As a student at Brigham Young University, I am surrounded by a fairly  conservative bunch. In a Family Theory class a few months back, we were asked to invite professional women who self identified as feminists for a panel discussion. (Discussion of the panel can be found here and here) During this panel, Courtney Kendrick  asked if feminist was a bad word on campus. A few nervous laughs, but otherwise awkward silence as the class all realized that it probably was a ‘bad word’ in their minds and in the minds of their peers.

After this panel, I was thinking and talking to my husband and we realized that the term feminist scares people because of the historical connotations and images people have in their minds. In nearly every conversation about feminism, I feel that a definition needs to be given. Everyone has their own ‘brand’ of feminism. When pressed on the issue, most people identify with ideas that are feminist at heart. Equal pay. Access to education. Etc. These are strictly feminist. What people are imagining  are these man-hating, bra-burning, demanding women. This isn’t the picture for every feminist, or even the majority.

What is my brand of feminism? I’m not sure yet. I suppose that a lot of it isn’t vying for major reforms in society. Maybe I am a feminist on the issues that don’t have a solid backing. When someone asks, “Why can’t/isn’t a woman do this instead/as well?” and the answer is “They just never have”, I have more of a problem. Excluding/diminishing women because it is the tradition doesn’t sit right with me. If there is a reason, that is fine and I accept that. I just like to know the answers. I need to hammer out what exactly I think, but I think that will come with time.

Are you a feminist? What does your ‘brand’ look like?


8 responses to “Feminist

  1. Hey Jamie, Just coming over from MomComm, and it looks like I landed in a good spot. I’m a feminist, without question. So is my husband. It always makes me sad when I hear that people think of the word negatively because the meaning, for me anyway, is completely positive. It’s just all about women having the same rights and opportunities as men (and vice versa), not just here but all over the world. I’m frankly shocked when I hear a person say they aren’t a feminist.

    BTW, you might want to check out my pal, Kelly O’Sullivan. She writes about all this stuff and is fantastic. http://kmosullivan.com

  2. Isn’t it interesting how worked up people can get if you imply that they are feminists? I’m still growing into my identity as feminist, so I haven’t really looked into much worldwide. In some ways, the worldwide perspective overwhelms me, so I am starting smaller with my school and community. I was really lucky to find a husband who is certainly a feminist. He writes about it (and lots of other things) at experimentalcriticism.com, and I highly recommend it. (Not just because I’m married to him) I will have to go check out Kelly O’Sullivan.

  3. You’re definitely correct that there are many degrees (or brands) of feminism. Equal pay, access to education, these are supported by the Church. We have to be careful though. Feminism can lead some towards Apostasy. A personal definition is important because it can include what our church supports, or it can go further to include radical nonLDS beliefs, such as women holding the priesthood.

    J. Max Wilson has written some very interesting thoughts about this and the recent progression of Mormon feminism:
    “Over the last few years we’ve seen that Feminist Mormon Activists have encouraged a kind of civil disobedience to the prophets and apostles….
    “They’ve organized protests for women to break LDS cultural norms during worship services by wearing pants to church and run media campaigns and petitions to pressure the church to allow women to give prayers in the LDS Church’s General Conference….
    And they have blatantly misrepresented facts in order to stir up outrage at church leaders.”

    And now they call for women to receive the priesthood! How alarming is that?!

    LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said, “It is the doctrine of the Church that men and women are equal. The Church follows the pattern of the Savior when it comes to priesthood ordination.”

    Good grief, how tainted by the “philosophies of men” have some women become! You want change? Change yourself to fit the patterns and standards and commandments of God, Our Eternal Father. Soon these same “feminists” will be supporting Gay Marriage, which our prophet and Church has told us not to support. Either you’re on the Lord’s side or you’re not. Let the sifting begin!

    (I hope this was not offensive or too harsh and apologize if it was not tactful enough.)

  4. Dear Jill – If I may – I would like to comment on your response to the blog post above. Blind obedience just leads to more blind people.
    There are a variety of feminists in the church and I would say that 98% of them are working to make the lives of their daughters, families, friends and community better. They are looking for more acceptance of differences and less judging without knowing motivation. They want women valued as individuals for more than their bodies and not seen only as current or future wives, mothers or lesser beings who are nothing without a man to lead and guide them. They want women’s opinions to count in the church – to be included in the decisions about the organizations that they run.
    One mistake that people frequently make is that the LDS church is the Lord’s gospel. They are not one and the same. The church is full of man’s cultural norms and personalized interpretations of the gospel depending on the office in the church and the person called to that office. Many of the cultural norms in the church such as wearing pants on Sunday is a cultural thing – no scriptural description of what to wear to church can be found. And often pants are more modest that dresses.
    From the time I was able to process decision making I have been taught to question, question, question. Of course I was raised away from Utah – in the mission field people were encouraged to question and then pray for an answer. How could we find the truth otherwise? You had to develop your own testimony of the gospel. We were never encouraged to follow blindly.
    Nor were we told that maintaining the cultural norms was more important that the lessons of the gospel. Rather that the gospel is true – the leadership is prone to human frailty.
    I hope you find your inner feminist – that you will become an outspoken advocate for your daughters in particular – for a church that thinks they are worthy of activities that build critical thinking skills, looks at education as a stepping stone to their future rather than an end goal, that provides positive options where family and work are concerned, that they are judged by their character rather than outward appearance, that invests as much time and money on their growth as they do the young men.

    • Auntie V, wonderful response. I agree with most, if not all of what you said. I, too, agree that we must not follow blind obedience. But we must also not “look forward to future revelation”….but I understand that’s not what you’re saying.

      I was raised in a devout Mormon home in Texas where I also had to fight hard to stand up for my beliefs. There are a lot of Baptists down there 😉 Maybe because my parents raised me to believe that I can do whatever I want – become a doctor, become a mom of 20 kids, work full time, work part-time, be a stay at home mom, whatever… I feel like I don’t see Mormon women as oppressed. I think women have a lot of leadership, and I think it’s wonderful to have sister missionaries are going out at 19 and having more leadership. My sister is one of those 19 year old missionaries, and I’ll admit I’m a little jealous that the policy didn’t come out sooner so I could serve a mission before I got married.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is I understand where you’re coming from, but I do worry when people use the term “feminist” because it has such a broad spectrum of meaning. I think we just need to be careful.

      Thank you for your thoughts–This was a wonderful discussion 🙂

  5. Jill, I think you mean “the philosophies of women.” 😀

  6. Pingback: I am a Mormon Feminist | experimentalcriticism

  7. Pingback: I am a Mormon Feminist | Experimental Criticism

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