It’s pretty clear there are interrelationships among identified feminist concerns in Mormonism. But do you feel that your feminist issues can be reduced to a common source? Is there one issue that encompasses all the others, or from which all the others flow? And if so, what is it?
Does everything come back to women and priesthood? Is Heavenly Mother‘s status the heart of the issue? Maybe Eve’s punishment–marital subordination–is the central problem. Maybe the constrictive model of femininity the Church endorses. Or perhaps the very insistence that gender is eternal.
Maybe you’ll tell me I’m cheating through imprecision. I don’t think I am. My central concern is what I’m going to call the religious invalidation of women. To me, it’s more fundamental even than women’s subordination, and it’s what makes that subordination so problematic. Validation is more important to me than equality, and it’s more important than power.
It’s not exactly an issue of cherishing women or valuing them, which the Church continually trumpets defensively it’s doing in spades. You can cherish a dog. Validation is something qualitatively different–it’s valuing not just women, but women’s experience. It’s treating women as the subjects of their own lives rather than objects in men’s lives. It’s regarding women as full human agents worthy of making their own decisions and being held accountable for them. If women are validated and not just valued, they are worthy of God’s direct attention, trust, and opportunities for spiritual growth in this life and the next. They’re worthy of being listened to and respected.
When it comes down to it, what matters to me, personally, is: me, personally. I expect to be accorded the dignity that comes with being an adult and a full human agent. Subordination is demeaning; it makes my relationship to the divine oblique and implies I’m unworthy of making decisions for myself. It denies me integrity. It’s a profound, systematic form of invalidation.
Some of you will say if we’re religiously and spiritually healthy, we shouldn’t need any validation. I think just the opposite is true: if we’re healthy we should expect and even demand validation.
So what do you see as the central feminist issue, and why?
(Hint: if you have no feminist concerns, you’re probably not the intended audience for this post. Please be patient and perhaps the next post on our blog will catch your fancy.)
- 25 October 2010