I missed out on the morning, because I had to finish grading papers. I’m now at D’Arcy’s session on virginity. I’m not true live-blogging it, I’ll post some summary notes as we go along.
D’Arcy, The Purity Myth
[packed house: 60 or 80 people, in a small break-out room]
The purity myth is the continuous message that a woman’s worth lies in her ability or refusal to be sexual. (What it’s not — an excuse to have sex.)
Examples of problematic attitudes in society. Health teacher says, there’s a word for girls who give away sex without marriage: Prostitute. Asked about diseases, a teacher says in front of the class, stop kissing all those boys. Girl dresses like a businesswoman in school, and is treated badly. What does this say about our culture.
The most important label for girls: virgin. It’s viewed as purity. Problematic. Virgin is almost always synonymous with woman.
Problematic model of womanhood. Women told to cover selves up. It’s a problematic value structure. Girls can be stupid, vapid, unethical, but as long as you don’t have sex you’re good. Women have to do nothing to be ethical role models.
SWK: Better to die than to lose virginity.
Virginity as a dividing line — is chastity really as simple as remaining technically-a-virgin? Abstinence education says that it is.
Abstinence education panel — “your body is a wrapped lollipop. sex — a man unwraps your lollipop and sucks it” (!) Or the strip-of-tape analogy. Virginity is unused tape — if used it gets dirty. “Rose” pin: “You are a beautiful rose. Sex takes your petals away.” These don’t relate to girls inner sense of self, they focus on how men view sexually active women.
Idealizing virgin girls, detrimental to girls. Girls are scared of sex. Views that other actions — oral sex — are okay because they leave virginity.
T-shirts saying, “no tresspassing on this property” (!) Putting these ideas on YW breasts, fetishizes young womens sexuality. Societal increase in sexuality — girls Halloween costumes.
How do we combat these problems? Youth activity — “airplane crash” activity where youth are told that it’s better to die than to have sex.
Purity balls — girls pledge their virginity, to their father. (YUck!) Fathers pledge to keep it and transfer it to a worthy husband. Gives daughter a ring. Now, one can buy a “purity pack.” A written pledge — “I, father, choose before God to cover my daughter . . .” Very problematic — the antiquated notion that fathers own daughters’ sexuality. The new movement is young men’s “integrity balls” — but a different pledge, “not to sully someone else’s daughter.” Focus on the Family says that dads should take daughter on “date nights.” Replicated in LDS culture as well.
Girls should be told, sex is not a sin. Rather, they should be told, it’s the context that matters.
Over emphasis on chastity is problematic. There are 5000 girls murdered annually in Islamic countries over virginity. Those countries have the view that a non-virgin is a used object, not of value. This is the apex of the cult of virginity.
1930′s — outcry over tampons, viewed that it would take women’s virginity, and that girls would find tampons erotic. Even today, women taught about menstruation with shame. Ads promise to hide menstruation. They promote a culture of fear and embarrassment.
People still uncomfortable with sexuality. Tampax report — people still think that it is negative, affects thinking, function, pain is all in womens’ heads. Vaccine for cervical cancer was opposed, b/c opponents said it would make girls have sex. Called “assault on girls’ innocence.”
Abstinence only education is not working. Stats show that pledges don’t work. Also, people who receive AO education less likely to use birth control when they do have sex. Wacky AO speakers making incorrect and disturbing claims. Not advocating, no abstinence. Need to be changes, teach kids the truth about sex, not lies. One report — 80% of AO education contained false information. And lesbian and gay sexuality is ignored.
A lot of youth eventually go inactive. We should give an accurate and comprehensive sex ed, no scare tactics and lies, and don’t equate sex with shame. Educate the youth, and then trust them. No more messages like “virignity vouchers,” (looking like a credit card). The growing movement of “secondary virginity.” Clear message that without virginity, you are secondhand goods. Emphasis on physical virginity, not integrity or morality. Vaginal rejuvenation is the fastest growing plastic surgery. “Lolita effect” shows that older women want to look like schoolgirls.
[me: This talk is awfully disjointed. There's interesting material here, but it's presented in a scattershot way.]
Raped women in Islamic countries — often told to marry the rapist. Media coverage focuses on the dichotomy of good girl and bad girl. Rape victims are good girls worthy of sympathy. Other girls are “slutty” and don’t get sympathy. Sen. Henry in 2008 — “rape isn’t what it was. When I was learning these things, it was violation of a chaste woman.”
Abuse victims sometimes blamed by bishops, asked to explain their part, if they enjoyed it.
Maryland court says that women can’t withdraw consent once they give it. [Me: this is a legally incorrect statement] [link here]
We still expect women to be gatekeepers of sexuality.
Holly: College student auctioned off virginity. Bella demanded sex. What do you think of these?
A: I don’t know Twilight, but idea of virgin is something girls become obsessed with. The obsession is unhealthy.
Q: I went to a wedding reception. They did the garter removing — ancient tradition — but respectable Mormon family.
A: There are two approaches. Coy and embarrassed, or embracing sex.
Q: Youth told that doucheing with Coca-cola is birth control.
A: Lots of similar myths. We need to tell youth about effective birth control.
Q: How should single women live their lives?
A: I blog at Exponent, and got an onslaught of disturbing male comments. Adults shouldn’t be on the same rules. Shouldn’t tell a 30yo woman that if a date touches her breast, she must go confess it to a married man. Little white pamphlet is made for 16yo’s.
Holly: There is extended and good discussion of women, Mormons, sexuality, at the Visitor’s Center blog, a blog on Mormon sexuality.
Blogging and Stereotypes panel
[20ish people here. Many, many bloggers. ZDs, lots of FMH commenters, and so on. There's a split, because there's a conflicting panel with Kris Haglund and Shelah Miner, and some folks are there instead. I'm sad I can't attend them both.]
Carol: Happy to be here, I get to see lots of people I know from online. It’s easy to relate to similar people. Blogging lets us meet different people. When you meet people in blog space, you see their ideas first, before you see their age, race, gender, appearance. The culture wars — people look across the divide, dislike each other, communication becomes impossible. Blogging shows that we’re all just people.
In blogging, I consider myself to be a triple ambassador. I can show the secular community that Mormons are normal. (And can clear up misconceptions — no conversion agenda.) I can show Mormons that atheists are not bad. Can show that I’m not angry, I’m happy with my heritage. And third, to the ex-Mormon community. Like to give the message — former Mormons have lots of experiences, some negative, some positive. Non believers have every right to their own past, and to be part of the discussion.
Galen (G), reading Jana Remy’s talk (Jana couldn’t attend):
Jana talked about meeting a blog reader in Albuquerque. Her friend who has family in an old Catholic church, heritage there. They found a connection through talking about church architechture — painted marble, realizing that there is similar heritage.
The Exponent blog, builds community. The tradition comes from the Women’s Exponent paper in the 19th century, later publications, all using womens’ experience as their foundation. Using experience as the basis — like personal revelation.
Discussing Prop 8 on Exponent blog — many critical comments. Jana commented, about her Prop 22 experience, following church instructions and supporting Prop 22. She received an answer to a prayer, afterwards, that she didn’t need to support something she didn’t believe. This changed the tenor of the conversation. Was able to share experience without causing offense or creating deeper divisions. I try to make comments that increase understanding. I don’t read many nacle blogs anymore — BCC, T&S, MM. The most important way to build bridges is the individual links. Each of you bring joy.
Galen’s personal observations: Blogging is a valuable experience to help be encounter my own stereotypes and barriers. Gets me out of my shell, and into your lives.
I started FMH five years ago. I was struggling with stereotypes. I felt a wall with people in the ward. I wasn’t sure who I was, either, struggling. So I went onto the internet, stumbled onto T&S, and suddenly, there were new ways to think about the old ideas. Maybe I could still be Mormon without accepting polygamy. Knowing that there were people who thought differently — I allowed myself to be different, to break out of the stereotype.
As FMH has grown (hmm, can I just dance instead?) — I’ve learned about stereotypes. Sometimes, I’ve thought someone was a woman, and then found out they were a man. The same with socioeconomic status, educational background, you only have their words. With blog friends, I know their souls, like I don’t do with ward friends.
It builds confidence. I started out awkward, angry, confused, less educated, didn’t know the history of Mormon feminism. As I become more secure, I can step back and try to understand others. Blogging helped me learn how to talk to people, how to listen to people.
Early on, there were a lot of hostile, stereotyping comments about feminists. We set policies, saying, that’s not something we do here. You have to engage with us as human beings. Some people freak out, and have to leave. A lot of people will step up, and engage with us. And we try to do the same. Stereotypes go two ways. There are stereotypes about Mormons, too. We help break down stereotypes about people who have left the church. Many former members comment — so humane, kind, generous, it helps show that former members can be good people. And smilarly, we can help angry, bitter former members realize, not all members are bad.
Mommy wars are bitter. Many women feel boxed in by choices. As feminst housewives, we try to undermine mommy-war anger, get women to talk to each other. Bring different people together.
Cheryl (Bored in Vernal)
If you know me from the blogs, and never would have otherwise, stand up. (20 people stand). That’s awesome. I don’t want to be alone when I want company. I started it for community and connection.
I like a book, three cups of tea. There’s a mountain climber needs to build a bridge to a village. [At this point, mfranti falls halfway off the platform on her chair. Yikes! She's okay, though. I'm not quick enough with the camera to get a picture. I missed Lisa's brief impromptu dance, too. I need a quicker trigger finger.] I’m glad I was able to find the blogs and build these bridges.
Some bridges I like: Interfaith dialogue. Aaron Shaf and Todd Wood (Heart Issues) and LDSTalk. Tim at LDStalk talks about liking to be challenged, and have his reasoning refined. I love tension and challenge. Also Bridget Jack Meyers, blogging at T&S. Talks about nailing jello to the wall — with a link.
I love New Cool Thang, explorations of Mormon doctrine, is God part of time, the cool conversations. Another good site, the Mormon Theology Seminar blog. Another bridge: Kevin Barney wrote about Asherah in Dialogue. I replied at my blog, and Kristine published it in Dialogue too.
Stephanie Meyer — The Host, aliens taking over the world. She explores how much love and connection is physical, and how much is spiritual? Elder Bednar addressed the same idea in his talk, which my husband called to my attention. The Devil can use technology to distract from the physical world. Don’t get too caught up in computers and lose out on personal communication.
I’m a swim coach. But I’m short and have a small voice. Physical can conceal. I feel when I blog, I know your soul, your struggle, a lot more than people in my ward who see me on Sunday. Blogging overcomes stereotypes. You know the 2 inch alien before you see the body. Cheryl read a poem she wrote for Gideon, the handicapped child of the Ponder It bloggers. Since then, I’ve written several poems for bloggers, when things touch me. Wrote another for John Remy, when he had his clash with the stake president. It shows my views on bridging and community.
I celebrated 10 years in the church, a few weeks ago. I remember learning the discussions, wondering if I could be a Mormon. My friend said, honey, you can be your own brand of Mormon.
I knew, I’d just have to be who I am. I couldn’t be like all the women in the Irvine ward. I learned after joining the church, I didn’t fit in. I had a job, I had a daughter, nobody wanted to date me. I felt like I had to conform. And then I moved to Utah. (Laughter).
I tried to be the good Mormon girl. Then in 2006, I stumbled on FMH. I realized that the perfect Mormon stereotype isn’t real. I can be this way, like me.
My role at FMH isn’t to be all thinky. I work behind the scenes, find guest posts, read every comment, pay attention to people’s lives. If someone’s in distress, I reach out to them — “I’m here, and you’re important to me, and to the community. Keep hanging on.” I deal with jerks, too, telling them to play nice.
I don’t know how this came about. There was never a table for me. I was the kid without friends. (Crying.) I was always the loner. I can recognize when someone needs help, over the internet, on the blog. I take my role very seriously. It’s so important for me, to be there, to give back.
There’s a commenter, Stephanie. She’s very conservative, she jumps right in to arguments quickly. Bloggers jumped on her, and she was hurt, and leaving. I e-mailed her, and said, please don’t go. We need you in the community. She stayed, and has changed, opened up, she’s not combative. We said, you are part of this community, and what you say is valuable. And she listens to us.
That’s my agenda. I want people to think about why they think a certain way, building an online community. Every woman, every man, even the trolls, they’re real people.
I tried to be the good Mormon woman, not fitting in. As I meet Lisa, Artemis, I started to embrace my Mormon womanness. A return to domesticity. I have chickens!
Some off the cuff comments.
I don’t know how I got into blogging. I used to watch the LDS-Law e-mail list, and then it morphed into Times and Seasons. I started to read it, thought it was great, great conversations and you could comment. It was the only blog I read at first, or that there were other blogs. I’m a little older than the nacle mean age.
Kaimi invited me to guest blog at T&S. I posted about the church’s marriage / sealing policy, and other topics, it was a lot of fun. Later, Ronan Head invited me to blog at BCC. I used to never go to BCC, I thought it was the apostate blog. But, I got to know Ronan, he’s a lot like me. These aren’t apostates, they’re people just like me.
It has been tremendous fun. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people, I’ve really enjoyed it. You get instant feedback on your ideas, it’s wonderful. Overcoming stereotypes — I never thought of myself as a feminist, but started to read blogs dominated by women. Liked these people, agreed with them, decided, if this is what it means to be a feminist, I guess I’m one. I’m grateful for that self-knowledge.
Another that I don’t know if I’ve been successful in bridging. I wear a lot of hats in Mormon studies. I serve both on the FAIR and Dialogue boards. I’ve tried to be an ambassador to both communities — both the apologetic community, defending faith, and the independent intellectual Mormon community. I hope that I’ve had some influence in both directions. I look to both, using Dialogue or Sunstone to help in FAIR work.
Q: Me: How do you get past the Daily Me problem — just hearing people who agree with us?
Cheryl: I see this, talking to m&m, talking to people with different worldview. We are a real community, get out of just the me. Some blogs are more diverse (MM), some more homogenuous, but all of them involve getting out of the me.
Carol: One strategy is to deliberately read and comment on diverse blogs
Lisa: I worry about this. There are differences in FMh, but we agree on most things. But, a continual renewal of people coming in, wider communities, feminist, Mormon, mother communities. Draws in other new people. In the commenters and dialogue we get a lot of diversity. I hope we never habe that problem.
Q: Sense of cliqueishness. Is there a group that always comments, new people ignored. Is that true?
Lisa: I think it is. I fell in when it first started. I worry about the new people. They often really need help, and someone to listen. I don’t have enough energy to be everyone’s friend. What’s the way to build communities, bring in people who aren’t aggressive, self confident?
Mfranti: I try to reply to people who say they’re new. I did a “getting to know you” post.
Carol: You can start your own blog, it gets reactions.
Lisa: Link us, that helps.
Mfranti: As a new commenter, don’t just jump in and start yelling.
Lisa: Posting on the sidebar. There was a BCC post on how to start as a new blogger.
Q: How has your blogging affected relationships in ward, family, are you out in your ward?
Cheryl: My husband and I have a rocky relationship, we started a blog together. Like couples therapy for us. [At this point, the power went out briefly, and all lights off. And then came on. And then off. And then on, again.]
I started out anonymous. I gradually let people in ward and family know about me. Facebook has broken down the walls, so I’ve come out to everyone. No one at my ward said anything. It’s like, don’t ask, don’t tell.
Galen: I’m not out in my ward. I recently came out to my parents, also not well. Most friends have no interest in my thoughts on these issues.
Carol: A little uncomfortable with family. But now, they have blogs, it’s been a positive experience.