Short Lessons on Mormon Feminism
So I liked THIS article on Mormon Feminism in City Weekly and not just because I was quoted in it, or because my friend wrote it. But I have some thoughts on some things, as one does. Here they are:
1. I agree with the premise of Ordain Women. I think the church should move toward full-equality yesterday and I think it is a good thing to ask for female ordination directly.
I also think small victories and gradual changes in thought dynamics should be celebrated, because life is short and celebrate what you can. I think the two strains of activism need and thrive off each other in positive ways. We don't need to create artificial divisions in the Mormon Feminist movement, for instance, suggesting that you either support small, gradual changes OR you only advocate for full and complete equality. Welcome to 2013, you can have both. This is feminism vs. patriarchy, not feminism A versus feminism B. I can say this now because I used to think this way, and I realized it was wrong.
(I'm not suggesting that was what Kate Kelly meant, but it is an argument I hear frequently, and I don't agree with it.)
2. I admire Laurel Thatcher Ulrich immensely. I grew up reading Ulrich, and her works shaped my perspective in many ways. So naturally I was a little put-off by her dismissive response to the current strain of Mormon Feminists:
"I don’t think many of the Mormon feminists I know worry much about what they wear to church on Sunday or even whether women pray in General Conference."
Maybe you need to get to know some more Mormon Feminists, Ms. Ulrich. I run a facebook group of about 800 of them who care very deeply about what they wore to church on December 16th. Their feelings are just as important and valid as yours.
I also refuse to accept that a person who won the Pulitzer Prize doesn't understand the significance of visual imagery (It wasn't about what we wear to church, and everyone, including Ulrich knows it,) or the significance of seeing a woman in a leadership position for the first time in our well-behaved history.
In regards to this quote from the article: "Ulrich knows feminists who are “lawyers, college professors, CEOs, politicians.” These women “raise their voices often and well in local settings where they are usually heard,” she says, adding that they “are too busy trying to make a difference in areas where they have significant responsibility to worry a lot about what is happening in SLC.”
I think it is wonderful that there are female, feminist "lawyers, college professors, CEOs, and politicians" who have avenues in which to express themselves and change the world. But there are also Stay-At-Home Moms and teenagers and college students, and under-employed writers and artists and dreamers who also need to have their voices heard. For those people, Wear Pants to Church Day afforded them the right to express their views in a small and meaningful way. I think it is disrespectful to those men and women to suggest that the only place to be a feminist is the work-force. I also think it is strange that Ulrich wouldn't include church as a place where women "can make a difference."
I also respectfully reject the idea that it is somehow superior not to "worry about" things that seem "beneath you," or which happen in SLC. I believe our Heavenly Father is a feminist. I believe our Heavenly Mother is a feminist. I believe Jesus is a feminist. The same Jesus who counts the hairs on my head and watches sparrows fall worries about what happens in SLC. Small people, and small things, matter. Our Heavenly Family celebrates the victories of both CEOS and young mothers who dressed their baby girl in pants back in December.
There is also something deeply important about having your voice heard at home. I'm a teacher, I have a wonderful career that I value, and where I feel my voice is heard and appreciated. Not just with my students, but with my colleagues as well.
But I wanted to hear my voice heard at home. For all of my life, the LDS chapel has been my spiritual home. It is where I was raised to talk to God. I may move away from home, explore new avenues, and talk to God in numerous other places, but for me, wearing Pants to church was a test of the old adage, "you can never go home again." I wanted to know that if I went to church as my true self, my wandering-hearted, angry feminist self, if God would still hear me. Turns out God was listening.
Which, in the end, means I guess it shouldn't matter (and I will repeat this to myself over and over until I believe it,) if a childhood idol dismisses my actions as less than those of a CEO or politician. It was never about making history anyways.