesthood, men would slack off, and we women would have to do even more. When only men have the priesthood, they are forced to better themselves. Whereas women are born awesome, so we don't need that extra boost like the men do."
This one comes in slightly different variations, but the general theme is always the same. What I hear is that 1) women, stay in your assigned sphere so men can feel useful and strong and 2) men are kind of useless if they aren't micromanaged by the demands of the priesthood. 3) Women couldn't possibly handle being mothers and clergywomen in their church, but somehow men can be fathers and bishops. Demeaning attitudes towards men abound in this argument, even while we're being told that it is feminists who "just hate men."
"Men and women have different strengths. They are just different."
You know what else we are? Unique individuals. Mormon feminists, and feminists in general, ask you to see the individual before their gender. Because not everyone fits perfectly into your black and white stereotypes, and that's okay.
"Men can't have babies, and you don't hear them complaining about it."
Priesthood is not the equivalent of motherhood - fatherhood is, and you downplay its relevance by saying otherwise. Just because a man can't birth a baby doesn't mean a woman shouldn't be a ward clerk or Sunday school president. How does that make sense? Because it kind of sounds like you're reducing women to the function of their biological parts.
"There is already female leadership in the church."
Yeah, there is. But tell the whole truth. They don't have the same governing power as men. In the church, you will find women with titles, and they will be included in important meetings. But at the end of the day it is the men who decide the boundaries of how far their input and opinions will reach. Male leaders are more visible in the church, and their words carry more weight.
"These women need to be proud of being a woman, they should enjoy being feminine. I don't understand why they want to be just like men."
Feminists are the last people I would accuse of not being proud of their own gender. On the contrary, it is their deep sense of self worth and empathy for their fellow women that compels them to speak out. Pointing out ways you feel mistreated and marginalized is not the same as saying you dislike being a woman. And plenty of feminists are feminine, but even if they aren't, so what? Is it a sin now not to like high heels and dresses? And no, there is no penis envy, thank you very much, only the wish for parity.
"These women are just on a power trip."
Firstly, this is just another aspect of sexism that penalizes women for aspiring to power or leadership because it is unbecoming of a sweet little lady under patriarchy. Secondly, it is not just about power. It is about representation, and priesthood holders are what matters and what is counted when funds are being distributed and big decisions are being made. One example: My friend lived in St. Kitts, and only one room in their small chapel had AC, and the men decided to use that room for all three hours because they reasoned they were hotter in their suits. When the branch asked for money to extend the AC to the other rooms where the women and children met, they were told there weren't enough priesthood holders in their small branch to qualify for any more funds. Even though they outnumber the men, the women and children DO NOT COUNT. In other removed corners of the world, women are dependent on the presence of men to administrate, even though the women are capable and largely outnumber the men. Even though the surrounding society may produce men who are blatantly sexist, women better qualified to be spiritual leaders will be passed over. It is short sighted to say these women only want power. And if the priesthood is about service rather than power, wouldn't it be more accurate to say these women desire to serve in the same capacity men do, particularly when there are no men present to do the job? That doesn't sound bad to me.
"These women are a small minority who don't represent the majority of the women in the church."
Here is a great response to that particular argument. If you don't want to read the whole thing, here's the most pertinent point: "...the next time you're tempted to discount-well, anyone-because they're not in the majority, I encourage you to remember that as a Mormon, you're a pretty significant minority yourself."
"The blessings of the priesthood are available to all through the nearest worthy male."
Welcome to learning how to be the neck that turns the head, also known as being co-dependent. Remember this later when you're accused of being a controlling nag, passive aggressive, over-emotional, manipulative, or needy. All symptoms of a woman who has been raised to think power and authority reside outside of herself. To put it plainly, this is an unhealthy mindset to foist onto women.
"This church is not ruled by men. It is ruled by God. The order of the church is God's will."
When the Mormon church was founded, women could not vote. They could not own property if they were married. The idea was that men were responsible for women, and voted on their behalf. Women were like children, dependents to their husband. A man could be held responsible if his wife did something illegal because he was considered her legal guardian. It was called feme covert. It was a commonly accepted idea that women were the weaker sex, in not just body, but also mind. Do you really think that mind-set didn't influence the men (and women) who formed the early church? That all the previous history of sexism in Christianity, and in the Bible, did not affect their view of women? You're sure your prophets are totally above the cultural prejudices of their times, is that it? Unless your prophets are infallible, it is possible that they may not always be the perfect middle man between you and the divine. I agree with Rock Waterman, a blogger who is also facing excommunication, when he says, "Male only priesthood is not a doctrine. It is a tradition."
"But Mormon men are so super nice and respectful to women. They dote on us, they cherish us."
Saying that a lot of Mormon men dote on and cherish women isn't enough, true as it may be. You can dote on a child, you can cherish a pet. Treating someone as autonomous, capable, and equal to you requires more than just making sure women have padded chairs and a flower on Mother's day. Making an effort to ask for their input in your predominantly male meetings, where men hold all the administrative power, is not good enough.
"If you don't like it, leave."
In my case, done and done. Unfortunately for some women it is not that simple. They sincerely believe in the gospel even if they feel the organization is imperfectly run. They may have other reasons for staying. Maybe their marriage depends on it, or their kids have to attend because a spouse demands it. Maybe they feel like Mormonism is their tribe, their family, and as imperfect as it may be, you don't abandon family. But keep on telling them to leave, they probably will eventually, and you'll have succeeded in weeding out the undesirables. Congrats! But forgive me if I'm not buying it when you say how inclusive and diverse the church is.
"If you don't believe, then why don't you leave it alone."
Because I care. Because it matters. Because it impacted my life. Because this is a woman's issue, and that interests me. Because I live in a predominantly LDS state, and that dramatically affects my state's politics. Because I am sickened at how quick people are to dismiss a woman who dares to say a contradictory thing against patriarchy. Because carrying patriarchy on into the future is a lost opportunity on the part of the church to challenge deeply embedded sexism across the world.
When you tell me how great you've got it as a woman in the church, chances are good you live in a first world country where the advances of women's rights have benefited you. Chances are good that you've never experienced spiritual or religious abuse at the hands of an all male leadership, felt the powerlessness of that situation. And if you have heard of such a thing happening, you've already dismissed it as an isolated case. And all I'm saying is that it is not an isolated case, it is a symptom of a power imbalance that will continually disenfranchise women and privilege men. Women will continually chafe against it. Women, like me, will continue to leave. This will not go away, every generation of girls born into the church will come up against it. I hope you'll do better for them than the church did for Ordain Women.
Created: November 7, 2013 11:21am - Last Modified August 24, 2016 14:19pm
I'm getting a late start on NANOWRIMO, but I've got a plan, a plot, and a gimmick, so away I go. I'm writing a romance, because that's my jam. If you know me, you're not surprised. =)
I've noticed from my experience in the writing and reading of romance that there are two integral parts to a satisfying love story. If you forgo one or the other, the story will suffer. I'm likening these two parts to honey and wax. The wax is the structure of the beehive, or honeycomb. It's a necessary part to the honey making process. (Listen, this is not an exactly technical metaphor, so don't over think it.) The honey is the liquid gold, the sugar sweet we crave. It's the goal. I notice that when I write romance, I focus a lot on the honey; the sweet parts, the sexy parts. The stolen glances, the butterflies in the stomach, the steamy kisses. Because those are the fun parts to write! So I forget to build my waxy structure of plot, setting, and back story. I ignore all the little worker bees (side characters, sub-plots) who make the honey possible.
And that's a problem because if you've ever read a romance that's all honey, they kind of suck. They might be mindlessly entertaining and fun, or induce a temporary sugar rush. But as with the basket of Halloween candy on top of my fridge, you can only have so much before you feel gross and realize that what you're consuming is cheaply made crap. You realize how unsatisfied you are despite how much you just horked down.
I posed with honey, just for you.
So what then does all honey romance look like? A few examples-
The characters have very little to occupy their time and thoughts besides their intended love interest. They don't have conflicts, goals, or responsibilities outside of their honey boo-boo. Or if they do, they are not given enough weight in the story to compete for our interest. The world of the story seems to revolve around the romantic duo, and all side characters are sucked into this orbit and lose their autonomy. Or one of your characters is too freaking good to be true and achieves little to no character growth in the story. One could call this "Edward Syndrome."
These things are delicious to read, but will induce sugar comatose if not balanced with other details. So...you've been warned...watch out for honey or whatever.
Now stop distracting me. I need to write.
Created: September 17, 2013 18:38pm - Last Modified August 24, 2016 14:19pm
Sunday I let myself do something I usually try to avoid. I commented on one of those facebook threads where you know your differing opinion is going to ruffle some feathers. I'd had too much coffee and was perhaps feeling a tad aggressive. So, typa-typa-typa, enter.......regret. Anxiety. Frustration. Making me late for a family birthday party because my nerves were all frazzled. Why do I let myself get sucked in when I know it makes me feel so yucky? When I know I am very unlikely to change any minds? What can I say, I have a lot of religious friends on my newsfeed, and when something concering women goes viral with them, my blood pressure ususally goes up.
In this case, a friend posted an article written by a blogger who'd heard of an upcoming protest to be staged outside the LDS General Conference. These Mormon Feminist protesters want to be given the priesthood, something that currently only men hold in the LDS church. The blogger was "infuriated" with this news and went on to explain why she did not support these women. I really don't care what this blogger believes, nor am I interested in the doctrinal discourse to be had. What bugged me was her portrayal of what these protesters were all about. Mind you, I don't count myself as a Mormon feminist, but I am sympathetic to their cause as I feel I have been in their shoes at one point in my life. This bloggers piece was rife with straw man arguments and ridiculous leaps in logic. She used the kind of religious rhetoric that has been thrown at women's right movements throughout time: Women have a special role as mothers, why can't they just love being feminine, yada yada yada. Typical and misinformed.
Anyway, the one thing that really stuck out to me in the bloggers piece was the suggestion that the modern feminist movement wants everyone to be the same and doesn't allow or acknowledge that we are different.
I couldn't disagree more. And here's one reason why:
You're confused, but hang with me. Fast forward to later that Sunday evening, and me and my female family members piled into the car to go to the first ever Drag Queen Pageant in Utah County. You'd have to live here to appreciate that this was kind of a ground breaking event for one of the most conservative counties in America.
We got there late, navigated through the crowd till we found some seats. We'd missed most of the show, but got to see a few performances while the judges were tabulating their scores.
A beautiful, latin looking Queen with lucious brown hair and leopard print dress came out on stage and performed to "Who You Are" by Jessie J. (Seriously listen to it above, it's beautiful.) On the stage with her was a small table with a little mirror on top. The performer proceeded to slowly remove their drag costume as they lip sycned to the song. But this was no burlesque strip tease. More like a weary soul shedding the facade one puts on to feel okay, to feel beautiful, to feel accepted. First the gold chain belt, the jewelery, the shoes. Off came the wig, revealing a hair net over closey cropped hair. He pulled out the false booby pads and looked at them with a small shake of his head. When he pulled down the top of his dress it was a little startling to see his nipples, you had to remind yourself his pecs weren't culturally taboo. There was something very raw about his flat, male chest in contrast with his womanly attire. As his dress came off the rest of the way, his hip padding popped out. He pulled off his false eyelashes and tossed them on the table. Stipped of his drag in nothing but boxers, he stretched his arms out wide, as if presenting who he really was behind the ruse. Just a man. He then sat at the table and scrubbed off all his make-up and then hastily pulled on a suit. He was transformed into a clean cut young man you might see on any given Sunday as the music played in the background: "Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing, it's okay not to be okay. Sometimes it's hard to follow your heart. But tears don't mean you're losing, everybodys bruising, there's nothing wrong with who you are."
You couldn't help but be moved by the story his peformance seemed to tell. The bravery it takes for a young man to live his truth, to pursue his interests that are so counter-culture in a place like Utah. He was different, and he was beautiful. He was vulnarable, but courageous. He could be the dapper young man in a suit, or he could be the vixen in leopard and stilettos. Who was the real him? Do we need him to be one or the other to be comfortable, to enjoy his art? Or can we we look past the trappings of gendered window dressings to see the light within?
The morning after the drag queen show, my mind went back to that blog piece I'd been sucked into. The one that suggested that somehow, the cause of equality erases our differences, and ignores our gender indentity. I'll agree that there are real differences between the sexes, obviously. And even I can concede that some stereotypes about men and women can ring true. But if we become fixated on those ideas we risk becoming blind to the individual. We risk sending them the message that they should snuff out there light, buff off their unique edges so they can fit into our mold. There is arrogance in insisting our definition of their gender trumps their own self-determination.
Variations and contrast, the things that surprise us. Hot pink against gray, a flower growing through a crack, or a male nipple behind a leopard dress...that's where you find beauty, that's where you provoke thought. That's where the magic is.
Enforcing prescribed gender roles? Been there, done that, got the t-shirt with cap sleeves.
If I choose to be a mother, credit that to me, not my sex. If I am a good mother who is nurturing and loving, credit that to me, not my gender. If I am intuitive, creative, and thoughtful, credit that to me, not my biological parts. If I am catty and passive aggressive, that's me, not all my female friends. Conversely, if I am none of those things, if I don't want children at all, if you find my attitudes and beliefs to be uncharacteristic and unattractive for a female.....I am no less a woman. No less a capable human being who can contribute wonderful things. I am uniquely me, and I want the freedom and opportunity to be me. To realize my potential, even when it may contradict your expectation of my gender. That's equality.
Whether it's a boy who just wants to put on a dress and lip sync to Celine Dion, or a woman who wants to be part of the clergy in her church, it's not "sameness" they're after. It's freedom to be different.
My advice to traditional Mormons who think these feminist protestors are off-base? Be glad these women still want to fight for their faith. Be glad they still want to stay engaged with your church, rather than just walking away. (Because this here heathen would tell them to do just that.)
"When women start to speak, it'd be nice if you'd realize just how silent they've been instead of complaining how loud they are." -@ferrethimself