Between writing For Good Men Trying to be Better and now, I remembered a thing Queen Brené Brown always says. I’ll paraphrase: Don’t write for your critics. Write what you would want to read.
I had specific people in mind when I wrote the piece... four people to be exact- both men and women.I had disagreed with them in various contexts that weren’t well suited to talking things out, so I had imagined I could write that and at least say, here, this is what I was trying to say. It couldn’t fit in the space we had set up to discuss, I hope this will help you understand a little more.
But if I’m being honest, that post wasn’t actually for them. It likely changed nothing about the way they thought or more importantly, how they lived, and I knew that. And the end result was a far cry from what I originally wanted to say, and it wasn’t exactly something I would want to read: so many disclaimers, apologies; so much watering down. I just want to talk straight; it’s so tiring to account for all the possible harms that can be done with words on a screen.
So I vowed that this yang to that yin would be for my cheerleaders. For my own 15 year old self who needed this.
It would be something I would want to read.
This post isn’t for you if you think that women are whiners when they say that they aren’t given proper respect in our society.
I’m not going to go into all the evidence of this, because the evidence is overwhelming. The 1 in 5 stat alone should give pause, and any reasonable person would recognize that a number doesn’t get that high without deep, systemic cultural beliefs supporting the behavior.
If the response to the stat is that men are abused and harassed also, I would ask, who is abusing these boys? The vast majority of the abusers are men. There is a problem in the balance of power, it harms boys and girls and men and women and everyone in between, and I’m not going to rehash a bunch of stuff readily available to anyone who seeks to learn.
On the other hand, if you are a woman who believes it is mostly up to men to make you feel safe, happy, and secure in this world, this essay is also not going to please you. Unless of course, and I hope this is the case, you’re willing to try to see it another way.
I don’t completely feel comfortable setting up camp on either side of this line, so I stay quiet most of the time. There are many people hiding in the increasingly ostracized middle and I think it should be ok to talk about it.
These days “moderate” is not an acceptable place to be to those whose voices play the loudest. We are pushed to pick a side, to recite the same views in every scenario regardless of what new information is presented to us.
I choose to resist that. I choose to take the harder path, the more sustainable path: the path that requires me to think, feel, and assess every scenario, constantly holding my values next to each to see how they apply. Not changing my values according to the scenario, but paying close attention to how I apply them. This takes more work than running the automatic sorting machine our brains become when left unsupervised.
A foundation helps. I believe in a Male God who is married to a Female Goddess- equal and interdependent in all things. I believe They are hand in hand at every turn, creating us, creating the universe, and holding our hearts and hands in theirs. They love us completely. They are our Parents. Naturally, as everything that is born to anything eventually grows into the form its parents take, I believe men and women will grow to become as beautiful, strong, loving, and intelligent as their Heavenly Parents.
It’s a long story, but I also believe that every person who has ever lived on this Earth made the conscious, deliberate, and educated decision to enter life on this planet, accepting in advance every challenge potentially faced by doing so.
I believe Heavenly Father and Mother put us here with everything we need to succeed. Not everything we need to live a perfectly healthy, oppression-free, financially sound, environmentally stable life. But everything we need to succeed in 1) having joy and 2) returning to our heavenly home to live with our families, free of pain and suffering, full of fulfilling progress and love.
With this belief as my foundation, it allows me to see my unlimited power in every circumstance. Even as a woman. Especially as a woman. Endlessly powerful.
I’m not talking about the kind of power one invents in one’s mind, or tells oneself in order to gain the courage to stand up to an enemy or muster the strength to make a big change. This isn’t power that only impacts my attitude, and it’s not just words on a rally poster.
This is an actual power, given to me by the literal Power that makes Earth spin on its axis.
When I use this power- the power of faith, the power of hope, the power of Christ’s atonement- things happen in my life. I am not pretending to be powerful, I am powerful. Sometimes circumstances change by using this power. Most times they don’t.
Sometimes people’s hearts change from my use of this power. Usually they don’t.
But I change. I have support, purpose, and peace. And that alone changes everything around me.
(For anyone who is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, formerly known as Mormons, I’ll articulate later on how exactly the “power” works.)
Did you know that there are many people who are not being socially, economically, politically, racially, sexually, or otherwise oppressed by anyone or anything, who are not being held back in any physical way, who have unlimited financial means, healthy bodies and intact families, but who do not have joy?
They don’t experience peaceful rest, fulfilling relationships, or the strength that comes from knowing one’s purpose?
These people exist. In record number.
If this can be true, then it can also mean that being free of those various oppressive chains does not necessarily result in joy.
Did you know there are people who live with very little, who could even live in an actual prison--the perceived ultimate oppression--sometimes even being falsely imprisoned, who feel peace every single day? Who feel powerful? Who experience joy?
So who has it better? The woman who makes less money than her male counterpart but who knows the power within her, or that guy? The guy with “everything” but who can’t sleep at night and feels empty inside?
Here’s where I get into trouble. Here’s where I wish everyone reading this knew me in real life. I will advocate as long as I’m alive for a woman to make as much money as a man doing the same job.
I will fight until I’m dead to find and support ways to eliminate sexual and physical abuse to women and girls (and boys). I will never stop being incensed when a man in political/social power does not pay for the crimes he’s committed against women, or who makes laws that keep women in restrictive circumstances that are not within her control.
But I will not let anyone take my power. And I will not let anyone, male, female or otherwise tell me just how bad I have it, how mad I should be about how bad I have it, and insinuate that I can’t live a full, joyful, powerful life because of the body I am in.
There’s a way to be all the things; as a woman I’m capable of having many faces and have my heart split 1000 different ways. I am infinite, I am eternal, and my power comes straight from the Source.
People have such varying experiences and suffer in many undeserved ways. Ways that even if I suffered every day of my life from now until its end, I would still be miles away from the horrible experiences of many. So I do not say this lightly, and I only say it because it applies to us all, not just me.
I believe there are certain immutable laws of the universe, laws of God, that in following will always lead to more strength and more access to power in any circumstance. I’ve seen it in action among people who have every right to wallow in their oppression and suffering but who instead live rich, hopeful, not angry lives. That’s power.
There’s a way to tap into this power. Its benefits are free but not active without access.
Access comes through learning of, acting like, thinking like, and most importantly- loving like, Christ. His atonement is the answer. It contains all the power of the universe, and it can be accessed.
When I say “Christ’s atonement,” I’m not only talking about His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. Those things matter; His coming back from the dead means that every person to have ever come to Earth, good or otherwise, will live again after death.
But prior to His crucifixion, Christ went into the Garden of Gethsemane and suffered all the pain of the world. In particular, your specific pain. And mine. One by one.
He did not only take upon Himself sin. He felt, on an individual level, each person’s heartache. Their failures. Their missed opportunities, loss, self doubt, self hatred. He experienced severe illness, betrayal, and abject hopelessness. He experienced these things so that He could be the One to understand us, and thereby lift us, when we were in the midst of those exact challenges.
So when we “use” His atonement, it isn’t only asking for forgiveness, although that is a part. I believe that more often, it’s asking Him to understand me. To carry me. To sit with me. To guide me, because He’s been there. And when I turn to Him and ask, He does. I’m able to access even more of His power when I keep His commandments.
My entire post to the men was about how they can adjust in small ways to make the women in their lives feel more supported, more seen, in the way Christ would and did.
This post is about how women can do life whether or not anyone listens. Way too much power has been given to men and other women to elevate us, when we have plenty of things we can do to elevate ourselves using natural, rather than man-made, power.
I know saying things like, “The power of faith and Christ’s atonement is real…” sounds like I’m saying, “If I go around believing in Jesus, I feel good. I feel hope, and that makes me feel happy. See? Happy life!”
That is partially true. But the power I’m talking about here is one that must be activated, learned, and honed. It is that which comes from diving into Christ’s doctrine and answering life’s greatest conundrums using His teachings, applied to today’s problems.
We talk about politics and human rights and religion as if they are all separate, but as I outlined here, they are all the same.
For today, I’ll just give one example: the issue of the female body. Women being treated less-than in any arena across generations usually finds its origins in the degradation of the female body.
My body is another thing whose origins and purpose are rooted in eternal ground. I know why my body, this flesh and blood, exists. I know what I’m to use it for, that my aim should be the joining of mind and body to create a healthy soul, and how mastering my body will put my mind and heart in the driver’s seat of my life, not the other way around. And that mastery will make me more like Heavenly Mother Herself, or one step closer anyway.
Understanding why I have a body helps a great deal in recognizing when it’s being abused, when it’s becoming the focus rather than the vessel, and when it’s not being given proper respect either by me or by another.
Knowing “why” a body, the why beyond its giving life to other bodies, beyond its giving pleasure to other bodies, beyond any limit any society can place upon it, is the simplest way to become like Teflon to any voice saying, “You can’t because of your body.” Or, “You must because of your body.” My female body.
Those voices simply do not register to me these days, and perhaps never have registered, as I’ve mostly gone through life thinking--knowing even--that my body was not a barrier. It’s not a tool for someone else’s use.
It is on purpose. It carries my soul. My soul runs my body. My soul matters.
Do you see how it’s all connected? Deeply knowing from where, and from Whom, your soul comes is always the beginning of healing and the end of suffering.
The more I study the creation of women, their impact over millennia, the power they have to shift history by their sheer existence, the more it baffles me how we can ever feel that anyone has the power to keep us small. Even the term “keep us small” implies that we were ever small to begin with. I can’t find any evidence of that being true. Not in this life, not in the life before. Female and male, both, always, intertwined.
The more I study Christ’s support of, support from, friendship with, obvious need for, and crystal clear love of women, the more I know that love is my own. The more I turn to Him, the more I feel it, and the more Love becomes less of a nice feeling and more of a powerful peace coursing through me. It’s enabling. It’s strong.
I understand if you still feel the need to come at me with, “This is all nice, but it’s not fair that our value is not recognized in all social arenas and structures, and as much as we believe in ourselves and understand our own power, those in positions of socially functional power do actual things that keep us from enjoying things as quickly or as safely as men.”
I get that. It’s ok to be aware, angry, thoughtful, and engaged because of the fact that it CAN be easier if we put pressure in the right places. If we challenge harmful ways of thinking. Deploying resources of energy and time and money helps on both a structural as well as individual level to keep women from unnecessary abuse and limitations.
Yes it’s wrong and frustrating. And, it’s possible to proceed and feel joy anyway. It’s possible to make it. When I look at Elizabeth Smart, I see power. She owned her abuser. That monster is a mere worm in her life. She doesn’t let him steal her joy for a second.
Even in one of her recent interviews when the host was trying to make her be more consumed than she was, pushing and prodding her with questions like, “So, you’re sure you’re not angry? No way…” even going so far as to claim she had to be repressing something in order to be this “OK”... She persisted.
She owns her power to choose joy and wields it unapologetically. That approach is possible for every person, no matter the oppressor be it a giant corporation that turns a blind eye to sexual assault at a high level, or terminal illness, or domestic abuse.
The bottom line? This was never about men at all. It’s not about politics or labels of ‘feminism’ or ‘oppressed’ or Conservative or Liberal. It’s about we as women deciding to function as if what’s inside us is as important as our outsides. Or at least, how we treat our outsides— as if they are the most important thing about our day, relationships, worthiness, etc. etc. etc.
It’s about deciding that our contribution to the world comes from something we think or something we feel, that we then turn into action.
I believe the more we take ownership of our own joy and identify less with a victim mindset in every area of life, the more energy and capability we have to impact change in desperately needed areas of oppression.
When you know your source of joy and power, you can walk headfirst into a battle where enemies are waiting to strip you of your armor upon entrance. You will cave to the pressure and the very oppression you wish to eradicate if you don’t yet know in your bones that your power can never be taken from you.
Having independent joy liberates you from the useless anger of Facebook articles and arguments with brick walls, and connects you to the hope required to stay the course of making change.
Know your power: it comes with it the strength of a God who wants joy for all humans to ever walk this Earth- even you with the female body, the female heart, you: Woman.