All In Favor, Please Manifest It

Posted by on July 31, 2012 in feminism, Gender roles, guest post | 27 comments

I’ve heard that phrase about a million times in my life. Every time someone is called to any position of leadership, teaching, or service in the church, the masses affected who are present to do so will participate in a sustaining vote. It’s an important ritual, though many do not think about its impact and many eyes are glazed over with boredom or apathy as they raise their right arms.

Why is it important to ask for this vote? It’s a way to demonstrate support, acknowledgement and agreement. A large body of people meets together and recognizes the importance of individuals in their purpose for existence. It prevents power-grabs, it helps defend against mutiny or erosion of motivation or purpose. A vote can unite, can create rational discourse where angry disagreement might have flared.

Sometimes, there are movements that have no recognized leadership. There are those women whose voices have been heard the loudest; there are those women whose resources and life situations have allowed them more space on the stage; there are those women whose brilliance is impossible to ignore. Are these fiery stars the only ones capable of leadership? Does their brilliance grant them an inherent authority? Should it? Should a movement be organized when it has so many organic limbs doing different things that are almost opposite in means, though common in goal?

These are difficult questions to answer. Maybe if the Mormon feminist movement had a recognized leadership, that leadership could carry the weight of thousands of voices with them to heavily entrenched patriarchy.

Imagine: a council of women (and men, even) elected by feminists both male and female who trust them to carry their pain and needs and ideals to those who have the power to change things.

Imagine: regular calls for the everywoman and the everyman and the everyfeminist to submit ideas and stories to this elected council so they know for certain who they represent.

Imagine: the elected feminist council taking the time to hear every idea or story and giving it weight (unlike some large organizations we all know so well).

Imagine: no more housewives reading blogs and wishing they could share their own stories, make their own connections, but feeling too intimidated or ashamed to do so.

Imagine: no more silenced voices, no more empty chairs.

(This is a guest post submitted by Genevieve:  Genevieve is mom and wife and student and sometimes basket case. She would like to write more if she can break her addiction to old episodes of Crossing Jordan and new episodes of Warehouse 13.)

photo credit: http://bit.ly/Q9Glt0

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27 Comments

  1. I think no active Mormon would be willing to assume leadership of the feminist movement for a couple of reasons: 1) It’s a bit arrogant to put oneself in that position. 2) Leaders of the council you describe would automatically make themselves targets of the traditional leadership.

  2. Imagine: a council of women (and men, even) elected by feminists both male and female who trust them to carry their pain and needs and ideals to those who have the power to change things.

    My question, why does it have to be a council of women/ men elected by feminist. Why can’t it just be a group of people who are elected by people who share the same ideals?

    I’m quite sure that if it were just elected by feminist, they would leave people out who did not meet their ideals and that is why I’m asking, why do they need to be feminist.

    I know what it is like not to support or sustain leadership, I’ve done it. I refused to support my leadership in my branch and was met with outright disdain(even though I had legitimate reasons for doing so) I don’t know if that makes me a feminist. I don’t think of myself as one. I just know what is right and wrong, and I know what gets stuck in my throat. And its what gets stuck in my throat that makes me want to scream. And it seems that when I make it known people don’t really want to hear it. So, why should anyone want to make themselves a willing target for those who refuse to stand up for themselves? Because its’ the right thing to do, and in the end, I still don’t regret not sustaining my leadership and causing a BruhaHa when necessary. In fact, its a good thing, and if it labels me a trouble maker, a whiner, I don’t care because I’m a lot of things, but, what I’m not is any one’s push over

  3. I’ve read this post a few times now and there is something about it that really just bothers me. So, I’m just going to come out and say it, if I offend anyone I’m sorry, but, I’m bothered by the message that feminist both female and male are some how going to be better listeners and more open minded than the most recalcitrant, truculent, True Believing Mormon man, or female.

    I don’t believe that to be the case, I read and participated on a number of threads on FMH, and the fact of the matter is,even when you, or I do agree with a particular point, there are some who will go on to tell you that it doesn’t matter that you agree, because you need to think about a particular subject in an X,Y, Z matter. And then when you tell them you don’t have to let’s let the name calling calling begin.

    therefore, my belief in this matter at least, is that even the most ardent of Feminist, can and often do have the same traits that the most recalcitrant, truculent, of Male patriarchy.

    I’m not sure that it would truly help those that really need to have the voice herd, specifically when the stronger ones will object to what’s being said, even if its factual for the person saying it.

    • I’m not sure that the implication is that feminists are more open-minded or less judgmental then others. It is about the fact that because of their beliefs or experience, feminists are more aware of certain problems. Feminists can speak to a certain important experience that many church leaders are likely unfamiliar with. I read this as saying that feminists have something important to say that might improve the lives of church members and make the church a more accepting place because it would open it up to experiences and people that it is currently closed to. It’s not that feminists are better people, simply that we have something to say and a hope to improve the world by making it safer and better by ending the damage done by misogyny.

      • Defy

        I agree with you to a point, but, “Why are feminist, the only ones with something to say?” Why are they(feminist) the only ones who are capable of explaining the damaging effects of misogyny and patriarchy?

        Wouldn’t any academic who is not necessarily a Mofem be able and capable of making the same argument?

      • No one said feminists are the only ones who can do it. But since this is a Mormons feminist blog, it seems that Genevieve is examining what Mormons feminists as a group could do to move beyond blogging and preaching to the choir. And since this is a feminist blog, it makes sense to talk about feminists rather then other groups.

        This in my mind is a valid idea for any group of people oppressed by a system that wishes to speak to an organization that is part of the oppressive system. It is focused on feminism in this post due to the theme of this blog.

      • And since we are talking about speaking to the church leadership, it seems they would be more likely to listen to members of their church rather then outside voices. Any number of people can point things out to the church; the question is, who will they listen to? If it comes from multiple groups, inside and out, it seems more likely they might teak it seriously.

  4. In theory it sounds intriguing.

    In practice it probably wouldn’t after a while simply because many large non-profit organizations focused on policy or social change that have an elected council generally eventually morph into an organization that has

    an elected council that has at least a few members with personal agendas and egos that get in the way and divergent opinions as to which of the council members this description applies to

    a general body that is diverse enough that it is not possible to create a single mandate (Mormon feminism and its proponents are by no means a homogeneous group in terms of their dreams and agendas)

    division between elected council members as to what the varied and multiple-sided mandate received from this diverse body should be

    dissaffection by general members who feel that after stating their stories and cases the council has either 1) failed to acknowledge them, 2) failed to incorporate them into their work or 3) completely ignored them or acted in opposition to them by heeding other voices in the general body

    not to mention bureaucratic red tape if council members and their assistants are paid and slow progress if council members and their assistants are unpaid and are trying to do the work in addition to everything else in their lives.

    It is nice to dream about an organization that would hear one’s personal story and turn it into a powerful mechanism for change, but actually one has to understand that such an organization may just as likely decide that any of the stories they hear, including your story and the needs it outlines are one of the ones they choose not to incorporate, or worse, choose to incorporate in a way that angers you and that you feel thwarts your cause.

    My experience is that an elected council method of moving forward a social agenda is less effective than education and groundswell with a few greatly respected, morally sound, and dedicated charismatic leaders who respond to a sense of divine calling, whatever that divine form may be. And I think and hope that we are already in the process of watching that unfold.

    It’s good.

  5. Genevieve, I love this. I love the idea of bringing everyone’s stories and experiences to light and trying to create a space. And since the church is so into organization and committees, etc., forming one might be a good way to do it. The church seems to be aware that they are losing people and wanting to stop that. They might be open to a group that can say “Here are a few reasons why you are losing people.”

  6. So excited to see your guest post, Genevieve!

    I think you bring up some salient and provocative ideals here. One of the things I like about Mormon feminism is that it is decentralized with a variety of individuals and groups pursuing their own agendas while conversing with each other. I’d hate to loose that with a council that claimed to speak for every MoFem, but perhaps I’m not imagining it very well.

    I do think you bring up a very important point that we don’t really address in this community…how do we bring “everywoman” into the conversation? Many with a prominent voice have that because of their privilege, i.e. we have the time to spend on MoFem issues because our lives are relatively comfortable. But, how do we reach more women and men? How do we include them and seek out and elevate new talent and new voices? I hope we’ll get to hear more from you on this.

  7. I tend to agree with Diane. What we need is for our leaders be held accountable for the choices they make that affect others, yes, but a council of feminists might not be the route. In order to meet the needs of all the members, we need more than just feminists. We need
    Individualists. My husband and I have long talks on the injustices of the world, and he feels that with all the limitations put in women in the church, there are so many instances where men are overlooked, discarded, overloaded, and victimized. To meet the needs of all the members, feminism is too narrow a scope. The needs of all individuals need trio be addressed

    • So because feminists can’t fix it all, does that mean that we should just not try until we can fix everything? I don’t understand that mentality; yes, feminists will not fix all the problems church members experience. They will not fix everything that needs to be fixed for everyone to feel loved and accepted and have their needs met. But why does that mean that what feminist can do should not be attempted? Feminists can make positive changes; they can make a more open, accepting space. Why is that not worth something because it can’t fix the whole problem?

      • defy,

        I don’t believe CG is saying that, I think what he/she is saying, is what I’m saying and that I don’t believe that Mo Fems are the only ones with something worthy to listen to about change. Do they have a voice, yes, absolutely, but, they are not the only voice worthy of listening too.

        And yes, you are correct in that Church leaders probably wouldn’t listen to an outsider, but, when I said academic earlier, I speaking as an academic who might not be a Mormon Feminist. (I’m sure there are many academics, professional woman in the church who do not fit Mo fem ideals.

        So, why can’t any of these women speak, why does it even need to be a feminist or an academic, but, someone(male/female) who has a cool, calm, logical way of reaching across bridges that can bring about both effective and affective change for everyone?

      • Why is this post saying that can’t happen? I do not see claims that Mormon feminists are the only ones with something to say or the only ones who can say it; that is being assumed in the comments and I don’t know why. Just because others have something to say, or even similar things to say as Mormon feminists, does that men we should not be saying it just because other can say the same thing?

        Again, since this is a Mormons feminist blog, so the author is speaking to that audience with hope that we can do more then talk to each other. So yes, Mormon feminists are being addressed, but the post does not say we are the only ones who can do it or the only ones who should be doing it. But that seems to be how some are reading this piece, which I don’t understand.

      • Defy
        I know and fully understand and respect that this is a Feminist Blog,(therefore, I also understand the direction, that the OP wanted to take this post) However, I think the disconnect that is coming across is because Some, at least I am saying is that Mo-Feminist(because they are fallible beings) are going to leave a groups of people out of the discourse because they don’t fit the normal parameters of what feminist perceive to be important issues, and that would be equally unfortunate.

      • I’m interested in who you think Mormon feminists are… The Mormon feminists I know are open-minded people who want to and try to be inclusive of everyone. By nature groups leave other people out. Does that mean they don’t try to do the work that is important to them? And do you think Mormon feminists are more likely to leave certain people out then any other group?

  8. I am really tired of the argument that feminists are being exclusionary because they think they will do the best job including women and minority groups in major conversations. And I’m not going to sit back and say “yeah, that’s presumptuous for feminists to think that they are better than the general population at being fair and just with regard to equality”. Of course feminists are better at it!!! That’s what they DO. It’s in the definition, people!

    So yes. Feminists are better-equipped to have these kinds of conversations. They would make sure that women have a voice in the face of patriarchy. They would get the messy work done of rooting out inequality and sexism in a sexist structure.

    I think what these comments above are referring to aren’t being clear enough. If you are uncomfortable with calling yourself a “feminist” then I’m sure that it would rankle to hear that the author thinks feminists would do the best job.

    But your discomfort with the term “feminist” does not make the literal definition of a feminism change. Feminism is: “The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” If you are reacting to the loaded nature of the conversation around feminism, then that is understandable, but ultimately your responsibility to work out on a personal level. The definition of feminism still remains, unchanged. And yes, I believe that feminists would be the best people for the job that the author posits.

    • If this was the definition of feminism, then all of the women with whom I worked on the anti-ERA effort would be feminists. I care deeply about women’s equality. I just don’t think that feminism or the ERA are the way to get there.

      I am not “uncomfortable” calling myself a feminist. I simply don’t agree with the loudest voices in the feminist movement today. And no, I don’t think that feminists would be more likely to do a good job than anyone else. They are no less human than any other people, and have their own agenda.

      Why should I trust feminists to “get the job” done when many of them haven’t been supportive of women who don’t fit their mold? And I’m not just a brainwashed Mormon sheepie who thinks this, many other respected non-LDS have criticized feminism for lack of support of homemaking and motherhood including Ann Crittenden in THE PRICE OF MOTHERHOOD and Shannon Hayes’ RADICAL HOMEMAKING.

      I suspect there are a lot of women in the middle who are very supportive of women and women’s causes. For example,although I am not a feminist, if I need a service, I always seek out a woman first. It turned out that the only female orthodontist in town was a self-absorbed rich girl who was not a good role model for my daughters, but I always try a woman first whether it is a car salesman, health provider, insurance agent or whatever. And since I control most of the consumer dollars in our household, that is power.

      I am also active in women’s groups that are not feminist groups. Feminists aren’t the only ones who care about domestic violence, access to contraception, and a host of other women’s issues.

      This makes it sound like you are ascribing all kinds of good attributes to feminists and ignoring the reality that many of them are intolerant of women who have large families or priorities other than paid work.

      • I think that many of the women on this site are doing their best to demonstrate that feminism and motherhood do not have to be mutually exclusive.

        And that homemaking doesn’t revoke your Feminist Card.

        To demonstrate that many feminists are not what you describe above. And that they can accomplish great things if they speak up.

        I don’t think that any of those efforts paints women who don’t identify as feminists as unwelcome in the cause/conversation.

  9. I think what “rankles’ me is that Feminist would only make sure certain woman’s voices are herd.

    I believe that’s my point exactly, so, like it not like it, I don’t care, but, they can and by your own definition be exclusionary and not really want to embrace or acknowledge that they are doing it, any more than the patriarchy of the church wants to admit they are indeed are excluding anyone.

    The fact of the matter is, for me at least, Feminist, Don’t always advocate equally, for everyone, they only advocate, for a chosen few, who believe as fiercely as they do.

    And that is just not right

    • This has not been my experience with feminism and I”m sorry it has been yours. I believe that if a feminist group went to the church and asked for things to change, they would be trying to improve the lives of all members of any gender. Yes, there are feminists who are exclusionary as you say. That is true for any group of people. Again, does that mean we just throw any attempt to make changes out the window because no one is perfect? I get that you want everyone to be included; as do I. But I also choose to act, even if that action will not fix everything and may not be perfect because I believe it is better to act then to not because it will not be perfect.

  10. I just want to say here that my intent is not to fix every problem in the church for every person. Previous comments are correct in the assumption that I was only trying to start a discussion on how to move on from what seems to be very slow education and preaching to the choir. I don’t believe that the leaders of such a council would be targeted–I am comfortable with both subversive action as well as working WITH the church leaders to try and find a transition that would work for everyone. The fact is, though there are many members of the church who are quite content with the status quo, there is harm and abuse going on. Things DO need to change. This church was never meant to be like this. Joseph Smith and Eliza R. Snow would roll over in their graves.
    Every organization has its problems. Could we try to aim higher? Yes, I think we can. Or we can sit around and wait for our shining stars to save us and the church membership while we complain to each other about how much everything sucks. My idea of an elected council is just one idea–I’m sure there are others out there and I hope everyone speaks up. There is more room than ever before to ask for change, to protest inequality, to speak out–without significant backlash. Are we using that room? Or are we wasting it?

  11. Genevieve,

    I agree with you. I’m not quite sure where the defeatist attitudes are coming from. In a way, I feel like we do have unofficial leaders. Joanna Brookes certainly comes to mind. And though I don’t agree with everything she says I agree with most of it and I would love to have church leadership hear it. I feel an organized movement is the next logical step. We have been here, voicing our discontent for years now and I also feel like it’s time for the next step.

    I’m with you.

  12. I am of mixed opinion on this one. On one hand, someone who is in a position of power who understand what I feel and think really appeals to me because, for me, the hardest part about being a feminist-minded person in the church isn’t the lack of discussion/acknowledgement of the feminine divine or not having the priesthood, it’s feeling like I have no voice in anything that happens and that my experience doesn’t matter. I really think that some kind of feminist spokesperson could help me, personally, feel empowered.

    On the other hand, we are a very mixed and varied group and I don’t know that we could all agree on what values and ideas we would want represented by a leader. Some of us are far more traditional and some of us are pretty radical. I wouldn’t want those of us who are more traditional to feel completely alienated. Personally, it sucks to feel to conservative for feminist blogs and too feminist for church. And, like others, I also worry that the personal agendas of feminist leaders could become problematic.

    So yes and no. I would probably support whom or whatever was put in place, but I have reservations. I had great hopes for LDS WAVE and I felt like it didn’t really go anywhere.

    • I agree with you.

      I have finely been able to put into words why I’m uncomfortable with this and it doesn’t really have to do with the label of Feminist,(thanks to an article on Joanna Brooks website).
      Joanna Brooks recently posted an article entitled,” Mormon men brawl, while Mormon woman talk gender equality.” I say, no, after participating on a a few blogs on “FMH” its’ quite clear Mormon woman brawl as well.

      Women who are moderate in there political persuasion (me being one of them) who participate on the blog get slammed because we are not progressive enough. Even if we agree with the basic premise of what the OP writer is saying its’ not enough, because we get schooled on how it is that we are to think about a particular issue, and if we disagree(well let’s let the name calling begin) then our tone, and tenor of the conversation gets called into question, and eventually we get banned from the site. Really, feminism listens and advocates for everyone. It really hasn’t been my experience, at least not on FMH, they may, or may not have the largest online community, but, they would have a lot more if they stop banning people who disagree with them.

      So, If an ardent feminist wants to say, hey we are better listeners and would include and speak for everyone, no, they won’t all you have to do is get into a fight with one and that will tell you, what you need to know. Feminist(because they are fallible) beings can be just as stubborn as their male patriarchy and neither one really wants to admit that they are doing it, and the rest of us get caught in the middle of the proverbial parental fight.

  13. I’m with Lovely Lauren on this one, I have mixed views. The problem is, a lot of the staunch opponents of a movement like this would be other women. We wouldn’t want to create divisions with other sisters.

    I am glad that people, like Genevieve are thinking about it – that’s where change starts, with a thought, that becomes an idea, that eventually leads to action. I would feel so happy if I felt I had a voice, or someone in (high) leadership that understood my position and was willing to advocate for that.
    I honestly (and this is nothing against her) couldn’t really listen to Sis. Beck Especially because I’m still single (at the old age of 27) I didn’t feel like she understood my position at all.

    The RS was started because a group of women got together and made a plan, I don’t see why we can’t do the same. We are all different, but if we have a basis of love to build from, I think we could accomplish great things. I think just having blogs like this are a good push in the right direction because it is linking all of us together.

  14. “I think that many of the women on this site are doing their best to demonstrate that feminism and motherhood do not have to be mutually exclusive.”

    And it’s great that they think that. But I am not sure their existence proves that such an attitude is “inherent” in the definition of feminism, as was previously claimed.

    Nor is there reason to expect, as was also previously claimed, that feminists would do a better job than men. At least in my own career, feminist colleagues have been the least supportive of my lifebalance, in some cases exerting a serious negative influence.

    My experience with church leaders is that whether they are in tune with the spirit is probably more important than gender.

    I applaud the use of the term Mofeminist or “mormon feminist” because it does highlight that Mormon feminists are different from mainstream feminists.

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