three years ago today, i hesitated to click that “publish” button. i had gotten some friends on board, purchased a domain, written an intro post- but i was scared to send this new blog called “Young Mormon Feminists” out into the world. maybe if i didn’t tell anyone else that it existed yet, then the blog couldn’t fail, and i wouldn’t have to worry if anyone would read it. but huzzah that hannah overcame her at the time undiagnosed anxiety because looky here! YMF is alive and humming with vigor and vim. i would quote stats about how well it’s done for a niche internet blog but who REALLY cares, you know? it’s a great lil blog.
as this baby is now a rambunctious toddler, growing up and taking names, i’d like to briefly tell the story of how it came about and how i see it today. i sometimes get the sense that many people view it rather differently than i do, which is fine, but i think it’s interesting to compare our perceptions. i actually hope that one day a new technology is invented where we can pull out of our brains our perception of a particular person or object and compare that in some physical form to the perception of the same person/object that our friend has. wouldn’t that be cool, to compare concretely how we see something differently? i digress.
in april of 2012, my hometeachers at BYU became the first people who told me that i couldn’t believe something and still call myself a mormon- up until that moment i had subconsciously felt so mormon to my core identity that it didn’t occur to me that i would possibly change in my beliefs or opinions to the extent that i would have to stop being mormon. but because of my feminist beliefs and support for my queer friends, they insisted i had less faith, yadda yadda, either you identify with this story or it angers you in some way but if you’re reading this blog you probably have some familiarity with the situation.
Provo Feminists blew up (or so i perceived) overnight, with over 100 members in it the next day. i enjoyed watching the group grow over the next several months, with lively discussions and media/pop culture analysis, and we had our first gathering that would become the weekly Feminist FHE that i hosted every monday for the following two years that i spent at BYU. all was well- i sometimes engaged in the feminist mormon housewives community, but i was turned off by how frequently my experiences were responded to with “ohhh you’ll grow out of that” or, “but when i was at BYU, it was like THIS!!” or just generally being filled with discussions of parenthood that i didn’t identify with. i pondered the idea of starting a blog and facebook community for younger mormon feminists, but i didn’t want to ruffle feathers with the other mofem bloggers by being seen as starting a rival blog and whatnot.
that all changed though when lisa butterworth of FMH straight up facebook messaged me and said she’d heard i was organizing BYU mofems and would i be interested in potentially organizing a blog for younger mofems? with her behind me i went ahead with plans and am so grateful it worked out this way, because it meant that from day 1 i was able to get advice and support from the FMH mods while i was still figuring out how to go about organizing this community.
this thing was almost called “feminist mormon mutual” – but no one outside of mormonism would get it so i initally purchased “young feminist mormons” before i talked with a friend and decided the wording should be switched- mormon feminists, not feminist mormons; a subtle but important change.
i knew that i wanted the endeavor to not just be me, so i wrote down a list of people from Provo Feminists that were strong writers and might be interested in this kind of project- i remember being extremely happy that after looking at my list, it had some LGBT and racial diversity, besides being three women and three men. as a note, i will always welcome criticism in the way YMF has been run and/or in the content it’s produced in general but especially when it has fallen short of demonstrating a high standard for intersectionality. i continue to be grateful that it at least got a start with not just being only me, white straight middle class american gal.
i tried to include the other five writers a lot in the early days, conferring on decisions and asking for their input on various blog admin stuff- over the next few months however, most of them had other commitments or lost interest and stopped writing for the blog. their detachment could have been more than that, something i said or fundamental disagreements with the community- if so i’m not aware. over time i accepted that they just couldn’t devote as much effort towards producing content for the blog so i solicited for more authors in the YMF facebook group, and that changed the model from six main writers who acted as sort of the board and content producers to me and a host of willing contributors.
luckily about a year and a half ago, the lovely erin came on to help with blog admin business, and a little later eliza joined us. today the three of us coordinate regular author posts and guest posts and any other random tasks that come up.
the most popular posts on YMF are typically the satire, snark, parody-laden posts. but there are a lot of pieces in the recesses of this blog that have been read less-widely, often ignored for not being zippy enough- many young mormons just beginning to tell their own stories have done so haltingly, often being very scared to hit publish just like i was in starting the blog, terrified of harsh judgment or people they know finding the post and discovering the very personal thoughts they had shared. i cherish these posts, in all their awkwardly-phrased, typo’d, raw glory- they’re a gathering place for the words that have been suppressed, or after being expressed, have fallen on stony ground. it can be intimidating to talk about something so deeply personal as faith and feminism when the internet hordes may at any moment descend on your writing. luckily even when the hordes are mean they are sometimes quite hilarious.
it hasn’t all been kumbaya and sunshine and rainbows- some YMFers have faced discipline for things they wrote on this blog, or had screenshots taken of their comments in the YMF facebook group for which they were reported to the Honor Code office at BYU-I and suspended. their discipline unfortunately speaks to some broader issues that i hope YMF will cover more in depth in future years- the overarching climate of surveillance that BYU embraces, the strange mix of BYU students’ relationships with the Honor Code office and how they change as the years go by, the relationship between BYU professors and bishops and administrative employees and the Honor Code, and the effect of this cauldron of complicated interactions in which future Relief Society Presidents and Mission Presidents boil throughout their formative years.
i’m kind of tired of trying to say in words how younger mormon feminists are different than older feminists, and even when i try to, generalities are so imprecise. so i’ll just make things super difficult for you and say, do your own research, read some blog posts here and then by older feminists on the many wonderful mofem blogs. the only thing i will say on the topic here is: this blog was born out of the convergence of two things. 1) a desire to not replicate the struggles and subsequent victories already achieved by prior feminist generations- instead, to learn feminist history in all its successes and shortcomings and not pretend to be the first to figure out a concept that has been written and researched extensively, and 2) the need for young people to speak their truth, to tell their story, and to push the borders of feminism to address shortcomings and add nuance to conversations that need to be developed. this balance between not repeating work that’s already been done but also not shutting down the important work of nurturing self-exploration and expanding structural critiques is one of the underlying pursuits of the YMF community, whether it’s consciously acknowledged or not.
i’m proud that those who write for YMF can have a place to share their experiences and discuss issues relevant to those in the same stages of life, and i’m touched that many folks have shared how the community has supported them in various ways.
YMF will keep plugging along, going through periods of less posts and periods of more posts, periods of posts more supportive of the church and periods less so, times when when more posts will be snarky and times when more posts will be sincere. the unpredictability of a blog in which most contributors are facing significant life changes each year if not every few months means that opinions, writing styles, time commitments change rapidly- and what a blessing that is. if only more people shared a mindset in which beliefs were even a little more malleable- substances to be examined, held up to the light, discussed openly and with honesty. the humility that such self-interrogation requires, the courage to thoughtfully reconsider a topic you think you completely understand, the inner turmoil when you find yourself in need of apologizing and making restitution- such a journey would be more happily traveled if more people would embrace the mindset of a young person in which there is always more to be learned in this messy world.
may new information, new perspectives, new connections guide our ever-evolving understanding of this great mystery, and may we embrace and promote self-care practices and relationship building efforts that will bring us closer to social justice and a greater stock of cat videos on these interwebz. thank you to everyone who has participated in this endeavor, from the initial writings and feedback, to the tech support (thank you Trent!) to the logo design and graphic design help (Analisa!) to the contributors over the years, to those who’ve helped with the Twitter feed and Facebook page, to everyone else who read or discussed or visited its posts- thank you. sincerely.
also you can read city weekly’s piece on ymf’s bday here