not in Primary anymore

sunday spotlight: elizabeth

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 Elizabeth.

elizabeth

When I was asked to write about myself I incurred immediate anxiety because I feel like I’m the least interesting person in the whole world, so I hope I don’t bore you.  I’m 21 years young, from New York, New York (Manhattan, to be specific), and am currently awaiting another surgery.  Supposedly I’m at BYU, and a Studio Arts major, but am hoping to switch to Art History.  My hobbies include getting extremely emotionally involved in TV shows, cleaning my apartment, watching Antiques Roadshow, and (this sounds so obnoxious and conceited, but I say it with some pretty hefty embarrassment) I am a singer/songwriter, and have been doing open mikes around Provo while I await another surgery.  I was born with a mild form of Spina Bifida, called Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome, and it was supposed to be fully corrected, but after 2 surgeries in my youth, and 7 various corrective surgeries over the last 7 years, I’ve been told that there’s nothing more that can be done, so I use a wheelchair as a result of muscle weakness and chronic pain, and have developed some major anxiety and depression.  Fun, right?  I know, I’m a bundle of joy. On that note…

Growing up in Manhattan, I think I was predisposed to many feminist ideals.  I went to a somewhat (unofficially) liberal, very small all-girls school, where girl-power was instilled in us since kindergarten, and had a very diverse ward, filled with a variety of women – working mothers, artists, models, news anchors, etc.  I didn’t realize how different my  upbringing, and subsequent values, were until I came here last fall (I went to school in TN for a year, because I was very anti-BYU, and wanted to make the decision for myself, rather than go along with my father’s “Ivy League or BYU/bust” rule).  I had understood the church’s policies and their effects on women, but had never let those strange sexist rules creep into my personal beliefs.  Getting here and meeting so many subdued, bland girls, whose lives seemed to almost completely revolve around men, and who probably thought I was insane, was really rather shocking, although I partially understood it.  I have deep down always tied my worth to what others thought of me, and in recent times have felt too broken to be wanted by any man, and have felt worthless because of it.  Recently, the one guy since I’ve been here who has asked me out reduced me to my body, specifically my breasts, used me for it, and then tossed me aside because of it.  It was incredibly heartbreaking, because I was raised to feel equal to a man, was even expected to have a career, but in the course of a few months, was boiled down to my body, something which I have always hated because it hasn’t treated me well.  It has been very hard being here in Provo, where it feels like that’s all a woman is worth, and has exponentially increased that sentiment.  Guys and girls hang out and you have to label it as a date? Why? Ugh, I don’t know.  It’s a mess.  But being turned on to this group of women has made me feel so much less alone, and like my ideas and presuppositions don’t make me crazy.  So, thank you guys.

I’ve really struggled with my Mormon status over the course of my life – besides my sister, there was one other Mormon in my school, who was my friend, but even in second grade, I was embarrassed to say what religion I was.  Not because I thought it wasn’t true, but because I knew that there were some rough connotations that came along with it.  In high school I pulled away from it – experimented with various things – but always knew deep down it was true.  I wished it wasn’t, thought, because I thought it was another thing working against me socially – I didn’t want to be in a wheelchair, slightly overweight, AND Mormon.  But eventually I came back, although I have felt like such a shitty person since I have, like there are so many hypocrites who are blessed and seen as great upstanding church-goers, while I would like to think I have good intentions but have struggles and don’t participate and am seen as an outcast.  I asked for a blessing from my home teachers this past week, and I felt the spirit so strongly saying that I was a good person, and my home teachers commented that they felt it too.  They seem like good, sincere guys who know a thing or two about the world, which is refreshing, so maybe this will be a better year for me in terms of the Gospel, and I’ll be able to reconcile my self-hatred with the teachings of the church.  Ugh.

I’ve been lucky to have had so many great feminist Mormon (and non-Mormon) role models that I’ve never thought that feminism and Mormonism could not exist together.  I think that by being more freely spunky and unapologetic for our ideals and values, without being condescending (which can be hard), we can show those around us that they are not mutually exclusive.  Of course, this is easier said than done, especially for me, but it’s something that can be worked on a little bit at a time.

Hopefully some of this made sense, and wasn’t a huge brick of inarticulate word vomit.  I look forward to getting to know you all!

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3 Responses to “sunday spotlight: elizabeth”

  1. Isaac Kurth

    Thanks for this post! To be honest, the dating scene at BYU sometimes makes me uncomfortable as well. I’m a guy, so there have been when I heard my peers talking about dating and girls and they were kind of obsessed with how attractive they thought that a girl was as well as obsessed with whether or not they did things like kiss or hold hands. I wasn’t sure how to react, because I feel like dating should be so much more than a market where people are evaluated based on physical appearance!

    Fortunately, not all of the things I’ve heard from peers about dating are like this. There are guys who care a lot about how they can connect to a girl on an emotional level, how well they get along with a girl socially, how smart a girl is, and so forth. I’ve never really talked publicly about dating before, so I hope I’m not being sexist in the way that I describe it.

    Also, I agree that girls and guys hanging out together doesn’t necessarily have to be called a date. I feel like something that we need more of is girls and guys who want to be friends. There’s an uplifting and spiritual experience I had in the Teaching Resource Center at the Missionary Training Center where I learned about this. I and a former missionary companion were being taught by two sister missionaries who were about to head off to Armenia. They were great young women, both only 19 years old, and neither they, nor me, nor my friend were concerned about developing some sort of romantic relationship. Rather, I felt like we were just friends who wanted to get to know each other better. Although I don’t remember exactly what they taught, I remember how the companionship felt. I was more comfortable talking with them than I have been on many of the dates that I’ve been on.

    Anyway, that’s what I think. ~Isaac Kurth

    Reply
  2. Sarah

    I’m glad Isaac mentioned sister missionaries. I too went to BYU after growing up somewhere with few members of the church. My first two years I was in a ward where there were twice as many women as men. Half the men were pre-mission and half were recently returned missionaries. Half the women were freshman and the other half mostly sophomores with a few juniors. We were in these on-campus cooking dorms and the 3 buildings of our ward surrounded a alleyway, so you could see almost everyone coming and going and who was dating whom. I only had one experience in that ward feeling like a body, but the age makeup of the ward got me early on thinking a lot about how dating worked at BYU and in the church, including how missionary ages played a part. As a post-BYU YSA, and now as a middle-single I have experienced a lot of what you mentioned – feeling like a body. I especially saw it happen to other women and my 4 sisters. I saw how YSA women (even the slender ones with supposedly pretty faces) that were older than 21, had careers, and/or spoke up in Sunday School, rarely had dates, and even rarer yet had boyfriends. The YSA men were still in their straight-off-their-mission-mindset of looking to date and marry someone 2+ year younger than they with less schooling and a less-deep understanding of the gospel – someone who, like you said, was subdued. I’m grateful for the lowering of the missionary ages. I believe it will change some of the attitudes and actions of young adults in our church. I can see how more Primary lessons, Young Women lessons, and youth Sunday School classes in the future will focus on gospel learning and preparing for missions, rather than marriage and motherhood. Even women that don’t go on missions will be better prepared to be leaders because of the lessons and talks geared to them growing up, and the associated attitudes of their church leaders and teachers. I can see how men of this church in the future and women too will be more appreciative of each other’s intellectual and spiritual natures, see each other less as bodies, and see each other more as equals and working together, rather than one over the other.

    Reply
  3. gouda

    You sound like a super ballin lady!! And just remember that most of the time people just suck. Just kidding, but seriously. Yep I know, I am always good for a super long in-depth response to blog posts.

    Reply

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