Over the summer, I took a Gender and Sexuality course. As someone who hopes to one day work with LGBTQ+ youth, I knew it would be beneficial for my learning. One of the lessons from this course that I have been thinking a lot about recently during Women’s History Month was about religion, feminism, and toxic masculinity. This is a conversation we need to have, and more importantly, do something about.
While taking this course, I was also reading a book titled “Tabernacles of Clay,” which tackles the history of gender and sexuality in modern day Mormonism. It all led me to do some thinking about the men in my life, especially those who are religious and/or are priesthood holders. I think about the talk a kid in my church in Philly gave on Mother’s Day a few years ago about how grateful he is for gender roles and the God given gifts that women are blessed with. All of his jokes were about how lucky he is to be a man because he simply is bad at cleaning up. My mom leaned over to me and told me he was officially crossed off of the very short list of boys I would eventually be allowed to date.
One year a family in our ward hosted a Superbowl party at their house. This was the year that Lady Gaga was the halftime performer, and I was STOKED. I love that woman. However, one of the men there ruined the whole thing for me. As his eight year old daughter at the time was sitting next to him, he began to make comments about every aspect of Lady Gaga’s performance, as well as the commercials with girls. One of the commercials showed a girl racing cars against a few boys, and then she wins. This man then went on to say “Oh come on, we know that didn’t really happen.” As soon as Lady Gaga started performing, his first comment was “She shouldn’t be showing off her jelly rolls.” He continued to body shame her for the rest of the show. I was so upset, and I often think about how good it would have felt to have said something. My dad didn’t come to this party, so I was giving him updates on what this guy was saying every few minutes. At one point, after the jelly rolls comment, my dad told me I should ask him when the last time he didn’t have “jelly rolls” was. Man I wish I had the guts to say that. It probably would have got me kicked out of church, and that may not have been the worst outcome.
On the total opposite end of the toxic Mormon priesthood holder is my father. He has always been incredibly proud of his daughters, always supportive, and has always taught us to hold men to a very high standard. He was never disappointed that he ended up with two daughters, and has always made that clear. When we talk about religion, he just talks about how he doesn’t feel the need to subscribe to an institution that refuses to make room for our family. I have a lot of respect for him.
Lots of Mormon men get way too caught up in the fact that they hold the priesthood. While I am so thankful that I have the father I have, it makes me sick to think about just how many daughters (and sons) have dads who abuse their priesthood power to control the family. As Women’s History Month comes to a close, spend some time reflecting on the men you have influence over in your life. How do they speak about women? What can we do to hold the men in our lives accountable? It is on all of us to improve the safety and wellbeing of all women. So let’s get to work.