I’m going to be live(ish) blogging Sunstone, at least some. The level of effectiveness will depend on a lot of factors, including access to wireless (which seems to be a little spotty). If you’re here (or just here in spirit), please weigh in in comments with your own thoughts.
Margaret Toscano — Sex & Heavenly Mother: Human Implications
[I got here about 15 minutes in, and I'm sitting with Bored in Vernal, always a good audience companion.]
[looking around, I see about 80-100 people in the room. I recognize a few ZDs.]
Margaret is a very fast and articulate speaker. Her talk is full of complex ideas, and is clearly something she has spent time on. It’s also challenging, with repeated references to God and sexuality. Some notes follow:
Church – women limited by Christ’s maleness.
Christ is a male body, with a penis.
Whiteness — our vision of Christ is racially limited as well.
Can a male God ever save women?
Problem of duality — leads to heirarchy.
Androgyny as a perceived solution, eliminate duality.
Dislike false dichotomy.
On the other hand, bodies matter.
Can we eliminate duality, by adopting androgyny?
Some duality seems inherent. Inner and outer, the soul.
And physical differences still exist — penises and vaginas.
The gender gap comes from greed, but builds on real physical differences.
Many young women resist feminism — want to watch chick flicks.
Can we lose desire? Would that be desirable?
Do we take hierarchy with us to the next life?
There is no way that the disembodied God idea has ever benefited women.
Why is it that the embarrassing question of divine sexuality only enters the picture when HM is mentioned? Why blame women for Divine sexuality?
People say, keep HM hidden — she introduces too much sex.
Feminist theologians (Carol Crist) (She Who Changes) give the best conception of embodied female God.
What does Mormonism offer?
Joseph Smith’s theology — a critique of then extant Christian ideas on embodiment.
Women should benefit.
In actual practice, the physical / spiritual leaves women excluded in both. Women kept from PH because they’re perceived as spiritual.
Moves heterosexual, nuclear family to eternal realm. Mormon view could be remedy to Christian closedness, but instead we project narrow view into eternity. HM is reduced to a Heavenly queen bee.
Like Victorian womanhood, spiritualized outside of reality.
Like Mormon women – gets the worst of both worlds.
Mormon cosmology – myth and reality meet.
Mormon cosmos rich in remembrance for the living and the dead.
Mormon as a link between Neopagans (material) to Judeo-Christian (spiritual). This is a continuum, not a polarity.
Mormonism — valuing the here and now.
Mormon theology has the potential for marrying sex and spirit (but are we doing it?). Overcoming traditional Christian idea of bodily shame. See sexuality and spirituality as entwined, not at odds.
Don’t need to be embarrassed about a God with genitals.
Our God is a God of movement, not stasis.
Paradox – we want things we don’t have.
Mormonism has taken a stand on embodied God. We need to do this in a way that values female as much as male.
Is it bad to have an embodied God?
[9:46 -- ooh, she cited Feminist Mormon Housewives.]
Embodiment does create limits. Jesus is male, not Goddess. But it also empowers — no longer a fuzzy, vague feeling. And no limits leads to abuses. Christ is a God who accepts limits.
This is like art — the meaning goes beyond the physical object.
Do we need an embodied God to value the experiences of woman? Yes. Must see woman in God. “In God is a woman like yourself.”
Is it possible that sex is both eternal and fluid?
Flux. A particle and a wave.
Q: Are there artistic representations of men worshipping a female Goddess?
A: Furthers the dichotomy. Men need a longing for the divine female.
Q (Mark) : Vision I had — I saw myself in womb of God.
A: Like husband’s novel. Art as conduit to the Spirit.Feminine divine so much a part of us, we don’t sense it.
[why are all of the questions from men, anyway?]
A: Metaphorical / literal – can we tell the difference?
Q: Stasis – it doesn’t mean nothing happening. Just balance. What’s the endpoint in progression of concept of God? Equilibrium?
A: Terms slippery. Things happening – I can stare for hours, thinking. I like the equilibrium idea.
ZD’s: Possiblities in Mormon feminism.
[In between panels, I run into Reese Dixon from Beginnings New, CrazyWomanCreek, Kevin Barney, reader Rachel, Ellen Decoo, Matt Thurston, and a bunch of non-blog-types: Dan Wotherspoon, Kim McCall, Doe Daughtry]
[I'm really excited about this panel. Stephanie, Kynthia, and Sheila are all extremely smart and articulate, and putting them on a panel with Aaron (extremely smart, and yet quite different from the rest of the group) (and he's a verb!) is even better.]
[about 35ish people here]
One of the most important advances in 3rd wave feminism is understanding of the media.
Church also focuses on media. Some crossover.
Media effects on women.
Our discourses on female bodies in the media.
Mormon discourses: Two subjects. Porn and modesty. Porn talks directed at men.
Women cast as victims — the suffering wife of the porn user. Most talks vague about how / why they suffer. Rarely, included in the admonition to avoid porn. Also told, don’t be immodest – you are porn.
Prom dresses, etc.
What can feminism offer?
Our discourse doesn’t discuss women in porn as objectified.
Breaks a person down into face, breasts, not a living being. Objectification – destructive.
Emphasis on beauty and thinness put extreme pressure on girls — toxic culture.
Women begins to internalize — objectification.
Difficulty seeing themselves as subjects, not objects.
Bodies as something to be viewed and enjoyed by others, not for themselves.
How to use in LDS talk?
Oaks talk – become porn.
We should have understanding of how our choices affect others, yes.
However, equating her to an object – does not challenge popular culture.
Mildly resembles blaming rape victims for their rape.
GBH talk – modesty will assist in protecting against temptation.
Implication – control desires by being modest.
Pressure to see their bodies as men see them.
But it’s a desire to be desired.
Thus, reinforces idea of women as objects.
Faust talk – femininity, grace. Divine adornment of humanity. Part of your inner beauty.
Trying to offer a message that contradicts media – but uses words adornment, beauty, grace.
Not saying to take the topics off the table – but our culture focuses on how women don’t live up to the beauty ideal.
More careful when discussing these issues – not to replicate popular culture.
Possibilities for future discussion.
Discussing porn in the church – sleaze, graphic, etc.
We don’t discuss it as people, relationships. People become objects. Impedes us from becoming more Christlike.
Fem helps us see how Mormon dialogues borrow from pop culture in problematic ways.
Importance of seeing self as subject, not object.
Breasts – selves, quote.
We are not objects, we are human. And more, divine.
“I am Eve” poem. No evil without Eve. Medieval thought.
Woman is most beautiful, but not equal of the man.
Snail — carry the house.
Cannot perform the functions of men.
Punished. But, think about eternal life.
LDS leaders, less condemning. Elder Oaks praising Eve. McConkie – praise.
Uniquely prominent role in Mormon theology. Single named canonized Mormon female.
[wow, Kynthia talks fast. I am getting just portions of this]
We regard the fall as a necessary step forward.
Justifications, traditional — men came first. Women were bad.
[an audience member asked her to slow down.]
Genesis narrative. God forms man — differently, in the two narratives.
Scholarly view — two Genesis stories.
Jewish legend — Adam’s first wife Lilith. Insisted on equality, until banished from the Garden, life as a demon.
Our liturgy collapses the two sections.
Boys club – women not necessary
Explanations for help meet – can try to fix – but doesn’t change dependence on men.
GBH: Eve as pinnacle of creation.
But ends up ancillary.
Is ancillary status eternal?
Metaphysically subordinate character, to a socially subordinate one.
No indication that God will change that structure.
God addresses only Adam.
Eve’s punishment for the fall greater than Adam’s — active subordination.
Eve’s punishment for the fruit, is the situation which exists before the fall and eternally.
Patriarchy is not a condition of the fall, but is eternal.
If Eve is to be praised for her initiative, why the punishment? Also, men not punished for Adam’s transgressions, but why are righteous women punished for Eve’s?
Adam takes the credit, Eve takes the blame.
Explained as faulty translation. Rule “with” Eve rather than “over”? Not convincing.
GBH says, I prefer preside, not rule. But no citation to authority.
Today, many husbands still rule over wives.
Even softening language — structure — men lead, women follow.
Eve’s subordination contingent on Adam’s obedience?
But there’s no indication that Eve is independent. She submits not to God, just Adam. He never submits to her.
Also, interpretation. Does she follow him when he follows God, or in the way that he follows God?
“No woman asked to follow husband into evil.” Men follow God anyway, so women can follow men.
But, men accorded power in a way women are not.
System infantilizes women — less than full agents.
Heber C Kimball — as unlawful for woman to rebel against man, as it is for man to rebel against God.
Brigham Young – man can’t follow woman [too quick, I missed most of this one]
GBH papering over differences.
Traditional Christian theology dominated by classical view of God. Perfection as unchangeability.
Critiqued in recent decades.
Process theologians – God who changes.
Open theists – God of the Bible is deeply interactive.
“Most moved mover.”
Feminist theologians — classical notion rooted in patriarchy.
LDS view also in contrast to classical.
Relationality in LDS and feminist thought.
View: God is relational. Not that he exists and then has relations. Communion is part of God.
Individual versus relational. Self is what it is, because of relationships.
Women enmeshed in relationships that blur the boundary.
Strength and social power.
Standard male hero — stand alone individual.
Women: Soluble self. Dissolves into other.
personhood = balance btw individual and relationality
each person in uniqueness, and participating in relationship.
Need to challenge paradigm that self and relation are mutually exclusive.
LDS teachings strongly relational.
Abraham – KFD – God among others. Eternal.
But LDS doesn’t draw on trinity thought.
A triune God is less like people – people aren’t triune.
Also, people not like God – ontological difference maintained.
LDS view is that humans and God on the same continuum.
Problem — God’s most impt relation not Son or Spirit, but spouse.
We need a doctrine of HM, to talk about the meaning of personhood.
LDS Christology is subordinate.
Idea that relationships are heirarchical.
Problem – why would father-son relation be ideal for spouses?
God as detached doesn’t mesh with God is love.
Feminist reenvisioning – God is not immutable, and can suffer, and can love.
Love is open to the experience of others. Cannot shut out pain. Love is vulnerability.
Not a flaw, part of God’s excellence.
Autonomy – why? Sin as expression of autonomy?
response – God not a threat to human freedom, but as fostering personhood.
God suffering from others — in LDS thought. Like feminist theology. Weeping with Enoch.
God’s glory is not being in charge, but in bringing others to His level.
D&C 121 and views of power.
Feminists grapple with male ordination — but the LDS concept of power is like that suggested by feminist theologians.
Relationships — real effects on agency.
Feminist understanding of relation and power parallels LDS thought.
LDS tradition has many resources for feminists.
LDS God is a feminist.
[Aaron has a powerpoint]
GBH talk – no complaints.
GA wives are good LDS women
A GA’s wife didn’t complain.
Therefore, a good LDS woman doesn’t complain.
Apply more generally?
Searched LDS.org. (Note – search is kind of flaky).
1971 – 2009.
2500 talks. Word search.
About 20% of talks refer to wives.
1. Wife supports husband.
2. Wife does something with (i.e. travel)
3. Wife does something separate
4. Express feelings (love, appreciation).
Most common – doing with. Then, feelings. Chart.
Statements of wife’s support – uncommon.
Some increase since mid-1980s in statements of doing things together.
-Less often than expected.
-”Never complained” comparatively rare.
-Would be nice to have more independent-wife statements.
To do next:
-Weight by level of authority
Q: Syllogism fascinating. Any more?
Q (CWC): Uptick of references to wives, a response to feminism?
A; Didn’t look at it in detail.
Q: perfection idea — context of ascending love.
Q: You’re saying Mormon God is a feminist, and you’re saying it’s patriarchy. Any theories to reconcile?
A: Sheila: They do work together. Synthesis. Lay out problems, but see resources.
Kynthia: I failed to negotiate with God. I’ve given up, outside the church.
Q: How many of these get reflected in VT messages?
A: Need to check.
Q: Women give talks too. What messages?
A: Messages about clothing. Be modest.
Drat! Out of time! The panel was awesome.
Lunch with ZDs, CWC, Cheryl — we had a picnic in the park, went way over time, and missed the next session. Sorry, Blair.
Church Evolution: Blacks / Women (Melanie Cowley)
[okay, new format. I'm going to do less live bullet blogging and more trying to summarize points. We'll see how it goes.]
-What are the similarities between Blacks/Priesthood and Women/Priesthood?
-The Priesthood revelation gives the background. Leonard Arrington wrote (Adventures) about it — that as President Kimball began prayer, realized it was a revelation. All were certain it was a revelation. On the other hand, the church was under vast social pressure. She doesn’t think that the revelation would have happened w/o those social factors.
-There are similarities between the two groups. Both affect minority groups; both are subject to outside scrutiny; both have similar bans. On the other hand, there are differences as well. For instance, a female PH would require reorganizing the structure of the church.
-The historical background of the two. Both were given greater power in the past. Joseph Smith ordained Elijah Abel. Of women, Joseph Smith said he would make of the RS “a kingdom of Priests.” JS defended womens healings. Both groups then became less powerful.
-Blacks were influenced by current events. The Civil Rights movement. Worldwide growth, the need to include Blacks in leadership, to expand in Africa.
-Can these factors be applied to women?
-There have been Shifting societal views on both.
Blacks: From Slavery to Civil War, freedom, 64 Act.
Women: Begining with home expectations, but shifting to suffrage, equal rights, and eventual ERA failure.
-There has been changing Rheotoric as well.
Blacks: Brigham Young – no seed mixing. Seed of Cain is servants. (Not BY’s greatest moment.) Rhetoric has really changed over time. 1947 letter, shorter but still harsh. 1951 statement, the same. Complete reversal by 1978.
Women: 1949, J Reuben — woman as homemaker, save the world. Ballard, 2008 — allows for other possibilities. Larry King Live, 1998, talking about women & PH. Would take a revelation. Don’t anticipate. Not complaining.
Actions to produce change: Support the ERA. Use blogs and facebook. Sponsor feminist enrichment groups. Open up dialog.
Question to see where you stand: If the church announced they were extending the Priesthood to women, would you accept?
Q: Was there any disciplining over disagreement over Blacks?
A: Margaret Young & Darius Gray — yes. There was. People excommunicated. John Fitzgerald. Early 1970s.
Q: Finances. Would the church have lost their tax status? No corrollary with women?
(What if the ERA passed?) These are the perceptions from without.
A: (Me, talking about law.): There isn’t a real threat, because the 64 Act gives exemptions. The case law on it (Bob Jones) applies to school, but doesn’t directly deal with churches. It was viewed as a threat. But maybe not realistic — the church discriminates a lot (i.e., on the basis of religion).
A: 1964 Civil rights act — 1978 revelation. Does it lead to it.
Q: Worldwide. Africa, Brazil, church interested in conversion.
Q: What about C of C? They lost a lot of members when they had the revelation.
A: (John Hamer) C of C is different.
Q: Why not approach it through the temple — say, “women have always had.” Rather than ask church leaders to admit they were wrong. That’s how it could come about.
Q: (Margaret / Darius): Margaret: Missing Lester Bush’s article, 1973. Showing the reality of the past history. He asked the 12 to research it. Most women are not aware that there was a huge time in pioneer era when women’s blessing were expected. Better historical education.
Darius: My mother and mothers of the church blessed my mother to have healthy childbirth.
1964 — 300 Blacks in the church. Post 78 — growth. Over 1 million now.
Q: (kiskilili): Are the Black non-ordination reasons the same? Blacks, cursed. Women, more spiritual.
A: Many justifications are made. They aren’t all the same.
Q: (Janet) Utilitarianism of giving Blacks or women the PH — how important is it? We live in a very utilitarian church (Nephi and Laban). To what degree should it matter — retention, for instance. People left when Blacks got the Priesthood, too. Do we care? Should that play a role? Is it, that we should give women the PH to get more people? Or because they should get it in general.
A: We’re a tiny minority anyway. Listen to God as the driving force. Center on faith. Numbers be damned.
(CWC) — and we made many numbers-be-damned arguments during Prop 8, didn’t we? It was, follow the prophet, don’t worry about acceptance and numbers.
FMH Panel! Yay!
[very lightly attended - 17 people!]
[these notes in a little bit of disarray as Janet kidnapped my laptop for a portion of the panel, but it was worth it.]
-I started FMH without thinking about Mommy blogging. But the first post I did was about veggie tales.
-Being a mom is lonely and isolating. Children can’t talk to you.
-Mommyblog is a pejorative term. It’s cordoned off and not taken seriously. We’re told as women that motherhood is important, but it’s painful, lonely. And then the historical blogs say, they’re more important than mommyblogs. Male bloggernacle dismissed FMH as not big enough. I still feel, not accepted, by the male bloggers.
-Why FMH? Wanted to be taken seriously by the church, by outsiders. And also, was lonely and sad. It’s difficult to find other moms who don’t toe the party line. It’s taken off now. FMH appeals to many who aren’t part of the Mormon mommy mold. It appeals to single women, gay women, divorced, non-LDS.
-The next step — mommy feminism. Equality and help for moms.
-I’m not embarassed to say, I’m a mommy blogger. We moved across the country, it was lonely. The prior move, I felt isolated. Not embraced by the ward, it took a long time. This time, I looked online. Online community. Decided to put on journal. Kind of an exhibitionist – and, no guilt, it’s journaling.
-Every afternoon for a year, the kids would nap and watch TV, and I would blog. Like a first year of marriage — more action than the rest of the marriage. (Like the “Jar” story). It was really intense; developing as a writer.
Comments are great. I love hearing the blackberry ding with new comments.
[need to finish]
[need to add]
Found FMH shortly after marriage. Learning some LDS problems, dealing with culture problems. Going through periods of depression. Feminist friends not Mormon, and vice versa. Found FMH, and it was great. It gives me a chance to write, and to work through issues.
What’s the problem? Isolation. Mothers suffer pressure. Impossible to be everything. Learning on the job, day to day frustration, need community to work through it. Having another mom is stabilizing. You can have an adult exchange, help each other out. Blogging does that by proxy.
It’s a community. We can vent, empathize, feel connected.
I don’t think of self as mommy blogger — I’m a feminist, environmentalist blogger. For me, blogging as mom is the same as feminist, environmentalist. It’s all part of who I am.
Denigrating mommy blogs. We Need to be seen more holistically. (Dance of Dissident Daughter — women not given the same expectations and values.) It’s all part of a bigger picture. Mommyness gives you a perspective, and you have others as well.
Mommy blogs – discriminated against.
I have a different background than most. I started at LDSLF. I could share my life, or talk about serious issues. If I did both, I was disregarded as a serious person. Also, professional frustration — couldn’t blog about serious things from academic background. But couldn’t talk about it in the church community, with colleagues. Would be attacked if
Questions about joining FMH. Concerns. Segregated by gender.
Discourse style on mommy blogs is different – men & women have different discourse styles. Leads some outsiders to dismiss the blog, because of different styles of discourse.
[need to fill in notes]
I see the world through the lens of the single mother. Empathy for these women, how difficult it is for these women. I’ve been there. I don’t blog for me. FMH is to be there for other people. A community for women in the throes of motherhood. Pulling their hair out, crying, they really need it. Help them feel like they’re not alone.
The benefit is friendship, community. People are my friends. Stayed at my house, and helped when I’m at my wits’ end. It’s not funny, it’s desperate. A very important resource.
I read almost every comment, from everybody. When I sense something wrong in someone’s comment, I reach out. Heart breaks for these women. Keep coming back to FMH.
Great sense of validation. How can I share that back? Send an e-mail to a woman. Say, I hear you. I’m there.
Kevin Barney: I never perceived FMH as a mommy blog.
Janet: That’s one function of many. I post some like that. But some others would characterize it that way.
Taryn: Kevin, you’re egalitarian. I remember that FMH was described that way — by men.
Shelah: I started as a mommy blogger. I was scared when I first posted at FMH. Knew commenters wouldn’t be, “your kids are so cute.” It required a lot more out of me.
Lisa: There were many dismissive comments, up front.
Me: Is there a male equivalent of the word Mommy Blog?
Janet: Daddy blogs,, but they’re non-Mormon. They’re less defensive. It’s very refreshing. Integrate parenting and other areas. Nothing like that in bloggernacle, except for Normal Mormon Husbands — started as a satire. No huge Mo-daddy-blog presence.
Taryn: Maybe don’t feel the need for daddy blogs – they have all the blogs. They can talk about parenting issues, with more credibility than women. Adam Greenwood has written a lot about parenting. If a women, might have been harder to be taken seriously afterward. Also, men don’t stay home, they don’t need the outlet.
CWC: The ghettoization is not a frontal assault. For instance, at BCC the student-wife thread, commenters tried to shut it down by saying, “we don’t see gender that way.”
Taryn: Some of the negative feedback I got — people would say, my experience was not valid. They didn’t have that experience.
Ziff: I love you all. (Lisa: You too).
Community. Maintaining it, space for women to comment, people say, I thought I was the only one.
John Dehlin gave up on Mormon Stories, exhausting. If FMH were to go away, it would be a tragedy. How do you handle when it gets too much?
Lisa: As the tyrant, we are complete anarchy. No schedule. A feeling of obligation to each other, though. Need to add fresh voices. New voices can be more passionate.
Stephen: Tell me about motherhood equality.
Lisa: Price of Motherhood. That’s the gap. #1 risk factor for poverty in America is motherhood. If we want equality for women, have to figure out equality for mothers. The fourth wave has to be motherhood.