“Where am I going to go, where patriarchy doesn’t exist? Where is this magic island, free of misogyny – I will go there; tell me where it is (laughter).
But it doesn’t exist – it doesn’t exist anywhere. So it makes the most sense to try to reform your own culture and your own place, and the space where you are most fluent in the language.”
(excerpt from Unladylike interview with Kate Kelly)
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Department Of Tell Me This Is Not An Oxymoron
Which was one of my first (printable) thoughts upon hearing the title of episode 8 of the podcast Unladylike: How To Be a Mormon Feminist. BTW, the podcast’s website has one of the best logos ever: an image of stereotypically ladylike fingers, with one impeccably groomed fingernail raised in a defiant salute….
Once again, I digress.
If you think you don’t have time to listen to the podcast but your curiosity is stoked by the episode’s title and you wonder, How does one be a Mormon feminist?, here’s my time-saving answer:
By leaving the Mormon church.
But seriously, ladies and germs, I recommend taking the time to listen to the entire episode, which is an interview with “Mormon feminist” and attorney, Kate Kelly. In 2013 Kelly founded Ordain Women, an organization which…wait for it…advocates for the ordination of women to the Mormon priesthood. That and other feminist/dissident activities got Ms. Kelly a don’t let the door hit you in your temple garments on your way out from LDS church leaders (translation: Kelly was excommunicated).
Ms. Kelly has quite a story to tell. Despite her passionate interest in gender equality issues she loved her church – she was raised a devout Mormon, and admits during the interview that she might not have left the LDSchurch had she not been thrown out.  Listening to her astounding account, and despite her sincere and reasonable articulation (the quote which opens this blog post) about why she stayed in her church, I was once again amazed at our human tendency to beat our head against walls; i.e., not see the reality forest for the mythology trees.
During the interview Kelly felt compelled to explain (or was asked) why a 21st century, educated, intelligent woman concerned with justice could stay – or would even want to stay – in such a misogynist, repressive institution. IMHO she did a good job of trying to explain (to non-Mormons) how being in such a group – you’re raised to believe you are one of the chosen people, and you really have no close relationships outside of your family and friends, who are all Mormon – is compelling, and confers a feeling of being special.
At the point where Kelly talked about how Mormonism had been her most intimate relationship, I had an immediate, visceral, click!  insight:
It’s like how some battered women “love” – and thus are not able to leave – their abusers.
Kelly mentioned Mitt Romney’s campaign for the presidency, and how people both inside and outside the Mormon church found Romney’s campaign a watershed moment for Mormonism, in that the larger society saw a man who was presented as a nice/normal guy who wasn’t flaunting his own religious beliefs and who had promised to be a leader for all. Meanwhile, Kelly was disturbed that there was little to no media attention paid to/examining the fact that Romney was participating in an institution which discriminates against women at every level and which does not allow women to hold positions of power.
The battered women analogy kept coming back to me. Yo, Mormon women, and all you women involved in patriarchal religions,  institutions, or worldviews: y’all are married to your abusers. You are battered wives, intellectually and spiritually.  You have been emotionally and cognitively kidnapped; you suffer from Stockholm Syndrome : like an abduction victim, you have developed a psychological alliance with your captors as a survival strategy.
Before I had listened to the interview in its entirety I wanted to ask Kelly, “And so what if you (Mormon feminist women) are able, in the near (ha!) or far future, to baptize people or perform any other of the Mormon priesthood rituals reserved only for men? That’s not going to change the fact that the LDS church is an institution built on falsehoods and discrimination.” …As are all religions, BTW, including (what was once) “my own,” which is why moiself has no problemo with critiquing yours.
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Department Of As Long As We’re On The Subject Of Religion-Bashing Analysis
Faithful (ahem)  or even sporadic readers of this blog may know that I was raised in a Christian household/church-going family. However, as long as I can remember thinking about such things, I never really bought into the religion’s tenets and finally  came out as a Humanist/Atheist/Freethinker many years ago.
Now that I am out as religion-free, whenever I have discussions with friends and family members who are religious believers – and it may interest you to know that these discussions are actually few and far between…in my experience, religious believers do not really want to engage a well-read and articulate person who has been on the inside and then left – we apostates know where the bodies are buried, so to speak (which is yet another subject worthy of a post of its own)….
Ahem. Yet again, please excuse the digression.
When I have discussions with a friend or family member who is a religious believer (about why they remain so and why I am not), I often hear some variation of the following statement, in which they try to assert what they think is my opinion about their beliefs:
You probably think I’m an idiot/ignorant
for remaining in the church/being a believer.
This is absolutely not true, and I say so.
Or sometimes I’ll say, “That’s not necessarily true,” and explain, provocatively but with good humor, that I really don’t know their innermost thought processes nor how their mind works; perhaps if I did, then yeah, idiot might apply. But I never, ever assume that, nor even think it (until they brought it up).
Here’s the thing: despite how close or distant our relationship may be; despite what you claim to know about the origins/history/scriptures of your religion, I cannot know your level of intelligence, nor if you’ve objectively/rationally examined the evidence…etcetera and whatever. With regard to your holding religious beliefs, here is the only thing I do know about you (and other believers):
Whether or you are intellectually gifted or blissfully ignorant, whether you are a snake-handling Holy Roller or a High Mass-attending electrical engineer, you are credulous.
* * *
What is needed is not the will to believe but the will to find out,
which is the exact opposite.
(Bertrand Russell )
This bears repeating: you are not stupid; you are credulous.
Yep; that’s it. And I dare to speak not only for moiself. Most of us who are religion-free do not think that you-who-are religious believers are stupid. We do think that you are wrong, and also, most importantly, that you are credulous. Can you understand the difference?
You are credulous, the opposite of incredulous: you want to believe. And Religion with a capital R  gives you very compelling reasons to do so, to the point that otherwise discerning folk who are eager and able to point out the absurdities/errors/this-cannot-be-a-description-of-reality of other religions are able to set aside their analytical capability when it comes to their own tribe’s practices and beliefs. I know some very smart and sincere people who are experts at such compartmentalization, and when I’ve pointed out that, for example, they do not practice Iron Age medicine, engineering, politics, etc. yet continue to maintain the alleged relevance of Iron Age spirituality and scriptures…they get…nervous (or incredulous!), to put it mildly.
This compartmentalization/cognitive dissonance is no surprise. Religion has done a very good job convincing people that they cannot ultimately:
* be “good”
* live a worthy life
*take comfort in unanswerable questions
*have the love and respect of family/friends/community…
without subscribing to religious beliefs.
A few religions/religious believers don’t even seem to mind so much if you aren’t a member of their church, just as long as you pick one deity to believe in (“Even though, of course, ours is the best /the One True Faith ® , if you can’t do that, at least pick something, okay?)
Not only is religion is a main – and in many cases, the only – component of a believer’s social and/or peer group dynamic, there can be severe emotional, social and familial (and even business and professional) consequences for leaving your faith group, or even for remaining in the flock while denying or examining too closely /attempting to reform its traditions and tenets…as per the aforementioned excommunication of Ms. Kelly.
Back to Kelly: my favorite part (read: a jaw-dropping, NOT) of Unladylike‘s interview with her was when she spoke of the aftermath of being kicked out of the LDS church. (my emphasis):
“They can take everything away from you; they can take your family away from you. As soon as I was excommunicated my parents were asked to meet with their (church) leaders, and their leaders took away their callings,  took away their temple recommends – which means they can’t attend the temple – and really socially ostracized them, to the point that, in the meeting they said that, ‘you’re still permitted to love your daughter, even though you can’t associate with her.’ “ 
* * *
Department Of Can You Just Find One Nice Thing To Say?
Although at the end of the day (or the never-ending time period, if you subscribe to the concepts of reincarnation and nirvana  ) the various strains of Buddhism are filled with as many superstitions as other religions. But Buddhism as a philosophy contains ideas/advice based on the observation of reality (as opposed to alleged supernatural revelation or decree).
Besides the observation that life is tough and no one gets out alive (my pithy summary of the first of The Four Noble Truths ) — one of the Buddhist ideas I find helpful and hopeful – not to mention merely and profoundly accurate – is the concept of impermanence.
With regards to human circumstances, impermanence, simply explained, is the acknowledgement that things change. This can be seen as both a caveat and a reassurance, as both warning and comfort.
* So, things are going very well: you have stable and loving family, good health and close friendships, fulfilling work and hobbies, financial security – everything seems to be going your way and you feel on top of the world! How wonderful for you! Enjoy this time, even as you keep in mind that things change… This will not always be the case.
* So, things are going very badly: your spouse has abandoned you; friends are absent or seemingly indifferent to your suffering; you have lost a loved one to death or estrangement; you are ill or injured; you were laid off at work and seem to be heading toward bankruptcy and you feel caught in a downward spiral of unbearable despair. How truly awful for you…but remember, this too, will change.
* * *
May you find the strength to leave your abusers, be they persons, thoughts, or institutions;
May you be both challenged and comforted by the reality of impermanence;
May you find simple pleasure in regarding a sloth’s monk-face;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Kelly claims no current religious affiliation.
 A term from the 1970s/second wave feminist, describing that moment wherein a woman, usually in listening to/reading about the experiences of other women, realizes she is a feminist and/or understands feminist principles and observations about living in a patriarchal society.
 All religions, basically, with arguably some Pagan/Wiccan strains outside the fold.
 As per the typical questions asked of battered women about why don’t they leave the relationship – look them up, and you’ll find the same reasoning/fears can apply to fleeing an abusive spouse and leaving such a life-dominating institution.
 How we Freethinkers looooove using that word.
 Almost 15 years ago.
 As in, all of them, and the societies where they dominate.
 “Callings” in the Mormon church are assignments or chores to make the church function. Callings can vary widely in capacity and responsibility, such as working on a committee, serving as a Bishop (a male-only calling), being a Sunday School teacher, making a monthly meal for your congregation….
 How many times have you heard, from non-Mormons trying to say something nice about the LDS: “Well, you gotta give ’em credit, they do so love the family….”
 And I hope you don’t.