The Exponent Gets Political: No Kidding, a Feminist Mormon?
I’ve never been Mormon. However, in high school my best friend was Mormon and was part of an amazing Mormon family, and with that family I attended everything from young women’s camp and firesides, to seminary and sacrament service. They lived down the street from me and I was the Cousin Oliver to their Brady Bunch. Through my best friend, I met many types of Mormons. I met academic Mormons, I met uneducated Mormons. I met incredibly kind Mormons, and a few jerks. I met Mormons who ranged from hyper to calm and from shy to friendly. There were two types of Mormons, however, that I never met in those years. Out-of-the-closet gays and feminists.
In the 12 years since then, I’ve met with, read about, and interviewed gay Mormons and have learned that they’re plentiful and are finding their voice. Their fellow congregants are paying more attention to them than ever before and treatment is generally improving. Progress is slow, but it’s still progress. A typecast that is also sometimes ignored or mocked, but that is even more hidden than gays, is the feminist Latter-day Saint.
At a support group for gay Mormons that I started attending a few months ago, our LDS hostess introduced herself as a feminist and I about fell out of my seat. As an impassioned feminist and someone who is a big fan of many Mormons, I thought this was a pretty cool combo.
I was already impressed, but when Emily Clyde Curtis (a Mormon who kept her maiden name, wow!) told me that there’s an LDS feminist publication (Exponent II), my intrigue piqued.
Emily gave me a special Exponent II that focused on homosexuality in the church, and I read it from cover to cover. I expected the stories to be compelling, and they are, but frankly, I didn’t expect the magazine to be so professional and for the writing to be as high quality as it is. My expectations were modest because this is a largely homespun publication. And yet, the material the Exponent II women produce is outstanding.
I know several Mormons who are extremely comfortable with, even proud of, the fact that the LDS Church is male dominated, and they don’t want it to change even one iota. However, Mormon feminists prove that there is diversity in the LDS Church and the fact that their LDS membership is safe and that their projects haven’t been banned shows that the Church is becoming more open-minded.
But to what extent? Would these women be welcome to conduct a workshop on feminism during a Relief Society meeting? Would their bishops or stake presidents welcome suggestions on how women can ascend to more leadership roles? Would church members welcome ideas for how gender stereotypes can be challenged in a way that may benefit everyone involved? For instance, a mother working and the father staying home with the kids, if that’s what works for a particular family?
I look forward to learning more about the goals, conversations and successes of feminist Mormons, and I hope that even the most traditional and conservative of their LDS sisters will give them a chance to share their feminist testimony, and will open their hearts and minds to it.
*Michelle Beaver is a journalist and teaches magazine writing at Arizona State University. She has found a special interest in exploring the LDS Church’s relationship with homosexuality. She’s not Mormon but has several Mormon friends and has attended a great many church events. She’s author of the book, Romney’s Gay America: Mormon Leaders, Same-Sex Rights — Bridging the Gap, which explores how Mormons and gays can improve their often-tense relationship. Her truest passion, however (well, maybe it’s tied with animal welfare) is feminism.