Coming out of the Feminist Closet
With at least two like-minded feminists in my ward, I’m beginning to feel a little bolder in expressing my feminism at church. My husband reminds me that my personality is intense and feminism can be my hammer and sometimes everything I see becomes a nail. So, I take this analogy into account in my comments at church. I’d like to think that some people my know a lean liberal, but most don’t think of me as a feminist.
That all changed at church yesterday. Because Stake Conference is next week, we had fast and testimony meeting. After the sacrament portion of the service, a bishopric member (the one who talked to me about the Pinewood Derby change), began talking about how exciting it was for a family to have a son newly ordained to be a deacon passing the sacrament. He explained that our ward has a tradition to have his older brothers and father pass the sacrament with him. He recognized and praised the boy and his family for the honor of passing the sacrament.
As this man, who was not the father of this boy, spoke about the priesthood ordinances and offices and recognition, I felt something was missing. I felt left out. Women don’t have this milestone (or many like it) in our church, and sometimes they are not recognized for the significant contributions they do make to the church and the world.
So, when people started going to bear their testimonies, I felt that feeling that I haven’t felt in years. Butterflies fluttered in my stomach, my heart was racing and my palms were sweaty. I knew I needed to get up and say something. I needed to have integrity and be true to myself and my beliefs, and recognize the contributions of women in the church.
Then my two youngest sons started fighting and screaming over who got to sit on my lap, so I stood up, resolving the feud by getting rid of the lap all together. (One of my dear friends sitting behind me reached over and grabbed my baby who sat with her the entire meeting. Ah, the blessings of sisterhood.)
As I approached the stand, I was very nervous and at the microphone, I told everyone I didn’t know why I was up there. I just felt like I should speak what was in my heart.
Then I talked about struggling with my testimony over the last two years, and seeing the church in a new way: seeing my relationship with God as separate from my relationship with the church.
I mentioned how much I loved my family and God, then I talked about women.
“Women in our church are strong and good. They have so much to share and give. Women can bless and heal, they can love and serve. Women have the opportunity for salvation and for a relationship with God.”
I emphasized how important it is to recognize women’s gifts because we have just as many daughters as sons.
Then I closed in Jesus’ name.
On my way down from the stand, I realized the irony of my last comment, as I have three sons and zero daughters.
After I sat down, the reality of what I had done set in and I was scared, embarrassed, overwhelmed, and ready to go home. I had done something that I only imagined doing, but never expected I would really do. It was scary to be so vulnerable to the rest of the ward. I hoped that there was a reason I felt prompted, as it were.
Still, I resolved to stand tall and smile at everyone who passed me, not letting my insecurity keep me from being the friendly person I am at church. When I walked the halls, a few people spoke kind words, but some of my closest friends avoided making eye contact. Even my husband responded, “It doesn’t matter” when I asked him on the way home what he thought of my testimony.
Really, he’s right. I am struggling to find my place in this church. I need to be more honest with ward members I have known and loved for years. Lucky for me, one of my favorite feminists is in my ward and she told me later how touched she was by my testimony. It brought her to tears, both during the meeting and later throughout the day. She said that my courage had helped her resolve concerns she’d been struggling with over the last week. Hearing her perspective gave me peace and helped me feel appreciated for my very unusual testimony.
By coming out of the feminist closet yesterday, I have opened myself up for a lot of possible responses from my ward. Perhaps I’ll feel more loved, perhaps I’ll feel more marginalized or rejected. Or, perhaps by holding on to my stake inside this tent that is supposed to have room for everyone, I make room for other women like me to come out of the feminist closet, too.