"Remember the dignity of your womanhood. Do not appeal, do not beg, do not grovel. Take courage, join hands, stand beside us, fight with us." Christabel Pankhurst, Suffragette.
Yesterday Jezebel published an article titled "Mormon Women are Admired, But Still Not Equal to Men." I agreed with the article, simply because I find the author Katie J.M. Baker's assertions to be true: "who wants to be different if different means treated as lesser than?"
However, both Mormon Feminists and non-Feminists disagreed with aspects of the article. Queen of all the Mormon Feminists, Joanna Brooks, referred to the article as "mildly condescending," claiming that the article did not truly reflect the attitude of Mormon Feminists when Baker hinted that one truly cannot be a feminist and a Mormon simultaneously.
I like to consider myself a Mormon Feminist, most of the time. Mostly, because I consider myself a Mormon by birth, culture, and tradition, and a feminist by common sense and self-respect. But in the short-time I've spent participating in the Mormon Feminist movement (speaking at Conferences, writing articles for various publications, blogging, and podcasting,) I've found myself thinking treasonous thoughts about the movement I otherwise love and respect.
With the perseverance I formally reserved for clinging to my faith, I find myself trying not to doubt the Mormon Feminist movement. But I can't ignore what I see. At conferences, I see women, often the same women who started the conferences forty years ago, discussing the same issues I find troubling. Modesty, lack of female ordination, the lack of support extended to non-traditional thinkers, the church's systematic excommunication of people who disagree.
The same fight, generation after generation. Petitions signed and sent, marches organized, pamphlet's distributed.
As Mormons and Feminists, we are desperate to play nice with the establishment. We don't want to be perceived as unfaithful, because the minute you cross into apostasy, no one hears your voice. We want to rock the boat, but not capsize it. We love Mormonism, and our love causes us to tread softly, bowing our head against blow after blow from the patriarchy.
But are we moving forward, Mormon Feminists? Year after year, I sit in yet another conference, on yet another panel, and still a woman does not offer the opening prayer in General Conference. Our Heavenly Mother remains ignored in her churches, and our petitions to the First Presidency ignored.
Perhaps we could learn a lesson from our suffragist sisters, who, like Mormon women who love their church, loved their country enough to change it.
But they did not succeed with petitions podcasts, and conferences, they won the vote only after concentrated and active civil disobedience. They won only after love for themselves, and for their dignity, matched their love for their country.
In 1848 the first Women's Rights Conference was held in Seneca Falls, outlying the goals and concerns of American women. In 1866 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony formed the American Equal Rights Association, an organization dedicated to universal suffrage.
It wasn't enough. The conferences, the petitions, the marches, none of them granted women the right to vote.
Not until women openly opposed the President of the United States, and chained themselves to the gates of the White House, did people start to listen. You can ignore a petition, but you can't ignore the woman chained to your front gate.
the Suffragists won when they stopped playing "nice." Many were arrested, many saw them as traitors for protesting the President when the country was at war, their devotion to their country questioned, and their freedom to speak as Americans denied.
But by 1920, a mere three years after Alice Paul's first act of civil disobedience by picketing the White House, women gained the right to vote.
As it turns out, the Suffragists weren't traitors, but liberators.
Can you imagine what would happen if the Mormon Feminist movement stopped playing nice? If faithful, devoted women stood as Silent Sentinels outside the gates of the Church Office Building. If the women who loved the church enough to face accusations of apostasy and potential excommunication organized a sit-out, so that one Sunday no Mormon Feminists came to church. If we stopped organizing Friends of Scouting banquets until our daughters sat at the table, likewise recognized for their own accomplishments.
History has proven that civil disobedience works. Martin Luther King Jr., Alice Paul, Harvey Milk, and countless others faced accusations of treason when they apostatized from the status quo because they loved their country.
Our Mormon Feminist ancestors have set the stage. Their conferences and petitions have created a beautiful community of women and men who love the church, but want to make it better. But there comes a point where petitions devolve to groveling, conferences resort to begging, and appeals are simply silenced.
We need to remember the dignity of our womanhood. We need to honor the Mormon tradition of not just asking questions, but starting revolutions. Starting new churches and new traditions that honor our Heavenly Parents even when the establishment condemns us as heretics.
""Remember the dignity of your womanhood. Do not appeal, do not beg, do not grovel. Take courage, join hands, stand beside us, fight with us."
Mormon feminists, I think it is time for some good old-fashioned Civil Disobedience.
This post is dedicated to my friends Natalie and Amber, whose texts and Facebook comments woke me up from a nap and inspired me to write.