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.
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!