Thursday, 29 March 2007

Plea for Forgiveness: I'll Never Post on Postmodernism Again.

I'm sorry Baudrillard made you all hide in your blogging shells. Here's to opening things back up for discussion!

Have any of you read Reading Lolita in Tehran? I am reading it right now for my Brit Lit class. (We, the students, can't figure out why it is Brit Lit. She wrote it in America and she is from Iran. Oh well. I am happy to read it.) A topic in the forefront is, obviously, women's rights. So, I had to write a response paper for my class today. After I read the paper to my class, discussion ensued about modesty, Dallin Oaks's famous "walking pornography" line, etc.

Here is part of my paper:

Part of this question revolves around the dress required in Iran and some other Islamic countries. These requirements are based on the Hijab, the Islamic dress code. Though interpreted very differently by different groups of people and countries, the Hijab is religious in nature. The chador is relatively liberal, when compared to the burqa, but every interpretation of the Hijab, be it a headscarf or the burqa is meant to be religious. I would imagine there are many women who follow the Hijab to varying to degrees who feel their interpretation of the Hijab is very personal, and a manifestation of their commitment to Islam. So, if this is a religious manifestation, why do I feel angry when reading about it in Reading Lolita? In my reading I found that it was the Iranian dialogue which made me angry: “Veiling is a Woman’s Protection” and “My Sister, Guard Your Veil. My Brother, Guard Your Eyes” (27). Maybe this makes me angry because it sounds all too familiar. [These were signs on Iranian streets.]

As Mormons we understand the significance of religious dress. At BYU, we understand the meaning of a dress code. Though I don’t intend to literally compare Mormon standards of modesty to wearing a burqa, I find a comparison of attitudes appropriate (i.e., I am referring to how the dress code is represented in Nafisi’s novel compared to Mormon culture). From a religious standpoint, what is the point of modesty? Mormon modesty for women is often stressed because young women should not make young men think dirty thoughts. While this is a perk of dressing modestly, (encouraging clean thoughts) it is not the doctrinal reason for doing so. How does this faulty reason for modesty undermine agency? How is modesty undermined if it is enforced based on grounds of responsibility for others’ thoughts? Should modesty be considered a social issue, rather than a personal one? Would the chador, or other interpretations of the Hijab, infringe on women’s rights if it were not enforced based on the effect of women’s sexuality on men?

Also, these women, obviously, rebel and question the laws. They take little liberties here and there to show their fight for freedom-- showing a little more hair, wearing colorful fabrics for their chador, etc. Is this kind of questioning acceptable-- in general, and for Mormons? Why or why not?

Now . . . discuss!

P.S. The picture says, "a woman modestly dressed is a pearl in its shell."

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Pet Peeve: "Auxiliary"

So, I really don't care for the term "Auxiliary" as it is used in the Church to describe Relief Society, YM, YW, and Primary. Alexandra's already heard my thoughts (rant?) on this, but I'd like to see what everyone else thinks. In the grand scheme of things, sure, it's pretty low on a scale of 1 to things that will impact our salvation. However, I still think that it comes across as somewhat misleading in terms of the role of the priesthood and women in the church; and at a time when confusion about gender roles, etc. is pretty rampant in and outside the Church, I think it's worthwhile to be as clear as possible. Also, I really believe that language and its usage are extremely powerful, and that thinking about terms like this isn't necessarily a pointless semantic exercise.

As I see it, there are two concepts that people use the word "priesthood" to refer to, and they've become conflated. The first is the Priesthood (capital p) organization, which includes the Aaronic and Melchizedik, teachers, deacons, priests, etc. etc. The term priesthood (lowercase p) is also used to refer to the power to act in God's place on earth. While the Priesthood does represent the priesthood power, in terms of very necessary ordinances, it is definitely not the only way in which humanity has the power to act as an instrument of the Lord.

Without diminishing the Priesthood's critical importance, I think it would be safe to say that the lack of any other godly power would make the Priesthood somewhat empty. As much as everyone needs priesthood power in order to achieve salvation, they also need other powers which are not necessarily confined in the Priesthood role - the role of mothering and the role of nurturing families, service, spiritual gifts, teaching, missionary work, etc. etc. In terms of the Priesthood as a counterpart to women's role in the church and eternal life, General Authorities usually make it pretty clear that these two powers are coequal, and both are necessary to attain salvation, hence the stress on the eternal nature of gender and the importance of eternal marriage.

"Auxiliary" is defined as something which aids, increases, and augments. Obviously, the role of the Relief Society and all of the Auxiliaries is to aid, increase, and augment the Priesthood. However, I would argue that it is just as important for the Priesthood to do the same for everyone else in Zion. I don't think it diminishes the cruciality (ok, not a word) of the Priesthood to acknowledge that other means of utilizing the Lord's power exist, and indeed MUST exist in tandem with Priesthood power and ordinances. To refer to the rest of the church as "auxiliary" to the Priesthood, without any real sense of congruency, somewhat distorts that relationship, I think. The Relief Society is auxiliary to the Priesthood, sure, but the Priesthood is also auxiliary to the Relief Society.

Plus, and maybe this is just my "liberal education" making me think that I'm wise, but something about calling men by a name which connotes power and referring to women and children (together) as "assisting" that power rubs me the wrong way. Not that I'm feeling particularly oppressed by the patriarchy or anything, but it just seems like a bad PR move. Obviously, that that kind of thinking doesn't determine the way the Church functions, and the Lord doesn't about PC-ness, and his ways are higher than our ways, but I feel like a little cosmetic change could make a lot of difference. (You know, the power of language thing.)

So, my questions are:
1. Does this bug anyone else too, or do I just have too much time on my hands?
2. Is this something that could/should be changed?
3. Does anyone know why RS/YW/YM/Primary got lumped into an Auxiliary category in the first place?