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Ain’t Misbehavin’

“If the right words existed,” the old saying goes, “the music wouldn’t need to.” This is basically scripture to those of us who practice a spiritual relationship with music. Just as religion is supposed to connect people to a world beyond this one, music reveals thoughts, feelings, and insights otherwise unknown to language and therefore to us. Music does what lucenti describes. It lights up the darkness.

Growing up, the leaders of the Mormon Church promised me a spiritual awakening. They pledged that one day, when I was worthy, I would find sanctuary where a “still small voice” would speak to me from within and confirm that the church was true. But I discovered pop music instead. My church leaders accused me of drowning out that “still small voice” with the wails of Led Zeppelin’s anguish, the crunch of Alice in Chains’ guitars, and the menace of Skinny Puppy’s calculated noise. In reality, I scaled a different peak and discovered another spirituality at least as meaningful as theirs.

But sitting back to judge the church that pop music built as somehow superior to the church that Joseph Smith, Jr., built would be an exercise in prejudice. In a world where “everybody loves to judge, everybody thinks they’re clean,” it might be best to follow the advice, “judge not lest ye be judged” (unless, someone is actively and demonstrably perpetrating harm, that is). In any case, the church that pop built is about as systemically sexist and misogynistic as the Mormon Church. “In an analysis of the top 600 songs from 2012 to 2017,” the New York Times reports, “[a] study found that of the 1,239 performing artists, 22.4 percent of them were women.” Speaking to Vice, one industry-insider observed that as late as ten years ago, mentioning feminism could wreck a musician’s career.

Remember when Jesus cleansed the temple of merchants and money-changers? Yeah, maybe we need the ghost of Nina Simone to subject some record company executives to her infamous marxist rage. “I might be feeling good, but you’re about to feel really, really bad.”

I looked at my own listening habits and realized, unfortunately, that I am part of the problem.

Of the twenty-two bands I mention by name in this post, one of them (Against Me!) is fronted by a transgender woman, two of them (IAMX and Placebo) are fronted by gender queer but mostly male-identified singers, while the rest of them are fronted by men. Of the ninety-two total band members, only seven of them are women. My own listening habits are profoundly sexist. That is not to say I don’t listen to and enjoy a lot of female artists. But for the most part, I have uncritically let the industry influence my taste in music to such an extent that testosterone dominates my playlists.

So, to combat the sexism in my church, I have made an intentional effort to listen to more female artists, and so far, I’ve kind of loved it. At first, I thought, the only way I’m going to connect spiritually to my music is if I listen to what I love most, most of the time. But my more intentional musical choices have actually enhanced my overall listening experience. To give you an idea of my musical taste, I’ve attached a playlist below. If any of you have recommendations based on what you hear, let me know, and I’ll give it a listen.


Where I Come From

A few nights before I left for Germany I played a game with a few friends called Hot Seat. The setup and gameplay are similar to Cards Against Humanity. The person who leads the round draws a card with a question on it, and every person in the circle writes an answer including the person who pulled the card. Everyone’s responses are tossed into a box and drawn anonymously….

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High Infidelity

We left the party in a drunk stumble neither of us had the maturity to manage. The night would’ve felt warm had the house we escaped not been stuffed with sweaty bodies. I tipped the last of my drink out of the bottle and into my mouth before dropping it into the garbage can at the curb. She closed her eyes and let the air outside wash over her….

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What a Leader Do

I’m the type of person who likes to “do.” I volunteer and get my hands dirty, and I speak up when I think there’s indecisive silence. I’ve had a penchant in the past for sharing lots of material with my peers, hopeful they would read the same things and arrive at similar conclusions. I’ve become intentionally selfish for myself of late. I retired from all leadership positions – largely…

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Bloggus Interruptus

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to celebrate love. missdansie left for her honeymoon in Germany, of all places, last weekend. Don’t worry, y’all. She’ll return soon enough. (pictured from left to right: missdansie, miggs, and athene)  

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Ghosts of Utopia

My Danish ancestors arrived in Utah dreaming of utopia. The Mormon Church played a more socialist tune back then and attracted followers as discontent with the emerging capitalist order as with traditional Christianity. But what my ancestors found when they arrived was a utopia under siege by theocratic pressure and political instability. Over time, they learned the hard way that utopianism rarely delivers on its promises. I reflect on…

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Toxic Masc4Masc

I was recently directed by a friend to a post in an online poly group where a stranger made transphobic comments. I may write more on that, but the original post warrants exploration first. An admin of the group shared his thoughts on “Toxic Masculinity,” He is a massage therapist who happens to be a bit “woo-woo” for my taste, but has generally been a reserved and polite association…

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A Short Poem

Drifting, floating, flying, leaping, My feet move across the Earth. Every day different, time being measured, By the passing sun in the sky. But what is time anyway, and why pay attention, and why use it to measure our lives? How can time be wasted when each passing moment will never again pass by? Tripping, falling, crashing, hurting, I catch myself down on my knees. Feeling fatigued by the…

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Geneva Country

My parents lived in a trailer park in Utah Valley when I was born. I have since spent most my life in Spanish Fork, Springville, Provo, and Orem—cities Mormons built in the space between the Wasatch Mountains and Utah Lake. Some people say, “that’s sad, don’t you want to experience the world.” They phrase it without the inflection in their voice to imply a question, too, as if travel…

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Book of Mormon Stories

A couple of weeks ago a girl I grew up with was interviewed on the Mormon Stories Podcast. She grew up down the road from me and is one (of many) girls whose parents restricted them from playing with me because of my parents’ lack of church attendance. She was always kind to me, but the barriers were clear. The podcast explores she and her husband’s religiosity and why…

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