Over the past several months I’ve experienced what is best described as an Awakening. I opened myself up to possibilities different than what I was raised in, and my world turned upside down. Those who have followed me for a long time know that I’ve always been a firm absolutist, and I attribute that to my upbringing. Not my parents exclusively, but the small-town, conservative, Mormon culture that I came from. Is this the experience for all Mormons? Of course not. There are many millions of us, and we come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences that shape our views in a variety of ways.
In some respect it’s been a long journey, initiated by classes at BYU like Intro to Women’s Studies and The Gospel and World Religions. Casual reading of By Common Consent and Feminist Mormon Housewives introduced me to alternative ways of thinking. A few months ago I started listening to some podcasts like Mormon Matters, Mormon Stories, Mormon Expressions, and Daughters of Mormonism and the doors were thrown open. I’ve never felt “brainwashed” in the LDS Church (even though I know there are those who would argue otherwise) but it’s very much an environment where you are simultaneously expected to rely on God speaking to you personally while sustaining the leaders of the Church (and this is often interpreted as “If you feel like God tells you something contrary to what the leaders say, you need to ask again until you get the right answer”).
Once I allowed myself to question a few things, the dam burst and I started questioning everything. It was so freeing! Now when we hear something That Husband and I turn to each other and ask “How would you interpret that?” and “What do you think about that?” We talk things over, sometimes coming to a conclusion, sometimes not. We search, develop theories, talk them over with our friends, revise, and commit to learning more. It’s so liberating!
I wanted to write a series “coming out” on four major topics where I’ve experienced dramatic reversals in my thinking because I want to continue to be genuine and honest with you. I want to share my perspective on some of the deeper meanings of life, and I can’t do that if it constantly leads people to say “But you said X 3 years ago and why is that different than what you are saying now?”
I admit that this almost prevented me from speaking out. The fear that I would be attacked for… changing my mind. For educating myself and growing and developing. The worry that I would spend my time deleting comments asking me how it feels to realize how wrong and stupid and ignorant I was.
This sort of discourse is not productive, and I hope that my fears will be unfounded. I hope that by writing about these shifts in my thinking I will come into contact with those who encourage me to continue thinking critically. I hope that those who might feel threatened by one of their own speaking out about sensitive issues will engage with me respectfully that we all can represent our faith in a positive way. I think this fear of mine has come from the political rhetoric we see so frequently in the media right now in the run up to election season. I know we don’t want politicians to do a 180 after we elect them, but at this point we aren’t even allowing someone to change their mind within their entire lifetime! I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not hypocritical or wrong to change my position on any given topic. I’m not running for political office which happily means I can switch positions whenever it feels right for me based on my knowledge and experience.
Some of these topics I’m going to cover are things that I’ve written about in the past, and the way I wrote about them or the positions that they took were hurtful. I never intended harm. I’ve long thought, and still do believe, that the best approach in life is to think critically and pick a position that feels right to you, only know that I’ve made this move toward Relativism I am much less likely to say “I’m right and thus you must be wrong”, and instead think “I’ve thought about this, and based on everything I know this is what seems right to me.”
Right now my belief about the LDS church can be summed up by a statement I heard on one of the podcasts I’ve been listening to:
The LDS Church is the truest church, but not true enough.
This is why I want to speak out, because I think we can do better. In some small way, these posts will be my way of paying it forward, because I would not have reached this place if other before me had not stood up to say they had questions they were still seeking out answers for. I look forward to sharing and conversing with you via four separate posts with you over the coming weeks regarding my evolving beliefs and my move away from Absolutism, toward Relativism.
Stopped what? Stopped making snide or disparaging remarks about Native Americans. We are all products of our surroundings, and I grew up in surroundings that like to make jokes about what these people are allowed to do*. Or how they are all alcoholics. Things like that. As I grew older, I started to realize that making fun of other cultures just wasn’t cool, so I worked to stop. This doesn’t mean I always speak up in conversation, like I wish I did, but I don’t say those things on my own.
A video that really altered my perspective on the Native people of the US can be found on the Ted website. A conversation with my mom this week reminded me of it, and I felt moved to share it with you here. I hope you’ll take some time to watch it.
When the news that Prince William wouldn’t be wearing a ring broke last week, people went cuh-ray-zy. Crazy. This lady in Chicago claims that men who don’t wear a ring are slime.
Notice anything about TH’s fingers in this picture?
I bought him a ring off Etsy for like $30, but it’s too big and so he stopped waring it by the end of our honeymoon. H e’s never been a watch/ring person, and the ring didn’t fit him very well because I had to order it when we were living long distance and I don’t think he was sized properly. I’m pretty sure the ring is sitting in my jewelry box on my dresser? I’m not sure. If I do still have it, I plan to give it to T1 if it fits him and he wants it.
TH’s ring on our wedding day, picture courtesy of Kelli Nicole
I have no idea who Dr. Helen is, but I found this question on her site really interesting:
Dear Dr. Helen,
I see in the news that Prince William will not be wearing a wedding ring after marrying Kate Middleton. Is this decision different than a wife that does not take her husband’s last name?
I see many are upset at his decision but we no longer notice what I think is a similar female choice. Why? Both decisions seem of equivalent impact.
It’s interesting to me that Shortwave put the two issues together like that, because I didn’t change my name! I do wonder if my relaxed attitude about the name change contributes to my relaxed attitude about him deciding not to wear a ring.
Wen we got married I intended to become:
but it was so much easier to stay
so I did!
If Prince William wants to go ring-free I don’t think we should demonize him, any more than we should be demonizing women who choose to keep their maiden names after getting married. This fight is a little bit ridiculous since wedding rings only became customary for both husbands and wives during the 20th century! Largely pushed by jewelry companies in the earlier part of the 20th century, I don’t think the tradition has the pure roots that we would all like to imagine (I realize that cultures were exchanging/wearing rings for many years before that, but it wasn’t mainstream until then).
I have no doubt that my husband is committed to me, fully. He doesn’t need to wear a piece of metal around his finger to show me that, I’d much rather he help with the baby, run his hand down the small of my back as we read scriptures together each night, or write me a love note on my birthday. Those are the kind of things Kate and William are going to need to keep their marriage strong, not an overly priced round of gold from the jewelry department at Harrods.
I don’t write about politics here on That Wife very often because as fun as the increased traffic can be people can sometimes get stupidly crazy about the issues (no matter how many times I revise the post to avoid unnecessary controversy) but I’m going to head in that direction today to make a plea for pragmatism, sanity, and just plain common sense.
There are a lot of very conservative people in the area where I’m from, and many of my family members are dyed-in-the-wool Republicans to the core. There is nothing wrong with being a Republican or a Democrat, as both parties have valid points and a lot of good in them. Where I roll my eyes in disgust though, is when I see people who are so pig-headedly in favor of one party that they feel it’s their duty to oppose anything the other stands for just to stick it to ‘em.
An awesome example from my Facebook page: Earth Day several years back. What an awesome way to remind people how lucky we are to have the earth providing the things we need to survive, right?. (And to get religious for just a moment, God put a lot of time into the place we live, you know?) I’m seeing all sorts of status updates about how this person is going to do this to use less resources, and that person is going to recycle everything for an entire month to try to get in the habit.
Then I see someone I know post something along the lines of “Tonight I’m going to leave all the lights on and go drive my diesel truck for no reason at all. Ha! Ha! Ha! Take that Earth Day!”
This person’s political affiliations? Republican. I get that it’s commonly accepted that Democrats are tree-huggers and Republicans are gung ho about digging for oil. But if that friend of mine on Facebook actually did the things he said he would do, all he did was waste his own money. I can’t see any reason why it has to be a “Democratic thing” to want to be nice to the earth and conserve limited resources. If you watch this video you’ll learn, like I did, that overconsumption of the earth’s limited resources is a serious problem and we have to change the way we are doing things.
But this isn’t a post about overconsumption.
This is about my friend on Facebook feeling like he had to choose between being a Republican or working to conserve the earth’s resources. He felt like he couldn’t support Earth Day because that would mean he supports the Democrats. That’s silly, and in this case, wasteful and ignorant.
Recently I felt like we saw this play out on a national level. Under Nancy Pelosi’s guidance the House instituted the “Green the Capitol” program. According to the Wikipedia article on this program the following happened between 2007 and 2011:
Purchased renewable wind power for 100% of House electricity usage
Swithced from coal to natural gas in the Capitol Power Plant for House Operations
Eliminated all Styrofoam and plastic food service items in House food service operations and replaced them with biodegradable plates, utensils and packaging
Implemented a House recycling program that sorts compostable waste and use a pulper to reduce waste stream by more than 50% and 118 tons of landfill waste have been diverted since the House began composting in December 2007
Purchased all-electric, zero emission GEM car for use in House of Representatives
I’ve also read that they were going to (or did?) install low-flow toilets in House office buildings, installed thousands of energy-efficient light-bulbs (which this guy hates I’m sure), and start serving organic food into the cafeterias. (If I find out that the Rebuplicans threw out everything but kept the organic food I’m going to laugh maniacally and then go into my room and cry over the irony.)
The reason the Republicans are scrapping this plan? We’re being told that the program, which costs $475,000/year is neither cost-effective nor energy-efficient. “The impact made by the program was equivalent to taking just one car off the road annually,” according to Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif. Apparently this is all a big joke to the GOP, as a press aide to John Boehner’s tweeted “The new majority - plasticware is back.”
There are plenty of bloated government-sponsored programs throughout the United States, why would the Republicans go after this one so quickly? I think it’s because came from the Democrats, and they seem think that the best way to be a Republican is to be on the opposite side of the other guy. (And to be clear, I think Democrats do this sometimes too, but not nearly as often as Republicans. I consider myself to be a member of neither party.)
Why should they keep the Green the Capitol program in place? Because it sets a good precedent for the rest of America. It shows citizens that we have to take the responsibly to reduce our consumption seriously, because we are screwing our children’s children over otherwise. I get that the poor poor elected officials were having a hard time cutting up their chicken with the earth-friendly utensils, but wouldn’t a better solution be to *gasp*, not use one-time use utensils? When it comes to coffee cups, why not stop supplying them altogether and let representatives bring their own mugs and *gasp again* take care of cleaning them out each time they use them? To say that throwing out hundreds of plasticware every day is not something to worry about now is to act as though the Pacific Garbage Patch and overflowing landfills are no problem at all. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
Well this kind of turned into a post about overconsumption a little bit, didn’t it? The message I started out with though, and that I hope I got across, is that you don’t have to choose one side. You can develop your own ideology that includes information from a variety of sources, educate yourself, and shape based on what you believe. Not what a bunch of donkeys or elephants say. I hope the Republicans plan on initiating their own system to help conserve and preserve the earth’s natural resources, because that’s an issue that crosses all party lines.
I can’t see any sane, intelligent, logical reason why anyone would ever be against campaigning for Mother Nature.
Somehow, we as a culture were able to do it. The “N” word is offensive, it targets a specific group of people and attempts to describe how worthless someone thinks they are (well, unless it’s used by the people within that group but that’s another post for another day), and we as a culture have virtually eliminated it’s use in public settings. If you were to hear someone using that word to describe someone, you would recoil in shock, no? It’s a disgusting and low thing to do, and we all agree it should be stopped.
There are some other words that need to be eliminated from our casual speech. Specifically the words
when used to describe things we find stupid/idiotic/offensive/ugly/worthless/etc.
I admit, the LDS community, particularly in Utah, is awful about using these words in this way. I’m sure there are other subgroups out there doing this as well, but the LDS society is the one I am most familiar with. I wish I had the courage to stand up to my friends to their face and tell them how awful I think it is for them to use these words in this manner, but I’m worried about hurting or offending them if I tell them in person. So I’m taking the easy way out and declaring my abhorrence of the practice right here on my blog.
I’m sure people who knew me up until a few years ago probably heard me use the words gay and retard to describe things I found stupid, I cannot deny that I was once guilty of the practice myself. But a post on Katy’s blog about how hurtful it was for her to hear people use the word retard or make fun of people riding “the short bus” made me rethink what I was doing. It’s been at least a year since I read that post and I haven’t the word retard in that way since. Reforming my use of retard also made me think of some other words I was using, particularly gay, and I eliminated that one as well.
Recently Hollywood has been giving some attention to these slurs. I’m a huge fan of Glee, and I was surprised to hear the number of people expressing their dislike of a scene where a father of a gay teenager confronts a homophobic boy and tells him to stop speaking about his son in an offensive way. They thought it was over the top and unnecessary! Unnecessary? They must live in a totally different world than I do. I wish I could embed the clip, but I urge you to watch it if you haven’t seen it. Click here and scroll to 25 minutes in. The word that is used in the scene is “faggot” (which should be eliminated as well), but it’s the same as calling someone gay to insinuate something negative. The father points out that any decent person wouldn’t make fun of a girl with Down Syndrome and call her a retard, or use the “n” word. I was literally cheering when this scene was playing! It pains me that the LDS population in particular, a group who claims to be the true Church of Jesus Christ, would overlook how cruel and un-Christlike it is to speak this way. It needs to stop.
Editors Note: Reader Gabby linked to this YouTube clip of the Glee scene. The quality isn’t as good as the Hulu clip but you won’t have to watch any commercials to see it:
This post was inspired by a clip my friend Christiana sent me, from a show called What Would You Do? that’s currently airing on ABC. In this clip, an actor with Down Syndrome is bagging groceries. Another actor comes through the checkout line and begins to berate him for the pace at which he is working, treating him abhorrently and calling him a retard to his face. It’s frankly, very painful to watch. The part where the boy with DS says what he thinks about the treatment gets the tears started every time. I forwarded the clip on to Katy and the two of us decided that we wanted to write a joint post on this very subject. The point of the What Would You Do? show is to point out how important it is to speak up when someone is being treated inexcusably, but I think the real issue is that a portion of our society has been using these words this way at all, in private or in public!
I asked Katy to write about how the misuse of the word retard makes her feel, and any advice she has on how we can affect positive change on those around us.
Here’s a recent picture of her son, isn’t he adorable?
Words have always fascinated me – their meanings, origins, and modern usage. I love molding them to express myself and harnessing their power to say I what I mean (I’m much better at this in my writing). Word choice is always on my mind…which brings me to a word popular in our vocabulary today – retarded.
I dislike this term not only as a word-lover (because virtually no one today uses this term correctly) , but as a mother of child with Down syndrome, it offends me on an even deeper level. Many of you already know that my 4-year-old son has Down syndrome, but what you may not know is that I had a brother with cerebral palsy. Problems that occurred at the time of my older brother’s birth left him unable to walk, talk, or care for himself for his 30 years. Issues relating to the way we treat and speak of those with disabilities has always been very important to me.
It’s important to note that the word retarded has non-malicious origins and can be used in a non-offensive way. Those familiar with music will note (ha!) that when music is to be played slower, you’ll see the word ‘ritardando.’ Fire retardants are meant to slow the progression of a fire. I have no problem saying that because of Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) my child has a degree of mental retardation. Retarded in it’s correct form means ‘slower’. Those with various forms of mental retardation learn things a little slower than others, yes – - but that in no way means they can’t learn or are ‘stupid.’ Yet THIS is how people use the word retarded – to state what they don’t like, what is useless, pointless, or stupid.
If you use this term regularly, please take time to consider your word choice (that is my polite way of staying stop it! . Whether or not we say it, how do we get others around us to stop using this term? Good question. I’m in no way great at this – I’m such a non-confrontational person and sometimes care way too much about what others think of me. But I’m getting better. First, it’s easiest to address this problem when seen online. By writing of your distaste – in comments, message boards, letters to website owners, Facebook, or on your own blog – others will likely take note. Many people don’t realize how often they use this word or how offensive they truly are being and will try to change when it’s pointed out.
It’s a little more intimidating to speak up when you hear it personally (for me at least – Miss Non-confrontational). You can suggest to the speaker : “Isn’t ‘stupid’ the word you are looking for?” or “Just because everyone uses that word, doesn’t mean it’s okay to say” or you could point out someone you know that loves someone with a disability (you can use me!) and express that you’ve recently learned how rude that word is: “I know this gal who has a son with Down syndrome – she pointed out to me how much it hurts her when people call everything ‘retarded’ and say it in such a flippant way.”
While I’m asking you to stop using (and for you to ask those around you to stop using) the word retarded in this off-hand way, will you indulge me in a few more requests?
* Similarly to retarded, calling someone a ‘retard’ (whether or not they have a disability) is even more offensive. Forget that someone is showing their ignorance by using this word, it’s tone and intent is especially malicious. (This includes my fellow Mormon friends out there who unkindly refer to Utah Mormons as ‘Utards’. You know what two words you are combining… it doesn’t make the latter word less distasteful.)
*Using the term ‘short bus’ – Do people really mean to compare idiotic actions or words to those children – who through no fault of their own – have to ride a bus better suited to their special need? Really?
*Try to use people-first language. Instead of “that Down syndrome guy” say “that man with Down syndrome.” Instead of “that autistic kid”, say “that child with autism.” We are people before our diagnosis. If needed, the term ‘intellectual disablity’ is acceptable.
As I now gracefully attempt to step off my soapbox, I thank you for reading this. I thank you for allowing me to get a little preachy - I’m just a mother of an adorable, bright, funny boy – a boy who also happens to have Down syndrome. On behalf of all the mothers of children with special needs who love their children deeply and work tirelessly to help them gain acceptance, normalcy, and value in this society, I thank you as well!
Today, I’m writing this post, urging others to reform their language. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be brave enough to speak up on Facebook? To talk personally to individuals I know and tell them how much it hurts me to hear them speak this way. I hope I am able to gain that courage soon.
I’m not the only one trying to encourage people to pledge to quit using the word retard in a demeaning manner. Visit http://www.r-word.org/ to read the pledges of hundreds of others who have committed to stop speaking this way.
If you’re willing to stop using these words this way, or if you’ve already done so, I urge you to comment below and say so. It might not happen overnight but making the commitment is the first step to eliminating this practice. Are there other uses of words we should be eliminating?
P.S.-Laura pointed out these awesome new commercials on eliminating the phrase “that’s so gay” and others like it! I love them.
The last one is my favorite. I like how Hilary makes her point but ends with a compliment.