What does it mean to be a feminist?

Feminism gets misunderstood and looked down upon far too often, especially in the Church. I’m convinced this comes simply from a lack of understanding. Fear not! I would love to clear things up.

My being a feminist does not mean I hate men, nor does it mean that I want to be a man. Feminism, at its core, is about agency. To me, feminism means that women, and men, should be free to make their own choices without pressure from society based on their gender. It means that women and men should be equal in their abilities to exercise their agency.

So, if feminism is all about equality, why do I proclaim myself as a feminist instead of just someone who stands for equal rights? Because feminine qualities are what both men and women are shamed for. Examples include, “You run like a girl,” “You drive like a woman” and “Is it that time of the month?” The fact that femininity is at the core of these, and many other insults, drives me to be a feminist.

I entirely believe that men and women have divinely appointed roles in the family. I believe the divine characteristics given to women and men should be valued and nurtured.

I also believe in agency. If a woman wants to pursue a career while her husband stays home with the kids, that should be between the couple and God. Societal pressure should have nothing to do with it. If a couple has made the decision they feel is best for them and their family, neither the man nor the woman should be made to feel bad about their decision simply because gender norms and society say they should.

The same principle stands if a woman’s deepest desire is to stay at home and raise her children; according to feminist ideals, she and her husband are completely entitled to make that choice if it’s what is best for them and their family. I would think that, as members of the Church, we would dislike it when people who do not share our beliefs try to tell us what we believe. Same thing goes for feminists.

Many people profess that they are not feminists because feminists hate men, or feminists don’t acknowledge the suffering of men, or that feminists are seeking to destroy the institution of the family, and they often say these things without any foundation for their claims other than what they’ve read on social media.

Many people hold on to unfounded misconceptions about feminism. Some seem to think that those ideals listed above are at the core of some feminist mission statement. I would assert that most feminists do not agree with any of the above statements.

I want to address the word “feminazi.” I think the phrase you are looking for is, “woman with feminist ideals that I find extreme.” “Feminazi” literally compares these women with a group that was complicit in mass genocide. This seems like an inaccurate comparison to me.

Many people in the world think the Mormons are extreme, so we should certainly be able to empathize with a group with misunderstood values.

As a member of the Church, I believe gender distinctions are important and essential to our eternal identities. Gender norms are not; they are constructed by society and make it difficult to fully exercise our agency.

Feminism is near and dear to my heart because of how strongly I believe in agency, and because it’s far past time we stop pressuring the choices of others based on what we believe they should be.