I had the amazing honor and privilege to be able to attend the Women’s March in Washington DC in January with a wonderful group of Mormon women (women who ranged from fully active in our church community to those who have resigned or no longer attend but still honor their Mormon roots and heritage). We had so many wonderful conversations about the reasons why we felt compelled to gather at such an event with the discussions being rich in concerns for women’s rights, standing for honor and virtue, racial tensions, cultural dynamics, health & wellness and much, much more. Part of the awe I experienced, was being among thousands upon thousands of people (mostly women) and witnessing a peaceful process in very packed (often claustrophobic feeling) spaces. People helped the elderly and the very young, people were patient, people were respectful and people were representing a myriad of issues with their signs and voices in ways that were inspiring to see (even if I didn’t agree with all positions present).
It is disheartening and painful then to have our former Young Women general president, Elaine Dalton, at a University of Utah Institute fireside disparage and make sweeping statements about those who marched and took part of this historic event (many of us fellow sisters in the gospel who took part in marches across the world). I would hope that we have room in our vastly diverse church to stand for virtue and honor in a variety of ways… and that we can respect each other’s ways of doing so. Especially given our rich history of Mormon women and the role they played in fighting for women’s voting rights at a time when that was seen as “unladylike.” One of the people I got to attend the march with was Mindy Gledhill, an introspective, intelligent and thoughtful woman who has offered and has yet much more to offer the tribe we call Mormonism. She shares the following letter addressed to Sister Dalton with permission.
Today’s guest post is written by Mindy Gledhill. Opinions shared on guest posts may not completely reflect the positions of the blog’s author.
Mindy Gledhill is an award-winning singer, songwriter and composer. Her music has been featured on prime time television shows, major television ad campaigns and in films. Her most recent project, “Hive Riot,” is an electronic 80’s throwback band whose debut won “Best Pop Album” at the Independent Music Awards in 2016.
On Sunday, Feb. 27th, you shared your reaction to the Women’s March at a fireside at the University of Utah.
“We were in a cab, and as I watched those women marching and yelling, and should I say, behaving anything but ladylike and using language that was very unbefitting of daughters of God. As I watched all of that take place, my heart just sunk and I thought to myself, ‘What would happen if all those women were marching and calling to the world for a return to virtue?'”
First of all, if we were sitting down to lunch together, I’d say to you: Elaine, I’m sure you’ve received a lot of backlash regarding your talk. I know what that’s like and how much that can hurt. And perhaps you don’t feel this way presently, but I also know what it’s like to be a visible poster child for the Church and to look back at things you’ve said at the pulpit and wish so badly you could change them or retract them. I say this with all the sensitivity in the world, because I think you are a good person, but I hope you do retract your statement someday. Here’s why:
We cannot look out our window of privilege at “those women” who sacrificed so much to show up and be heard while shaking our heads at their behavior. No. Our foremothers were the very suffragettes who dared to step outside of their cultural constraints and risked everything to give you and I the vote (and so many other rights). Is this not virtue? We need to bear one another’s burdens and hold our sisters up. We need to teach them to speak loudly, to yell, kick and scream “NO” when men dismiss sexual assault as locker-room banter. Being “ladylike” in the face of abuse will not save women from the depth of suffering that we are fighting to save ourselves and our daughters from. I’m not sure that my words hold much credibility for you, since I no longer practice Mormonism, but I marched with a group of Mormon women in D.C., most of whom are active members, and they loved me, held me up and treated me no differently in spite of my departure from the faith. Is this not virtue? Together we showed up to support women young and old, rich and poor, black, white, indigenous, immigrants both legal and illegal, trans, lesbian, religious, non-religious, quiet and dignified, loud and angry, YOU NAME IT. Is this not virtue? We did this with no judgement whatsoever because we know that we all come from an impossibly wide array of backgrounds and lived experiences. We all protested many things, but I’m confident that a common thread among us was the desire to protest a man who unapologetically abuses his position of power. Is this not virtue? Now that we’ve had a hypothetical lunch, I’d like to invite you to a real lunch where we can talk about these issues and the very real, painful issues that unemployed women, uninsured women, women with disabilities, immigrant women, underaged women, women of color, indigenous women, single mothers, underage mothers, Muslim women, minority women, queer women, (and so many more) face. You and I both were raised as white women of privilege and we can do better at mourning with those that mourn and comforting those that stand in need of comfort. We’ve got to pull our own weight in the virtue department. Please email me at email@example.com if you are up for some meaningful conversation about how we can come together as women.
Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST can be reached at natashaparker.org and runs an online practice, Symmetry Solutions, which focuses on helping families and individuals with faith concerns, sexuality and mental health. She authors the Mormon Therapist Blog, hosts the Mormon Mental Health and Mormon Sex Info Podcasts, writes a regular column for Sunstone Magazine and is the current president of the Mormon Mental Health Association. She has 20 years of experience working with primarily an LDS/Mormon clientele.