The Friend is my church's magazine for children. I'm not really a church magazines person because a few of my religious views are a bit heterodox, and every once in awhile there's an article that either makes me flaming mad or makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit. I let my Ensign (adult magazine) subscription lapse years ago, but last year I decided Kate would probably enjoy The Friend, so I signed up.
For the most part, it's been fine. Sometimes we read it; sometimes we don't. It usually sits benignly on our coffee table. Occasionally there's an article that makes me want to shred the whole thing into a fluffy pile of fiber (I'm looking at you, stories that tell little girls they need to keep their shoulders covered. Hell's bells.) But mostly, Kate enjoys looking at her "maget-zine" and gets excited every time it comes in the mail.
Recently, though, I've noticed a few things in The Friend that have made me happy and hopeful. Things that mark the beginning of a trend toward inclusion and openness that challenge (just a tiny bit) our intensely patriarchal, gender role oriented culture.
Here are a few of them:
The October 2014 issue had a centerfold titled "Stand as a Witness." It talked about how to, well, stand as a witness for God and then had several examples of people from the scriptures and church history who stood as witnesses. The cool part, the part that literally made me yell with happiness, is that three out of the five examples given were women (Emma Smith, Abish, Mary Magdalene, Enoch and Alma). Do you know how rare it is to see even one woman used as an example for a mixed-gender group, let alone a majority? Granted, there are far more male than female central characters in the scriptures, so I don't expect there to be 50/50 representation all the time, but I could tell that whoever wrote this article had really made an effort to include female role models. I loved it. I meant to write a letter to The Friend to tell them how awesome and wonderful and heartening I found that simple two-page spread, but I never did.
April's issue had an article titled "When I Grow Up... I Want to be a Pediatric Transport Nurse" that's part of a series highlighting different careers. I was excited to see that the woman they interviewed appears to have children at home and have a career. I was also pleased that the article just focused on her job and didn't say anything about her kids, showing that a woman can have kids and a career and it's normal and good. The best thing about this article was what it didn't say (for example, excuses like that she worked because her husband lost his job, or she only worked part time, or that her career was a back-up plan, etc.). She appeared to work because she wanted to and because she liked it.
March's issue had a story called "Telling Secrets" about a girl who decided not to keep a secret her friend told her because she was afraid her friend would get hurt. At the end, it says,
"What would it be like if Luisa told her secret and Carlotta didn't want to be her friend anymore?....Then she had another thought. Right now the most important thing was what was best for Carlotta--not what Carlotta might think about her. Carlotta needed a true friend, a friend who would help her be safe. ....Carlotta might end up being mad, but Luisa knew this was the right thing to do. She would be a true friend."
But the really cool part was the article on the next page, titled "When Should I Tell?" It has a fairly comprehensive list of things that should not be kept secret, and I was so pleased to see these included:
- If somebody shows pictures of people without clothes
- If somebody asks you to look at or touch their body or let them look at or touch your body
- If somebody asks you to keep a secret about something that makes you feel bad
- If something makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable
Then it has a list of people the child can go to for help, and concludes with this: "You don't need to feel alone with a secret. An adult can help you know what to do. Keep telling people until you get the help you need."
In our church, we're pretty conservative, which I view as a good thing. Unfortunately, however, this can cause us to be really tight-lipped when it comes to teaching our kids about sex, including consent and abuse. When abuse is perpetrated by an adult who is a trusted friend, family member, or authority figure (as it often is), children get scared and confused and often keep silent. These topics are ugly, but we must educate our children. We need to have casual conversations about it frequently. I hope to see this list taught in Primary sharing time to all of the children at least once a year.
Yay for The Friend!