I’ve been reading to my children the OZ books, since I’ve always enjoyed them so much, and have come to one of the parts that have always made me cringe. In the second book, The Marvelous Land of OZ, we come across an army of pretty girls armed with knitting needles intent on taking over the Emerald City to take the jewels (which would be better used as jewelry) and raid the treasury (which woud buy each of the girls a dozen dresses each). To me, this seems to have been a rather scathing rendition of the suffragettes of the authors day (1907).
So, being fortunate enough to live in a time where we could look up such things, I decided to look up what relationship L Frank Baum (the author) had with the womens suffrage movement of the early 20th century. What I found surprised me.
Baum was the secretary of his town suffragette society. Susan B Anthony stayed at his house when she was in town. He’d evidently also written several other books, not in the OZ series, of girl detectives and of women in traditionally male activities. I was also reminded of the many strong female characters in the OZ series. From the start, Dorothy moves forward to find her way home, helped not ony by a small cadre of male characters, but also the strongest magic users in the land, all women. Even in this second book, after defeating the silly army of girls, the land of OZ becomes led by Ozma, who advocates for gender equality. The remaining books have just as many female as male main characters, all strong in their own way. It’s funny that this one characature throws me every time I read it.
Sometimes that’s the way we can be; despite all the good things we see in someone, we take one thing we think is bad, expand it, magnify it, and let it remove all the good impressions we had before. I think that’s part of why we’re told to not judge. Not only can we never really know all the details or circumstances involved, we can have our own biases that get in the way.
And it’s cool to learn that L Frank Baum wass a feminist.
I’m going to touch on another part of our temple worship that I hope will be changed. This one applies to the LDS marriage and sealing to spouse that is done specifically in the temple. At this time, the woman is asked if she will receive her perspective husband and if she will give herself to him. The man is asked only if he will receive. There have been various reasons given for this inequality by various sealers, working from their own understanding on it. (no, none of them immediately come to mind.)
To me, this inequality can be removed by following the direction given by the Savior for the state of marriage in the afterlife:
And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: (Luke 20:34-35, also in Mark 12:25)
Some have taken this to mean there will be no more marriage. LDS thought takes this to mean that only those that have been sealed together by God (or those given the power to seal), will remain together. I think we should not wait til the resurrection to get to this.
To marry is to take a woman and make her your wife, to give in marriage is to take your daughter and give her to another man as his wife. In neither is the will of the woman considered. She is simply the object of the transaction, to be given and taken as the men see fit. Our usage of giving and receiving (even though the woman now gives herself) is a remnant of this. A sealing for eternity should be about being together as a couple, not as master and property. Just because “this world” has started with women being objects does not mean we need to keep it that way. Rather than asking both in the couple if they give themselves and receive the other (doubling being made an object), we need to remove this part of the marriage and replace it with a simple “do you agree to be sealed to this person for time and all eternity?”
If some of my posts before this haven’t been a clue (or even the links on the page), I consider myself to be a feminist. Not a feminist ally, but a full feminist.
Feminism, to me, is the desire to remove the barriers of opportunity between the sexes, as far as they can be while being constrained by some things biologically. I find that women and men are equally capable in their work, home, and leisure, and while there are some generalized differences, there is also quite a bit of overlap. For example, women are generally shorter than men, but there are men who are shorter than most women and women who are taller than most men. There is only one aspect of gender that I am sure is delineated between the two, and that is in the creation of children.
Feminism (again, to me) is not all about opportunity for women. It is about removing sexism, of any kind, from our society. Feminists have a wide range of views, from those who think men are wholly unnecessary and should be vilified, belittled, and dismissed at any chance, to those who are simply glad for the work that has been done to allow the advantages they have. I fall somewhere in the middle – there has been much good work done, and there is yet much work to do.
Now, to my point. An ally is someone who supports, but is not really active in the cause. Some think that men can only be feminist allies, since they are not discriminated against in our culture as a whole. These people think men should be seen and not heard, relegated to the back of support rallies, brushed aside as “someone who can’t ever really understand”. To me, this should never be the case. Injury is injury, no matter who the perpetrator. Women cannot be absolved of oppressing men because their overall oppression is worse. A kid who beats up other kids is not absolved of it when it is found they are beaten by their parents at home. Two wrongs, nor even an hundred wrongs on one side to one on the other, do not make a right. No one should be a 2nd class citizen. We should be moving forward together, hand in hand.
Have I ever been hurt by sexism? I certainly have. It may not be to the extent of the sexism committed on some (or even many) women, but it is still there. I am a feminist because I want to make sure pains of sexist actions and ideals do not happen to anyone, no matter what their gender. This is my fight.
I am not an ally – I am a feminist, and proud to be so.
Brethren, there have been many times when the instruction to women over this pulpit is to “get all the education you can”. This has been to prepare women for the realities of death, financial strain, and divorce that have been all too common, as well as to fight the stigma of those who have fewer children or delay children for a time to pursue their educational and professional goals. While the instruction is the same, the intentions of this when directed toward men is different.
It is fairly well established that men will seek education to be able to better provide for their families through their professions. While this is a worthwhile goal, this is not the direction needed when I tell you to “get all the education you can”.
Just as death, financial strain, and divorce have been more common among women, it has also been more common among men. If a great need arises, what do you men need to learn to be able to better support your home? It you’re thinking the answer is to simply make more money, you are thinking of this in the wrong direction.
The discipline most needed for additional education in our men is in the home. While you may have done well as a missionary or while away from home at school to take care of yourself, the dynamics change greatly when a family is involved. Eating ramen over the kitchen sink is a far cry from needing to provide healthy food for at least one additional person.
First, do you know how to care for your children? Simple tasks, such as changing diapers, helping the children get ready for bed, and making sure they have clean clothing to wear are basic parts of their care. Do you know how to provide nutritional food for them, get them to and from their school and other activities?
Second, do you know how your household finances are budgeted, beyond simply paying the bills you receive? You need to learn how to shop for food, clothing, and other necessities within the budgetary allowance you have made. You need to know what these necessities are, beyond potatoes and underwear.
Third, do you know how to care for the home itself? While you may know how to maintain the “perfect” lawn, this becomes less important when your floors become a mass of crumbs and stains because you have failed to learn how to maintain the “perfect” floor.
There are many more things that have often become the day-to-day work of your wife, even if she has needed to have work outside the home. You need to have a working knowledge of this work, just as it is important for her to have the education that can help provide an income, if necessary. Just as with the women, the time for the men to begin this learning and application is now, not when circumstances force you to.
Now, be warned, this call for education does not mean you should demand changes, take over, or force your wife to take the time to teach you. It must be approached with supplication and humility. Learn what you can, when you can. Ask to share tasks you would have otherwise left to others. Offer to help, do not demand to be in control.
Above all, learn about the part of your life more important than all others – your family. As a father, your most important contribution to your children is not in how much you can provide for them, it is in how much you can work with your wife in raising and teaching your children so they can go forward with strength into adulthood. The education of both you and your wife are of equal importance, whether it be in schooling, home and family maintenance, or in the Gospel. All of the learning you attain here will be of help to you in the hereafter, but more immediately, it will be a strength to you in the here and now. This I testify, in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
One of the discussions running around feminist circles is about the use of Moroni 9:9 in President Dalton’s talk on virtue. The hurt expressed from using this scripture is the assumption that the loss of chastity and virtue means that the women were raped.
To show the scripture:
9 For behold, many of the daughters of the Lamanites have they taken prisoners; and after depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue—
Sure, it’s easy to say this means rape, nicely tying chastity and virtue to it, but I think this misses that these women were taken prisoners. This could be the effects of months or even years in the hands of their captors.
These women were subjected to a period of time being prisoners. It would be likely that eventually they would come to empathize with, or even defend the actions of, their captors. The effect of this would have been a loss of virtue and chastity. Would they have the blame for this? No, it would be described that their virtue and chastity – their innocence – was taken by their captors, even if no sexual component was involved. We’ve only recently given this kind of thing a name – Stockholm syndrome.
Something more to remember are the other usages of virtue in the New Testament, when it was used to heal, as in Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48:
43And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,
44 Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
45 And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
46 And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
47 And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
48 And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.
Virtue, even when paired with chastity, does not mean sex. No one would argue that the woman (and others, Luke 8:19) healed by the Savior in any way sexually violated Him, but in every case, it was described as a loss of virtue.
Virtue is power used to heal others, physically and spiritually. No, I am not saying that the Lamanite daughters were used as physicians, but that in their time as prisoners their ability to heal themselves and each other waned over time in what must have been an unbelievably horrific situation. In modern times, we seem to have gone to the easy answer in interpreting the words of Moroni. The worst thing we could imagine happening to a woman was rape, but we find with sad experience that there are worse things. To be kidnapped, kept by people doing horrific things, and seeing glimmers of false hope and trust in your captors can change you, taking away the virtue and chastity you once had.
For the sake of those who have had to live through the horrors of rape and kidnapping, we need to change our usage of Moroni 9:9. I think the recent use of it by President Dalton was a good step, but it is going to take a good deal of work for all of us to un-learn our hurtful interpretation of this. Rape and sexual abuse is damaging and vile. The burden of repentance for this should never be placed on the victim. No virtue or chastity has been taken from them, even though their innocence is lost. Using our virtue to heal should be foremost in our minds, not the erroneous idea that they are somehow to blame. We’ve bludgeoned our daughters (and sons) with this long enough.
In a prophetic dream by Lehi and Nephi in the Book of Mormon, there is a depiction of our journey through life returning to the presence of God. This includes a building full of jeering people, a river of sin, mists of darkness, and forbidden paths which try to take us out of the progression, the end represented by the Tree of Life.
To help everyone get from where they are to the Tree of Life, there is a “strait and narrow path”, bordered by an Iron Rod. In the dream, the Iron Rod was the means for anyone to reach the Tree of Life, but people had to choose to use it, ignore the words of the jeering people, and not let go and risk loss.
The tendency at this point is to see an absolutely straight path, with an absolutely straight rod, with no turns, making a bee line to the Tree of Life. We think that anyone who has deviated from the absolute course we think exists from point A to point B must be in apostacy, setting up the path we believe we are on as the best and absolute. This image of absolute rigidness and direction is what I believe is in error.
First, the word used is “strait”, not “straight”. It means “narrow” and “strict” – it is not an indication of direction. We are given nothing on how the path gets from one point to another, if it goes around hills or other landscape features (though none are given), only that it does lead to the Tree.
In the interpretation of the dream, the Iron Rod is interpreted as “. . . the word of God, which led . . . to the tree of life . . .”(1Ne.11:22) The “Word of God” is also another name given for Jesus The Christ (John 1:1). He was with God in the beginning, and by Him was all God commanded fulfilled.
So next time you sing the Hymn “The Iron Rod” or read about this in the Scriptures, or even feel like you’re not doing as well as you’d like, rather than thinking about an impersonal, solid rod, that couldn’t care if you used it or not, think of the Savior, hand outstretched, waiting for you to simply take His hand, so He can help you on your way to that distant, and seemingly impossibly hard to reach, Tree of Life at the end of our journey. It doesn’t matter where we are, seemingly far away from the main path, feeling like we’re only inches from the path, or even in the great and spacious building, He is there, mere inches away, hand outstretched, desperately hoping we will simply take His hand.
One of the best episodes of Start Trek: The Next Generation is entitled “The Light Within”. In it, Captain Picard finds himself thrust into a life completely foreign to what he had known. During this new life, he had the knowledge of where he had come from, but nothing else to connect him to his old life. There was no communication possible with the world left behind, nor knowledge in anyone in his new life that any other world even existed. In time, the new life had become his full reality, the past being only a vague memory. When he returned, it took some time for him to get used to the idea that 50 years had not really passed, but only a brief amount of time. To him, however, a full life of 50 years had passed, with a wife, children, and grandchildren. Those memories became a part of him, deeply effecting his life after.
Our life is similar. We came from a place of happiness, with loving parents, brothers, sisters of varying levels of closeness. We have been thrust into a body we have no idea how to make work, into a life completely foreign to the life we knew before, until our previous life fades to a vague memory that we soon forget. We live a full life, hopefully with a new family and friends, getting only impressions of where we were and where we are going after. When this life is over, we will return to the life we had before.
What will we find when we return? We know it will seem we were gone but a brief time. We will know the parents we left, the close brothers and sisters we left behind. We will remember every detail of both of the lives we have lived. Once again using our first life as a baseline, how will we see the new life we have lived? Joy? Horror? Tears? Outrage?
Who will we be when we wake?