I'm a Mormon woman who has spent a lot of time over the past decade and a half thinking and writing about and discussing "women's issues" in Mormonism, how feminism and Mormonism might intersect (or not). This is always a challenge, because feminism means different things to different people...and, for that matter, so does Mormonism. And then you bring in the word "equality" and things get even more tricky, because I do think that different people define or approach equality differently.
I think it's safe to say that a typical (and simple) feminist definition of gender equality would be something like "equal opportunity" or "equal treatment" in an organization. Therefore, many feminists conclude, the Mormon church is not equal because it's a patriarchal organization -- led by men, where women can't hold all the possible positions men can.
I honestly can understand this position. I mean, I can't imagine anyone looking at the structure of the Church and not thinking, at least for a minute, "Hm. Why is it that men hold the priesthood and women don't? Why is it that the men hold the highest leadership positions in the general and local Church structures?" I think this question becomes all the more pointed the more that we see civil rights' movements, equal opportunity employment efforts, and so forth in our culture.
And so, the obvious follow-up question that is understandable is "Why would any woman choose to be Mormon?" I recently heard a commenter on a newspaper article basically say, "I would never be part of an organization like this, because it turns women into second-class citizens."
In the next while, I will attempt to share some of my thoughts on this, on why I don't feel like a second-class citizen as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I take a different approach when defining equality (which means I'm either not a feminist or I'm pointing out yet another definition of feminism). This different approach is a key reason why I am fine with the functional differences of men's and women's responsibilities in the Church.
A few caveats on this little blog mini-series include the following:
- I make no promises about the frequency of my posts. ;)
- I am most definitely not any sort of authoritative voice. I am simply sharing my personal thoughts and perspectives on this topic.
- As is often the case with a blog, some of what may be recorded here may be work-in-progress thinking. Which also means that I don't pretend to understand it all, but I do have some strong feelings about these topics.
- I'm still not sure what to do about comments. I might turn moderation on. I might turn comments off altogether. I might not do anything different. My life is pretty insane right now, so I don't have a ton of time to engage in a lot of detailed discussion. (And I know from experience how much time such discussion can take.)
So there you go. See you on Part 1, "A Mormon Woman's Thoughts On Faith, Feminism, Gender Equality" -- whenever I get to it. ;)