There are a lot of opinions circling the interwebs about feminism, Mormon feminism, Ordain Women, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. A lot of opinions. What is startling is there seem to be many people expressing opinions as though some things are arguable despite them being more founded in fact or experience. I would like to briefly explain some of things Mormon feminism is not, in order to dispel some of these myths.
1. A Protest
Many people–church representatives included–keep calling the plan for many women to ask permission to participate in the Priesthood Session of General Conference a protest. In fact, these women (members of the church, I might remind you) have been invited to stay off church property and instead stay with all the other protestors in the free-speech zones just outside Temple Square. Talk about feeling rejected from your own fold.
But asking to attend the third session of conference is not a protest. Mormon feminists don’t hate the church, are not against the church. They are not protesting. They are simply asking to hear a prophet’s voice and be in his presence. That is the opposite of a protest and is more in line with Christ’s invitation to “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.”
2. A Volcano of Man Hate
This is one of my least favorite accusations, whether discussing Mormon feminism or feminism at large. Are there some women who hate men? Sure. But that is not the majority. By and large, feminists have meaningful relationships with men and in fact love them. Let it be widely known (please!) that pointing out the problems of patriarchy does not equate to man hate.
This myth is so utterly prevalent it is painfully exasperating. There is a blog post going around written by a Mormon woman who is against certain aspects of Mormon feminism. I salute any woman’s well thought out opinion, but this particular blog post depicts feminists as man haters, ignores science, and doesn’t seem to understand what is really happening. And it has popped up on my Facebook feed so many times!
Feminism is not man hate.
3. A Desire to Trade Places With Men
This is another persistent misconception about feminism. But here’s the thing: Regardless of the various differences in opinion that feminists might have, the one thing we generally agree upon is that we want equality. Equality! We don’t want to “topple” man-power and take the stage as the dominant gender. We would really prefer there not be a dominant gender. We want to be equal partners in all things. Marriages, church leadership, government, media. We want to be equal partners. I can’t emphasize the word “equal” enough.
Equality: the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.
4. A Desire to Be Men
When you look at a group of women who self-identify as women, you will find great diversity in personality and style. Some women will be the epitome of femininity. Some women, not so much. Some women will have short hair, some long. Some women will be engineers, some women teachers, some women poets, some women park rangers. But regardless of the variety in a group of women, you can be pretty sure that we are happy being women. We might recognize some of the disadvantages of living in a patriarchal society as a woman, but we still love being women. We don’t want to be men. We are women and proud to be.
5. Blind to The Challenges Facing Men
Every group of people faces certain challenges. Women–even feminist women–are not blind to the challenges facing men, despite emphasis on working on our own problems. In fact, I have observed that feminists are much more likely to tackle the societal challenges men face than are non-feminists. For example, who frequently promotes that men don’t have to look like the Incredible Hulk in order to be attractive? Feminists. Who will preach the mental and emotional health benefits of actually facing your emotions, even if it means letting loose tears? Feminists. Who doesn’t buy into the false idea that men are uncontrollable violent sex slaves, but instead believes men are whole people capable of a full range of emotions? Feminists.
So, no. My challenge to the patriarchy and desire to be seen as a whole person does not mean I am blind to the separate challenges men face.
6. Inactive Church-haters
This one is LDS specific. Many people view Mormon feminists as women and men who don’t know or understand the Gospel, who are anti-Mormon people just trying to cause a raucous. I suppose it is easier to think people who question the church are anti-Mormon. It makes it easier to dismiss your own questions and dismiss others’ pain.
However, most women who are a part of Ordain Women and/or other Mormon feminist groups are active members of the church. They are return missionaries. They bear their testimonies on Fast Sunday. They teach Sunday School and go Visiting Teaching or Home Teaching (yes, some Mormon Feminists are men). They pray and study scriptures and attend the temple. They are women and men who have pondered and prayed about the status quo of the church and found it doesn’t match up with Christ’s teachings or their understanding of our Heavenly Parents.
Do many Mormon feminists feel confusion and doubt and on occasion leave the church? Yes. But they don’t participate in feminist dialogue as a way to spread anger and hate for the church. They don’t even hate the church. They just don’t feel they have a place in the church, despite President Uchtdorf’s wonderful insistence that, “There is room for you here.”
7. Anti-Motherhood and Stay-At-Home Moms
Here’s a shocker: Many Mormon feminists are stay-at-home moms. Yep. Mormon feminists aren’t against motherhood and don’t look down upon women who have babies or marry young. They might question the mentality that a woman has to stay home (I’m raising my hand on this one) and don’t want women to feel that staying home is their only option, with having babies as their only value. But there is a HUGE difference between wanting to be valued beyond baby-making capabilities and looking down on motherhood. Feminists adhere to the former, not the latter.
And let’s not forget that not all women have children. And let’s also not forget that not all women are married–even if they have kids!–so don’t have the option not to work. I can say from personal experience that I am not damaged because my mom worked outside the home. In fact, I grew up believing what I do with my life is completely my choice and knew how to cook and do my laundry from a young age because my mom–both out of necessity and her own worldview–taught both my brother and me how to take care of ourselves very young. (I have to confess, when I meet people who are my age who still have their mom’s do their laundry I am shocked.)
Mormon feminists aren’t anti-motherhood. But we would love to see the end of putting a woman’s entire value on her mothering capabilities. Even women who desperately want children are not always able to have them. Women need to have their value recognized beyond that of motherhood, despite how amazing motherhood is.
Hopefully this debunking of some myths about Mormon feminists can help a few people understand what Mormon feminists are doing. There is a pretty big chance this post will be followed by an outline of what Mormon feminism is, as opposed to what it isn’t.