Over the last several weeks, there has been a blog war over Kate Kelly. The Mormon women have been vocal about all the reasons Kate and other feminists are wrong and the feminists will fire back, point for point. I'm exhausted trying to keep up with all of it. As someone who left the Mormon church in part because I could find no place for me, a woman inside the church, I cannot be exactly objective. As a woman who has suffered from domestic abuse, I have no desire to be objective. I do believe I have a unique perspective and wish my Mormon family and friends would stop the vitriol long enough to listen; drop their defenses and just listen.
The Mormon church as well as the bloggers have been very clear about the roles that women should play; its written right there for all the world to read in the Proclamation on the Family:
By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. proclamation
The issue then becomes one of Benevolent sexism. Both men and women are guilty of this. This is the belief that women are kinder, gentler, more moral, better nurturers than men and as such deserve to be put on pedestals. People who believe in benevolent sexism think highly of women, but only as long as women conform to the expectations imposed upon them. Once women step outside the roles expected of them, wrath comes down on them (just like the Mormon women bloggers saying Kate *deserved* to be excommunicated). It reminds me of crabs in a pot, pulling down the crabs who try to climb out.
Notice all the crab legs pulled off by other crabs who tried to climb out? That's how vicious the crabs are; and not too far off from how vicious the women are that are attacking Kate for wanting something so humanly basic as equality.
Benevolent sexism rewards women when they conform and punishes women when they step outside their assigned roles or expectations. benevolent sexism
At the same time that I have been processing my experience with domestic abuse (I was strangled by the man who proclaimed his love for me), this movement has been gaining momentum within the Mormon church, called ‘Ordain Women’ to change the all male priesthood within the Mormon church to include women. As I watch and marvel at this, I also wonder at the war of words. I wonder, why do so many women not only stay in abuse, but defend it?
I have often wondered about my sisters; I have chosen to distance myself from my father as he continues to abuse my mother and my sisters. My sisters stay and take the abuse, calling the abuse such things as ornery, or mean spirited, ass hole, grumpy, crotchety, rather than what it really is…abuse. He was so abusive to the hospital staff at his last stay; they refused to keep him and sent him home before he was well.
Why…why do so many people stay in abuse? As we look at all the situations mentioned and see if Stockholm syndrome could be an explanation, there must be four conditions at play:
1. There is a perceived threat to the physical or physiological well being of the individual.
As to my sisters, they believe that families are forever, and that the father is the leader of the family and will become a god…therefore showing him the same respect that is due god is paramount to respecting god, no matter how abusive he is. If that respect isn’t shown, their eternal reward is at risk. This is a real physiological threat to their eternal well being.
To the women who wish to have equality within the Mormon church, they stay rather than leave because they believe their eternal salvation is tied to staying. Mormons believe that in order to be together as families in the eternities, they must pay tithing, they must be married in the Mormon temples, they must submit to Mormon authorities. There is no admission into the eternities without these conditions, these are the questions asked to get into the temple, and temple attendance is required in order to make it into Mormon heaven. There is no questioning the leaders within the Mormon church, even if there is contradiction within the self with what the leaders say and do....compliance is paramount to entering heaven. temple recommend questions
Women who are abused by their significant others are made to believe that their very existence depends on obeying him. He has supreme power over life and death. They are made aware of this every time he beats them, every time he threatens them, every time he rapes them.
2. Small Act of kindness extended interpreted as change:
I see my sisters give my Dad so many excuses, he had a hard childhood, he is softening in his old age, life has been hard on him; they try and minimize his abuse when he is kind to the grandkids but overlook the physical fight he had with his wife the night before where he pushed her to the floor.
The women in the Mormon church do this when they are happy that the church leadership finally allows women to say prayers at the general assembly for the first time in history, or they put pictures of the women leaders next to the male leaders. This is like throwing crumbs to the dogs, yet the women are so happy to have the smallest bit of kindness thrown their way, they can’t see it for what it is; scraps thrown to them to keep them quiet and compliant. No real change and still no equality.
Women who are abused are happy when the abuser doesn't hit them when they are late from work one night and they see this as real change. They are happy when he buys them earrings; but fail to realize this is apology jewelry for the bruise he left on her thigh the night before when he kicked her.
3. The Abuser will isolate the abused from outside help:
My family has done a good job of this with me. I am considered a black sheep, a thorn in their side, and a pebble in their shoe. My brothers have done a great job in making me an example of how others in the family will be treated if they too, leave the Mormon church or exercise their freedom to choose a different path. I have been completely isolated from having any influence on the family. I have been told by my patriarchal brothers to stop writing my blog, as it may have a negative influence on my family.
With the Ordain Women movement, the ex-Mormon community has been vilified so we won’t have any influence over them or the members of the church. We have been called evil, that we are going to outer darkness, that to even wear pants to church will lead to going to hell. In this way, Mormon family will not seek us out when they have concerns about doctrine, women's issues, or when leadership matters come up because we have been deemed untrustworthy.
Women who are abused are isolated from family and friends because the abuser will punish her any time she seeks help or guidance. The beatings will increase any time she confides in family. It is easier on her if she isolates herself from concerned family. The abusers says the family members are interfering and causing problems through their nosiness; so it is easier for the abused to distance themselves rather than be harassed by the abuser.
4. Perceived inability to escape:
With my sisters, there is no way of escape. This is life; this is the way god intended it to be. They are told to ‘Endure to the End’ that life will be better in the eternities; their reward awaits them for their suffering in this life. There is no escaping the pain and sorrow of this life. They are told they chose their pains and sorrows and they should happily endure them to the end of their life. How does a person escape what they are told they chose?
With the women in the Mormon church, they, too feel they must endure to the end. They believe the Mormon church is god’s church, if only misguided temporarily. If they only endure, they will get their reward, a reward that can only come if they stay within the Mormon church. If they leave, they will suffer losing their family in the eternities.
With women who are in domestic violence, they too feel as though there is no escape. With me, J*** made attempts to make me financially dependent on him by talking me into a home I couldn't afford on my own. When I left him after the strangulation, he made me suffer by forcing me to lose the house in foreclosure. I payed a heavy financial price for standing up for myself. Many women are stay at home Mom’s who have little or no job skills. Many women feel if they leave, he will kill them or take away their children. My ex husband had threatened suicide if I went through with divorce. Depression is common and having the strength to leave is difficult.
The more I have learned, the more frustrated I have become at the institutions that support the perpetuation of Stockholm syndrome and benevolent sexism.