My entire extended family on the maternal side got together for a reunion over Thanksgiving. It was fun, I chatted a lot, yada yada yada. My mom has four sisters, no brothers. They are loud women with lots of opinions. My mom is probably the most mellow which I can't believe I am even saying. I've grown up with strong, interesting women for my whole life—and all of that generation are active in the church.
My little cousins (by which I mean Grown Women Younger than Me) cornered me and asked if we could have dinner together one night. A girl table! How fun! Not having to eat with children! This is how Nichole and Abby presented their offer:
"Eliana, can we have dinner with you tonight so you can teach us about Mormon feminism?"
How can a girl say no to such a request? I let go my laughter at the idea of having anything to share or having any special knowledge on the subject and agreed to go for it.
Best. Conversation. Ever.
Six of us sat together at a back table in the cruise ship dining room. We talked about feminism generally. One sweet cousin remarked that she'd never felt oppressed as woman, even though one of her (male) work colleagues doing the same job with the same experience made $12,000 more than her. Aren't young people cute?
We talked briefly about the church but not as much as I had expected. About books (like Neylan McBain's new one Women at Church), why people leave, prophets who are good for certain things but maybe not other ones.
We didn't all agree. We all had different life experiences. One is a social worker, one a Relief Society president, one figuring out what she wants from the next 60 years. But there was respect and honesty and sharing and laughter. It brought me such tremendous joy.
I'm thinking of starting a family group…a blog or discussion board or some new technology I don't know about yet…so we can continue to talk. If you ask me, this is what women want. Not just in the church but in their jobs and parenting and stages of life.
We want to be able to freely talk through our triumphs and worries. We want to bounce ideas off others. Not a giant congregation, but larger than our day to day immediate circle. We need this in a different way than men do, not just emotionally but scientifically.
If I figure out a great way to form the world's best feminist club, I'll pass on my methods.
Eliana Osborn was raised on cold weather and wild animals in Anchorage, Alaska, setting the stage for her adult life in the Sunniest Place on Earth in Arizona. She grew up in the church and didn't know there were places where conformity was preached. She has degrees. She writes. She teaches. She has some kids. She even has a husband. She's trying to do her best.
Image credit: SSG Robert Stewart, US Army (used with permission).