Did you spend your weekend on General Conference?
So you’ve had a feminist awakening, and you’re starting to gain a reputation for certain topics.
You’re a minority in your ward
and you might start making people–even some of your friends–feel uncomfortable.
This transformation is a surprise, even to you
but you’re tired of being told that your value lies in your chastity
or that your world must revolve around producing and caring for children
or what a woman’s place is and how much she can talk.
You’re ready to join the gang. Welcome! Let me show you around.
First of all, you’ve got a lot to learn. You’ll start hearing a lot about privilege, intersectionality, misogyny, the male gaze, and, of course, patriarchy, patriarchy, patriarchy. All the terms can be confusing, and sometimes it’s like we’re not even speaking the same language as we misunderstand each other.
People will tell you to read Maxine Hanks and Carol Lynn Pearson and Joanna Brooks and Claudia Bushman. It’s overwhelming, but dive in; they’re worth it.
Other people will tell you to read Valerie Hudson and Sheri Dew. They probably just want to argue with you.
In fact, lots of people will want to argue with you. They’ll tell you that the Church’s patriarchy is a perfect system with many benefits–because of it, men stay in the church–and besides, it’s benevolent patriarchy.
They’ll tell you that the system works because women are spiritually superior.
They’ll tell you not to worry about trivial appendages (like women) when children are starving in Africa.
They’ll tell you that “[w]omen don’t have the Priesthood. Women have always had the Priesthood. Women have the Priesthood in the temple. Women have the Priesthood through their husbands. Women will never have the Priesthood. Women don’t have the Priesthood because they are spiritually inferior to men. Women don’t have the Priesthood because they are spiritually superior to men. Women will have the Priesthood in the next life. Women don’t have the Priesthood because they have motherhood. Not all women are mothers (literally). All women are mothers (symbolically).” (Credit where it’s due.)
And they’ll tell you that God wants it that way
Next, let’s catch up on current events. Mormon feminism has a long history, which I’m going to entirely ignore to focus on the last few months.
Ordain Women has gotten a lot of press and attention as they push for women’s ordination to the priesthood, in part by requesting admittance to the priesthood sessions of General Conference.
Mormon feminists don’t all agree with each other; not all want ordination, and not all agree on tactics like public demonstrations.
FMH, WAVE, All Are Alike, Let Women Pray, ZD, OW, and Exponent II have different people, visions, missions, and approaches.
All vocal and organized feminists risk ecclesiastical disapproval, with severity generally depending on one’s local leadership.
But Mormon feminists are brave and tough and continue to work through the pushback.
Mormon feminism is in the limelight–the New York Times, for heaven’s sake!–and it seems like the Church has finally started paying attention.
They’re taking baby steps, like allowing more leadership for women on missions and encouraging listening to women in ward council and even hanging pictures of our female leaders in the Conference Center.
Things can still hurt, though. Church has occasional moments of inspiration but just as many moments of pain and, worse, boredom.
Between microaggressions in your ward, regular aggressions from the Church PR team, and macroaggressions from trolls on Twitter and Facebook and your family reunions, it’s like death by a thousand cuts.
Sometimes it feels like you should just give it all up and go back to being happy with your role.
Your feminist sisters have your back. Find friends who get it, and we’ll let you weep on our shoulders anytime.
And I believe God is there for you too.
We don’t yet know how it will all play out, but change is happening and it’s an exciting time to be a Mormon feminist.
We’re part of the body of Christ, and it’s our Church too.
We want to create and sustain a church that welcomes, affirms, and nurtures growth in everyone, not just men; a church where all are alike unto God. In short, we’re working for Zion. Join us!