Saturday, December 24, 2011

Molly Mormon Memory

I'm actually not a huge fan of the vaguely cheesy alliteration here, but it's an appropriate name for what it is (and I'm probably going to turn it into a label for future posts like this). I have very few memories of my childhood, which is kind of frustrating because I often can't even use my own personal experience as evidence of the things I'm talking about--or specific experiences, at least. I mostly have impressions and feelings left over. So when I do have a specific memory, I want to document it.

I remembered this last night, and it made me sad that such a small event stuck in my memory for so long. One Sunday in Primary, when I was probably eleven (nearing my graduation into Young Women), we were singing "A Child's Prayer." I always loved that song, but liked the second verse so much better and was disappointed that the boys always got to sing it when we did the harmony. That day I was feeling frustrated with it, and mentioned to my class that if they wouldn't let the girls have the second verse, I would just sing with the boys. My teacher turned to me and asked why I wanted to be rebellious.

I was really upset by this, because as the oldest child in my family--the one required to set an example--I prided myself on being obedient, mature, and responsible. I was humiliated and hurt that she would think I wanted to be rebellious. It makes me sad now when I realize that this was just the tiniest baby spark of feminism in me--all I wanted was a chance to sing the other verse once in a while, and it never occurred to the leaders to bother switching up the usual roles--and it was interpreted by my teacher as a desire to cause trouble.

Funny how little has changed in the fifteen years since then. Funny how Mormons like to think that feminists are just people who want to cause trouble, who like to stir up controversy and contention. And by funny I obviously mean sad.


  1. When I taught primary and the young women I had many similar moments from an adult perspective when I would hear the things other teachers/leaders would say to the children and youth. I would be horrified, too often silently horrified.
    I think that awakenings, feminist or otherwise, are not a fundamental change in nature, but just an opening up to awareness to who/how we already are. Seems you've been a feminist all along. ;)
    You're right that it's problematic that feminism is seen as 'stirring up controversy', but given the context of a supposedly god-endorsed patriarchal religious institution, it is. I think at least some of the misconception is that most (molly)Mormons associate feminism with second wave feminism. And the famous BKPacker quote doesn't help. Enemies of the church?! Really?!

  2. Why is it that our desires to like and accept ourselves makes us feminists?

    I don't find a need to label myself either way. I am who I am. While I dislike the roles that are forced on young girls - being a mother of all boys has shown me the many roles forced on young men as well. I had a son who announced to me (when he was about 13) that he was "going to stop talking" because he had observed that other guys didn't talk as much as he did. Real men were stoic, silent types. I was stunned at his conscious decision and tried to dissuade him but to no avail. Imagine my relief when 2 years later he announced that he was over that phase and was going to talk as much as he wanted to.

    The danger with "feminism" is that we think we're alone in this battle against gender stereotyping. Perhaps someday we'll evolve into beings who don't need to box each other into roles but until then I think it is important to realize that we all struggle. I have seen the progress we are making as a society and am hopeful for the future because I believe in the goodness of people.

  3. I don't actually like the labeling either, because a word like that is totally up to people's interpretation, and feminism is often (mis)interpreted as man-hating. I have several friends who say that "feminism" should really be called "humanism," and I agree. It's not just about making things better for women, it's about getting rid of gender stereotypes that in many ways hurt men as much as they do women. (Cue your son's story--that breaks my heart. I'm so glad he came out of it okay; so many people don't figure it out the way he did, and grow up feeling like they have to fit into a mold that just doesn't match them.)