Discovering Exponent, Finding a Home
I still remember the day that I found The Exponent blog. It was Fall 2007, and Julie Beck had just given her “Mothers Who Know” talk at the General Relief Society broadcast. I was chatting on a message board with several BYU roommates, and we were discussing who liked the talk and who didn’t. I remember one roommate mentioning that she had never seen such push-back against a talk on the feminist Mormon blogs. My reaction was immediate:
“There are feminist Mormon blogs?!?!”
I found The Exponent that same day. I remember poring over the comments on the General Relief Society broadcast, and finding opinions from all over the spectrum: some liked her talk, some didn’t. Some were distracted by her hair. Some ignored her talk altogether and talked about how great Sister Allred’s talk was. I had never found such a diverse, dedicated space to talking about these things! Somehow, a little piece of me felt like I was home.
After that first encounter, I faithfully read The Exponent blog for several years. I would comment occasionally, but was often terrified of interrupting a conversation or feeling like I wasn’t educated or well-read enough to contribute anything substantive. I found the Exponent II magazine online, and read that just as faithfully, and finally subscribed when they stopped putting the content up for free. I became more well-versed in the common topics of debate among Mormon feminists, and expanded my reading to include things like Chieko Okazaki, Claudia Bushman, and Maxine Hanks.
I finally got up the guts to submit a guest post in 2013, after five and a half years of lurking. I had given a talk on Easter and wanted to share it somewhere, and felt like The Exponent would be a good place. I remember my hands shaking as I pushed “send” on the email, and the feeling of complete and utter embarrassment when I realized that I had accidentally sent in the original text of the talk, not the edited, blog-post version that I had put together. But Caroline was so gracious as she worked with me, the post went up, and the commenters were so, so kind. I felt like maybe I had something to contribute, and that maybe this was more of a home than I had initially realized. Two more guest posts and about a year later, I was invited to come aboard as a permablogger, and I felt like my Mormon voice had found a warm and supportive place to land.
I attended the 40th anniversary Exponent retreat that fall, where I sat in rooms with Claudia Bushman, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Nancy Dredge, and Judy Dushku as they talked about their early experiences doing hard things. I was so inspired by discussions of these women getting together in the early days of the magazine, laying out articles with babies on their laps and schoolwork on the side. I met and talked with women from all walks: some young, some less-young. Some who had been involved with Mormon feminism for decades, some who were brand new. There were activists, stay-at-home moms, PhD students, social workers, midwives, doctors, lawyers, and artists. Many were a combination of these things and more.
What hit me most forcefully was the diversity of faith among the women I encountered. Some were fully active and engaged in the church, and some were only tangentially connected to the institution and rarely attended. But yet we were all sisters, all tied together by Mormonism in some facet of our lives, and were all able to sit with one another, learn from one another, and support one another.
I love the Exponent community. I love the blog, I love the paper, I love the retreat, but most of all, I love the people. Exponent has always tried to be a big tent, welcoming and supporting voices across the faith and feminist spectrums. I have found it to be a rich, thoughtful, and supportive community, and I urge you to get involved! Comment on the blog! Submit guest posts! Submit articles to the magazine! Volunteer to help with behind-the-scenes stuff! Don’t wait five and a half years like I did, because we want your voice now. Exponent has been publishing and preserving Mormon women’s voices for over 40 years, and I desperately want it to continue, so that our daughters and granddaughters (and sons and grandsons!) will be left with a rich legacy of Mormon feminist thought.
Please support the Exponent fundraising drive! As detailed on our fundraising page, we are in desperate need of some tech fixes so that we can preserve our archive and keep moving forward. We have some incredible prizes that have been generously donated so that we can give back to you, too. Please join us, and make an already vibrant community even brighter with your voice and your support!
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