Asriel: The Counterpoint Conference hosted by the Mormon Women’s Forum held at the University of Utah was a great event, with lots of thoughtful presentations. I didn’t go to the Mormon Women’s Conference that the Counterpoint Conference was intended to provide an alternate perspective to (Hannah’s notes from the conference are available), but hopefully these notes that Alex and I put together will be useful and interesting to some of the blog readers who weren’t able to attend the Counterpoint Conference (audio recordings from the Counterpoint Conference are available online).
(This post includes two parts – The Woman’s Body as a Political Battleground and Joanna Brooks’ acceptance speech after receiving the 2012 Eve Award)
The Woman’s Body as Political Battleground
Alex: Or, “Dominance by sex, medical science, materialism and capitalism, religious dictums on dress and appearance, and rape.”
–Katrina Barker Anderson–
Asriel: There was a story in the Friend about a 4 year old needing to be modest to go to the zoo. A father read this story to his daughter and she became obsessed with what clothes are modest/immodest.
The Friend has a modesty checklist that implies that if the girls aren’t modest, they shouldn’t feel comfortable around Jesus.
This obsession with modesty seems like a recent development—active members didn’t get this barrage a few years ago.
Modesty talk also justifies judging others. Modesty advocates claim girls that dress immodestly have no self esteem or accuse them of using their bodies for attention.
This judgmental attitude is justified by church literature. One Friend story tells of a girl shaming her friend into wearing leggings with her skirts.
Church teachings on modesty separates you from your own body.
Alex: My notes on Katrina Barker Anderson’s presentation were sparse. I enjoyed her sentiments surrounding embracing one’s body and also, yo, fuck the Friend. But there was also a bit of Islamophobia going on here and a few other strange thangs. All in all, respect to her agency but also respect to the agency of those who dictate their own appearance and dress, even if it happens to line up with garment lines.
Asriel: We need to stop judging rape victims rather than helping them. Are behaviors the disease or are behaviors a symptom? Susan sides with the second option.
Alex: I’ve worked with Susan Chasson before and just want to give shouts out to the Merrill-Gapmeyer Clinic and the Center for Women and Children in Crisis. Both are amazing educative as well as material resources for reproductive health, rape and sexual assault, and personal relationships in Utah Valley.
Asriel: She represents Planned Parenthood. Elder Oaks said abortion is evil, so working with Planned Parenthood in Utah can controversial. 99% of what they do at Planned Parenthood is reproductive health and sex education.
There are social and political benefits of birth control access.
Alex: Shouts out, also, to Planned Parenthood Utah.
Points from the Q&A:
(Each portion of the conference ended with a panel of that portion’s speakers responding to audience questions.)
Asriel: The modesty argument that men are unable to control themselves around “immodesty” becomes self-fulfilling prophecy.
The Eve Award was presented to Joanna Brooks.
The following are Alex’s notes on Joanna Brooks’ acceptance speech.
- Mormon feminism is not just an abstraction but a living commitment through relationships and communities.
- Fear is not the end of feminism, nor is it the end of faith.
- Tension is productive and life-giving (in proportion).
- Wisdom, loss, and freedom go hand-in-hand, as do sex, laughter, and experience.
- Our hearts are not treasonous to God.
- As long as I tell the truth without malice, it’s good. It’s what God wants.
- Of course you’ll be afraid but you look the fear in the face and you move on.
- We need more books. We need more writing. We need current resources for the present and next generations.
- It’s time for more people. It’s time for more voices.
- “I’m not representative of anything.”