LDS Feminism: My Take

March 19, 2013

I love being a woman. I love that I get to wake up every day with so many things to think about and so many topics to talk about. I love that I find enjoyment in dressing nicely and harmonizing with the radio and being sensitive to little things. Being a woman is kind of like being a pair of eyes, endlessly seeing and wondering and taking in and reacting.

Perceiving the world the way I do, it’s really sad for me to see how hostile society is towards women, who I would claim are a bit more sensitive to its pokes and prods. Sexism is still very real — I have a professor who consistently jokes about how he hates going home and being obligated to talk to his wife. There are Facebook pages devoted to posting lewd pictures of girls simply to get a social reaction, and the reactions are terrifyingly disgusting. Women are objectified and criticized harshly every single day for the way they look instead of being noted for how they think or how they feel. More recently, in the case of the Steubenville rape video that was put online, showing high school boys raping a completely blacked out minor, sex crimes against women are treated as if they happen every day and the women are solely to blame. I sat through tears watching a video of one of the boys bragging about “how hard he raped that girl” and being unable to control his laughter. Sickened isn’t a strong enough verb to describe what watching that did to me.

Being a girl is great, but being a girl is difficult, too. Societal failures aside, I believe certain groups of society also make it harder than it has to be. In this blog, I want to address (sensitively) one group that rests within the boundaries of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. That group is LDS feminists.

I need to make it clear right from the start that I do not consider myself a mainstream LDS feminist at all. Not in the write-letters-to-the-apostle-you-currently-disagree-with, Priesthood hungry sense of the phrase. I believe that there are two distinct forms of feminism within the church, both of which I will address here. I belong to one, but don’t be mistaken in thinking that that one is the more liberal one. The more liberal group proactively seeks to give women authority and title. My group celebrates how neat it is to be a woman. The main point of this post is to make that incredibly clear, especially because I’ve gotten a lot of passive-aggressive flack and some confusion about what I think over Facebook.

LDS feminism hasn’t exactly sat right with me in past months, mainly because I’ve read many things that self-proclaimed Mormon feminists write online. There are magazines and circles devoted to LDS feminists who claim affiliation to the church, but do not believe that church leadership has the proper authority or that the church functions the way God intended. I found one of these magazines (whose name I won’t grace with a mention) that devastated me. Every month someone discusses the visiting teaching message there, and every month that message is reviewed like a sub-par novel with comments such as “this could have been worded better” or “this makes women sound inferior.” Every week, someone else is demanding that a letter be sent to Boyd K. Packer because of how “antagonistic” he is towards women in the church. Every week someone else angrily writes about how they saw their husbands blessing their children and couldn’t do anything to help because of how unfair church authority is bestowed. Bitter and despairing, that’s the tone I get from it.

Written neatly beneath the contact policy heading is the bullet:

Try to stick with your personal experiences, ideas, and interpretations. This is not the place to question another’s personal righteousness, to call people to repentance, or to disrespectfully refute people’s personal religious beliefs.

This rule is written because of a common phrase that fellow Mormons like to post in the magazine forums: This is borderline apostatizing. Ironically, its one personal interpretation that is not tolerated on the blog, and if we’re going to be completely technical, calling out an apostle for being sexist and having beliefs inconsistent to what you feel the church’s beliefs as a whole should be is also breaking this rule. 

Magazines like these disappoint me greatly, because I feel like the issues of mainstream Mormon feminism are not expressed in the manner which they should be, if they even deserve to be mentioned. The following are a few recent and common issues LDS feminists have and how I feel about them:

_“Women should be allowed to have the Priesthood.” _
Without speaking for the church or having any authority to speak for the church, I feel in my heart that women do have the Priesthood, innately, in fact. We just don’t recognize it. When the announcement that women could serve at 19 was made in General Conference last year, it pleasantly surprised and baffled me that so many girls dropped everything to serve. I have heard very little reactions to the announcement that boys could serve at 18, and I wondered why that was. Why are these girls so driven and motivated and excited to serve and why don’t the younger boys seem as enthusiastic about it? The conclusion that I personally came to is that Priesthood is the ultimatemotivator, and living worthy of it drives your actions. The boys who are most excited to serve are the boys that honor their Priesthood, or at least understand the importance of it. Implied here is that Priesthood motivates the girls as well. Point one.

Point two: the Priesthood makes men tender. If men didn’t have the Priesthood, they wouldn’t be able to bring comfort and service through giving blessings, they wouldn’t be able to sympathize as well or have any authority to care for members as bishops or leaders, and they wouldn’t have that responsibility that makes them act more Christlike. Think about your mother. Does she bring comfort and service to you? Does she sympathize and care for you? Does she act responsibly, Christlike? She should, and if she does, it is further evidence to me that she doesn’t need the written authority of the Priesthood to give her power.

Point three: if women had the Priesthood, men would have nothing to do. I mean, let’s be honest here. I work, I go to school, I recently had three callings and weekly meetings, and I still often feel the need to do more. I do not delegate well because I feel like I can handle everything. I’ve got this I’ve got this mentality. If every single woman shares that mentality, and most do, there would be no responsibility for men within the church at all. Period. End of story. Bam. Ironically, the Priesthood may be less of a gift for the privileged and more of a delegation so that women don’t have to shoulder the burden of doing everything. Because we would, if given the chance. As Beyonce once said, “WHO RUN THE WORLD?” Girls.

_“Wear pants in church this Sunday to assert your freedom as a woman.” _
I’m really kicking a dead horse by bringing this up again, but it’s been brought up recently, and I just want to clarify what my position is about the whole thing. Wear Pants to Church Day was well-intended. I can only say that weeks after the fact. Did I think it was necessary and that it fostered unity within the church? Absolutely not. Did I think it was educational? Incredibly. Outside of Utah, women wearing pants to church is seriously no big deal. Not at all. So why was it such a big deal here? Why have an event for it? Well . . . judging by the response from members, I know exactly why: Wear Pants to Church Day was likely more of a social experiment conducted within the judgmental Utah bubble than an effort to make women feel equal. Let’s be honest.

Do I think women should wear pants to church? I frankly could care less. Do I think making it an issue is important? Absolutely not. That’s about as much as I will say for now.

The next bullet I’m providing confronts, not feminists, but women in the church who are so against LDS feminism that any celebration of womanhood seems taboo. Here’s what I’ve been hearing recently, like, yesterday and the day before:

_“If you supported that movement urging that women say the prayers in General Conference, you need to rethink your priorities.” _
Okay. Before I go all honey badger about this, a distinction must be made between supporting the prayer movement and thinking it’s cool. Started by the same feminists who began Wear Pants to Church Day, the Let Women Pray in Conference event garnered a fair amount of attention, not as much, but a fair amount. It was conducted respectfully and conservatively, without the intention to offend. And I guess you could say that they succeeded, because the Salt Lake Tribune confirmed that it is happening. Okay, cool. Now, here’s where I take issue. Women are saying prayers in General Conference this year for THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY. The first time! Like, in 183 years! You don’t have to be a freaking pants-wearing Mormon feminist to find that cool. Seriously, it’s freaking cool! A couple of people have assumed that because I think it’s neat, I support mainstream Mormon feminism and take issue with the fact that women haven’t said the prayers in Conference before. Not true. At all. To me, this is not a “victory over patriarchal oppression” or whatever. It’s just super duper AWESOME.

Are we so cautious about appearing feminist that we can’t celebrate the things women do that are cool? Because being a woman and not celebrating it is just as bad to me as being a woman and feeling like the world owes you something because of it.

Just be a girl, celebrate being a girl, and don’t take issue with the church because you are a girl. Unless you’re a boy. Then don’t do any of that stuff. 🙂

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