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In defense of Rationality and (good) Faith

As of now most people are familiar with the post at Feminist Mormon Housewives in response to a post at Rational Faiths about two months back. We’re getting super meta here: A response to a post that was a response to a post. I was hesitant to even weigh in until two things happened: 1. My name was brought up in the comments on the fMh post, and 2. The branding of Rational Faiths as a “sexist” blog and those who contribute to it as part of the problem.

There is a lot to digest in those two, but mostly the second one is what I want to address. I don’t know if Corbin is a sexist or not because I don’t know him. The post did not read as sexist to me because, unlike the assertion made on the fMh post, I don’t think Corbin was forming any conclusions. Therefore I cannot see how he was “privileging the voices of male leaders over that of a woman.” However, Corbin’s post is actually only a peripheral concern for me.

For the sake of argument, let’s even go ahead and assume that what Corbin was doing was flat out calling Kate Kelly a liar. His timing was awful (that I will certainly grant), but it was news at the time so I’m not sure what waiting would have done. Fully apart from whether or not Corbin or Corbin’s post was sexist, there is Rational Faiths.

In the interests of full disclosure, for unrelated reasons I no longer am a permablogger/contributor to Rational Faiths. I was there at the time period in question though. I am not privy to any private conversations between Kate Kelly and the Barker brothers. One thing I do know for certain though is that Michael, Paul, and Jon Barker are absolutely not sexists. Rational Faiths is not a sexist blog. The decision for this post to stay up was not motivated by sexism.

I won’t go into the inner workings of processes and posting decisions at Rational Faiths because frankly it isn’t anyone else’s business. The finished product is what is fit for public consumption, not what goes on behind the scenes in discussions with administration and permabloggers. The diversity of thoughts, opinions, and ways of life and spirituality are what make it a great blog not fodder for a faux scandal.

The problem with calling out good people for supporting and/or supposedly protecting their “sexist” friends is that you more than throw the baby out with the bathwater—you put people in the cross-hairs who have no business being there. I don’t have to recount all of the pro-OW, and pro-Kate posts and sentiments that have been posted at Rational Faiths as well as those posited by contributors and permabloggers outside of the blog proper. Instead, for one person’s misstep an entire diverse group of writers can be thrown out like so much garbage. Although I no longer write for Rational Faiths many great people are still involved there. Those who, like myself, understand that it is either all “fair game” or none of it is. That includes those who have walked the walk of Mormon Feminism and ally-ship and paid dearly for it.

Feminism does not mean that women are above reproach, and a penis does not disqualify a person from making observations (whether right or wrong). Feminism calls women up. It isn’t meant as a shield to deflect any criticism as sexist. The conversation about ally-ship and how it can be improved is definitely one that should be had. The conversation about being sensitive to timing is definitely one that should be had. But having a conversation about good feminists and good allies being thrown under a bus for the actions of another person? No, there is no room for that conversation.

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Comments

  1. For me it’s also the height of irony for Kate to declare an entire blog and it’s contributors sexist for one post when her website had a profile up of a known sexual harasser *for months* and nothing was done because they needed “numbers.” What about allyship there?

  2. Fantastic post EORabs. I agree with all of your points and sentiments here. The fact that you are a welcomed, familiar face to me is not shaping my agreement with this post. It seriously lays out all of the issues with what has transpired this week.

  3. I think the whole thing has been distracting and undignified – Corbin’s post and Kelly’s more recent comments on fmh. I agree with this post though, and continue find Rational Faiths and OW to be significant contributors to key conversations. I’ll try not to judge either group for the missteps of an individual member.

  4. Good God, that FMH post could have been written by a 14 year old tumblr user with a bingo card of social justice warrior word salad.

  5. I find it very disheartening that the discussion has tended to ignore that many people besides Kate were hurt by the post Corbin wrote. Beyond Kate, many of us who are one of only a few feminists in our wards, found the post being used as a weapon of the anti-feminists in our wards.

    Kate did not write the post of fMh, Katie did. She wrote about how Corbin’s post impacted her and many of us shared her experiences, even if we were not affiliated with Ordain Women. The combination of a man who says he is an ally, posting something that questioned whether Kate told the truth, gave those who will always listen to male voices and give a male writer more weight, the perfect weapon. A male Mormon feminist calling feminists liars. What more could those, who think all Mormon feminist women are apostates who should be driven from the church, want?

    It is too bad that the conversation became a battle between groups, with no one really listening to each other. I am not claiming that I am perfect by any means, and I should have stopped engaging when several unknown commenters started putting tons of demanding questions in their comments.

    While I can see that someone may think that it is not fair to “punish” Rational Faiths, for one terrible post. That post was used as a weapon against me personally, and I have limited emotional energy. That it came from a blog that has usually been a safe place, it makes the place not as safe. It was bad enough to read the post the first time, but the comments section was brutal, and it is something that has stuck with a number of people, as I think is obvious from the comments of those people, besides Kate Kelly, who still feel the sting when we even think about it.

    What I do not understand is why fMh shouldn’t be a safe place for feminists to discuss Corbin’s post? eorabs, you say that you didn’t enter the conversation until someone brought up your name, but your name was brought in by another Perma from Rational Faiths, and that was the only time it was mentioned. I am not a Perma on either blog, and until Corbin’s post I was a somewhat regular reader of Rational Faiths. I don’t think it is fair to say that all allies were thrown under the bus by Katie’s post, or that it is unfair to have the discussion about how keeping Corbin’s post up, without any response from other bloggers, about how it impacted people beyond the immediacy of the blog.

    • I don’t think Katie L.’s post on fMh threw Rational Faiths under the bus. I very much like Katie L.’s post and agreed with a lot of what she said. However, I think Kate herself did throw RF under the bus by declaring on Facebook and in the comments that anyone who associates with RF from now on is not a feminist nor feminist ally. Over one post. Clean your own house first, Kate. Especially when she knew of the numerous allegations of sexual harassment of one of profile holders for months and she did nothing about it until she was called on it.

      • And then tried to say that the very good man who did so was being a privilege patriarchal sexist meanypants. You keep using that word…

      • I have not been on Facebook, so I have not heard that Kate said that. I think that part of what is frustrating to me personally, is that there have been men who have read the fMh post we are talking about, and contributed some introspective comments on how sexism does play a role in how they evaluate things said by men and women. The men who have said they agree with Katie about sexism being an issue have not been the ones targeted for attack, while those of us explaining what our lived experiences have been singled out.

        I think it is ironic that you want me to hold the sexist people in my ward accountable, but don’t see a responsibility to hold Rational Faiths responsible for publishing a sexist post. I do think that there are either standards that a blog upholds, or there aren’t any standards. Either way, there are consequences for actions, as well as inaction. I have heard before about how little oversight there is at Rational Faiths, as the excuse for how this post got put up. The discussion on the fMh post is pretty clear that there is at least discussion about whether the post was appropriate. That means that writers discuss the work. Which begs the question, are there any community standards? What would be “too far” and is going close to that boundary encouraged as a way to draw more readers? At some point, there is some editorial integrity, or there isn’t. While I don’t expect a blog called Rational Faith to be a “safe space,” I do kind of expect it not to be a place where the latest post is the breeding ground for sexist comments and emotional tantrums by one of the Permas. The way that this post was handled taught me otherwise.

        Personally, I think that the post Corbin wrote is a not very good, and the timing made it that much more problematic. The part that makes me, personally, think that Rational Faiths should consider removing it, is not that I dislike it, but that when combined with the comments section, it is not something that I think speaks well of the blog, or those who run it.

        No one has to agree with me, and I have received several emails from people who felt that I needed to be personally attacked for sharing my personal opinions. The language and (lack of) thinking do not speak well to the person(s?) who sent them. (They came from several email addresses, but I am aware that a single person can have multiple writing styles as well as multiple email addresses. A single phrase was used in 3 or the 5, but it is not impossible that 3 different people all used the same crudely worded insult.) I am just as glad that I have tons of homework, as it gives me a reason to exit all conversations and blogs. At this point none of the blogs I frequent seems to be a refuge from the ongoing firestorm, and that may be one of the most unfortunate things in the whole episode.

        • EOR-Unsigned says:

          So now Rational Faiths is also responsible for the commenters at fMh attacking you as well? Wow. Just because you didn’t see something doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and so I am more than a little peeved that you keep glossing over Kate’s actions in this scenario. It is not even slightly ironic that I am asking you to hold people responsible for their own actions–that is what this entire post is about. That is what I have been saying all along. Rational Faiths is not a singular person so holding all of us responsible for the actions of one person is bullshit and I won’t have it. Even if one believes Corbin’s post is sexist, we didn’t all get together and write it; he wrote it himself.

          I’ve already said I am not going to discuss the internal workings of RF. It isn’t anyone’s business what discussion may or may not have taken place after this post was up except the people who were there. There is nothing lacking in integrity about RF’s processes and to make that accusation you ought have a lot more to back it up than a comment section on one post.

  6. Yes, juliathepoet, it is a shame that _Kate_ and some of her friends and some of the fMh commenters decided to declare open season on RF and its writers/administrators. There was no “both groups” scenario here.

    I feel for your pain re: Corbin’s post and any fallout associated with it, but that is something that could not have been foreseen by those of us that were/are a part of Rational Faiths. In almost 19 years of membership this is something I will never understand about Mormons–if your fellow local members were using that post (or any post) as a weapon to mistreat you (which is awful and inexcusable) that is on _them_!!! It is not the fault of Rational Faiths or its writers. Rational Faiths is not billed as a safe space, it can’t be. It is a blog with diverse writers with diverse opinions and a very open commenting policy.

    I’m sorry that you feel let down by what transpired, but that doesn’t make me a sexist. That doesn’t make the Barkers sexist. That doesn’t even make RF a bad place. Even if one wants to burn Corbin at the stake (which I disagree with) that is his problem I guess and he will have to answer for his own post. But I was there. I was at the Priesthood Session, I was at the vigil, I cried when Kate was excommunicated, and I was born a feminist so I will be damned if _anyone_ is going to call me a sexist by association. I don’t care what they think their reasoning is.

    P.S. Marisa’s comment is dead-on so no one probably should have played the guilt by association card in this case.

  7. Kimberly Brinkerhoff Baptista says:

    I’m an imperfect feminist. I’d love to meet the person who isn’t.

  8. If the standard is that any group that allows the posting of anything that can be used by church members to attack feminists is sexist, then everyone associated with fmh and OW are sexist scum. The whole attack Kate and you attack all her friends so all her friends will hate all your friends thing sounds so much like middle school it makes me want to scream at people to grow up. The idea that men can’t call women untruthful about anything without contributing to rape culture boggles my mind. The idea that this rape culture rant came courtesy of the same group that had a sexual harasser as an admin and thought that discussing how to protect yourself as women from being victims waa the solution rather than policing the men in the group more effectively to focus on perpetrators aa the problem makes my irony meter explode.

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