Future of Mormonism
The Next Generation of Mormon Feminism
I have spent the last seven years working in Young Women, the program for teenage girls. These girls give me such hope for the future of the church. To them it is common sense that women could have a career and children, if that's what they wanted. The acceptability of education is such a fact to them that many of them cock their heads at me as if I'm speaking a different language if I hint at a time when that wasn't so. These women have grown up in a world where they were nearly equal in many ways to their male peers. To suggest otherwise is almost blasphemous to them. Many of them have become adept at interpreting statements from general authorities to fit their viewpoint, secure in themselves and what they want out of the world, and assuming that everyone else feels the same way.
But I have also watched, over and over again, as these bright lights eventually come up against something they can't incorporate and they have to make a choice. Do they shrink themselves down and become less to fit in the prescribed role, or do they turn away from what they have been taught? My heart has broken as I watch these girls I love like daughters walk away because they can't find a way to fit in. We have no access to firm numbers, but based on the anecdotal evidence, we are losing this generation of young adults at shocking rates. And while the reasons may be manifold, I am firmly of the belief that it's because the vision we give them of their future is not a future they want.
I think we are at an exciting moment as Mormon feminists. A new generation is refusing to accept things the way they are, while an older generation is educating and speaking out with renewed fervor. Spurred on by this momentum and by the supportive associations we've found online, several Mormon feminists (including myself) have banded together to create an advocacy group -- W.A.V.E -- Women Advocating for Voice and Equality. Our goal is to formally unite all the women interested in Mormon feminism to work together to advance the cause of gender equality within the LDS church. We want to support women seeking to practice their faith through their struggles with gender issues, communicate our feelings and perspectives to church leaders, and to deepen our experience with the gospel.
If we look for a model of effective change for women in the church, we can look to the issues of birth control and working women. For decades, leaders preached about the evils of birth control, until women flat out rejected the counsel. They preached about the dangers of women working outside of the home, but women continued to do it in greater numbers until leaders have had to accept it. Strict essentialist gender roles often bear so little resemblance to our actual lives, we just have to keep living in the manner best for our family, and things will catch up.
Tresa Edmunds writes about faith and feminism under the name Reese Dixon at FeministMormonHousewives.org. She can also be found at her lifestyle blog, reesedixon.com where she writes about motherhood and other creative endeavors.