Carolina Sagebin Allen: Redefining the Word: Cultivating a Spiritually-Infused Feminism

feminismFrom a young age I felt in my bones I was part of a vast ocean of women who had something unique and valuable to offer the world. Instinctively, I felt that being a girl was something special because I knew I was a daughter of God.

When I heard the term “feminism” as a youth, I claimed it. I liked the word; it spoke of my female power and influence. In my mind, feminism was spiritually infused. It had little to do with “sameness” and everything to do with “uniqueness.” To me, women were inherently powerful, independent of external factors.

Throughout the years, I had cultivated this concept of feminism, what I like to think of as ‘true feminism.’  Because of this identity, the framework of oppression and disadvantage was foreign to me. Rather, I was lifted up, edified and strengthened. I was confident I could lift others because of the understanding that God’s power naturally rushed within me.

As time passed, I had no serious cause to doubt my true feminism. It suited me well. I felt it deep in my heart as I maneuvered through college as a philosophy major, as I served in leadership capacities throughout the years, and most especially as a wife and mother. That is, until my very sobering and life-changing experience at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women last March.


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The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) focuses on women’s issues internationally. At this council, critical language within the negotiated UN documents are altered and redefined. The language adopted in these negotiations have the power to affect families throughout the world. So, when I was offered an opportunity to attend this important event through a pro-family organization, I jumped on board!

While there, however, I witnessed the workings and dealings of many who claimed the word ‘feminist.’ They essentially ran the show, pushing  policies that grossly undermined many religious and family centered cultures of the world. They worked overtime to warp and destroy provisions concerning life, motherhood, children, families, and marriage. Many pro-family countries endured bullying and intimidation.

At the United Nations, I had witnessed a moral tsunami at work. It was as if a colossal wall of debris-filled water had heaved itself beyond its bounds, its toxicity pummeling the nations of the world. I saw the power these radical feminist groups wielded, and grievously watched in silence as they influenced policies that would eventually have direct impact on my children. The word and concept of “motherhood” is all but being eliminated in documents.

I felt powerless and helpless. I felt as though my personal feminism failed because it was just that—personal.  It was alone, isolated inside me. I felt like a miniscule wave compared to the massive tsunami. I ached for a group that I could stand with. I knew in my gut that sharing my small voice was a start, and finding women who felt the same way was the answer.

After visiting the UN, I vowed I would return to that very spot with a massive representation of women like me. But upon coming home I struggled to know under what banner was this to be accomplished? 

The image in my mind was of women that would inspire rather than demand. I pictured life-affirming exemplars leading the world in faithful, peaceful, and happy ways. I searched for a word that would have the scope and breadth of righteous power in the female sphere. I looked, but all I found were fragmented groups of women’s organizations, all wonderful, but not having the influence I felt was needed.

One day, feeling defeated and broken, I knelt down in prayer. Sobbing, I pleaded with the Lord for guidance. This was important because this was the key to protecting all that was dear to me! I thought of the bullied countries of the world standing in defense of truth.  I thought of women and mothers around the world in need of a true sisterhood. I thought of my children. What would the future look like for us all?  I needed help in order to help!

It was then that I began to feel peace, and the tiny flicker of my childhood feminism resurfaced. The distinct thought entered my mind, “Words are powerful things, Carolina! Don’t give up! It’s your word!”  Words are ideas that inspire actions! They are labels that can potentially identify, unify, and gather in behalf of change.  Amidst my tears, it became clear to me that what started as a corruption of the female sphere was now corroding words like “family”, “mother”, “father”, “marriage”, and the like. The strong impression came to me that when we redefine and restore feminism, we will be perfectly positioned to take back these words.

 

Upon closing my prayer, I was reminded of the early Relief Society exemplars and recalled a statement by Eliza R. Snow:

Eliza R. Snow

“If any of the daughters and mothers in Israel are feeling in the least [limited] in their present spheres, they will now find ample scope for every power and capability for doing good with which they are most liberally endowed.” (Daughters in My Kingdom, Chapter 4).

 

Never had I felt so grateful to past and present Relief Society leaders, and the good brethren of the Priesthood who have always sought to encourage and support! Never had such words comforted me!  As I got up off my knees, my tears of defeat turned into tears of gratitude. I understood that we are the peaceful, happy, purposeful, sisterhood of action! We are covenant women endowed with truth and power!

These experiences have lead me to believe that the righteous and peaceful women of this Earth set the standard on lasting power and influence! Power in the female sphere was first given to our great mother Eve, the fearless and life-preserving mother of all living. Hers was the feminism of peace, compassion, and deep faith. Women of the world who embrace such God given attributes are the true and original feminists.

President Spencer W. Kimball prophetically declared,:

My dear sisters, may I suggest to you something that has not been said before or at least in quite this way.  Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the church are seen as distinct and different―in happy ways―from the women of the world … Thus it will be that female exemplars of the church will be a significant force in both the numerical and the spiritual growth of the church in the last days … your talents and spiritual strength are so desperately needed. (The Role of Righteous Women, Ensign, October 1979).

carolinaSince my trip to the United Nations, I have come home with a renewed purpose. I feel deeply that the time has come to stand for the family—united, upright and shining like beacons—especially in the darkest of places. The knowledge that women are mothers of all living, and that we are indeed co-creators with the very God that created us, is a truth that all women must have access to. When we know this truth, nothing will internally oppress. And when that happens, we will influence and inspire changes in external oppression. I am certain that now is the time to gather in defense of our children and families.


Author Carolina Sagebin Allen loves her role as an LDS wife and mother who is passionate about supporting and defending the family. She is attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York next month. This time, she is bringing large delegation of LDS women with her—just like she promised God that she would do.  https://www.facebook.com/bigoceanwomen