As Eve alluded to in her most recent post, a conversation that we’ve been having lately has to do with the relationship between secular and Mormon feminism. I’ve noticed a tendency—and doubtless engaged in it myself—to take feminist theories from a variety of places and simply graft them on to Mormonism. Mormon feminism is then Mormon in the sense that it concerns itself with Mormon issues, but not Mormon in its roots.
Don’t get me wrong; I certainly don’t object to the use of secular feminist theories. I think they’ve made important contributions to Mormon feminist thought. Nor am I saying that this way of doing Mormon feminism can’t add valuable insights. But I’d like to propose, tentatively, some characteristics of a feminism grounded in Mormonism.
Note: this is not to say that aspects of these can’t be found in feminism in other places as well. I’m simply trying to play with what what this approach to Mormon feminism might look like.
So, on to my proposed characteristics:
1) Fundamentally, such a feminism is grounded not in liberal humanism, but in a commitment to the belief that we are all children of God, women and men alike, with infinite divine potential, and that anything which gets in the way of that potential and undercuts the full humanity and agency of any of God’s children needs to be resisted.
2) In Christ Jesus, there is no male or female. (Galatians 3:28) All are alike unto God. (2 Nephi 26:33) These call for a feminism which focuses on our common humanity, which challenges gender stereotypes going in either direction.
3) Charity is not optional. We are bound by covenant to the principles outlined in Mosiah 18, to mourn and comfort and stand as witnesses of God. We are called to live out charity as described in 1 Corinthians 13, with its long-suffering and kindness. This is the case no matter how strongly we feel about the rightness of our cause. Yes, we need to point out privilege, to resist injustice, to critique problems. Charity does not mean we have to tolerate unrighteous dominion. But it does mean that we cannot use feminism as a reason to vilify those with whom we disagree.
4) This feminism arises from the good news of the gospel, from its proclamation of grace, of God’s love for the world. It is driven by the two great commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor. It is transformative. It seeks both commitment and inclusivity, and is wary of demands for ideological purity. It is not about having the exact right beliefs about x, y, and z; it is an orientation toward justice which takes seriously the sisterhood and brotherhood of humankind. “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8)
5) The Church is not seen as the enemy. Dissent is certainly possible and probably necessary, but it is grounded in LDS principles (e.g., personal revelation) and commitment to LDS teachings (like the ones mentioned above). The end goal is not to advance a secular utopia, but to work toward the kingdom of God. In addition to charity, it is characterized by faith in a God of justice, and hope for a better world.
I realize that some of these ideals are in tension with other LDS teachings and practices regarding gender, ones which I have frequently critiqued. The Church is far from monolithic when it comes to these questions. But in developing a Mormon feminism that both challenges Mormonism, and bases itself in it, this is where I might start.