Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Feminism and the Church

I think I look at the facts unflinchingly and say what they mean or suggest. I do not think we do ourselves or anyone else a favor when we try to make the church look any better than it is.

We come off best when we present ourselves as simple Christians who try to live good lives and keep trying even when we don't succeed. We have wonderful things to share, our community of loving friends, our excellent programs, our access to personal revelation, our belief that our prayers are answered, our moderate way of life, our teachings that promise future improvement and eternal life and those are the things that we should emphasize.

Yet, I can't help looking at the facts and reality of my religion and trying to find my niche in it.

In this day, it is notable that the Church's leadership at every level is male. Meetings are run by men in dark suits. As men are recruited, encouraged, refined, groomed, tested, they become strong leaders. And so, it goes without saying that women, without autonomy, would seem to have little power in this religion.

Then the question comes: But what is power in religion? Leadership seems important, but many religions, certainly ours, have stressed the humble vineyard worker as the powerful position. The greatest of all is the servant of all. A New York Times Magazine illustrated this apparent paradox in an issue highlighting Doba Levin, the wife of a Lubavitcher rabbi and the mother of fourteen children. A reader objected to featuring her as a religious exemplar because she was subordinate to her husband, had no independent status, and lived a premodern life. Her activities, the writer said, were clearly circumscribed. Another correspondent concluded the opposite, noting that as the mother and guide of many, Levin was, in terms of moral independence, powerful indeed. This question of where power lies is significant for Mormon women who wield uncelebrated influence. Is it therefore insignificant or diminished? Should women, apparently not important in modern terms, sue for influence? Should they deny their ambitions? Can women deal with this puzzle?

There have been some accommodations to the changed role of LDS women in recent years. These include an annual women's meeting and some female speakers at General Conference. And those talks are always good. The official stance is that gender roles are separate but equal, and that woman's place is in the home. Many women are content in the home, but others have felt patronized by this rhetoric, pointing out that the equation of priesthood with motherhood is asymmetrical, leaving out fatherhood, and is, furthermore, not scriptural. This gender relationship means that male leaders direct women in their lives, assuming they know how women feel, think, and should behave.

I also feel that there hasn't been enough talk addressing the rise of the single LDS woman.

In congregations throughout the world, there are many beautiful, charming, intelligent, amazingly talented single women doing good things, taking their lives seriously. But at church every Sunday they hear lessons that talk of the glories of marriage. We have to recognize that these exceptions are becoming the mainstream. The world is changing and so is the Church.

So how should it change? What can the church do to find a place for the single, intelligent, independent woman who doesn't really want to hear about marriage every Sunday (and is not even sure she wants to get married!)....

and even more so doesn't want to be continuously judged on her marital status?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

These are the Days of Our Lives

Arthur Miller points out a fact that I have been contemplating all week. This fact is that acting is inevitable as soon as we walk out our front doors and into society.

My question to Arthur is--has this always been so? Have humans always known how to act, how to hide, how to deceive, how to tell the convenient truth and not the inconvenient truths? Has this sense of being different with different people, putting on a happy face, putting on a sophisticated aura, putting on bright red shoes...are these acts of acting, or merely the human as mercurial as only humans can be? Is the acting not acting because we are acting like who we really are, or is the acting acting because we are trying to hide who we really are?

And if that confused you, think about this:

In our time television has created a quantitative change in all this; one of the oddest things about millions of lives now is that ordinary individuals, as never before in human history, are so surrounded by acting. Twenty four hours a day everything seen on the tube is either acted or conducted by actors in the shape of sitcoms, talk shows, all the way to the news anchor men and women, including their hairdos. It may be that the most impressionable form of experience now, for many if not most people, consists of their emotional transactions with actors which happen far more often then emotional transactions with real people.

How many of you have related more to a movie lately than to a regular human being? I certainly have, hello I spent more time with the movie ONCE last week than I did with my friends!

This makes me think of two individual life, and the life of the political show in our nation.

First of all my individual life. Many of you know that I lost a friend to a tragic shooting two weeks ago. She was going to church on her 30th birthday with her mother. Her husband followed her there, got out of his car and shot her ten times in close range and murdered her. How can this happen? How can someone you have lived with, made love with, had children with, and told intimate secrets to be someone so incredibly different than what you thought? Are we all just acting with one another? I know I am simplifying this man's underlying psychological problems and chalking it up to pretending. I don't know how else to process it right now, I guess.

Second of all, how do we choose our country's next leader? I echo Miller when he says that "it seems to me that when one is surrounded by such a roiling mass of consciously contrived performances it gets harder and harder for a lot of people to locate reality anymore. Admittedly, we live in an age of entertainment, but is it a good thing that our political life, for one, be so profoundly governed by the modes of theatre, from tragedy to vaudeville to farce? I find myself speculating whether the relentless daily diet of crafted, acted emotions and canned ideas is not subtlely pressing our brains to not only mistake fantasy for what is real but to absorb this process into our personal sensory process."

So, what is your reaction to this? How are you choosing who to marry, who to vote for, who to believe, who to follow, who not to follow, whether you should be someone that others should follow, or if you just would rather have no contact with most people at all?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Dashing English Professor

"There's something about this suit that squeals, "sexy English professor who will peer at me intently as he takes off his glasses and mutters something like, 'Your understanding of Yeats is unparalleled. I never thought to find such a brilliant mind in such a beautiful woman. This is so unprofessional of me -- SO WRONG -- yet I MUST KISS YOU,' and then we run off to Capri, where he writes things and I do a lot of standing on the balcony in glamourous tunics drinking beverages in crystal flutes whilst being flatteringly backlit." I can't resist that. I LOVE flutes.

As for Angelina, while she often wears black, it is suspected that her look could be a preview of the It Wouldn't Be Right To Be All Wildly Gussied Up At An Event During The Writers Strike epidemic that may currently be sweeping closets all over Hollywood. Jewel-toned cocktail frocks languish in closets throughout the 310! There is a mad run on somber dresses and black shoes! Starlets compete to look The Most Seriously Appropriate! And that could be fun, too. You just know Bai Ling will show up somewhere in a nun's habit, and everyone wins when that happens."

The Toga is Back!

"Certainly, there has been no shortage of moments in Katie Holmes' life in recent years that have made us go, "Wait, SERIOUSLY?" And that's just from the couch-jumping and the engagement and pregnancy and wedding and fashion-embracing and Posh-befriending; it doesn't even include anything that's happened behind closed doors. Not that I'm implying her husband is odd or anything. He's totally normal to me. Everyone I know leaps onto their living-room set at least twice daily. Furniture is a thrill.

At any rate, all things considered, nothing should surprise me with her any more. Yet somehow I still caught myself saying aloud this morning, "Wait... SERIOUSLY? Since when did Katie Holmes become someone who could pull off a TOGA?"

It definitely has the whiff of bedsheet about it, like maybe her exuberant husband grabbed one off the bed and ran around her twice and then screamed, "GLORIOUS," before hitting his head on the four-poster and passing out cold."

What do you think? Should we all start welcoming back the Toga with open arms? Maybe it will make me say really smart, deep, universally ignored facts....or maybe it will get me a staring roll in the third installment of Bill and Ted's __________(fill in the blank--there's another good question what would you name the third installment of the B and T success?)?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Process of Painting

Sometimes an images will flash across the movie screen, the tv screen, the novel page, the neuron connections, my dreams, my wakes and will ingrain its tiny self into some part of the gray folds of memory, and then one moment it chooses to emerge and paint itself onto my canvas. This is what has come out's my goal to finish it this week and then to sell it because the inspiration behind it haunts me a little too much to have it hanging freely about my bedroom, my living room, or any other room...

The faces are blank, although I know exactly what they should look like, I just don't know if I want to create it and have it out there in the world...and yet again, maybe it's exactly what I need to do.

It's gonna be a good week.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

I DO NOT Heart Huckabee

Go Obama!
"Years from now, you'll look back and you'll say that this was the moment, this was the place where America remembered what it means to hope. For many months we've been teased, even derided, for talking about hope. But we always knew hope is not blind optimism. It's not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It's not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it."