Critical mass of the hive mind

In nuclear fission, critical mass refers to the smallest amount of material needed to sustain a chain reaction. In social dynamics, it describes the momentum required for an ideal or collective desire to become self-sustaining and fuel further growth. A hive mind refers to a collective consciousness that is seen in various insect species, but is also believed to influence how we as humans react to fads and new ideas with conformity. The bandwagon effect shows us that the probability of a person accepting a new belief or trend is proportional to the amount of individuals who have already adopted such.

For myself, I have always thought of critical mass in a slightly more new age sense. As humans have multiplied and extended our influence over the earth, learning and amassing knowledge as we bend elements to our will and propose laws and principles to justify the universe, we have built upon the foundations and sacrifices of those before us. I’ve heard it described as the fertilization of humanity. Each generation provides the manure from which awareness is grown in the next. And with each new addition we come closer to a critical mass of enlightenment.

I don’t know why I have been thinking about this lately, but I do know that this post just sorta came to me. I don’t believe that the world will end on the winter solstice of 2012, or that something supernatural will happen on 11/11/11. But I do get to wondering if as a collective of human beings wanting something better for this world, that it may just be possible that change is waiting in the wings. The One Third Theory tells us that all it takes is one third of a group to adopt a way of thinking for change to come. Are we getting close to a tipping point in the grand scale of human interrelations? How does feminism fit into this, and more specifically Mormon feminism?

After reading Half the Sky, it’s easy to imagine the power of small actions to effect big outcomes. Global feminism is taking off and the critical mass of this awareness is gaining momentum that one hopes it would be hard to stop. But what of Mormon feminism? I am beginning to understand the divide that exists between those who claim Feminism as their working title because they believe in positive change for women in general, and those who use it to imply their desire for social change closest to that of their own experience; the LDS Church. Those that adopt this term cannot understand the rejection of the same by others. But Mormon feminism, as has been relayed and discussed at length by others, contains even more definitions and sub groups by which to align oneself, even though we have no labels for these factions of thought. Perhaps the most prominent distinction is the topic of ordination as to whether women will be held in truly equal esteem in the eyes of Church leadership.

Now, regardless of whether this is something that you consider critical to your own definition of feminism, I would like you to consider whether or not this is an area that could become central to our sub culture as a collective endeavor. Would it even be possible to gain the necessary momentum required to nudge for change (or even consideration of it) at the highest levels without the support of all self-identified Mormon feminists? How many members voicing their desire for change do you think it took before the ban on the Priesthood was lifted? The church around the world represents over 13 million people. If women are conservatively half that number, we have 6 million sisters who may or may not have potential for believing in their own inherent ability to be leaders, healers and self sustaining organizations of women. If their potential as women who could rise above oppression is dependent on the number of women who already believe in their value as an instrument for change, then should we feel encouraged or defeated?

I don’t know. Although the numbers are daunting, something tells me that change is coming and that we should allow the flow of this river to carry us forward towards our own enlightenment. Not just in the US radius around Salt Lake City, but in our collective hearts as women in the gospel. The gospel that means so much more to me than any organization can or should. I think we should take courage in our divinity and our hope for change. Because hope is what will inspire others, and others are what will inspire change.


Corktree is exploring life and spirituality in new ways and new environments while studying midwifery, reiki, yoga, homeopathy, herbology and evolutionary nutrition. She has 3 daughters and one son, which add up to what now feels like an enormous family of 6.

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18 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    “something tells me that change is coming and that we should allow the flow of this river to carry us forward towards our own enlightenment.”

    Beautifully said, Corktree. I really appreciated reading your thoughts on this topic. I too think that change is coming. I can’t help but think it. Mormonism has a vibrant intellectual community, very apparent online, and some of the dominant themes that we return to over and over again are issues of gender. Mormons are working these issues over in their minds, grappling, seeing the discrepancy between traditional teachings/policies and their own visions of the unlimited potential of all humans. These conversations must filter up. I have to believe they do. And eventually, I hope we see changes. I think it will take a long time — institutional inertia and all, combined with the fact that those who get promoted in the hierarchy are those who agree with current teachings — but I think the changes will come. But only if we talking about it.

  2. Amy says:

    I don’t feel I need to have the priesthood to be equal to men. However, there are other areas that men in general and the church can work on to equalize women without them having to be the same. I don’t want the priesthood. I do, however, think that a burden should and sometimes is, placed on the men to include womens’ views and interests in their decisions as priesthood leaders. I wholeheartedly believe that those who minimize us, as women, will be held accountable. I think sometimes, that our role as women are less defined, however no less important and influential. In some ways, I think we can be MORE influential and just because we don’t have a name and title for what we do, we are not any less and in some ways, more.
    These are a few little things I think could be addressed- I am a mother and see this and as a Young Woman in the church, I felt a little disappointed at times.
    Achievement/activity days vs. cubscouts. Girls have bimonthly activities and boys have weekly activities.
    Boy scouts definitely get more $$, leaders, and activities than do the girls’ youth activities.
    These are things that can be changed without changing the fundamentality that men and women are different, but they are equal.
    Anyone else feel the same about these things?

    • Corktree says:

      Thanks for you comment, Amy. Those are definitely things that need to change.

      But I would argue that women being ordained doesn’t change the “fundamentality that men and women are different”. I think just the opposite – that it would enhance our differences and strengthen us by allowing us to use our natural abilities in more influential ways. I think women using the priesthood openly (outside of the temple) would look so different from men using it, but in a very complimentary way. I have to believe that this is the natural course of things.

    • Olive says:

      Have you gotten your endowments? Because if so, you already have the priesthood. Do you ever want to work in the temple? Because if so, you’ll be using the priesthood.

  3. Alisa says:

    Amy — I hear you on the differences in programs and $$ spent. You make a great point. I also am not sure I want the Priesthood, but I would like much greater acknowledgement of this Priestesshood we’re told about in the temple, and I’d like to see women functioning more in administration (women interviewing other women, serving on discipliary councils for women, having a larger presence in speaking and praying in conference, etc.).

    There are some obvious differences between men and women physically, but I think most of the perceived gendered spiritual differences actually come from our worldly perceptions of gender (feelings of competition and pride that Satan fosters bewteen the sexes and makes for rigid gender distinctions–as we know, in Christ there is no important difference between male and female). Out of necessity, my husband is the stay-at-home father, and I am the provider, and I’ve learned the righteousness of this set-up for our family at this time, and it’s made me really question how rigid our gender roles are in the Church. That said, I never really felt the full force of my gender difference until I had a child.

  4. Alisa says:

    Corktree, what a thought-provoking post. I love the momentum you describe here.

    Of course, I worry about how many of those 13 million are actually active or interested in engaging the Church. But the good news is that we shouldn’t just count on all the great sisters out there. According to Deborah’s last post, there’s a lot of men out there who support women’s advancement and equality in the Church too.

    • Corktree says:

      Good point on the numbers Alisa. It would be interesting to see how many active members there are that could even be counted as benefiting from change, and then to see what a third of that would actually look like. And yes, I believe men will be a large part of turning the tide – but women have to be the ones to accept this for themselves or it will never be.

  5. spunky says:

    “we have 6 million sisters who may or may not have potential for believing in their own inherent ability to be leaders, healers and self sustaining organizations of women”

    This bothered me. Do you really think that women of the church don’t have potential to believe? That sounds so hopeless.

    I think women do have that ability (not potential, ability) to know and understand thier own power and authority. I just think that most church verbage is focused on women being servers rather than leaders, therefore, implies that women “don’t” rather than “can’t” lead/embrace their own authority.

    I am not one who sits around and waits for someone to give me permission to take charge of my life or exert personal authority in a negative situation. Therefore, I would likely be voted out of the hive, if there was a vote, and if there was a hive.

    • Corktree says:

      I should have clarified that within each woman is the potential (I guess I meant ability) to believe in themselves. But for some women, this is something that I unfortunately think they will not embrace. I’m sure it’s dependent on circumstance and exposure, but that’s the reality.

      And I think it’s up to those of us who know how to “exert personal authority” to expose and teach and set an example so that as a whole we can move forward and influence our sisters for good.

      I think it’s great that you don’t wait around for permission, but that doesn’t mean you’re not part of the group thinking. Which is why I think it’s important that the faithful remain in the church if possible.

      • spunky says:

        I am not comfortable with your accusation that I am a part of group thinking. I don’t think I am… nor am I sure I am “faithful”. I attend church to take the sacrament. Little else in the 3 hour block fills me even a bit. I frankly attend for the sacrament in spite of the lessons and talks. I listen to conference, read scriptures and seek personal revelation. I seek revelation for those around me whom I can serve and I visit teach in spite of relief society, which I usually don’t attend unless I am teaching. I like VTing because I feel like I actually make a difference in someone’s life in doing it. (I have never liked relief society- but even as a YSA, I was the ballsy one who said out loud that we can best support the priesthood by recognising the priesthood authority inherant in women, and to never allow men to pull some authority trip over us. I’ve never made a lot of friends with those comments, though people always seem to call me for an emergency. I don’t quite get that.) So am I in the “hive”? I don’t think so. Am I among the faithful? I’m not sure. Certainly not if it means I am a lemming.

        Are you among the faithful?

      • Corktree says:

        I apologize for misspeaking. No “accusation” was intended. I used a bad analogy to convey what I’m talking about. Group thinking as a term is specifically about an “in group” and eschews critical analysis. So I didn’t mean to imply that you just followed along. Bad choice of words.

        And yes, I consider myself faithful, even though I myself don’t attend other than the sacrament of another ward at the moment. Why would you go at all if you didn’t believe? I’m sure we’re talking semantics here with what we both consider “faithful”, but I think if we feel an emotional or otherwise investment in the church and want it to change, than we have to remain a part of the group *dialogue*. Without our influence and participation, nothing that we want to change has any hope of succeeding. I do think we are part of the hive, but perhaps one that is larger than the church itself. We all have the freedom to choose where we go in our searching and what we bring back with us for the good of the whole.

        And for me, if my choice is to remain quiet in a church that will never change, than I would choose to leave. But if (as I believe it is) my choice to stay and gently influence for change can actually do some good, than that is what I choose.

  6. Hydrangea says:

    Thanks for the thought provoking post.
    What as a Mormon feminist do you believe is the best avenue to create this momentum to invite the needed change ?

    What do you see as the most effective venues for positive, feminist, change?
    Grass root- starting with conversations with friends and comments in relief society? Taking concerns to Bishops? Writing letters to the apostles?

    For most of my life I have been vocal about gender inequality at large but have kept my mouth shut regarding at church. (I’m new to the “Mormon Feminism” movement but was idealogically converted long ago.) Thanks!

    • Corktree says:

      I think all those things you mention are important! And as much as we get frustrated thinking that these types of dialogues are fruitless, I think they are invaluable to attaining this critical mass as people read and gain the confidence to share with those around them and to live more authentically. Setting the tone can be done with learning good interpersonal and leadership skills.

      My patriarchal blessing advises me to be cheerful and also tells me that I will be a leader. I take this to mean that I need to figure out how to be diplomatic with others and help them to see that it’s NOT true that “feminism never was happiness”. Obnoxious evangelizing isn’t what’s needed, but opening our mouths when it makes sense is essential. If it’s a numbers game, we ALL are equally important and influential.

      • Hydrangea says:

        Thanks for your thoughtful response! You are very motivating. The word “feminist,” with all its connotations, is still a shocking, eye-brow raising word in orthodox LDS culture. I think that it is our job to teach or friends that it doesnt have to be.

        Honestly I feel like there are more women in the same “gender equality” boat than we think. I think they’re just scared.

        Naturally most mormon women don’t want to be seen as doubting or slandering priesthood authority. I think that it is vital that women are able to feel like they can be different by voicing their opinions and urging for social change without feeling like they are being “unfaithful.”

  7. Debbers says:

    Hopefully you are right, but judging from some other numbers, I’m not sure there are anywhere close to 1/3 of even active WOMEN that want anything to change.

    If you look at the “agitating faithfully” site, there are only 71 people who have joined (both men and women). There are almost 50 times that number (both men and women) on the “NakedMormonWives” yahoo group.

    Disappointingly, I just don’t see any momentum really building inside the church at all. Almost all the “Mormon Feminist” Momentum is being driven by women that no longer attend meetings, so their efforts are simply virtual postings on the web.

    • Corktree says:

      In a way, I agree. If we are to take those as current representations of who would support real change, it’s not enough. But when I look at how these types of changes in thinking can be exponential (if we learn how to speak up), then it doesn’t seem that unlikely that change is at least possible. We can’t be impatient and expect immediate results from our efforts, but we can maintain hope in the future so that we don’t get burnt out.

  8. Ziff says:

    Almost all the “Mormon Feminist” Momentum is being driven by women that no longer attend meetings, so their efforts are simply virtual postings on the web.

    I don’t think that I know enough Mormon feminist women in person to say for sure, but I doubt it’s almost all being driven by women who are no longer active in the church.

    That being said, I am pessimistic about critical mass for change being reached anytime soon for precisely this reason. As y’all wonderful Exponent bloggers know better than I do, it can be extremely taxing to try to maintain activity when the organization is so determined not to take you seriously. So it seems like there’s a pretty constant (and understandable) loss of more feminist-minded church members–whether officially by resigning or unofficially by disengaging–and this reduces momentum for change within the church.

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