I’m a Mormon Feminist: one perspective on women’s rights

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Feminism is a hot-button topic, especially for Mormons. In a culture where gender roles are heavily emphasized, some feel uncomfortable with the idea of a member of the Church identifying as a feminist because many feel that the goals of feminism do not necessarily align with Church doctrine or practice.

People protest on the campus of Utah State Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Logan, Utah. Utah's campus gun laws are in the spotlight after feminist speaker Anita Sarkeesian canceled a speech at Utah State University once she learned the school would allow concealed firearms despite an anonymous threat against her. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
People protest on the campus of Utah State Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, in Logan, Utah. Utah’s campus gun laws are in the spotlight after feminist speaker Anita Sarkeesian canceled a speech at Utah State University once she learned the school would allow concealed firearms despite an anonymous threat against her. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

When one identifies as a “feminist,” often one of the first things Mormons think of is the Ordain Women movement. Certainly, some Mormon feminists are also supporters of Ordain Women. For others, however, their identity as a Mormon Feminist has many other levels. On one, it is a person, regardless of gender, who supports equal rights for men and women and also identifies as a Mormon. On another, it is a person who sees the harmful sexism in Church culture that does not align with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and tries to combat it.

It does not mean we do not sustain the prophet and revealed Church doctrine. It does not mean we hate men or seek to elevate women over men. It means we understand that throughout history and all over the world today, women are disempowered, belittled and often the victims of violence, and this is unacceptable. We need feminists because, just as we need specialist doctors who seek to heal a specific area of the body, we need activists who fight against specific ills of society, injustices against women included.

On October 15, Anita Sarkeesian, a Canadian-American feminist, author and media critic, cancelled a presentation at Utah State University after the university received an anonymous email threatening to bomb the student center if she were allowed to speak. Sarkeesian felt unsafe because under Utah’s firearm laws, anyone in attendance could have been carrying a weapon, and she would have been unable to protect herself. It is frustrating and disheartening that women are so often silenced with violent threats because they dare to speak about what they believe in, but contrary to what the anonymous emailer had hoped, this incident gives me more motivation to continue speaking out and fighting against injustice because if we don’t fight for our rights, nobody will.

When I hear that women are on average paid 78 percent of what men are for the same work, that one in six women will be raped in her lifetime, that 1.3 million women are the victims of domestic violence every year, I know the world needs feminism. We need people who fight against the evil of the world, and as a Mormon feminist, this is what I seek to do.

My identity as a Mormon Feminist is not contradictory to my Church membership because I know that God is no respecter of persons. He loves all of his children equally, regardless of gender. I’m a Mormon Feminist “because gender should not dictate destiny and culture should not determine doctrine,” as Mormon feminist Jacqueline wrote in her profile on the group’s website.  I’m a Mormon feminist because though I may not be my sister’s keeper, I am my sister’s sister. I’m a Mormon feminist because I love my Heavenly Father, and frankly, I believe he is a feminist.