Hi, my name is Noël. I am married to a wonderful feminist man and stepmom to two wonderful sons. I’m working on my doctorate in Information and Interaction Design (User Research), and I work full time for an online university.
My parents never made us feel like our gender limited our potential. They encouraged us to find our own paths and dreams: no matter what they were or where they led. My siblings and I were raised with the same goal: college. We were all to go, and we were all to finish. Of their four children, my sister and I finished our degrees, the others did not. Thanks to the support of my parents, gender was never an influence on which children would graduate from college.
Growing up in the church, I knew there were differences in the YM and YW programs. I knew what to expect, but fought against it. During my 4th year at Girls Camp, we petitioned for a Young Women’s High Adventure. We were told “why not?” For my bishop, there was no hesitation. He didn’t believe girls and boys should be doing different things. If we wanted to backpack and white water raft, why couldn’t we? After our trip, he learned “why not.” The Stake told him that the insurance didn’t cover girls and white water rafting, even though we had signed the same waivers as the boys. No other YW group has since had the same high adventure trip we experienced.
I was lucky that my bishop was so open-minded about girls and our roles. He had only raised sons, and I think had a soft spot for us. Our YW leaders were also open to letting us explore our options. We had several divorcées and non-traditional Mormon marriages (i.e., married to non-members) leading us. So we knew our options were not limited to the “traditional checklist.”
It wasn’t until I left home that the disparities in the church became obvious. No longer did I feel like I mattered just as much as the boys. I was confronted with the reality that my role was limited; my capacity to serve was limited. I witnessed friends who were turned down from degree programs, because they would “waste a spot” that a man could take. The message was that women would be moms and not use their degrees, but men would use their degrees. Other friends had to defer to their fathers (and later husbands) for the final word in their life choices. It broke my heart, as I had never been told that my gender made me less than.
As I look back on my life and my experiences, it’s clear to me that women are capable of being more than nurturers. Our paths are just as varied as the men we serve with. However, we are limited in our capacity to serve because of gender. Women are largely left out of administrative decisions. Women are not even allowed to govern themselves without men to “help” them. I don’t believe our Heavenly Parents want their daughters to be limited. I believe that until women are granted the Priesthood, we will not truly be equal in our capacity to serve our Heavenly Parents.