I recently stumbled across this post at WAVE (Women Advocating Voice and Equality), and I just wanted to share it here because it is BRILLIANT. Many women and men have asked (with tones ranging from curious, to incredulous, to concerned, to enraged) why LDS feminists seem to harp on this “equality” issue. WAVE delivers a powerful response to this inquiry. I have pasted a portion of it here:
I recognize that some of these issues are church wide, some local, and some unchangeable. Some of them are simple and some of them are deeply ingrained. All of them, nevertheless, make me feel unequal and are worth talking about.
I feel unequal when there are more (a lot more) men’s voices in religious texts, meetings, leadership positions, and decision making bodies.
I feel unequal when callings that don’t necessitate the priesthood are given only to men: Sunday School Presidency, BYU, BYU-I and BYU-Hawaii Presidents, Church Education Commissioners, Ward Mission Leaders, recommend takers at the Temple, etc. (Similarly, men are not currently called in Primary Presidencies and could be.)
I feel unequal when women doing the same job are called by different titles (i.e. Sister vs. President) and/or are accessories to rather than serving equally with their husbands, i.e. Mission President’s wives.
I feel unequal when I have a calling as an auxiliary leader and have to get approval of every decision by men and/or when I am not invited to attend Priesthood Executive Committee meetings (PEC) which directly influence my stewardships.
I feel unequal when my value is primarily linked to being a wife and mother rather than by being a child of God.
I feel unequal when the men in my life acknowledge that they have no female spiritual leaders in their wards or communities.
I feel unequal when women have less prominent, prestigious, and public roles in the church, even before and after childrearing years.
I feel unequal because even one of the most inherently female-dominated time periods, having a new baby, is publically displayed at church in an all male ritual of the baby blessing.
I feel unequal when males handle 100% of the church finances.
I feel unequal when I am taught at church that my husband presides in my family, he is the head, and all things being equal, he has the final say.
I feel unequal when people preach that men and women are completely equal and in the same breath say the above sentence.
I feel unequal when I realize that at church all men have the final say. Good leaders might consult with female auxiliary leaders, but ultimately even after being called to a position via inspiration, men still make the final decisions.
I feel unequal when cub scouts and boy scouts have a larger budget (they are allowed to do fundraising- although this might be a local issue) than achievement days and Young Womens and thus, they often have better activities.
I feel unequal when the Young Women and Young Men’s programs have such different manuals, budgets, activities, etc.
I feel unequal when fathers and mothers are encouraged to fulfill primary roles to provide and nurture, but only the fathers are given the freedom to seek out the best way for them to provide, whereas, mothers are told the best way for them to nurture—to be stay at home moms.
I feel unequal when men teach me that being a stay at home mother is the most important thing a person could do, and yet most of them do not do it.
I feel unequal when people do not emphasize fatherhood as much as they do motherhood and when we have numerous annual lessons on the priesthood and I’m not taught anything about the woman’s role as a priestess.
I feel unequal in primary when most of the lessons and songs are about men although most of the teachers and leaders are women.
I feel unequal because church disciplinary courts are made up of solely men and there are no female voices in the very sensitive matters of church discipline.
I feel unequal when women have to talk to men about their sins, especially sexual ones, and have no other church sanctioned options.
I feel unequal because most men, even inspired ones, can’t fully understand or provide enough resources for sexual abuse.
I feel unequal when young girls are taught about modesty and chastity from older men, especially because females make decisions about these things for very different reasons than males.
I feel unequal because many of the official church declarations and proclamations have no female input, regardless of how drastically they affect women.
I feel unequal when there are no checks and balances for females who experience abuse in the system. While abuse may be rare, it is terrifying that women have no resources to go to outside of the male hierarchy.
I feel unequal because the Relief Society’s autonomy was taken away and it became an auxillery presided over by men.
I feel unequal when women’s financial autonomy isn’t encouraged as much as men’s at church and/or church schools.
I feel unequal because men conduct, men preach, men speak. Men teach us how to be women.
I feel unequal because local leaders rarely use gender inclusive language even though church manuals and General Conference talks try to do so.
I feel unequal when men speak at Relief Society and Young Women’s meetings, but women never speak in priesthood meetings.
I feel unequal when there are very few women’s voices in our official correlated church manuals.
I feel unequal when women don’t pray in General Conference and usually only give 2 or 3 of the many talks.
I feel unequal because men and women can be sealed to different numbers of people.
I feel unequal in the temple because women a have different script and role.
I feel unequal when female employees of the Church Educational System and temple ordinance workers are no longer allowed to keep their positions after they have children.
I feel unequal because we know very little about Heavenly Mother and her role in the Godhead and there doesn’t seem to be any emphasis on the part of our leaders to pray and find out more. I don’t know what my divine potential means as a female and that makes me feel less important.
I feel unequal because all of these concerns are mediated by male leaders and that they are only as important as these men deem them so. While most of our leaders are wonderful, there is very little in the structure or doctrine to prevent male leaders from misogyny or benevolent sexism.
I feel unequal when these gender inequalities are not acknowledged by leaders. It is difficult to be a female in a patriarchal church and we are trying our best to make it work. Acknowledgement of that difficulty would go a long way.
All of these reasons begs the following question: If women are really as equally valued as men why aren’t they given equal voice?
This is no way an exhausted list. So why do feminist harp on this issue? I can’t speak for all feminists, but I will speak for myself. I “harp” on this issue because it is real, because it is devastating, because children (male and female) deserve a better future in the Church. I may not have a place in the current LDS Church, but I believe there is good in the Church and that the Church has been a force of good in many people’s lives–and this is worth holding on to. At the same time, however, I believe the Church could do a much greater amount of good if they made changes and listened to their members more often. I love the quote behind the blog By Common Consent–I think it is tremendously applicable here:
“…all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith” D&C 26:2
Eternal Progression is not just a teaching meant for members exclusively, its meant for the whole of the organization.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Here are some great, relevant podcasts:
“Mormon Women and Equality” at Mormon Matters
Responding to Michael Otterson’s article: “What Mormon Equality Looks Like” at Daughters of Mormonism