Like many of you, I have followed the recent election with great interest. As a political junkie, I tend to watch debates for sport. But the most recent debate between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton left me physically uncomfortable, enough so that I had to leave the room for a moment just to catch my breath. I have thought about it for a few days and decided that it was because what I saw felt eerily familiar.
I’m not someone who has terrible stories about abusive priesthood leaders in my past. I have been blessed to have, almost universally, incredibly wonderful men as bishops and stake presidents. However, watching Donald Trump pace around while Hillary spoke, and at one point approach her from behind and stand very close to her while she spoke, I was reminded of the many times I have felt the physical presence of men and its ability to demean and diminish women.
I was reminded of the moment a bishop, during an emotional exchange, attempted to physically move me from a doorway. The time another member of the ward council kept coming closer and closer to me while we had a discussion about how young women weren’t allowed on high adventure trips. And the time I approached a podium to welcome friends and family to my daughter’s baptism, only to have a bishop meet me there and elbow me away from the microphone because the priesthood presides at the meeting.
These sound extreme, and they probably are, but I was also reminded of the many times I had spoken at the podium during sacrament meeting: I was very aware, and uncomfortable, that the men of the bishopric were seated right behind me. I was taken back to the countless interviews I had, behind closed doors, with trusted priesthood leaders asking me questions about chastity and how I wore my underwear. And I distinctly remembered the time my stake president spent a full hour trying to convince me I should wear a dress to church instead of my formal slacks.
Are my priesthood leaders Donald J. Trump? Heavens no! They have been truly loving men who wanted the best for me, my family, my ward, and my stake. But my priesthood leaders are men who live in a world, and a religious community, that does not value women in its spaces. A community that sees the presence of women as “by invitation only” and therefore, not equally and rightfully there. While I have never felt physically threatened by this cultural behavior, I have felt emotionally and spiritually diminished by it. And that is a feeling we should not want for any child of Heavenly Parents.
I invite anyone who has encountered these same feelings, or something similar to share your story! Imagine the way our faith community could grow and flourish were we all considered equally vital in all spaces. And then write a profile and add your name to the growing list of people who support Ordain Women and our efforts to bring religious gender equality to our faith.