Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sisters in Solidarity: A Chance to Be Heard

I try to bring a little humor to these posts, but today, I want to explore an idea that I have still yet to reconcile for myself despite years of research and self-reflection.

I want to begin by expressing my deep sadness for the women of the LDS church who feel the need to verbally and emotionally attack the women participating in the "Ordain Women" movement.

Yes, I did say that I was sad for the aggressors. While I do feel for the women promoting the movement and the negativity they experience in expressing and pursuing their beliefs, I experience even greater sadness for the attackers of the women in this movement. That's right, sadness FOR them, not toward them, or for the situation. I feel sad FOR all those who feel they need to expend great amounts of energy not only to oppose the movement, but to also personally critique and demean the women involved.

This sadness had led me, once again, to the conclusion that women are their own greatest adversaries and opponents.

Kelly Valen, author of The Twisted Sisterhood, writes in a New York Times article, "We women swim in shark-infested waters of our own design. Often we don't have a clue where we stand with one another  -- socially, as mothers, as colleagues -- because we're at once allies and foes." 

I want to explore the power behind both of these relationships starting with women as allies:

For centuries, all around the world, women have had to fight to be heard in patriarchal society placing them as property in the hands of men. One of the the few strengths women have found during these trying times have been, in fact, other women; women standing next to women in solidarity of belief, womanhood, love, motherhood, and most importantly strength. 

During the Salem Witch Trials, when women were being wrongfully accused of witchcraft, women stood by women in reaffirming their innocence though they knew they would be killed by the en of their village. When Alice Paul fought President Woodrow Wilson and members of congress for the right to vote, she had hundreds of sisters, daughters, and mothers marching behind her. When Margaret Sanger sought to develop the science behind the hormonal methods of birth control, another woman, Katharine Dexter McCormick, threw her financial support behind the research research in order to make it possible. Women have a history of supporting other women.

With specific regard to the Ordain Women movement, in a Deseret News article, Joseph Walker quotes movement participant April Young Bennett: "After spending most of my life following social stigmas that silence Mormon women and compel us to feign that we love our exclusion, it was like a miracle to see so many women willing to openly express their righteous desires to fully participate in the church."

Here, again, women finding strength in other women.

It seems odd, then, to see women as each other's foes, even though in the development of feminism, traditionally, women have represented the majority in opposers of the movement.

Authors David Campbell and Robert Putnam, in their book American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, found that "an overwhelming majority of LDS women -- 90 percent -- are opposed to priesthood ordination for women. By comparison, 52 percent of LDS men oppose priesthood ordination for women."

How is it that those in the church who make executive decisions such as ordination are statistically less opposed to said ordination of women to the priesthood than the Sisters of the LDS Church?

Valen further writes in her article of her experiences with other women, "I had bought into the talk of sisterly solidarity... and they not only failed to support me in crisis, they collectively kicked me as I lay in the gutter, judged me from under a veil of hypocrisy, then cast me out, leper style."

These instances, and thousands of other personal experiences, tell stories of women exiling women in their quest for identity.


Let's face it, we ALL disagree on things. Man, woman; senior, young adult; brother, sister -- it doesn't matter. We as humans are bound to have differing opinions on things. We teach children from a young age that being different is okay, that we should embrace each others differences and love each other anyway. Why don't we take our own advice when it comes to the women in our own lives?

We are all women and daughters. Some of us sisters, mothers, and partners. We have felt the pain of oppression, and the triumph of strength and empowerment. We have felt pain, loss, and humiliation, as well as joy, companionship and humility. We have loved, been loved, and had our hearts broken.

We are human.

So instead of gossiping about the girl who stood up to her priesthood leader or chastising the choice for a mother to stay at home, let us stand in solidarity against all those -- men and women -- who tell us that what we feel isn't valid and what we believe isn't correct, even if we personally agree or disagree.

Because we all want -- and deserve -- a chance to be respectfully heard.

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