I’ve been thinking about the strange, often dichotomous experience of being a progressive spirit in a conservative community. It’s a way of being wrought with conflict, and sometimes it feels like the more I try to be different, the more opposition I face.
As a new Young Women’s leader, my eyes have been opened to how truly dependent church leaders can be on traditional gender roles, how their lessons, activities, and conversations are constantly framed by the assumption that women should be docile in daily life, unambitious in school and work, and impossibly good at baking and sewing. And as I make efforts to foster alternative views, I feel a bit like I’m straightening deck chairs on the Titanic.
A few recent “deck chair” moments:
In a meeting to plan mutual activities, I learned that half of my upcoming class activities have been reserved so that the girls can sew aprons. The aprons are for their pioneer trek this summer. As far as I know the young men are not responsible for crafting any shirts or vests.
I was teaching a lesson on the importance of education, and I gave the girls a minute to talk with each other and write down personal goals. Some of my fellow leaders took this as an opportunity to explain to the girls that they need to go to school in case their husbands die.
A few days after a lesson on healthy body image, we had a mutual activity at my house. As a treat we made caramel popcorn, and one of the girls wouldn’t stop complaining about the calories in the snack and how I was trying to make her fat.
Luckily, there are moments when instead of cruising on a doomed ship, it feels like I’m fighting the good fight. My girls tell me how bored they are of baking and get pumped when I suggest we go on a hike instead. They share dreams of owning their own businesses, attending college, and traveling the world. They are kind to each other and to themselves. They speak their minds.
I’d be lying if I said I have all my own faith crises figured out. And maybe someday I’ll decide that my personal beliefs too strongly contradict those promoted within the church for me to stick around. But for now I cling to the few things I know for sure: God exists and loves all children of this Earth equally. Christ is also real, and he makes it possible for bad things to become good. The young women in my class are strong and smart, and they deserve a chance to prove that to themselves and the world.
No icebergs in sight.