A Neo-Luddite’s Guide to the 21st Century

This was originally posted on Hellogiggles.com several months ago. But as I enjoyed writing it so much and find myself to be terribly amusing, I am reposting here. Fun! I also edited a bit because what else is a writer supposed to do? 

Most of the luxuries, and many of the so-called comforts of life, are not only indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.” –Henry David Thoreau

06146ed47ce106a18faa9b68e0b3c61c9473a1be1fed6ca6be6f79f6f3164f1dEven as I sit typing this, I realize the contradictory nature of the headline: advice for a Neo-Luddite? On a blog? On the internet? Typed on the computer? WHAT? But, hey. This is the 21st Century, after all.

For those of you unfamiliar with Neo-Luddites or Luddites, a Luddite is someone who fears or simply does not like technology. The original Luddites protested (sometimes violently) innovations in textile production in England in the early 19th century. In the 21st century, you can find Neo-Luddites scouring antique stores for typewriters, in possession of a set of ink and quills, desperately denying that newspapers will ever die out, and avoiding places like the Apple store like they would the ebola virus.

Although I am a Millennial, I am a Neo-Luddite. The day I got my first cell phone was a day of embarrassment for me (a day I postponed as long as possible). Facebook is a necessary evil for promoting writing, an evil the worth of which I consider regularly. Ebooks and tablets are the devil incarnate and I would really love to break them all.

Despite my Neo-Luddite tendencies, I somehow ended up pursuing a career that is becoming more and more electronic, as well as more dependent on modern technology.

So how do I survive it? Good question. Below are a few tricks I employ to ensure my sanity in a world that values the latest and greatest technology more than almost anything else.

1. Pick a time (or multiple times) each day to turn off your phone.

The catch-22 of having a cell phone is that it makes you more available, while also making you too available. Being easy to reach can be great and one of the reasons cell phones grew in popularity so rapidly. But being more available can be horrendously stressful. Suppose you are trying to meditate or are trying to focus on writing or studying and your phone rings (or more likely these days, you receive a text). Your brain is rapidly pulled out of focus, even if you choose not to respond. Regaining that focus can be extremely difficult, especially if you’re like me and for some reason feel a nagging to respond just to get it out of the way.

If you choose a period of time each day (while you’re sleeping doesn’t count, although that’s probably a good idea) to turn off your phone, you are free to be free! Free from technology, even if it’s just for a while. And if you choose to use that time to focus on those tasks that require deep mental or spiritual focus, all the better.

2. Turn off email notifications.

This is in reference to email capabilities on smartphones. Many people have jobs that require employees to have smartphones, even if that means the company foots the bill. For a Luddite this trend can be a nightmare, especially when it comes to email. Sure, the purpose of a smartphone for work often is email. But as long as you are a responsible employee there is no reason that every ten minutes or so you have to hear that obnoxious ping or swish indicating a new email has arrived. It is over-stimulating for many people, but more importantly it puts technology in control of you, instead of leaving you in control of technology. That is one of the key problems a Luddite sees with technology: that instead of people living to live and interact and be, they are living to be at the beck and call of some kind of technology. Removing automatic email notifications (and while we’re on the topic, ANY notifications) helps you to be in control.

3. Be that person who lugs around a 600 page book on an airplane.

education-booksI recently returned from a trip to Alaska (by the way, a good place to be if you aren’t a huge fan of technology). As I boarded the plane home, a flight attendant saw my enormous hardback copy of The Historian and said, “Wow, a real book. You don’t see those very often anymore.” I had been up since 2:30 a.m. so didn’t respond vocally with anything very interesting. But my sleep-deprived brain ran through a rapid cycle of thoughts:

“Uggghhhh! E-readers are the worst!”

“Haha, yeah. And I get to keep reading my book during takeoff and landing.”

“How could I possibly board a plane without a book?”

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE WORLD IF MY BOOK IS A NOVELTY?????”

And don’t limit yourself to only lugging around books on airplanes. Take them to work, school (school books don’t count), movies (yes, I have taken a book to a movie). Anywhere you feel you might have a chance to read and escape even momentarily from the technology-crazed world surrounding you.

4. Be the last to know about any new technology or trendy website

Honestly, Neo-Luddites probably don’t even have to try to do this. I know I don’t. On many occasions, people have tried to talk to me about a new technology or website that it seems everyone else in the world understands. Frequently I have no idea what they are talking about, and I don’t mind in the least. Why clutter up my life with more websites and more stuff? I don’t need it.

Frankly, even though I have a Twitter account, I can’t figure out its purpose beyond promoting writing. And I can’t make head or tail of what Tumblr and Pinterest are supposed to be. And that’s okay.

This trick can also apply to viral trends. For example, if you ask me what ‘gangnam style’ is all I can say is that it was a trendy video once. I think. Is that what it was? Anyway, I heard people say it a lot but I never really knew what it was. And my life is still pretty neat so I don’t think I missed out much.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be informed. But I think Neo-Luddites are pretty good at filtering out the chaff from the wheat when it comes to media.

5. Go outside frequently

Phone pic--non-luddite style. Kenai River.

Phone pic–non-luddite style. Kenai River.

Often the best ways to tune out the technology you really just don’t love is to go outside–especially if you can go to a wilderness or nature area.

In my experience you may have to adapt the best you can given where you live. For example, when I lived in Columbia, Missouri a year ago, there wasn’t much wilderness around. I often wandered around thinking, “Where did all the wilderness go?” There was, however, a designated “nature area” down the hill from my apartment. Granted, even in the middle of it I could still hear the cars whizzing down the streets that circled the area, but it was better than nothing.

On the flip side, in Alaska just standing outside your front door can be sufficient. I would recommend venturing further than your front door, but it just goes to show how different places offer different levels of outdoorsy sanctuary.

One thing to remember: when you are going outside to give yourself a break from technology, don’t bring your cellphone or iPod or iPad! (duh.)

6. If you’re a student, don’t take a laptop to class

I remember those long gone, whimsical days of college. I felt dumbfounded whenever I sat behind someone who brought a laptop to class. I wondered, “How is this person learning anything? He’s watching funny cat videos instead of paying attention to this lecture on bone composition.” True story. What confounded me was students who brought laptops toggled back and forth between Facebook, Youtube, email, and maybe lecture notes. How do they learn?

I guess that’s their learning style but I have always been grateful that I opted to use notebooks and pens. They’re lighter and I was less likely to be regretfully distracted. And if I ever did succumb to distraction, drawing a picture or writing a poem in the margins of my notebook seemed like a much better use of my time than Facebook.

7. Buy handmade goods and homegrown foods

farmers-market-local-produce-520Mechanization invading every aspect of my life is one my horrors. Sometimes it seems like my nightmare is unavoidable, however, there are so many artisans and farmers around that it is feasible to fill your life with goods and foods untouched by much–if any–machinery beyond the ordinary.

Farmers markets, craft fairs, and used bookstores are your friends.

We live in a techno-crazed world, no doubt. And while it is absolutely unnecessary to wander the earth destroying technology (except maybe ebooks) like our Luddite forbears, it is possible to live a bit more simply.

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.

America the Beautiful

Ray-CharlesGearing up for Independence Day (more often called the Fourth of July) I always listen to Ray Charles–especially his version of “America the Beautiful.”

Once you hear his version of that song, every other rendition feels empty. I think his version of that song is a far superior personification of this country than our current national anthem. But that’s just me.

As I listened to Ray Charles sing that song again, a few lines stuck out to me:

“America! America!

May God thy gold refine

Till all success be nobleness

And every gain Divine!”

It is common that I receive a lot of angry feedback to any criticisms I make about my country. It is no secret that I don’t exactly fit in with American culture and would love to live abroad. But I am continually frustrated by the attitude that by criticising America’s faults I am somehow detracting from its “greatness.”

Those lines from “America the Beautiful” stuck out to me today because I want them to become true. I don’t want America to happily skip down the path of arrogant self-righteousness it has been travelling. I want all our successes to be noble. I want to see the end of what I consider to be a mockery of our claimed values. I want the inscription on the Statue of Liberty to be true. I want America to stop acting like Regina George.

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We proclaim liberty, equality, and freedom. Yet we have a distressing legacy of inequality, hatred, paternalism, and imperialism. When people try to come to our country for a better life, we kick them out, separate them from their families, spit on them–and that has been true with each wave of immigration.

All cultures experience some level of ethnocentrism, meaning each culture believes it is the best culture–it’s an “Us v. Them” attitude. The United States is no exception, except we take it to the next level. An Italian might say Italy is the best, but  the sentiment won’t be filled with resentment toward everyone else. Italians might think Italian-made pasta and leather and football is the best (come on, they’re probably right) but they won’t behave like it’s their way or the highway. Instead of attempting to enforce their culture, they’ll share it.

quote-ethnocentrism-is-the-view-of-things-in-which-one-s-own-group-is-the-center-of-everything-and-all-william-graham-sumner-310912

We constantly judge other cultures by our own standards and conclude that non-Americans must suffer so, or are pitiful because they don’t live here. We are not better than everyone else. Country lines do not decide value and happiness and worth. All cultures are different, all cultures matter.

I don’t like to say there is a “best” country in the world. That is impossible to measure, especially since so much depends on personal opinion and values. However, of the measurable markers, the U.S. does not measure up. We are one of three countries that doesn’t require maternity or paternity leave. A recent report says at the current rate it will take until 2121 to reach parity in the federal government. On the Global Peace Index our rank is 101 out of 162 (a drop from 99 several weeks ago). Our government is basically owned by big business. We claim to welcome the tired, poor, and huddled masses, but we absolutely reject anyone who dares come.

We are categorically not the best, but not only do we insist we are the best, we stomp on anyone who disagrees–even if that someone is not American.

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My purpose in writing this isn’t to spew America-hate. My purpose is to propose an alternate way of thinking. Namely, instead of insisting America is perfect the way it is, we work to make all our successes noble. Instead of yelling, “We’re the best! We’re the best!” while running an interior monologue detailing why America is better than everyone else, we embrace our culture while loving everyone else’s. It is possible to love your own culture without hating on others.

And the idea that ignoring a country’s problems is the ideal form of patriotism is just plain bizarre. As the song says, we need to refine our gold. Or in other words, we need to refine ourselves. We need to refine our attitudes, our politics, our intercultural relations. The world doesn’t revolve around us and it’s time we stop acting like it does.

So this Independence Day, celebrate the great things in our history. Celebrate that a small band of revolutionaries beat the British army and navy against all odds. Celebrate that we value freedom and independence and individuality and bravery. Celebrate the men and women who have worked and fought to preserve those values. Please, celebrate these things! But don’t forget that America is far from perfect. Don’t forget that other cultures and countries matter and don’t define themselves against an American backdrop. Don’t forget that there are people within our country-lines who suffer and don’t experience the freedom we claim to value so highly.

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America has a long way to go. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get there.

Author: Tamsen Maloy |

 

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 |

Black Widow and the Role of Women

article-1335353607565-12b9e3d5000005dc-27957_466x590Recently I overheard a distressing conversation in which a group of female twenty-somethings discussed Marvel’s Black Widow (the film version, not the comics). This group called Black Widow “one of those nasty girls,” because she was working with Captain America in his most recent film, instead of Hawkeye. Note at this point we don’t know all the details of the backstory between Hawkeye and Black Widow. It could be romantic, it could be platonic. Either way, it doesn’t make her a slut.

This struck a cord. Black Widow is probably my favorite Marvel character from the chain of Marvel films that continue to imbue our modern film experience. Thus far, she hasn’t had even one romantic or sexual relationship, let alone enough to qualify her as “one of those nasty girls.”

Overhearing this conversation brought up a few different issues for me: First, the role of women and how it would seem that regardless of a female character’s behavior or the type of relationship with male characters, that female character might always be relegated to romance or sexuality–even if it is unwarranted.

Second, the affliction of slut-shaming. Personally, I don’t care what your sex life is like or what you deem moral or immoral. What I do care about is if you shame other people for failing to live up to your personal standards, instead of their own. Shaming is never okay. And slut-shaming, with its presumptions and name-calling and limited scope is woman-centric in a highly negative way. I’m not a fan.

Third, this conversation makes me wonder how people view real-life women who have guy friends–whether one or two guy friends, or many. I myself have a friendship history made up primarily of guy friends–most of whom really were just friends. Do I have a reputation as “one of those nasty girls” that I have been blind too, because of my list of awesome guy friends?

In full disclosure, I’m unsure of how reflective this conversation is of the population at large. I prefer to think it is an anomaly. Maybe it was a group of girls buying into the “gossip equals good conversation” mentality. Maybe the people involved have so little experience with the opposite sex they just don’t understand that a woman can associate with men without being sexual or romantic.

However, given that Black Widow herself is quite the anomaly in film, I worry that the mentality of this conversation is not limited to just this group of women. Black Widow is an anomaly in that so far she hasn’t been a romantic interest. She has been an independent, kick-ass (literally) female character with as much brains as fighting prowess. She’s an anomaly because most often female characters are Black Widow’s opposite.

Most often, female characters exist to look sexy. Most often female characters exist to be the romantic lead for the male protagonist or to be the damsel in distress or to inspire the men. Most often, female characters are surrounded by sex and romance. They are rarely there as independent, fully-rounded characters. Thus, it might not be too much of a stretch for film-goers to view Black Widow as the sexy, romantic lead even in the absence of sex or romance for her character.

And I want to restate that in this I am only speaking of the films, not the comics. I am not a comic reader therefore do not want to speak for the comics or comic readers. This is strictly film.

So let’s get nitty-gritty about this by way of subheadings.

Role of Women and Female Characters

This conversation could very well be a symptom of the pervasive attitudes towards women in film, namely that women in film should support the men and/or be the love interest or sex object for the men.

I’m impatiently waiting for this mentality to fizzle and die. Love stories are wonderful. Love is one of the most basic and common of human experiences, therefore stories about it are expected and great. That does not mean that every female character in the known universe is obsessed with love or only exists for the benefit of male characters.

Remember when she beat up a group of guys before that other guy beat up one? Skills.

Remember when she beat up a group of guys before that other guy beat up one? Skills.

Black Widow has not once had a definitive relationship with any character in the Marvel films. Thus far she has been fairly asexual, meaning there hasn’t been any implication of sex or romance.

And yet, despite her saving lives, proving her mental brilliance, her backstory of which we only see the occasional tid-bit (Black Widow movie, where are you????), the absence of any love story, she is still relegated to the love interest and what she does with her body.

Are we so far gone in the idea that women only exist for romance and sex that even in the absence of those traits, that is all we see?

Slut-Shaming

Ah, the old tradition of slut-shaming. It is not too original to relate this trend to The Scarlet Letter, but it is such a very apt description.

scarletletterHester Prynne wears the scarlet letter ‘A’ for “adultery” in her Puritan town. SHE is the one who wears the letter. SHE is the one who bears the scrutiny and mockery. And yet, doesn’t it take two people to create a child the traditional way? Isn’t that basic biology and sex ed? YES!!! It is!! But Hester’s co-adulterer is safe from all shame!

We don’t make people wear letters anymore, but that doesn’t mean we’ve moved past shaming or judgement that is most often aimed at women. That is why we have characters like Barney Stinson who is “awesome” and we have characters like Black Widow (who hasn’t had any love interests that we know of) who is “one of those nasty girls.”

The discrepancy is revolting, and the shaming needs to stop.

Translation Into Real Life

Does this mentality translate into real life? How?

Most reasonable people will not watch movies and think of them as a roadmap for how real life ought to be. That does not mean the lessons and values we see in film don’t translate into our everyday perceptions.

Study after study shows that how women are portrayed in media–including film–impacts the well-being of women in reality. It impacts body image, self-worth, health, dreams and aspirations. It also drives many women to feel they are pitted one against another, instead of feeling unified as women.

I’ll let the website for Beauty Redefined fill you in on all that. They have PhD’s on the matter, after all. www.beautyredefined.net

In order to write this piece I re-watched Iron Man 2, even though I didn’t particularly like that film, just to make sure my assessment of Black Widow is correct. I maintain this stance: Black Widow is nothing but professional, brilliant, and exceptional in all her depictions on film. In Iron Man 2, it was Tony Stark who had the dirty or inappropriate things to say. Even during what could be the most innuendo-filled line delivered by Black Widow in Iron Man 2 is devoid of any innuendo because of her almost bored-sounding delivery.

Black Widow is totally amazing. And to saddle her with the degrading stereotypes often reserved for women that her character rejects completely… Well, it’s simply ridiculous to put it nicely.

Author: Tamsen Maloy |

 

Mental Illness Is Only Part of the Story

I am quite positive countless others with more knowledge, more experience, and more eloquence have written or spoken about this topic. After all, it has taken a life of its own via twitter, forums, manifestos, blog posts, news coverage. The gamut of attention is focused on the Isla Vista tragedy, as it should be.

While no one should relish tragedy, it can’t be denied this incident has put a spotlight on violence towards women–a spotlight that has been desperately needed.

That said, one common refrain is, “Rodger is just a maniac, that’s all. He’s just mentally ill.” I am no psychologist, and I won’t pretend to be one. I have no idea of the true mental state of Rodger before he committed his crimes. But regardless of his mental health, jumping on the bandwagon of, “Oh, he was just mentally ill,” is a mistake.

Not only is it damaging to other non-violent people who are mentally ill because it increases an already present stigma, it ignores the actual problem at hand: That misogyny kills.

Rodger’s manifesto was around before the tragedy. The police knew about it, were warned, and did nothing because they thought he was harmless. A guy revealing actual plans to murder people is harmless? It’s been said countless times, but I’ll say it again: Misogyny is so ingrained in our culture and so expected, that a man admitting he has plans to murder women is ignored and proclaimed harmless.

This needs to stop.

(Again, let me reiterate my lack of a degree in Psychology. I never even took one Psychology class so take it with a grain of salt when I discuss mental illness.)

As I understand mental illness, there are degrees to any disease. Anyone suffering from mild bipolar is still technically mentally ill. But are they capable of living fulfilling lives if their bipolar is managed? Yes! Mental illness, while important and something that needs attention as much as any physical ailment, does not excuse murder. Sources point to Rodger being mentally ill. Okay. Granted he was mentally ill, making his illness a scapegoat solves nothing. Plenty of people have mental illnesses and choose every day to not go on a killing rampage.

There is much reason for mental health reforms to take place, and for stigmas against such illnesses to be removed. Harping on every murderer’s mental illness–if he has one–doesn’t remove this stigma or promote these reforms.

To focus on mental illness and thus pity someone who commits such an atrocious crime dismisses everything that led to the incident in the first place. Mental illness can play a part in tragedy. But it isn’t the whole story. Dismissing Rodger’s actions simply as a result of mental illness disregards the multidimensionality of mental illness, as well as the other factors that contributed to this tragedy.

It wasn’t mental illness that killed seven people–it was Elliot Rodger. It was a culture of misogyny. It was a belief that women are objects and exist for male pleasure. It was the idea that women’s refusal to sleep with Rodger is a crime. It was a misconstrued understanding of masculinity that says control, sex, power, and violence are the epitome of manhood.

This was premeditated. He didn’t make the choice to kill in a vacuum. He is an expression of a culture that says women are property and exist for male pleasure.

It is easy to label someone as psychotic without addressing the real issue at hand. That issue is misogyny and sexism. It is here, it is real. That is the tragic beauty of #YesAllWomen. It shows us just how real the violence and fear really are.

Author: Tamsen Maloy |

#YesAllWomen – My Own Two Cents

My second semester of college I rode the bus to school. One day, as I sat in the back reading my book as was my wont to do, a man who had been sleeping since I got on, awoke. He turned to me, looked me up and down, and commenced to try to woo me by explaining he was in a gang and all the “great” things he’d done. Then he told me he’d follow me to class.

About a year ago, I was walking down the street toward my car, which was in a parking garage. A man I had noticed on the corner heading the other direction, suddenly appeared next to me. He kept trying to talk to me, ask me personal questions like where I live. When I didn’t respond how he wanted he flipped out. Literally. He had some kind of angry episode. He wanted to follow me to my house, to my car. He wouldn’t leave me alone until I said I was meeting my mom and that I had a boyfriend–both of which were untrue.

#YesAllWomen

Here’s the thing about being a woman: We basically know we have our own autonomy but we also know not everyone sees it that way. The Isla Vista shootings, and countless experiences women have had, prove that.

This tragedy highlights in terror how women are so frequently viewed as objects for male attainment. We are viewed as objects of pleasure, vessels for sex. We all know this. In dating–those of us who date men–we search for men who transcend the habit of seeing us as objects, as prizes, as beings meant to be quiet and do what the men say. We search, but are not always successful.

I for one am tired of it. I have been for… oh, always.

I’m lucky in that I have associated with and dated some great men who don’t feel this way. However, I am also unlucky in that I have associated with and dated men who do feel entitled to me, my company, my body, my future, etc. I think you would be hard pressed to find a woman who has never encountered a man who feels entitled to her. If such a woman exists, she is probably the luckiest women in the world.

To put it starkly, this event highlights a common occurrence. Now, I don’t expect every entitled or jilted man to go on a shooting rampage. That would be a horrifying and inaccurate  and unfair outlook. That doesn’t mean there aren’t men who feel entitled to women everywhere. This feeling of entitlement can manifest in seemingly innocuous ways, in addition to the more threatening, and all the way to the tragic as we’ve seen in Isla Vista.

In short…

Yes, all women have a right to say no–whether it be to a request for a date, to sex,  to a kiss, to even a simple conversation–without fear of retribution. Retribution is anything done in consequence to a rejection that negatively impacts the woman who said no. This can be as tragic as a killing or rape, all the way down to telling other men to avoid her because, “she says no.”

Yes, all women have a right to turn a man down without explanation or justification. “I’m just not interested,” is an adequate reason to say no.

Yes, all women have a right to walk down the street without being harassed.

Yes, all women have a right to go to graduate school without being deemed “undateable” or “not marriage material.”

Yes, all women have a right to wear whatever they deem comfortable or appropriate to their standards without “asking for it” or being told their attire is “causing men harm.”

Yes, all women can be interested in only friendship–and that is okay, not an invitation for rumors or violence.

Yes, all women have a right to stand up for themselves and express their opinion without being abandoned or beaten or called names.

Yes, all women deserve to be in a mutually respectful relationship.

Yes, all women are autonomous beings with dreams, goals, desires, thoughts. No, they are not a prize for righteous living.

Yes, all women have a right to go to the gym, the beach, anywhere and everywhere without being ogled.

The feeling of entitlement to women is a blight on our society. It is something that in this horrible incident has resulted in numerous deaths. Death should never be a consequence for saying no.

“No” is a word of empowerment and as such deserves respect.

And bear in mind this Margaret Atwood quote that has gone viral, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” In a culture where this sentiment rings true for so many, we need a drastic cultural shift.

#YesAllWomen

 Author: Tamsen Maloy |

#WhenConservativesGoTooFar

 

#despicable

#despicable

Sometimes, a girl’s just gotta rant. Now is one of those times.

By now we’re all familiar with the devastating kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian girls by the Boko Haram. Most of us feel outrage and helplessness, while some of us feel that maybe–just maybe–the use of hashtag #BringBackOurGirls will do something, just anything to help the situation.

Whether or not hashtag activism makes any difference is a great topic for debate. It’s effectiveness aside, it is simply deplorable for conservative commentators to use this hashtag as a tool to mock opposing parties.

AWFUL REPUGNANT FOUL GHASTLY ATROCIOUS INFURIATING!

This morning it came to my attention that certain public figures thought it would be a great idea to mock this campaign, and some of those who have participated. Ann Coulter took a photo of herself bearing a piece of paper that read, #Bring Back Our Country, complete with sad face in an attempt to mock Michelle Obama’s contribution to #BringBackOurGirls.

#OurFirstLady

#OurFirstLady

Ann Coulter was mocked via Twitter for doing this, but the fact remains (and I’m about to use all caps because serious) WHEN GIRLS ARE KIDNAPPED BY TERRORISTS IS NOT THE TIME TO MOCK THE OPPOSING PARTY!!!!! Does that really require saying?

Whether you like the current presidential administration; whether you think hashtag activism accomplishes anything; whether you want to set off a Twitter storm just for kicks, don’t react by appropriating a cause linked to the serious horror and plight of a group of girls!

I know Ann Coulter has come under serious fire for her photo, thus my post will probably just be white noise. However, this was more than just a gaffe. Using a severe crisis as fodder for mocking a person or party you don’t like is simply unacceptable. It is a crass act of levity in the face of tragedy. This act signifies a refuge for a mediocre mind.

#Malala

#Malala #ILoveMalala

Are you going to mock Malala, too?

Author: Tamsen Maloy |