At the beginning of this semester, my ward boundaries changed, and I was under the impression for about a week that Hannah Wheelwright was moving into my ward. It was like the scene at the end of the third Harry Potter, when Harry thinks he is going to get to live with his godfather Sirius Black. It was much like that scene, in both the ecstasy of events turning to my favor, and in how that possibility got ripped away from me at the last second (it turns out, no she moved into a different ward from me).
But a prospect like Hannah Wheelwright moving into one’s ward — and I’m speaking generally, here — does cause one to think about how one behaves in one’s ward. And in my case, it brought to a new level of urgency thoughts I’ve been having for several months. Self-reflective thoughts, that make me go:
I think I’m a good feminist on the Internet, but am I a good feminist when it’s just “me and the bros?” Specifically, am I helpfully reactive and helpfully proactive in my efforts to lessen gender disparity in my local church community?
I sometimes struggle to know how I can best represent the male feminist perspective in Elders’ Quorum. When an otherwise unrelated or good point is being said, but along the way it gets tainted in its delivery by the cholera of patriarchy, is it making a positive contribution for me to raise my hand and say, “whoa, dudes, whoa?” How can I do that better and more often?
And let’s be honest. If I limit my comments to just reacting appropriately to comments that I hear (Feminist Whack-A-Mole, if you will), I’m doing nothing to help the broader problem of feminist issues being ignored altogether. So what are ways that I can insert ideas into conversations that would otherwise be totally male-centric?
These are things I’ve been thinking about lately. The Exponent has a must-read, in-depth consideration of Mormon male privilege, which cogently lays out why this is so important.
I am sympathetic to the notion that church meetings are not political meetings, but as a community-minded group of folks it seems we Mormons should be more comfortable than we are at bringing our personal lenses, concerns, and perspectives to any conversation to be had.
One approach to being a positive, progressive force for good in the ward is to make sure I participate in more than just the opportunities to impose my views on others. Then my ward friends know that I’m in it for the long haul with them, and all but the most persistent have a harder time writing me off.
But I think it also just boils down to good old-fashioned courage, to “go and do,” “open your mouth,” and “do what is right, let the consequence follow.” But sometimes it’s hard to speak up for feminism at church — either hard because it’s scary, or because it’s downright difficult to figure out how to be positive and constructive about it. And because it’s hard, sometimes all I end up doing is is pulling out Words With Friends during the lesson. But that doesn’t help anybody (unless you’ve had a week like mine, folks — I’ve been killing it on that game).
I wish I had more solutions, but here’s where I’d love your thoughts. Anyone else (man or woman) sometimes find the bark a little bit easier than the bite when you’re actually in those hard metal seats every Sunday?