Thursday, October 25, 2012

10/25 Brown Bag Response: "Identifying as a Mormon Feminist"

                Today’s Brown Bag was titled “Identifying as a Mormon Feminist” and featured Joana Brooks, author of Book of a Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith. Brooks is an award-winning scholar of religion and American culture and is a twenty-year veteran of the Mormon feminist movement. She describes her book as a coming of age story. It is a story of how she came into her feminist consciousness. Oftentimes, she says, she was made to feel weird by mainstream culture and felt marginalized because of her Mormon faith.  I found it really interesting to learn that there is a century old tradition of feminism in the Mormon faith. In fact, women once commanded priesthood powers in the Mormon Church.  I went into the lecture pretty clueless about the Mormon faith so a lot of what was said was really enlightening. One of the most interesting things I learned was that God is a mother and a father in Mormonism.  Joanna also highlighted the importance of the Mormon Church talking openly about controversies within the Church like racism, sexism, and polygamy. There were and still are a narrow set of voices that are the spokespeople of the community, she says, and this needs to change.
                One of Brook’s ideas that resonated the most with me was the idea that we don’t do feminism just for us, we do feminism for a just world. Another message that I found interesting is that it is possible to push beyond the secular models of feminism. Meaning, although some of the Mormon Church policies do not align with Joana's feminism, she is still able to work through them and do great feminist work while maintaining her faith. Joana talked a lot about many of her Mormon feminist professors and role models at Brigham Young University. Several of these women were excommunicated from the church or fired from BYU in the late 70s. However, the internet has allowed these women and Mormon feminists in general, to communicate and share their thoughts and ideas in a safe place. I think the work that Joana is doing is really great because there does not seem to be many Mormon feminists telling their own stories, at least not in mainstream American culture.

-Stephanie Rameau

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