Feminism is simply the belief that women are equally as important as men and should not be told they must or cannot do something based on the fact that they are women. It's a pretty basic concept--and it takes about a two-second examination of most Christian churches to see that it is not part of the program. Once you realize that, you kind of have to question what kind of God really wants women to be forever ruled over by men.
"Dr. Schussler Fiorenza at Harvard says the intention of Jesus was feminist," I said to Sandy one evening.I've seen churches do this, too... Every Sunday of my life growing up. And a lot of times since then, like in this delightful gem from the LDS church's PR guy. If you want to read something that doesn't actually make logic cry out from its grave, try these responses to that article. I haven't listened to the Daughters of Mormonism podcast, but I love all three of the written responses. I think Kristine's--the last link, over the word "article"--might be the most poignant, though Amelia (at the Exponent) and Lynette (at Zelophehad's Daughters) do a fantastic job of showing, point by point, why Michael Otterson sounds like an idiot in that article.
"Mine, too," he said. He's a smart man, my husband.
I believe Sandy's intention was that, derived from a concept he held in his mind of equality and justice. But like me, like so many of us, he lived with an unconscious gap between concept and practice. Most "feminism" doesn't filter down into ways of relating, the way faith is practiced or votes are cast. I've seen churches give honest lip service to women's equality as a concept, while life and worship there go on in the same old patriarchal ways.
--Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 68
Ways "the equality of women" does not filter down in Mormon life:
- Obviously, the priesthood. We are told arbitrarily that men get the priesthood and women do not, despite plenty of scriptural evidence that women had that kind of responsibility in both the Old Testament and New Testament, as well as Joseph Smith's time.
- "Quaint" traditions of sacrament meeting speaking order--youth speakers (often female, then male, although not strictly because who really cares about the youth speakers) followed by adult speakers (female, then male)... and prayer order--woman opening, man closing. Note also that women do not pray in General Conference.
- Similarly "quaint" practices of asking a husband's permission before extending a calling to his wife. (This is not the same as when they ask the wife if she will sustain her husband in his calling, which he has already been offered; this is actually asking permission, and it is done before the woman is even asked if she will accept the calling.)
- Archaic gender roles that are still taught as doctrine, including:
- The constant discouragement of women to work outside the home. I cannot think of one legitimate reason why it matters which parent stays home with the children, and yet Mormons still insist that it must be the mother. If men and women were truly equal, both parents would share equal responsibility for raising the children and providing for the family, and how those duties were split would be up to each individual couple--end of story.
- That in every sphere, women are responsible for home and family while men are responsible for the outside world. Men work, women stay home; women visit other women and give them a spiritual message, while men visit whole families to do the same thing; in General Conference, the female speakers almost exclusively address women and children while the men address everyone.
- That Mormon girls are taught practically from infancy that they are responsible for making sure men are not tempted by them--and, consequently, that Mormon women believe their four-year-olds would be "immodest" in sleeveless dresses. It's fascinating how we manage it, but women are sexualized just as much in LDS culture as they are elsewhere (just from the opposite angle).
- The wonders of chicken patriarchy, which I will discuss further at a later date because it's a topic so ridiculous as to deserve its own post.
- That Mormon girls aren't encouraged to go on missions because the church prefers that they be married before they're 21; that church leaders can't seem to stress enough how much they don't want a lot of sister missionaries; that, when girls do go (two years later than their male peers), their missions are six months shorter, as though to continue emphasizing that they're not the real missionaries; that there is no female leadership on a mission, and all sister missionaries must report every last detail to teenagers who are younger than they are; that male missionaries routinely dismiss female missionaries as "distractions" and wonder what attractive ones are doing there (because obviously it's only the ones who couldn't get married who go).
That last bit is actually cultural, not something taught from the pulpit. But don't worry, we have plenty to go on in that department, too:
- Like the crap about going to BYU for an "MRS" degree, or
- Men taking a stretch break during the talks of the female speakers in General Conference and thinking it's totally justified by the fact that "they just hate the way they talk," as though we listen to the men because we super love the way they sound...
- Or the fact that just about every talk ever in the entire history of the world geared toward women talks constantly about being mothers and daughters (see that blasted Daughters in My Kingdom again), when (1) not all women are mothers, and (2) the men certainly do not refer to themselves as fathers and sons a comparable amount of the time...
- Also in this vein, the fact that out of the 53 talks given to date by the nine current members of the Relief Society, Primary, and Young Women general presidencies, there were only 9 that were given in the main sessions AND were not about women or family (at least three or four of those talks were about virtue, but I decided not to count those since the men speak on virtue quite a bit too)
- The fact that girls have been "discouraged" from joining Girl Scouts, for which I have not been able to find out the justification
- The fact that the Scouting program usually gets exponentially more money than the Young Women program
- And the fact that Young Women activities are geared toward crafts and "homemaking skills," as though making a sugar scrub and getting countless makeovers and listening to guest speakers talk about how to dress for your body type and having "modest" fashion shows and drying flowers are all really essential skills for life (how about fixing a leaky faucet? changing the oil in your car?)
Blech. I could go on. And probably will at some point. But I think this will suffice for now.