Defined as: love of Self, belief in oneself, rejection of external titles, acceptance of limitations, acknowledgement of capacity, celebration of advancement.
I’ve been called a bad feminist. A terrible mother. A poor lost soul. A joke of a wife. An apostate. Selfish. Lazy. Good-for-nothing. Worthless.
Every single one of these is an external title. I didn’t emerge all squishy and pink with an descriptive banner splayed across my chest. All were handed to me by someone else along my way. And guess what? At one point or another I accepted them all, graciously bowing down and shouldering the weight because how can I ever be the right kind of person if I don’t drop everything important to me to focus on being what other people want me to be?
Me? Little Miss Nothing? I couldn’t possibly figure this out on my own.
My church leaders spent a lot of time talking about the Iron Rod. It’s a story from the Book of Mormon about a man who sees a glowing tree in the distance, a tree representing all the goodness God has to offer. He must hold tight to the rod in order to get to his destination. When he looks off in the distance he sees his brothers laughing and living in sin, unaware that they are about to plunge into the depths of Hell. They foolishly made the choice to figure things out on their own and look where it got them.
I left Mormonism, but I’ve been casting about for a rod to hold to ever since (btw, I am not ignorant to the bounty of euphemisms and innuendo that naturally flow when using the term rod – I didn’t choose the metaphor!). The idea of Jennanism came up during a discussion about feminism, and the many problems the movement has (women using it to police other women’s behavior, the dialog that often puts males on the defensive, etc). I said something like “But what am I then? If I’m not a feminist what do I use to define myself?”
“You’re Jenna. If you need something to practice, practice Jennanism.”
The nerve, right? An average female, with a few minor accolades to her name, declaring that she contains the power and potential to let go of the external load she’s been dragging behind her for 30+ years and make her own way? I don’t even need to read the comments to know the tenor of the commentary:
Lordy lordy, what to do with that? Those labels, those titles, would cut deep except
as a deep devotee of Jennanism I have a set of tenets to hold to in situations like these. What do we find back at the top? “Rejection of external titles.” There is one true title for me – Jenna. I’ve got my knapsack packed, all the essentials necessary, and there ain’t no room for the bullshit of others on this path.
Not caring what people think is hard, it takes work. But so did reading my scriptures every day, remembering to pray over every meal, seeking out clothing that covered my shoulders and thighs and midriff, saying no to events and activities on Sunday when they didn’t fit with my Mormon ideals. The work didn’t grate because it was my identity. I would meet new people and say “Hello, I’m Jenna, I’m a Mormon.” When faced with a tough situation I used my Mormon scaffolding to support my decisions, a structure developed and refined entirely by others.
I’m working with new scaffolding now, this time developed entirely by me. Lob it all my way, the accusations and the descriptions and the titles. The air is pretty damn clear up here, it’s going to take some work to reach me.
Let it be easy friends. Peace and truth. That’s the Jennanist way.