3/4/13

handcuffs




I think Mormon Feminism is having some growing pains.

It's understandable, and people's reaction to it is understandable. Some people are thrilled at the idea of a lot of action-based events, with media! Radical viewpoints! Handcuffs?* Sure!Some people are really concerned about scaring off newbie Mormon Feminists who feel hurt by church patriarchy, but don't want to "come out" yet to their friends and family. Lots of people fall somewhere in between and don't know how to behave in relation to their moderate views. They are the Goldilocks of Mormon Feminists, and they are important too.

There's a lot of talk about message and image, and the pros of having the media on your side (media scrutiny does often force organizations to change,) versus "going through the right channels," (better preserving the relationship between feminists and church leaders.)

I like aspects of both perspectives. I think both sides have really valid points. While I'm by nature drawn to grand gestures and displays, if I've learned anything in the past few months, it is that there is value in the quiet, confidence-building gestures as well.

It took me a long time to see the benefits of both sides. I'm lucky to have nice Mormon Feminist friends and mentors to show me the necessity of moderation in many things.

But one way I may disagree with some of my peers is my absolute aversion to trying to control or legislate (via the internet or other channels,) how someone else practices their Mormon Feminism. I don't like it when other people try and tell me how to practice my religion. I really don't like it when some tries to tell me how to practice my feminism.Combine the two and you are more likely than not to get a nice view of a certain finger, and a bonus creative swear for good measure.

*Deep breath, attempt to restore the balance I just extolled.*

I think instead of worrying what other people are going to do while living their Mormon Feminist Truth, and how it will look, and what it will make people think, I think we should just do our own things, collaborate when we can, and trust that it will all work out.

Here's why my plan is awesome:

1. People who are scared by the more radical stuff will often become more sympathetic to the moderate view-point in response. I can't take absolute credit for this idea, one of those great Mo Fem friends pointed it out to me. Essentially, every movement needs a radical fringe to make the moderate viewpoint sympathetic.

Worried that the "crazy" feminists with their radical demonstrations will make you look bad? They might. But they also might make you look really good and reasonable. Plus, everything that was once radical eventually becomes the new normal. We need the radical "fringe" people to help normalize the "moderate" stuff we are doing now.

I'm not perfect at this. Recently someone suggested a Mormon Feminist-type event that sounded way too crazy for my liking. I wanted to put a stop to it, (Ego, much?) because I thought it would undo all the hard work I and others had done to try and make Mormon Feminists look more normal. (Hello there again, ego.)

Now, I could try and use what absolutely minimal influence I have in the Mormon Feminist world and try and stop it, or I could let those people live their truths and go on and do my thing. (Which, incidentally, involves a whole lot of glorious nothing at the moment.)

2. History tells us that lots of people fighting for the same cause don't always have to agree on the how in order to be successful. You think the suffragists all got along and agreed on how to fight the man?

Wrong.

Suffragists disagreed on a whole crap load of stuff.

The American Woman Suffrage Association, also known as FMH AWSA,  a more "moderate" Suffragist group advocated worked towards's suffrage for Black males first, and pursuing the proper channels state-by-state laws adopting female suffrage.

On the other hand, the National Women's Suffrage Association wanted universal suffrage added as an amendment to the constitution, refusing to support any revelation amendment that gave Black males the priesthood vote, but not women.

Both groups had really valid points, even though they disagreed, and I truly think both viewpoints were necessary in convincing people that suffrage and equality for everyone was really important.

But the saga does not end there! (Historians will note I'm skipping a bunch of stuff, but remember this is a blog, and be grateful this isn't an outfit post or something.)

So some suffragists decided to form All Enlisted the National Woman's Party. They decided to protest in front of the White House and wear pants.  Many other Suffragists groups were upset when the women remained outside the White House after the outbreak of WWI. It was seen as traitorous to protest a sitting President during war-time and could potentially disrupt other members in Sacrament Meeting with their pants.)  Carrie Chapman Catt (a more moderate Suffragist) even wrote Alice Paul of the NWP, begging her to stop protesting during war-time.

You guys should read those letters. They make all the angsty conversations held by Mormon Feminists on Facebook look like small potatoes. Those ladies knew how to bring the guilt when someone disagreed with them.

And hey, Chapman Catt had a really good point. Soldiers were dying in the trenches, and maybe it would not have been a terrible idea to focus solely on the war effort until peace-time. Sometimes you need to show loyalty to an institution when it is hurting, it hopes that someday it will repay your loyalty with equality.

But maybe if we kept waiting for the "best" time and way to fight inequity, I wouldn't be here preparing to cast my ballot for Clinton in 2016 (IT'S GOING TO HAPPEN, OKAY? AND IT WILL BE GLORIOUS.)

There are so many good ways to be a Mormon Feminist. There are also some pretty lousy ways, but trying to police each other just distracts us from the bigger issues, and makes us crazy enough to think that our way is the only way.

We need to learn to be okay with how other people practice their Mormon Feminism. I truly believe the differences in groups and movements are beneficial, not detrimental to the cause. Moderate Suffragists achieved suffrage on a state-by-state basis, a precedent that surely influenced the ratification of the 19th Amendment, offering a template for future amendments like the ERA (someday, guys,) and further advances in women's rights.

They couldn't have done it without each other. So the slow and moderate approach may drive you crazy (I've been there,) and the scary-fast radicalism of others may terrify you (been there too.) But those are just distractions. Take a deep breath. It is going to be okay.


*No one has actually suggested handcuffs, or handcuffing themselves to anything. But it freaks people the crap out when I mention them, and I enjoy that.

18 comments:

TheOneTrueSue said...

I loved this Stephanie.

Ru said...

:)

Holly said...

What I hate--what I really, really HATE--is when people who advocate "going through the proper channels" and being nice and avoiding confrontation defend their position by saying, "Hey, look at Gandhi and MLK! They were non-violent and they got so much done! Therefore, it's completely legitimate for us to be like them!"

Except that non-violent and non-confrontational are totally not the same thing.

MLK and Gandhi were profoundly confrontational. That's what they did: confront the official powers outside of proper channels and declare them immoral and undeserving of the power they had claimed.

MLK and Gandhi did not inflict violence, but they were absolutely prepared to receive it--and they did. They were both, after all, assassinated. You don't get assassinated for being nice. You don't get dogs, clubs and firehoses turned on you for being nice.

This is not to say that people can't be feminists through the proper channels blah blah blah. Sure. Do it that way if you want. Just don't pretend that you're following in the footsteps of the great non-violent leaders of the 20th century. You're not. That would be the women out there staging big enough confrontations that they're risking violence.

(And it's still just shocking that suggesting other women wear pants to church is actually that sort of confrontation.)

Lisa said...

Clinton 2016! Too bad my vote doesn't have the same weight in Utah as it would in a swing state. Doesn't mean I won't be there casting my ballot for her though!

La Yen said...

I LOVE THIS SO MUCH I AM YELLING!

Miranda said...

I love this post and Holly's comment so much I want to marry them. But since that's not between a man and woman, do I have to wait for that to go through the proper channels for that too?

Stephanie said...

@Miranda- wanting to marry my post or Holly's comment will destroy society, the family, and divine and essential gender roles which never change, unless they do, in which case, this conversation never happened.

@ La Yen THANKS YELLING IS FUN

Michelle Gurr said...

Love this! You are amazing! I just taught about the 19th Amendment and all that went into its passage last month :)

Karin said...

As a history teacher, I'm impressed with these parallels. However, I think this analysis doesn't acknowledge a really vital difference between the two issues/movements. The Kingdom of God is not a democracy. If we really keep this in mind, then it ought to change how we go about trying to get things to change. I am grateful that Christ's church is not heavily or immediately influenced by members' movements. Rather, we are led by modern and regular revelation from God. At the same time, I totally believe that President Kimball was prompted by the Civil Rights movement, to pray that the Blacks-and-the-priesthood policy could be changed.

So is our goal to communicate with our leaders that some traditions of our fathers are not so helpful or egalitarian? Or is our goal to picket the Lord's church as if it were a civil organization so that humans will make these decisions instead of God?

Stephanie said...

@Karin: I think God already made the decision. I think God already views men and women as equals, and like all human error, our Heavenly Parents shake their head when we promote unequal practices in their name.

God is just waiting for us to catch up. I support movements that speed up that process.



Kirsten said...

I've been reading your blog for awhile and I just wanted to say thanks. Thanks for blogging. The things you write have always struck a truth chord for me- you articulated for me a lot of the things I had been feeling but didn't quite know how to explain. I appreciate your honesty and courage.

ChristyLove said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ChristyLove said...

I feel like you would really love this blog:

http://volcanicensemble.blogspot.com/

Which has nothing whatsoever to do with your post.

zuniga family said...


I think God see us as equal but we all have different roles in society, the church, in our families. There is a big difference from being equal and being the same. Sometimes I feel that when you express your feelings of equality, you are expressing your desire to be the same as men. The two words may be synonymous but they are not the same.

As far as God waiting for us to "catch up," I am not so sure about that one. God's church has really been the same structure since the time of Adam, with new revelation with each dispensation. So if he wanted things to be done a different way, he probably would have set his church up that way.

I hope this doesn't come across negative or mean because that is not my intention at all. I know it is hard to express tone in writing and things can be misconstrued. While I respect your opinions, I disagree with many of them but I am glad you have found an outlet to help you find the answers you are looking for. Best of luck on your spiritual journey!

Stephanie said...

@ zuniga family

I think your tone was very, very nice and we can of course agree to disagree.

But actually, you are incorrect in the sense that this is always been the way Christ's church was run.

If you read the Joseph Smith papers, women actually had a lot more access to Priesthood power, and the language in the temple was actually much more egalitarian.

There were also Prophetesses and deacons in Christ's church, which is talked about in the New Testament.

A really wonderful (and funny) book on this subject is A Year of Biblical Womanhood, which talks about the role women can have on the church based on the teachings of Christ. (Hint! It's a lot more equal.)

And no, I don't want to be the same as a man. I can flip your argument and say I just want to have equal choices, and not have to make the SAME choices just because I'm a woman.

My gender shouldn't be the only thing that influences how I am treated in my church. It's such a quick dismissal (although I'm sure you did not mean it that way,) to say "Oh, you want equality, you must just want to be the same as a man, or not value your role as a woman."

I love being a woman, and a mom. But I think we should be able to make choices based on our souls, not our anatomy. :)

Mary said...

I just had my 7th grade students do research projects about different human rights issues. Many of the girls chose to focus on women's rights and one brave girl asked if she could do gay rights. My response? Absolutely! They all did a pretty fantastic job. I just thought this would make all the feminist/human beings happy :). It made me happy.

wonderwoman1975 said...

Stephanie, this post and your comments are BRILLIANT.

And, definitely Clinton 2016!!!

Olivia Meikle said...

Loved this. And just wanted to point out that you didn't even need to cross out that the suffragists decided to "wear pants." Because they did. And it was shocking. And some even got arrested for it. So the parallel is even closer than many realize. :)