Organizational Spotlight: Parenting in the Workforce Institute

Let’s start with a couple rhetorical questions:

Is the primary reason LDS women are counseled to stay home to care for their babies and children because the workforce historically does not allow parents to bring their children to work with them?

If yes, what if the workforce changed and started welcoming mother-baby dyads into the office or onto the sales floor for those mothers feeling led to work outside the home?

Some companies are doing that, over 140 across in the United States, in fact. The list of organizations can be found at the website Babies at Work.org sponsored by the Parenting in the Workforce Institute.

The vision of Parenting in the Workforce Institute is stated as follows:

We are prepared to enable a dramatic expansion of this world in which babies come to work every day with their mothers or fathers and in which parents can lovingly care for their children while also getting their jobs done:

A world in which bank tellers and grocery store employees cuddle their babies while helping clients, and customers come to the businesses more often specifically to visit the babies

A world in which coworkers and managers start out skeptical about starting a babies-at-work program, but then find themselves bonding with the babies and wanting them to continue coming to work

A world in which parents can stay with their babies and work to support their families at the same time

A world in which both men and women in the workplace provide a social network for these new families and volunteer to help care for the babies

A world in which the business benefits of these programs are so significant that executives rave about how integral a baby program has been in the success of their business

A mother works at the computer while babywearing

In a call for support I found posted on Stand and Deliver, a blog about mothering, pregnancy and childbirth written by LDS woman Rixa Freeze, PhD, the founder of PWI is seeking people who will:

1.   Join the PIWI Network.  Whether you’ve taken a baby to work, work in a baby-inclusive company (or want to), or are simply supportive of our efforts to build a world in which families of all kinds are supported, we would love to hear your experiences and opinions.  Joining is free, and you can choose to donate $30 if you wish to receive a PIWI mug and a seal for your website to show your support.  We are also starting a PIWI Blog Network for advance notice of PIWI initiatives and opportunities to participate in blog carnivals and other events.  If you wish to join the Blog Network, please enter your information when you join our Network.

2.   Tell Companies About Our Bridge Project.  Spread the word to current baby-inclusive companies that might be interested in joining the Bridge Project—the first wave of our plans to celebrate and expand babies in the workplace.  Companies who join the Bridge Between Career and Family will have their baby program permanently featured on our website and will receive free initial baby-inclusive certification services and a discount on services to enhance the effectiveness of their baby program, outreach avenues for sharing their products and services with Institute supporters, an outlet for finding skilled employees among PIWI supporters, and priority for being included in future media pieces.

3.   Follow PIWI on Facebook and Twitter. Join our Facebook community and Twitter page; we will be communicating frequently in the upcoming days with our supporters there as well as on PIWI Place, our private community for PIWI Supporters.

4.   Grow Our Baby-Inclusive DatabaseTell us if you know of companies anywhere in the world that have allowed an employee to bring a baby to work (even informally) so that we can contact them and add them to our list.  Share with us your suggestions of companies that might be willing to work with us to set up a formal babies-at-work pilot program (at no charge for the Institute’s services).

5.   Expand Our Outreach.  Write and talk about parenting in the workplace–show the world that this is being done successfully in many different environments.  Send us your pictures and videos of bringing your babies to work.  Spread the word about our effort to bring parenting at work to the mainstream, and share your own experiences and thoughts about this concept.  Let us know when you post your work and we’ll do our best to share your thoughts with other supporters of parenting in the workplace.

For more on information on PWI, look for pictures, videos, interviews, and survey results on their Babies in the Workplace website, this blog, and their Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as through various other outlets that support their work, such as MomsRising with their new website, the Custom-Fit Workplace. Also keep an eye out for Rixa’s interview of PWI’s founder Carla Moquin.

For other innovative and child-friendly employment policies, check out MomsRising’s Open Flexible Work page where they discuss flexible work arrangements like flexible scheduling, telecommuting, job sharing, career customization, part-time work options and, on-ramps for parents who take time away from work in addition to taking babies to work.

If you had the opportunity to take your baby to work, would you do it? Have you been able to take your baby to work or arrange any of these other flexible work options? How did it work for you? How did it go with your baby? If you took your infant to work, what did you and your employer decide once your baby became mobile?

Ask a Feminist

Dear Ask a Feminist,

I grew up in a small, insular Mormon community and as such, have often felt alienated for my professional ambition, education, liberal views, and profound sense of social justice. After years of internal debate, guilt, and confusion, I have finally reached a level personal resolution regarding my place in the church. However, even though my internal struggle has subsided, I have still felt very isolated in the church culture. Finding this website and viewing the profiles of the beautiful and intelligent women (and man) on the board of WAVE has provided me a sense of connection and hope that I have previously not found in my experience with the church. I am thrilled to learn that my point of view is not only shared by others, but is being advocated.

My question then, is how can I be formally involved in this movement? Is there a general membership? And if so, how do I join?

Kind Regards,

Small Town Gal

Dear Small Town Gal,

Your story is inspiring and resonates with many of us here at WAVE. We too have come to individual resolutions that help us sustain our faith and activity. We have also felt the isolation and alienation you speak of. Hopefully together we can make a difference in the lives of all the women like us out there!

First, recognize that LDS WAVE is a new organization. We are testing things out and trying to find the right balance of advocacy and faith. We want to succeed in our endeavor and so the process is sometimes a little slow. We would love any feedback and ideas that you have. That said we have some really exciting things planned and ways for you to get involved!

We would love to have more personal stories of your life and how you have been impacted by religious gender inequality and how you have dealt with it. We hope that by posting these stories on the HOPE blog that we will inspire others to realize that they are not alone. You can send these stories to: hopeideas@ldswave.org

Also, we are planning weekly, monthly, and large scale Calls To Action that will be effective in promoting gender inclusiveness and also fun ways for you to find and integrate into your local community of Mormon Feminists. There are a lot of us out there and half of the problem is just connecting with and supporting each other. I won’t spoil what we have planned already—so keep checking back with us—but we would also love more ideas of actionable things we can do as a community of women. Please send your ideas to: calltoaction@ldswave.org

One of the biggest actions that we are currently involved in is finding, collecting, and collating quotes from female spiritual leaders in our Words of Wisdom project that we can incorporate into church meetings, visiting teaching, and family home evening lessons. Everyone benefits from the increased voice of women and we look forward to receiving quotes that have helped your life: wordsofwisdom@ldswave.org

Our Women’s Service Mission director is very active in finding ways that we can advocate for justice, equality, and contribute to our local communities. Please join with her as she posts an action each month that you can be a part of. We are also dedicated to social justice and would love to hear some of your ideas on what we can do to help. Also, you can let her know the happenings in your own community, so that she can help advertise and connect people in your area who are interested: sevice@ldswave.org

One of the easiest ways to spread the word is to link to our website from your facebook, blog, or email. Many of our fellow feminists have told us amazing and sometimes sad experiences they’ve had by just sharing their interest in WAVE. Just having your friends and family realize that they know and love a Mormon Feminist makes them rethink their relationship to feminism in particular and religious inequality in general.

And don’t forget, I always love a good question: askafeminist@ldswave.org

Sincerely,

Ask a Feminist

Advocacy Opportunity: Support the National Women’s History Museum Act

Originally posted on Change.org.

The National Women’s History Museum was founded in 1996 by Karen Staser. However, it has been limited to a virtual presense. Museum staff are hoping to make their drream of a physical location a relaity in the near future. The museum would like to showecase such historical items as the original, signed 19th Amendment to the Constitution, the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments from Seneca Falls, and some of the tens of thousands of women’s history items belonging to the Smithsonian Museum of American History that have never been displayed.

Despite the fact that the museum will be privately funded, the NAtional Women’s History Museum need Congressional approval to buy the federal land on which they want to build. The U.S. House of Representatives passed The National Women’s History Museum of 2009 back in October and sent the bill over to the Senate. Frustratingly, it has sat there collecting dust for almost a year because a male Senator put an anonymous hold on the bill.

There is no need to delay this important project any longer. Until a site can be secured, it is nearly impossible for the National Women’s History Museum to properly plan and raise funds. Tell your Senator now that you want them to fully support the National Women’s History Museum Act.

To sign the petition, you can visit the National Women’s History Museum’s website and sign their petition urging Senator to pass the act: http://www.nwhm.org/get-involved/promote/sign-petition/

From their site:

“Our Nation’s Capital has many wonderful museums, but one important museum is missing–one to recognize and honor the lives of women. Help us build the National Women’s History Museum by signing our petition.”

As the first advocacy opportunity posted by the Women’s Service Mission, please choose to act as you feel appropriate with this information. If you are in support and want to sign the petition, please do so. You may also decide that this is one project that is meaningful to you and that you may wish to find ways to be further involved. If you do, visit the NWHM’s website’s “Get Involved” page where they describe their different needs for volunteers and support.

About Your Women’s Service Mission Director

Jenne Alderks, M.Ed., is the stay at home mother of two, a convert of eight years to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and serves as a ward missionary in Seattle, WA. She is Project Coordinator of Solace For Mothers, a non-profit organization providing support to mothers who have been traumatized by their childbearing experiences. Jenne also is an advocate for mother friendly maternity care, sustainable living and family friendly public policy.

First, I want to start by saying that the WAVE Women’s Service Mission a dream come true. For years I have been looking to  join with fellow Latter-day Saints in advocating for  women and families around the world and I am so excited to have this platform to work with other faithful Latter-day Saints on issues that affect us, our neighbors and our sisters and brothers around the world.

A little bit of background on me: I am a convert to the church coming from a religious upbringing in the socially conscious and actively engaged Unitarian Universalist Church. After joining the church in 2001, I went to BYU where I studied family studies and human development. I feel my education at BYU prepared me to be an activist in the non-profit and community based organization sector working for healthier communities through healthier families. In working with professors and other students on The National Healthy Marriage Resource Center, I saw the interplay between education, family dynamics, poverty, health and thriving communities. I can say that my views on community involvement were very much shaped by my studies at BYU.

Since graduating from BYU in 2005, I have been able to continue progressing in my education journey. I spent some time working for a non-profit organizations with low-income populations and then went onto to receive my master’s from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2008.  My master’s also exposed me to societal issues facing families. I gained a passion for advocating for family-friendly public policies. It was through my studies at UH Manoa that I came to realize that the way to protect children from poverty is not through extending services to children, but instead, services must also be directed to children’s mothers. This coincided with my own first overtly negative experience with patriarchy and the violation of my rights as a woman. Thus started my awareness to women’s issues.

Because that disempowering experience centered on the birth of my first child, I turned my attention to finding healing and support. In my search, I joined with the organization Solace for Mothers to create a discussion board for women who have experienced trauma and/or violation in their labor and birth experiences. In my work as a birth activist and  blogger, I became exposed to the idea that childbirth in our society is a feminist issue—a fundamental struggle for women to have the informed choice to birth as they feel is appropriate for them as mothers and individuals. This experience also compounded my belief that women have a unique set of struggles yet to be overcome as they seek to find respect in our world.

As I became immersed in mother’s issues via the Internet, I became connected with a network of advocacy organizations that provide everyday busy people (like us!) the ease and convenience of being involved in advocacy efforts on a range of issues and particular interests. Through involvement with organizations such as these, I’ve had enough experience feeling like I can do something to be civically engaged and advocate for the areas in which I have decided to dedicate my efforts that I’ve learned a little something of benefit.

As WAVE’s Women’s Service Mission continues, I will be sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned as an activist. You will likely find that my posts and advocacy offerings in the beginning with tell you more about me and my interests than what advocacy efforts are available and important for women around the world. I will try to provide a broad range of opportunities, but will need participation from WAVE readers to help guide the efforts of the Women’s Service Mission. I readily admit that my efforts and interests are narrow and focused. I find that to be a good thing in some regards but I must call upon the women and men reading to volunteer up the causes that are important and meaningful to you—the ones that you believe will bless, strengthen and provide comfort to women in need.

If you don’t find what you are looking for or care about, email me at service@ldswave.org and tell me what you want to see covered here. If you’d like, I will do what I can to help you locate an organization working on the cause that is meaningful to you. If you are involved with an organization, cause, or effort or you want to get in contact with like-minded concerned individuals, write into the Women’s Service Mission and I will post your call to action.

I look forward to learning from and working with you!

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

Ask a Feminist

Dear Ask a Feminist,

I just read the article in the Salt Lake City News titled “New Mormon-Feminist Group Lobbies LDS Church”. This is the first time I have heard of this group and still confused as to what you feel is unequal in the church?  The only thing mentioned in the article is having to do with baby changing stations and boy scouts getting more money?  These seem like trivial things and they are not really the core issue for you.  What are the real things you feel so unequal?  I read your blog and didn’t really find any issues just feelings of inequality.  I would really like to know what are THINGS that make you feel this way?  Is it that men lead the church?  Yes, they are the leaders but, who runs RS, primary and young womens?   I’ve had callings in all these and never once has there been a man telling us what to do!  As of late the Elders of the church have focused on women and our needs, how we should be treated and how much we are loved and appreciated.

A quote from the article: “The issues that we Mormon Feminists are so concerned about are the things that are making it so difficult for Mormon women to stay in the church,” Butterworth writes.    Please tell me what is so difficult? And, I feel you are trying to stir the pot and bring negative ideas about the church that do not exist.  I also feel you are walking a fine line with this movement (with no real grounds in my opinion).  You might NOT have to feel it hard to stay in the church if you are not careful (I would hate for it to come to that).  I feel you do have a testimony of the church, but have pondered on a few negative things that people have done to you, and not what the church has done to you.

Best regards,

Be Careful

Dear Be Careful,

I’m glad that you have had many callings in the church and “never once has there been a man telling [you] what to do.” What ward are you in? We’d like to join.

All joking aside, you ask some poignant questions. Mainly, what are the things that make me feel unequal. Here is a partial list for you below.

Remember that this is my answer and each woman you speak with will have different experiences. I love my church leaders and have faith in this gospel. Not all gender inequality in the church is tied to the priesthood and I think that 90% of it is unintended and, thus, it is important for us at LDS WAVE to makes our voices heard. You may find this list overwhelming and wonder why anyone who feels this way would stay a member of the church. Remember that I am deeply committed to the church and am trying to align my faith as a Latter-Day Saint with my deeply rooted spiritual sense of equality. Sadly, this paradox often causes me and many women that I know great pain and frustration.

I recognize that some of these issues are church wide, some local, and some unchangeable. Some of them are simple and some of them are deeply ingrained. All of them, nevertheless, make me feel unequal and are worth talking about.

I feel unequal when there are more (a lot more) men’s voices in religious texts, meetings, leadership positions, and decision making bodies.

I feel unequal when callings that don’t necessitate the priesthood are given only to men: Sunday School Presidency, BYU, BYU-I and BYU-Hawaii Presidents, Church Education Commissioners, Ward Mission Leaders, recommend takers at the Temple, etc. (Similarly, men are not currently called in Primary Presidencies and could be.)

I feel unequal when women doing the same job are called by different titles (i.e. Sister vs. President) and/or are accessories to rather than serving equally with their husbands, i.e. Mission President’s wives.

I feel unequal when I have a calling as an auxiliary leader and have to get approval of every decision by men and/or when I am not invited to attend Priesthood Executive Committee meetings (PEC) which directly influence my stewardships.

I feel unequal when my value is primarily linked to being a wife and mother rather than by being a child of God.

I feel unequal when the men in my life acknowledge that they have no female spiritual leaders in their wards or communities.

I feel unequal when women have less prominent, prestigious, and public roles in the church, even before and after childrearing years.

I feel unequal because even one of the most inherently female-dominated time periods, having a new baby, is publically displayed at church in an all male ritual of the baby blessing.

I feel unequal when males handle 100% of the church finances.

I feel unequal when I am taught at church that my husband presides in my family, he is the head, and all things being equal, he has the final say.

I feel unequal when people preach that men and women are completely equal and in the same breath say the above sentence.

I feel unequal when I realize that at church all men have the final say. Good leaders might consult with female auxiliary leaders, but ultimately even after being called to a position via inspiration, men still make the final decisions.

I feel unequal when cub scouts and boy scouts have a larger budget (they are allowed to do fundraising- although this might be a local issue) than achievement days and Young Womens and thus, they often have better activities.

I feel unequal when the Young Women and Young Men’s programs have such different manuals, budgets, activities, etc.

I feel unequal when fathers and mothers are encouraged to fulfill primary roles to provide and nurture, but only the fathers are given the freedom to seek out the best way for them to provide, whereas, mothers are told the best way for them to nurture—to be stay at home moms.

I feel unequal when men teach me that being a stay at home mother is the most important thing a person could do, and yet most of them do not do it.

I feel unequal when people do not emphasize fatherhood as much as they do motherhood and when we have numerous annual lessons on the priesthood and I’m not taught anything about the woman’s role as a priestess.

I feel unequal in primary when most of the lessons and songs are about men although most of the teachers and leaders are women.

I feel unequal because church disciplinary courts are made up of solely men and there are no female voices in the very sensitive matters of church discipline.

I feel unequal when women have to talk to men about their sins, especially sexual ones, and have no other church sanctioned options.

I feel unequal because most men, even inspired ones, can’t fully understand or provide enough resources for sexual abuse.

I feel unequal when young girls are taught about modesty and chastity from older men, especially because females make decisions about these things for very different reasons than males.

I feel unequal because many of the official church declarations and proclamations have no female input, regardless of how drastically they affect women.

I feel unequal when there are no checks and balances for females who experience abuse in the system. While abuse may be rare, it is terrifying that women have no resources to go to outside of the male hierarchy.

I feel unequal because the Relief Society’s autonomy was taken away and it became an auxillery presided over by men.

I feel unequal when women’s financial autonomy isn’t encouraged as much as men’s at church and/or church schools.

I feel unequal because men conduct, men preach, men speak.  Men teach us how to be women.

I feel unequal because local leaders rarely use gender inclusive language even though church manuals and General Conference talks try to do so.

I feel unequal when men speak at Relief Society and Young Women’s meetings, but women never speak in priesthood meetings.

I feel unequal when there are very few women’s voices in our official correlated church manuals.

I feel unequal when women don’t pray in General Conference and usually only give 2 or 3 of the many talks.

I feel unequal because men and women can be sealed to different numbers of people.

I feel unequal in the temple because women a have different script and role.

I feel unequal when female employees of the Church Educational System and temple ordinance workers are no longer allowed to keep their positions after they have children.

I feel unequal because we know very little about Heavenly Mother and her role in the Godhead and there doesn’t seem to be any emphasis on the part of our leaders to pray and find out more. I don’t know what my divine potential means as a female and that makes me feel less important.

I feel unequal because all of these concerns are mediated by male leaders and that they are only as important as these men deem them so. While most of our leaders are wonderful, there is very little in the structure or doctrine to prevent male leaders from misogyny or benevolent sexism.

I feel unequal when these gender inequalities are not acknowledged by leaders. It is difficult to be a female in a patriarchal church and we are trying our best to make it work. Acknowledgement of that difficulty would go a long way.

All of these reasons begs the following question: If women are really as equally valued as men why aren’t they given equal voice? That is what we are trying to do here at LDS WAVE.

We appreciate all of you who have contacted us and have heard from many women and men who do not see a problem with any of the above and/or do not feel unequal at all. We have also heard from many women and men who say they are uplifted, strengthened, and encouraged by knowing that they are not alone in their struggle and pain with these issues. Either way, please share with us how you have overcome some of these obstacles so that we might all learn from each other and be one in Christ.

Sincerely,

Ask a Feminist

What Being an LDS Feminist Means to Me

by Chelsea, WAVE board member

Photo: Chelsea at 8 yrs old


I came home from school and plopped my backpack near the entry-way closet. I ran into the kitchen moving my head back-and-forth to feel the ribbons in my pigtails brush my face. My Dad was sitting on the stairs of our Tooele, Utah house and he opened his arms inviting me to come join him. It was such a sweet moment. I remember feeling very special that I got his undivided attention.

He asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I’d never been asked this question before. I knew I had to use this precious time wisely before one of the rug rats crawled in and stole my opportunity to shine. With little hesitation and the desire every kid has to make their father proud I confidently proclaimed, “The President of the United States!”

It was the first grand profession I could think of on such short notice and I still remember puffing up my chest up high and beaming a bucktoothed smile when my dad nonchalantly said, “You can’t be the President. What will your husband do?”

I didn’t know. I’d never really thought about it. As my chest slowly deflated, I guessed, “I don’t know. He could be with me?”

“But who will watch the kids?” my Dad explained.

Again, I’d never really thought about it and didn’t know what to say, so I just mumbled, “Yeah” and sat their seriously wondering “Who can watch the kids? C’mon think. Think. THINK.” But soon his attention was diverted and he was gone.

I never did come up with an answer for him and he never again asked me what I wanted to be. Up until this point in my life, I pretty much thought my father was God—omniscient, loving, always right, fun, etc. But something deep down inside my little 8 year-old body knew that he was wrong about this. I could be the President of the United States if I really wanted to be. Why did being a girl change anything? I didn’t feel any different from the boys I knew. Why would it be good for them and not me? I mean it wasn’t like I was really going to be President of the United States, I knew that, but it just killed me that there was already this opportunity that I couldn’t have just because I was a girl. Rather, an opportunity that the only man I loved, my dad, didn’t think I should have. At 8 years-old I came face-to-face with a shattered vision of the American dream, I realized that things are different for girls than they are for boys. It made me sad and then quickly, the way kids do, I changed my mind. I thought, “Who says he’s right anyway?” I gave credence to my own deep intuition and decided early that maybe boys aren’t always right about girl matters.

This poignant memory stayed with me throughout my life. Not the specifics necessarily, but the idea that I would have strong promptings throughout my life that were seemingly contradictory to my priesthood leaders.

It wasn’t that I was being disobedient. That is not in my nature. I love the church. I follow my leaders. I’ve always taken their counsel and advice very seriously.

The problem was that the very same mechanisms I had been taught to recognize as spiritual promptings—that I had always trusted to guide and direct my life–did not always align with those of my priesthood leaders. One example of this is after much prayer and pain I decided not to marry a former longtime beau. During this time I received much counsel from my college bishop, my home ward bishop, my institute professor, and my beau that encouraged me to get married. Each time one of my leaders questioned my personal revelation I would go back to the drawing board and start over. I would “search diligently, pray always, and be believing” (D & C 90:24). After much struggle and genuine desire for guidance, I arrived at the same conclusion each time. It was very confusing to me to feel like I was following the correct spiritual process of being directed by the Lord, but that my answers were different than what my priesthood leaders thought they should be. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that we were both right. My leaders general counsel was inspired, i.e. marriage is good, however, so was my personal revelation, i.e. who I should marry.

Similarly, I realized that this was how my Dad was trying to communicate all those years before. It wasn’t that he didn’t want me to become the President or didn’t think I was able, it was that he wanted me to realize that family was the most important thing. HowevWith that counsel in mind, it was also right for me to listen to the spirit and with my husband decide what that meant for our family life.

This realization has helped me through many big decisions in my life- none more poignantly than my struggle with being a feminist (simply meaning, one who believes in the equality of men and women) in the church. While the foundation of this belief is founded in basic gospel principles and reconfirmed via heartfelt study and prayer, gender inequality is something I regularly see perpetuated by church members. Most of these incidences are seemingly banal and, like the examples above, it sometimes takes me a long time to figure out the essential message in seemingly prejudice general counsel. I know that many members and leaders are even benevolent in their prejudice, in fact many women in the church are content, but it nevertheless makes me feel like a second-class child of God and an enabler of these ideas by doing nothing.

This has been a major challenge these last couple of years in my life. I have often felt discouraged and alone. The cognitive dissonance between equality and the church made me feel hurt, less valued, and, ultimately, upset. I would leave church meetings feeling frustrated rather than uplifted. At one point I felt that the two were mutually exclusive, I was at a crossroads and had to make a choice. They were both equally strong impressions. I felt torn between two things I loved and believed in deeply. At first I decided the church was more important. I tried to relegate my feelings into the “We just don’t know everything on earth” category and ignore the inequalities I saw. I did this for awhile but it felt like every time I would hear or see injustice or the consequences of gender discrimination in the lives of the women I knew a little piece of my spirit crumbled and died. I wasn’t being honest with myself and it was eating away at my soul. Eventually, I weighed my options again. There was nothing about the equality of women— in their divine nature or earthy treatment— that I felt was incorrect. Equality was intuitive, Christlike, a fundamental right. How could I go against this?

I did, however, harbor doubts about the church’s relationship with underrepresented minorities. There have been many wrongs that have been righted over time. That is why we have continued revelation. But why hasn’t this been the case with women? I also struggled with whether or not I wanted to raise my daughter in a society where she could not play a full and equal role and where she was taught that this was justified. I began to wonder if I might have to leave the church.

I mourned this decision. I wept. I felt like there was nowhere for me to discuss such things. At church I didn’t want to disrupt the spirit or diminish what little respect people had for me. Whenever I brought up my concerns with church members my faithfulness and obedience was questioned, when I brought it up with non-members it was my sanity they doubted.

Fortunately, God knew more than all of the above. If you remember, earlier he had helped me trust my spiritual promptings and marry the right person for me. I was very open with my husband about my challenges and frustrations. While it was hard for him to see me suffer and to watch me change, he supported and loved me throughout.

One day, I told him my decision about feeling like I would have to leave the church because, “I would never join a group that institutionally promulgated and culturally constituted inequality. So how can I stay in one that does?”

His response was beautiful and inspired, “But you are American.”

“What?” I thought I heard him wrong.

“Well, the US has often structurally and culturally mistreated minorities and women, which you are morally opposed to, so why do you stay?”

His question gave me cause to think deeply and humbly.

“You are right” I said.

I thought about it awhile and explained, “I stay in America because there are so many things about it that I love and believe in. There are also many things that I disagree with, but I feel like I have the power to help change those things.”

“So why can’t you do that with the church?” was his response.

“Maybe I can.” I thought.

And thus began another year of struggling to figure out my place in a male-biased hierarchy. I know that I have no right to receive revelation for the church. I trust that my leaders are inspired, but I do not presume they are omniscient. Maybe I was right in 2nd grade, “that boys aren’t always right about girl matters”. Maybe the only way to cause change is if enough women made their leaders aware of their struggles—that they agonize over their love for the gospel and their feelings of discrimination, that their exclusion from many hierarchies and rituals in the church make them feel inferior, that they desire to fulfill the measure of their own creation, that they cling to the belief that they have a Heavenly Mother and hope to know more about her, that being single or childless or secondary to their spouse makes them feel like they are not good enough on their own, that gender is only one aspect of who they are, that there is so much more that they can contribute to the church if allowed, that they hope continued revelation will be used on their behalf, and that if we are all sacred in the eyes of God, why does it feel like we are treated so differently here on earth?

This year has been a little easier. I have found more harmony and joy in being an LDS feminist. I have a bishop that respects my intuition and a Relief Society president that views it as an asset. I am doing my best to honor God by following both the spiritual promptings he sends me as well as those he gives to church leaders. This isn’t always easy and I don’t know why I am particularly prompted in this area. Connecting with other women who are aware of and seeking answers to these questions has been a huge blessing to me and my family. Participating in LDS WAVE helps me to feel like I am not alone and that together we can make a difference.

I plan on teaching my sons and daughters that family is the most important thing in the world and, hopefully, when they tell me what they want to be when they grow up gender won’t matter.

Ask a Feminist

Dear ask a Feminist,

I have always felt a bit embarrassed for a lot of men in the LDS church that take their “Role” as the priesthood holder of the family a bit too far! I have found that there are few men that really understand that putting your wife on a pedestal and treating her with love and kindness is truly what Christ would want, and it’s the true meaning of being a man, I wanted to know if this is why you have started groups such as this, have you felt like you take a back seat to men in this religion, and if so, why would you continue to participate? Do you feel that you CAN make a difference?

Sincerely,

Wondering

Dear Wondering,

Thank you for your comment. We appreciate your interest and desire to follow Christ. We also seek to follow his example and believe that everyone can learn a lot about gender equality from him. In the New Testament Christ didn’t place women on a pedestal or treat them as inferior. He recognized their reality as: flawed and able, divine and troubled, obedient and independent thinkers. He saw their lives as worthy of contemplation and dialogue. In the New Testament we have the most female voices in our religious texts and we see that their lives are complicated and varied. No two women are alike and no two women have the exact same abilities or destiny.

As to your first question, we have started this group because we want to be treated at church the way that we think Christ would treat us. I think He would want to hear our voices just as much as the brethren. I think He would teach us that we are valuable in and of ourselves, not only as wives or mothers. I don’t think He would assume that we are all the same. I think He would encourage us to discover our spiritual gifts and use them. Even if he couldn’t explain why, I think He would at least acknowledge that there is a gender bias in church leadership, religious texts, our knowledge of the Godhead, and decision making power. I think that after He acknowledged this He would tell us that this didn’t mean that our Heavenly Father prefers His sons. I think He would take pity on women in disciplinary courts and send the 15 men away or at least provide a jury full of female peers. I think He would let us women have the last say in church matters once in awhile. I think He would tell us that our answers to prayer are just as good as a man’s. I think He would agree that man and woman are great together because they have two heads. I think He would tell us about our former female religious leaders left out of the scriptures, recognize current female spiritual examples, and teach us about our Heavenly Mother and our future eternal destiny.

As to your second question, Yes, I do feel like I take a back seat to men in this religion, but I choose to continue to participate because a) I believe it is true, just flawed because of the historical and cultural context in which it exists, b) there is so much good, and c) because I have felt inspired to stay and implore for more equality because I CAN make a difference.

I could be wrong about this entire answer, but this is what I wish.

Sincerely,

Ask a Feminist

Ask A Feminist

Dear Ask a Feminist,

I personally and through study and experience have learned that the priesthood is here on earth for the benefit of men. I come from a home with an anti-feminist father and 3 brothers. Being the only girl, and daughter of a totally subservient mother, I have seen firsthand how men are naturally less righteous than women. In fact, they desperately need the priesthood to help them step up and progress in life and in the church. Women don’t need that regimented order to stay faithful and good (again, this is what I have gathered from my own experience). Perhaps we are the ones who put the priesthood here because we wanted our weaker sexed brothers to get back to God with us!

I guess I’m rambling, but I’m trying to grasp the inequality…in every ward I’ve ever been in, the relief society president runs the ward….and we all know it. I look at the bishopric as a controlled training ground for men…and I think they desperately need it, and I’m thankful it is there.

Please…help me out….?

Sincerely,

Superior Sex

Dear Superior Sex,

Thank you for writing. I recognize that your life experiences inform your question and I’m sorry that you have had so many negative  examples of male spirituality and nurturing.

Here at WAVE we do not seek to be superior or inferior, just equal. We recognize that men and women are different. However, difference shouldn’t preclude equality.

Many people find it insulting to hear gender generalizations that demean men: they are less spiritual, nurturing, and capable; they need the priesthood to be equal, etc. There are many great men in the world who don’t have the priesthood and many fantastic nurturers who are male. With any type of human trait we will see variation that exists within and between genders. Using stereotypes to teach principles will inevitably neglect many people and they are extremely damaging to both men and women. Teaching men that they are spiritually inferior or less nurturing is in direct opposition to the examples of Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ, who both just happen to be male.

Feminism is not about making assumptions about either gender, but about creating opportunities so that everyone, regardless of gender, can fulfill the measure of their creation.

Sincerely,

Ask a Feminist

Words of Wisdom

“Some of our greatest learning experiences will come as we give compassionately of ourselves. We may forget to be compassionate, but God never will. It is important for us to remember that this is a significant part of our human experience. In fact, it seems to be that, of all our learning, that which we obtain by way of giving compassionately is the most significant learning we ever do. … The work of compassion in Relief Society has been both consistent and adaptable over the years. As new needs arise among our people, the work of the Relief Society is modified to meet those needs. So today, as a worldwide organization, our purpose exists as it always has: to encourage us as women in the compassionate work characterized by the Prophet Joseph Smith as ‘according to your natures.’ ”

Barbara Bradshaw Smith, January 26, 1922 – September 13, 2010
Tenth General President of the Relief Society, 1974 – 1984
1978 BYU Devotional Speeches of the Year, Provo: BYU Press, 1979, p. 17.

Ask a Feminist

Dear Ask a Feminist,

I just read the following on your website: “About your Feminist: She is a wife, a mother, a professional, and an active LDS church member.” Why did you include “a professional” in the definition?  Do you mean only “professionals” are “feminists?”  In using the term “a professional,” you come across as exclusionary. Perhaps you may want to reword “About your Feminist.” I look forward to your response. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Kalola in California

Dear Kalola in California,

Thank you for your interest in helping us understand how we come across to readers. I wrote that description based on all of the many roles I participate in and included “a professional” because that is one of the things I do. Also, I thought that a more thorough description might appeal to the widest audience of women and the diversity of our roles. There is no intended correlation between being a feminist and having a career. In fact, all of the executive board members at LDS WAVE are fiercely feminist and many other descriptions: stay-at-home moms, working, married, single, with or without children, make-up and bra wearers and despisers, academic feminists, pragmatic feminists, etc. We run the gamut. Being “a professional” is not intended to be exclusionary, just the same as “being a wife” or “being a mother.” These are just descriptions of me so as to situate my answers in a relatable context. I hope that helps!

Per your question, I have decided to “reword” my descriptions by adding a little bit more about myself. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Ask a Feminist