A few months ago I got into an argument with my Stake President. We had a disagreement over a local policy, and he wanted to explain to me why he decided as he did. In the course of this vehement conversation he told me that I had been deceived. this was in reference to my general worldview, not a specific issue where I had the facts wrong). I asked who had deceived me? He told me that I had been deceived by feminists online, who made me angry and taught me that I had to have the priesthood to have equal value to men. He assured me he understood me.
(Hark a Vagrant has one of my favorite cartoons about feminists. Check and see if you recognize yourself).
I asked him if he was familiar with the term “gaslighting.” He was telling me that I hadn’t really experienced what I have experienced, that the reality I see is not there, and that I am completely wrong about the reality I perceive. Not only that, but I didn’t even come by my confusion organically; I had to be led astray by an external source.
I told him that he did not at all understand me, because I don’t think women need the priesthood to be equal to men, nor did his other assertions about my beliefs ring true. Honestly this part of it broke my heart, because I think of him as a friend and in some ways he has tried to be a good ally to women in our Stake. His assertions made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t understand me, my worldview, or my heart in the slightest. He has come up with his own idea of what my political and religious views must be based on his general view of feminism, or on a misremembered pastiche of things I have said. I told him that I know a lot of Mormon feminists, and not one of them has expressed the views he attributed to them.
I write this today not to pile onto him. Like all of us, he has feet of clay. He has in many ways been a good friend to me, and to women in our Stake. I’m writing this because of my other friends. I told him with all honesty that the only reason I am an active member of the Church today is because of feminists online. I had questions and doubts and confusion and anger. I looked around my ward, I said things in classes, and I got nothing. I felt alone, like only I noticed these things and there must be something wrong with me.
Like many readers of this blog, I found friendships and a community in people I’ve never met in person. I saw other people had the same questions, the same worries, the same feelings. Having a community didn’t somehow resolve my problems, nor did it make me have new doubts. This community made me feel seen and heard. It assured me I’m not crazy and I’m not alone. Knowing that I have you all makes it possible to keep showing up and trying and pushing and advocating.
So thank you, internet feminists. You’ve never deceived me. I don’t always agree with you, but you haven’t lied to me. To me, Zion is feeling supported, loved, seen and affirmed whether I stay or leave. I am welcome whether I’m all in, or fully fed up. Knowing that I could leave and still belong here makes staying in the Church feel like a courageous choice instead of craven inertia. I’m not in the Church because I’m afraid to leave. I’m staying because I know that no matter what I choose, I’m not alone. I can freely choose what feels right for me. Thanks, friends.
“Knowing that I could leave and still belong here makes staying in the Church feel like a courageous choice instead of craven inertia.”
I love this idea of staying as a choice. At church we talk about agency, but typically under the umbrella of “there are good choices and bad choices.” So perhaps people stay based on craven inertia.
I’m reading “The God Who Weeps” right now and it talked about how important it is that we have choices about what we believe and to acknowledge that they are all reasonable choices so belief is a choice that we make out of many reasonable choices. Of course it is a reasonable choice whether you choose to believe church is where you go or whether you believe there are other places you’ll spend your time.
This post really touched my heart. Thank you for writing it.
❤️ Thanks for this.
It wasn’t internet feminists that brought me to see inequality between men and women in the church. It was my bishop, who insisted on micromanaging every last decision made in our ward, himself. Other leaders only had the Holy Ghost so they could pray for confirmation of all his decisions. When I visited the stake president about this situation, I was informed, many bishops are like this, and most eventually learn to trust their ward members. Nothing changed.
That experience preyed upon my mind and heart for years. I couldn’t even allow myself to know what I was thinking. But I knew there was a problem bothering me regarding the church that I couldn’t identify.
All I knew was that having this bishop brutalized our ward, and that it could have been much worse and it probably is, elsewhere. My bishop did grow over that time frame. I forgave him and supported him. But I still didn’t really allow myself to know my own thoughts.
I have always been a confident, questioning woman, proud of my membership in the church, sharing the gospel freely. But eventually this experience bothered me so much I had to write down what I was thinking, even it was uncomfortable.
What I had been protecting myself from knowing is that every last decision a woman makes in the church can be vetoed by a man. Although this applies to men as well due to the hierarchical nature of the church, still women leaders don’t have the same veto power in any capacity that bishops, stake presidents, and general authorities do.
Men allow us to attend the temple or they tell us we are unworthy. They “preside” over everything. This affects our marriages and friendships with men as well because, even the kindest most egalitarian man has been raised to unconsciously expect a level of deference. Without that deference, in my experience, they feel disrespected, and respond negatively.
After I knew what I was thinking I found myself alone among friends that weren’t ready to see this. I found many things about church now feel oppressive and silencing. I sought out others who think the same way so I could feel more supported and heard. We support each other, and listen to each other, and it helps me keep the Spirit in my heart and continue to support my leaders best I can.
Thank you for your post. I am glad you feel free to discuss with your stake president, even though he doesn’t yet understand.
Yes! It was not internet feminists who made me a feminist either. I “heeded not” feminists for well over three decades. It was men (priesthood men) who I did heed who made me a feminist. Years of small, incremental buildup of inequality, mansplaining, invalidation, gaslighting, and serious harm that could no longer be suppressed finally awoke my feminist consciousness. My former stake president dad played a huge role in my awakening and he’s the least able to understand it. ♀️ I tepidly began to listen to actual feminists and was beyond surprised to find wonderful, thoughtful, courageous, loving, inspired and inspiring women (and men) who are honest about their hurt and their healing and have a more realistic (and even optimistic) worldview than I had ever had. And now I am happy to say: I am an internet feminist! ♀️ I am a feminist.
I agree. The internet didn’t turn me feminist. Reading feminist things online felt more like “oh! Yes! That’s exactly it!” — someone putting into words what I had noticed and felt but hadn’t expressed.
Thank you, love. Glad you’re here. I am sorry about the stake president. I hope he wakes up.
This was also the attitude of my previous counsellor, and likely her opinion as to why I “turned transgender”. Took me years to get myself to a different one.
“The wrong crowd” is such a weak excuse. People aren’t nearly so malleable, not even as children or teenagers. Churches would have a lot more adherents if they were.
I love this. It was such a blessing to me to discover Mormon feminists online about 15 years ago. I knew I was not alone, and that made those difficult years so much more bearable.
Love this so much.❤
This is amazing
Ironically it was a church sanctioned book about Eve that made me a feminist. It finally dawned on me that Eve was radically progressive, and that she ate that fruit with zero assurance Adam would follow and no guarantee she would ever bear children. She realized she placed there to make choices and mistakes that would give her “experience”. Experience that is vital to becoming a Goddess. And I’ve never been the same, even if my views have meant my own blood relations have claimed ideas of mine are “an ugly women’s excuse for not trying” I press on following in our badass Mother Eve’s bold footsteps.
It is frustrating to me to hear male leaders in the Church preach to women about Eve being courageous, Eve leading, etc., and encouraging us to follow suit. But do they actually listen to us when we act as Eve and speak up and try to lead toward progression and growth in ways that make them (the men) uncomfortable? Nope! Then they patronize us and priesthoodsplain to us and remind us that it’s their place to lead and our place to follow. They want the extra credibility of having women to speak up in ways that validate what the men have already taught us, the way that men have already structured things; they don’t want to actually learn from us and follow us into the growth zone.
Tracy — such a good point. And often they want the credibility of being such good allies for every crumb they toss. How dare I question a leader’s pro-woman bona fides, when in the past he has done x? My gratitude for every iota of progress should erase any further demands, questions, or ideas that aren’t already in the leader’s view. It’s like we have to say Eve was a leader, Eve wasn’t bad. But also, it’s her fault everything is bad. But she was a visionary! Who led everyone to a bad place, but also salvation!
Okay your blood relations sound awful. Shame on them for those words ever leaving anyone’s mouth. There’s never a good reason to say that, and it’s never true. Ugliness is always internal and a matter of agency, not external appearance. And we’re all trying. So gross.
And I love this take on Eve. I’ve struggled with the story so much I’ve kind of thrown up my hands and said “this one isn’t for me.” But I love your take.
Thank you ❤️ This has been a community that allows me to feel that it is possible to speak doubts and faith, to sustain and ask for change. And to be heard. This blog and its people are the best.
Amen! I love how supportive and kind Mormon feminists have been to me, a man trying to learn empathy by reading women’s discussions. I’ve so appreciated experiences and analyses that so many women have shared that I have had the chance to read. I’m so glad that the community has been helpful to you and so many others.
And yeah, your stake president. I get that this is a thing people say, and apparently think, that women are never dissatisfied with their place in the Church until some radicals put crazy ideas in their heads. But it’s just such nonsense! The Church shows with its every organizational decision, with every bishop called to lead a ward, with every sacrament meeting and disciplinary council and general conference and stake conference and tithing settlement and worthiness interview conducted by men only, with every priesthood ordinance, from the weekly blessing of the sacrament to sealings to baptisms to blessings (with the exception of initiatory ordinances for women in the temple), performed by men and young men only, the structure of the Church screams that men are more important than women. It is only with a deafness that is very carefully constructed and maintained against accidentally letting a bit of sound through that anyone manages to ignore the tremendous inequalities in the Church.