Sunday Spotlight is a series where we profile individuals in the Young Mormon Feminists community to hear their stories and get to know them a little better through Q&A or their personal narratives. This week we talked with Nicole Mercer.
Who are you and what are you up to?
Hi, I’m Nicole. I am a PhD student studyg neuroscience at UCSD. I am to the part of my PhD where I have to actually do productive things (instead of fumbling around like I have no idea what I’m doing which is what I did for the last two years). I study sensory motor circuitry, specifically focusing on the role of brainstem nuclei in feedback and feedforward circuits. If you don’t know what that means, don’t feel bad because I’m not exactly sure I do either.
I am married to an unconventional Mormon who is the person who initially made me believe it was possible to be Mormon and not the stereotype. We have a two year old son.
What makes you a Mormon?
I used to be Mormon because I was born that way. Then I was Mormon because my entire family and in-law family are so I had to be too. Now I think I’m Mormon because I love the way I live and perceive Mormonism. When I forget about the social problems and the endless sewing and cooking female activities, I like Mormonism a lot. I like how Mormonism ties me to God and the feeling when I’m sitting silently in church, not listening to the words around me.
What makes you a feminist?
The other day my mom was complaining to my brother about my outspoken feminist support of Ordain Women and he told her, “I don’t know why you’re complaining, you made her this way.” She may not know it, but my mom is a great feminist. I was raised in Davis County, Utah, surrounded my Mormon culture, and somehow her example and strong belief in the intellect and power of women allowed me to be who I am today.
When I was little and playing with a doctor’s kit, I said I wanted to be a nurse. My mom asked me, why not be a doctor? When I was certain my life’s dream was to be a waitress because they get those cool aprons, she invited me to dream bigger.
I spent my entire life competing with my older brother so when he went to college out of state, I knew I was going to do that to. To my parent’s credit, when my cousins asked if they were crazy to be paying for a “girl” to go to such an expensive college, they responded that they didn’t see the difference between paying for my brother and me.
Today I’m a feminist because, like my mother, I believe women should have the same opportunities as men.
What makes you a Mormon feminist?
In high school and for most of college, I sat in the back of my church classes and hoped they’d be over soon so I could go back to my life. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, why couldn’t I just be happily fulfilled like everyone else seemed to be?
After I got married, my husband asked me why I didn’t care more about the gender inequality perpetuated by the church. After a lot of thought and internet searching, I found the Young Mormon Feminist’s and Feminist Mormon Housewives’ blogs. I realized I wasn’t apathetic at church; I was protecting myself from the injustices I saw and heard there.
Once I knew that and knew that there are other people like me (!) I knew the only way for me to be happy at church would be to speak out and to try and change the dialogue about women and families.
In an amazing way, acknowledging my problems with Mormonism has really opened me back up to feeling the spirit at church. I have also learned that there are a lot of great Mormon feminist’s around me.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I suppose I’ll have a real job in industry somewhere, maybe San Francisco or Boston. I hope things will be better for women in the church then.
Any parting words for us?
No one say it better:
“I am what I am
I am my own special creation.
So come take a look,
Give me the hook or the ovation.
It’s my world that I want to take a little pride in,
My world, and it’s not a place I have to hide in.
Life’s not worth a damn,
‘Til you can say, ‘Hey world, I am what I am.’”
La Cage Aux Folles