Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Day Wearing the Hijab: Guest Post from Laura

The following post originally appeared on Laughin Lalo.

As a devout, practicing Mormon the idea of wearing a hijab is somewhat strange. I originally heard of the idea on FMH ( a Mormon feminist group on facebook) and I instantly was hooked on the idea.

Muslim women challenged non-muslim women to try wearing a hijab for one day and then talk about our experience. My thoughts were "are we allowed" and "what will people think" many of you know me quite well and I hate to admit it, but I really do care what other people think of me! But I signed up and took pictures and really lived the day and was much more observant of those around me. It took a lot of courage for me to do this, I was scared, excited, and a little apprehensive of the reaction in my mostly mormon community here in Utah.

First what is a hijab?! It's the scarf muslim women wear for modesty, there are literally hundreds of styles and fabrics to wear. They are absolutely GORGEOUS!
Muslim women aren't forced to wear the hijab, it's a choice they make for Allah (God) to be modest for him. In some ways it's very similar to the garments we mormons wear for modesty and a reminder of our love for God.

I looked up tons of videos on how to tie a hijab, and what to wear. I didn't have a bonnet so I fashioned one out of black fabric, and then tied my hijab!

I was very modest,  I made sure to wear a long sleeve black lose shirt with jeans.

Then I took off to school!

The day was interesting, I got a lot of stares from men mostly in trucks or passing in traffic. When I arrived at school I took a very awkward elevator ride with a gentleman who literally stared at me the whole time. More like in awe that he is actually seeing a muslim woman (but he wasn't haha) I went to class and some people were a little startled (my class is of 250 people so I definitely could blend) but people sat next to me and didn't shy away. After class I walked down the hallway to the elevator and some people walked away from me and some walked too close almost brushing me while there was tons of room on either side (I assume they were proving to me they weren't scared or whatever). People in shops were wonderful, they were nice and I didn't feel discriminated.

I felt completely empowered by my appearance, I felt feminine and beautiful completely covered up and I felt like I was respecting myself. It was a really beautiful experience and I'm glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and participated. I understand so much more about the muslim religion and the women who wear the hijab.

As a woman who wears modest clothing in general (for my religion) I don't think I'll ever second guess my modesty again because of the beauty I felt with in myself that day. I won't feel like I have to spill out of my blouse in order to get attention from anyone including my husband.

As for my husband Andrew, he was all for it! He loved that I was getting out of my comfort zone and educating myself. I appreciate his support, I'm a lucky gal!

Laura is a student, artist and blogger who lives in Utah with her husband and their two cats. She is studying photography, and in her spare time likes to garden, watch British shows, and seek out new tasty restaurants. To read more of her work (art, photography, and writing), check out her blog, Laughin Lalo.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ask a (Mormon) Feminist: Are Mormon Feminists Trying to Tell God how to Run His Church?

Back in December I mentioned a little about the Mormon feminist "Wear Pants to Church Day," an event that many but not all Mormon feminists got involved in. In the comments on my original post, Katherine B. asked an excellent question:

What do you say to someone who thinks that Mormon feminists are trying to tell God how to run His church? That by asking for changes, some women are claiming to know better than the Prophet and Apostles? I for one don't believe that that's what is happening, or that God is offended when we ask for change. My sister and I have been having a discussion since the start of this pants war thing, and this is her major hangup. I'm not sure how to respond, probably because I don't consider myself a feminist (though perhaps a feminist sympathizer). Does any of that make sense? Anyway, thanks for your posts. You always make me think (really think) about things from a different angle, and I think because of that I am a more tolerant person. And a teensy bit of a feminist. 

This weekend another friend suggested a similar question, this time motivated by the follow-up event "Let Women Pray in General Conference." (Also known in the longer but less demanding form of "write letters to ask to let women pray in General Conference"). Recently another friend also asked whether I felt comfortable telling leaders I don't belong to any organization that opposes the church's teachings (a question asked in temple recommend interviews) when I'm part of the feminist Mormon housewives facebook group. With so many similar questions about whether these Mormon feminist groups are out of line or in some way opposing and questioning the authority of church leaders, I realized it was time to respond.

There's a joke I've heard about the difference between Catholics and Mormons: the Catholic Pope is supposed to infallible, but Catholics don't actually think he is. Meanwhile the Mormon Prophet is not supposed to be infallible, but Mormons still think he is. 

While jokes build on generalities and stereotype, this joke points to a really important issue within my church's members: as members, we sometimes want our leaders to be perfect. And it's not just a rhetorical move for me to use "we" there. I want to believe Thomas S Monson is perfect just as much as the next Mormon. It's a lovely dream, isn't it? Imagining that the person who guides the church you belong to is perfect, that he'll never say anything that's incorrect or biased, that he'll have the answer to each and every question and that even the words he uses to communicate these answers will communicate perfectly and completely to all who hear them. It's tempting to imagine that a human leader is as perfect as the God that leader serves.

But that myth ignores the realities of life and existence. That myth ignores the truth about how humans learn and grow and progress, and it robs us of the opportunity to learn and understand true principles for ourselves. When we buy into the myth, it's tempting to ignore moments when we hear a general conference talk and don't feel the spirit confirming what we've heard communicated. It's tempting to ignore our doubts and uncertainties and pretend that we have a testimony of something we don't. To do otherwise would be to admit one of two possibilities: either our leaders are not infallible in each and every comment they make, or  we don't believe each and everything our infallible leaders are saying. 

Fortunately, the truth is much less extreme: leaders are not perfect, and all members experience some doubt and hesitation when it comes to church and gospel teachings.

It should be no secret to Mormons that our leaders are not perfect people. In fact, in a recent General Conference one leader reminded Mormons that the Church and the Gospel are not one and the same. All religious leaders make mistakes because they are humans, and humans make mistakes. Mormon humans are no exception to making mistakes. 

I know that some will look at what I'm saying and respond that even imperfect leaders still have my sustaining vote as a member, and therefore I should support them. I agree. The question is what it means to support a leader. Does it mean outwardly and inwardly approving of each and every decision a leader makes? Never voicing differing opinions on church and secular matters? If it does, then a bishop has no need of counselors - they'd only be yes-men. And a bishop has no need to hold ward council. But we have systems of communication in place in the church for a reason: the Church's policies constantly evolve, and that evolution is shaped in part by current culture and communication and the members' needs that they communicate to leaders.

Yes, some Mormon feminists don't recognize church leadership as having any authority. But those feminists are the exception, and let me tell you something - they're probably not sitting next to you in Sacrament meeting, because they're probably not attending the church anymore. The majority of Mormon feminists mean it when they sustain church leaders. Most of us hold that responsibility sacred. Sustaining a leader does not mean passively going along with each policy in place in the church and ignoring problems. It means prayerfully choosing moments to communicate problems I see occurring in my ward or stake or (even) in the church as a whole. 

For instance, a few years ago a stake high councilor preached false doctrine and misquoted scripture over the pulpit. So I approached the Bishop with my concerns. I didn't tell the bishop that he was wrong not to stop the speaker or that the speaker had no authority from God. I didn't demand anything. But I communicated and discussed my concerns, with a leader who shared them and was only happy to chat. 

As I see it, it is completely and utterly in line with sustaining and supporting leaders to write prayerful letters expressing a desire for a current policy to change - in this case, women not offering prayers in general conference meetings. Most of the women involved in this letter-writing campaign are hoping to more fully communicate the worldwide side effects that occur when members do not see women offering prayers in general conference. I've even heard stories of congregations in other countries, where church membership is still young, where because of what they see in general conference members mistakenly believe that women should not be offering prayers in Sunday meetings.

Communication is essential in the church. Think of it this way: if the Church were sending relief to flood victims that consisted mostly of dairy-based products, but the flood victims were all lactose-intolerant and were getting sick, it would be downright silly for nobody to tell church leadership about the problem. "Have more faith in your leaders" is unlikely to make their bodies process lactose.

Some will ask, why write letters as an organized effort - why not communicate in another way?

General authority leaders receive a lot of letters, so many that any one letter is very unlikely to be read by a church leader. But you can bet the Church is keeping track of how many of these letters are flowing in and that church leaders are prayerfully reviewing at least a portion of them. By writing en masse we're able to express thoughts and feelings that might otherwise slip through the cracks.

Bottom line, it's important to remember that this particular Mormon feminist movement is deliberately designed to take action in ways that do not defy actual doctrine. Wearing dress pants to church is not disrespectful to the Lord, but it is in violation of a cultural taboo. Communicating a heartfelt wish to church leadership is not disrespectful to said leadership, but it does question the false doctrine that leaders are infallible. 

God asks us to counsel with him, and that doesn't mean passively ignoring the very issues church leaders want to know about in order to effect the best policies they're able. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Call for Reviews for Bitch Flicks

From our friends at Bitch Flicks:

February 1st marked the start of Black History Month. So for this month's theme week, we thought it was the perfect time to highlight all women of color in film and television.

Here at Bitch Flicks, we often discuss the lack of female filmmakers and the need for women-centric films. We need more women directors, writers and protagonists. But we desperately need more women of color in front of and behind the camera. When studies on women in media are conducted, the numbers typically don't take into account the number of women of color. Out of the top 250 grossing films, women as a whole only comprise 9% of directors and 15% of writers and 33% of speaking roles. On TV in 2011, 15% of writers were women, women directed only 11% of TV episodes whilewomen of color only directed 1% (yep, you read that right...1%). Abysmal.

Sadly, film and TV often relegates women of color to racist and sexist tropes. Black women often appear on-screen as maids, hyper-sexual or the "sassy" sidekickLatina women also appear as maids and with "fiery" tempers. It's time to end these stereotypes. While women filmmakers don’t merely depict female protagonists, when more women are behind the camera, we tend to see more women in front of the camera. When we have more women of color as writers, directors and producers, we'll also see more diverse representations of women of color on-screen.

When people talk about the need for more women in media, they often mean white women. When we talk about the need for more women on-screen and more women-created media, we shouldn't be satisfied with white female leads and white female directors. We must see women of all races, created by women of all races.

So we want to focus on celebrating as well as critiquing the role of women of color in film and TV. Here are some suggested films and television series -- but feel free to suggest your own!

The Color Purple 
Middle of Nowhere 
What's Love Got to Do with It? 
The Cosby Show
Lady Sings the Blues

Daughters of the Dust
Night Catches Us
Grey's Anatomy
Real Women Have Curves 
Eve's Bayou
Mi Vida Loca
Do the Right Thing 
Diary of a Mad Black Woman 
Bend It Like Beckham 
Good Times
Watermelon Woman
American Family
A Different World 
I Like It Like That 
The Help 
For Colored Girls 
Jumping the Broom 
Soul Food 
Maria Full of Grace
Half and Half
Love and Basketball
Brown Sugar 
Ugly Betty
The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl 
The Wire 

As a reminder, these are a few basic guidelines for guest writers on our site:
--We like most of our pieces to be 1,000 - 2,000 words, preferably with some images and links.
--Please send your piece in the text of an email, including links to all images, no later than Friday, February, 22nd.
--Include a 2-3 sentence bio for placement at the end of your piece.

Email us at btchflcks(at)gmail(dot)com if you'd like to contribute a review. We accept original pieces or cross-posts. We look forward to reading your submissions!