A few weeks ago, I hosted a discussion on Mormon feminist practice, ritual and product creation at the Sophia Gathering. While thrilled with recent projects like Let Women Pray and Ordain Women which advocate for institutional change, I had the growing sense that pressuring the institution for change is only one part of our feminist struggle. We also need to begin developing our own community practices, our own rituals, and our own traditions. We need practices we can pass on to the next generations of Mormon women, so that our granddaughters and great nieces can turn to these traditions and find insight and inspiration in them.
Part of this conviction about developing Mormon feminist practices and rituals was sparked by some of my readings of womanist theology and ethics. I love the fact that a crucial source of authority and inspiration for womanists is the experiences and insights of their foremothers. Womanists turn to diaries, novels, letters, essays, practices, and oral wisdom from African American women of generations past to find insight into how to navigate racism, sexism, and other oppressions. Reading works by womanists has made me think of my own daughter and the women who will come after her. To what will they turn that will illuminate a path forward for them when they feel themselves disappeared and discounted by patriarchy? Can Mormon feminists today create traditions and rituals which will help them navigate their lives, which will inspire them to raise their voices, claim their own spiritual authority, and reject any cultural understanding that posits women as secondary or less-than?
One such practice or product that I would love to hand down to the next generation is a Mormon feminist anthem. Or many anthems. Over a hundred years ago, our Mormon suffragist foremothers sang “Woman, Arise” during their Relief Society meetings.
Woman, ‘rise! thy penance o’er,
Sit thou in the dust no more;
Seize the scepter, hold the van,
Equal with thy brother, man
I’ve sung this song at many retreats, and it is always stirring to sing these words and feel that moment of connection with my foremothers. Can we come up with a new Mormon feminist song? Is there a song out there that Mormon feminists can adopt that speaks to our experiences, hopes and convictions? Are there any poets out there who can come up with terrific lyrics and set those lyrics to an already established tune? Any musicians who can create a brand new song? As one possible model, I was moved by this Catholic Women’s Ordination Conference song, Ordain a Lady. It’s fun and lighthearted, but seeing those women claiming their spiritual authority actually made me tear up. Can we produce something similarly catchy and powerful?
Off the top of my head, I can’t think of too many songs that speak directly to the Mormon feminist experience. Of course, I loved the Wear Pants to Church Day uke song. Totally brilliant, but obviously specific to that particular project. I’m not really a Lady Gaga fan, but a friend recently brought my attention to this amazing suffrage themed version of “Bad Romance,” saying that he particularly identified with that moment when the politician at the end decides to stand up and vote for suffrage. Perhaps some Mormon feminists might identify with the “Reflection” song from Mulan? These songs all tangentially refer to themes like authenticity and equality, but I think we need something more specific.
Do any of you have any good ideas for Mormon feminist anthems? Or do you have ideas of other practices, traditions, and rituals we should create to pass on to the next generation?