Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why I March

Today, a wonderful thing happened. A 'cousin' called to ask me about the Women's Marches. She comes from a family that has a heavy conservative influence. She's a student at Brigham Young University. She is smart, compassionate, fun and articulate; and due to the nature of our ever polarizing news  (and facebook feeds), she was having a hard time dissecting and distilling down the barrage of information about the events. We spent just shy of thirty minutes inspired me to better articulate why I not only chose to have a friend carry my name as they participated in the march in Washington DC on Saturday, but why I will be joining Salt Lake's local response tomorrow. (There were several sister marches also in the state on Saturday, but Salt Lake's march is set for Monday to coincide with the first day of our state legislature being in session.) 

So back to "the why." Let me back up: 

I went to church today and sat in the pew as I listened to a brilliant woman (professor at the University of Utah) give a thought provoking talk about the importance of words and how we should be careful about the words we use. She cautioned about their impact and challenged us to make sure the words were are using lift others up.

My spiritual path may not seem conventional to many that share my religion, but I find great peace in the rituals of Sunday as a Mormon. I sit in the pew, take the sacrament (i.e. communion in the LDS faith) and for the most part am filled with a sense of peace at the familiarity of ritual and song I find inside those walls.

I am reminded of words from one of my yoga teachers, who was speaking about the communal aspect of yoga, but I have found it to also resonate with my choice to attend church (paraphrased): “While the practice itself is individual, we come together collectively to feel and elevate one another’s vibration.”

Within the syntax of the LDS faith, some might recognize that as “feeling the Spirit.” It is the peace and joy that I also find when attending a Catholic mass and hear the ethereal Gregorian chants, when I am surrounded by yogis practicing “metta” – the meditative practice of offering loving kindness. I felt in in college at Indiana Wesleyan University, surrounded by my Evangelical Christian volleyball teammates, as they laid hands on fellow player struggling with their health.

I’ve experienced it in so many places-- from  funerals, to finish lines of marathons and even on Broadway. People sharing their, time, talents and energy often provoke thought and instill in me a sense that I want to be better, and do better for myself and humanity. I cannot deny there is something unique and special about people coming together with a hope in their heart to improve not just their situation, but the lives of others.

I will be the first to admit that I live a life of privilege. To the external world, I’m a cis-gender, heterosexual, white female living in the upper-east side of surburbia. My children go to private school. They are both ‘typical’ children. I have a great job with freedom that allows me to basically make my own schedule, and experience the joys of being a stay-at-home mom. I’m a member of the dominant religion in my community and my state. I’m pretty insulted, and my life –on so many levels – exists in somewhat of a bubble.  

And that is one of the main reasons I march.

Yes, I’ve experienced sexual assault and so many of the by-products of rape-culture, misogyny and sexism. I've been turned down for promotions because of the “mommy-track” and told I “might want to freshen up my lipstick” before I head into a meeting. But overwhelmingly, I have lived a life of privilege. The sexism and misogyny I have experienced, seems trite to discuss  in comparison to what so many in our country are dealing with.  I believe I have a moral obligation to help my neighbor.

There are many ways to serve our neighbors  – for me,  joining together to help raise awareness as a collective voice, feels like just one of the things I ought to do (and want to do). 

From the 'Utah Women Unite' FaceBook organizing page:

“Utah Women Unite exists to protect and advance the rights of all Utah women and girls, including Utah’s marginalized groups, women of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, women of all abilities and from every financial status. We seek to unite as an intersectional collective to address the political, legal, and cultural problems faced by Utah women and to elevate the status and dignity of all people.”

I recognize many of my friends look at the protestors as a bunch of 'sore losers throwing a tantrum' – I say this because I have seen some of them “like” FB statuses with basically those words, or similar sentiments. We don't need to get into the fact that Trump called for people to take to the streets after Obama's election --fueled by Donald's lies that Obama wasn't an american citizen; and extremists on the right had their own barrage of horrifying protests--primarily based on birther rhetoric. 

I denounce the violence on either side. 

And I would remind all of us that our country has a long history of peaceful protesting that has helped to change the tide of discrimination and injustice (e.g.  the Boston Tea Party, to the Suffragists and Civil Rights, just to name a few of the big ones). 

In the interest of full disclosure, there is plenty that I am marching for that is more personal. First, I march for my daughter and for my son. I march for friends and family members who have suffered sexual abuse.   And yes, there are things that I am marching for tied to my political beliefs: better access to reproductive care to limit the number of abortions, protections for our planet, education, civil rights and more.

I march for these reasons and more. I march for the beauty that is intersectional-feminism, and I am excited to get out there tomorrow, join collectively to raise the vibration and peacefully exercise my first amendment rights.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

More thoughts on LDS Lifestyle Porn

There’s been an article floating around my Facebook feed from Mike Thayer about lifestyle porn. I’ll admit, when I first saw friends posting over it I skipped past because… well, you lost me at “porn,” (which I imagine someday I will also write an opinion piece on another time because, “gasp”  and “surprise” my views on it do not entirely line up with those being preached by Utah’s Porn Czar and the like.)

But I digress… when I read Mr. Thayer’s piece about theepidemic of lifestyle-porn consumption, I’ve got to say…overall, I agreed with a lot of what he has to say. I think he’s done a decent job drawing parallels to the fantasy of porn and the fantasy of a perfect life…

A taste of the piece:
“It is the ultimate Mormon ideal. Screw waiting until the afterlife for your mansions on high, there are people living it now, baby! In fact, as soon as they finish building one mansion, they start building a different one, because…well…they can. Any variant of perfection you can fantasize is currently being lived and blogged about by some Utah version of the Kardashians.

“But I would say this. It isn’t real. Watching all of this is addictive and it sets unrealistic expectations for marriage and life that can lead to feelings of disappointment and inadequacy. It entices women everywhere to connect with things that aren’t rea…wait a second…Where have I heard that before? It sounds so familiar…Oh, that’s right! Porn! What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a sweeping epidemic of Lifestyle Porn.”

It’s worth a read.

Where I take umbrage, (besides my initial reaction of "oh great, another male telling me how I should live my life and not feel inferior,") is that as the target audience he’s speaking to (Mormon female, mama with young kiddos, between 20-40, young professional husband along the Wasatch front #nailed it), is that I would’ve loved more discussion about our actual religion’s role in creating this ‘perfection’ to strive for… we didn’t create this epidemic in a vacuum, it’s been carefully handed to us our entire lives.

So yes, I hear tremendous leaps have been made in the YW curriculum! Hallelujah!  The reality is that most of the women in this demographic --as we fall prey to a desire for this perfection--are again, only an extension of what we’ve been taught. We’ve had hundreds even thousands of lessons and “Super Saturdays” geared towards showing us and telling us how to make our homes a literal “HEAVEN ON EARTH.” (First and foremost, the importance of finding a man--or being the type of person someone will want to find you). And then how to craft, and clean, and craft and time manage and craft and cook and exercise and volunteer and … heavy sigh… more crafting. I had lessons on make-up application and how to dress “fashionably modest.” This is my reality, and the reality of so many my age.

Again, we are not the Lifestyle Porn creators… we’re just living it out on a different stage. (And just to be clear, I’m not a lifestyle blogger. My house has Formica countertops and for the most part I shop at H&M and Old Navy. But I recognize that even at the bottom of the Wasatch Front lifestyle-blog barrel, I’m still living an extreme life of privilege.)

Back to your regularly scheduled program:

We’ve heard from expert after expert about the importance of documenting our family history. We’ve been told to strive for perfection. Of course there’s an epidemic of us trying to look perfect – it’s what our leadership has told us God wants from us since the beginning.

We’ve looked at idyllic picture after idyllic picture of a family happily smiling around a table, or perfectly decorated home, pefectly pressed clothes reading scriptures and having family home evening. Long before LDS women took to sharing their successes and ideals online (whether it be for profit/attention/family & personal history) the LDS Church was placing the propaganda first--compound that with Better Homes & Gardens and fashion magazines, it's just a different type of media consumption.

The great irony is that we are consuming (and on some case doing) just doing what we have been conditioned to: strive for perfection and document your life to inspire others. 

How do we inspire when our lives don’t look like perfection? When we’ve been taught lessons on how “the spirit cannot dwell in an unclean place.” Regardless of what that scripture actually says, or the meaning behind it—so many of us have internalized that to mean every freakin’ aspect of our lives. (I’m actually laughing as I write this – so if that last bit sounded cruel to you, I promise you that was not the tone intended).

“Don’t compare your outtakes with someone else’s highlight reel.” I think Dr. Seuss said that… or someone famous.  If not, then it was probably me. (Actually, it wasn’t me, but I heard it and it’s the best ‘filter’ I use for social media.)

I don’t want to tell lifestyle bloggers (inside or outside the faith) to stop what they’re doing, because we can’t. Just like you can’t tell Hollywood to stop airbrushing. Some brave souls will come forward and chose to never be photoshopped for magazine covers, etc; but the majority will not.

For some being a lifestyle blogger is their job – they’ve created a brand and an identify associated with it. For some, they’re contributing to their family’s income. They’ve found a way to take the model and use it for their own benefit. I’m not going to tell them to stop. They’re great at what they do. (I wish I had their talent… because not even a fancy camera would give me their talent or eye for style. A camera can only do so much.)

Furthermore, I’m not going to tell people to stop looking at what they’re creating. Just like an erotic movie with my husband can heat things up in the bed room (oh. My. Goodness. Yes, I said it) lifestyle blogs can be inspiring. But yes, I need to remember that they are staged…just like Interior Design magazines, Vogue and LDS photoshoots.

Seems like a good place for a quote about moderation here (please, insert your favorite).

On a similar note, I’m pleased with the progress I see in the LDS Religion (yes, my religion and how I chose to make a spiritual path, however unconventional that path may be). Articles in the Ensign are starting to address the realities of drug addiction, mental health, LGBT issues (again, a topic worth plenty of blog posts in of itself) and how not all families look like the claims of the “ideal.”

Let’s keep those conversations going.
Let’s talk just as much about the realities of real-life as we do spend time on trying to make it perfect.

I love seeing pictures of the incredible things my friends are doing with their homes (seriously, some of my friends are interior designers and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE celebrating their talents. They shouldn’t hide those under a bushel.)

Women, we need more of us sharing and celebrating each other’s talents…we also need more safe spaces for being real. We need to be safe-spaces for each other to fail. Perhaps even more importantly, we need to provide a place and a dialogue that realizes that not being perfect, is still NOT failing. It’s just life.

I don’t know the answer to the larger lifestyle-blog consumption epidemic (I'd love to hear your solutions!) But I do know that human nature says when you tell someone that something is bad for them, most of the time they are more interested in learning about it.

I guess I’m more interested in more people--male and female--being “real” within our religion and culture, and more of us helping to create safe and judgment-free spaces to live that out. And finally, let’s not blame women for a pre-occupation with the perfect family life (i.e. lifestyle)…last I heard, we’re still fighting for our seats at the tables where the curriculum is written.


**I imagine I'll be editing this later today. As I stew over things a little bit more...but here's a first draft.