Sunday, August 15, 2010

Why I'm Not a Mormon Feminist

It has come to my attention that many of my friends from my childhood--all brilliant--have grown up to be the new leaders in the Mormon Feminist movement.

This has left me pondering some over the past few days.  I have never self-identified as a Mormon Feminist--or, indeed, as a feminist at all. While it chafes me that women still get less pay for equal work, and I am deeply offended when rape victims are blamed for the crime, and I can't stand the idea of male supremacy, I also find that the feminist movement has done more damage than the men have to my freedom to be a happy, fulfilled woman. I get more opposition from feminists than I ever do from men. I deeply respect people like Susan B. Anthony and Brigham Young who worked hard and long for respect and equality for women, but I hate that feminists tend to be philosophy-nazis (if you don't toe the party line--our party line--you are evil and to be taken care of and put in your place).

So why am I not a Mormon Feminist when so many of my friends are?

Well, first of all, what I see from the Mormon Feminists is a whole bunch of women who have planted their feet firmly in the world and are trying to force the rest of us to join them in whatever the current social trends tell us is "right." This doesn't sit well with me because I have studied history: current social trends tend to be passing and also tend to be oppressive and ultimately bad for society, regardless of their rhetoric (take, for an example, the Inquisition. Also the Salem Witch Trials. Also the free love, lotsa drugs '60s Hippie Movement.). Personally, I really do believe that there is a God, and that He knows everything, and that He loves me, and that He is talking to prophets who relay HIS message, not their own. Consequently, I believe that his instructions, even if they don't make perfect sense to me, will make me happier ultimately than anything I come up with on my own.  Therefore, trying to change God's instructions to match the current social trends doesn't make sense. I'm all about pushing for change or rejecting things I disagree with in social, political, cultural institutions that are run by people. Seriously. Why else would I homeschool? Why else be so nonconformist as I am? People are stupid and swayed by trend and tradition, and sometimes need to be pushed to change for the better.

But that is the key reason I'm not a Mormon Feminist: Their actions and beliefs indicate they believe the church is run by people. My actions and beliefs indicate I believe the church is run by God. It makes a difference--a significant difference.

There are other things, which really all spring from that one key difference. For example, the Mormon Feminists seem bent on carving out a cultural "Women's Place" in the church that is founded primarily on Wiccan philosophy and approach to womanhood. I personally don't find that necessary. Women HAVE a place in the church--a very important one--but it's not based on celebrating womanhood, but on taking what women are especially good at and serving others. Where the Mormon Feminists want to look at and focus on us as us for our own sakes, the Church asks us to focus on us as us for OTHER'S sakes--other women and families. Personally, I believe more in the latter. It's more unifying, strengthening, and bonding, and ultimately puts women in an even more important position than a Wiccan "goddess nest" would. The MFs believe in making a place for women at the exclusion of others (because they believe that makes us stronger). The Church has a place for women--called Relief Society--that is focused on women's true place in the world: as part of a family and part of our world. A woman's true strength and value cannot be separated from other people--men and children--because life cannot and should not be separated that way.

Everything the Mormon Feminists do and work toward ultimately seems to point to a single goal: Getting women the priesthood. The result of that is their actions subtly devalue the power and authority of the priesthood, replacing ordinances, for example, with rituals that exclude men and celebrate women. It's almost as if they value themselves so little that they're running around saying, "I'm going to prove that I don't need YOU."  When really, that's not how it works. God set it up on purpose that the women need the men--and the men need the women. BOTH are necessary. The MFs have confused the Priesthood with power, when really it is an obligation to service much like motherhood. In fact, the scriptures make it abundantly clear that if a man tries to use the Priesthood to elevate himself or give himself power, he loses it.

I, personally, see the priesthood as God's way of putting men closer to the natural position of women as integral to His plans. Women, by their nature and birthright, are necessary for God's plan to go forward (who else can give bodies to the babies and nurture them? Nobody). In order to not lose the men, they had to have some reason that they were also integral to the plan, so that families would lean in toward relying on each other, instead of apart, with women doing the family thing and men doing the sperm donor, violence, selfishness thing and leaving all the women to run the civilized world. In highly feminist organizations we've been involved in, we've found the men are roundly rejected from a young age as worthless. That thwarts God's plan, which is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of ALL his children--men and women. (And, if you've been to the temple, you'll know that men and women really can't get there without each other. Neither is more important than the other, but our world has a hard time grasping the concept of equally important and still very different.)

I guess that's the thing with the whole women and the Priesthood issue: you can't come at it from the World's point of view, or it doesn't make sense. But if you try to look at from God's point of view (as much as is possible based on the scriptures), it's a whole different issue.

There are other things, too. I keep wanting to tell the women that if, for example, they feel left out of Sunday school, perhaps they should put the work into becoming Sister Scriptorians, as President Kimball begged them to, and then go into the class and Raise Their Hands to make comments, rather than petitioning the church to change things.  Also that if they want things changed, perhaps asking the bishop is less productive than appealing to the Lord, who is the one in charge. If they don't understand something, perhaps they might try what Sister Beck urged them to and get some personal revelation rather than simply rejecting it. God does talk to women, after all. Directly. All the time.

Ultimately, the reason I think I'm not a Mormon Feminist is I've tried living life the way the church suggests, and I've studied the scriptures and words of the prophet, and I've found that it did, indeed, work at making me happy. So why agitate for change? I'm not discontent, and I don't believe in creating discontents just to have something to work for.


Becca B said...

I like you.

A timely post. I've been pondering the last day or so on thinkers and writers who are trying to convince the church to change. Seems like a lot of kicking against the pricks and looking at things inside out. Your thoughts were refreshing to read: someone brilliant looking at things right-side out. (pun intended) A voice of reason in Mormon thinking and writing.

Thank you.

Misty Lynne said...

My husband and I have discussed this topic before and came to basically the same conclusions.

It reminds me of my kids when they see their siblings getting something they don't have. It doesn't matter if they got to be "special" just yesterday with something new just for them. They want whatever their sibling has. Now. Because they don't have the new item, they call it unfair. But when it's their turn to be the special person with something the others don't have, they puff up their little chests like a proud peacock.

Just because someone has something doesn't mean that you need to have it too. You get to be special in your own way. Let them be special too. To each their own.

Anonymous said...

By way of introduction, your husband invited my husband and I to his show in Provo this weekend, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. He mentioned you were an English major, are a homeschooler and keep a blog. Since we had those three things in common (at least), I thought I'd take a gander and introduce myself to you.

Thank you for writing on this topic. I couldn't agree more. We need more wholeness and men and women working together, rather than opposed. To me, it seems women make themselves more "masculine" (but not male) than ever when they fight for dominance instead of embracing the more feminine (but not necessarily female) qualities of nurture and service. I have never felt oppressed or victimized as a Mormon woman. The men in my life have encouraged me to grow and develop to my full potential and have seen beyond my womanhood to my humanity. I realize that this is not every LDS woman's case, but I feel that is how those who remain worthy of their priesthood treat women -- with persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, kindness... without hypocrisy, and without guile. To kick against the pricks will do the women of the church no good.

Relating to this I think you'd like the most recent post at my mother-in-law's blog: It's tenderly written about how essential good fathers (which are often good because they remain worthy of their priesthood) are to the family. The post grew out of her current experience as Relief Society president in a London ward in which the coincidence between that fact that women who have children are provided for by the government and the number of single mothers seems troubling. These women bear their souls to her on a daily basis about the men who have walked in and out of their lives and left them yearning for stability and security. Reading it just confirms to me again how essential it is that we work together, our roles intertwine; we need not fight for authority or dominance.