Patriarchy is Abuse
This is a post I’ve been avoiding and was hoping not to write. Yet, I feel compelled to write. There has been so much sexual abuse in my own family that I fear addressing the topic might be too painful. I’m still getting professional help to process the systemic sexual abuse that has happened to me and the women of my family at the hands of Mormon men, so you’ll have to forgive me if this post is raw.
I’m sad and angry. I’m sickened and disturbed by the abuse that happens within my religious community, but I’m even more disturbed by the response of the Mormon Newsroom. I can understand each situation is nuanced. I can understand I don’t have all the details. I can understand compassion and forgiveness need to be balanced with justice and discipline. I can understand there are always two, three, or even four sides to every story. I can understand abuse isn’t just a Mormon problem.
However, what I cannot understand is how the Mormon Newsroom can end their PR release with this horribly hurtful and ignorant sentence:
They may posit that the Church has a “long-standing policy of no tolerance for abuse,” but those words mean very little when the Church, as an institution, perpetrates and facilitates the abuse through the unrighteous dominion of patriarchy.
This issue is far bigger than one woman’s tragic experience with an unrighteous priesthood holder. While I sympathize with her and the many, many, many other victims of sexual abuse, I also hope to illuminate the larger problem at hand. These types of abuses will continue to thrive in a system which is governed by patriarchy.
Patriarchy is abuse.
Asking youth about their masturbation habits as a morality examination is abuse. Asking probing questions about the Law of Chastity is abuse. Teaching women to cover their bodies to avoid being raped, assaulted, or harassed is abuse. Baring persons full priesthood participation based on their gender is sexist abuse. Condemning same-sex marriage as sinful is abuse. Undermining my gender in the temple, our most sacred house of worship, is abuse. Telling me every week I’m supposed to be just like Heavenly Father without changing my gender is not only abuse, but it is just plain stupid. Are you even listening to yourself? You cannot give women a “male” role model, Heavenly Father, and then condemn us for aspiring toward that trajectory. That is abuse. The neglect and disrespect of our feminine deity, and speaking against our efforts to pray, commune, and worship Her is abuse. Your lack of understanding how LGBTQ+ youth suicide is connected to your rhetoric and policies is abuse. The neglect of and invisibility of women of color in our church is abuse. Racism, even the subversive remnants, is abuse. The false, uninformed rhetoric concerning our trans* siblings is abuse.
Patriarchal domination harvests an environment ripe for sexual abuse and the disrespect of women, children, gender minorities, and sexual minorities.
Patriarchy is abuse.
The Mormon Newsroom may say the Church has “no tolerance for abuse,” yet in the same breath benevolently abuses my kind with such civility that it almost doesn’t even look like abuse. But that’s the secret, isn’t it? Abusers strike their victims where visible marks can’t be seen by the casual observer. We continue to smile in the pews while our insides bleed, our mothers are molested, our sisters are raped, and daughters harassed. The abuse is so systemic, it’s integrated into the normality of our culture and community, that it’s barely even noteworthy. It only becomes noteworthy to the PR department when it threatens the hold of the patriarchy. The abuse of patriarchy is so common and pervasive that those who attempt to identify and describe the abuse will be discredited as “making something out of nothing” or “overreacting” or “speaking ill of the Lord’s anointed.” It appears abuse is only taken seriously when everyone can see visible marks, recordings are released, or until it affects the institution’s public image. The strange part is I think the patriarchs have convinced themselves they are not the abusers. They have infantized church membership to the point where patriarchy is seen as nothing more than benevolent paternalism—the guiding hand that will save us from ourselves. It’s as if patriarchy has pronounced itself the literal, immutable mouth of God.
Patriarchy is a parasite feeding on my religion. The casual reader might say, “If you don’t like it, then leave.” I’m sorry, but systemic abuse is not going away if I leave and others continue to bury their heads in the sand. The abuse of patriarchy isn’t something we can run from. The parasite of patriarchy must be rooted out from within. I’m Mormon—as Mormon as they come. I’m not going to watch my beloved faith, theology, culture, and family be devoured by a patriarchal parasite that has no business in Zion.
Patriarchy must fall, so Zion can be built.