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.
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.
Ask a Feminist