Dear 100 Hour Board,
A follow-up to my last question (92603), which I should have just submitted as part of the same package but didn't think to until after I'd already sent it:
I grew up thinking that feminism was bad because feminists hated men and were basically Nazis. My impression is that this was a fairly common attitude among Mormons for the latter-half of the 20th century.
Has that changed? Do more members feel able to claim the label "feminist"? Or do you think most are still suspicious of it?
*only not really
I do believe it is changing. Recent adjustments and discussions reflect that for sure. Groups like "Mormon Feminists" reflect that. Barbara Morgan-Gardner publishing an awesome book reflects that. Feminism is a lot less of a dirty word in the Church especially, though I do think people still associate feminism with liberalism, and therefore you have plenty of people who still think it's evil (especially some of the ultra-conservatives. Like, I think Benson would probably have a cow with it if he existed today.) I'm sure there's a solid group of oldies who maintain that we're crazy man-haters who want to kill unborn children and burn buildings and walk around flashing anything with eyes.... but they probably don't want to be reasoned with anyway.
As far as I can tell, the number one issue people have with feminism in the Church is that they think that all feminists automatically support unregulated abortion rights. When more people understand that not everybody who is a feminist thinks that way, I think lots more members would willingly claim the label. In short, yes, more people feel good about calling themselves feminists than 20 years ago, but there's more educating to do.
I think this article by Valerie Hudson Cassler may be of interest to you. I think it does a good job of explaining how Mormonism and feminism actually are hand in hand, and how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may actually be one of the more feminist churches. (You know, since everyone else doesn't believe in a Heavenly Mother and thinks that Eve is the reason for the fall and that's why women are cursed and stuff, which we don't believe.)
From my limited experience, being a feminist is still a negative with older, white LDS populations. This was especially true in the South. My dad particularly is against feminists, and is upset and worried at minnow and I being proud feminists. When my then-fiance asked for my hand in marriage (well, more like just informed them he was planning on proposing to me), my dad told him that no feminist relationship would ever work out. So that was lovely.
Just like minnow and me, I think younger generations are more open to the term "feminist". I'm fairly certain that, in a few decades, a majority of Church members will be open to that term.
-guppy of doom
Dear Dr. Butler,
I am probably not a good barometer because I pretty much grew up on the other end of the spectrum—the side where being a feminist felt like a given, and prominent Mormon feminists like Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Claudia Bushman were household names, and we did stuff like watch this video for FHE—but I like to think that, yes, more members of the Church are becoming willing to claim the the label "feminist."
I grew up in a place where it was more accepted to be a feminist than a Mormon. Being a feminist was respected among the ward I grew up, I even went to the 2017 Women’s March with a couple of my Young Women’s leaders. When I came to BYU I did see a shift of feminism being a more taboo subject.
With that being said, there are definitely pockets of proud feminists at BYU and within the church, various feminist FHE groups, and a greater emphasis on including women’s voices. But those groups seem like a minority within the LDS Church and more popular with certain demographics, like younger generations.
I think people within the church might have beliefs that align with feminism and there are some teachings within the Church I might label “feminist.” But I think the greater LDS population is hesitant to use that label because of the fear that feminism is an anti-LDS social movement. I’ve seen a lot of members within the Church who think that all feminists hate men and that they are destroying the family. And so when there is the temple recommend question about “do you support any groups that oppose the church,” some members might see feminism as one of those groups.
Yes, I think members of the Church are becoming more accepting of feminism and more members, especially younger, are calling themselves feminists. But I think that the majority of current members still don’t like the label or want to be associated with feminism.
Somewhat related side note: my dad bought me this coloring book that highlights some really cool Mormon women throughout history and it is one of my new favorite things so I’ve been sharing it with everyone, which now includes you too.