DEBORAH: Last week’s column by Robert Kirby landed him in a field of cat vomit and dog poo, or so he described the aftermath. The column focused on McKenna Denson and her trip to a fast and testimony pulpit in the Arizona ward of the self-admitted sexual predator who molested her while he was the MTC president and she, a missionary-in-training. In Kirby’s effort to clean up the figurative cat vomit and dog poo, he failed woefully, letting ferment in the light of day the misogynistic, rape culture attitudes that created a church system that assures McKenna Denson can receive no justice.
Kirby made two basic claims in his article: that Denson wasn’t assaulted at the podium, and that fast and testimony meetings are more fittingly reserved for the agenda of the church. It may surprise some, but I agree with those points, notwithstanding my admiration for Denson’s efforts to keep public focus on the church cover-up of her abuse and that of others. Kirby’s article, to be blunt, was rather witless.
However, it triggered outrage from Mormon women, particularly abuse survivors and their defenders, who viewed it as a misogynistic put-down of a rape victim; his Facebook post featuring the column exploded, not that the explosion is visible now. It’s not, thanks to his own editing. Regardless, the explosion occurred. Funny thing, but Mormon feminists rock the boat when Mormon men with a history of calling for transparency and accountability from the LDS Church betray those values on core gender issues. And that’s what happened here. Kirby was an icon to feminists. Now he’s full of his own dog poo and covered with his own cat vomit. I doubt he’ll recover. He’s made it clear he doesn’t care.
Kind of like the church has made it clear, over and over, that it doesn’t care about matters important to those who fight for victims. [Read this.]
So what were Kirby’s mistakes? Foremost, on his Facebook post beneath the article, he deleted comments and blocked—silenced–women who passionately asserted a stance in opposition to his own, claiming he, after all, has control of his domain.
You know, kind of like the church does to women.
He raised doubts as to whether or not McKenna Denson properly understood the ramifications of what she did. Having been a cop, he was, after all, speaking as one with authority.
You know. Kind of like the church speaks to women.
If only those in disagreement with him could think correctly for a moment, they’d see how right he is.
Kind of like how the Church counsels its women.
He protected Joseph Bishop from criticism, citing the cold reality that no court has convicted the former mission president and altogether ignoring the reality that the man will never face criminal charges nor a civil judgement because the system protected the abuser.
Protect the sexual predator. Denounce the victim… All together now:
Kind of like the Church.
So who vomited on whom? Whose bowels were moving?
For me, though, the pinnacle of the issue came when Kirby thought he’d cut through the protest and disagreement with two words: “Misandry, anyone?”
Misandry (noun): dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men
Truth Warning: Mormon feminists stand up for men when they are disempowered by the same patriarchal system that routinely diminishes and objectifies women. A Mormon feminist who corrects a man in our church is not inherently a misandrist. She is a woman speaking with a God-given, natural authority. Period.
To suggest that women hate men because they call them out for doing wrong-headed things is a bit like saying that one sibling hates another when she tells him not to stick his finger in an electrical socket. Sometimes men need to be corrected and to learn. That is not hatred. That is love, including a self-love which, for many of us, has been hard won.
It’s true that some women have been so abused by the men in their lives that they are unable to trust, but a lack of trust isn’t hate. It’s fear—a fear that is not of their own creation, that is not born of prejudice, but that is a survival skill. Good men will encounter the distrust of these women. It’s repulsive for a good man to condemn such a woman or question her rationality. Women in this circumstance deserve compassion, not denigration, not power-trips, not silencing; they especially deserve these from a man they hold in esteem.
When certain men can no longer control women by placing them on a pedestal, they too often climb onto a pedestal themselves, expecting to be lionized. But those of us who’ve broken the chain of our pedestal understand and reject manipulation.
McKenna Denson may not be a flawless face for the movement to end the systematic cover-up of sexual misconduct by church representatives, and of course Kirby has every right to control content on his Facebook page (kind of like the Church). But Kirby is dead-wrong in thinking that he can say anything he wants in the guise of a joke and be above reproach (or ascend the pedestal of his own creation). He’s wrong when he silences angry voices of protest as they respond to denigrating wisecracks and dehumanizing comparisons instead of meeting them with respect. He’s even more wrong to allow and support the comments of men who cultivate rape culture. He’s not only wrong, he’s a traitor to his own ideals, just another old guy who prefers adulation.
Maybe Robert Kirby has done Mormon feminists a favor. We’ve long talked among ourselves about how progressive Mormon men are often as misogynistic as conservative Mormon men. But (mostly) we’ve stayed sweet, monitoring our tone in the hope that progressive men will stand beside us, not feel threatened by us, and not accuse us of misandry. As pathetic as it is, Mormon feminist women have had the expectation that we somehow need men to stand beside us in order to convince other men to let us matter. But we don’t. That’s over. No longer will we sweet talk you, or wait for you to catch up, or grovel before you. What the Mormon world is seeing this week isn’t a bunch of emotional women lashing out at Robert Kirby. What it’s seeing is the dam breaking.
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