Sunday Spotlight is a series where we profile individuals in the Young Mormon Feminists community to hear their story and get to know them a little better through Q&A or their personal narrative. This week we talked with Jason.
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I am 25 and just graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a minor in Communications. (I have to tack on the last part so I feel okay about taking five years to finish one of the shortest majors at BYU.) I recently started a job with Utah’s Division of Child and Family Services, specifically as a Caseworker (or Social Worker if you prefer), in Logan. I like guns and shooting them. I enjoy reading, particularly the classics, and am a bit of a grammar-nazi who uses British English despite having always lived in the States. I am entertaining the idea of going back to school for a joint MSW/JD or something else, but that will wait until I have recuperated from my undergraduate experience.
2. What events or issues led to your feminist awakening or consciousness?
For my degree in Sociology I had to take courses in theory, where feminism came up. I think the most notable experience in college I had with feminism actually came in my “Sociology of Sport” class when we discussed Title IX. A lot of people, myself included at the time, consider Title IX to be discriminatory against men, cutting budgets for football teams so that the women’s cross-country team (or some other “financial burden of a sport”) can exist in the name of “fairness”. Really Title IX is a non-discriminatory education law. In practice this means a University (or tech school or whatever) cannot discriminate admissions to a particular program based on sex. So men can be teachers and nurses because of Title IX, and women can be doctors, lawyers, and businesswomen. And yes, it applies to sports in that, at the collegiate level, the number and amount of scholarships awarded to female athletes should match the proportion of the student body. (This is slightly tangential, but hopefully clarifies things for people in a few short sentences, so bear with me, or skip ahead if you prefer.) Thus a university with a student body that is 50:50 male:female should award the same number and dollar amount of scholarships and money for both men’s and women’s sports. Most universities are not in compliance with Title IX in this regard, but there are ways to “work towards” compliance, such as having a five-year plan to be in compliance. The thing with the five-year plan is after five years, the universities just write another one regardless of how well they have been doing.
Now, back to feminism that is not just Title IX. On a non-academic level I realised my relationships with women had not been stellar and quite frankly had misogynistic (hatred of women, for those unfamiliar with the word) undertones. In high school I “joked” with friends that they should make me a sandwich. Beautifully defiant, my friends never did. In fact, I’ve ended up cooking and serving them food rather than the other way around. I realised these comments were hurtful to them and to me, because it warped my perceptions of what these fabulous young ladies were capable of. Because of my feminist awareness I am mindful of the things I say, because while I do not believe that “women should just stay in the kitchen”, jokes about it reinforce the idea that yes, that is where they belong. I keep trying to find a way to wrap this thought up that makes me look better, but no, I was a dirtbag and it is okay to admit that. I’m working on it, like so many other things in life.
3. Looking forward, what changes do you hope for, and how do you plan, personally, to participate in those changes or being ready for them?
I am particularly interested in the legal aspect of things pertaining to male/female inequality. Perhaps the most common example of this is the wage-gap where women in the same profession and position make 77 (or 78, I’ve heard both) cents on the dollar that a man makes. My less-publicised interests are Domestic Violence (DV) and Intimate Partner Violence/Abuse (IPV or IPA), sexual assault/abuse (SA), and generally crimes against women. I had a friend I worked with in college; he was in law school, who had interned at a county prosecutor’s office. Despite the high number of cases, investigations, and reports of DV, they never got far in a DV prosecution. If the charge made it to court, usually the perpetrator (husband/man in all the cases he told me about) had hired him a good lawyer or intimidated his wife/woman into not showing up. Usually the cases didn’t make it to court because the victims IP would convince her to recant the charges. I FEEL THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!! And this kind of thing happens all the time, even to the point that the woman recants the allegation of IPV by the time the police arrive on the 911 call. Victim shaming and victim blaming are all too common and most people pretend they don’t exist.
My involvement with these types of issues (the IPV/DV/SA stuff, I don’t control anyone’s pay check yet) will be heightened in my job with DCFS, especially since the high burden of proof needed to convict someone of a crime in criminal court is not needed to open a DCFS investigation and case. In fact, working for DCFS I doubt I will have anything to do with a criminal prosecution. My goal then is to educate and make people aware that they do not have to live with abuse, and to inform them of what constitutes abuse. This is also why I’m considering returning to school for a joint MSW/JD. As an LCSW (part of the MSW) I would be licensed to provide therapy, and as an attorney I could work in defence of women who have been abused.
4. Who is your feminist icon/role model/favourite feminist person?
I will have to admit that I don’t do much reading in the feminist genre. I will give some names and quotes that hopefully meet the requirements of this section while being informative to the rest of y’all. For starters Steig Larsson, recently deceased Swedish author (about 2005 I think?). His trilogy of “The Girl Who…” books is well written, fascinating, and rich in feminist themes. The first book in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, has a Swedish title that translates literally to “Men who Hate Women”. But since that’s not an engaging book title, the publishing company changed it. Content Warning on the series, there are graphic scenes depicting violence against women throughout.
From the Mormon or LDS perspective I love Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. I believe he’s a feminist, and there are a number of talks where he calls out the men on the poor behaviour. Here are a few talks: Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul (April 2010) He calls out the men on their bad behaviours. The Ministry of Angels (October 2008) I was a new missionary (seriously like 5 days in the MTC) when he gave this talk. I have always felt it was very uplifting for women, especially the way he talks about his own wife:
“But when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. Some of them gave birth to us, and in my case, one of them consented to marry me.”
And To Young Women (October 2005) where he spends almost the entirety of his 16 minute address building up young women because they are attacked from every side, I would venture to add even by the young men sitting beside them in Sunday School.
And here’s a favourite quote from President Hinckley as well:
“I am offended by the sophistry that the only lot of the Latter-day Saint woman is to be barefoot and pregnant. It’s a clever phrase, but it’s false.”
(January 29, 1984 fireside).
5. What would you say to people who are new to Mormon feminism?
First off, Welcome! This is a fantastic community of open-minded people who want to have serious discussions about problems they see in the world and questions they have. This is the most uplifting online community I have been a part of. Second, don’t be afraid to have doubts and questions or worry that you don’t know as much as others do. Just like life, feminism and Mormon Feminism are journeys, you learn as you go and there are always people further along than you are, but they are there to help you along the way, use your resources. Finally, Feminism and Mormonism are not contradictory terms. It takes some time to figure them both out, and there is plenty to struggle within either, let alone putting them together.