Mormon Women Marching

By Sara Hanks

A variation on the theme of marching, in response to a recent post at the Mormon Women Stand blog.

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I did some marching recently, and I’ve heard many other women did, too.

It all began Monday morning and my MARCH went like this:

  • I MARCHED into my son’s bedroom to get him up for the day. We worked together to get him dressed, then I got him a cup of juice and turned on his favorite Netflix show to keep him occupied while I fed my daughter, who’s still young enough to subsist mostly on breast milk.
  • I MARCHED through the beginning hours of the day, making sure enough dishes were done, enough laundry was clean, enough groceries were in the pantry. I took care of various household tasks while my husband got ready for work, then kissed him goodbye and sent him on his way.
  • I MARCHED around the house and gathered some improvised sign-making materials — cardboard, markers, tape. Having a healthy craft supply comes in handy at times like these. I settled on my preferred slogans about loving one another and doing good, then drew the customary bubble letters while my son made scribbled signs of his own and my daughter chewed on her hand.
  • I MARCHED to my phone and checked the Weather app over and over again, hoping the snow would hold off.
  • I MARCHED up and down the hallway in increasingly heavy layers of clothing for me and the kids — mittens, snow pants, boots, hats, coats, doubled-up wool socks. We ventured into the snow, thick inches of it on the sidewalks and gentle flakes of it still falling. I said a silent thankful prayer that both my preschooler and my baby were in good moods and that the weather at that exact instant was more “winter scene” than “awful blizzard” as we walked to the Utah State Capitol.
  • I MARCHED into the building. The noise and heat hit us like a wall. So many bodies, so many voices, yet somehow (tender mercy!) I found a group of my girlfriends almost immediately. We cheered, we chanted “Love Trumps Hate” and “Si, Se Puede,” we marveled at how a crowd this big had amassed at 3:00 on a Monday.
  • Seeing my son getting increasingly overwhelmed by the noise, I MARCHED back outside. We walked casually around the building, eventually going to the front staircase, where even more people were gathered.
  • I MARCHED for a few seconds next to an elderly woman who had parked a few blocks away on a steep hill and was catching her breath. We chatted about the impressive and inspiring scene before she headed inside.
  • I MARCHED and tried to make mental notes of all the signs, the ones supporting immigrant rights, supporting Standing Rock, supporting Black Rights Matter, supporting homeless people, supporting trans people, supporting reproductive rights, supporting clean air, supporting disabled people, supporting sexual assault prevention, supporting love, supporting hope, supporting courage.
  • I MARCHED back home, the snow still gently falling.
  • I MARCHED into my kitchen to check on the sweet pork I’d left behind to cook in the crock pot, happy and reflective and, above all, grateful. Grateful for health, safety, democracy, friendship; for my kids, for my husband; for privileges I didn’t earn and must use for the benefit of those who have less.

Many Cameras (mostly of the iPhone variety), but No Problems.

Some news outlets covered the public march I attended, though I’d be surprised if I made any local broadcasts or newspaper articles. I didn’t wear a T-shirt with a slogan (my “Equality is Not a Feeling”/”Radical Self-Respect” shirt was in the hamper). I didn’t wear a pink hat, but I did carry a few signs. No celebrities were in attendance at my march, though I was glad to see my state senator showing his support. But regardless of who showed up, what they wore, what they said, we were together and I was there, willing to stand quietly and shout loudly for everything I believe and love about womanhood.

  • That I’m a daughter of God.
  •  I have work to do and am entitled to spiritual guidance on what my work is and how to do it.
  • That work includes wifehood and motherhood for me. I cherish this work and value the chance I have to build a family with the man I love and the kids we adore. I also know that this is not the only work for me to do or for any woman to do, and in fact, many women’s lives will not include this work; their work is different from mine, but it is not less important or less worthy of praise.
  • God values my spiritual abilities. God values my efforts. God speaks to me. God expects me to do difficult things. God loves me when I mess up. God loves all of us. God is watching to see how I will treat “the least of these” — how I will listen to, work with, and honor those whom society pushes aside. I am accountable for that.

I’m One in a Million. Well … One in 3.5 Billion.

I MARCHED with many others, and I am so appreciative of that. Since I marched in Salt Lake City, it’s no surprise that many of the women I marched alongside were Mormons – Relief Society sisters, Young Women graduates, Visiting Teachers. But there were many from other backgrounds, other faiths, and it was inspiring to join together, all of us, motivated by our shared desires for justice, freedom, safety, and fair representation. And greater still, we were part of a larger network of marches, a network that stretched from Washington DC to Nairobi, from Serbia to Peru, from London to Antarctica (seriously! Look at these pictures!). Personally, I’m not content to stay within the confines of my own ward or my own church in trying to make the world a better place. I want the personal, neighborly acts of service, and I want the large-scale movements, too. I want sisterhood with my LDS sisters and my Muslim sisters and my atheist sisters and my Evangelical sisters and my not-religious-but-spiritual sisters. I guess I’m just greedy that way.

As Janet Mock said, “A movement is much more than a march. A movement is that different space between our reality and our vision. Our liberation depends on all of us.”

And in the words of America Ferrera, “If we — the millions of Americans who believe in common decency, in the greater good, in justice for all — if we fall into the trap by separating ourselves by our causes and our labels, then we will weaken our fight and we will lose. But if we commit to what aligns us, if we stand together steadfast and determined, then we stand a chance of saving the soul of our country.”

How, Why, and Do you March?

I am angry as I MARCH. It’s been hard for me to accept that, with anger being such an uncomfortable emotion, but it’s true: I’m angry. I’m also thoughtful.  I’m also inspired, worried, determined, joyful, and many times, I’m tired.  As I MARCH, I’m sometimes satisfied and sometimes not, sometimes thanked and sometimes not.  But because of the strides I’m making, little by little and day by day, I have peace in my heart. Sometimes. It’s a complicated existence; I know many of my sisters understand that kind of complication. How fortunate I am to have sisters who understand.

When I MARCH, it isn’t a one-day event.  It’s a daily routine, played out week after week, month after month. And now, at my age, I can say year after year. I am free to choose because the Lord gave me my agency, and I choose to work because I want to use that agency to show my love for all God’s children, all God’s creations. So I MARCH on.

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26 Responses

  1. Kirsten says:

    YES! YES! YES!

  2. Jenny says:

    Excellent response post!

  3. Heather says:

    This is WONDERFUL! Thank you for acknowledging that MARCHING can come from a place of faith & religious obligation.

  4. April Carlson says:

    Yes! Marching as a prayer of action and expression of love. Thank you for giving me a way to express that marching is much more than anger or whining.

  5. Vajra2 says:

    Yes. Yes. Yes. I love the way you marched. And I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry: so I shed a tear, chuckled, and typed this.

  6. Dani Addante says:

    Great post! Thanks for responding to that post on Mormon Women Stand!

  7. EFH says:

    Excellent!

  8. Tara says:

    Wow, sweet Bethany at MWS characterized this as a negative blog post. Not sure how she arrived at that conclusion.

  9. Courtney says:

    Thanks for this post. I loved that you’re able to admit anger. I think Mormonism can make us uncomfortable with anger, but I find that it’s normal and healthy.

  10. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Sara. I’ve really come to appreciate anger over the years. I had a well-seasoned friend and psychologist once tell me that anger need not be feared. Anger is a productive emotion. What’s important is that we find an outlet for that anger and passion. I’m grateful you found an outlet that brought your heart, body and voice to the table.

  11. Lily says:

    Thank you.

  12. Kalyn says:

    Marching for what’s right, good, and true would be enough reason to participate…if that’s what it stood for. And maybe for you, it did. However, seeing pics and videos, that’s not the sentiment. There’s no difference between the protestors at the inauguration yelling obscenities wearing pink, and the marching protestors wearing pink “pussy hats”. What fight? If human rights were truly being denied (like my ancestors who were kidnapped by the mob in Nauvoo and threatened with death for two weeks)there would be a reason to stand and protest. If a gov’t authority gave that mob an open invitation to kill an entire religious population (such as in our history) there would be reason to rise, and fight. If our cities were being invaded by armed soldiers and families being jailed and executed, there would be reason to rise against evil. But that’s not the case. A false enemy is rousing an imaginary courage. False because there is no threat (words only, the fire being fanned by media) imaginary because the only thing to fear is their own hate. Putting it in perspective, these protestors are a representative population of the protestors who didn’t agree with Prop 8 in California; who vandalized the Los Angeles Temple, painted graffiti on chapels, and found addresses of Mormons who contributed to the campaign and vandalized their homes with spray paint. “They draw unto me with their lips. but their hearts are from me”. They bear slogans which are the “color of love”, bearing the fruit of hate. I won’t, can’t, and don’t march with that.

  13. Andrew R. says:

    I admit I am neither a supporter, or against, the protests. I find them a little odd, especially the ones across the globe and outside of the US.

    The US elected Trump. Any protest is either aimed at the US Constitution that allowed for him to be elected, or at the electorate that brought him to power.

    What I am interested in is the use of the word March. Such a masculine word being used for a feminine and/or peaceful purpose. Demonstration, protest, etc. But March – fall into step and follow the beat of “our” drum – how does that work?

    • Andrew, as a man, it is not your place to decide if women are using words that are “feminine.” Let women decide what being female means to us instead of trying to impose your stereotypes onto us.

      As for the other part of your comment, yes, I was trying to send a message to the electorate that brought Trump into power, expressing my disappointment in them for choosing someone so uniquely unqualified for the office. And yes, I would also support changes the constitution that would not allow a person to win the presidency in spite of winning fewer votes than his opponent, as was the case with Trump.

      Additionally, I was expressing opposition to Trump’s policies, such as taking away healthcare and reneging on climate change prevention agreements, policies which Trump threatened to carry out immediately upon entering office, and in fact, has followed through with. I was telling Trump that his behavior toward women, people of color, people with disabilities and others throughout his campaign was unacceptable, and now that he is an elected official, I intend to hold him accountable if such behavior continues.

      I was also sending a message to the disadvantaged people Trump threatened or mocked, to let them know I am still on their side, even though Trump is now in power.

      And finally, I marched to be part of a movement to mobilize people who share my political values, so that we can organize to minimize the damage now and make sure that in the next election, we turn out in high enough numbers to prevent this from happening again, because an even larger majority of us will vote against Trump next time than we did this time.

      • Andrew R. says:

        April, thanks for not answering my question. I understood why you marched, if that war related word is really the one you want to use.

        I wish you luck in your endeavour. I am no fan of Trump. However, if his being in power stops the US from interfering all with the rest of the world the rest of us may be better off.

        No more Iraq’s has to be a good thing.

      • Andrew R. says:

        “Andrew, as a man, it is not your place to decide if women are using words that are “feminine.””

        The more I thought about this, the more I could not get it out of my head.

        Why not? All I was saying was that for me (and I sure hope as a man I can say what I think about something) the word has masculine overtones. Because of that I asked a question.

        Of course you can decide what the word is for you.

        I do not understand why people here are so quick to say what a man can, or can’t, say or think. It does nothing to help your course. It has an underlying implication that men can not understand women’s issues – which of course means that you can’t understand men’s.

        And yet constantly here I read how the Brethren are wrong, have their inward thinking men’s thoughts. How can you know? You are women, you don’t get to decide how men think! At least not if we don’t get to decide the other way.

        The point, surely, of any discussion along gender lines is to try to understand the other’s point of view.

        I think women should earn what men earn for the same output. I believe that women should have the same opportunities for education as men. I believe that women’s opinions, desires and hopes should be taken into account just as much as men’s. I have six daughters, two are married. I would be up in arms if I thought any of them were not being given equal consideration, participation and control in the family budgeting, parenting, and all else.

        In my experience, and certainly in my own dealings, I have not seen unequal leadership in church. Sure, women do not hold the priesthood, and there may not be as many of them in ward and stake councils. However, they usually spend more time speaking in those meetings, their thoughts and desires are taken seriously and acted upon. Again in my experience (which is not a small amount).

        Only here, and reading profiles and posts at ordain women, together with ex-mormon sites, have I learned of poor leadership of women. This saddens me greatly. As does inappropriate dealings with women in society.

        I am not the enemy.

    • debo says:

      Andrew, approximately 30 seconds of research would have answered your petulant question about the word “march”. (By the way, this leading question of yours sounds dangerously like tone policing.) Political protests in the U.S. are historically called marches. See “March on Washington”, “Million Man March”, etc. It’s not a term that organizers pulled out of the air just to offend you. It’s about connections with historical protest movements.

      • Andrew R. says:

        debo, as a women you don’t get to decide whether my question is petulant. You do not know me, and you are making an assumption. Your response however was simply rude.

        No amount of research would have garnered me an answer to how those here thought about the use of a military word for a demonstration (which is the general word used for such an event the UK – where I reside) essentially for a peaceful purpose .

        The word does not offend me. It is just not a word I would use for these events.

      • debo says:

        “What I am interested in is the use of the word March” is what you said.

        No, you did not ask how *we* felt about the word “march”. You phrased it in general terms in such a way that it was reasonable to assume you were asking about the choice to call it a march, which was one made by the organizers, not by the participants. If you really wanted to ask about how we felt about the word “march”, you should have asked that particular question.

        My answer was accurate — political protests in the U.S. are called marches, and I stand by my statement that it would have been really easy for you to answer that question with a small amount of research.

        Frankly, I’ve never connected the word “march” to the military. Growing up, I took dance classes, and in the summer we would march in parades at various community celebrations. (Yes, that’s the phrase that everyone used.) That’s my personal connection to the word march, which has zero gendered undertones and certainly no military ones.

        Can you see even a little bit why I felt you were attacking us and tone policing? By failing to do your research about terminology commonly used in the U.S., you made an assumption about the etymology of the word choice and then accused us of lack of femininity based on your own assumption about the reason for the name. I viewed your question as petulant because it came across as a complete non sequitur meant only to accuse and not to understand. It shouldn’t have required any of us to explain to you that political demonstrations in the U.S. are called marches.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Sorry, hither to I was unaware that this was a US-centric forum.

      • nrc42 says:

        It’s not a matter of this being a US-centric forum. It’s a matter of the march originating in the US.

  14. Andrew R. says:

    Point is, I did actually do some research. But I did it on the word. I did it to ensure that I wasn’t going to be wrong in what I said. Websters (sure don’t want to use the Oxford dictionary for this) does not mention a demonstration or protest as a meaning for the word march.

    I am well aware that US English is different from UK English in quite a lot of subtle ways. As such I asked a question. I was not expecting (but perhaps should have) to be called out on the question because I am an non-understanding man.

    I find it sad that the United States who sees itself as the bastion of democracy, and seeks to help other hapless countries to improve their democratic systems, managed to elect Donald Trump (frankly Donald Duck would have been a better choice).

    However, I also find is sad that the same democratic country now has people taking to the streets (in some cases violently and destructively) because they are unhappy with the democratically elected president doing what he said he would do.

    And now we have similar protests in my country.

    If what you want is a Democrat back in the White House I suggest time might be better served finding one that is electable.

    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/march?utm_campaign=sd&utm_medium=serp&utm_source=jsonld

    • Ziff says:

      I find it sad that now that such an awful person has been elected, your response is for people to sit down and shut up. Demonstrating is a part of democracy just like voting is. And your swipe with “in some cases violently and destructively” is totally off base on the women’s march.

      • Andrew R. says:

        Protesting is not going to get him out, or change what he is doing. He has a mandate as the elected president.

        But I didn’t say do nothing. Think how to ensure he is not re-elected in four years. Look for ways to legally challenge things he does. And if you are really lucky, find a reason to impeach him. It was already obvious that 30% to 50% of the electorate think he is completely unfit to be president – protesting does make that more obvious.

        His act of sacking the acting attorney general shows his desperation, IMO. Running the US more like a business may well have some merit. However, running entirely as a business – firing people willy nilly – is going to be his downfall.

      • Andrew R. says:

        “totally off base on the women’s march.”

        Yes, and hence my “in some cases”. All the protests are coming from the same side of the debate. Though their tactics may be vastly different. Sorry if you saw an implication that the women’s march was in the violent category.

        I am not anti-protest. Protest is part of a democracy.

  15. Ziff says:

    This is an excellent response, Sara. Thanks so much for posting it!

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