Meet an LDS Feminist: Amber

NOTE: The views expressed in this feature are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions held by the author of The Equality of Mars and Venus. [Comments in brackets and italics are solely the opinions of the author.]

Let Women Pray

It is a sad thing when anyone punishes another for asking questions. Yet when questions go against cultural norms, or just the status quo, there are some people who will bend over backward to make sure you know that (according to them) what you’re doing is wrong. This is exactly what happened to my friend Amber when she organized the “Let Women Pray” petition, which was a campaign, urging members of the church to write PEACEFUL and RESPECTFUL letters requesting that they inquire of the Lord to see if there was any reason why a woman should not be able to pray in General Conference. According to her critics, Amber hated her husband and her child, did not have a testimony, and was even urged to leave the Church. For asking Church Leaders to pray and ask if women could pray in General Conference. Asking for change gets people up in arms. [Amber deserved none of that. She’s a strong woman with a deep love for her family, a deep testimony of the gospel, and a desire for equality. Many, including myself, had not even noticed that a woman had never prayed in general conference. I could see no reason why a woman shouldn’t pray in General Conference, and as per the April 2013 General Conference, neither did the General Authorities of the Church.] Amber would remind those that “spewed hate” at her, that “that’s exactly why I joined the LDS church to begin with; I love to challenge myself and continually grow. The beauty of the gospel is the room for personal revelation… our beginning and our foundation is upon Joseph Smith asking questions.”

Heavenly Mother

Amber is a convert to the church, and didn’t hear about Heavenly Mother until she was in a college religion class at BYU. At that point, she hadn’t yet had an unwelcome question. Her professor told the class that we aren’t supposed to talk about her and left it at that. Amber was partly in shock that there is indeed a Heavenly Mother, and then crushed when the professor refused to talk more about her. [It’s sad that a religious educator would not talk about Heavenly Mother, other than to acknowledge Her existence. However, there is no policy, no doctrine, no mandate by the church that says we aren’t supposed to talk about Her. That idea was first written by a seminary teacher named Melvin R. Brooks. It has not been repeated by any apostle or prophet in the latter days. So, let’s keep on asking questions about Heavenly Mother! There’s more information out there than we might think.]

How She Became a Feminist

Amber has been through a lot. She was molested when she was seven, and had to deal with the psychological and social problems that came with it, even into high school and marriage. When she tried to talk about it, those who heard her made her believe it was her fault. She was even kicked out of her newspaper class in high school because she wrote an (very tactful) article about it, which was supposed to inspire hope in others in a similar situation. The article can be found here.

Later, when she was working on a research project about prejudices around video games and online behavior, she was given a (all male) team of researchers to help her with the project. These men, though well-meaning, attempted to take over the project because they “thought they knew more about both research and video games than [her].” When they had meetings, she would come with an agenda, and each would undermine everything she was trying to do. This is an example of “Unintentional sexism” as Amber puts it. [As a side note, Amber holds no grudges or offense toward these men. However, the problem with unintentional sexism is that it’s unintentional. We don’t even think about what we’re saying or doing sometimes. If you start paying attention to those little things that people say, you’ll start to notice that it happens more than we would like to admit. Many have their feelings hurt or feel ostracized because of these unintentional digs at them, whether they are meant to be or not. Pay attention to what you say, and how you say it. It’s not hard to change what you say, or to choose not to say something that could be sexist.]

The Definition of Feminism

Amber tells of her Women’s Studies professor:

“My women’s studies professor used to joke that feminism has become the “other F-word”, especially among Mormons. The truth is that anyone who thinks that women and men are equal is a feminist. It’s not the crazy, bra burning feminism that everyone thinks about from the 70s.. Third-wave feminism (or modern-day feminism) is about preventing rape, and supporting working women, and even supporting the rights of women to mother their children the way they choose. I have yet to meet anyone who wasn’t a feminist – just lots of people who didn’t know it yet.”

[In one of my first posts on this blog (almost a year ago), I cited a conversation that I had with my sister who also identifies herself as a feminist. She asked questions like “Do you think that women doing the same jobs as men should receive equal pay?” “Do you believe that no gender is superior to the other?” “Do you think that women are born with the same capacity for intellect that men are?” “Do you think that women and men in a marriage relationship are equal partners? I answered “Yes” to all of these questions. At the end, my sister told me that I was a feminist. You see, feminism isn’t about being angry. It isn’t about women who hate men. It’s about treating women with the same respect we treat men with. It’s about making sure that women don’t get put down simply for being a woman. So, If you agree with all that, then you’re a feminist. You just didn’t know it yet. You’re welcome.]

When asked what changes she hopes to see in the church, Amber responded simply that, “I hope we can learn as a culture to be more accepting. To not judge a woman if she only has one child, or if she wears pants to church, or if she works outside the home… In a lot of ways, I see mormon feminism as a real missionary effort to bring back those who we have inadvertently pushed away.”

 

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2 comments on “Meet an LDS Feminist: Amber

  1. Cindy says:

    So, since this LET WOMEN PRAY petition happened, haven’t women prayed in general conference, and was it a direct result of this petition? Could you follow up with the story here?

    • tayler9108 says:

      Yes, the campaign ran early in 2013, mostly in February and March, and then in the April 2013 general conference a woman prayed for the first time in the history of the church. That being said, General authorities said that the program for the conference had already been planned for months when the campaign started.They volunteered no other information, though it would seem that they had already placed women in the prayer spots.

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