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The Good News: Sometimes, They Get It

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OK, first of all, I want to make clear that this entry ends up happy, or at least happy-ish, because I'm going to spin it as a feminist success story. But there's some gross stuff to get through along the way.

Thanks to Salon's Broadsheet, I have been reminded that Feminists suck all the humor out of sexual harassment, always, all the time, though in this case it's because feminists object to ads that try to sell cleaning products to women through jokes about sexual harassment and threatened rape.

Apparently feminists' lack of humor so upsets some guy that he delivers a REALLY HORRIBLE misogynist rant arguing that women who are offended by the use of the imagery and language of sexual violence to market products to them, should be silenced, killed and sexually assaulted.

And when people point out that his misogynist rant is as gross as the original ad, he says, "But I didn't see it that way. I didn't see the rape imagery in the original ad, or in my own comments. When i said that women who didn't think it was funny to see a woman threatened with sexual assault, should be confronted by a bunch of guys who ejaculate foamy white stuff on them, I wasn't try to offend anyone."

And then there's a long discussion of male privilege, and one wise commenter points out that The greatest advantage of privilege is the ability to be blind to it.

That reminded me of old entry of mine that makes a similar point: namely, that one of the privileges of being on top of the power hierarchy is that the people in that position don't have to spend a lot of time worrying about the people below them, the people who take care of them.

Here's the good news part of all this:

Reciprocity and Gratitude

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When I was engaged two decades ago, I was in a position to do things for my fiance that he could not do for me. This was OK with me at the time. I was in love: it brought me joy to do things for my beloved. It let me think of him, and imagine his happiness, and feel close to him.

At some point I noticed, however, that while he enjoyed the things I did for him, he didn't see them as special the way I did. Not only did they not require reciprocity--which we both knew he couldn't provide--they didn't even seem to require gratitude or, more disturbingly, acknowledgment at times. I began to realize that he thought they were his due, what he was entitled to, not something I willingly chose to do for him because I loved him, and that I could have chosen not to do.

I met my fiance in Arizona but he was British, and I knew that at some point before the wedding, he'd have to go back to England. The particular way he decided to go home involved considerable sacrifice and hardship for me. I wasn't happy about it, but I understood that sometimes, things just have to be a certain way. You deal with it as well as you can, which is what I tried to do; I also tried to make things easier for him.

On the eve of his departure, I told him, "I need you to say two words to me."

"What?" he asked, grinning. "Bug off?"

Somehow I missed the fact that the Strokes' first album, Is This It (is this WHAT?), had two different covers, one for the open-minded people across the ocean, and one for the prudes on the west side of the Atlantic.... You know, Americans, who are either Christians or feminists. The former object to anything that might arouse someone, and the latter object to the objectification of women and their bodies.

I found an image of the British cover because the Guardian has named the album the fourth best album of the current decade. I personally found the album boring and forgettable when I encountered it with the prudish American cover, but I will certainly remember it from now on. And I won't be listening to the Strokes ever again.

After reading that article, I clicked on a link to a story about Adam Lambert and what was or wasn't wrong with his kissing a guy during his performance at the American Music Awards. (Side note: I didn't think there was anything wrong with the kiss, and I agree with this assessment about the offensive nature of some of the reporting on it.) To summarize: nothing wrong with men kissing men; why isn't anyone questioning larger issues in the performance, including the fact that

Too Much Evil Blonde Per Episode

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I still haven't gotten around to publishing something about WHY Glee is great--I merely said that it was, and promised to provide details later.

And now, before explaining why it's great, I'm going to complain about something wrong with it.

The last episode, "Throwdown," really disappointed me. I didn't much like it. And I had to think about why. Here's what I came up with: there was too much evil blonde in this episode.

Sue, Quinn, Terri, Terri's sister Kendra--they're all blonde, and they're all more or less villains.

Because the Dolls Are Seriously NOT Having Fun

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This morning I was busy accomplishing great things when I thought, "Hey! I forgot to watch the latest episode of Dollhouse over the weekend!" Of course I forgot; I'm not really interested, and I've been watching only out of obligation. But I tend to meet my obligations, even to Joss Whedon, so around noon I clicked onto Hulu to catch up on Joss's crappy current project while I ate lunch.

The ep started off with some creepy guy arranging a strange croquet tableau with real women propped up by the sorts of stands used to position mannequins. I figured it was a client of the dollhouse using its "dolls" in the most literal ways: as dolls. I continued to think that even after he used a croquet mallet to bash in the head of one of the women. I continued to think that after we flashed to the dollhouse and there was a discussion of helping some guy who'd ended up in the hospital after being hit by a car, which was what happened to the creepy guy we saw using real women as life-size dolls.

BUT NO! Turns out that the creepy guy was NOT a client of the dollhouse, but the nephew of a stockholder of the dollhouse's parent company! And Creepy Guy's brain scan reveals so clearly that he's a serial killer, that even the amoral, idiotic Topher is unwilling to bring this guy out of a coma.

The Carnival of Feminists, Reborn

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Longtime readers will remember that for a while, I was a diligent reader of and linker to the Carnival of Feminists. I even hosted it once. Then real life intruded, and I got busy and lazy. Then I recommitted to blogging, and then I wondered what had happened to the Carnival of Feminists while I wasn't paying attention.

Turned out that real life intruded on the CoF, too. It ceased to be--until the women at Female Impersonator started it up again recently. Check out the current carnival, which includes a link to a discussion of November on Dollhouse I was curious about, given that I hate show. Maia of Alas, a blog didn't change my mind about the quality of Dollhouse, but she did raise some interesting issues about gender and advertising. Also don't miss this amazing post about losing an unplanned baby, that totally kicks the ideological ass of anything Katie Roiphe wrote.

And please go here to submit any great feminist commentary you find in the future on your favorite blogs.

A few months ago, in the midst of a rant from me about how VILE Twilight is, a friend suggested that I read Fascinating Womanhood by Helen B. Andelin--he was pretty sure it would help to explain Twilight. He'd never read either, but he had Mormon daughters and a Mormon ex-wife, and he knew plenty of women who had read both.

In case you didn't know, Fascinating Womanhood is, like Twilight, a thoroughly Mormon book that never mentions Mormonism. Andelin, who taught marriage enrichment courses to Mormon Women in California during the 1950s while her husband was busy being a dentist, fasted and prayed about how Mormon women might achieve an ideal marriage--and the answer is contained in Fascinating Womanhood.

What the hell, I thought, when my friend suggested I read this. I'd read The Rules years ago. I'd grown up Mormon and been to plenty of Standards Nights. How much worse could this particular exploration and defense of caricaturized femininity really be?

Well.

Part of the difficulty in battling sexism and gender assumptions is that they are sometimes subtle, sometimes difficult to tease out. What makes FW so shocking is how blatant it all. Seriously: if I hadn't known, in all certainty, that it wasn't a joke, I would have thought it was satire. It was difficult to believe that anyone could take this crap seriously. But it is deadly in its seriousness--which is a tad ironic, since the overall thrust of the book is to teach women how to be frivolous.

That's right, ladies: being frivolous is serious business. Because the crux of gender differences and relationships between men and women boil down to one fact, repeated over and over throughout the book and presented in all caps, so you'll feel its pithy truth all more forcefully:

One of the papers I delivered at Sunstone was on Johnny LIngo, a 24-minute film made by BYU and presented "The Deseret Sunday School Union of the COJCOLDS" in 1969. If you're Mormon, you probably know all about it; if you're not, you can watch it all on Youtube: part 1, part2, and part 3.

If you don't want to subject yourself to the crappy, grainy videos, I'll summarize the movie: on some unnamed Pacific island, this hot dude named Johnny Lingo buys a really ugly wife (she's so ugly that her name, "Mahana," is a bit of Mormon slang for a really ugly woman) for the exorbitant sum of eight cows, which confounds everyone, since a totally hot chick sells for four or five cows. But when JL and Mahana return from their extended honeymoon, lo and behold, she's HOT! Totally worth eight cows! Being purchased for eight cows has turned Mahana into an eight-cow woman!

And that's held up in Mormonism as a way to foster female self-worth: buy and sell them for A LOT.

Stunted and Misshapen by the Priesthood

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The concern I closed my last entry with was this:

I began to wonder if it was the fact that I DIDN'T have the priesthood, and therefore DIDN'T have a certain respect for it, that has made me willing and able to call these guys by their first names. I wonder if men respect the authority of the priesthood more because they have it.

In 2002, Sunstone published an essay of mine in which I recount standing up in a zone conference and saying to my second (as opposed to my much cooler first) mission president, when he got Melchizedek on our asses and started issuing punitive, brutal directives, "President ___________, why are you doing this? This is stupid. It's wrong."

This was analogous to a private standing up during a briefing by a colonel about a military mission and saying, "Why are you commanding us to do these backasswards things? This is stupid. It's wrong."

In other words, it was a big fucking deal. Now, to my mission president's credit, although he responded by shutting down the meeting in order to shut me and everyone else up, he also admitted right then and there that I was RIGHT, and he never said another word about the horrible policies he had once wanted to institute.

We discussed the incident later, when I apologized. As I wrote in the essay,

Men with First Names and Sweaty Palms

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In John R's account of the conversation with the stake president in which said SP informed him of his impending excommunication, John wrote

This is the first time I've stood toe-to-toe with a Mormon leader and felt like his complete equal in every way. It's liberating to not feel beholden to Church authority and priesthood power.

In her discussion of John's post, chanson responded to this statement by writing

This jumps out at me because it's so alien to my own experience. Have other former believers felt like John has here? The last time the church leaders held any power over me, it was at BYU, where they had power to do real things to me, like expel me and withhold my transcripts, not just woo-stuff like withholding the keys to the Celestial Kingdom, etc. And before that, church leaders had authority over me because they were grown-ups and I was a kid. To me, John's statement would be like me being surprised that high school teachers are now my peers, when once they were so intimidating.

in a comment, I stated that I was nonplussed by John's statement. First of all, John has the priesthood (at least currently, whether he chooses to exercise it or not); he is the equal of certain church leaders in ways that I as a woman never would have been in their eyes. (Note: after I had drafted this entry and was finding all the links for comments and so forth, John responded to that, stating, "even if I (supposedly) held the priesthood, a) I was never comfortable with it, and b) in the Church I was still placed firmly in hierarchical relationships with other men.")

In this entry I'm going to provide all of what I said in that comment on Main Street Plaza, plus a little extra stuff, mostly as background and because I want a record of it here, but really this is all preliminary stuff to get to a discussion about gender and the priesthood.

Anyway. I certainly felt that I was the equal if not the superior of a great many Mormon leaders throughout my life.

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