Recently on the email list for the Association for Mormon Letters the following was posted in response to some queries about if males could contribute poetry to Segulla, an online magazine of Mormon women's writings.
'We’ve established a prose column for male contributors. [?¢Ç¨¬¶] This is the sole forum available for men at Segullah. We will not accept men’s poetry or artwork. Our prose and poetry contests continue to be open to women only. [?¢Ç¨¬¶] In a religious culture which embraces the belief that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose,” we feel the atmosphere created in our journal has a unique purpose and significance.'
This started me thinking about women’s literary journals, women’s art books, women’s forums, women’s movements, and what we men could possibly get out of it all. For example, what would happen if men (Mormon men in particular) started carving out a publication space just for themselves?
Hi feminists (I’m a cheerleader for your team in my spandex shorts), I know what you’re saying: 'Historically men have established themselves as the norm (let's start with the book of Genesis, Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, and then continue down a mile long list that will include an ocean liner of Mormon GAs). This premise is so deeply embedded in our culture that most publications are inherently ?¢Ç¨Àúmen’s' publications even if they don't know it.' I would tend to agree.
However, I’m trying to talk about something different.
Feminists have done a good job carving out places where specifically female issues can be talked about skillfully in specifically female ways. They had to carve this place out amidst plenty of opposition, and it has created some fascinating insights into the human condition. Where would we be without Carol Gilligan, or Gloria Steinem, or Susan Griffin? (all female, I might point out) One of the best things they accomplished was throwing off the deeply ingrained cultural definitions of what it is to be female, enabling them to redefine themselves.
I think feminism's triumph in this area has created an opportunity for men to do the same thing.
For a long time, when men were the “norm,” we thought our point of view was the privileged one. But now we know better. Now we know that our voice is one of many.
It's true that right now there are plenty of opportunities for Mormon men to get together in an exclusive context (read: priesthood meetings in all their diversity and abundance). The problem is, as far as I have been able to see, the conversation that goes on those contexts is inundated by very old and tenacious ideas of what being a man means (the patriarchal model, the authority model, the heirarchical model). The conversation is dominated by reinforcements of that model, rather than an opening up to new possibilities.
I'm starting to wonder what a Mormon male-only publication would read like. When in a space where we can throw off conventions that no longer resonate with us, what might be the first to go? What conventions would we start tweaking? What conventions would we give more priority to?