I just read the most FABULOUS FABULOUS article that was an address at the BYU Women's Conference this past May by Renate Forste. I really wish every LDS female could read it (hey, non-LDS women have the same problems of non-unity, too, actually!) I don't think that can be accomplished, but I can use my little voice on this little blog & share some excerpts with you. I'll give you the crib notes. But if you have more time, go read the original. :)
The title of this post is taken from an article cited in Professor Forste's address, and although the topic is technically something different, I think that question is the one she was ultimately trying to ask and answer.
Have you ever felt that way? I have. And it's something no one tells you about "growing up." There are cliques in adulthood, too! But I think deep down inside all of us women, even the Mean Girls and the People In The Cliques is a super soft heart, one which can recognize the beauty in others without feeling threatened by it. And also an admission that we are so much stronger as a group or society (like the Relief Society!) when we get along then when we find so much fault with each other and with ourselves.
Here are some great excerpts:
Here is a page from a phone book. By itself, it is very weak and easy to tear. But on the Discovery Channel it was shown that if you interlock the pages from a phone book with those of another book it is almost impossible to separate the two books.On MythBusters they drilled holes and put brackets and chains to secure the ends of the two interlocked books, and then tried to pull the two phone books apart with human power, but were unsuccessful. A pair of cars also failed at pulling the phone books apart. Last, they resorted to using a Sheridan light tank and an armored personnel carrier, which were finally able to pull the phone books apart. It took 8,000 pounds of force to pull the books apart, meaning that you could literally hang two full size cars from the interlocked books.It is extremely difficult to separate two interlocked phone books due to the massive amount of friction between the pages of each book.This interlocking is similar to the command Alma gave the priests he ordained to minister to the people at the waters of Mormon:And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.Now think about the force of millions of Relief Society sisters from all over the world, perfectly joined together – their hearts knit together in unity. This room [the audience at Women's Conference] is just one small example of the power of women coming together. By the time you have finished ‘Scattering Sunshine’ tonight and tomorrow – there will be hundreds of fleece blankets, thousands of hygiene kits, school kits, and newborn kits, as well as other items prepared to bless and uplift others worldwide.Perfectly joined together – we are unstoppable. Satan won’t have Sheridan tanks big enough to pull us apart. So how do we then become perfectly joined together?
Sister Forste then talked about the problem of women being obsessed with various forms of perfection, especially when it comes to physical appearance, and she shared this hilarious Dave Barry column:
The humor columnist, Dave Barry, captured this well in a column published in 1998 called: Men should look out if a woman asks, ‘How do I look?’ Mr. Barry wrote: If you’re a man, at some point a woman will ask you how she looks. “How do I look?” she’ll ask. You must be careful how you answer this question. The best technique is to form an honest yet sensitive opinion, then collapse on the floor with some kind of fatal seizure. Trust me, this is the easiest way out. Because you will never come up with the right answer.The problem is that women generally do not think of their looks in the same way that men do. Most men form an opinion of how they look in seventh grade, and they stick to it for the rest of their lives. Some men form the opinion that they are irresistible stud muffins, and they do not change this opinion even when their faces sag and their noses bloat to the size of eggplants . . . .Most men, I believe, think of themselves as average-looking. . . . Being average does not bother them; average is fine, for men. This is why men never ask anybody how they look. Their primary form of beauty care is to shave themselves . . . .[and] if, at the end of this four-minute daily beauty regimen, a man has managed to wipe most of the shaving cream out of his hair . . . he feels that he has done all he can, so he stops thinking about his appearance and devotes his mind to more critical issues, such as the Super Bowl.Women do not look at themselves this way. If I had to express, in three words, what I believe most women think about their appearance, those words would be: “not good enough.” No matter how attractive a woman may appear to be to others, when she looks at herself in the mirror, she thinks: woof. She thinks that at any moment a municipal animal-control officer is going to throw a net over her and haul her off to the shelter.Why do women have such low self-esteem? There are many complex psychological and societal reasons, by which I mean Barbie. Girls grow up playing with a doll proportioned such that, if it were human, it would be seven feet tall and weigh 81 pounds, of which 53 pounds would be bosoms. This is a difficult appearance standard to live up to, especially when you contrast it with the standard set for little boys by their dolls. . . excuse me, by their action figures. Most of the action figures that my son played with when he was little were hideous-looking. For example, he was very fond of an action figure (part of the He-Man series) called “Buzz-Off,” who was part human, part flying insect. Buzz-Off was not a looker. But he was extremely selfconfident. You could not imagine Buzz-Off saying to the other action figures: “Do you think these wings make my hips look big?” But women grow up thinking they need to look like Barbie, which for most women is impossible, although there is a multi-billion-dollar beauty industry devoted to convincing women that they must try.I once saw an Oprah show wherein supermodel Cindy Crawford dispensed makeup tips to the studio audience. Cindy had all these middle-aged women applying beauty products to their faces; she stressed how important it was to apply them in a certain way, using the tips of their fingers. All the women dutifully did this, even though it was obvious to any sane observer that, no matter how carefully they applied these products, they would never look remotely like Cindy Crawford, who is some kind of genetic mutation.I’m not saying that men are superior. I’m just saying that you’re not going to get a group of middle-aged men to sit in a room and apply cosmetics to themselves under the instruction of Brad Pitt, in hopes of looking more like him. Men would realize that this task was pointless and demeaning. They would find some way to bolster their self-esteem that did not require looking like Brad Pitt. They would say to Brad: “Oh YEAH? Well what do you know about LAWN CARE, pretty boy?”Of course many women will argue that the reason they become obsessed with trying to look like Cindy Crawford is that men, being as shallow as a drop of spit, WANT women to look that way. To which I have two responses:1. Hey, just because WE’RE idiots, that doesn’t mean YOU have to be; and2. Men don’t even notice 97 percent of the beauty efforts you make anyway.Take fingernails. . . . I have never once, in more than 40 years of listening to men talk about women, heard a man say, “She has a nice set of fingernails.”Anyway, to be back to my original point: If you’re a man, and a woman asks you how she looks, you’re in big trouble. Obviously, you can’t say she looks bad. But you also can’t say that she looks great, because she’ll think you’re lying, because she has spent countless hours, with the help of the multibillion-dollar beauty industry, obsessing about the differences between herself and Cindy Crawford. Also, she suspects that you’re not qualified to judge anybody’s appearance. This is because you have shaving cream in your hair.
Sister Forste touches on jealousy by quoting Elder Holland:
Who is it that whispers so subtly in our ear that a gift given to another somehow diminishes the blessings we have received? Who makes us feel that if God is smiling on another, then He surely must somehow be frowning on us? You and I both know who does this—it is the father of all lies. It is Lucifer, our common enemy, whose cry down through the corridors of time is always and to everyone, “Give me thine honor.” . . . As others seem to grow larger in our sight, we think we must therefore be smaller. So, unfortunately, we occasionally act that way.
And it's also low self-esteem and ridiculous feelings of inadequacy that get in our way:
Jim Duke and Barry Johnson surveyed members of the LDS church back in the 1990s. Using a national sample of Mormon families, they asked both husbands and wives to respond to separate questionnaires about their religious practices. Respondents rated their church activity, scripture reading, frequency of prayer, and so forth. One question asked: if you were to die today, which of the three degrees of glory do you feel worthy to enter? What they found was:Men were more likely than women to believe that if they died today, they would be worthy of the celestial kingdom. Men were also slightly more likely to say their life closely follows the life that Christ wants them to live. Men therefore felt more confident than did women about their place in the final judgment, despite the fact that they rated themselves less religious than women on 26 of the 31 questions.Thus, the men had a more lenient standard for entering the celestial kingdom and gave themselves a high self-evaluation; in contrast, the women although they reported engaging more in behaviors such as church attendance and daily prayer, gave themselves a low self-evaluation.Sisters, having the same judgment requires us to not buy into messages of inferiority or low selfworth. We should not judge ourselves more harshly or set unattainable standards for ourselves relative to others. We are just as capable, just as worthy. The work we do may not receive worldly recognition – but it is essential to the Lord’s plan. He knows our worth – and we need to believe Him.
Later she quotes Marjorie Hinckley:
We are all in this together. We need each other, Oh, how we need each other. Those of us who are old need you who are young. And, hopefully, you who are young need some of us who are old. It is a sociological fact that women need women. We need deep and satisfying and loyal friendships with each other. These friendships are a necessary source of sustenance. We need to renew our faith every day. We need to lock arms and help build the kingdom so that it will roll forth and fill the whole earth.
And her main point:
Relief Society should be our sanctuary. We should be able to come together in prayer and fasting, in testimony and faith, and in loving support of one another. No sister should leave Relief Society with feelings of guilt, isolation, or inadequacy. If we are perfectly joined together – what woman would not want to be part of such a society? We need all of us – young, old, tall, short, single and married – as Sister Parkin said: Bring your talents, your gifts, your individuality so that we can be one.It is only then, united, that we can move the kingdom forward. Perfectly joined together we can be an unstoppable force for good.