The Morality of Space Exploration

Imagine sitting next to Thomas Edison as he is creating the light bulb, and all of a sudden, someone walks in and says, “Tom, would you put that away! There are real problems we need to deal with. You shouldn’t be wasting time making a fancy candle.” You would probably think, “Wow, this person is so backwards. If they only knew how important this is and how much good will come from this.” In fact, I know you would think this, because we all do all the time. After all, how many inspirational Hollywood movies focus on a dreamer who has to overcome all the naysayers and then create something amazing? But for all we do to celebrate the forward thinkers of the past, so many still refuse to see the importance of investing in scientific advancement.

I spent the past three days with NASA as a social media contact for the Antares Rocket launch in Wallops, VA. Before going, I told people they could send me questions I could ask the scientists and other representatives I’d be meeting with. I got some really interesting ones here and on Facebook. One person asked “Do they think they have the moral right to spend such enormous sums on space technology when there are such urgent needs here on the earth?”

My initial reaction was dismissive. I thought, “I’m not going to waste these people’s time by asking such an asinine question,” but then I realized that this kind of attitude of discouraging scientific progress, whether coming from a false sense of moral superiority or just a general shortsightedness, was a much too widely held attitude, and with the explosion at the launch, naysayers will have one more thing to point to as to why funding should stop. 

The youth of America are often accused of always needing instant gratification, however I have come to think that is much more of a universal human trait as I see many older individuals being the greatest critics of the space program because they don’t see the payoff IMMEDIATELY. But it is there and it’s huge. 

Now, I’d like to tell you about my time with NASA over the past few days. 

The Antares Rocket, which was built by Orbital Science, and contained a variety of supplies and scientific experiments that are needed on the International Space Station. The ISS itself is a marvel, and even though it can be thought of as routine, it is anything but that. The ability to keep six people in space for months at a time is a key stepping-stone to developing the technology for a manned mission to Mars, and build permanent outposts in space. The amount of time and manpower going into this is remarkable. But equally so, is what is coming out of this push to move farther into space exploration. 

Much of the scientific equipment being sent up is medical. Spending long amounts of time in space creates unique medical problems, and people need to figure out answers. One of the issues faced is how blood flow goes from the heart to the brain. “A human health study called Drain Brain will inform understandings of blood flow in space to possibly aid in the treatment of headaches and other neurological systems reported by crew members living on the space station. The special neck collar used to measure blood flow from the brain for the Drain Brain study …does not require surgery or special knowledge to operate. This could make the collar a useful tool for monitoring patients on Earth who have heart or brain disorders. Drain Brain could also have implications for development of screening mechanisms for cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.” (Taken from Orbital CRS-3 Mission Overview) Other equipment being sent up could have similar outcomes, in that they answer problems both in space and at home. 

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) research is vital to answering many very real problems we face in the world, but with American students falling further and further behind in the these areas , it is unlikely we will be able to compete in solving them on a global scale. Is this because American students are stupid? No. They simply need more opportunities, and NASA is working hard to provide them. 

The Student Spaceflight Experiment Program, part of National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, was sending up experiments from students all across the country that would help find answers to problems in long term space flight, from air filtration to calcium deficiencies. 

I was able to attend the conference where several teams of students  presented what they would be sending up on Antares. I was amazed by how elegant some of their ideas were. Addressing the formerly mentioned issue of air filtration, one team discovered that living chrysanthemums, could help filter out some of the chemicals in the air. They were sending up a small tube containing seeds to test whether or not they could grow in a zero gravity environment. 

Afterwards, I spoke with some of the students. I was particularly moved by one group of middle school girls who were studying muscle loss in a certain type of shrimp that has similar muscle makeup to humans. They were so excited about this opportunity. One told me, “This has been the most amazing experience. I didn’t know I was smart. I had no idea I could do something like this. I didn’t even think I liked math and science.” Another piped in, “Yeah, I feel like this is really teaching a man to fish. We have learned how to problem solve. This was so hard, but I would do it all over again.” 

Programs like these are helping the youth of America discover their own potential. And this isn’t just inspirational – it is essential. I spoke with NCESSE’s director Dr. Jeff Goldstein on Monday at the conference about this. “There are a myriad of problems here on earth, but many of those problems are going to be solved through science and technology. We are going to need a next generation of scientists and engineers to address many of these problems here on earth. We have got to inspire the next generation, or we will have no one to solve those problems.”

A group of students as they presented to us their project nicknamed "Blood Suckers."

A group of students as they presented to us their project nicknamed “Blood Suckers.”

As I mentioned earlier, American students are falling behind in the world in math and science. This means, in the global job market, our children will not be competitive. “If we are going to compete in a high tech, 21st century market, we’ve got to bring innovative products to market that come from science and technology fields,” says Dr. Goldstein. “The need to compete, to maintain our standard of living, critically depends on getting the next generation involved in STEM fields.” If this weekend is any indicator, that is exactly what they are doing. Many of the students, even ones who had grown up around science, had no interest in pursuing it, until this program came along and showed them their own potential.

(I’d like to take a moment to note that, after speaking to their director, the experiment lost should hopefully be able to be built again and sent up on a later flight.)

It’s not just a distant day in the future we would start seeing benefits. There are immediate benefits from pushing forward with space exploration. On Sunday, while we were touring the launch pad, the facilities director told us, “These contracts have been a shot in the arm to the local economy.”

What is a problem Americans are facing right now? Unemployment. Investing in and growing the space industry can help create a stronger economy. If just these contracts have helped the local economy so much, imagine if, on a country-wide scale, this industry could grow to be as big as some of our other manufacturing industries. We could see a major change in our economy. 

Of course, that is not to say there will be no failures. As we saw on Tuesday, accidents happen. But going into the frontier was never supposed to be easy. It never has been. It wasn’t easy for our ancestors who did it here on earth, and we cannot expect anything different for our own generation. I spoke Dr. Goldstein after Tuesday’s briefing again and he remarked, “Failures are simply the signposts on the road to success.” To use an even older phrase, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”

So, to the initial question of morality, my response would be that it would be morally irresponsible NOT to invest in the space program. We cannot abandon our future for the sake of immediate gratification. We have a responsibility to push ourselves to explore, innovate, and create, because through this, we will secure a better world for the next generations. 

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Want to Talk to NASA?

If you could ask NASA a question what would it be?

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On Monday, October 27th, NASA will be launching the Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket at 6:45 p.m. The rocket is heading to the International Space Station with 5,000 pounds of supplies including science experiments, experiment hardware, spare parts, and crew provisions. The Orbital-3 mission is Orbital Sciences’ third contracted cargo delivery flight to the space station for NASA.

In addition to traditional news outlets, NASA has selected some people from the social media world to come and cover the launch. I applied to be one and… I GOT ACCEPTED! I am very excited about this, and will be spending Sunday and Monday at the NASA visitors center and Wallops Flight Facility getting to go to press briefings, tours, and of course, watching the launch.

I’ll be able to ask questions at some of the press conferences, and I’ve asked if I can bring questions from people who follow my blog (or other social media accounts) and I can!

So, if you could talk to NASA, what would you want to ask? If you go here, you can learn lots more about this specific mission, or you can just ask a question in general, like “What are NASA’s long term goals with manned missions?” or “What are the biggest obstacles you face right in the space program?”

If you have a question, submit it in the comments below, and make sure you are following me on Twitter! I’ll be updating it during the two days in addition to a full article I’ll write after the launch that will be published here on the blog.

Slut Shaming Eve: How the Mother of All Living Became the Mother of All Sin

“So came Eve…the last created being in the creation of the world, without whom the whole creation of the world and all that was in the world would have been in vain and the purposes of God have come to naught.” -Elder J. Reuben Clark

Technology has brought us some truly remarkable abilities as humans. We can cure disease, travel hundreds of miles with ease, and talk to someone in Hong Kong as we sit in Washington, D.C. Slightly less remarkable is our ability to consume 5 years worth of television in 2 weeks, which is what I did a short while ago with the BBC series Merlin. I’m sure most of you are familiar with that odd empty sense you get after binge watching something on Netflix, so I convinced my mother to watch the series so I might have someone to wax endlessly on to about my theories on religious symbolism within the series.

Now, my mother has long been a fan of Arthurian legend, so it didn’t take much convincing. One of her favorite books is T. H. White’s The Once and Future King, and it makes for interesting discussion on the series to have that perspective. Yesterday, she and I were discussing Morgana and (spoiler alert) her descent into evil and how it can parallel Lucifer’s fall from grace, especially within LDS doctrine. Sometimes, Morgana is evil in other Arthurian tales, and at one point my mother asked me, “Why do you think it is that so many stories portray evil, or the one who is supposed to be like Satan, as a woman?”

My response came like a reflex. “Eve.”

Over the years, the woman who ushered in not only knowledge, wisdom, and choice, but humanity itself has been corrupted into some sort of vile temptress, or “The Original Sinner,” as some texts would call her. In fact, her names have grown to include, “the lance of the demon”, “the road of iniquity”, “the sting of the scorpion”, “a daughter of falsehood”, “the sentinel of Hell”, and “the enemy of peace,” to name but a few.

All of these titles came because of her decision to partake of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. What most people fail to realize is that without this decision, we would not be. Adam and Eve lived in the garden as little children, with no concept of sexual relations. General public sex education may be lacking, but I think you can put two and two together and realize that if the rest of humanity was to come into the world, the two of them had to come to know each other Biblically, which was only understood after partaking of the fruit.

On a broader scale of just good and evil, we must realize that personal accountability is paramount. Mormon doctrine teaches that we are not to be held accountable for the sins of our first parents, but for our own. That means the converse is true, in that we cannot hold Eve accountable for the sins committed by humankind. They are our own to bear, and calling her the “Mother of All Sin” is simply a way of shifting responsibility. In our last General Conference, Elder D. Todd Christofferson addressed the importance of accepting our agency and responsibility therein. “God intends that His children should act according to the moral agency He has given them, ‘that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.’… In matters both temporal and spiritual, the opportunity to assume personal responsibility is a God-given gift without which we cannot realize our full potential as daughters and sons of God. Personal accountability becomes both a right and a duty that we must constantly defend; it has been under assault since before the Creation. We must defend accountability against persons and programs… And we must defend it against our own inclinations to avoid the work that is required to cultivate talents, abilities, and Christlike character.” The mentality to blame Eve for the sins of the world is not only incorrect and grossly degrading to her character, but also something that will prevent us from progressing to become something greater.

Much of the corruption of Eve’s divine character came about during the time of Medieval legends, so it is not surprising that the stories of that time would have chosen a woman to bear the role of the Devil, or some representation thereof.   

But what does this specifically mean for women today? What effect does centuries of portraying evil as a woman have on us? I’ll tell you what it does. It creates cultures that shame us into hiding, into viewing ourselves as innately wrong. Women will see themselves, and more especially their sexuality, as something sinful, instead of beautiful and moving. In a different address, Elder Christofferson stated, “There has long been a cultural double standard that expected women to be sexually circumspect while excusing male immorality.”

I recently saw a woman ask, “Why do all portrayals of the Seven Deadly Sins always use a woman for lust?”

The reason is femininity has been degraded to a weakness, either as our own or that of men’s hearts. It is supposed to pale in comparison to the “strength” of traditional masculinity, but when his “strength” fails, and a man actually succumbs to feelings of lust, it somehow is not the evil within himself that has come out, but the evil of the temptress before him. Society has done far too much to remove any responsibility for sexual relations from a mans shoulders, and it is this mentality that continues to contribute to rape culture and slut shaming.

Those aforementioned terms may be new ones, but the concept is not new. It was in the 2nd century that Tertullian told women that they were all “the Devil’s gateway” because of Eve. It is a tragedy to me that our mentalities have not come as far as they should since then.

Until we remove this seemingly permanently ingrained, however false, ideal that women have a naturally stronger relation to temptation than men, we will never be able to resolve the acts of violence, hate, and injustice that plague women to this day.

Author’s Note: I wish to say something on my choice of title. I know for many within my own faith it may have been jarring as we hold Eve in such sacred regard (imagine if I was Catholic and I wrote a piece called “Slut Shaming Mary”), and wanted to express that it was meant in no way to degrade her. I chose the title with much pondering, as I am always deeply troubled when I see how the majority of the world treats Eve, and I could not find a better current vernacular to express what I feel has been done to her over the years.

Painting by Anna Lea Merritt (1844-1930)

Why NASA is Vital to America

If you were to ask me as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer would not have been a ballerina, doctor, or firefighter. It would have been a Vulcan. Yes, even in my youth, I was a giant nerd. I loved Star Trek, and I loved the world in which it existed. I grew up watching a universe where the earth was united, poverty was nearly non-existent, and exploration, discovery, and peace were the primary goals of those in charge.

Now, I have since grown up and have realized that becoming a member of a fictional alien race is not a valid career option. However, my ability to imagine a better future has never left me, and as I watch current events unfold, my heart breaks, as I fear we are moving farther and farther away from what could make us great.

We need to be putting more money into the space program.

Everyone knows that the United States spends more on our military budget than any other country in the world. I know that I have made it clear in the past that my tendencies are usually pacifist, and I am not such an idealist to think that we can remove our military budget, but we are spending more and more on weapons while NASA has seen its funding drop another 2 billion in Obama’s second term. There are real threats in the world and I am aware that ISIS is a problem. I suppose we could have a debate on whether or not we should be bombing the middle east, the ethics of drones, how involved we should be with this, etc., but even though our leaders came to the conclusion we needed to be at war, that does not change the fact that our greatest accomplishments in the space program came during the Cold War, a time where we were under constant fear of destruction. NASA makes up less than half a percent of the US budget. At its peak in the 60’s, it was about four percent. It has never been a huge cost to the American people, but the space program has given us some of the most remarkable accomplishments of humanity, and it is ours. It is our heritage, but with the current funding, it will not be our future.

The technology developed by NASA does’t just allow for exploration, it provides answers to major problems we see on the ground. The space program gave us medical advancements, like artificial limbs and LED therapy. It gave us cell phones, firefighter equipment, and water purification and so much more. If we were to continue investing in NASA, we will see technology that will save lives, solve conflicts, and propel us toward a safer and more stable country and world as a whole. 

As I watch the government strip more and more from NASA, while at the same time maintaining the largest nuclear arsenal the world has ever known, all I can think is that we have become incapable of investing in anything other than our own fears.

We once inspired the greatest scientists, the greatest explorers. Not any more. We are far behind in math and science, and the upcoming generations will be much more likely to associate the word debt than dreams with their education. But that’s not how it has to be.

In the past, we fought a failing economy with the machine that is war production. What if, with that same vigor and zeal, we became a powerhouse for space exploration? Older industries are dying out, but if we could replace them with the space industry, on a massive scale, we would see a dramatic increase in jobs. Instead of making an industry who’s primary goal is destruction, we could build one that would push us into being something greater. We would see students rise to the challenge of mastering the great unknown. In the first part of the 20th century, we went from having people that were born still using horses and buggies, to see a man on the moon before the end of their lifetime. Don’t give me any more of this half a percent of our budget. I want leaps like this again. I want to live to see people colonize Mars. I want to see us leave our solar system. I want to push to be absolutely everything we can be but aren’t living up to.

I don’t know if you understand how much my generation loves space. With Pluto’s recent (possible) comeback, all I’ve been seeing on my social

Image Source

Image Source

media feeds for the past few days are my peers typing in all caps, “VIVA LA PLUTO!” I’ve seen infographics, and discussions, all from thousands of people who just really love space. In general, millennial’s see their future as pretty gloomy, but if you talk to most of us about space exploration, we think that is such an exciting thing. It’s something so many dream about.

NASA can give us the answers to our greatest problems, and everyone, especially my generation, needs this organization more than you can imagine. Please, don’t cut us off from reaching for the stars.

Every Mormon Should Be a Feminist

A while ago, I found myself, as I often do, explaining to someone, why I identify with feminism. I told him what feminism is, that at its core, it is allowing women the same rights as men, not forcing sameness, but giving them the option to choose. It is a movement against violence, and oppression, and silence. His response was, “Well, that’s not really feminism. That’s just common sense.”

Perhaps it’s both?

In case you haven’t heard, feminism is not a hate movement against men. It never really was, but of course, everyone latched onto one set of ideas that some people in the movement used to have, and made that an excuse to invalidate one of the most important cultural shifts the world has ever known.

Now, most people are eager to engage in a dialogue with me about what they perceive to be two conflicting ideals: my faith, and my feminism. For me, the two were never contradictory, but in fact complimentary. I am a feminist because I am a Mormon. It’s as simple as that. However, as I’ve pondered it more and more, I’ve come to believe that it’s not just me who should see the world this way. Feminism and Mormonism go hand in hand, and I’d like to tell you why.

I understand that right now there is a stigma within the church with the word feminism. We just went through a rather public trial of dealing with the Ordain Women movement, and most of you probably have a bitter taste in your mouth because of it. While my heart has softened since I last wrote on this, that is a discussion I’m not looking to have here today. I’m asking you to put aside any hurt feelings from that, and listen to why the feminist movement should matter to you, the church, and the world as a whole.

Feminism reflects a more Christlike attitude toward all genders. During His mortal ministry, Christ did not discriminate between men and women. While we read the stories through the eyes of history, and many of His actions may not seem overly noteworthy to us, they are terribly significant. It matters that He gave His time and energy and friendship and respect to women. It matters that some of His greatest sermons were given to women. It matters that He ignored societal standards of association with them. And it matters that He chose a woman first to testify of His resurrection. Christ broke many cultural norms in His time, and His treatment of women as equals should not be forgotten.

There is a quote I’d like to share with you. “There are some men who, in a spirit of arrogance, think they are superior to women. They do not seem to realize that they would not exist but for the mother who gave them birth. When they assert their superiority they demean her. It has been said, ‘Man can not degrade woman without himself falling into degradation; he can not elevate her without at the same time elevating himself’ (Alexander Walker).”

This is not a quote pulled from one of my many books on feminist theory, it’s a quote from Gordon B. Hinkley’s October 2004 General Conference address. (For Non-Mormons reading this, he was our prophet at the time, and this was a talk he gave to the entire church. This means we consider it doctrine.) That entire address discusses the importance of women and their contributions that he knew were so often went diminished and forgotten by the world. Perhaps if a prophet (and there have been others as well) is telling us to move away from the idea that men are superior to women, we ought to be listening. It is necessary for the Church to thrive. Not just the individual family unit, but the church and society as a whole must become more inclusive of women in positions of leadership. As President Hinkley said in another part of that same talk, “Our stature as officers of this Church was not diminished by what [the female General Authorities] did. Our capacities to serve were increased.”

Most importantly, at its most pure core, feminism is fighting to give women back their right to choose. All the violence, all the oppression, all the things we as feminists fight against, take away a woman’s use of agency. They take away her ability to say “No,” to voice what she believes, to be valued as a daughter of God. Do not be so shortsighted to think that feminism is simply about trying to put more women in executive positions. It is about allowing half of God’s children to have their voices and free will back. The entire Plan of Salvation, the core of our faith, is built upon the idea that we were brought to this earth so that we might choose for ourselves. But history has robbed my sisters and me in varying degrees of our choices. History has taught us that a man, in almost all cases, will have more choices of what he can do in his life than a woman.

As a member of the LDS faith, I believe in the doctrine of the War in Heaven (see Revelation 12). I believe that “Satan rebelled against [God], and sought to destroy the agency of man. (Moses 4:3)” I believe that already I fought for my right to choose, and I know I will keep fighting for it. Because it is a gift given to me and to all of us from God, I will not allow it to be robbed from me or anyone else simply because Satan has entrenched his values into the hearts of men.

I’ve won this fight once before, and I intend to win it again.

The Most Preventable Birth Defect is Costing All of Us Billions

Today, in honor of national Fetal Alcohol Syndrome awareness day, I’m going to tell you about my brother.

In 1999, after many failed attempts to have another child, my parents decided to adopt two toddlers from Russia. Their names were Ilya Sadriev, and Roman Schneider. For privacy purposes, I will not be using their current given names.

Roman was energetic, but not so much that we thought too much of it. When we adopted the two boys, my parents were informed that Roman’s mother had drank while he was in utero, but a physician had told them this “would just make him a little more hyper.” A few years later, after his energy seemed to be growing, and after switching physicians, my brother was given the diagnoses of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, (or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder).

What is FAS?  Well, it affects the brain of the fetus when they are in certain development stages, causing damaged neurons and other mental problems. Below is a picture comparing a regular brain, and one with FAS.

fas-brain

FASD (the current term) is never outgrown. The side effects include: aggression, an inability to understand consequences, impulsive behavior, poor memory, and a high likelihood to have another mental disability. For example, Roman was also diagnosed with ADHD, Sensory Integration Dysfunction, ODD, RAD, Depression, Auditory processing delays, and I think there’s more. FASD is considered to be the leading cause of developmental disabilities and mental retardation world wide. (Journal of FAS International, 2004)

Because of side affects like these, individuals with FASD tend to have drug and alcohol problems, propensity toward violence, and are 19 times more likely to end up in the prison system. There are a variety of statistics I found on the exact percentage of the prison population make-up, but most tend to be in agreement that well over half of the population suffers from some sort of in-utero exposure to alcohol.

Here are some statistics:

  • 94% of individuals with an FASD also have a mental illness
  • 50% of adolescents and adults displayed inappropriate sexual behavior
  • 60% of people with an FASD have a history of trouble with the law
  • 50% of individuals with an FASD have a history of confinement in a jail, prison, residential drug treatment facility, or psychiatric hospital
  • 73-80% of children with full-blown FAS are in foster or adoptive placement
  • FASD is 10-15 times more prevalent in the foster care system than in the general population
  • 61% of adolescents with an FASD experienced significant school disruptions

But what is the dollar amount we pay every year as American for this?

$6 Billion.

Billion. With a B. It’s not a euphemism when I say this 100% preventable defect is costing us.

Back to my brother. As the years passed, he became more and more difficult, acting out, yelling, and eventually turning to violence, both toward others, and himself. He cut his hands all the time, and tried to stab my other brother. Between that, and his behavior at school (most other kids were afraid of him), he was eventually deemed “unfit” to live at home, as he was causing an unsafe environment. He was moved to a care facility out of state for troubled teens.

My parents were devastated. They had tried everything. They began a regimen of medications and physical/occupational therapies at an early age.  They tried every philosophy that came along.  Since you can never go back and do things differently, they aren’t sure how effective any of these things were, but they had hope that their efforts were helping. Now, however, it looks as if the care facility he’s at is the best option. He’s been there a few months, and is finally showing some progress. We can talk to him twice a week, and visit on occasion, and I can say, I’ve never seen him doing so well.

My heart breaks when I think of my brother, and the life he has cut out for him. The constant struggle to not be a statistic and end up in jail will be difficult. But there are other little things. I remember sitting with him, listening to him tell me how hard it was to make friends, how frustrated he was that it took him a month to figure out what the other kids figured out in a day, and how unfair it felt that he hadn’t done anything, but he still was “stupid.” He said that all the time. “Why am I so stupid?” I wanted to cry and hug him, but he wasn’t a touchy person. The problem he has is he’s just smart enough to know that he has tons of limitations. But maybe, just maybe, he can overcome them.

But for the rest of you, please, please, don’t do to your kids what my brother’s biological mother did to him. Don’t drink when you’re pregnant. Not at all. Not a glass of wine here or there. None. They still haven’t been able to figure out exactly when and how much causes it. There have been cases of women who thought they only had a little, but ended up with a child who had FASD. The cost is too high for all of us, in money, and in lives. Don’t play Russian roulette with your child’s brain.

If you would like to donate toward my brother’s medical expenses which my parents are having to pay out of pocket, click below. All contributions through this PayPal button go toward him. 

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Sources:

http://www.mofas.org/2014/05/fasd-and-the-criminal-justice-system/

https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/opinion/fetal-alcohol-syndrome-in-america-a-silent-crisis-of-apocalyptic-proportions/4084

http://www.rethinking.org.nz/Default.aspx?page=4343

Breaking News: Women Now Being Thought of as Human Beings Could Harm Society

Yes, the fall of the human race as we know it can all be attributed to one thing: FEMINISM.

This evil school of thought has plagued our society, bringing about such horrible consequences as:

  • Women being able to vote
  • Women being able to get an education
  • Women being able to get a job (outside of nurse or teacher)*
  • Women having access to birth control
  • Women being able to get a divorce

Don’t you silly people know that these things should only be available to men, as they are the only ones equipped to make choices like this! Women should be allowed as little agency as possible, as when they are given choices, they will almost always make the wrong one. It’s been like that from the dawn of time! Don’t you remember Eve?

End deeply sarcastic intro. 

Recently someone posted a link to this article on my Facebook, detailing how feminism is the cause of the declining marriage rates in America, fully backed with statistics, which in fact, had absolutely no foundation in relating feminism to marriage rates, but hey, they tried to make you think they did.

There are a few paragraphs I wish to directly respond to, as I think they hold relatively common misconceptions of feminism, or are simply to problematic too be left unaddressed.

“She points out that for the first time in US history, the number of women in the workforce has surpassed the number of men, while more women than men are acquiring university degrees.

‘The problem? This new phenomenon has changed the dance between men and women,’ Venker wrote. With feminism pushing them out of their traditional role of breadwinner, protector and provider – and divorce laws increasingly creating a dangerously precarious financial prospect for the men cut loose from marriage – men are simply no longer finding any benefit in it.’”

First of all, if you really see women obtaining degrees as a problem, you’re an idiot. Sorry if that’s a bit blunt, but you are. Either that, or you are someone intent on having half of the population be less educated than the other half, therefore often being subservient to it. Everyone, I repeat, everyone, has a right to education. Some may go further than others, but everyone should be able to pursue their education as far as they want. Even supporters of traditional marriage should be in favor of this. Feminist Mormon Housewives wrote an article called “Someday My Prince Will Run (Or Get Sick, Or Lose His Job, Or Die)” which discusses why women shouldn’t always assume they will not be needed as the breadwinner of the family. Other then the financial benefits, there is a whole host of reasons why educated mothers are important. For the sake of brevity, I’ll let you use common sense on that one.

Secondly, I didn’t realize there was no benefit outside of financial gains for men to be involved in marriage. Perhaps if that is how some men view the institution, a more beneficial article would be “Men: Grow Up.” Fathers and husbands are deeply important on so many levels outside of finances. Yes, that is one factor, but there are so many more important things they provide. I hate that “Dumb Dad” trope, and I love Cheerio’s recent backlash against it. Check this out:

Men are absolutely great, and they should realize their value is not solely a financial one.

Moving to the second part I’d like to respond to.

“As a writer and researcher into the trends of marriage and relationships, Venker said, she has ‘accidentally stumbled upon a subculture’ of men who say ‘in no uncertain terms, that they’re never getting married.’

“’When I ask them why, the answer is always the same: women aren’t women anymore.’ Feminism, which teaches women to think of men as the enemy, has made women ‘angry’ and ‘defensive, though often unknowingly.’”

This woman’s research background must not include using Google, or checking more than one source outside of Fox News or something published in 1961, because if it did she would know that her definition of feminism is completely false.

fem·i·nism (noun) - the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.

I see no part about hating men. As a feminist, I know I don’t hate men, and neither do my other feminist friends. You may have even noticed me praising men in the paragraph above.

Now there was a short stint in feminist history where a section didn’t like men, but that is an outlier, and that subsection has long since been discredited for a variety of reasons. To quote Wikipedia, “Some of the earlier forms of feminism have been criticized for taking into account only white, middle-class, educated perspectives. This led to the creation of ethnically specific or multiculturalist forms of feminism.” To the point: Her definition is inaccurate and outdated.

The other important thing to note is women aren’t angry or defensive because of feminism. Women are angry about being oppressed, assaulted, and belittled, as is the reaction of any reasonable human being. I’d like to show you a picture.

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Click for original post.

Every time I show this to a girl, she gets a grim, knowing expression. Every time I show it to a guy, they say, “I don’t get it.” In case you don’t get it, this is a keychain with several defensive properties. The cat is actually for stabbing attackers (you put your fingers through the eye holes and the ears become something to defend yourself with) and the odd tube is mini pepper spray. This is reality for women every day. We are taught from a young age to defend ourselves, often from our mothers or aunts or sisters who have known physical and sexual assault. When a girl knows that if she reports a rape, the first thing she will probably deal with is people asking her about why it is her fault, instead of dealing with the real problem, she starts to take things into her own hands, preparing with self defense classes, and keychains that will protect her more than a lawyer. I suggest reading the article “Schrodinger’s Rapist,” to understand how most women feel every day. It’s actually quite funny, as well as being informative and well written. On top of that, women are often at the receiving end of physical violence from their family, and statistically speaking, if they are killed, it will be by their significant other. Women are defensive because we’ve learned to defend ourselves when no one else will.

Is the marriage rate declining? Yes. But assuming that feminism is a negative thing based on this fact is completely unfounded. And I might suggest that if someone did not want to get married on the condition of both partners being equals, than perhaps that individual ought not to be married.

 

*Being a nurse or teacher is a wonderful profession for any gender. The comment was sarcastic and playing off traditional gender roles, and meant as nothing more. 

It should also be noted that men are also often at the receiving end of sexual or physical assault. This is just as important as anyone else receiving harm, and they should not be degraded when reporting it with remarks like, “Man up,” or “You should have liked it.” Contrary to many people’s belief, this is an issue today’s feminist care deeply about. 

The shirt featured in the main image can be found and purchased from Wicked Clothing.

From Airplanes to Adoption : The Story of Terri Jensen Moore

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” – Abraham Lincoln

In 1959, Terri Jensen was born to Glenna Salisbury and George Jensen. She was an unexpected surprise, as Glenna was 44, but clearly
terri babythe world needed her, so the Lord made it happen.

Terri spent the majority of her childhood popping from state to state, since her father was in the Air Force. She lived in Idaho, Texas, North Dakota, but eventually landed in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her father retired when she was 11. He was going to go into real estate with his brother, but before the family had even really settled down, tragedy struck. George passed away unexpectedly from pancreatitis. Terri was crushed. She was incredibly close with her father, and shut down for quite a while after it happened.

Throughout her teenage years, she struggled with her self image. She was incredibly skinny, and was often teased because of this. I still remember her telling me, “I looked like Barney Fife.” I tend to disagree, but it’s hard to think positively about yourself when those around you are being constantly degrading, whether with their words or actions.

Her experiences weren’t all bad though. She loved to ski, and settling down in SLC put her in the perfect place for that. She loved the water too, and would spend time with her friends at Lake Powell.

After she finished high school, she went on to attend BYU. Here she really began to blossom. To this day, I love hearing the stories about the elaborate pranks she would pull with her roommates. She spent a semester abroad in Austria, and a little time in Israel. Eventually, after her sophomore year, she decided to get a degree in CAE/CAD/CAM. BYU was the only school in the country, at the time, that offered a bachelor’s degree in this.  Because it covered engineering, manufacturing, design, and computer principles, it took her an extra year to graduate.

When Terri was 21, she met someone by the name of Myles England.  Even though she had dated other guys, she began to wonder if she would ever get married, as 21 seemed ‘old’ to her.  Myles proposed, and it all seemed fine to her, even though her family cautioned her against it. This young marriage had some good times and some not so good times, as most young marriages do.  The biggest trial came when Terri developed preeclampsia during her 7th month of pregnancy. To save her life, she had an emergency C-section and gave birth to their daughter, Kathryn. Since Kathryn was only 1 lb 13.5 oz, the doctors gave her a 50/50 chance of survival.  After two weeks of being in the neonatal intensive care unit, she passed, while in Terri’s arms.  This was the first opportunity Terri had had to hold her baby. This devastated her. Part of her, the irrational part, blamed herself for the death of her daughter, and struggled with her self worth. She felt she must be a really bad, worthless person, one that God couldn’t trust with a new baby, one that was unworthy of God’s love.  As a result, her behaviors and attitudes changed to more closely align with the person she believed she must be, and a few months later, she and Myles separated. (Thankfully, she eventually came back to her old self!)

At this point she was living in California. She would spend the next 10 years in the Los Angeles area working in Aerospace. Employed by Rockwell (now Boeing) and Computervision, she was a pioneer in her field. She was young and a woman, trying to tell a bunch of Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 10.14.28 AM‘old men’ how to do their job this new and better way. Besides secretaries, she was one of only a handful of women engineers, but she still excelled at her job. She worked on the B-1B, developed a computer program that saved the company millions of dollars, and worked on top secret government contracts that to this day, she won’t tell me about.

She made an excellent income which gave her the opportunity to travel. She spent a lot of time in the islands, Fiji being her favorite. She is a licensed scuba diver, and general adventurer. She spent a lot of money to get a custom made wet suit, as her proportions were odd, being 5’10″ but very slim. “I looked hot in that thing,” she would say to me. This statement doug and i dating 2always made me smile, as I saw it reflected the change in how she saw herself.

By the time she turned 30, she had enjoyed several years of being a single, divorced Mormon, and the super fun dating life that comes with that. One day, her Mustang was giving her trouble. Now she loved cars, especially hers, but was having difficulty pinpointing the problem. The engineer in her needed to know exactly what was wrong, and didn’t want any shop trying to swindle her, so during work one day, she asked one of the guys she worked with to come out to the parking lot and look at it.  He brought one of his roommates to help. At one point they tried pouring gas directly into the carburetor, which, needless to say, was a bad idea. When she started the car, hood still up, flames erupted, scorching her friend’s roommate’s arm. That man was Doug Moore, my father. She didn’t even really realize what had happened, as he just looked down at his arm, and patted it out, not really reacting. That may be the truest reflection of my father’s personality. Later that week, he decided to ask her on a date at work, because apparently catching someone’s arm on fire is a good way to get someone to ask you out. He asked her to go wind surfing, which she said no to. A swimsuit on the first date was not something she was up for. However, he was not to be deterred, and asked her again a few days later. She said no, again. Finally she said yes when he asked her to a movie. Shortly thereafter they began dating.

Now, Doug wasn’t LDS. While she was very much in love with him, she still knew she wanted a temple marriage. However, after engagement piccounseling with her bishop, she decided to pursue the relationship. About a year after they had been dating, Doug took her to Diamond Head, an inactive volcano in Hawaii, and proposed. She accepted, and six months later, on October 11th, 1991, they were married.

They were both eager to start a family and on December 2nd, 1992, they welcomed yours truly into the world. In order to have me spend as little time with a babysitter as possible, they would take opposite shifts at work so at least one of them could be home. In 1994, they accepted an overseas assignment in Germany. While both of them were to be working, they never ended up sending Terri her work, so she and I traversed Europe while we lived abroad. When she returned home, she made sure she had all the correct documentation to prove that she would not accept an unpaid leave, and had to be compensated, regardless of the error that the company had made in not sending her assignment. To this day, they still tell me that story to remind me to always keep good financial records.

We were living in a condo in Redondo Beach, a few blocks from the ocean. If you know anything about California real estate, that is not a cheap place to live. Even with them both working, they knew if they ever wanted to have more kids, they would need a bigger and less expensive place. Now, a reasonable person would have moved a little more inland, but no. Not them. They moved a lot inland. As in Michigan. Because Detroit seems like a good place to move after living in a tropical climate for 10 or so years. (I’m still bitter if you can’t tell.) My father me and becca 1took a job with General Motors. After a year, Terri took a job answering phones for GMC customer service.  This was not a job she enjoyed in the slightest. I still remember the day she told me she wouldn’t be working anymore. We were sitting on the back steps of my house, and I was so excited. “Does this mean you can play with me all day?” I asked her, putting my tiny hands on her face. She smiled, “Yes. Yes it does.”

My mother and I were very close, but we all wanted a bigger family. It had been several years now, and my parents still couldn’t get pregnant. The doctors could give them no clear answers. Terri was heartbroken, again. I didn’t make things any better by constantly bugging them about how I hated being an only child. After considering all the options, my parents decided to adopt. In 1999, they flew to Russia and picked up my two brothers, Brian and Stephen.

Shortly after we adopted them, Stephen was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, caused by heavy alcohol consumption duringbs 1 pregnancy by his birth mother. Each person with FAS is different, but with Stephen, well, imagine Autism, with no sense of consequence, and an extremely violent side. I watched her try for years to work with him, and provide a home where he could thrive. She went to countless meetings, and support groups, and seminars to try and better understand her son and the challenges he faced. Even with all of this, she still made time to go to all of my plays, or Brian’s track and cross country meets.

In 2011, after 20 years, Terri’s dream of a temple marriage came true and my parents were sealed in the Detroit Temple. I love and family temple 2respect my father, and I understand why he took so long to decide to join the church and go through the temple, but because of this, my mother was the spiritual rock of my family. She took us to church, she taught us about the scriptures, and was a beautiful example of Christlike love. She lived by the rule, “Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves.”

Through the years my mother has been a shining beacon of hope to me. When I felt alone, heartbroken, or lost, I could always go to her. No matter where I was in my life, I could trust her to be empathetic and understanding. She has been the most marvelous support I could have ever asked for in a parent, and I love her deeply and dearly.

As I leave you with the story of my mother, I wish to also leave you with a message. If you ever think, even for a moment, that feminism is meant to make less of the role of mother, you need to quickly reevaluate your definition of the term. Feminism is about freedom, and that all women should be allowed their free will. Narrowly defining what a woman can and cannot do, whatever it may be, goes against the very nature of the idea. The role of mother should always be respected and honored, as it is that role that has been the backbone of civilization, even when the people of the civilization degraded and oppressed it. For millenniums, it has been one of sacrifice, love, and empathy. Motherhood is truly an example of the best of humanity.

“Women’s rights in essence is really a movement for freedom, a movement for equality, for the dignity of all women, for those who work outside the home and those who dedicate themselves with more altruism than any profession I know to being wives and mothers, cooks and chauffeurs, and child psychologists and loving human beings.” - Jill Ruckelshaus

 

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My Extremely Religious Uterus Would Like a Word (Round Two)

After several discussions, including one with my Ethics and Legal Issues professor, and a careful rereading of the majority opinion I have decided to change a few of my statements. While I disagree with where Hobby Lobby has drawn the line as to what is and is not considered ethical, I recognize that they have the right to draw that line where they will. While I still see several problems arising with the precedence set by the court, whether it be me or someone else who has it (as it is very likely taxpayers money will be going to covering what Hobby Lobby will not), I do not necessarily see everything as black and white as prior, and my opinion is still evolving. The fear of the imposition of church on state is a valid one, but the ruling left less doors open than I initially thought. As someone with strong convictions on both the issue of women’s health and religious freedom, this will be something that I will be pondering over for a while. 

Until then, I still wish to address the social stigma and hypocrisy associated with men and women’s sexual health care. 

This is a revised version of the original article I posted. If someone would like to read my initial post, please contact me. 

With the recent comment by a senator after the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court Case, I am needless to say angry at one more example that the men directing public policy in this country have no more understanding of female sexual health than the 13 year old boy I sat next to in health class who didn’t know “there were three holes down there.” (The comment was made by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) saying women use birth control to protect themselves largely from “recreational behavior.”)

The social stigma with birth control within the conservative community has troubled me for quite a while. Women who are using it because they believe it to be a responsible choice are often called “whores,” and dramatic assumptions are made about the birth control using population. The irony is of course apparent when the men making theses statements are often just as loose in their sexual lives as the women they are accusing, they just don’t have to worry about getting pregnant. However, let’s put aside the issue of morally questionable sex and talk about other problems. 

Problem One- There are plenty of reasons outside of wanting to have pre/extramarital sex that a woman could want or need birth control. While the title of the pill makes people think it’s soul purpose is to prevent pregnancy, a basic knowledge of women’s health will tell you otherwise. I am probably Queen of the Virgins, and perfectly content with my choice to not have premarital sex, but I have been on and off birth control all through college. Why? Well, let me explain. For those of you who are unaware, most birth control affects hormones, you know, those things that you say make women unable to make rational decisions. Hormones can affect women in a variety of ways. Here’s a list of some reasons women take birth control:

  • Lower ovarian and endometrial cancer risk
  • Clearer skin
  • Endometrial Pain/Scarring relief
  • Lighter and less painful periods
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
  • PMS Relief

Over 60 percent of women using birth control cite reasons beyond pregnancy prevention for taking the pill. 

This of course is ignoring the other major point, which is, what about married women who are not prepared to be having children for whatever reason? While their sex may be “recreational,” by no means should it be thought of as morally reprehensible to take birth control when in a legally binding relationship. If you’re thinking to use the defense “married people should be having sex to have kids” (which is a whole other post on why thinking like that is problematic), think again. You know what I’ve never seen a committee on? Men’s sexual medications. This leads into…

Problem Two – While I have seen countless debates, panels, etc. on women’s reproductive health concerns (which are typically made up of several male senators and priest, of which I’m not sure why they are the prime candidates to be weighing in on the issue), I’ve never once seen one about Viagra or vasectomies. No one cares if a guy goes to pick up an ED medication. These men do not need to prove with whom they having sexual relations. It could be their wife of 30 years, or it could be the neighbors dog walker. They don’t even have to be married, and they can get all the tiny blue pills they want. This also shoots the argument that sex is for making babies in the face, as the majority of men taking ED medication are not doing it for procreative purposes. Most of them are past the point in their lives where they are having children, which of course makes it no surprise that the men passing these laws are making sure to keep in what they need. Now, like birth control, there may be some cases where there is another reason to take Viagra, like hypertension, however there is still no major social stigma with using Viagra. I’ve never once seen a man’s morals called into question because of taking ED medication. Also, male sterilization is clearly done to stop pregnancies. Now, I don’t really care if you need help having sex. I’m simply pointing out the hypocrisy of the situation. The message being sent is clear: birth control and sex are fine as long as they are on a man’s terms.

Overall, I think people need to get their head’s out of the 1960’s and form more educated opinions on reproductive health, especial when it comes to the policy makers in this country. 

 

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A Jew, a Muslim, and a Christian Walk Into a Bar…

And by a Jew, Muslim and Christian, I mean the presidents of Israel and Palestinian Authority and the Pope, and by bar, I mean the Vatican.

Photo from the LA Times.

On June 8th, after another round of failed peace negotiations, the Pope invited  Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas to the Vatican to participate in prayers for peace between the two nations (For more coverage on the story, see here).

I’ve been following the Palestinian – Israeli conflicts for a long time now. My interest began when I was in 10th grade and put into a simulation with other schools similar to model UN, except the major difference was we were all focusing on the conflicts between Israel and Palestine. Since then I’ve studied it consistantly. It was even the topic for my final analysis paper in one of my university Foreign Policy classes.

The more I look at this issue, the more I see the roots of their problems throughout the world. Often times, people create this completely unnecessary dissonance between themselves and other faiths. Now, I know that many prejudices are rooted in longstanding conflicts between peoples, but I have to believe that as humans, we have the capacity to move on.

One of the ways we can change how we deal with these conflicts, whether they be violent worldwide problems, or simply not letting your kids play with the neighbor down the street who’s belief is different than yours,  is to educate ourselves on different religions, not to prove them wrong, or find things we think are bad, but simply to have a better understanding of our brothers and sisters. I know in my own life, I have seen how creating that understanding can help two or more people see that they have more commonalities than difference.

A few years ago, my family was on a cruise in the Caribbean for my grandparents 50th anniversary. I had noticed there was a rather large Muslim family onboard, but I hadn’t really interacted with them much, just passed them walking around. One day, while docked in Barbados, I saw the family come and sit next to me in the beach. I am always making small talk with people around me, whether it be at the beach, the gym, or the grocery store. I like meeting new people and am just generally sociable, so I decided I would say something to the girl next to me. She was rather quiet and reserved, so I tried to think of something friendly.

“I like your hijab!”

It was the standard go to girl complement. (Women are always compliment each other on clothe choices. “I like your shoes,” to which we respond, “Thanks, I like your skirt!” or something like that.) I didn’t really think about it. Her hijab was lovely so I said something. However, the look on her face was one of complete and utter surprise.

“You know what my scarf is called?”

“Uhh… yeah.”

She smiled eagerly and turned to me. “I didn’t think anyone here would know something like that.”

“Well, I do. And I think it’s cute!”

From there we started an absolutely wonderful conversation. She was from Egypt, and about my age. I heard all about her life back there, how it was to travel with her big family, and the cultural differences she saw being with so many Americans. She told me about how she wanted to go swimming, but she was worried people would laugh at her swimsuit (it covered her head to toe), so she just stayed in her jeans. I told her that she shouldn’t care, but she was still very nervous (unlike one of her sisters who I saw unashamedly playing in the water). I talked about university in America, and she told me about her school. Overall, while she seemed shy, she also seemed incredibly excited to talk to me.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day, or how easily we got along, or how I had the opportunity to learn so many new things. I’ll never forget how her whole demeanor changed as I expressed just a basic understanding of her religion.

Now, I’m sure many of the world’s leaders are much more educated than I am on different religions and cultures, but I wonder how many genuinely care about using that to foster mutual understanding, or do they simply use it to get what they want?

Many of your average citizens don’t know much beyond what they hear one time on the news, or read in a chain email about other religions beyond their own, and when they do know something, they tend to focus on and distort one or two things, in order to tear down that religion. I’ve always wondered how strong one’s faith or conviction is, if it’s reliant on either dragging down another’s, or an outright refusal to learn more.

Sometimes people like to focus on the bad of a religion to prop up their own. I was taught in one of my religion classes, “You can’t compare their worst to your best. You have to compare your best with their best, and their worst with your worst.” No religion is free from wrong, as they are filled with imperfect people. As Jeffery R. Holland once said, “Imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work.” We should not ignore all the good of one religion just because it has some bad.

I pray that we may all come to a more open and honest understanding of our fellow men and women, and the beliefs that impact their lives. Perhaps if everyone did that, the world would be able to bury its hatchets, and move to a place of peace.

 

If you are interested in learning about other religions, I’d start with reading their sacred texts. Most of theses are available to on the internet for little to no cost. Just search the word free with whatever text you’re looking for. Here’s a quick list of of where I got mine. 

Bible (KJV)

Book of Mormon

Quran

Dhammapada

Bhagavad Gita

(It should be noted that the Quran was meant to be read in Arabic, and reading a translation is great, but the Arabic form is better.  It should also be noted that there are different translations, some with which the people in the religion aren’t in total agreement.  This may also be true of the other texts listed, with the exception of the Book of Mormon, since there is only one translation.)

 

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