I cut and pasted this article from Feminist Mormon Housewives. I don't recommend reading that website. It drives me crazy. I read it for a few days about a year ago and then swore off it because it made me feel cantankerous, and then stumbled across this article quite by accident two days ago. I feel the need to say a few things about it, especially since we're reading Eve.
As my son is getting older and his cerebral palsy is affecting his life more and more, I’m starting to get more involved in the disabled community. It’s a fascinating education, learning to recognize certain disabilities by sight, recognizing the rainbow of advantages and limitation that each set of disabilities brings, becoming increasingly aware of the future challenges that await him, and slowly learning to shed all my hangups and preconceptions about disabled individuals.
In the disabled rights community, there is a slogan I’ve really grown to love. “Nothing about us, without us.”
The history of care for the disabled is marked with paternalism and condescension. People with power making decisions for the “unfortunate” or “less capable,” lumping every disability together and treating them all the same way because it was just enough that they weren’t “whole.” Much of the care available came with strings attached, obeying rules or doing things the way the charity required whether or not it was the most effective way. When policy was created or laws passed, it was by a group of people who thought they knew best, determining the future for a group of people unrepresented on the committee.
Things have changed now, particularly since the passing of the American Disabilities Act, but as I’ve been learning about all this, it rung a bell for me.
Nothing about us, without us.
As a woman in the church, this would make a whole lot of things easier for me to take. If it was official policy (not just a suggestion to be implemented or ignored as local leadership saw fit) to include women in all council meetings. If women were involved on any level of the repentance and discipline process. If women served on some kind of a High Council. If they were actively involved in the missionary program beyond serving in the field. If we were involved in the business and administrative functions of the church. If we were involved in policy changes regarding the temple. If we had more opportunity to preach or expound on doctrine (for the entire church) than twice a conference. If the few leaders we have were given the respect of being called “President” instead of the diminutive “Sister.” If the priesthood was treated as the power of God instead of a trump card to make the male leaders right and unquestioned. If we had a voice in determining our place in the church. I could totally wait for the next life to sort out the whole priesthood/priestesshood issue.
We’ve discussed many times how easily changes like these could be implemented. There is a WHOLE lot of change that could move the church closer to equality that wouldn’t involve a single doctrinal change. The Sunday School presidency is not a priesthood ordinance, so women could serve there without a revolutionary shift in gender roles or church organization. But by having the occasional woman serve there, she offers her perspective. She offers her talents. A female Sunday School President might not do anything different than a male one, or she may come up with something that hadn’t been thought of before - that’s not the point.
The point is that at so many times, church policy is created without any input from half of the people it affects. This method assumes that the male leaders know better than the females they lead - which is paternalistic and condescending. Nothing about us without us.
First, allow me to point out that this is a very well-written article that is clearly sincere and not contentious in tone or intent. That said, I still disagree with the overall idea. First, the concept of "nothing about us without us" certainly rings true for women on the national level. Throughout history women have been subjegated, relegated, and mutilated. America at its best historically treated women with "paternalism and condescension," to quote Dixon. Certainly the generally unfavorable treatment of Eve has played into that. As a self-labeled feminist, I definitely buy into the argument that women in many parts of the world still have a limited voice and limited options in their lives. It's sad.
The Church is not the world at large. Comparing the Church's attitude toward women to any other facet of society does not make sense to me. The only comparison that does make sense for me is that between what we do and what we should be doing according to the doctrine.
Dixon wants women to be included in a host of things. First, "If it was official policy (not just a suggestion to be implemented or ignored as local leadership saw fit) to include women in all council meetings." She seriously thinks we should have to attend more meetings and be taken away from our families even more than we already are for church work? Secondly, and much more importantly, this assumes that men are making decisions in ward executive meetings that can seriously affect an individual woman one way or the other. Unless it is a welfare question, I find that a bit of a stretch. I asked Timothy if he could think of any decisions made at a ward level that would have a serious impact on an individual and he said, "I don't even know what they talk about. I don't pay attention." Hmm . . .. Yep, he's out to get me. Joking aside, I understand that Dixon is concerned that men do not understand what women need as well as women understand what women need. I agree. However, usurping priesthood responsibilities so we can decide if there is a fireside on the last Sunday of the month seems . . . presumptious and unnecessary. And other worse things that I'll get to later.
"If women were involved on any level of the repentance and discipline process." A woman is involved, if she's the one being disciplined. The issue here is that Dixon is viewing the disciplinary process like an American courtroom where a sympathetic jury might change the outcome. That's just not the case. This isn't a trial by peers--it is an evaluation of sin and humility and desire to repent. Of all the things listed, it falls most heavily in the "priesthood responsibility" camp. If women are involved in the disciplinary process should they also be part of temple recommend interviews? If so, should there be women in the bishopric and stake presidencies. If so, shouldn't there be women in the first presidency? If so, what is the difference between priesthood responsibility and women's responsibility as taught to Adam and Eve in the garden and again in the Proclamation? If what Adam and Eve were taught was wrong then the Savior should have had women among his twelve disciples. You see the problem with this kind of logic?
"If women served on some kind of a High Council." I don't really know what she means by this.
"If they were actively involved in the missionary program beyond serving in the field." Ouch to all the sisters married to mission presidents. To those who run church history centers. For those who volunteer on Temple Square and other church sites. To all those women who are being good examples and raising righteous families. Apparently they don't do much. Why do women in the church undermine women in the church? As a sidenote, how much are men involved in the missionary program outside of actively serving in the field. There are mission presidents (who have wives!!!!), and the Brethren who choose where a missionary will serve. There are male and female teachers at the MTC and male and female ward mission leaders. Again, I don't understand what she means by this.
"If we were involved in the business and administrative functions of the church. If we were involved in policy changes regarding the temple. If we had more opportunity to preach or expound on doctrine (for the entire church) than twice a conference. If the few leaders we have were given the respect of being called “President” instead of the diminutive “Sister.” I lumped these ones so I don't start repeating myself. Again, all of these are examples of trying to usurp priesthood responsibilites and/or denigrating women's roles in the church. In what way would having a female ward clerk benefit women more than they are already benefitted? Women do expound more than two talks at conference--we have a whole evening devoted to just the RS and another evening devoted to the YW. Who says that "president" is a more noble or important title than "sister"? Where is that taught? Oh right, the world at large.
Well, I know better. I know that "Sister" is one of the greatest titles we claim for ourselves because in it is implied "daughter of God." Every time I call someone "Sister" I am reaffirming my place in God's family and the other person's place in God's family. Why do you think the brethren keep telling us to call each other by "Brother" and "Sister"? I also know better than to want to usurp the priesthood in a abysmally misdirected call for equality. Wanting priesthood responsibilites denigrates the roles God gave to women. It is saying that women would rather not take on the roles of Eve and would prefer the roles of Adam--implying that the roles of Adam are somehow more valuable and important. It undermines the glory that is womanhood. It doesn't allow for women to embrace the feminine traits that make us so invaluable in the kingdom of God. It is gainsaying God. And it creates an issue where there isn't one.
"There is a WHOLE lot of change that could move the church closer to equality that wouldn’t involve a single doctrinal change." I would argue that any change that made women and men more similar in their roles would move us away from equality because it would presuppose that women's roles were not equal in importance to those of men. Besides that, if women started taking on priesthood responsibilites it would absolutely require doctrinal change.
"The point is that at so many times, church policy is created without any input from half of the people it affects. This method assumes that the male leaders know better than the females they lead - which is paternalistic and condescending." No, the point is that the brethren are no more in charge of creating policy for this church than I am. They are the mouthpieces of the Lord. Who is a man. And I'm totally okay with that.