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?
Suffragists disagreed on a whole crap load of stuff.
The American Woman Suffrage Association, also known as
On the other hand, the National Women's Suffrage Association wanted universal suffrage added as an amendment to the constitution, refusing to support any
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
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.