Madwoman Out of the Attic

a feminist trudging forward in a patriarchal world

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Addicted to NPR

I discovered NPR about a year ago, and it has enriched my life more than I could ever have imagined. I love its thoughtful stories, great interviews, fascinating discussions with world leaders.... everything about it. (Except Prarie Home Companion and Car Talk. I can do without those.)

The day I first discovered it, I happened upon a radio documentary called "My Lobotomy," the story of a man who was lobotomized when he was a boy because he was a bit of a handful. In this radio documentary, he discusses this with his father for the first time, the father who arranged for him to undergo the infamous icepick lobotomy. In the story, his voice pulses with emotion and pain as he talks to his aged father about this decision - so strinking since lobotomies often turned people into emotional zombies.

Ever since hearing that story, I've listened to NPR every moment I'm in my car, and even for several hours when I'm at home - a total of about 6 hours a day. I hardly watch TV anymore, since the radio is so much more interesting.

My favorite shows:
Speaking of Faith
This I Believe
Talk of the Nation
Film Week
Morning Edition
The Splendid Table
The Writer's Almanac


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Celestial Marriage

Last night for our O.C. Mormon Studies Group, I lead a discussion on celestial marriage. Here is the rundown.

1. What celestial marriage is as opposed to temple marriage, eternal marriage, and....patriarchal order.

Some interesting discussion about the word patriarchy. Armand thinks the term comes from a 19th century obsession with patriarchal clans - ergo all these Mormons sealing themselves as children to J.S and B.Y. Armand thinks that the word needs to be dropped in favor of something less offensive, like family order. Amy commented however, that changing a word is nice but that there are things in the temple and in the proc that need to be changed as well to remove the idea and practice of patriarchy in our church.

2. Purpose of marriage:

Armand thought the purpose of celestial marriage was to give us training as gods in embryo. Others (john R.) gave more sociological ideas about the purpose of marriage. I pointed out the one scripture I could find : "it is not good for man to be alone" in genesis.

3. Questioning some underlying assumptions about marriage: Does marriage really mitigate the essential "aloneness" of our life journeys?

I'm very compelled by Elizabeth Cady Stanton's speech, The Solitude of Self, in which she argues the essential isolation of our souls and ourselves in order to promote the idea that, given this isolation, we cannot handicap any human from enjoying absolute equal rights.

Here is an excerpt I read from Cady Stanton. I find her writing bleak and beautiful.

To appreciate the importance of fitting every human soul for independent action, think for a moment of the immeasurable solitude of self.... We come into the world alone, unlike all who have gone before us, we leave it alone, under circumstances peculiar to ourselves. In youth our most bitter disappointments, our brightest hopes and ambitions, are known only to ourselves. Even our friendship and love we never fully share with another; there is something of every passion, in every situation, we conceal. . . . .

We ask no sympathy from others in the anxiety and agony of a broken friendship or shattered love. When death sunders our nearest ties, alone we sit in the shadow of our affliction. Alike amid the greatest triumphs and darkest tragedies of life, we walk alone. On the divine heights of human attainment, eulogized and worshipped as a hero or saint, we stand alone. In ignorance, poverty and vice, as a pauper or criminal, alone we starve or steal; alone we suffer the sneers and rebuffs of our fellows; alone we are hunted and hounded through dark courts and alleys, in by-ways and high-ways; alone we stand in the judgment seat; alone in the prison cell we lament our crimes and misfortunes; alone we expiate them on the gallows. In hours like these we realize the awful solitude of individual life, its pains, its penalties, its responsibilities, hours in which the youngest and most helpless are thrown on their own resources for guidance and consolation. Seeing, then, that life must ever be a march and a battle that each soldier must be equipped for his own protection, it is the height of cruelty to rob the individual of a single natural right.

Whatever the theories may be of woman’s dependence on man, in the supreme moments of her life, he cannot bear her burdens. Alone she goes to the gates of death to give life to every man that is born into the world; no one can share her fears, no one can mitigate her pangs; and if her sorrow is greater than she can bear, alone she passes beyond the gates into the vast unknown.

From the mountain-tops of Judea long ago, a heavenly voice bade his disciples, “Bear ye one another’s burdens”; but humanity has not yet risen to that point of self-sacrifice; and if ever so willing, how few the burdens are that one soul can bear for another! . . .

So it ever must be in the conflicting scenes of life, in the long, weary march, each one walks alone. We may have many friends, love, kindness, sympathy and charity, to smooth our pathway in everyday life, but in the tragedies and triumphs of human experience, each mortal stands alone.

There were some strong reactions against Stanton's idea about the essential isolation of every soul. John, Amy, and Jessie commented that this grew out of a 19th century Emersonian preoccupation with individuality. Some thought that it was inaccurate to say that we are alone in birth and death and all the great events in between. I agree that we may not be physically alone, but I do think it's true that no one will ever truly understand my feelings, my joy, my suffering. No one knows all that goes through my mind. I think I have a good relationship with Mike, but I'd be surprised if I even tell him 1% of what I think about in a given day.

Ultimately, the concensus was that marriage may not totally take away our isolation, but it does give us constant opportunities to reach out to other to serve and try to share those burdens.

4. Questioning another underlying assumption about marriage: why does it have to be between a man and a woman? Is there a chance that our actively homosexual brothers and sisters will one day be welcomed in the church? (We didn't have time to discuss this one.)

5. Some history: the idea of celestial marriage was inescapably tied to plural marriage in the early days of the church. In fact, the term celestial marriage was synomous with plural marriage. D&C 132 is an example of how these ideas are inextricably bound together.

The coming forth of D&C 132 (from Mormon Enigma): Joseph had been practicing plural marriage and been trying to convince Emma to accept it. She resisted and resisted, but finally gave in when he told her that her salvation was in jeopardy. So she picks some women to give to him (little did she know that they were already married to him). But right after the ceremony she became more violently opposed to polygamy than ever. Joseph needs her support so Hyrum suggests that he come up with a revelation to convince her. So Joseph writes DC 132, but when this is delivered to her, Emma is incensed and the revelation is burned, maybe by Emma, maybe by Joseph, maybe together - but not before some copies had been made. There are various accounts of this burning, but the editorial comment by the historians is that if Emma burned this revelation, she did so with the approval of Joseph.

(Armand thinks that if J.S had lived, there would have been a high chance that he might have given up on polygamy. He was a great experimenter and tried (and failed) at all sorts of things, so it's very possible he could have realized it wasn't working. For example, the United Order was dead in the water by the time the Saints got to Nauvoo.)

I think this story neatly illustrates that the last word on marriage has not been written in our church. Even Joseph himself seems to have not been so sure about DC 132. So I'm hopeful that how our church thinks and talks about marriage may evolve to one day be more inclusive and egalitarian.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Adventures in Humanitarianism

This Thursday Mike and I will participate in the Point in Time Homeless Count. In order for O.C. to get $10 mill, they have to conduct this count on this one evening to try to determine how many homeless there are here in this area.

We'll be assigned a few miles to walk and count. I'm a bit nervous as it will be at night and I imagine we'll be in some rougher neighborhoods. And I've never interacted with homeless people before. But this sounds like a very worthwhile project, and I'm pleased (and a bit surprised) that the church had gotten behind this. Now if only I can find a babysitter Thursday evening...

Also, I'm arranging to deliever Valentine's Day gifts to women in a local shelter for women who are escaping domestic violence. Kudos to J.A. for coming up with this idea.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


I'm ill and I'm miserable. I've actually lost my voice completely so have been virtually unable to orally communicate for the last 2 days. Let's hope the baby doesn't catch this cold from me.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


I am beginning to regret allowing my son to be circumcised. I was woefully ignorant about it all, and I did have mixed feelings, so I washed my hands of it and let Mike make the decision. He was highly in favor of it.

I wasn't there, so I don't know how horribly painful it was for baby, but I am now really uncomfortable that I allowed my son's body to be irretrievably altered without his permission. It's his body. I think he should have made the decision when he was older.

I know it's really not comparable, but I can't help but think of how violently opposed I am to female genital mutilation. And I wonder if circumcising boys is in a very small way somewhat akin to that.

I've told Mike that if we have another boy, I don't want this one circumcised. Mike wasn't thrilled to hear it, and he made me promise to read articles on both sides of the issue before making up my mind completely. Which I agreed to do. But I think I really am heading towards a no-circumcision stance, and I don't think any pro-circumcision articles will change that.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Saving the World, One Offensive Sign at a Time

Every week for the last few years, I have encountered a certain offensive sign. A sexist sign. A sign that is trying to get across a benign point, but that uses completely wrong and sexist language. Some of you who know me, know what sign I am referring to.

We are at last free from this sign. I have subtly and surreptitiously amended it so that it now gets its point across without using offensive language. I will be surprised if anyone notices. But even if no one registers the difference, my mind will be at ease that it is no longer is communicating unhealthy and sexist ideas.