Sunday Spotlight is a series where we profile individuals in the Young Mormon Feminists community to hear their story and get to know them a little better through Q&A or their personal narrative. This week we talked with Ally.
1. What’s your name, where are you from/where do you live, and what’s your deal?
My name is Ally. I’m from Massachusetts. I graduated from the University of Utah with an English degree, and now I work for a company writing blog posts and running social media. I live with my husband in Provo while he goes to BYU.
2. How did you discover feminism or Mormon feminism?
I think I’ve always been a bit of a feminist. My family raised me to be a very strong person, and as a kid I was way into “girl power.” In college some of my classes overlapped with feminism, because we talked a lot about women’s representation in literature, but also because critical theory contains a section about some really deep, scholarly feminism. Once I decided to embrace feminism, a lot of what I learned came from the Internet. I was already thinking about bringing feminism to my Mormon beliefs when I came across Feminist Mormon Housewives and Young Mormon Feminists.
3. How has your participation in feminism/Mormon feminism changed the way you view the world and or changed your relationships with your close friends and family?
I always knew that sexism still existed, but on my own I was only able to see it in very small ways. Feminism has really opened my eyes, not just to the world around me, but also to my own behavior. I’ve really evolved in that I do my best not to stand quietly by. Feminism taught me to speak up, which is not something that comes naturally to me. That’s been difficult when it comes to my family. I think at times they’d rather I just shut up and not make a big deal out of everything. But I can’t do that. The only way we can fix all of the subtle inequalities that exist all around us is to talk about them and try to get others to see them, too. My family in general has been very supportive, and even my in-laws have been. Not that they aren’t wonderful, but I was afraid of what they would think of my feminist ways.
4. What issues or topics in feminism/mormon feminism get you most riled up?
I just got married about 8 months ago, so a lot of the Mormon culture around that upsets me. I hate it when members of the church say that a woman’s place is at home, or that children do better when they have a stay-at-home mom; that is not true, and they have no evidence to back that up, whereas there have been multiple studies that show that the entire family is happier when the mom has a career. (Not that every woman should have a career – but nor should they all be told that their duty and calling is to stay at home. Everyone should be able to choose what is best for them as individuals.) My older sister is my hero when it comes to this: she finished her doctorate just before having her first child. She and my brother-in-law both work, and I think their daughter is the most wonderful two year old ever. It was never a struggle for her – she knew what she wanted and worked hard for it. Similarly, I don’t like that Mormon culture pushes members to get married young and fast. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with young and fast – I was 21 when I got married – but I feel like many members rush into it before they’re really ready. Or they spend their time looking for potential spouses rather than concentrating on school or other fulfilling activities. Then, after they’re married, lots of young married women are pressured to start having children right away when they aren’t ready, and that isn’t right either. We should all be doing what is best for us, and determining that on our own, rather than having one option of doing things applied to everyone.
5. If you could change one thing right now about Mormonism, what would it be?
The idea that anyone who is different is wrong. Recently, a group of Mormon feminists decided to hold their own Mormon feminist girl’s camp. One participant wrote a blog post about it. I don’t really have any feelings about the camp either way, but quite a few commenters on that blog post said this was apostasy, it was encouraging sentiments against the Church, and a few other judgmental things. The same thing happened with Pants and Prayers. Apparently, if you aren’t fitting in with this narrow cultural mold, you don’t belong. This is wrong, and I sincerely doubt that Jesus would advocate this kind of attitude. As Mormons, we need to be more open-minded towards others who are different from us.
6. Who is your feminist heroine or role model?
I have way too many. My sister, like I said, but also my other two sisters and my mom. My early feminist heroes were authors: Jane Austen, J. K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood, Meg Cabot, Sylvia Plath, L. M. Montgomery, and more. Currently, I really admire Anita Sarkeesian. Her videos were part of why I fully embraced feminism.
7. What would you say to people who are new to Mormon feminism?
I would remind them that Mormon Feminism is extremely grassroots right now. There are a lot of intelligent people participating, but it’s mostly a lot of us writing about personal experiences in blog posts. The great thing about that is that it’s really one big discussion that we can all contribute to. You don’t have to agree with everything people are saying. Really the only qualification for Mormon feminism is that you have to keep an open mind and respect the discussion. Lots of the discussions are uncomfortable, because we’re not used to being so open or critical about parts of the church. I don’t want to push anyone into anything they’re not comfortable with, but I would say the discomfort is part of evolving and learning. Just listen to other people’s experiences, be respectful, and learn from them.