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MoFems, Drag Queens, and Musings

Created: September 17, 2013 18:38pm - Last Modified April 22, 2019 04:37am

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:

Drag Queens.

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

Blessed be.



Just Swim

Created: June 19, 2013 15:38pm - Last Modified April 22, 2019 15:58pm

The modesty police have found a new champion. Here's her video being passed around.

First of all, I'd like to acknowledge the reality of many people treating the wearing of a bikini like some triumph to aspire to, as if swim suits are a hierarchy, and if you're in a bikini you've reached the top. I think that's rubbish, and we should knock it off. But on the flip side of that, feeling morally superior to your bikini clad sisters because you wear something "modest" is just another form of vanity, and you should knock that off too.

Her speech starts off benign enough. The evolution of swim apparel has gone from ridiculous to....well, ridiculous according to Ms. Jessica Rey. At about 4:20ish we find out why. A study proving that men are more likely to objectify you in a bikini. So naturally it follows that wearing a bikini actually lessens your claim to power and equality because men won't see you as a full human being. The modesty police feel smug and vindicated. High fives all around.

I find this video ridiculous, as I'm sure you can tell by my snark (prepare yourself for more.) She paints swim suit shopping as this sad wasteland where you must choose between bikinis and grandma suits, and that you are being man handled by society into wearing something itsy bitsy against your will. But in her swim suits you are an individual making a statement, artfully deflecting sexual objectification by men with your retro style! Because when some sexist jerk looks at your Audrey Hepburn inspired one piece he will say, "Dang, I was gonna objectify her and go all caveman, but then the elegant design of her swim suit reminded me that she is a person, worthy of my respect."

Whew! Aren't you relieved! Because if he would've objectified you, your dignity would've been swept away, much like a bikini bottom after a dive. That's just how special and powerful men's thoughts are, after all.

And about the study she cites; the men were shown pictures of scantily clad women in comparison to *fully clothed women*. This does not prove that a "modest" swim suit would illicit no such objectification. In fact, until Ms. Jessica Rey puts her own swim suits through similar rigorous study (scratch that, this study was less than rigorous), we simply can't be sure her suits are objectification proof. Further, the men who responded the worst (parts of their brain shut off) were already labeled as "hostile sexists." Pro tip: sexist men are sexist no matter what swim suit you wear.

And where is the concern for how men's swim suits have also evolved into less modest options? (Read more about that here.) I expect her line of male unitards is up next for men who want to reveal their sense of dignity.

Bottom line: her message rests entirely on the toxic idea that how men react to us is the barometer by which we should set our "modesty" standards, and if we don't, we lack dignity. How about let's be less concerned with what's on the body, or the mind of men, and more concerned with how great it feels to swim.

Ladies, you reveal your dignity by much more important things than what you wear while swimming. Anyone telling you otherwise is selling something. In this case, that is literally true.




Created: April 24, 2013 23:03pm - Last Modified April 22, 2019 15:58pm

A friend of mine passed away today. Her children were almost the same age as mine. As I tucked my boys in tonight I was struck by how grateful I was to just simply do that small act. To kiss a boo-boo, sing a song to quiet a crying fit. To make them feel loved and safe and cherished. I thought about how often I am not present enough, either because I'm dealing with my own demons or because I just feel mentally bored with the routine. I take it for granted how wonderful it is to be there for the people I love, just doing the little things. I think of those little children who don't have a mommy tucking them in tonight and my heart breaks.

It's not enough to simply feel that we love people. They have to feel it too. Am I taking it for granted that I will always be there, or that they will? Am I taking it for granted that they know how I feel? Life has lulled me into a false sense of security and I feel the urgent need to LOVE EVERYONE. Everything getting in the way of that seems so much less important.

We were fellow travelers on a journey of personal growth, and I am so grateful to have shared some of the pains and joys of that adventure with this woman. I will never forget. I won't forget how she encouraged me to write, to throw pagan parties, the great music she introduced me to, the feminist solidarity we shared, and all the loud laughter. I won't forget. It's marked me forever. Where ever you are Sarah....cheers. Blessed be.




Created: January 22, 2013 14:01pm - Last Modified April 22, 2019 15:58pm

Recently I attended the funeral of my friend's mother. It was a bitterly cold, snowy day, and I remarked to Greg that I hoped my funeral was sunny. His opinion was that the weather seemed appropriate for the somber event. I didn't agree with that idea until I stood grave side, watching the family pay their last respects.

As I watched, I was keenly aware of the heat of my body, despite the cold. I was moving, crunching the snow beneath my feet, and looking down I could see the tips of the grass poking through. I could see my breath. I could hear the delicate chimes of the bells the grandchildren were ringing. I could see the soft and lush pink roses and the acres of glistening white snow around us. And my feelings were with my friend, as she grieved a mother and dealt with the roller coaster of emotions a funeral incites. I watched a family full of differences and disagreements put their arms around each other in comfort. It was one of those spiritual moments of presence, made vivid by the harsh reality of the cold, and of death.

As I gingerly made my way through the snow back to my car, I looked at the other gravestones, each one wrapped in its own blanket of snow. All those people once were moving about, creating their own puffs of breath, making their own heat, feeling the bite of the cold in their fingers. As I contemplated this, I could not regret the weather, because I could feel it. I could experience it. And I could know that the snow would eventually melt, and all that water would propel the beauty of a summer to come. A summer of color and heat and clear skies that I would get to enjoy. I hope that's what heaven is; and yet would summer be heaven if we didn't experience winter?

Death is sad, and always so near. But it's also a presence that walks beside us and whispers, "This too shall pass. Your time here is a gift." It is a testament of our feeling, loving hearts that we don't want to say goodbye. Our knowledge of death can make everything so much sweeter. Sunshine, glittering snow, good food, friends, family, a beautiful song. Every hug is a little tighter, every kiss lingers longer, every sunrise a ritual of celebration and joy and gratitude. All of it becomes so precious and not to be taken for granted because of the reality of death.

Of course these are my thoughts as an observer to the experience. I've yet to have death visit me in a way that has been deeply personal. I wished I'd had great words to comfort my friend. I wished I had the certainty to say I knew what lay beyond death, and that heaven was real and it was endless summer with everyone you ever loved. Without that certainty, life has become a beautiful and bitter sweet song, like an epic ballad with jovial parts and sad parts. High and low notes, discordant notes too. But a song all the same. And I'm so grateful just to hear it, and that the music of this friend has been added to the symphony.

A quote from one of my favorite books that says it better than I can:
"His voice [death] is cold at first, John. It seems unfeeling. But if you listen without fear, you find that when he speaks, the most ordinary words become poetry. When he stands close to you, your life becomes a song, a praise. When he touches you, your smallest talents become gold; the most ordinary loves break your heart with their beauty."
― Martine Leavitt, Keturah and Lord Death



2012 wrap up

Created: December 28, 2012 18:20pm - Last Modified April 22, 2019 15:58pm

Between parties, Christmas shopping, and getting strep again, I'm exhausted. The shooting in Connecticut knocked me sideways emotionally for several days. There were a few nights I had trouble sleeping, and watching Jack walk into his school under a flag at half mast brought me to tears. I have to try harder to stay in the present with my kids, to appreciate my time with them as best I can. It's not easy. They're not always adorable and easy to deal with. But we just don't know how long any of us will be here, you know? We can't protect our kids from everything. All we can do is love, love, love while we can. I'm trying.

Gratitude is peace; so says Anne Lamott. And I feel that way in the midst of the pain, anxiety, and grief I see around me, and within me. When I think of all that is good in my life, in this moment, I feel more at peace, more hopeful. I worry less about what will be and what is out of my control. I guess I'm looking for more balance to go with my peace.

And speaking of balance, or lack thereof, I got a second piercing for my birthday! Pretty exciting stuff, but not really.

Love and peace to you in the New Year!


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