I Am A Mormon Feminist: An Interview With One of the Creators of MormonFeminist.org

I Am A Mormon Feminist

In an attempt to change the perception of their church’s relationship with feminism, several women pooled their creative energy, passion for feminism, and a belief in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to create the website “I Am A Mormon Feminist.” The website encourages people to submit a picture holding a sign explaining why they are a Mormon feminist, and provides a bit of Feminism 101 for people unfamiliar with the movement.

I sat down with Ally Grigg, one of the websites founding members to talk about the group’s mission and her personal views on feminism.

[Note: Ally’s views are not representative of the site as a whole. She is one of many contributors, but happens to live in Utah, so we naturally wanted to talk with her.]

When did you first identify as a feminist?

I think I’ve always been a little bit of a feminist, but it wasn’t until I started learning about feminism in school that I started to embrace it. I had to undo the stupid stereotypes everybody hears about feminists. I would hear about feminists on the news, and once I realized that I agreed with most of what they were behind, it was easy to identify as a feminist. I think the biggest catalyst for fulling aligning myself with feminism was when I learned to rely on myself and my own strength, and not to be dependent on others.

What does the word “feminist” mean to you?

Feminism means equality. A lot of our critics like to say “equal doesn’t mean exactly the same,” and I do believe that’s true. I don’t want people to all be exactly the same. The way I think about it is that everyone should have the same opportunities and the ability to make the same choices. Same opportunities like everyone should have access to education. Same choices as in both men and women should be able to be stay-at-home parents without anyone judging them for it. Not everyone will make the same choices because we all have different strengths, interests, and personalities, but as long as the choices aren’t made for us based on gender, I’m happy.

What does it mean to be a Mormon Feminist?

For me, being a Mormon feminist means bringing my feminism to my religion. There’s a lot of feminist ideals that could be applied to the way we practice Mormonism. There are also a lot of aspects of LDS doctrine that is already fairly feminist or pro-women. For example, back when Utah was Deseret and run by a Mormon theocracy, women were given the right to vote. It was only after Deseret wanted to become a state in the United States that Utah had to give that up temporarily. Women hold a lot of leadership positions in the Church and do have some power and influence. It’s nothing compared to what the men with the priesthood have, but I can personally attest that it can be very fulfilling and rewarding. It’s just a matter of realizing that our positives are not enough, and we could do more to be more pro-women.

What is your vision for “I Am A Mormon Feminist”?

I would love for it to get more attention and more submissions! My biggest goal going into this project was to help educate those who don’t know much about feminism.

Mormons have a terrible idea of feminism; in 1993, Boyd K. Packer, a very influential LDS leader, warned members about the dangers of feminism. Mainly, the idea is that feminists are dangerous because they supposedly break up the family. I don’t know why Packer said what he did, but I know he was listened to. Mormons believe in the same old tired stereotypes: feminists are bra-burners who either hate men or want to be men, look down on mothers, and cause trouble. I really want to undo all of that, especially since it’s not at all true. Most of the Mormon feminists I know are married, mothers, or men. Also, I’m just super sick of people who think that all Mormon feminists automatically want the priesthood. It’s not true. Some Mormon feminists do, but not all of them.

The latest “wave” of Mormon feminism has also revealed a very frightening development in Mormon culture. A lot of our critics are upset that we even dare question the Church. They think we are wrong for trying to bring these issues to our leaders. They say that the Church is already perfect the way that it is, that every policy and tradition is in place because God said it should be that way. It really doesn’t make any sense when you think about all the different instances in our Church history, as well as in the Bible and Book of Mormon, where faithful members have questioned the status quo. That’s how Joseph Smith began the Church in the first place! By questioning things! And then the Relief Society and Primary were started because women came to the leaders of the time and told them that they had received revelation that these organizations need to exist. Those are just a few examples. I would love for the Mormon feminist movement, along with the website, to remind members that it is okay to ask questions.

What are the top three changes you would like to see in the Church?

I would love to see a lot of changes in the Young Women’s program, which is for girls ages 12-18. Those girls are taught a lot of great doctrine, but I think the way we teach them is wrong. We often teach that worth is tied up in modesty, chastity, marriage, etc. Teenage girls do not need anything else telling them that they aren’t good enough. Also, most of their activities are based on traditionally feminine things, like baking, sewing, fashion shows, etc. There’s nothing wrong with these, but we should really be mixing them with activities that don’t force them into one role. I’m in a married BYU ward right now, which is really different from my past experiences. We talk about great things in Relief Society, the meeting that’s just for women. Like we have lessons on education, our divine potential, enduring trials, etc. But somehow, all of these lessons come back to motherhood. We’re taught that we get an education so that we can teach our children one day. I got an education for myself, because I like learning and I want to have a career someday and feel fulfilled. Teaching my future children would only be an unintentional perk. It doesn’t really even make sense, because only a small number of the women in my ward even have children. I just want all the lessons to stop revolving around being a mother when I feel like that doesn’t have anything to do with me right now.

And then along those lines, I’ve observed a lot of women (and men) who feel like they need to get married as soon as possible and then have children right away. This, I believe, is a distortion of Mormon culture. LDS leaders have said that you shouldn’t put off getting married and having children, but they don’t necessarily push members to get married really young. What they mean more so is that you can get married while you’re still in the middle of school or not in a financially ideal place. I think this gets translated into get married before you’re financially ready (different from financially “ideal”), or even emotionally ready. I don’t have a problem with getting married young or having children young; I got married a few months ago when I was 21, and I know that’s pretty young compared to national standards. What I really want to change is the pressure that young people feel. I don’t want them to get married or have children because someone or something else is telling them that that’s what they need to do. I don’t want them to do it before they are emotionally or financially ready. And again, I know that level differs for everyone, so I don’t want to make a sweeping judgement about couples that make big life decisions on average much younger than the rest of the country; I just think the Church could maybe handle it better. Or at least the cultural part that encourages this could be eradicated.

If you could invite three feminists to dinner (dead or alive) who would they be, and what would you cook for dinner?

Definitely Sylvia Plath. As an English major, she’s always been one of my literary inspirations. But her righteous anger is amazing. Anita Sarkeesian, because I think the “Feminist Frequency” is genius, and she could tell me how to deal with misogynistic trolls. And then Amy Poehler. She’s hilarious, strong, accessible, and she brings feminism to popular TV shows. The characters in Parks and Recreation are huge feminist role models for me. We’d all make sushi together. It’d be the best party ever.

Comments

  1. Hopefully, someday you’ll grow up! Have you even read about Sylvia Plath’s troubled life? Realize that Heavenly Father knows best and he communicates through his servants (The Prophet, his counsellors and the Twelve Apostles) and you would do well to listen to them and obey their counsel.

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