A Sexist Cult

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I wasn’t born to be submissive, but I became that way over time. I wondered why God loved boys more than girls, men more than women, why our feelings and our names and our positions are diminished in scripture, why our beauty and ability to seduce men- as the biblical Esther did- was most important. I wondered why the Book of Mormon described the mother of Jesus as being fair and possessing great beauty when I wanted so much to believe that God looked upon the heart instead of her figure. I wondered why there were so few verses about her and the few we did have thought to comment more upon her face than her strength of character. I wondered why God intended us to only mothers be, when the opportunity at all was so dependent on how we looked. I wondered. I ached. I agonized. 

But when that all-knowing God is always watching, always needing you to do more than simply be and feel alive for the brief stages of our lives, then you swallow it down. God was glaring down at me in my most peaceful moments. When I felt overcome by stars or autumn leaves or snow tumbling in the spotlight of a streetlamp, God’s heavy gaze reminded me that I should be praying, bending over gold-leaf pages with a scripture-marking pen, putting on church clothes, being pretty but not sexy, engaging in the work. 

I am still confused about how I went from a spirited child, always aghast at the sexism I saw all around me before I was even old enough to give a name to it, to a young woman in restrictive nylons and knee-length skirts, bowing my head to men in dark suits and white shirts and droning Priesthood voices. The study of psychology does nothing to alleviate the misery I feel at knowing that I allowed myself to become that. I was a victim of brainwashing, but I was not born to be a victim. I was trained to be one. I was trained by all the people I trusted most, and that, my friends, is what Mormonism did to me. 

Recently an old friend stopped by- and I mean old both literally and figuratively. Helen is an octogenarian who I first met ten years ago when I hastily involved myself in a shame-marriage that everyone knew was due to unchaste behavior. She was the Relief Society President, which in our religion gave her the right to ask intrusive questions and drop by announced. She meant well- at least I hope she did. I have thrown my sweaters and my frumpy tops that Mormon me wore away. I wear tank-tops and have lovely, extensive tattoos, and I feel her eyes gaze over them and interpret them for what they are; symbols of apostasy. And she tells me that I should be grateful that my dead mother has been watching over me as an angel these past eleven years, and I swallow back vomit and tears and hostility. Well, the vomit and tears, at least. The hostility I could not fully contain. I will not allow anyone to guilt-trip me into religiosity with my dead mother. You see, for over a decade now I have been told that my mother’s early passing was a gift of sorts, since surely she could help me more from the other side than ever she could here in this earthly realm. It’s an insult. It’s a knife to the heart of all the pain that has been compounding in my chest these many years. My mother has never known my children, never been available to help tend them when I’m sick, when I’m exhausted, when I am lonely beyond all reckoning. I would give all my money, my home, my life, just to talk to her on the phone one more time. Don’t tell me how lucky I am that she is dead.  

The lack of mother has been the defining event of my life. I suppose it is true that it has made me a stronger person, resilient and impervious to the dragging chains of the obstacles I face, but it pains me to even consider that it could be worth it. I know I have developed a crusty shell out of necessity- a scab- an ugly outer covering that protects those weak, fleshy parts of me that were left oozing blood too many times in the past. If my mother’s death has made me tough, it is an ugly sort of tough. No intricate, swirling shells around me. No. This is a jagged, scarred exoskeleton I have around me. I have evolved in the most miserable of ways. 

The future was beautiful to me once. It was something I could form and make my own, and yet now I often feel as if I were born only to die. I have become a tortoise with a shockingly long life span and little to do in it. I do manual labor for small paychecks and come home and contemplate the ways I want to change my life and know that I do not have the funding to do anything of the sort. I learned too late that emphasizing the importance of motherhood was nothing but a sexist tool of the patriarchy, used to enslave women and keep them handcuffed to the men who hurt them. If not for the path Mormonism set me on, I could fly away. Maybe instead of transforming into a tough, brittle reptile I could have become a butterfly. But butterflies are fragile, and my life is one where the fragile do not survive. 

Published by ladymaenad

I'm an ex-Mormon writer, mother of three, and lover of science, literature, and art, chronicling the paths my life has taken and the interests I have developed.

2 thoughts on “A Sexist Cult

  1. Well written. A point of view that a non-Mormon male such as myself only ever hears a quick jab about at the bar or over a coffee with a female ExMo friend or colleague. I’ve long gotten the impression that the community is, or at least can be, very manipulative and that there’s an uncomfortable rank structure in place. Once you’ve been promoted high enough within the community, you have the right to ask, comment, or demand whatever you want, all in the name of God and faith. Not only do you get away with it, but it’s smiled upon by other upper-echelon members as you’re doing your divine duty, sticking your upturned nose where it doesn’t belong. This post seems to be yet another unfortunate hash on my ever-growing tally and a pretty bold one with bringing deceased parents into the equation.

    On a more literary note, I have only one point of feedback; your message seemed clear through the first three paragraphs and abruptly changed in the fourth. Yes, it’s still themed around your history with the church, but your angle veered off the tracks with little warning. It isn’t a problem per se, but it caught me off-guard. I’d consider alluding to that earlier on in the piece. Beyond this, your writing style is your own and you wear it well.

    Like

    1. Thank you for your feedback, anonymous reader! I always welcome critique of my writing because I’m always hoping to improve. I have considered breaking this into two pieces to improve continuity, but this came through with a lot of sincerity and I worry about making it sound forced should I split it. At some point I may elaborate my thoughts on either or both portions of it and break it up.

      Glad this gave you a more thorough glimpse into the reason we can leave the church but can’t leave it alone. The repercussions of it are omnipresent and we’re followed by its damaging theology in the form of hard-to-shake brainwashing, consequences of actions made under the influence of Mormon teachings, and the people around us who can’t leave us and our new ideologies alone!

      Like

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