Over the last couple of years I feel I have been transforming. I am no longer the completely accepting Mormon woman, who accepts all the teachings of the church as truth, and just say, “I’ll understand it in the eternities. Don’t worry about that now.” I think I started to see something going on within myself when I lived in California during the Prop 8 stuff and was not in alignment with what seemed to be every other Mormon’s opinion. I started reading Feminist Mormon Housewives at first because it appalled me a little. But then I actually started to agree with some of the things that I was reading. Then I started reading Ask Mormon Girl and recently added Young Mormon Feminists. I had a realization that I actually AM a feminist.
My problem is . . . How do I come out of the closet?
My husband is not completely traditional in his beliefs and opinions. Right now, he is a stay-at-home dad, and I am the bread winner. But overall, he is a fairly traditional Mormon man. I keep worrying that he will see the blogs I read and discover that part of who I am and it will be a major “thing” between us. Do I just come out and say it? Or do I give it to him gently? And if it is gently… how would I do that?
Welcome, sister suffragette! Want to break the news to husband . . . gently? Try some PANTS, perhaps. Wear them. To church. And then to bed. With your matching “Well behaved women seldom make history” t-shirt. While reading your copy of Mormon Enigma. And sporting a grumpy look on your face. With the covers pulled up to your chin. That should do the trick, right?
I kid, I kid. But I hear you: this can be scary. I know there are many, many closet Mo feminists out there who crash their browsers and clear their histories after reading FeministMormonHousewives.org in case someone finds out they might be a Mormon feminist.
And my question is: why? Why in the world does this feminism word make knees quake and quiver? Whence the powerful stigma? We are talking, after all, one of the most rational and accomplished mass movements of the modern era.
This is the movement that won women the vote. The right to own property. The right to represent themselves in legal affairs. Access to education. Access to higher education. Birth control. Family planning. Family medical leave. (Even though SHAMEFULLY the United States is one of only 8 nations in the world still without paid maternity leave.) Domestic violence shelters and anti-violence legislation. Equal pay. Equal access to school-based sports. (Really, just getting started here.) You like democracy? Girls’ soccer? Breast cancer research? Feminists say: you’re welcome.
The charge attached to the Mormon feminist label goes even deeper. Say Mormon feminist and all of the sudden people A) cannot compute; cannot wrap their minds around the concept, or B) run to all sorts of fearful extremes, like a “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” from the Book of Mormon musical, but this time with Sonia Johnson chaining herself to the gates of the Seattle temple, polyandry, diaphragms, weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth, and all sorts of dancing TROUSERS! Trousers on fire!
Truly, it’s a crazy kind of power that happens when you say the words: I’m a Mormon feminist. It’s like telling people you are a unicorn. A real live unicorn! BAM! I just blew your mind. Just by existing. With a smile.
And you might say that mind-blowing is the point of the whole feminist enterprise. For at its philosophical roots, feminism is an existential project. Translation: feminism is about confronting absurd misconceptions that shape day-to-day human behavior and keep us all—men and women–from being our grandest, most joyful and knowledgeable selves. It’s about setting those absurd misconceptions aside.
Case in point: remember that feminism is the movement that (especially in the quarters where it is needed) continues a quiet, respectable, and unfailing advocacy for frankness about the existence of God’s creation the clitoris. And I know you may be blushing just to see that word on a blog. Truth be told, I blush to write it because I know my mother and people from my ward read this and I just typed the word clitoris. But really, why should I be ashamed to type the word clitoris? Let’s confront that stigma right now. What is shameful is not the clitoris but the fact that many women have no idea that intercourse alone does not work for many women. I am truly not trying to be provocative. It’s just an important yet often occluded fact of women’s health and marital well-being. It has to be said. AND FEMINISTS SEEM TO BE THE ONLY PEOPLE CONSISTENTLY SAYING IT. (Like my friend the Mormon Therapist Natasha Parker Helfer, whose article here you might read if this paragraph is news to you.)
All of this is to say that the shaming of what is not shameful is a powerful weapon. And it needs to be dismantled with grace, confidence, and humor. Whoever taught you to be ashamed of feminism was not your ally. Truly, the same might be said for whoever taught you to be ashamed of the word clitoris.
It’s up to you to put that all behind you. And who better to do it with than your husband? He is your husband! The one who promised to love you always and always. The one with whom in all likelihood you’ve shared much more unpleasant conversations—about taxes, or bills, or difficult in-laws. Really, you don’t have a dread disease. You have feminism! You’re taking your place in a long and noble lineage that spans Eliza R. Snow to Emma Lou Thayne to Claudia Bushman and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich to you and me.
Try not to worry. Have some fun with it. Project shamelessness. Project humor. Project confidence. Take him by the hands and say: “Of course, I’m a feminist, dear. Somewhere deep inside you’ve always known it. And truly, it’s one of the things you’ve always loved about me. I know you love girls’ soccer, and voting, and equal pay for equal work, and breast cancer research. (Perhaps, too, you like the clitoris?)”
Then, give him a peck and a squeeze, and go about your business. Keep on learning, and asking hard questions, and growing—every day, every step, and claim him as your beloved ally.
Because feminism, oh, sister, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just the beginning!
And, you–dear readers–time to ‘fess up. Who here is hiding their feminist light under a bushel, even at home? Who is crashing the browser every time husband (or mom, or dad, or roommate) walks into the room? And why?
Send your query to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @askmormongirl on Twitter.