A Source of Social Capital
The women who constitute the WAVE board are among those who are basically comfortable in and with the church. In fact, in many ways they represent the standard picture of ideal Mormon womanhood, though they are hardly representative of LDS women as a whole. They all share nearly identical social locations. They are overwhelmingly white, in their 20s and 30s, highly educated, married or engaged, and nearly all are mothers. They do not seem to be among those who feel deeply damaged by patriarchy, even though many other Mormon women do. I would argue that their privileged social location plays a role in their ability to claim a feminist identity. Older women without children, women of color, divorcees, never marrieds, adult converts, less actives, lesbians, and other women who inhabit less socially privileged space in LDS culture might not feel sufficiently authorized or institutionally secure enough to risk taking on a feminist identity since the costs to them of challenging the patriarchy are potentially much greater. At least so far then, the new Mormon feminism seems to be a movement with very constrained parameters.
I applaud efforts to organize, to study, to teach, and to write about the issues Mormon women face, and to increase their visibility. I support conversations with and about women in public spaces and defend the opportunity for women to name their own experience. These are empowering actions, conducive of community, and profoundly psychologically comforting. Blog posts, cyber chatting and virtual therapy have an important pastoral function, but we also need to be clear about their limitations.
For more responses to Kathryn Soper's As Sisters in Zion, click here.
Melissa Proctor studied at B.Y.U., Yale Divinity School, Princeton and Brown, and has taught courses in Women and Religion, Religious Ethics, Feminist Theory, and Mormonism as visiting faculty at Harvard Divinity School and Holy Cross. She is the 2010 Ruth Landes Memorial Research Fellow through the Reed Foundation in New York City.