One of the biggest compliments that I received recently was from someone that I know professionally, who just learned that I’d been practicing LDS for most of my life. She was shocked, only because she said that I didn’t behave like any of the LDS women that she knew–who she said were all the kind of women who had no opinions and who weren’t educated or assertive. Of course she was painting LDS women with too broad a brush with her stereotypes, but it did stick with me–if only because I marvel a bit at how much I’ve changed, personality-wise, in the past few years.
Another connected experience occurred when I was at dinner with some liberal LDS women not too long ago and we were discussing passive-aggressiveness. Our conclusion was that passive-aggressive behavior is more common among LDS women because they’re disenfranchised by their faith tradition, and have to find subversive ways of expressing themselves because of their lack of institutional power.
These experiences both came to mind when I read mraynes post about Speaking Truth. She writes:
Women in the Mormon Church also belong to a patriarchal culture where they have very little institutional power. We women are taught from toddlerhood that we are to be wives and mothers and devote ourselves fully to our families. It is easy to see how some women can interpret this socialization to believe that their personal feelings or needs are irrelevant.[...]
LDS women must tell their stories. A majority of these stories are positive but there are also stories that tell of the hurt that our institutional practices and culture create. All deserve to be told. All deserve to be heard. Those in power in this church—men—must begin to know what it feels like to be a Mormon woman. They must hear what it feels like to only have the role of wife and mother presented to you.
In my life I’ve experimented a bit with this lately, and have found it quite liberating to say what I think about things, or to reveal my inner feelings in situations where I would have just kept quiet before. For me much of this has been about speaking the truth of what happened in my marriage (secrets that I kept for many years), but it’s also a large part of trying to figure out what I want now–in personal relationships, in my professional future, and in my family. There have been times that I’ve probably said a bit too much in my quest to ‘speak truth,’ but for the most part this has been a highly-positive experiment. I’m weary of pretending to not have an opinion because it would be ‘unfeminine’ or saying only what I think the other person wants to hear, rather than saying how I really feel. I’m no longer ‘going with the flow’ unless I really want to–I don’t have to pretend to want to do something and then secretly resent it. Instead, I can be honest and either choose not to do something or find a compromise. There’s simply no space for passive-aggressiveness in my life now. I’m not living to please anyone else anymore.