Guest Post: The Turbid Ebb and Flow of Mormon Feminism
(Lala is a secondary music teacher in her second year of marriage.)
I am not a mature Mormon Feminist. As much as I long to be like the diplomatic, assertive, adult women in the forefront of our “movement.” I would describe myself more like the feminist’s equivalent of a hormonal teenager: unpredictable, ego-centric, and sometimes explosive.
Some on the bloggernacle have discussed how to “come out” to their families with their struggles with the LDS faith. My “coming out” was an uncalculated disaster. My mom made some offhand comment about how disturbed she was when she saw an older man on the news married to a teenage girl and I made a snide remark about Brigham Young. Two hours later I had screamed at my dad, provoked the rage of my usually saint-like brother in law by making a disparaging remark about Joseph Smith (I think the words I used were “philandering creep?”), and left everyone in my family, including me, in tears of frustration. Two hours later, in a post-feminist-outburst haze, I was left alone to figure out how, in the future, I would better deal with my internal dissonance.
My Mormon Feminism feels both like a source of nourishment and a disease. And I am learning how to cope with it like one. As you can see, some of my coping strategies are better than others. Here are some tactics I have turned to when my feelings of righteous indignation are particularly acute.
- Some weekend mornings when I have woken up feeling misunderstood, as if the injustice of gender inequality had occurred to me for the first time, I have sprawled out on the bed in adolescent angst listening to Sylvia Plath read her poem “Daddy” on youtube over and over again. (Every woman adores a fascist [polygamist].”)
- On Sundays when I’m not in the mood to get grumpy about something the speaker says, I tune them out and begin reading out of books of poetry or a book on Zen meditation. (And sometimes I work on the word search provided for children on the program.)
- In one church meeting as I listened to a 20 minute talk about the “separate but equal” rhetoric on “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” I imagined myself wreaking havoc on the chapel, Harry Potter style. With my invisibility cloak on I would distract the congregation by ruffling the curtains, causing the flower arrangement to spontaneously fall from the podium, throwing a hymn book across the room and shattering the painting of Joseph and Emma, etc.
- On Sundays when I feel like making a passive-aggressive statement I wear pants to church.
- I still spend many rides home from church unloading on my husband every issue I took with what was said in Relief Society. But I try to practice unloading as rationally as possible (and not yelling at him for “defending” the church.)
- Sometimes, not often, I actually do speak up in class about comments that I disagree with.
- Sometimes I just yell at God in my prayers.
- Most often, I turn to Mormon Feminist podcasts, books, and blogs, like The Exponent, about the stories and musings of intelligent, religious women who share some of my same feelings of confusion and frustration.
Although I understand that all of these strategies may not be the most sophisticated, they do keep me from bottling up my emotions and resorting to other alternatives: sobbing on my kitchen floor, asking my husband annoying hypothetical questions that I’ve alredy asked before (“If you’d been alive in the nineteenth century…?”), saying things about the church as a whole that I later regret, and yelling at my husband and family as if it is all their fault.
I am slowly, slowly, learning to separate the good from the bad as I learn to deal with my “feminist grief” (as Top Hat so articulately explained it in her recent post). Because I am also scared. Scared of wrecking my marriage, scared of raising daughters (and/or sons) in this culture, scared of losing my faith in the good things of the gospel, but also scared of believing what the church says about me as a woman.
One day, I will be a Mormon Feminist grown-up, but right now, this is how I’m coping. How do you cope?