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 Madeleine.
Who are you and what are you up to?
I’m 18, bi, and currently work at Target. I live with my boyfriend of nearly two years, and spend way too much time on the internet. I plan to start school at a local community college soon in the hopes of becoming an elementary school teacher. My main loves in life are baking, making people happy, making the world a better place through activism, and kids. I’m very passionate about biphobia and bi erasure within and without the queer community, because that’s what I know best.
What makes you a Mormon?
I was raised Mormon by two Mormon parents whose Mormon heritage stretches back on both sides to the days of Joseph Smith. Nearly all of my aunts and uncles, my parents, and two of my four siblings have served missions and attended, or currently attend, BYU. If any of my relatives have ever decided to leave the Church, we never talk about them, because to my knowledge my entire extended family is active in the Church. I like to think that I’ve always had a critical view of the Church, at least in comparison to most people I knew my age at church growing up, but when criticized by non-members for the same things which I found distasteful in the Church, I would suddenly become very defensive of Mormonism and its tenets. Though I am no longer active in the Church, I still consider myself Mormon from a cultural perspective, as Mormonism had a huge influence on my upbringing and on my choices growing up. I also still care deeply about the path of the Church going forward, and I hope to see it improve in the coming years.
What makes you a feminist?
As cliché as it may sound, I think that in some respects I’ve always been a feminist. My mother was and to some extent remains a pretty strong second-wave feminist, so I grew up with her as a good influence in my life. I never felt forced by my family to conform to gender roles and so my interest in children, baking, the liberal arts, and other more traditionally female interests always felt like intentional choices to me rather than compulsory ones, and for that I am grateful. I’ve always enjoyed being a minority within a crowd and fighting to have my voice heard, so in theory activism has interested me for a long time, but I always felt that my Mormonism was not compatible with my desires to fight for the most persecuted among us. About two years ago, I started to realize a couple of things. One, the “Family: a Proclamation to the World” isn’t technically doctrine (otherwise it would have been canonized in subsequent editions of the scriptures) so I could both disagree with a lot of it and still be a good Mormon, and two, despite my dislike of the label “feminist” (I fell pray to the common ailment of being a feminist but not wanting to call myself one because I thought it was a dirty word), I actually agreed with all of feminism’s main tenets, and a lot of its smaller subsets. Since then, I’ve been on a long and beautiful road of self-education about how to be a better and more considerate and intersectional feminist on a day to day basis, and I’m loving every minute of it.
What makes you a Mormon feminist?
I think that what makes me a Mormon feminist in part is the fact that I discovered YMF at around the same time that I was becoming more and more critical of the church, and more and more interested in a more broader intersectional brand of feminism rather than the pretty privileged “white feminism” I had previously practiced. One of the things I liked and continue to like about being raised a Mormon is that it’s a kind of shortcut to connecting with people. By very nature of the fact that two people are Mormon, it means that they probably share hundreds of similar memories about Sunday school, church camp, and falling asleep in sacrament meeting. They probably know hundreds of the same object lessons and songs, and most likely even share a few relatives. As I started to drift away from mainstream Mormonism, I felt a real loss of that feeling of similarity. In YMF, I rediscovered that sense of community and solidarity tenfold. Not only did these people share my upbringing and my family’s faith, but they also cared about the same social issue that I did, and about helping our church to become more Christlike and good to all of its members, even if they didn’t fit their vision of the model member. In Mormon feminism, I found a community and a real purpose for my activism. There are real people in the church who are suffering because of some of its teachings and practices, and WE CAN HELP THEM. I am a Mormon feminist in short because I identify as both a Mormon and a feminist, and I care deeply about the intersection of those two worlds and the richly diverse community which has sprung up to fill the apparent chasm between them.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In ten years, I see myself married, perhaps to my current boyfriend, perhaps with a kid, teaching at an underprivileged elementary school and fighting hard to teach my students that they are beautiful, wonderful, worthwhile people who have infinite worth and possibilities in life, despite the forces which seek to convince them otherwise.
Any parting words for us?
You are all wonderful people, and you teach me something new each day. I hope that I can do the same for you and that together we can become a little better at feminism every day. Thank you!