I was recently interviewed by a student doing a project on Mormon women. During our interview she informed me that of all the LDS women she’d spoken to, I was the only one who identified as a feminist. I was shocked and felt betrayed by my fellow LDS women. How could they be active members of the LDS church and not believe in gender equality?
So central is the equality of all humankind to Christ’s message that during his earthly ministry Christ openly rejected cultural proscriptions that relegated women to an inferior spiritual and political status. He recognized women’s spirits and intellects; he taught them directly (Luke 10:38-42); he identified himself as the Messiah to a woman, the first such affirmation recorded in the New Testament (John 4:26); he healed women (Matt. 15:22-28) and raised a woman from the dead (Luke 8:49-56). After his resurrection, he appeared first to a woman, whom he asked to tell his apostles of the glorious event (John 20:11-18), although according to Jewish law women were not considered competent as legal witnesses. (Mary Stovall Richards, Feminism, Encyclopedia of Mormonism)
After talking over the issue with several of my LDS female friends, I realized that they, and possibly lots of other Mormons out there both male and female, shy away from the term “feminist,” because they don’t understand what it means. Rather than somebody who views men as lesser beings, a feminist is somebody who believes in, and advocates for, social, politcal, and economic gender equality. I can’t think of anything more central to our doctrine than the idea of equality among all of God’s children regardless of gender (See Valerie Hudson’s explanation of Mormonism as “the most feminist of all the Christianities“).
So, readers, I invite you all to join me in the feminist crusade. You don’t have to become a radical feminist, but please, take a stand for equality. As Ashley Judd (yes, that Ashley Judd) recently pointed out in the Daily Beast. “[Our objectification of both genders] affects each and every one of us, in multiple and nefarious ways: our self-image, how we show up in our relationships and at work, our sense of our worth, value, and potential as human beings. Join in—and help change—the Conversation.”