Thursday, January 24, 2013

Of Feminism and Mormonism

“Woman is God’s supreme creation. Only after the earth had been formed, after the day had been separated from the night, after the waters had been divided from the land, after vegetation and animal life had been created, and after man had been placed on the earth, was woman created; and only then was the work pronounced complete and good.”
                                                                              ~ President Gordon B. Hinckley

My internet friend posted about this recently, and I'm pilfering her idea. Because all her ideas tend to be quite brilliant. Frankly, you should just skip my ramblings and link over to her blog because her post is about 1,000 times better.

A great brouhaha was recently raised over this issue. Personally, I'm not concerned with what people wear to the worship meetings at my church. I'm concerned that they come. I would hope they come with an eye single to respect. Respect for what is sacred to themselves and God and me or respect for those who worship in that space. As far as I know, this doesn't equate a uniform. As far as I know, dress pants on women haven't been an offensive form of dress for several decades. In truth, I really don't think it matters what you wear to church if your heart and spirit are there to learn and grow to be a better version of yourself. I didn't wear pants on that particular Sunday (skirts, when selected correctly, are far more comfortable in my eyes). I wouldn't think much of any woman who did opt to wear pants that day or any other. Just as I wouldn't really care if a kilt or lavalava was worn by a man.

The issue this was tackling, however, wasn't so much about the subcultural expectations about gender-appropriate apparel as it was about the solidarity of Mormon feminists.  
I am a Mormon. I am also a feminist. These two parts of who I am have never gone to battle against one another. I feel passionate about each. I am proud to be in a sisterhood with so many women who came before me: women who fought and sacrificed for my right to cast a vote, women who believed in their right to work for equal pay and similar promotions as the men in their field. Women who said: I can do that job or that task and the fact that I have a vagina has nothing to do with it! I am grateful that the conversation about women in combat has recently been addressed. I take heart that the majority of Americans have responded well to this equalizing plan. I also know the gospel doctrines as I understand them are true. For me, these are as true and real as the keyboard beneath my fingers. 

Here is where I am vehemently feminist: I think the treatment of the women within a community or country directly correlates with the quality of life and well-being for the people of that community or country. (For instance, with 1 in 5 children living below the poverty line in the United States, I think we can begin to see that the treatment of women in the U.S. is sub-par.) I believe we have an international crisis with the objectification of women. This phenomenon destroys not only individuals, but relationships, families, communities and the ripple effect continues. It is also one of the most socially acceptable forms of exploitation. I am incensed that if you are a woman you are 29% more likely to live in poverty. You are 6 times more likely to be a victim of sexual assault. You will earn only 82% of what a man does. You have a 1 in 4 chance of being sexually harrassed at the work place. Your marital status is always noted (is it Miss or Mrs.?) and if you go by Ms. that must define you even further. And don't get me started on the international treatment of women. And don't tell me I should be grateful it isn't "like that over here" or that "at least [I'm] white". I am a woman, therefore I am in this with every other woman. 

But, lest you think I hate or blame men for this, think again. I am equally incensed that men (especially young minorities) are more likely to be incarcerated, more likely to be the victims of a violent crime, and, while not objectified to the extent women are objectified, are held to standards and stereotypings that are unhealthy, false and just as damaging to their mental/emotional/physical well-being.

I am a feminist. I am not a man-hater. I am a feminist. I am not a militant or extreme activist. I am a feminist. I am not going to stand by and let you make congressional decisions about my reproductive system.  I am a feminist. I am not in the business of saying what is or isn't right for the individual lives and situations of other women. I am a feminist. I believe women are of the utmost value. I am a feminist. I think men are also equally of value and worth. I am a feminist. I fight for maintaining a world in which individuals are valued, respected, and necessary no matter their gender, sex, orientation, creed, color, race, hairstyle, toe quantity, etc.

Now, getting back to my pants or the lack thereof (I just really wanted to write that, indulge me): I support women no matter how they want to practice feminism, or if they don't want to claim the title at all. I chose not to wear pants to church that Sunday because, for me, it would have ultimately been  more of a fight against a subcultural set of strange, tacit wardobe norms that I wanted to challenge. I choose to practice my feminism in different ways. 

And, finally, while some Mormon feminists question it, I, personally, don't believe women need the Priesthood. Personally, I don't see a need to participate in certain decisions made in my church. When used properly and as intended, women are blessed by this faculty held by men. What I said might make some angry or frustrated, it may even make them question my "Feminist" title, it may seem confusing that I would support women's rights so fully, but not that one. Here's the deal: this is my very hashed-over opinion. I feel that I have every right to the blessings of the Priesthood as men. I feel I get those blessings equally. Do I think that, at times, the premise of this power is used improperly? Absolutely. But that is the fault of individuals and an imperfect society, not doctrine, structure or the organization of the Priesthood itself. For me, the perspective my Father in Heaven has of me and my church has of me, the feeling I've experienced in my most spiritual experiencies (whether public or private), can be found embodied in the quote at the top of this blog post. Ultimately, I'm grateful for the blessings of a Priesthood that touches my life just as much as any man's.

Thank you for indulging my need to put this down in writing. It is mostly for the daughters and sons I hope to have one day. I think I'll go take off my bra now. (Because I'm totally pro bra-removal at the end of a long day. I don't thinkt his adds to my feminist ways. I do think it adds to the quality of my evening.)


Jen said...

Love it. So sad I am so far behind on my blog reading that I didn't enjoy this sooner. We are Feminist Soul Sistahs.

Stephanie said...

Thank you for this, friend. It is beautifully stated; amen.