Utah Claims Porn a Crisis, Does Nothing About It

The big news in Utah for the last few days is that our state government has officially declared pornography a public health crisis for Utah. I don’t disagree with the legislature that porn is problematic. Studies show Utah has a high use of porn. Other studies show the damage porn addiction can inflict on the porn user as well as current or potential relationships a porn user might have. Not to mention porn’s connection to sex trafficking and rape culture.

However, for the last few days I have encountered a niggling voice saying, “There’s something wrong with this.” So, here’s what’s wrong with it:
Utah lacks comprehensive sex education in schools. What exists is abstinence-based (a form of sex edo-MEN-WOMEN-DIFFERENCES-facebook notorious for being ineffectual), if there is any discussion at all. In my high school health class, there was NO sex ed. There were snippets of anatomy, but even that was incomplete. My school pretended sex didn’t exist and sent pregnant teens to a “special” school.

Utah also has a culture that is extremely sex-negative. With no proper sex ed in schools, and a sex-negative culture that limits teens’ comfort in asking questions, teens turn to porn for their education.

It’s a nice gesture to call porn a public health crisis, but if during the last legislative session, our representatives vetoed a bill that would have broadened sex ed to be comprehensive, a nice gesture is all it is–it accomplishes nothing.

Oh, and let’s not forget the number of untested rape kits in Utah. More than 60 percent of rape kits in Utah are untested. If you’re going to decry porn because you think it can lead to rape (it can), you have to do something about the rape culture at large!

And what about Utah’s other great public health crisis? It doesn’t take much research to know that our air is toxic–a deep breath outside in January will suffice on that front. Doctors say the air can cause infertility, miscarriage, and other fetal health risks. Those at risk for asthma or other respiratory ailments are warned to limit their exposure to outside. Runners have to choose between continuing to run and risk their health, or hightail it to a treadmill–neither one a compelling option.

Air-Quality-Utah-2And what has the legislature done about that public health crisis? Not much, that’s what. But don’t worry, they did sign a bill to invest in a Californian coal port.

Another potential crisis is our location on the Wasatch Fault. A recent study suggests the Wasatch Front could have a 6.7 earthquake within the next 50 years. It’s not a secret that the Wasatch Front is an earthquake waiting to happen, yet we are woefully unprepared for a large quake. Studies estimate that the death and injury toll would be devastating. And yet all we have in terms of preparation is the ridiculous Great Shake Out each spring. Hiding under my desk for a few minutes while I’m at work does nothing to prepare for an earthquake. We need investments to retrofit hazardous buildings, not a yearly gimmick that most people ignore.

fault sign

So, yes, porn is an addictive media that causes problems for relationships and society. Many feminists have been saying so for years (while also broadening the scope of the problem to include regular movies, ads, TV and other media, decrying female objectification and normalized porn). But what’s the plan here? This nice gesture feels like an attempt at a moral high ground that ignores the obvious realities that surround it, that others have noted for years and years. It feels like a slap in the face to other health issues that have more direct solutions.

Thanks for the nice gesture Herbie, but if it’s not followed up with some serious action, I’m going to continue to assume you are next to useless.

The Little Big Problems in the Mormon Anti-Porn Video

I am a Mormon and am against porn. I commend the effort behind a video released by the LDS church that provides support and instruction on how to react if one accidentally views pornography.

The video–which was released in September, but which I hadn’t seen until now–is aimed at older children and young teens and encourages open communication and is free of shame for accidental viewing. The video distinguishes that a body’s natural urges and reactions are normal and are not sinful or shameful. These are great things that I fully support. It is difficult to impossible to overcome a problem such as porn addiction if at the onset the viewer is met with shame.

However, there are two instances in the video that I must nitpick because they send incredibly toxic messages. It is one o’clock in the morning and I am in recovery from surgery so really should be sleeping, but my mind keeps going back to those two moments in the video and I won’t sleep until I decry them.

First, when defining pornography, the video describes it as, “bad pictures of people with little or no clothing on.” This video stars children, so perhaps the intent was to avoid making them uncomfortable by including a more well-rounded and accurate description, but this definition is horrendous.

What does “bad” even mean? It’s too ambiguous to be helpful. And “people with little or no clothing” is a perfect definition of pornography if your intent is instill a Puritan-esque abhorrence of all nudity and to teach that the human body is sinful and shameful. But… I suspect that is not the message we want to send to our children, right?

Nudity isn’t inherently sexual.

There are cultures in the world where little to no clothing is worn. Images of these people are not pornography.

Underwear is a fact of every day life for most people. Advertisements for such items are not necessarily pornography.

Women breast feed. Not pornography.

Beautiful art and photography often include nudity. Not pornography.

I don’t deny that normalized porn exists in the world. The ladies at Beauty Redefined have done wonderful research on normalized porn as it exists in our culture. But to equate all nudity to pornography sets the stage for sexualization to occur where there is none, and paves the way for objectification of the body.

The definition also fails to include video, which is an important inclusion if you are attempting to prepare kids for what to do if they accidentally encounter porn.

The second moment that bothers me (and this one makes me grit my teeth quiver with buried rage) is when the video starts to list three steps of what to do if you see pornography. The first step is to Call It What It Is, telling you to say, “That’s pornography, that’s immodest.”

Ahem… Immodesty is NOT pornography! I am tempted to copy and paste my previous sentence a hundred times just to drive the point home. Modesty standards and pornography have no business being in the same conversation. Modesty and pornography have about as much business being together as organic chemistry and literary theory: they belong to completely different worlds. They are not the same, they are two separate conversations, and equating them is unbelievably toxic.

Modesty is relative. As a lifelong Mormon I know there are plenty of people in the church who think we have a monopoly on what constitutes modesty, but we really don’t. What is considered modest varies from culture to culture and holding other people to your own standards of modesty only creates judgement and shame.

Modesty is not a matter of inches and styles. True modesty is in your attitude and your behavior. One can be covered from head to toe and not be modest, while another can be scantily clad and as humble as can be.

What happens when we equate modesty to pornography is, for example, a guy sees a girl dressed how he considers to be immodest. He finds her attractive, perhaps he feels aroused. He feels ashamed, like he did something wrong (though he shouldn’t, these things are normal and natural). He remembers learning that immodesty is akin to pornography and blames her for how he feels and turns her into a sexualized object.

Girls and women–no matter how they are dressed–are not pornography. 

You may not be able to control who you are attracted to, but objectifying someone is a choice you make. When you equate modesty to pornography, you choose to place blame and shame on someone else for what you think and do.

This is a big deal. It is one of the most damaging and toxic messages taught in Young Women and seminary classes all over. I for one had a major struggle overcoming body shame because I was convinced that my curvy body was a “problem” for guys and it was my fault. And that’s just bollocks. No one should have to feel they are responsible or to blame for someone else’s thoughts, feelings, or acts. That is the kind of thinking that leads to rape culture and victim-blaming.

In short, pornography is pictures or video of a sexual nature designed to stimulate sexual arousal. Expanding the definition to include nudity in general and immodesty is dangerous, inaccurate, and can cause long-term harm.

Here is the video:

The Feminine Mystique happened, Remember?

There is an article circling ’round the Interwebs, especially amongst the Latter-Day Saint circles on Facebook, that is simply infuriating. This article has the appearance of having been written in the 1950’s pre-second wave feminism, but in fact was written in 2014.

The article is entitled, “5 ways you are unknowingly destroying  your husband and killing your marriage.” Dramatic, right? I think it’s time to break down why this article is not only glaringly wrong, but absolutely harmful to women and by extension marriage in general.

1. Living Outside What You Can Afford

The author of this article quotes someone in her church congregation saying,  “The best thing you can do as a wife is to live within your husband’s means.” I know there are families that have chosen to be a single-income household. And that’s great! Choices are wonderful and choosing what works best for you and your family’s unique circumstance is fantastic! But this quote assumes no women have an income of their own, but instead rely on a man to survive. This is 2014. Women have incomes. Let’s not pretend women are unable or unwilling to work for their own incomes.

And also, “The best thing you can do as a wife is to live within your husband’s means?” Really? It isn’t to be a loving partner? It isn’t to grow and develop wonderful and beautiful roots together? It isn’t to share a life together? Gee, reducing a wife down to her spending habits just sounds swell!

The author says, “Constantly complaining about not having enough to fulfill your lavish desires or racking up astronomical amounts of debt on your credit card is a poor way of saying ‘thank you’ to a faithful spouse who works hard every day to provide for the family.” I am impatiently awaiting the day to arrive when the stereotype that women are greedy consumerists dies.

Living within a budget is obviously wise. But instead of detailing how a couple can and should make a budget together, the author talks about wives’ obsessions with Kate Spade. Sure, some women love Kate Spade enough that they will go into ridiculous amounts of debt to buy a Kate Spade product. But to imply that all women and all wives don’t care about hard-earned money and flippantly spend thousands of dollars on doodads, is insulting and inaccurate. Not to mention that kind of commentary is completely unhelpful in helping couples figure out how to live within their means.

2. Constant Negativity

No one likes a Negative Nellie. However, this section of the article basically reads like this:

goodwifeguide

And that’s just not okay. If a wife is having a hard time with something, she should discuss it with her husband. That’s marriage, folks! It isn’t only about him and his hard day at work. It is also about her and her hard day at work, whether that is work away from the home or as a stay at home mother. Marriage discusses the highs and lows. If your spouse’s troubles are too frustrating for you to hear, why did you get married in the first place?

3. Putting Everything Else First

Honestly, when two people in a relationship prioritize each other that is a good thing. No arguments there.

However, I think it is vital for both partners to realize that if a wife has a career or a passion she focuses on a good amount of the time, that is not necessarily neglecting said husband. If a husband starts to complain every time a wife goes to an art class or has a work meeting during dinner, the question becomes less about what she is prioritizing, and more about why he won’t support her goals and aspirations. Balance is a necessity.

4. Witholding Physical Affection

Let me just copy and paste this entire section:

“Men crave and need physical affection with their wives. When you constantly decline intimacy, it wears on them.

Sex should not be used as a tool to control your spouse; it should be viewed as a sacred tool to draw you closer to one another and to God.

It is a great blessing to be wanted and needed by a loving, romantic husband who wants to share something so beautiful and important with you — and you only. Even though you might not always be in the mood, it’s worth it to give in (when you can) and spend that time bonding.” (Emphasis added.)

So… have you ever heard of rape? How about marital rape? Rape doesn’t stope being rape just because you are married. Sex without consent is rape. “Giving in” is not consent. Thus, “giving in” is a form of rape. This entire section is evil and wrong. If a husband truly cares about his partner, he’s not going to be down with getting down if there is not true and enthusiastic consent.

Got it?

And let’s not forget that this section implies all men are hound dogs who have the higher sex drive in the relationship. For many couples, the husband does have the higher sex drive. But not in all couples. It also implies that the behavior of men and women is set in stone, that there is minimal to no variation in how two or more men might behave. All men are different, all women are different. Let’s not put each other into boxes, shall we?

5. Not Speaking His Language

Good communication in a relationship or marriage is imperative. But I resent the idea that if there are communication problems it’s because the wife is benignly dropping hints or bottling things up and the husband is too much a dunce to understand anything. This happens, sure. But as much as our culture likes to teach us men are blind idiots who don’t know what’s what, I think by and large men are much brighter than that. And, sure, there have been generations of enculturation saying women can’t be blunt or open, but if you think wives are running around hiding while dropping hints and never speaking their minds and never being honest with their husbands, I’m afraid you might be trapped in 1897 and need to hitch a ride on the next time machine back home.

The messages in this article hurt men and women. By and large the message is: Men Come First! Get With the Program or Get Out!!!!

Relationships aren’t about who’s “destroying” one partner and who’s “killing” the marriage. From what I have observed, most of the time a divorce occurs it is because of both partners. It isn’t the wife “neglecting her wifely duty.” It isn’t a woman detailing her troubles to her husband. It isn’t a woman accepting she is a full-fledged human being. The sooner we can leave behind the idea that a marriage’s success is contingent on the wife, the sooner we can have more long-lasting and fulfilling marriages.

Standing Up For Your Sisters

To me, standing up for your fellow sisters in situations of harassment is a big deal. It can be scary because you don’t know how the harasser will react. It could be simple annoyance, or it could be violent. But when a woman is being harassed, the feeling is often one of fear and being completely alone. Thus, as a woman, I feel it is vital to stand up for my sisters, to prove that she is not alone when she’s being harassed.

Yet despite that point of view, yesterday I failed to stand up.

I was walking down a hall at my church when I saw a guy badgering a girl and saying, “You’re always so quiet. Why are you so quiet?” Instead of interceding, I simply muttered to myself, “Because she wants to be! It’s none of your business anyway!”

Love this art series. Visit http://stoptellingwomentosmile.com/About

Love this art series. Visit http://stoptellingwomentosmile.com/About

There are obviously worse ways to harass a woman. But that fact doesn’t negate this incident as harassment. There is a misogynistic belief that women owe men our best smiles, our best selves, our best conversations. But really, we don’t owe men that. We are allowed to be quiet. We are allowed to keep to ourselves. We are allowed to not have a smile plastered to our faces at every moment of the day. We aren’t here to entertain men or to feed their ego. And when it comes to church, we are there to learn and to worship. Sure, we socialize. But we are definitely not there to engage in a witty repartee just because men think we should be.

I’ve interacted with this guy before. This is a guy who thinks his comfort level is much more important than everybody else’s, as indicated by the time he flipped out at me because I dared to turn the air down a notch. Never mind that oodles of people were freezing instead of paying attention to the church speakers. He is also the kind of guy who thinks it is wrong for a girl he claims to love to serve a church mission instead of marry him. That’s respect for you.

But even knowing this I did not stand up. I saw her face, I had a response, I muttered to myself and kept walking. Why? Why did I do nothing knowing that even the slightest form of harassment has potential to make a woman fall into a dark and lonely place?

Harassment kind of feels like this.

Harassment kind of feels like this.

I suppose it could be fear. It is always terrifying to stand up to other people. And there’s always the standby, “Oh, she’s be fine. There’s nothing to worry about.” But it is my job to make sure my sisters feel safe at church. It is my job to work towards a world where my sisters feel safe at school or on the street or in their hotels or at the movies or in their cars or anywhere they feel inclined to go.

So I guess this post is a confession of my cowardice as well as a call to myself and to everyone to be better. Sometimes our perceptions might be off, but it is always better to make sure everyone involved in a strange situation feels safe and okay, than to assume everyone is safe and okay.

Even as I am writing this I am second-guessing myself. “Maybe I’m overreacting,” I keep thinking. But here’s the thing: If it feels wrong it’s wrong! Don’t second-guess yourself in these situations–just stand up.

We need to be better. As bystanders to harassment it is our responsibility to let harassers know that what they are doing is not okay. It is our responsibility to make sure the person being harassed is safe and knows someone will stand beside them. It is our responsibility to stand up.

Author: Tamsen Maloy |

Revolutionary Women: Lauren Bacall

 

“I think your whole life shows on your face and you should be proud of that.” –Lauren Bacall

6a00d8341c2ca253ef01a73ddd5427970d-450wiWhile Lauren Bacall may have been on my list of eventual revolutionary women to cover, she has been bumped to the top due to her recent death. Her film legacy is stunning, but what her legacy means to me as a modern woman is even more extraordinary.

I hate to include a paragraph that in any way defines Bacall by her husband, but I really love Humphrey Bogart so am going to anyway. He is one of my celebrity crushes (most of my celebrity crushes are on dead men) and I just love when he smiles. The Bacall and Bogie relationship was one of commitment and love. Thinking about them just makes me grin. But that is all I’ll say about that. Bacall was not defined by Bogie, even if their marriage was beautiful.

Bacall entered the film industry as a fierce contender. Her talent and presence on the screen represented a brand of acting and female representation you rarely if ever see anymore. While there were incredibly awful circumstances for women 60-70 years ago, the Golden Era of film did include great portrayals of women. Admittedly, there were also some not-so-great portrayals of women, but just look at this famous scene from To Have and Have Not:

Lauren Bacall could very well be my patronus. In the above clip her character is obviously very interested in Bogart’s character (who wouldn’t be?) and instead of waiting around dropping hints, she just goes for it! In theory, I am all about doing this but in practice I don’t even know where to begin. My default when attempting to flirt with guys is appearing completely aloof, which of course results in absolutely nothing.

I don’t want to pontificate on the overdone and inaccurate idea that women are only about finding romance. Romance is lovely, but there are so many more things in which women have interest. Nonetheless, in a world that assumes a woman making the first move is a bad idea (especially back then!) this scene just makes me shout in support and gives me a desire to just go for it. Not only in dating, but in everything! Waiting around never got anyone anything!

Born Betty Perske, she developed a love of theatre and eventually made her way into the movies. To Have and Have Not (1944) was her first film and where she met her eventual husband Humphrey Bogart. She is known for her uniquely husky voice, as well as her “look.” The “look” entails looking down with her face, but up with her eyes in a way that looks both mysterious and sexy. Reportedly, this “look” is the result of her being so nervous when she was shooting To Have and Have Not she had to keep her chin on her chest to keep her head from shaking.

Lauren Bacall--the "look."

Lauren Bacall–the “look.”

Besides her early success in film, she was an accomplished thespian, taking a several year break from film to focus on theatre in the 1960’s. She also won a Tony Award for her role in Applause, a stage adaptation of the film All About Eve.

In the film The Holiday starring Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jack Black, and Jude Law, Kate Winslet’s character is going through a tough time involving a horrible guy. While on holiday, her Oscar-winning screenplay writer neighbor (played by Eli Wallach) advises her to watch a bunch of old movies starring all these incredible women who had gumption and guts. To me Lauren Bacall epitomizes what Winslet’s character learns. She has gumption, both on screen and off, and is about as outspoken as one can be.

Bacall stands out in the history of film because she was a woman of her own in a time when an outspoken, independent woman was largely a societal no-no. Her films showed a woman in charge of her life, taking the lead and speaking her mind. Her life showed a woman who understood choice and sacrifice and love. While it is true her name will always be tied to Bogart’s, she had her own life, created her own legacy, and was a not-so-typical force in the world of film.

Sources:

Lauren Bacall

The Legend With the Look: Remembering Lauren Bacall

Author: Tamsen Maloy |

 

Revolutionary Women: Amelia Earhart

Never interrupt someone doing something you said couldn’t be done.

–Amelia Earhart

tumblr_mcrticxMfr1qlkvgwo1_400I just love Amelia Earhart. She isn’t an unusual choice for a feature or person of admiration, but she certainly was an unusual woman of her time. Spotlighting her is not only essential given how great she was for American culture and women, it is timely because a modern Earhart aviatrix has recently finished the flight the original was tragically unable to complete.

Amelia Earhart is possibly best known for her mysterious disappearance in 1937. While that mystery is intriguing and worth exploring, I prefer to focus on her life and accomplishments.

I read a short biography of Earhart at a time in my life when more than ever before I needed to absorb the stories of revolutionary women. Contrary to my then therapist’s insistence that learning about who I called “strong or independent women” would be detrimental because it would make me feel less adequate, reading about Amelia Earhart helped me feel empowered and that my life is mine to make, and I’m not at the mercy of other people or ideas. (Take that psychotherapy! Blammo!!!)

I’m not sure why, but one detail from that biography that sticks out more than others is that of Earhart’s sleeping in her new flight jacket in order to break it in faster. I guess that just seems like the type of thing we all might do when we find our passions? Break into them as much as possible? I don’t know why that detail stands out, it just does.

Amelia-earhart-plane1As a child, Earhart was the definition of a tomboy in a time when it was less acceptable to be one. She climbed trees, hunted rats, and saved newspaper clippings of successful women in male-dominated fields.

The first time she flew in an airplane was in 1920 when she was 23 years old. She took a ride at an air show in Long Beach, California and that ride changed the direction of her life.

Working at odd jobs, she saved enough money to take flight lessons from Anita Snook. In 1921 she bought her first airplane, a bright yellow Kinner Airster biplane, which she called “The Canary.”

Earhart went on to break records and was the 16th woman to be given a pilot’s license by The Federation Aeronautique (wouldn’t it be interesting to know more about those other 15 ladies…).

In 1928 Earhart was the first woman to cross the Atlantic… as a passenger. I can’t exactly stick myself inside a historical situation (where’s the TARDIS when you need it?) but if I had to hypothesize, this seems like it was possibly a publicity stunt. A WOMAN in an AIRPLANE!! Oh, my! Newsworthy!!!! Earhart was invited to cross the Atlantic as a passenger by Captain Hilton H. Railey. She wasn’t allowed to fly because it was considered too dangerous for a woman. (Why have her then? That’s why I suspect publicity stunt. Why invite a pilot if you don’t think she’s capable of managing the flight?) Earhart mused that she felt she, “was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes.” But, never fear! That passenger flight wasn’t the last anyone heard “Earhart” and “Atlantic” together!

Amelia-Earhart-plane-found-submarine-tourismOn the fifth anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s flight, Earhart took off for the same feat. In 1932, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. She took off from Harbor Grace, Newfoundland and headed for Paris. However, due to mechanical difficulties she didn’t make it to Paris but instead landed in a field in Londonderry, Ireland.

Earhart continued to take on difficult and inspiring flights. She became the first person to fly across both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans when she completed her Honolulu to Oakland flight. She also flew from Los Angeles to Mexico City, and from Mexico City to New York.

Earhart wearing an Amelia Earhart Fashion dress

Earhart wearing an Amelia Earhart Fashion dress

In addition to her flying prowess, she also designed a line of clothes called Amelia Earhart Fashion. Her fashion line was designed with aviation in mind, as well as a desire to design something for all women. Earhart’s line was the first to offer separates for suits. So instead of buying a suit with every piece the same size, a woman could buy a jacket in one size and a skirt in another.

She also designed her line with finances in mind. This was during the Great Depression, so her clothing could not be overpriced. She sold her clothing at prices lower than those of other fashion lines, and also sold patterns so women could make their own Amelia Earhart Fashions.

While the line didn’t last, the designs were notable because they were functional. Earhart said of her designs, “I tried to put the freedom that is in flying into the clothes.” Some notable aspects of her designs included practical fabrics, longer shirt tails that would stay tucked in with movement, solid lines instead of ruffles, buttons shaped like propellers, flowing designs, and the use of parachute silk.

Earhart’s final flight began June 1, 1937 from Miami in a Lockheed Electra. Earhart wanted to be the first woman to fly around the globe. Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan flew down Central and South America, and east for Africa. They continued up through the Middle East and South Asia, to Australia, and finally to Lae, Papua New Guinea.

It was from Lae Earhart and Noonan took off for Howland Island and were never seen again.

The leg to Howland Island was one of the last in Earhart’s round the world flight. Earhart had been communicating with the Coast Guard ship Itasca, her planned radio contact, providing updates on her location. On July 2, 1937 at 7:42 a.m. the Coast Guard ship Itasca received a radio transmission from Earhart saying, “We must be on you but we cannot see you. Fuel is running low. Been unable to reach you by radio. We are flying at 1,000 feet.” Earhart’s last inflight communication came through at 8:43 a.m. indicating she was flying a north, south line.

While many theories have been presented, there have been no conclusive findings as to what ultimately happened to Earhart and Noonan. Recent research suggests radio transmissions from days following the disappearance were credibly from Earhart, though at the time they were considered bunk so went ignored.

Despite Earhart’s tragic end, her real legacy is inspiring generations of women to aspire to achieve their dreams–be they aviation dreams or not. Earhart broke boundaries for women in her time, and inspired a nation deep in the throes of the Great Depression.

And let’s get fashionably real: We wear bomber jackets because of her, right?

earhart5

Sources:

The Official Website of Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart Biography

Amelia Earhart’s Fashion Line

Discovery News

Author: Tamsen Maloy |

Revolutionary Women: Nancy Hart

hartn_portraitIn light of the fact that I came up with this brilliant series around Independence Day, it is fitting that the first woman I spotlight is one from the American Revolution. However, being that your average history of the American Revolution is completely devoid of women, I had never heard of Nancy Hart until I looked up “women in the American revolution” on Google. (Public education fail.)

Nancy Hart is best known for holding six British soldiers at gunpoint. The legend says British soldiers killed her last turkey and entered her home, demanding she cook the turkey for them to eat. She did so, while administering alcohol with the intent to inebriate the soldiers.

While the men were eating, she sent her daughter to fetch water from the well and blow a conch shell there to warn Hart’s husband of the danger. Meanwhile, she started sneaking the soldiers’ muskets out the window while they ate in a drunken state. After two muskets were put outside, she was caught. The third gun in hand, she threatened to shoot anyone who came near her. One soldier tried to stop her and was killed. She kept the rest of the soldiers at bay until her husband arrived.

Hart’s husband thought they soldiers should be shot, but Hart thought that action was too good for them. Instead, the soldiers were hanged from a nearby tree.

That’s quite the story. And a group of skeletons found in 1912 lend credence to the story. However, that’s not all Hart did.

She also worked as a spy, dressing up as a man and infiltrating British camps to glean information from the soldiers; was knowledgeable in frontier medicine; worked as a midwife; was skilled as a sharpshooter; may have blinded a British soldier with lye soap she was boiling when she caught him spying on her. She was a woman of many talents.

Much of the information surrounding her is legend and not as well documented as the exploits of various historical men. Nonetheless, what we know of Hart is she was a bold woman who contributed what she could to the Revolution–which was a lot!

So the next time Independence Day rolls around, remember all the women who contributed to that independence we as Americans hold dear. Remember Nancy Hart, and learn about more revolutionary women, too.

Sources:

Nancy Morgan Hart. Georgia Women of Achievement.

Nancy Morgan Hart. National Women’s History Museum. 

Revolutionary Women: Introduction

This Independence Day I went to my town’s parade, a typical part of my Independence Day celebrations. There was a fly-by featuring two old airplanes I know nothing about (I admire aviatrixes but am not one myself). There were old cars hauling the city governmental officials. There were marching bands. There was a Baptist choir (a great new addition). There was a boat float (puns!) featuring flags of other nations recognizing the various countries from which we as a nation draw our heritage.

There was also a float depicting important figures from American history. Of ten or so figures filling a borrowed flat-bed trailer, only two were female. Two! One was the Statue of Liberty (not a real woman) and the other was the idealized version of Betsy Ross, thus depicting the beloved and accepted version of woman: A woman who makes history by sewing things. (By the way, sewing is great. I sew costumes and it is loads of fun. Quilters are some of the most talented people around. But guess what? The idea that a woman is acceptable because she portrays that idealized and incomplete version of womanhood is frustrating to say the least.)

So on a float designed to reflect great people from American history, we have a statue woman and a woman who sewed something. That is very limiting. What young girls sitting front row at a parade see matters. I don’t want young girls (or old girls or somewhere-in-between girls) to think their options are limited to being a statue (read: admired as an object) or being glorified for stereotypical homemaking skills.

In response to this float, I had the brilliant idea to have a float in next year’s parade that spotlights women in American history. In preparation for that, and in order to learn new things and share them, I am starting a series on this blog that will feature female historical figures. This series could honestly keep going until I die because there really isn’t a limit to the number of amazing women in American history. I will attempt to include one Revolutionary Woman per month at a minimum.

Stay tuned to learn more about Revolutionary Women.

Only demure women are worthy of being on a float.

Only demure women are worthy of being on a float.

Love Me For My Mind!

There I was, minding my own business, walking to a church meeting. Out of the corner of my ever-observant ears I heard a person who shall remain nameless because he annoys me discussing the “cuteness” of various girls. I couldn’t hear all he was saying. But he did turn around and say, “Your name’s Tamara, right?” Wrong. “It’s Tamsen, actually.” “Oh.”

tumblr_m5wil1Bx9u1qbaj4uo1_500Continuing into the gym, looking for a seat, I heard the same conversation pursuing. To his friend, said annoying person declared, “You can sit by Tamsen, she’s cute.” My interior monologue immediately changed to, “Run away, run away, run away. Find seat next to a person I like.”

Luckily, I found a seat next to my friend who has a fantastic love of feta cheese.

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Being called cute is hardly the most upsetting thing ever. But it bothered me because I can envision this guy scanning a group of girls saying, “Cute. Cute. Not cute. Ew. Sorta cute. Too cute. Cute.” I don’t like it. I don’t like that the only reason some guy should sit next to me is because he thinks I’m cute. Do I make observations about which guys I find attractive? Of course. But that’s not why I sit next to or talk to them. I talk to them because they make me laugh or teach me new things or have interesting stories or think critically or treat me like a human being instead of a doormat or pretty picture. I’ll not deny when I find a guy attractive. But I will never rely on his physical attributes for determining if he is a person I want to take into my life. And honestly, all those other things are in the end much more attractive than any physical attributes I like.

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I have a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology. I manage three separate blogs. I am quickly becoming the best baker in the world. I write stories, poems, articles. I read and learn new things. I’ve been published on HelloGiggles.com twice! I run half marathons. I was accepted into one of the top Masters programs for Journalism in the country. I sew costumes. I’m attempting to learn both French and Italian fluently. I taught myself to make artisan bread. I’m testing the validity of creating my own mind palace like Sherlock Holmes has. I do all these great things and what’s the reason a guy should sit next to me? Because I’m cute? No, that’s just annoying.

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I’ll graciously accept a compliment. I’m not opposed to compliments. But when the only compliments a guy can come up with are attributed to how I look, and when that is the only motivation for sitting next to me, I will run away. Literally.

Author: Tamsen Maloy |

 

Declaring My Mormon Feminism & Why We Need It

I confess I am terrified to post this, and I shouldn’t be. I wrote it several months ago, and have been sitting on it because I’m scared of saying something wrong. I’m scared of retribution. I’m scared of inadvertently hurting other people, or giving the wrong impression. But falling to our fears has never gotten anyone anywhere.

I have decided to post this at long last because of Kate Kelly’s call to a disciplinary hearing.

The Sunday prior to the news the lesson in Relief Society was on the importance of Priesthood keys. This is supposed to be a great and important lesson, and in my ward parts of it were. However, at some point multiple women in my class took over the conversation and said how women are supposed to support the men and make sure they go on missions.

As a human, I think supporting others is great. It is a necessity for healthy relationships. That said, I don’t exist to support other people. It wasn’t my responsibility in high school to make sure my guy friends went on missions. It isn’t my responsibility to make sure they remain worthy Priesthood holders. I will gladly talk, love, and support. But that isn’t my purpose of existence.

Neither is my sole purpose to pop out babies, as another woman in my class mentioned. It was the tired remark of, “Men have Priesthood, but women get to have babies.” There are so many things wrong with that statement, the most obvious being that fatherhood is the parallel to motherhood, not Priesthood. But whenever someone tells me I get to have babies, and that that is the greatest contribution I can make, I think, “So… what you’re saying is that thus far in my life I’ve contributed nothing? And that so long as I remain single and childless I will continue to contribute nothing?” I know enough of my Heavenly Parents to know they value me for much more than my potential to give birth. But it is tiresome to hear it over and over again.

I bring up this Relief Society lesson for two reasons: One, it is another point on the lengthy list for why we need feminism in Mormonism. Motherhood and family are wonderful, wonderful things. But womanhood is not defined by them. Two, in this particular lesson I didn’t speak my opinion. It was one of those times when I just wasn’t sure what to say so instead I tuned out for the duration of that conversation and started writing a fairy tale, made a list of what my bakery would be like if I had one, and wrote a few affirmations including, “I am me, I am independent, I don’t exist to support men.” It was a long discussion. Or maybe I just temporarily turned manic and did a lot in a short period of time.

After that lesson, I was frustrated I didn’t say anything because I don’t want women to think that they are damaged or there is something wrong with them or they are sinners for having goals beyond marriage and family. A few days later, however, I was somewhat relieved I hadn’t said anything. My bishop sat in on that class and with the news about Kate Kelly, I had a sudden fear that if I had spoken up, I could face at the very least an uncomfortable interview just because I have feminist values and talked about them in Relief Society. That is a horrific thing to feel a few days after church.

I don’t want my church to be one where people with questions–be they questions about doctrine, tradition, culture, or anything–feel fear in the face of speaking them. I want the church I have loved for 25 years to be a safe haven. Where questions and concerns–as taboo as they may be–are greeted with the compassion I so easily imagine Christ showing to everyone he meets. So it is with that in mind I am taking my fear head on declaring as loudly as my pen–or in this case, keyboard–will allow, that I am a Mormon Feminist. I believe my Heavenly Parents see my gifts and voice as assets just as valuable as my fellow brothers. And with that, read on.

Feminism at large can be tricky because there isn’t a “Feminist Rulebook,” meaning there can be many feminists who have different ideas of what feminism seeks. This seems to be especially true in the Mormon feminist realm. However, despite differing opinions on many topics, feminists will agree that overall what we seek is gender equality.

I have decided to make my thoughts on the subject more well known because I see brave women reverently but proudly declare how they feel. And then I see people turn them away or call them sinners or tell them they should just leave the church. How can I turn my back on these brave women by omitting my affiliation with them? And it is a form of turning your back when you remain silent in the face of people or events about which you feel strongly.

So what does it mean to come out as a Mormon feminist? Again, all feminists–both men and women–will have slightly varying opinions on different matters. So what I believe can’t speak for all Mormon feminists–but hopefully will positively represent many and will be in line with the general philosophy.

As an adolescent making my way through the Young Women program, I generally felt frustration. I saw all the activities that the boys did and hated that as young women we were never taught any useful life skills. I hated having lesson after lesson about how I need to get married ASAP. I hated that “Girls Camp” consisted of beauty regimens as activities and despite being “certified” to tie knots and light fires, I never lit a fire at girls camp until my final year when I insisted I do so.

In short, I hated being treated like a dainty, pedestal-ridden baby-maker (Before anyone gets mad, let me clarify that having babies is awesome and wonderful and should never ever be frowned upon. Also, if one is dainty, that is also wonderful. I, however, am not therefore don’t enjoy being treated as such). The scouts and young men received all manner of attention, budgets, and accolades while we young women painted cardboard picture frames (Seriously–that was an activity one week. I painted mine solid red as quickly as I could then said, “Okay, I’m outta here,” and left. We didn’t even learn how to make frames, we just painted them!).

And then I graduated from high school. One of the first Relief Society lessons I attended was in my home ward when my Bishop taught and answered any questions the women had. For some reason, most of the questions pertained to sex. I have to admit, it was somewhat weird learning intimate details about the sex lives of the people in my ward, most of whom are of retiring age. But what I remember most is the brief summary that all men think about sex constantly, and that if a girl hugs a guy he is immediately thinking about having sex with said girl, regardless of relationship status. I started to wonder if I should repent for hugging my recently departed missionary friends goodbye.

Let that sink in: I was wondering if I should repent for giving out HUGS! Hugs! A fairly universal sign of affection and comfort! Gee, whiz.

The lesson implied, as is ever implied and/or bluntly stated in the church, that women are responsible for men’s actions when it comes to sexual purity and appetite. Let me point out that that teaching is completely false and is in fact contrary to our doctrine of agency.

I have since realized that hugging is perfectly fine (obviously).

Leaving Young Women and entering Relief Society as a Young Single Adult (YSA) is about when people earnestly begin to ask you when you’re getting married. If you are an unmarried YSA there is a general attitude (yea for places and people to whom this hasn’t happened!) that there is either something wrong with you (you’re a psycho, you’re lazy, you’re not living in line with the gospel, you’re too picky) or that you are hopelessly unfortunate and deserve pity–especially if you are a woman.

I have never been married so can’t speak from first hand experience, but I am absolutely sure marriage is incredible and wonderful when you find the right person. But that’s the key component: You have to find the right person! I have observed that there is a huge emphasis on marriage as a sacred Third Entity instead of encouraging people to find the right person. Thus people get married lickety-split because they think it is their duty to the church. Sometimes this works out. Other times, it results in hasty divorce or a lifetime of misery.

At the age of 25 I am old enough to realize that I am absolutely okay being single. Is that to say every guy I’ve ever dated was horrible? No! I have had the privilege of associating with some truly great men. But my life’s success is not measured by my relationship status, and likewise my personhood is not defined by it. And besides that, I’m only 25! That is by no means old! And in all honesty, I sort of resent the fact that so many people think my primary concern should be getting married as opposed to furthering my education or seeking financial independence or travelling the world or basically just being me. Anyone who is a counselor or married can correct me, but it seems that if you put marriage as the sacred Third Entity before yourself or before your potential partner, you are setting yourself up for an unhealthy marriage. One must be happy and okay alone before one can be happy and okay as a partner. Right?

Now, what’s all this rambling about? It seeks to explain why there is a need for a feminist movement within the church. And let me tell you, there is a need.

Let’s jump back to when I was in high school. For the most part, I have been blessed with good self-esteem and a positive body image. But then I heard Elder Oaks’ talk in which he told the young women we become porn when we don’t dress to the church’s standard of modesty (the first time I felt objectified, by the way). Shortly after that, my bust grew rapidly to a size 34DDD. With a size 34DDD, shirts, dresses, swimming suits, sports bras, regular bras don’t fit properly. Even shirts that are designed to be “modest” are tighter and lower-cut. Most clothing is designed to fit a C-cup or smaller so busty girls just have a difficult time.

With my large bust and increased difficulty in keeping everything covered, Elder Oaks’ talk stalked my mind. I became paranoid and felt guilty–felt guilty for something I have absolutely no control over! I stopped swimming, I stopped working out because swimming suits and workout clothes are too pornographic for the young men (my mentality then, not what is in any way true). I developed a belief that if only my boobs were smaller I’d be happier. I’d date more. I could run a marathon (While I have not yet run a full marathon, I have run three half-marathons–all with a large bust! Lesson: Don’t let your perceived body “flaws” stop you from doing what you want.)

One day I was crying because I needed something to fit and it wouldn’t. I tearfully explained to my mom about my concerns over being immodest and that I didn’t want to become porn to men and make them sin, and quoted Elder Oaks. I know my mom loves Elder Oaks (I do, too). But she looked at me and forcefully declared, “Elder Oaks has never had boobs!”

And she’s right, obviously. That is a mistake made over and over again by men in leadership positions, and not just about anatomy. As hard as they might try to understand what we as women live through, they have never been women. They might think they have a grip on what we need and want and experience, but they are trapped by their male biases simply because they are men. Does that make them bad people? No. But it does mean that without the help of women, they can’t meet the needs of women because they do not understand.

It took me years to really let what my mom said sink in, and thus years for my guilt and insecurities to begin to dissipate, but they did eventually start to dissipate. Unfortunately this was followed by the realization that this event is a direct result of rape culture, wherein women are taught it is our responsibility to prevent illicit thought or action on the part of men. Yep. The Mormon church has a major rape culture going on.

I have a gazillion (yes, that many) more experiences I could call upon to examine why the Mormon church needs a feminist movement. But as the hot topic of the day is female ordination and the Ordain Women movement, I think it is time to move onto that.

I have thought long and hard about female ordination. It has consumed many hours of thought and those hours of thought have reshaped the way I listen to talks and lessons at church. This new lens is frequently heartbreaking, yet I persevere because even when my world and my church are tumultuous and painful and seemingly unbearable, I do have faith in Christ and it is his guidance and example I want to follow.

I just have two more experiences before I really move onto what I think about all this.

First, from my childhood. I grew up in a single-parent household. Before my parents’ divorce, my dad was around but not involved with the church so there really wasn’t a Priesthood presence in my home. And after the divorce, well, obviously there still wasn’t Priesthood around.

I remember sitting in Sunday School classes, Primary lessons, and Young Women’s lessons about Father’s Blessings and feeling like those lessons didn’t apply. I felt outcast and like I was being punished for the choices made by others.

But what if women had held the Priesthood? My mom could have given me blessings. She could have healed me, sent me off to the first day of school with a Mother’s Blessing, given me blessings of comfort and guidance. And what is the reason she wasn’t able to? As a lifelong member of the LDS church, I don’t have an answer other than tradition, and tradition is not good enough.

Another experience: A year ago I was called to be an Activities Committee Co-Chair in my singles ward. I thought it an odd choice since I never go to activities, but I accepted the call with the assumption I have with all callings: That the Lord and the Spirit know more than I do.

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t my favorite calling. It seemed like instead of actually planning activities we just rehashed all the activities set down by the very first activities committee for that ward.

At any rate, we were preparing for the ward campout and had a basic plan. Maybe it was a bad plan, I don’t know. But I do know that one day we had a plan, the next day that plan was changed without consulting or telling me–a co-chair, need I remind you. How did that happen? Well, my Priesthood holding co-chair discussed it with a Priesthood holding 2nd Counselor of the Bishopric.

What did I learn from that experience? I learned that my opinion and plans and presence don’t really matter. What matters is the Priesthood and since I don’t have it, plans can be completely changed without consulting me, despite that at face-value my opinion is supposed to matter.

One grand theme Mormon feminists talk about is being excluded from decision-making circumstances and opportunities. An activities committee might not be the most important example one could come up with. But, as we are constantly reminded, every calling is important. So why was my voice ignored and shut out?

Is it necessary for women to hold the Priesthood in order for women to be treated better and to be truly valued as much as church leaders claim women already are? Maybe, maybe not. Many will argue that the Priesthood isn’t necessary for women to have a more inclusive role in the church and that may very well be true. However, it seems that as long as only men hold the Priesthood, women will continue to be devalued and not taken seriously. It is reminiscent of the “separate but equal” mentality used to justify segregation.

As I said before, I have spent a very long time pondering these things and working them out in my mind. I have worked out that it makes absolute sense that women hold the Priesthood and that we will at some point do so, in addition to learning more about Heavenly Mother and her roles. I am now in the “bring it to the Lord” phase of figuring out what will happen in the church. As I am still in that process I don’t want to proclaim to know everything (even if I were finished with the process I still wouldn’t want to claim to know everything! This is a line upon line church, right?). However, as I read and watch and listen I find more hope and peace and love within the Mormon feminist community than I do in other places.

I had a teacher in high school who, among other great words of wisdom, said, “Pay attention to what makes you cry.” And I do. I pay close attention. Sometimes I work out exactly what triggers the tears, other times I don’t. But when I watch video footage of women request entrance into the Priesthood Session of General Conference, I cry. When I read the experiences of women who desire Priesthood authority, I cry. When I think back to my childhood and remember how much of an outcast I felt simply because no one in my household could give me blessings, I cry.

And, with the exception of my memory from childhood, I am not crying out of sadness. A bit of heartbreak, yes. But more so out of beauty and hope and love. These women aren’t rabble-rousers who know nothing about the Gospel. They aren’t protesters. These are men and women who have served missions, are active in the church, who know and understand the Gospel, and who have strong testimonies of Jesus Christ and His church. So what is really making me cry? I believe it is the Spirit. The Spirit is strong with these women and it touches my heart.

And to be completely and brutally blunt, these women remind me more of Christ than the people who turn them away or beat them with scorn. Because what are they doing? They are asking for opportunities to be closer to and learn more from God. Christ is our ultimate example. He sought wisdom from our Heavenly Parents. Why are women being shamed and turned away for doing the same thing?

I’m still working things out through prayer. But I find it increasingly hard to believe that a God who truly loves his sons and daughters equally would allow a culture to persist that holds one gender on a caged pedestal and allows the other to be free and make decisions.

And so I pray. I pray for answers. I pray for a healthy dialogue between the Brethren and concerned women of the church. I pray for patience and peace. And I hope that by the time I have daughters, they can be a part of this church and feel their talents and opinions are truly valued, and not just whether or not they have fertile, fertile loins.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is truly beautiful, and it is a message of hope and peace. But we can’t wear the name of Christ like a badge of courage while even one person feels fear because of their questions. He went after the one. It is our job to dispel fear and include all our brothers and sisters with the same love and compassion as our Savior.

Author: Tamsen Maloy |