Hope in Feminist Sisterhood

by mraynes

Cross-posted at the Exponent

I was sitting at my desk in the Smith Institute for LDS History back in the days when it was still at BYU, reading through a newspaper article that one of the professors I worked with had been interviewed for. And I remember feeling so alone. The article was entitled “Where Have All the Mormon Feminists Gone?” and it basically asserted that the Mormon women of my generation had no use for feminism. This was in the days before Feminist Mormon Housewives, back when VOICE at BYU had died a quiet death and a year before its softer re-incarnation, Parity, was born.

But I had a primal need for feminism; feminism was in my blood and in my bones and I felt isolated and assumed that I was alone in my concern for women’s space within a Mormon context. I had professors, both female and male, who nurtured my burgeoning feminism in the academic sphere but there was no one at that time, to gently lead me into the lonely road of being a feminist and a Mormon woman.

If somebody had told me then. that five years later I would be holding my baby girl at an academic Mormon feminist conference, I’m not sure I would have believed them! I, like so many others, thought Mormon feminism was silenced and dead, or at least softer. And maybe this was so for a while but it is certainly not the case anymore.

I have felt the ground shift and have seen the swell of excitement, creativity and thoughtfulness. Patriarchy, beware! We are making history just as Eliza and Emmeline, Laurel, Margaret and Claudia did before us. Mormon feminists are not just passive actors in our theological history, we have been a vital force from the very beginning.

Of course, Mormon feminists today experience a very different church from the one 2nd wavers influenced during the 60’s and 70’s. There is so much distrust and many open wounds still left unhealed. My feminists sisters are also probably less optimistic that things will change. But this new feminist movement has reignited in only five years; think of the change we can accomplish in ten years, twenty!

Being a Mormon feminist is inconvenient and lonely. Other members of the church will think that you are crazy or sinful/prideful/power-hungry/deluded. You will have hard questions left unanswered. You will think really painful things about your community and God. But there is room in Mormon feminism for optimism.

Even if the church does not change or the questions go unanswered, you will always have sisters at your side. They will be there to teach you how to crochet and giggle with you late into the night. They will be there to help carry the burden, to mourn and cry with you. They will be there to walk down the long road with you.

I have posted before how I worry for my daughter’s future as a Mormon woman. But today, I don’t worry because I know that she will have mothers and sisters who will always be at her side. And that is enough.