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 Shelley.
1. Tell us about yourself.
I’m 24 and I go to the Ohio State University where I’m working on a Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning. I did my undergrad at BYU in Philosophy with minors in Women’s Studies and Logic. When I’m not in class or studying, I work at an artisan ice cream shop. I live with my husband, Nathan, and our 2 cats, Hypatia and Bertrand. I served a mission in the Washington Everett Mission. I love sewing, writing, reading, talking about interesting things with my friends, and eating delicious food.
2. What makes you a Feminist?
I really don’t know if my feminism has any kind of definite genesis. I think I’ve kind of always been at least slightly aware of social disparities between men and women. I remember being very young when I noticed that almost all of the people I saw in positions of power were men. And I definitely have been on the receiving end of some of the negative effects of that power imbalance, even when I was young. I think one of the most important things in being a good human is being aware of others and figuring out how you can be useful, and I believe my calling in that is to help women. It is difficult to know that, ultimately, there is little I will ever do to alleviate or change the systemic, global injustices perpetuated against women. But that is not an excuse to sit idly by in willful ignorance. So I do what I can, which includes being a practical resource for the disempowered, checking my social privileges, and constantly expanding my worldview to include experiences and ideas that aren’t my own. Expanding my perspective includes being aware of transectionalism, so I work to also be an advocate against racism, transphobia, homophobia, mental health stigma, and other areas in which our society commonly discriminates.
3. What makes you a Mormon?
I do not like being duped. I believe there is magnificent value in crash testing all of your ideas, even and especially your most foundational ideas, to make sure you are left with the truth. I have crash tested Mormonism. I have thrown it against a brick wall at 100 miles per hour. And I would be lying if I said that I have not been heartbroken to learn about all of the ugly places in my Church and its history. But I believe that “the light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” I believe that we have definitely screwed things up along the way, but Jesus is at the helm of this boat trying to get us to row in the same direction and move forward. I believe that God continues to speak to all of us today, and one of the ways He does that is through a Prophet. I believe in progress, in inclusion, in community, and in the redemptive power and imminence of Jesus. And I have yet to find any other forum that provides me with these things quite like Mormonism does.
4. What makes you a Mormon Feminist?
One of my favorite quotes is by Lorenzo Snow: “The whole idea of Mormonism is improvement–mentally, physically, morally and spiritually. No half-way education suffices for the Latter-day Saint.” We are required to improve, which requires us to address all of the areas that can happen. I believe there are places in the Church that can be improved for women. From very practical things–like creating mothers’ rooms that aren’t cramped and smell like poop–to greater, more abstract issues–like how there are systemic power imbalances in administrative decision making. I want to open up and be part of these kind of discussions.
5. What’s the biggest obstacle for you in being a Feminist?
The number one thing I absolutely hate: being told that I take things too seriously. I feel like this is the number one response I get to my feminism. And I just want to be like, “Look. I’m talking about other people here. Humans with complex feelings and difficult situations. I’m talking about these huge things that, if we just worked hard enough on, we can change. I’m talking about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and all of the ways we’re getting it wrong. It is literally impossible to take this as seriously as it needs to be taken.” I often feel like feminism is so commonly dismissed and minimized because ignorance is comfortable, and if you don’t have to see a problem, then you don’t have to take any responsibility for fixing it.
6. What’s the best part of being a Feminist?
I like knowing that I care about the world and people in it. I think that’s a good characteristic for someone to have and I like that I can find other people who are similar.
7. What’s your favorite hymn?
Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy. It was my mission hymn, and I love the message of our obligation to take care of each other.
8. Anything else?
Oh be wise. What can I say more?