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Community Vision & Male Participation

My (Original) Vision for the Community

“The Personal Is Political” and “Everyone’s Experiences Are Valid”.

These are two feminist statements that have spoke to me time and time again in my women’s studies classes.

When I chose to create this community this is the place where I came from. I wanted anyone who wanted to participate to do so respectfully, and concisely while acknowledging that each person’s person experiences are valid. Your experience happened. Your experience is valid. So often women’s experiences in the church are erased, as women are often removed from history because their work wasn’t deemed important enough to write down.

However, disagreement and dissent will always happen. We can all disagree, politely, with our own experiences. Each of us can say, “Wow. That’s totally crazy. That makes sense based on Mormonism’s own tenants of X, Y, Z. While that never happened to me, I can see it being taught. What happened to me was...” Your disagreement does not erase and will never erase the existence of the other person’s experiences. We can also point out how the trait mirrors the larger world. As one of our members (windancer) recently wrote: “It's like Mormonism takes the worst of US culture and magnifies it.” Discussion happens upon disagreement. However, respect is necessary -- for our fellow members, and ourselves. For their experiences, and our own.

This community was definitely created with women in mind. I personally found that most ex-mormon websites didn’t tend to discuss women’s issues very frequently. Or that these were often erased. I know my fellow members often felt the same way. All of us want a safe place to discuss the intersection of women and religion’s aftereffects (or effects).

However, what about men? (I know, I know, the “what about the menz?” cry.) I want the community to be open to all, I want participation from all. As I wrote above, “The Personal Is Political” and I feel like the best way to change one’s opinion is to learn. The question plaguing feminist communities is: “Can men be feminists? Or can they just be feminist supporters since they don’t have any experience as women?” Personally, I always felt that men could be feminists. Men should be able to participate in forums such as this -- assuming respectful conduct, of course. However, oftentimes men don’t have any idea what oppression women went and continue to go through -- education is the best means for change, and that was a large motivation for me to let men into this community. Being educated about women’s issues leads to change (at least I certainly hope).


Your Opinions?

I don’t speak for the rest of the women here though (as I’ve said above), so I’m going to ask everyone to weigh in -- how should men be allowed to participate in this community? I will straight up say this: I refuse to kick anyone out of the community unless the violate the rules. However, do you feel that men’s participation in the community should be curtailed? If so, how would you say this should be done?

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
yrsuchariot
Jan. 24th, 2011 06:54 am (UTC)
These are my thoughts on the subject: When participating in a group that is aimed at an oppressed group of people of which one is not a part, the proper position to take is that of deference, humility, and sensitivity. One should contribute to the discussion, if one contributes at all, with the goal of increasing one's knowledge of the oppressed group's situation. If a forum is dedicated to the discussion of women's experiences, then if men want to participate, they should participate in a way that shows that they are seeking to support and further understand women's experiences. They should not participate in a way that challenges the experiences the women are sharing or competes with them.

I know that some people might take issue with this idea, thinking that we should treat everyone the same regardless of their gender. But let me try to explain further. In the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, we have s. 15(1) which prohibits discrimination based on various grounds. However, we also have s. 15(2), which says that s. 15(1) "does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups." If we look at this group as an activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of women who have left the church, then by that sort of logic, it's okay if this group discriminates slightly against men. Obviously I know that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not apply to Livejournal, but I think it's helpful by way of analogy.

I also think its important to acknowledge that the church can have a negative effect on men as well as women. Preserving a forum for women's issues in no way is meant to downplay men's issues. However, there are plenty of forums out there where men's issues are discussed. And if men want a forum exclusively dedicated to their issues, they are welcome to create it. But this a forum for women's issues.

I feel very strongly about this because I have had a number of bad experiences with men in a certain other community aimed at people who have left the church. I find it is not uncommon for men who have left the church to retain their priesthood holder sense of entitlement to some degree. It also seems like they are often not willing to acknowledge their sense of entitlement or do anything to remedy it. That is definitely a problem. I think it would be great to have men participating in this forum, if they were doing so with the objective of seeing things from the perspective of women who have left the church and also with the goal of recognizing and ridding themselves of their sense of entitlement.
(Deleted comment)
lassie_faire
Jan. 24th, 2011 03:50 pm (UTC)
As the mod here, I'd also like to say I can't be everywhere at once, unfortunately. If anyone notices that someone is getting out of line I'd love a message or something so I could take care of it quickly. I'm also in school now, so please take that for consideration! :P

(And I think we have 2 male members? Maybe 3? It is a community for discussing women's issues and that is how I put it when I "advertised" it everywhere. )
(Deleted comment)
lassie_faire
Jan. 24th, 2011 11:31 pm (UTC)
I do check my e-mail three times or more a day. I *will* see a message if anyone sends me one and I'll be able to diffuse any situation immediately. Whereas if it's myself checking the comments every night I'm more likely to miss a comment war breaking out.
yrsuchariot
Jan. 24th, 2011 09:18 pm (UTC)
I think that male members also need to be conscious of the fact that this is a women's forum and that they should be careful not to dominate the discourse. Because let's face it, men tend to do that!
lassie_faire
Jan. 25th, 2011 12:00 am (UTC)
I think this is really important. I've found that women's voices can be drowned out on larger forums where men tend to dominate the discourse. :(

I don't think we've really had that problem yet though, mostly because we're a pretty small forum so far. But it's definitely something to keep strongly in mind.
blueskies4
Jan. 29th, 2011 03:23 am (UTC)
Yrsuchariot said, "I find it is not uncommon for men who have left the church to retain their priesthood holder sense of entitlement to some degree. It also seems like they are often not willing to acknowledge their sense of entitlement or do anything to remedy it. That is definitely a problem."

That! Exactly. There is so much entitlement with Mormon and Former Mormon men. Women who grew up in the Mormon church learned that their opinion didn't matter as much as those in authority (And, let's face it, pretty much everyone had more authority than us.) So, we have a who community of people who have been trained to listen to others and not push back if they get trampled on themselves. That's a huge problem and we are trying to change it -- but it doesn't happen overnight when we change our beliefs. We need to be sensitive to that dynamic that we are trying to get out from under.

So we have a problem with trying to find a happy medium between helping us find our voices and ignoring men, whose insights into our discussions could be very helpful.

I also have an issue with anything that is geared towards "Women's Issues" as if they are side issues. (I know, I know, we were in the minority because we were so oppressed for so long...) But sheesh - issues that effect a little over half of the population aren't "side issues." That's where problem comes in with other former Mormon sites - they tend to be only supportive of half the leaving population. And I really do love places that are mostly women -- especially this group. :-)

Overall, I'd say that Mormonism damages both women and men and both sides are valuable, and both sides help us recover, but if we are trying to help women find their voices, we need to realize that most of us aren't willing to be confrontational and anyone who trivializes someone else's personal experiences is working against the goals of the group.
lassie_faire
Jan. 24th, 2011 11:57 pm (UTC)
I've never looked at the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and it's certainly a good reminder that not all our members our in the US. However, I do take a slight issue with this:

then by that sort of logic, it's okay if this group discriminates slightly against men.

It seems a little too 1984 to me, to say that we're all equal, but some are more equal than others. It seems like we'd be doing to men what we didn't want done to ourselves. As women, we are frequently treated as (and seen as) second class citizens and it is not right. Period. I don't think the way to go about making it right is to decide we should do the same to the group of people who did so to us. Were we to go down this path it seems like we'd end up with a forum with two classes of citizens: the women, and then all the men who would have limited rights to contribute to the forum or engage in discussion.

I worry that it would hinder discussion which can inevitably involve different points of view. To me, it seems like we aren't any better than the men who have oppressed women for centuries if we also erase their experiences in favor of our own. I do believe that Person A should have the same right to discuss their experience as Person B, regardless of gender. However, I do believe that if Person A has an experience/opinion that contradicts Person B's experience or opinion, then Person A should treat Person B's experience/opinion as valid and legit and with massive amounts of respect and courtesy while still being able to voice their experience/opinion. When you say " the proper position to take is that of deference, humility, and sensitivity." that sums it up perfectly. All of us should take this position when reading and responding to another's experience.

And, I do agree completely that a lot of men who have left the church will frequently spout sexist words (the Julian Assange discussion had me utterly horrified). I'm not entirely sure it can be contributed entirely to Mormonism though--since it seems that sexism is so pervasive throughout the culture (at least in the US), and Mormonism just seems to magnify it, really. I think it's the contribution of Mormonism & US/Patriarchal culture that seem to fuel the sexism. (Also, it should be mentioned that men are not the only ones who spout sexism. Unfortunately there are women who reinforce the patriarchy.)

IA that other forums tend to be male-run, and men do control the basis of the discussion. I find that women's voices tend to be silenced in those sorts of environments, and men will frequently speak over them. A lot of times, women's experiences will also get erased. :( Hence the whole reason for this forum.

Also, love your last sentence. :)

(OMG TL;DR. So sorry!)
yrsuchariot
Jan. 25th, 2011 02:53 am (UTC)
I think in this discussion, it's important to remember the context. We are talking about the extent of a group's participation in an internet community. We should also remember that one perfectly valid option for governing men's participation in this forum would be to exclude them entirely. It's not like they have any sort of right to participate in a community aimed at women. Viewed in that context, I don't think it's that shocking to suggest that there be different rules for men's participation.

I don't think it's fair to compare restricting men's participation in this forum to the oppression of women throughout the ages or the oppression of women in the church. The point of restricting men's participation in this forum would be to make sure that women's voices are heard and that women feel comfortable participating. The point of excluding women from being legally considered persons, or excluding women from holding any sort of meaningful power in their religious communities, is very different. The two situations are barely comparable because the context is so different.

In the context of this forum, I actually do think that men's experiences and opinions are less important than women's because this is a forum for women. I certainly wouldn't join an internet community for sexual abuse survivors and expect to give my opinion on the subject when I'm not a sexual abuse survivor. I this situation as similar.
lassie_faire
Jan. 25th, 2011 08:36 pm (UTC)
the point of restricting men's participation in this forum would be to make sure that women's voices are heard and that women feel comfortable participating.

Random--but if you look lower, kayharris had a pretty good idea for this. We could make sure we only have half the amount of men as women? This way the majority of people on the forum are women and our voices would not be drowned out. And I'm not sure if this is the case--but I know we considered rules that men were not allowed to post to comm, but only comment. I don't know if this was every really decided on though.

My worry with the different rules thing is there are transgender people in the Ex-Mormon community. A FtM would have experienced what most women's experience in the Church, as a biological female. Should their posting be curtailed because they consider themselves male? Or what about a MtF--should their opportunity to post here be curtailed since they were biologically male when in the Church?

I agree with your last paragraph though. I'm not saying that a man's experiences/opinions on a woman's issue within the church would hold the same/more weight. Since he never experienced it then it wouldn't. And yes to this: " certainly wouldn't join an internet community for sexual abuse survivors and expect to give my opinion on the subject when I'm not a sexual abuse survivor."
kayharris
Jan. 25th, 2011 02:00 am (UTC)
Community Vision & Male Participation
When I was in the TSCC, much of my experience was that when my opinion or experience deviated from that of a man's, mine was automatically rules inferior.

Case in point: My husband and I was called in to a meeting with the SP, his counselors and someone higher up to be interviewed to be bishop. I didn't want this for him, as he was already never home, emotionally abusive, and this would make it worse. I prayed and received an answer that he would not be called to the position (the entire *spiritual experience thing* can be discussed another day).

When I was asked if I supported him being called as a bishop, I shared my spiritual answer. They were all shocked and basically told me that I was wrong in my answer as they had, up to this point decided that he would be called. He was not called, but mostly because they considered me unworthy as a supportive bishop's wife.

I share this because most of my experiences outside the church are not like this. When I tell men I left the church they ask why any woman would stay in such a female-repressive environment.

I think as long as women are the majority, that women feel empowered here, having men here will not detract from from the goal of this sight or our ability to speak our minds.
lassie_faire
Jan. 25th, 2011 02:19 am (UTC)
Re: Community Vision & Male Participation

I think as long as women are the majority, that women feel empowered here, having men here will not detract from from the goal of this sight or our ability to speak our minds.


This makes sense. So then you would suggest a cap on membership instead of on commenting/participation within the community. That seems like a better way to handle it than telling members of a particular gender they are not allowed to fully participate in the community.

Would you consider 1/2 the amount of men acceptable to the amount of women? (For example, if we have 20 women, we can only have 10 men?)
kayharris
Jan. 26th, 2011 02:24 am (UTC)
Re: Community Vision & Male Participation
Yes, I like the idea of 1/2 the amount of men to women.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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