Sunday, November 18, 2007

What Women Know

While I don't say much about the faith of my upbringing here, I'm going to suspend that for a moment today.

In a nutshell, here's my background:
  • I am a woman
  • I am a member of record on the rolls of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormons)
  • I grew up in Utah and was active in the church
  • I served a mission for the church in Europe in the late 80s/early 90s
  • I served as a volunteer at the Mormon Temple in Kensington, Maryland, for two years after my mission
  • As a graduate student, I studied Religion and Society and wrote my master's thesis on the effect of temple participation in the lives of young adult Mormons
  • I remained an active participant in the church until about ten years ago when I finally said "Enough" and stopped attending
  • I left because of three things: 1) I was tired of being a third-class citizen, 2) I no longer wished to participate in an organization that fears honest scholarship, and 3) despite having Jesus Christ in its name, the focus is more on checklists and family and image.
I provide that as preface to establish my credentials (or lack thereof, as some will feel) for why today's content is what it is.

Twice a year, Mormons gather in Salt Lake City, or in church buildings around the world with satellite feed, or in their homes with broadcast access, to listen to their church leaders deliver ecclesiastical speeches expounding doctrine, theology, scripture, righteous living, and historical retrospectives they believe are relevant to the lives of the church's 13 million members. These semi-annual conferences are held the first weekend of April and October.

Several weeks ago, at the semi-annual October gathering, the church's newest Relief Society* president, Julie Beck, delivered her speech at General Conference titled "Mothers Who Know." (To understand the context of this post, you may want to read it.) Beck's talk was meant to extol the virtues that would constitute the ideal for Mormon mothers and women, but the controversy resulting from her words has been the most noted outcome of her talk. In other words, there are many Mormon women of all types and descriptions out there who couldn't agree less with Beck's rundown.

In an effort to bring balance to Beck's lopsided assessment and sweeping generalizations, a group of Mormon women--some very active, others disaffected, some married, others single, some with children, others without, some stay-at-home moms, others working mothers--have banded together and drafted a proclamation called "What Women Know" that is, in my opinion, one of the finest declarative pieces I have read in recent memory.

While most faithful Mormons proudly hang a copy of the Proclamation on the Family in their homes, I will proudly be displaying What Women Know in mine. And to my fellow sisters who brought this together and made this happen, I'm proud to sign my name to it.

* The women's organization in the church. It was suggested by Emma Smith, wife of the church's founder, Joseph Smith, as a charitable organization to serve the temporal needs of the community. Joseph Smith authorized the formation of the organization in 1842 and, with only a brief break in its activities in the late 1840s/early 1850s, has continued to this day.


Anonymous said...

Wow -- that was cool seeing mormon women talking back -- and making a web site out of it!

One of my favorite lines:

"We distrust separate-but-equal rhetoric; anyone who is regularly reminded that she is “equally important” is probably not."

I saw my cousin's name on the list!!

- Phoebe

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic statement. It made me proud to read it, whereas the Proclamation on the Family makes me want to cry.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Phoebe: I liked that line, too. In truth, I was sold at "hello" with the very first sentence. I've saying similar things for years. It's nice to see them captured so articulately.

Anon: Welcome! I know what you mean about the PonF. It actually make me sad and sick at heart.

Anonymous said...

Tewks, I advertised the What Women Know site at a DAMU bulletin board. There are many enthusiastic comments there concerning this, and a few more people have added their names to the support list.

Nice of you to point this out; I would probably not have heard about it otherwise.


J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Phoebe: I noticed it on one of them. Don't know if it's the one you posted to, but I'm glad to see this reaching further and wider.

I hope site owners continue to add the signatures of women and men who are signing online....

Shout out to ME: Perhaps you could tell us if they will/are.

Sideon said...

Julie Beck would be right at home in the 1960s, which for many Mormons is the current day-and-age mindset.

To the rest of the regular world - she's irrelevant. Like spam. The kind you don't even glance at while passing down the aisle in the grocery store.

Great great site. I love the statements and option to add to the list of supporters and/or affirmations.

ME said...

We're continuing to add new signatures daily!

There's an article in today's (11/20) Salt Lake Tribune about the What Women Know statement/website and the reactions in several online discussion forums.

It's been great to see how the statement has connected with people and continues to travel.

Sociologist Armand Mauss weighed in as a guest poster on Exponent II today.

Most gratifying moment: telling my mom (who hasn't always approved of my activism) about my involvement with the statement. She responded by saying she'd written her own letter to Julie Beck. (Sniff) I'm so proud!

Sister Mary Lisa said...

I added my name to the new proclamation site. I love it.