Megan Geilman. When I knew her, she was Megan Knobloch—graphic designer, cubical mate, cool kid on the block. Now she’s married, pregnant, and writing about feminism, all of which have just made this cool kid even cooler.
Reading her essay made me think back on how I perceived gender issues as a young woman and college student. Maybe I’ll write more about that myself. Meanwhile, read about Megan’s experiences, and make sure you take a look at her suggested reading list at the end. It’s full of food for thought.
Take it away, Megan …
I don’t remember when I started to confidently identify myself as a Mormon feminist but I know I was a teenager. I didn’t really make an outward cry about it, but I saw some disconnect with cultural practices that in my heart didn’t line up with doctrines that I knew to be true and at the very least wanted to label myself that I was not okay with this. Most of the time I didn’t give much thought to these disconnects, being more concerned with homework and boys and having to explain to my coeds why I didn’t drink alcohol and why on earth I would want to wait until marriage to have sex. So mostly it was just a label that I shared with my family and close friends, and not completely sure of what it meant but knowing that I needed to identify myself as such.
From time to time an occasional disconnect would get me fired up enough to do something about it, to reach beyond my self-proclaimed label. Once I met with the Bishop to ask why only the boys got to raise the flag outside our church building on Sunday mornings. He seemed a little surprised that I would care but simply responded by stating that it was a Boy Scout responsibility so they took care of it. I don’t remember what I said in response but the matter seemed settled at that point. lt didn’t really satisfy me at the time (still doesn’t) but I certainly wasn’t going to leave the Church over it. Even though I wanted to show my patriotism on Sunday mornings in equal union with the young men, it didn’t seem a big enough issue to make a scene. So I left his office and filed that experience under “Maybe do something later about it.”
I remember feeling a little hurt and incensed that we were only allowed to do one fundraiser a year to raise money for girl’s camp while the Boy Scouts had fundraiser after fundraiser for camp/boating trips/hikes etc. Once I traveled with my fellow young women and leaders on a temple trip to Las Vegas. We attended the Temple, gazed at all the lights on The Strip, and watched BYU play Air Force in the Las Vegas Bowl. The leaders were later reprimanded for taking us out of the state, which apparently was not allowed. A few months later the Young Men went on a white water rafting trip down the Colorado river. I remember asking my Young Women leaders why this was and they sort of shrugged it off. Just something else not worth making a scene about, and again, certainly not something I was going to leave the Church over.
I later attended BYU and grew excited when my Professor’s would bring up the subject of feminism and the gospel. This was why I had come to BYU: I wanted to explore these issues from a perspective I could trust and that wouldn’t lead me away from the things that I cared most deeply about, namely the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His restored Church. I was also happy to find there were others (women AND men) that identified as “Mormon Feminists” that weren’t the “angry” types that I usually had to disassociate myself with. I read articles and developed my opinion further, but at the time was still more concerned with boys and homework and enjoying an environment of higher learning where I didn’t have to explain why I didn’t drink and was waiting until marriage to copulate.
At some point last year I realized I had grown incredibly complacent. Enjoying the newlywed life, my husband was a bit surprised when I started voicing my feminist opinions. Over time, and not without some trepidation, I was able to clearly articulate what being a Mormon Feminist meant to me and he has since become a huge support for me in exploring these matters further, and speaking up about them when I feel so inspired. Because even though it’s just a flag, or just a woman praying at general conference, or just a joke about taking a bathroom break when a woman gets up to speak, these little things can send a small but powerful message, and I want that message to resonate with the doctrines we hold so dearly as true and meaningful in this Church. And I’ve been feeling increasingly that it’s time I do more about it.
A quote from this article resonated with me: “Atkinson argues that LDS women are not taking advantage of powers they already possess. Mormon women need to ‘step forward and embrace these gifts of the spirit, acknowledge the value of what they are already doing, and ask more of themselves,’ Atkinson says. Then the outside world ‘will take notice of their articulateness, skills and worth. It won’t be because a policy or a program changed to bestow that power on them.’” How much am I not doing and that I don’t need permission for to feel equal in this Church? How much am I letting my fear of the judgements of men (and women) outweigh what my Heavenly Father wants me to do concerning Mormon Feminism. In my heart I know He expects me to be articulate and compassionate and strong and I’m gaining the courage to be that even if others of my faith may look down on me or don’t understand. I’m not perfect, but I’m getting better–and the spiritual growth I’ve felt in the last few months along with the strengthening I’ve seen in my marriage is continuing to bolster my courage.
I’ve been inspired by the examples of our early sisters in the Church’s publication “Daughters in my Kingdom” and appreciated so much of the conversation that has been generated by “Pants to Church.” As my husband and I have discussed things we can do now to help change the culture of the Church in our little corner of the world, and as I’ve seen the outpouring of this topic on blogs and bulletins of the Interwebs, I am excited about the future. As we explore the “proper channels” and pray about petitions to make, as we talk more with each other and trust each other to follow the Lord’s inspiration (even as it is different from our own), and more than anything–as we reach out in charity and love towards each other, I know the Lord will bless us immeasurably. I have felt this awakening in my own life as I’ve never hungered or searched the scriptures and prayed for what the Lord would have me do, with quite as much joy and expectation as I have recently.
Right now I am expecting my first born son. I think a lot about the kind of man I hope my son to be: caring, sensitive, strong, hardworking, and of course, respectful of women. More than hoping about the future or trusting in my husband’s wonderful example, having a child has made me realize the importance of being a woman worth respecting. It means spending more time cultivating my mind, being more proactive about questioning the status quo, and speaking up on things the Lord would have me speak up on, even if I’m scared.