Every Mormon Should Be a Feminist
A while ago, I found myself, as I often do, explaining to someone, why I identify with feminism. I told him what feminism is, that at its core, it is allowing women the same rights as men, not forcing sameness, but giving them the option to choose. It is a movement against violence, and oppression, and silence. His response was, “Well, that’s not really feminism. That’s just common sense.”
Perhaps it’s both?
In case you haven’t heard, feminism is not a hate movement against men. It never really was, but of course, everyone latched onto one set of ideas that some people in the movement used to have, and made that an excuse to invalidate one of the most important cultural shifts the world has ever known.
Now, most people are eager to engage in a dialogue with me about what they perceive to be two conflicting ideals: my faith, and my feminism. For me, the two were never contradictory, but in fact complimentary. I am a feminist because I am a Mormon. It’s as simple as that. However, as I’ve pondered it more and more, I’ve come to believe that it’s not just me who should see the world this way. Feminism and Mormonism go hand in hand, and I’d like to tell you why.
I understand that right now there is a stigma within the church with the word feminism. We just went through a rather public trial of dealing with the Ordain Women movement, and most of you probably have a bitter taste in your mouth because of it. While my heart has softened since I last wrote on this, that is a discussion I’m not looking to have here today. I’m asking you to put aside any hurt feelings from that, and listen to why the feminist movement should matter to you, the church, and the world as a whole.
Feminism reflects a more Christlike attitude toward all genders. During His mortal ministry, Christ did not discriminate between men and women. While we read the stories through the eyes of history, and many of His actions may not seem overly noteworthy to us, they are terribly significant. It matters that He gave His time and energy and friendship and respect to women. It matters that some of His greatest sermons were given to women. It matters that He ignored societal standards of association with them. And it matters that He chose a woman first to testify of His resurrection. Christ broke many cultural norms in His time, and His treatment of women as equals should not be forgotten.
There is a quote I’d like to share with you. “There are some men who, in a spirit of arrogance, think they are superior to women. They do not seem to realize that they would not exist but for the mother who gave them birth. When they assert their superiority they demean her. It has been said, ‘Man can not degrade woman without himself falling into degradation; he can not elevate her without at the same time elevating himself’ (Alexander Walker).”
This is not a quote pulled from one of my many books on feminist theory, it’s a quote from Gordon B. Hinkley’s October 2004 General Conference address. (For Non-Mormons reading this, he was our prophet at the time, and this was a talk he gave to the entire church. This means we consider it doctrine.) That entire address discusses the importance of women and their contributions that he knew were so often went diminished and forgotten by the world. Perhaps if a prophet (and there have been others as well) is telling us to move away from the idea that men are superior to women, we ought to be listening. It is necessary for the Church to thrive. Not just the individual family unit, but the church and society as a whole must become more inclusive of women in positions of leadership. As President Hinkley said in another part of that same talk, “Our stature as officers of this Church was not diminished by what [the female General Authorities] did. Our capacities to serve were increased.”
Most importantly, at its most pure core, feminism is fighting to give women back their right to choose. All the violence, all the oppression, all the things we as feminists fight against, take away a woman’s use of agency. They take away her ability to say “No,” to voice what she believes, to be valued as a daughter of God. Do not be so shortsighted to think that feminism is simply about trying to put more women in executive positions. It is about allowing half of God’s children to have their voices and free will back. The entire Plan of Salvation, the core of our faith, is built upon the idea that we were brought to this earth so that we might choose for ourselves. But history has robbed my sisters and me in varying degrees of our choices. History has taught us that a man, in almost all cases, will have more choices of what he can do in his life than a woman.
As a member of the LDS faith, I believe in the doctrine of the War in Heaven (see Revelation 12). I believe that “Satan rebelled against [God], and sought to destroy the agency of man. (Moses 4:3)” I believe that already I fought for my right to choose, and I know I will keep fighting for it. Because it is a gift given to me and to all of us from God, I will not allow it to be robbed from me or anyone else simply because Satan has entrenched his values into the hearts of men.
I’ve won this fight once before, and I intend to win it again.