The Role of the Faithful Feminist
A few weeks ago EmilyCC and I decided to ditch our husbands and kids and go to dinner. We had a great time talking about our families, our lives, and our beliefs. We also talked about feminism and the church and gospel issues that confuse or upset us. In the end, I asked her, “Why do you stay in the church?”
Her answer had two parts. First, she said she has received personal revelation that this is the church where God wants her to be. She said the answer only came once, and she hasn’t received any follow-up revelations regarding specific doctrinal questions. The next part surprised me a little. She talked about how she sees her role as a faithful feminist as important for the church. Referring to 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27 and the Body of Christ imagery, she discussed how she sees feminists as an important part of that body. The scripture talks about how the eye and the hand each have different roles, but one is not more important than the other. As faithful feminists, we have a role to play just like any other member. Then I mistakenly placed 1 Corinthians in the Old Testament and we had good laugh. (Sheesh, I guess it’s time to read the Bible again)
But the importance of a faithful feminist in the church is an image to which I keep coming back. Since I’m still navigating my role as an LDS feminist, and because I’m generally opinionated and occasionally confrontational, I have trouble finding the balance between faith and questions in a Sunday School/Relief Society setting. Part of my trouble is how I frame feminism in a gospel context. Sometimes I see it as way to have a gospel discussion (read disagreement). But, I want to see it as a way to help individuals who struggle with patriarchy or other issues and have not found resolution through typical church responses.
Starfoxy recently posted on a similar topic as she explained how she, as a Radical Feminist continues to be part of a Patriarchal church. I liked this,
“My goal is damage control, and improving individual lives as much as possible, changing the structure of the world where we can, but otherwise working within the existing structure for the benefit of individuals.”
I think she’s right that the goal is to help individuals. Sometimes feminism can be helpful, or at least understanding.
Here’s my recent experience:
The woman I’ve been visit teaching for 4 years was recently released from 3 years as YW President (a few years after being Primary President) then called directly as RS President. She has 2 children ages 12 and 13 at home and has admitted to me that she is burned out and wishes she didn’t have this calling. So, I listen to her, validate her concerns, and encourage her to talk to the bishop about her feelings. Of course I don’t have the authority to know if her calling was from God, but I do want to help her know that she has the option of saying no, even to the bishop.
What are the ways, large and small that feminists can contribute to the church, and affect the lives of members individually? How do you see your role and follow your conscience as you try to strike the balance between faith and feminism at church?