Guest post by Adrienne Harreveld
I’m a rising third year at Duke University and a contributor to the Duke Writ(hers) program run by the Women’s Center. Write(hers) is a program that requires its members to write several posts a semester for the Women’s Center’s blog and hosts seminars and workshops for college feminists to network with successful bloggers and journalists. One of the first tips we learned for being successful in the blogosphere is to create your “personal brand” and promote said “brand” in every possible social media network. As a group of young, feminists we all workshopped what our “brands” would be. These ranged from race-based issues, to reproductive health advocacy, to women in academia, to pop-culture.
While talking with my friends it seemed quite obvious that my brand would be “political.” After all, although I haven’t ever intentionally packaged myself as just political, my social media presence is probably 95% politics. So I went ahead with that brand, writing posts about things like Medicare expansion and its effects on women. Now don’t get me wrong I’m extremely interested in political issues, particularly feminist political issues, but in the back of my head, I wanted to write about something else- I’ve wanted to write about being a Mormon. But for some reason, I haven’t been able to muster up the courage. I feel like I’m torn between two types of feminism: a feminist at a major University writing about things like “cisgenderism” and lobbying for reproductive health rights in North Carolina, and then I’m a Mormon feminist who talks about things like modesty and women in the workplace.
Quite honestly, there is a part of me that wants to hide the Mormon feminist side of me from my friends at the women’s center. I know they would be fully supportive of my religion, many of them already are, but it is hard to explain in just a quick conversation how complex and difficult it is to be a Mormon feminist. Sometimes I think about if I was to approach an organization (like our church) from an outside perspective, I know I would be completely appalled that women couldn’t hold full authority. However, what I really want to get off my chest is how my faith made a feminist, a feminist who talks about adapting the Strength for Youth (the LDS church’s standard guide for its youth), and one who talks about rape culture and more “radical” feminist ideas.
I want to tell them that becoming a Mormon feminist was one of the most difficult and challenging processes I’ve ever been through. For me it required many trials of faith, constant prayer, scripture study, and counseling with friends and church leaders. So I can’t expect them to fully come to terms with my beliefs and logic. I want to tell them that our church’s policies of sexual purity are not meant for young women to feel ashamed or submissive, but ultimately they are tools for strengthening families and making covenants with our Heavenly Father. That being said, although these policies exist, we are taught that it is not our responsibility to cast any judgment on the decisions others make. I want to tell them that our interpretation of the creation story and the fall is one of the most beautiful, feminist religious doctrines in existence because it casts Adam and Eve as truly equal partners and does not shame Eve into making the decision to partake of the fruit, but rather uplifts her for helping bring to pass God’s plan of happiness. I want to tell them that while I had many problems with the young women’s Personal Progress program, it taught me about my Individual Worth and how important it was to get an education. Not every woman is lucky enough to have that influence in her life, but in Mormonism that advice is promoted worldwide. Most of all, I want to be able to feel like my beliefs are taken seriously. Being involved in many organizations with a liberal label, I can sadly attest that they often write-off Mormonism and typecast Mormons into something we are not. I sometimes feel my peers (both Mormon and non) think my ideas are hypocritical. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been at a political event and a person makes a negative comment about a Mormon, or the number of Mormons who make negative comments about feminism. I think incorporating more religious voices into the “mainstream” feminist blogosphere would lead to important dialogue that would improve the image of our faith by creating a more complete picture of its membership. It would also benefit others struggling to reconcile faith with feminism and would add more diversity to the type of people that currently dominate feminist blogging. The time has come where we should no longer feel we have to be two types of feminist, but rather those conversations should overlap.