When did you first become a Mormon feminist?

Like many of you, I’m never entirely sure what the word “feminism” or “feminist” is supposed to mean. Sometimes it’s used as a scandalous epithet, other times it’s worn as a badge of honor, but in most conversations the precise definition intended by any given speaker remains opaque to me. Nevertheless, I’m going to tell you precisely when I first became a “Mormon feminist”. And by this, I simply mean that I’m going to describe the “moment” (and its aftermath) when I first realized not all was well in Zion with respect to our discourse about and treatment of women.

In the Fall of 1990, I enrolled in a BYU Freshman writing class taught by Tessa Meyer Santiago. About half way through the course, Sister Santiago passed out a document for class discussion entitled, “I Want to Be a Woman”. The document was a letter written by a single Mormon woman to her future Mormon husband, and it was obviously designed to inculcate certain values about marriage into LDS girls. It wasn’t clear when the document was originally written, or by whom, but we were told it had appeared in an LDS Girl’s Camp manual at least until the late 1980s. I can’t remember if we all read the document aloud together, or if each student read it silently, but you may now read a version of it for yourselves:

I want to be a woman – your woman. I want to be attractive to stand tall and straight to look clean and neat, and sweet, so that you can take pleasure in looking at me and pride in being with me.

I want to be kind and gentle and patient so as to listen to your heart’s trouble and to understand. I want to be wise and good and serene so that I can help you when things get sort of mixed up.

I want to be weak enough to cry on your shoulder and to have you boss me now and then – and feminine enough to have you do things for me like carrying something heavy, or opening a jar, or even the door.

But I also want to be strong enough to bear your children and to rear them strong and healthy. I want to be full of fun and laughter and gaiety so that we can always be filled with warmth and hope, not dull and dingy.

I want to do little things that please you, like cooking somehting special or keeping the house fresh and new or even bring your slippers after supper or just being quiet and holding hands and sitting close to you when you’re out of sorts at the end of a hard day.

I want to know about the things you know about in politcs and business and money matters so that we can talk together and share ideas so that our minds can form some kind of union. But I never want to know quite as much as you, and I want to share your other interests in sports, reading, gardening, or whatever you want to do. And I want to be a part of you dreams, and help them become reality.

Because I want to be with you during these moments is perhaps the reason why most of all I want to share a common faith with you, so that we can worship God together and take, not send, our children to Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting and always have Christ’s presence in our home with us. We bless our meals whether hash or sirloin, and bless and guide every phase of our married life.

And finally, I want to be warm and soft and tender and affectionate and responsive, so that you will desire me.

This my Dear, is the woman I hope to become – no, the woman I shall become for you.

After our initial collective reading, the whole class just sat in stunned silence. For me, this was my “moment” of awakening. Another male student — who happened to be an outspoken conservative — must have felt similarly, for he broke the silence by exclaiming, “This is BULLSHIT!” I had never heard the word “shit” used in a BYU classroom before, and in 4+ years, I would never hear it again. But in this context, no one in class objected to the outburst.

I can’t remember precisely why our professor shared the document with us, or what our subsequent discussion consisted of. But after class, I started sharing my copy of it with others. One group of male and female friends in another of my classes took particular interest in it. After an initial bout of disbelief, consternation and fury, we decided to devote ourselves to its mockery: Standing in line for dinner, I’d inquire in a sickeningly sweet voice if we were having “hash or sirloin”. After dinner, a female friend would sarcastically ask if she could fetch me my slippers, I’d say yes, and she’d start barking like a dog. We enjoyed running jokes about opening jars of jam for each other and crying on shoulders. We’d avail ourselves of every opportunity to exclaim melodramatically, “This is the woman I hope to become. No, no, the woman I shall be!!!”

Sometimes our experiences were less humorous. During a study session in the BYU Library one afternoon, several of us took a break to discuss the document’s contents again. A late 40-something woman nearby overheard our discussion and condescendingly assured us we’d come to see the letter as wise and inspired once we had a little more age and maturity under our belts. Her comment was not well-received, and the conversation descended into ugliness. Later, during a visit home, I shared the document with my mother and grandmother during a long car ride. Our ensuing discussion was a textbook example of generational difference: My mother also found the letter offensive, but somewhat less than I did. Meanwhile, my grandmother was very defensive of its contents, and could only bring herself to tactfully say, “If you don’t want a woman like that, then don’t marry one!” (I didn’t). By the end of our car ride, the most I could get her to admit was that another hypothetical letter from an LDS Young Man, setting forth his own personal goals to please his new bride, would have provided some needed balance. I guess that’s something.

Look, I realize the social views of earlier generations are all-too-easy targets for scorn. It’s inevitable that social norms change, and perhaps a bit unfair to criticize our predecessors for not holding the same modern, enlightened views that we think we do. But when these antiquated, noxious messages are perpetuated in current curricular materials designed to indoctrinate our modern Mormon youth, some vigorous and vocal objections are in order. In fact, if I learned anything from “I Want to Be a Woman”, it’s the need to be vigilant over what messages my children are imbibing, both inside and outside the Church. (I don’t know if the letter still resides in any current Girl’s Camp literature; I suspect it doesn’t alas, I’m told some Young Women are STILL being given this document in 2010). As the father of a 4-year-old daughter — who also has another child on the way — you can be sure I’ll be keeping a watchful eye out for troglodytic views on gender masquerading as Gospel insights.

Finally, I don’t pretend that sexist monologues in our youth manuals are the only — or necessarily the most important — “feminist” concerns facing modern LDS women that are worth worrying about. But hey, you gotta start somewhere, and this is where I started.

When did you first become a Mormon feminist?

Comments

  1. There are several different versions of “I Want to Be a Woman” in circulation. They are all very similar, but not identical, to each other. The version quoted above is filled with various grammatical errors and awkward word choices, which are distracting, whereas the original copy I read was at least somewhat more literate. Among a few other changes, the original lacked the line about the woman not knowing as much as her husband, which is too bad, for it would have been fun to mock that as well.

  2. Natalie B. says:

    It began for me when I first learned that I would not get to pass the sacrament. At the time, I saw the boys in my primary class as pretty immature, and didn’t understand why God would let them and not me, especially when they didn’t seem to care about it. (Sorry any classmates who might read this–you all turned out great!)

  3. I don’t know if I could point to any particular event. Perhaps the moment the stake president in the Boston stake which holds the Longfellow Park singles wards when the stake president came to the meeting and actually chided the women in the ward for not doing more to get married. I thought that was rather reprehensible.

  4. Hard question. I do remember that in high school I specifically did not define myself as a feminist and maybe used some sort of term like “humanist” to distinguish myself from troublesome elements but to acknowledge that I believed daughters and sons of God to be equally valuable.

    Since I grew up on the east coast, I just didn’t have many Mormon peers. Since the adult men in my ward were pretty non-offensive, I figured Mormon men were somehow more advanced than other men. I am thinking I figured out that I was wrong about that the minute I got to BYU and heard all the crazy stuff people in my classes or dorm would say. BYU made me feminist.

  5. PS–BYU also made me a democrat and later a socialist, but maybe that would have happened at any college. Thanks BYU!

  6. From fairly early on, (like Natalie, the sacrament/priesthood differences bothered me), I was aware of these differences. But when, “I want to be a Woman,” was given to me in YW, there was no turning back. I never want to know quite as much as my future husband? Weak enough to be bossed around but strong enough to bear children? Bring slippers after supper? I can open my own jars, thank you.
    In a funny way, I think this piece might have helped show others the light, if that makes sense. I typed up the note and share it with friends and the extreme tone of it helps some realize the absurdity of the desires of this woman/expectations we in LDS society may have for (young) women.

  7. Well, I grew up in a house with just my mom. My grandma took care of me during the day, and so I never had any male role models at all. I saw women as humans first, capable of running a house and earning a living, so it never occurred to me that there were any gender inequalities in the world.

    Until I got into Young Women’s and I had to do a skit for a ward talent show with this other girl who was a year older. She insisted on doing the song ” I Enjoy Being a Girl,” which I thought she wanted to do as a big joke, but she wanted to do it straight, without any irony!

    Man, that’s a messed up song and it was a messed up skit. I felt like I was betraying myself singing that song like I meant it.

  8. I don’t remember when it began, but watching my 88 y.o. father’s body failing, due in part to the fact that my mom still does most of the fetching, cleaning, meal prep and cleanup, laundry, etc., I realize that all those years of her “serving” him (in that generation’s traditional role-play) have done him a huge disservice.

    On the lighter side, the realization that vacuuming, dishes, dusting, etc. are considered by most women a necessary component of foreplay :)

  9. For someone so often described as “abrasive” in this neighborhood, it’s ironic that my makeup seems almost* devoid of the ability to be moved to belligerence over silly articles like the one quoted, or over other typical crises that people credit with jumpstarting their feminism. If it can count as feminism that, while not feeling that sense of deprivation and reactionary militancy for what someone implies I can’t/shouldn’t do/be as a woman, and instead feeling wonder at the possibilities *open* to me, a woman, then I’d say reading Carol Lynn Pearson’s Daughters of Light when it came out (in 1971? 1972?) was a watershed. I didn’t feel any deprivation at not passing the sacrament with the boys my age, but DoL did open my eyes to potential spiritual gifts I might have. Growing into womanhood suddenly seemed exciting and eternal and empowering (not that I knew that word then) and limitless. It lifted me, not from a position of lesser-than-boys, but from the routine and mundane world to something better.

    [*Almost, not quite. I am endlessly frustrated at the way women can offer comments in church classes and have them ignored, only to have the comment repeated almost verbatim by a man and having it hailed as the most insightful remark ever offered by a seasoned scriptorian. Bah!]

  10. Sheesh, what else can I add to such a great post!

    I would say the moment for me came about 1 1/2 years ago. Around the same time I tipped my head up into the sunlight, looked around, and found that things weren’t what I had envisioned them to be! Many of my views changed at that time. I had to embrace the real world, and the reality of our sexism hit me in the face like a wet noodle!!

    Great post! I hope we can continue to correct this issue so that my daughters will grow up respecting and loving who they are and what they can be.

  11. esodhiambo,

    #5,

    me too. I was a member of the Democratic club at BYU and was invited by this nice guy from the Republican club to do a debate with him for the PoliSci 100 class. We chose beforehand several juicy topics (gun control, death penalty, gay marriage, etc). During a question/answer session after the debate, one student asked me what the Democratic position was on gay couples adopting children. I told them I had no problem with it, and I said that a child growing up in a loving gay family is better off in life than someone growing up with abusive parents. You should have heard the gasps in the class! It just amazed me that among Mormons at BYU, they thought it was worse in life to be raised by gay loving parents than by heterosexual, yet abusive parents.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    That’s quite a letter, I had never encountered it before. Very Fascinating Womanhoodish.

    I don’t recall a single moment when I became a feminist. I remember accepting Rex Lee’s arguments against the ERA, so I guess I wasn’t one out of the box. And I’m a fan of FMH and ZD, so I guess I’m one now. I think it has sort of been a slow evolution for me, probably driven in large part by my consistent reading over the years of the independent Mormon journals, for which feminism is a pretty consistent ideal. I think I just sort of absorbed it by osmosis from reading lots of good LDS folks with high feminist ideals.

  13. I guess we all have different definitions, but I remember angering the student ward bishopric when I returned from my mission. It was a BYU dorm ward with 90% freshman girls, 66% freshman boys, and 33% RM men. I was asked to speak on “preparing for a mission” the first “real” Sunday of services. There was no expressed expectation about how I was to direct my comments to the young men, but I sensed the bishopric’s desires… I made a comment in my talk about how impressed and inspired I had been by the sister missionaries and how I had learned from them, and in closing, how I hoped one day to marry a returned missionary. That comment was like a bomb going off…

  14. I was always aware that the YM got to do fun High Adventure stuff and we had YW activities like fashion shows and stuff like that, and never thought it was fair. However, it was when I went to BYU and heard the worst that Mormons have to offer that I joined both Voice and BYU Democrats (really? homosexuality is worse than adultery in a temple marriage?). I kind of lost interest in women’s issues for awhile but reading FMH has really brought it back to my attention and helped me hone what I believe and think.

  15. littlemanda says:

    What specifically are the parts that are offensive to you? I don’t like “I never want to know quite as much as you” — but honestly, other than that what is wrong with this? Perhaps you could also talk more about “not all was well in Zion with respect to our discourse about and treatment of women.” I have not seen women treated/talked about negatively in the Church!

    I am a 30ish LDS woman with a great marriage. I think what the letter describes in paragraphs 1 and 2, plus the part about doing little things to please him, and the part about sharing a common faith, are good. If I try and try to open a jar and can’t get it open, I ask my husband to open it. So what?

  16. I opened a jar for my husband the other day. It was a paradigm shift for me, let me tell you.

  17. If I had to choose a moment, it would be the stake presidency member interview me before my mission. He was sure I would be anorexic because my sister was, and wanted me to promise never to lose more than 5 pounds for my whole mission. I told him he fundamentally didn’t understand women or anorexia, but I’d make and keep his dumb promise so I could go on a mission. I then gave him homework to find out about amorexia, and talk to his wife about her feelings.

    Or it could have been when a group of my family home evening brothers and others who were concerned, sat me down and tried to discrouage me from going on a mission because I’d be too intimidating.

    That said, I have been told too many times that I can’t be a feminist because I _________. (have 9 children, homeschool, am Mormon, am a SAHM…).

    I’ll have to remain egalitarian or something else.

  18. I’m never entirely sure what the word “feminism” or “feminist” is supposed to mean

    Yeah, I’m still working on that part. What on earth does that word even mean?

  19. Sorry, guys, I was always a feminist. My mother was a strong example of feminism. She was an intellectual and an independent thinker. My father always respected her power and ability as far as I could ever tell over the 35 years I knew them together. By the time “Fascinating Womanhood” was published it was an object of ridicule. And maybe it was growing up in the East in the 50’s. There were plenty of strong women in our Ward in Short Hills among the first waves of reverse emigration from the West.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascinating_Womanhood

    Ugh.

  20. Opening jars:
    If a jar is hard to open, take an ice pick or a knife you do not care about much and put a very small hole in the lid to release the vacuum. You will never have to ask again. Intelligence beats brawn any day.

  21. on opening jars…don’t underrestimate the stickiness of sugar…warm water running around the lid of the jar can dissolve the sugars there and make opening the jar easier.

    I like the puncture idea.

  22. Leonard Swidler‘s definition of feminism:

    “By a feminist is meant a person who is in favor of, and who promotes, the equality of women with men, a person who advocates and practices treating women primarily as human persons (as men are so treated) and willingly contravenes social customs in so acting.”

    My perspective on being a Mormon feminist: http://lifeinlabels.com/2010/12/03/relative-feminist/

  23. queno, are the percentages you gave in #13 some kind of riddle? Are we to infer that you had quite a number of transgendered RM freshmen in your ward?

  24. A clarification: I’ve been told off-site that “I Want to Be a Woman” is indeed still being passed around to YW in some circles. So I was too optimistic in imagining it was entirely a thing of the past.

    Triple Ugh.

  25. (23) – Sigh, that’ll teach me to type while reading email and participating in a conference call:

    90% freshman girls, 66% freshman boys, and 33% RM men =

    – 90% freshman girls and 10% girls who are sophomore and higher
    – 66% freshman boys (age 18) and 33% RM men (21 and higher)

    I.e., this was a typically freshman BYU ward living in the dorms. The idea of a female RM was a completely foreign concept to the ward members (except for the RMs).

  26. “[*Almost, not quite. I am endlessly frustrated at the way women can offer comments in church classes and have them ignored, only to have the comment repeated almost verbatim by a man and having it hailed as the most insightful remark ever offered by a seasoned scriptorian. Bah!]”

    My wife, who recently finished a stint as Gospel Doctrine teacher, would open questions up to women only for long stints of time in the class. Then later she would open them up to the men.

    She said the women mostly refuse to fight the men to get their views in, and the men are too stupid to leave any oxygen in the room.

    But if given the chance, the women will step forward.

  27. I’ve been a feminist for about as long as I can remember, but there were two particular instances that made me a Mormon feminist. The first was in high school, going to the bishop for a very minor infraction with my boyfriend. Boyfriend had pressured me repeatedly into doing what we had, and had done the same thing with several other girls before me and had gone much farther with them. I wasn’t allowed to take the sacrament for 3 months, boyfriend had no punishment at all.
    Second case was in college, living in Provo, and having a very strong impression that I was ready to take my endowments, although I was not going on a mission or getting married. My bishop agreed, but stake president did not. He knew absolutely nothing about me, didn’t even ponder it for a few minutes before a flat out no. His reason was because “girls gossip” and “girls will blindly follow their friends,” so once word got out that I had gone to the temple early, all the other girls would be trying to follow, and since none of them would be really be ready for those covenants because of their “inherent immaturity,” condemnation would come upon their heads. All because of me. (That stake president is now in the Seventy.)

  28. If you’re trying to open a glass jar with a metal lid, you can run the lid under very hot water to loosen the seal a bit. (The metal will expand under the heat more than the glass will.)

  29. I think the denigration of men and the placing of women on a pedestal, as displayed in some comments, is what got us to “I want to be a woman” in the first place. It’s a weird reaction to the feminist movement, but it’s pervasive even in official church messages today.

  30. Geoff J. (18),
    It seems like Aaron, after acknowledging the problem of finding such a definition, provided one for the purposes of this post:

    [A person who believes/thinks/feels that] not all was well in Zion with respect to our discourse about and treatment of women.

  31. I went to YW camp in the 1970s, and the manual only taught camping skills. I suspect this “document” is a Mormon myth. I also grew up wishing I could do High Adventure activities like the Young Men, and I have spent my adult life doing them. It’s easy to find unfairness; the world is full of it. It’s more satisfying to smile at it and move on.

  32. “It’s easy to find unfairness; the world is full of it. It’s more satisfying to smile at it and move on.” I’m praying that you don’t work with children who are abused or neglected….

    I think this is also something that has helped me to realize that I am a feminist. When someone else is dismissive of something that is meaningful to me, I find that it usually serves to strengthen my attitude about said subject.

  33. Linda, how do you mean that the “document” is a Mormon myth? When I was in YW, I received a print copy of this document, which looked like it had been typewritten. I kept it – mostly so I can smile at it with others and move on. The thing is, no young men are getting similar documents, or being encouraged to teach us how to bake bread for our missions. It’s unfair, but problems don’t often get better by ignoring them.

  34. I actually taught in Relief Society this past Sunday in a Spanish Branch. My desire was to show them how the RS (and therefore the sisters) tie into the priesthood, rather than are separated by it into what some people think is a lesser role.
    My read on the Oath and Covenant of the PH (D&C 84:33-40) is those who “receive” the priesthood means those who accept the ordinances and blessings thereof, not necessarily just those ordained to it. So, when women and small children accept the gospel through receiving the ordinances, they become the children of Moses and Aaron (MP and AP), and the descendants of Abraham. Each then, as they receive the servants of God (I specifically named the RS President), receive Christ, and those who receive Christ receive God and all that He has.

    I would hope men would want women who are equally as smart as they are, or perhaps even smarter. And that each encourages the other to develop talents and abilities both together and as individuals (I could never do art or music like my wife, so I enjoy her talent, but it is HER talent).

  35. Cynthia L. says:

    Cody, can you give specific comment numbers where “denigration of men” is taking place? I see some specific stories about specific bad actors mostly. #26 about Sunday School is, unfortunately, a behavior pattern that has been documented in the scientific literature in relation to school classrooms and professional settings. So, while not flattering, it is factual.

  36. I first encountered this document in whatever edition/volume of “Especially for Mormons” was in my household while I was growing up. It would have been published in the early ’70s. That version included the line about not wanting to know as much as her future husband. (I reckon that line was excised by slightly-more-enlightened editors to make it more palatable to slightly-more-enlightened readers.) We’ll probably never know where this “originated,” but since most stakes make their own Girls Camp manuals, it’s easy to imagine all kinds of random stuff making it into random manuals everywhere. Since this was in Especially for Mormons, it probably got distributed/recited/included in a lot of YW classes and talks to young women over the years (and even the occasional Girls Camp manual), although obviously it was non-correlated material. (Well, maybe that isn’t obvious. But that’s what it was.)

  37. Cynthia L. says:

    “It’s more satisfying to smile at it and move on.”

    Linda, in Mormondom we have a saying, “Some things are true but not useful.” This is a shining example of that. It is true that sometimes in life, you have no choice but to smile and move on. But honestly, only a cruel and clueless person would use a phrase like “It’s more satisfying to smile at it and move on” as a weapon against people who are suffering or being systematically wronged.

  38. Aside from the lines about wanting to be weak enough so her husband can boss her, about wanting to “fetch” his slippers (unfortunate diction–not that it’s inherently degrading to bring your husband his slippers), and wanting to remain relatively ignorant so her husband will never feel intimidated by her or so she’ll never have to worry that she married some kind of dummy (hard to tell which), there’s nothing morally wrong with this essay. It’s just corny as hell.

  39. I grew up in a ward where the Young Women weren’t allowed to do “boy” activities like rafting using budgeting as the excuse. I hated YW growing up because I didn’t feel there was anything there for me in it and I think that’s when I became a “Mormon feminist”. I also got a masters in civil engineering at BYU and saw (through my own experience and my friends in engineering) how women at BYU were treated differently for being in a man’s major and wanting a career. I had a friend who dated a guy who later didn’t want to date her because he thought another girl (majoring in home and family development) would be better prepared for marriage! ha!!

  40. Madhousewife (38),
    I think you misunderstand–this woman gets it right! Seriously, you have no idea what a huge burden it is to know as much as I know. I wouldn’t wish this weighty mind on anyone.

  41. “It’s easy to find unfairness; the world is full of it. It’s more satisfying to smile at it and move on.”

    Linda, I’m sorry that this comment is going to sound very harsh, but I think it needs to be said: Smiling at and ignoring unfairness or injustice may be the EASIER thing to do, but it is cowardly. If something is wrong in the world, the right thing to do is try and fix it. This requires the spiritual traits of strength and courage and confidence. Women can have those too. Our existence is not limited to patience and humility and long suffering.

    I think in a church setting, it is a bit too tempting to ignore something that is wrong and then slap the label of “long suffering” or “patience” or “submissiveness” on it. That isn’t right. Our girls deserve a better paradigm, they deserve equal treatment, they deserve respect and confidence in their many and varied abilities. If that means that we have to shun the easy road of ignoring wrongness and injustice, then let’s do it.

  42. Aside from the few obviously offensive things, most of the individual statements seem pretty innocuous. However, taken as a whole and seen as the life plan it is presented as; it reads, in short, “I want to orient my entire existence around my husband.” And that is highly problematic.

  43. Madhousewife, starfoxy,

    The document is pretty short. So saying there’s nothing wrong with it except x, y and z is essentially to acknowledge that yes, there’s something wrong with it.

  44. Thomas Parkin says:

    I see in the document someone who wants to acceptable and loved, which is what almost everyone wants. I say ‘almost’ because my ex-wife certainly didn’t care, and never lifted a finger to help me emotionally or practically in the last three years of our marriage. It may be worth noting that she was also unsure that s/he wanted to be a woman, at all, in a rather literal way.

    I also note that men are commended in sacrificing themselves for their family, as well. We are to follow the example of the Savior, who sacrificed Himself for His friends.

    I certainly have no desire to be in a relationship where my partner orients her life _entirely_ around me. I have even less desire to be in a relationship where my partner actually aspires to know less than I do. On the other hand, it sure is nice to have someone willingly doing things, making sacrifices, and such, for me. In fact, it feels like love. ~

  45. It’s a real document. I remember hearing it hearing it when I was young.
    I PRETENDED to be a feminist back in the 1970s, but it was mostly a mask for my own insecurities. My real feminism didn’t blossom until I left an abusive marriage. There was an actual moment when I stood up and said, to an insulting accusation, “I am not that.” I continue to stand up for myself and others in various arenas, sometimes quietly, and sometimes with power. Proud that my daughters are feminists, too.

  46. Everyone,

    I doubt that anyone would reject each and every quality extolled in this document if we removed them from the document and put them in a list. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with
    being “affectionate”, “strong”, “responsive”, “attractive”, etc. But you put everything together in this particular package, and the sum of the parts is revolting. For reasons others have already articulated.

  47. Scott #30,

    Unfortunately that quasi definition doesn’t really help because it is as nebulous as the term in question. What qualifies as “all well in Zion” on this subject and why? (Those are rhetorical questions since I think the answers require diving headfirst into thus far unanswered metaphysical and theological questions.)

  48. #35 Cynthia. In particular, I meant the statement that men are stupid (comment 26) and since then, nobody really calling that statement out or questioning it. A similar negative comment about women as a group would be, rightly, unacceptable and denounced.

  49. Thomas Parkin says:

    #46

    Ah, but you did post the whole document and not only the most offensive bits. I don’t see much reason to be totally offended by something that isn’t totally offensive. Some of the document is blinkered, sure. And I appreciate the feminist awakening. (I don’t know if I had one … as far as I can remember, I always thought the way women were spoken about in the church was condescending and unreal. Maybe there were some key moments in coming to that, but I don’t remember them.)

    And I suppose I’m a feminist based on most definitions. I wouldn’t mind being called a feminist – though it isn’t, like most names, something I aspire to. The thing for me: I really like women. I like them better than I like men, generally. Speaking very broadly, I appreciate the emotional content of their lives better than that of men. I can’t imagine not wanting them to have lives that are every inch as interesting and fulfilling as a life I’d wish for myself. I’d want that for men, too, of course – just not as much. Possibly in this last there is some vestige of a patronizing feeling, but I’d have to explore myself further to confirm that.

  50. This “document” has never been published by the church, or endorsed by it. If YW leaders taught from it, shame on them.

    To madhousewife: I have been to YW camp in many different stakes across the country, and I haven’t seen a camp manual other than the official church manual. That is my experience.

    To Cynthia L: I am not cruel, nor am I clueless. You would be happy to have me in your ward, or as your next door neighbor.

    To Amanda: I am all to familiar with childhood abuse. You can’t change the past. So you process the pain, and then let it go.

    That said, feminism is like a gigantic chip on the shoulder. Shake it off, stand up straight and get on with life.

  51. On a somewhat related note, I told my wife the other night that, in the nomenclature of Shakespeare, I had attempted to marry an Ophelia, but somehow ended up with a Kate. According to my wife, that quip wasn’t as funny out loud as it was in my head. So I apologized and continued washing the dishes.

  52. “To Amanda: I am all to familiar with childhood abuse. You can’t change the past. So you process the pain, and then let it go.

    That said, feminism is like a gigantic chip on the shoulder. Shake it off, stand up straight and get on with life.”

    The previous two statements make the following very doubtful to me:

    “I am not cruel, nor am I clueless. You would be happy to have me in your ward, or as your next door neighbor”

    The last thing my ward needs is another person incapable of empathy. And I certainly don’t want to introduce that quality (or lack of it) to my neighborhood.

  53. I hadn’t studied very much at all and had comprehended almost nothing of what I had studied for my Algebra final in the 9th grade. My teacher was avuncular and of course, a huge fan of my older brother who was something of a math wunderkind. I made a pretty pathetic attempt to have some kind of showing on the final and then had the brilliant idea of flipping the paper over and writing a rather nice sonnet to my teacher, explaining, in verse, that my strong suit wasn’t math. I think I saw this as a sort of hail-Mary gesture. My way of insouciantly saying, “yes, I suck at this but I am good at other things- let’s just call it a day with no hard feelings on either side, eh?”
    He responded with real sincerity and affection that I was a girl and not destined to be good at math- I ought not to feel bad about myself- it was a character of my sex not my will.
    I told the anecdote to my brothers awesome (physics major) girlfriend. She was really outraged on my behalf but I couldn’t see it her way.
    I had reinforced every stereotype known. What the most humiliating part was how what I’d thought was witty banter actually looked like impotent Ophelia- tossing her empty verse to whoever would listen- incapable of taking any action of her own.
    I wanted to be better.

  54. #47
    You are setting a far higher bar for the definition of feminism than you would for “freedom,” or, you know, “good Mormon.”
    I am not saying that words aren’t laden with conflicting meanings and that their nuances aren’t worth wrestling over. But sometimes a cop-out is just that.

  55. Natalie B. says:

    Linda’s comments have made me think about how sometimes the worst enemies to real change on women’s issues are other women who have felt treated unequally, but who have strived to make themselves feel okay with gender at church and thus don’t want to have feminist discussions. Because they have moved on or “shelved questions,” they think the rest of us should, too.

    I’m not saying that this is Linda’s issue, but it is an issue for some women I know. How do we reach out to those women? How do we reengage women who might be so disappointed in the results of feminism so far that they just want to leave it behind?

  56. Natalie B. says:

    #54: Amen. It seems to me that the Mormon feminism is pretty simple at heart. Women would like to be treated with the same dignity as men, and have equally compelling visions of their divine nature and opportunities to grow into it.

    We might disagree a bit about specific changes that should be made to facilitate those goals. But the core meaning of the term in the Mormon context isn’t so confusing that we can’t discuss it.

  57. I wouldn’t have called it a feminist awakening at the time, but I think mine came in high school. The year we studied the old testament in seminary, I recall watching a video where a high school senior turned down a scholarship to study biology in college because she didn’t want to detract from her future divine role as a wife and mother. Turning down a chance to receive education was portrayed as the righteous choice. I remember clearly that the Spirit was absent during the showing of that video, which caused me some cognitive dissonance. How could I be at seminary and not feel the Spirit? That was a big moment for me, both in feminism and in my understanding of the purpose of the Spirit in ferreting out truth from falsehood.

  58. Natalie B. says:

    #57: As of a few years ago, there was a similar story in the YW’s manual. I opted to omit it from the lesson.

  59. #58: I’m surprised it’s still there. It directly contradicts the counsel to receive all the education possible.

  60. Crazywomancreek #47: You are setting a far higher bar for the definition of feminism than you would for “freedom,” or, you know, “good Mormon.”

    Huh? How on earth would you know where I set the bar for definitions of “freedom” or “good Mormon”?

  61. Oops. I was responding to #54.

  62. Steve Evans says:

    Geoff, don’t be so coy! I think the complaint is that you can’t simply hide behind definitional arguments.

  63. Re: #9 Can we PLEASE have Ardis write the next YW manual? Because this is what I want my daughter to learn, more than anything:

    “Growing into womanhood suddenly seemed exciting and eternal and empowering (not that I knew that word then) and limitless. It lifted me, not from a position of lesser-than-boys, but from the routine and mundane world to something better.”

  64. “I meant the statement that men are stupid (comment 26) and since then, nobody really calling that statement out or questioning it. A similar negative comment about women as a group would be, rightly, unacceptable and denounced.”

    After posting that, I was rightly denounced by my wife who reminded me that she never said the men were stupid. I think they are what Joseph Smith called ‘Great Big Elders.’ Thus, it was a man’s summary of a man’s observations based upon a woman’s comment.

    I believe my wife merely said that the men talk too much in class, and the women go quiet for some reason and won’t compete to get their viewpoints in.

  65. #60 Disabuse me, Geoff J. Let me know the last time someone claimed that freedom was important to them and you rushed in to say, “Freedom? What does that word even mean, anyway?”
    I’m sure you are an honest Puck and all but if you wouldn’t mind linking your instance of outrage over the bandying about of words like “freedom,” well, that would be cricket.

  66. Mark Brown says:

    Geoff, how do we define who is a Mormon? Does it include everybody on the records, even though some of them no longer want to be known as Mormons? Does it include polygamists and fundamentalists? How about people in the Community of Christ who believe in the Book of Mormon?

    My point is the label of Mormonism itself is disputed, to some extent. And depending on the conversation, or definition might change from one day to the next.

  67. Steve #62,

    That’s an understandable point. My position is that 99.9% of the discussions I see about Mormon feminism are hacking at the proverbial leaves of the issue and virtually never even approach the root of the problems. The root is, as alluded to in #47, centered in theology and metaphysical questions. Questions like: What is the nature of our spirits? Are we really beginningless and if so which parts are beginningless? Is gender really eternal and if so what does that even mean? Etc. I have some opinions/speculations on all of these things but the details obviously remain unrevealed. As such, we argue over “shoulds” when we don’t really have shared foundational metaphysical assumptions to support the shoulds.

    I am not against cathartic venting of course. But I am skeptical that any real progress can be made in the absence of a majority of Mormons coming to some real agreement on those root theological/metaphysical questions. And I don’t think Mormons will agree on the root questions until the the president of the church takes a solid position on them. And I don’t expect that to happen in my lifetime.

  68. Natalie B. says:

    66: Yeah! I love seeing you back, Mark.

  69. Matt Evans says:

    Aaron, we have a different culture than your grandmother, granted, but I think it’s a mistake to think that our culture is better. We’re certainly not happier. I identify the values of the camp letter with people like my mother-in-law, who share’s your grandma’s culture, and had a remarkably loving and happy marriage based on very traditional gender roles, so it seems to me that those who mock or dismiss that culture simply haven’t observed firsthand what the people who idealize these values aspire to, as I saw with my in-laws.

    The feminist awakenings recounted here appear to simply be realizations that our grandparent’s culture is different from ours, and to me, stories of BYU students making fun of our grandparent’s views are as funny as stories of white students cleverly ridiculing Indian views.

  70. Steve Evans says:

    Geoff, of course those root questions need to be thought about and discussed, and of course we need to rely ultimately on what our leaders will say in terms of doctrine. And I know you’re the sort that lurves him some big questions. But feminism is far less about big questions than about big actions — modifying our daily behavior to treat all with equity. We can’t let the haze of metaphysical questions prevent us from tending to our gardens (read your Voltaire!).

  71. Natalie B. says:

    “The feminist awakenings recounted here appear to simply be realizations that our grandparent’s culture is different from ours, and to me, stories of BYU students making fun of our grandparent’s views are as funny as stories of white students cleverly ridiculing Indian views.”

    So those who offer feminist critiques are now akin to racists? No value judgments can be passed on “differences?”

  72. “the “moment” … when I first realized not all was well in Zion with respect to our discourse about and treatment of women.”

    Regarding the issue of definitions, I intentionally tried to be big tent and vague here, but in retrospect, I realize I was probably a bit too vague. By my definition, a Mormon man who finds LDS discourse on women too liberating — because he feels women should be encouraged to leave school and start having babies at puberty — gets to call himself a “Mormon feminist”. So I’ll modify my definition to incorporate a “all is not well in Zion, because of our patronizing, infantilizing, degrading and/or disempowering rhetoric toward women,” or something like that.

    By all means, nitpick away…

  73. To Benjamin:
    I am kind, loving and empathetic. It is unfair to judge me personally based on a couple of comments on a blog.

    My sons and daughters are finding their respective paths, even in an unfair world. They ignore the garbage, like this “document”, even when they run into the daily drivel at BYU. (I have three children there right now.)

    I can’t change the way other people think. I can’t even fix my husband. :) But I can take a walk with him this evening and enjoy the low desert sun. I can attend Stake Council Meeting tonight and make suggestions to improve our Stake Primary. I can talk to my children today, and listen. Those are small things, but they help strengthen the people around me, and ultimately, reinforce the intent of “feminism”.

    I read Fascinating Girl as a teenager. Now my daughters and I leaf through it for comic relief. I graduated from law school in 1980, having benefited from many women pioneers. But life is too short to spend the afternoons standing on soapboxes in the public square, shouting about unfairness. Each day has so much to offer, happy or sad. Live it.

  74. #50 Linda (and then I will let this rest). I said that I pray that you don’t work with children who are abused or neglected and you responded with ” I am all [sic] to familiar with childhood abuse.”
    I don’t know if that was a reference to your own past or not. Which makes ALL the difference in this off-topic sub thread here. If YOU are able to ” process the pain, and then let it go” my hat is off to you. But YOU don’t get to make that choice for anyone else. You don’t get to make that choice for a someone who is struggling with gender inequity in the Church, whether or not they shake it off and let it go. And when you dismiss their concerns, because they are not YOUR concerns or b/c you have already worked through them, you have done absolutely nothing to help them. The covenant to bear one another’s burden is a very difficult thing to do – often because I don’t totally “get” their burden; it’s not a burden to ME. But I covenanted to “bear their burden that it might be light” not just when I think their burden is justified. And when the treatment of and discourse on women in the church IS a burden to some (hence, this topic about the emergence of feminists in the church), it is extremely unhelpful and unkind and arrogant to summarily dismiss the concerns out of hand because they are not YOUR concerns.

  75. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    (5) and (11) Everyone leaves BYU and either goes fascist or non-profit the rest of their lives. There’s no in between.

  76. Matt Evans (#69): The feminist awakenings recounted here appear to simply be realizations that our grandparent’s culture is different from ours

    Word.

  77. Steve #70: But feminism is far less about big questions than about big actions

    I doubt it. Isn’t feminism basically a social theory? (Bringing us full circle to the definition thing…) Social theories are all about answering social questions right? (Which are always “big”).

    But of course I agree we should all behave in our daily lives in accordance with our core beliefs.

  78. I don’t know if I had any epiphany moments which made me a feminist. Actually I’m not even sure I am a feminist. I know that in most Mormon circles (particularly outside the bloggernacle) I would be one of the more feministic voices, but I don’t know if where I lie on the spectrum would technically put me on feminism’s side.
    But I have gradually become more feministic over time. Starting after my mission until today it has been a pretty steady progression toward feminism. We’ll see how far it takes me.

    Re: the document. From the perspective that this is (supposedly) a letter from a woman to a man about what she wants to be, as I feminist* I find absolutely nothing wrong with it. As I understand feminism, it is the ideally that women can have complete control over being the woman that they want to be; with equal choice as men. If a woman truly felt that she desired to be all the qualities outlined in the document, including less educated than her husband, and weaker, then I believe that is her choice. And the fact that I would find that path uninspired should in no way make me force my opinions on the woman to try to convince her she should want to be more.

    As a Mormon however, I see the letter problematic since I see her putting limits on her intelligence and strength, and I believe this life’s main purpose is to seek out knowledge and experience and grow from them.

    As both a feminist* and a Mormon, I find this document very offensive as an example given to young women of what a virtuous woman would desire. I would sincerely hope that (should I one day have daughters) my daughters will never be indoctrinated with these ideas.

    *if by chance, I can be defined as a feminist.

  79. “all is not well in Zion, because of our patronizing, infantilizing, degrading and/or disempowering rhetoric toward women,”

    By this definition, I would probably qualify as a Feminist Mormon.

  80. Natalie B. says:

    78: I agree that feminism is about controlling the woman one wants to be. But this letter was presented to YW in a church context as a model for what they should be. That context is important.

    What YW hear at church is seen as prescriptive of what they should be, because we are taught that the guidance church gives us should be followed. This letter is thus not just a statement of one woman’s personal choice. It is a normative ideal that the church is presenting.

  81. Latter-day Guy says:

    Are there any fascist non-profits out there, Observer? Because that sounds like my kind of gig.

  82. Geoff J (76) & Matt Evans,
    I don’t think that you can so easily dismiss this as just a recognition that our grandparents lived in a different time and culture than we do. That dismissal only works if this OP takes the form of “I opened up a chest in my attic the other day, and found this document, which apparently was used in my grandparents’ time.”

    The problem is, that’s not what the OP says, nor is it what _many_ of the comments have made very clear: That this document is not simply an artifact from an earlier generation, but rather is an item of instruction that still manages to find its way into various instructional settings (or managed to, as recently as a few years ago).

    No one is upset (as far as I know) that our Grandparents believed, thought, or said what they believed, thought, and said. What is upsetting to some folks here is that those same beliefs, thoughts, and sayings are being recycled for modern use.

  83. In other words, the modern use of this document suggests that, contrary to Matt’s statement that “The feminist awakenings recounted here appear to simply be realizations that our grandparent’s culture is different from ours,” the frustration here is found in the realization that our grandparents’ culture is _not_ as different from ours as some might like it to be.

  84. Matt – what measures are you using to judge happiness? I’m just curious here, don’t take it with malicious intent, please, because I think women might be happier now – we have more intellectual opportunities, more job options, there is less stigma in studying a “hard science,” or in having a full time job, and, I think everyone may be happier because of the remarkable medical advances in the mental health field. But if our grandparents were/are happier, I’d be interested to know why that is.

  85. Matt, Geoff–one significant difference between what people are describing here and a simple realization that things were different 100 years ago is that girls and young women are being asked to continue to live in that culture, even though the boys are allowed to progress–that is, to be more involved with their children (be there for their births, for instance), have more flexibility in their work lives (thanks to feminist insistence over the years on some accommodations for work-life balance), be more emotionally expressive, benefit from the talents and mentoring of women employees and managers (all while continuing to enjoy greater pay for equal work), etc. There are substantial costs to living in the past, and right now, we’re asking girls to bear all of them. Recognizing the injustice of that is not ridiculous.

  86. 80 – That was the point of my last paragraph. I was trying to seperate “the letter” from “the document”. As a letter, I don’t have much problem with it, and I find it troubling when people ridicule someone for wanting to strive to those ideals. As a document presented to young women, I do find it very troubling.

  87. Natalie B. says:

    86: Ah, got it. My bad for misreading.

  88. Scott B (#83): What is upsetting to some folks here is that those same beliefs, thoughts, and sayings are being recycled for modern use.

    Well then I have really bad news. The church is also foisting beliefs written thousands of years ago on us! (I kid, I kid.)

    I guess people can get upset over whatever they want. But if hearing some random bullcrap at church really upsets a person that person is going to be perpetually upset I think.

    My approach with my daughters in school and church and overall is to recommend they ignore the BS. (Which gets back to my point about everyone acting in accordance with their core beliefs.)

  89. To Amanda:
    You don’t have to let it rest. I am interested in what you have to say, and I’m sorry if you felt that I dismissed your concerns. Your experiences are just as valid as mine. I do not mean to be unkind. I understand the abuse issues from long, hard personal experience. I understand the “feminist” issues, having been a teenager in the 1970’s. Heck, my mother didn’t even have a credit card in her own name then.
    I see this blog as one sided, and I present counterpoint.

  90. I see this blog as one sided

    You’re right. When it comes to the value of the content of this letter, this blog is unapologetically one-sided.

  91. Even at age 4 and 5 I can recall the unfairness that existed between the way boys and girls were treated as not just something from my kindergarten, but something my mother dealt with in work, church, and life. During several developmental phases of childhood, children are extremely aware of equity.

  92. Natalie B. says:

    88: I actually agree that I plan to teach my children just to ignore the BS.

    What is really hard for me is realizing that if I have a daughter, then I’m going to have to tell her to ignore a good 50% of what she hears in the YW’s program. How can I teach my children to believe in what they hear at church while also telling them to ignore 50%? This is why progress on feminist issues in the church is very important to me.

  93. Natalie,

    If you really did disagree with 50% of what is taught in Young Women’s then Mormonism may not be right for you. But in my experience the vast majority of what the young women are taught in there is completely innocuous and would be nearly universally considered good life counsel both in and out of the church. So I suspect you are overestimating the potential problems with that program. The bloggernacle tends to focus in the juicy exceptions (normally coming as elaboration from individual leaders) rather than the mundane majority of stuff.

  94. #55
    Perhaps, Natalie, I have moved on for my own self. But I have children, and grandchildren. I want them to have equal opportunities. I am very aware and engaged in church and social issues, but I now I see people more for their individual needs instead of how they will win their place in society. I can also still be taught. I’m listening.

  95. Geoff (88),

    I guess people can get upset over whatever they want. But if hearing some random bullcrap at church really upsets a person that person is going to be perpetually upset I think.

    I totally, 100% agree. However, that’s sidestepping my point, which is that you were Wording a comment (Matt’s) that was nothing but a strawman.

  96. (And as a show of good faith, Geoff, I state that I agree with your opinion of Natalie’s estimate of 50%, and of the Bloggernacle’s tendency to put a magnifying glass on juicy things and completely ignore many of the good things.)

  97. I suppose I learned feminism from my mother, though she would not have expected it. My father traveled over half his time and Mom ran the house. When he came back, she made room for him and encouraged us to go to him rather than her so we would also respect him as well as her. She was masterful at that.

    I remember when I was in high school in the mid-70’s and my mother announced that since I was the youngest she wanted to get a real estate license and go to work. My very traditional father (who was a convert) was very concerned about having his wife work, but ultimately she did just that.

    That said, my father encouraged my sisters to become well educated and well employed as much or more than he encouraged my brother and me. So whatever reservation he had about his wife’s working did not extend to his daughters.

  98. I first encountered this document in whatever edition/volume of “Especially for Mormons” was in my household while I was growing up.

    The Scroll reprinted it in 1976 here.

  99. Scott,

    I was only agreeing with the specific part of Matt’s comment that I quoted. (If that helps).

  100. Natalie B. says:

    Whether the number is 50% or 30% is irrelevant. My point is to emphasize that there is a substantial amount that I’d be asking them to ignore. And how can our children believe what they hear at church if we ask them to ignore so much?

    So long as a substantial number of YW are turned off by the gender rhetoric, it seems worthwhile to take seriously rather than dismiss. Until we do, we only have ourselves to blame if people are leaving.

  101. Thank you, Natalie.

  102. Thanks, Justin. From your link, it would appear this particular version of the letter is an old one (except for the “pretty and sweet” part, which was omitted in the copy I used in the OP). Which means that the copy I read in 1990 may have been altered modestly to improve the readability of the content. (Then again, perhaps I’m just imagining the differences. It would be the first time I’ve ever been wrong about anything though).

  103. Linda (#50) – I’ve never been to Girls Camp and wouldn’t know the official church manual if I saw one, I guess–but I do know there is all manner of uncorrelated material used in various stake Girls Camps. If someone claimed this essay/letter/whatever we’re calling it appeared in an official church manual of any kind as late as the late ’80s, I’d be highly skeptical. But random people using it in church and church-related activities (including Girls Camp)? Totally believable.

  104. “Gender rhetoric” has not been an issue with our YW. They are encouraged to get an education. As a stake, we take the Laurels on a High Adventure activity every year. Our YW camp has awesome outdoor activities that rival the Young Mens’. The priesthood leaders in our stake are very concerned that the YW and YM have strong support. Most of the time it works really well.

    I agree with you, Natalie, about ignoring the BS, but I find the percentage to be very small. As a church organization, we have improved dramatically over the last 30 years.

  105. Natalie B: Whether the number is 50% or 30% is irrelevant.

    I agree. If you disagree with as much as 30% of what is taught in YW then Mormonism may not be the right religion for you.

    But I suspect you would only take issue with 1-2% of what is really taught in YW. The vast majority of it is quite innocuous in my opinion.

  106. to madhousewife:
    I believe that someone would use this in a lesson. People do all kinds of crazy stuff at church. I currently serve in the Stake Primary, and I get upset about what passes for teaching.
    Sorry you missed Girls Camp. It can be very fun and inspiring, if done well.

    Thank you, everyone, for your comments today. I am cooped up, recovering from shoulder surgery, and it has been so good to read and think. I’m getting better at typing with one hand.

  107. Geoff (99),
    That actually doesn’t help, because that was the only part I was disputing–as I said above, I don’t think the revelations here are a function of our grandparents being different than us; I think the revelations are a function of the realization that our grandparent’s ideals are still floating around.

    Geoff (105) and Natalie,
    Even if it is only 1-2% (or 30-50%), a simple metric of good/bad material in YM/YW manuals based on the number of pages or lessons is not a very helpful metric, because we all know that not all typewritten words or spoken concepts are equally important. This reality is magnified when we consider the heterogeneity in needs/views among the affected audience. In other words, there are some people for whom it would require 98% “bad” material to induce exit, but that is only an indication that 97.9% of the material doesn’t matter to them very much personally. Similarly, some individuals may exit on the basis of 1%, because that 1% affects their lives disproportionately.

  108. Linda (106),
    I don’t really agree with much of what you’ve said, but I’m glad you’ve been here participating. It’s been good for me to think through some of this, and as Brad (#90) noted, this forum is fairly one-sided on some issues (like this) and the juxtaposition of contrasting views has been rewarding for me.
    I hope you recover from your surgery soon.

  109. “But I suspect you would only take issue with 1-2% of what is really taught in YW. The vast majority of it is quite innocuous in my opinion.”

    Um, not to be rude (universal signal for rudeness to follow :)), but how the hell would you know that, Geoff? And “innocuous” is in the eye/heart/mind of the one being exposed to the potential toxin. What seems innocuous to a man who enjoys the privileges of Mormon maleness might look very different through the eyes of a sensitive 14-year-old girl.

  110. Oh, and I also wanted to express my skepticism that this was ever part of the camp manual or any other officially sanctioned material. It reeks of idiotic cultural overlay–the sort of thing that can occasionally convince me that correlation is a pretty good idea.

  111. Scott B: I think the revelations are a function of the realization that our grandparent’s ideals are still floating around.

    What’s wrong with our grandparents ideals per se? One of Matt’s points that I also agreed with was that many of our grandparents lived very happy lives with their ideals.

    But of course societal norms do shift over times so it can be uncomfortable espousing old-timey ideals. Is that your point?

  112. Thanks Scott B (108). I sent my children a photo of my arm in its massive sling, and told them I have been rebuilt and am joining the Borg. I plan to invade a Stake Priesthood Meeting and show them what a strong woman can really do. :)

  113. Kristine,

    I am judging based off the reports my very talkative teenage daughter gives my every Sunday and Wednesday and from the reports my wife who is a Young Women’s leader give me as well. I assume you are in YW currently too? Or else why the hell else would you so forcefully request my qualifications on the subject (not to be rude of course…)

    And of course I am only guessing about what people would (or should) find toxic in the average YW organization. But I shared my family’s way of dealing with things we disagree with in #88.

  114. ok, I’m just gonna stop now, since Scott and I seem to be enjoying a mind-meld.

  115. Matt Evans says:

    Scott, I don’t believe our culture’s current conception of the ideal relationship arrangement is any better than our grandparents’ culture. If you were to distill the most beautiful conception of the ideal relationship between self and others, your great grandkids will find it contemptuous because your conception will be based on very particular cultural preferences regarding a hundred dimensions of social questions, including individual vs community, self vs partner, importance of partner vs third parties, sacrifice vs fulfillment, loyalty vs freedom, specialization vs generalization, etc.

    These cultural preferences are always in flux, and your great grandchildren will find the arrangement you propose as the ideal to be harmfully misguided in the same way, but not for the same reason. They’ll object to your articulation based on their preferences which will differ from ours, and we don’t know what those will be.

    Or, perhaps, our great grandchildren may be more enlightened than we are, and know that there are many successful models for creating happy and healthy people and societies, including yours. And Aaron’s grandmother’s.

  116. What’s wrong with our grandparents ideals per se? One of Matt’s points that I also agreed with was that many of our grandparents lived very happy lives with their ideals.

    Geoff,
    You should go back and note that I’ve been extremely careful in the way I’ve worded all of my comments, and I didn’t say anything even close to what you infer there. What I _have_ said is that “no one is upset (as far as I know) that our Grandparents believed, thought, or said what they believed, thought, and said. What is upsetting to some folks here is that those same beliefs, thoughts, and sayings are being recycled for modern use. (new emphasis)

    In other words, I haven’t said a single thing about the goodness or badness of my grandparents’ ways (which were strikingly similar to those depicted in the letter, despite their non-Mormon beliefs); neither, really, has anyone else–perhaps a few small hints. What is going on is frustration on the part of some people that beliefs they don’t adhere to are presented to them as “correct” in some way.

  117. Matt (115),
    That’s all great. I don’t disagree with you. My point above, in every instance, has been that you’re making a counter to an argument that no one is presenting: You said that this thread is based on realizations that Grandparents lived in a different time. This is simply not an accurate description of what’s going on. The thread is based on the beliefs of some people (namely, the author and most commenters) that the ideals of that different time (whether they be good or bad) are still being taught, or have been taught recently–and not just during our Grandparents’ time.

    These people may disagree with your 115, but that is a different argument.

  118. Scott B: What is upsetting to some folks here is that those same beliefs, thoughts, and sayings are being recycled for modern use.

    Ok. So some folks here are upset about that. Duly noted. (My comment #88 seems to apply still)

  119. Geoff J,
    I already said I agreed with your #88 entirely. What I’m saying is that your #88 has nothing to do with my disputed quote of yours.

  120. Really got to this late, but my moment of awakening came sometime in the buildup to marriage to my wife of 30+ years, when I discovered her secret motto was “I’ll do it myself”. It took a while to sink in, but when she’s cursing over her computer and the school district’s particularly draconian implementation of Windows Vista, I now know that “Where the #@$**% did they put _______ (fill in the blank)?” is only a rhetorical question, and she does NOT want my help.

  121. And just a clarification–Matt, I’m kind of annoyed about being in a position where you (or anyone) would feel the need to tell me what you wrote in 115. I haven’t said anything contrary to it anywhere in this thread, and I worry that I’m giving an impression I do not mean to give.

  122. “What’s wrong with our grandparents ideals per se?”

    Um, they’re sometimes grossly unjust to half of the human race? I don’t really care if women managed to be happy before they were allowed to vote, or even if some of them said they were happier when they weren’t allowed to vote–it was still wrong to deprive them of that right. We are not doomed to cultural relativism; the gospel teaches principles that allow us to transcend our society’s current notions of the good (as many people are only too happy to point out in other contexts) and make judgments about what is right and just. I’m surprised to see Matt, of all people, defending a loosey-goosey whatever-makes-you-happiest philosophy of family formation.

  123. The issue of YW versus YM budgets and the corresponding experiences those budgets enable is very real in my part of the world. I understand the data. When we hold on to the young men, we hold on to the young women. And even if we lose the young men, we hold on to a much higher proportion of our young women, so put the money where we are most vulnerable. I get it – it’s strategic resource allocation 101.

    But it’s just not good enough anymore. We’re going to be hemorrhaging girls too, if we are not already. In my experience, money is always symbolic of priorities and focus. The girls see it and feel it. From day 1, they are the second priority.

    #67 and #70 both raise critical issues. None of this is getting to the core of the problem. But as #70 reminds us, we can get into the actions of inequity right away.

    It has come a long way since my YW days. Truly. But not far enough.

  124. Natalie B. says:

    Linda, You have been a very good sport here! Thanks.

  125. Mommie Dearest says:

    I’ve come to “feminism” or whatever you want to call it that doesn’t punch your buttons, in fits and starts over many years, sometimes growing, sometimes backsliding, often just utterly lost. I remember taking an art class at BYU. I was a serious student with as much aptitude as any in the class, and I was used to being taken seriously, but the male professor would hardly ever talk to me when he critiqued everyone’s work, and I mentioned my frustration with this to a male classmate who told me “He never helps the girls because they are just going to get married and have babies and quit working, so he thinks it’s a waste of his time.” I was kind of shocked and disappointed by that, and while I studied and worked in Utah, I learned to withdraw from that sort of arrogance. It was common, and I knew it was wasted effort to fight against it. I think a lot of my, um, female approach to being LDS has been to withdraw from the pressure to be a certain kind of woman, that I simply couldn’t be. I definitely felt a subtle ostracism for being too brainy or articulate, or too focused on performing well, but I didn’t always understand what was going wrong. I just knew I wasn’t like the soft, blonde, pretty, and I thought, rather silly gals, so I just gave up and left Zion.

    I was inactive for a while, and married a non-member, then struggled to straddle a rather wide divide in order to raise my children with covenants and testimonies. I remember seeing Carol Lynn Pearson perform “Mother Wove the Morning” in the late 80’s or early 90’s and feeling profoundly affected. I’ve come to see the church as flawed from the beginning, and still is at present, reflecting the nature of the people who belong to it, both male and female, but the gospel of Christ is not flawed. Because of that, I’m able to continue to be an active member. I’m so grateful for the things Jesus teaches me about being female, mostly from the New Testament and much of it is subtle and implied. I have a lot of challenges to my activity in the church, and the feminist issues are not the biggest ones, but they infect all the other ones. I generally don’t like to whine about my lot, but I have come to see from reading blogs (mostly, but not limited to fMh) that none of us will ever learn unless somebody speaks up and talks about it. Instead of denying and numbing your pain and frustration, as I have long done, as all “good women” do, it’s edifying to show it so that others can learn and maybe you can get a better solution. It’s kind of like we all grow together.

    And now, I have inactive daughters who are strong-minded and smart, and struggling to make their lives, and contend with submitting to the pressure that exists for them to be “womanly” in a way that is simply stupid for them, not just in the church, but in the world too. That generation of young women just simply aren’t going to play the games some of us older ones have. The church needs to adjust, or continue to lose them. Or, we can continue on the way that we did in our grandparents’ time, because they were happy. Weren’t they?

  126. Kristine #122,

    I used the “per se” purposefully. I agree that we all should reject ideas that are cruel regardless of source or time period. I was just trying to highlight the obvious fact that just because a worldview comes from grandparents doesn’t make it problematic.

    the gospel teaches principles that allow us to transcend our society’s current notions of the good (as many people are only too happy to point out in other contexts) and make judgments about what is right and just.

    Hmmm… This one puts you on more shaky ground I think. That is, unless we want to indict Jesus and all of the prophets of old for not choosing to be right and just regarding the treatment of women by being complicit with the cultures of their times. (Maybe we are indeed doomed to cultural relativism if they were… If so, how horrible is that?)

  127. This is an awesome thread, being super new to these conversations (only recently “discovered” the bloggernacle through a conversation with a good friend of mine that pointed me to BCC and FMH), its really refreshing to talk about some of these issues and realize that its not just I and some close friends that feel this way…

    Okay – my moment!

    I was 1st assistant to the Bishop as a teenager and they were reading the leadership callings for a sustain in Ward Conference. I had never noticed before, but ALL of the priesthood presidencies were read name for name and sustained separately. The Relief Society presidency (which I had always looked at as a kid as practically parallel to the bishopric) wasn’t recognized until after all of the priesthood. So, like twelve year old boys were being recognized ahead of mature, dedicated women that were helping to actually run the ward. And then, a girlfriend of mine, who was Laurel Class president, was only sustained (I think namelessly) as part of a huge lump of callings. I had never noticed before, but after that I was very conscious of how simple it would be to do little things like sustain each YW class presidency separately, or sustain the Relief Society Presidency right after the Bishopric.

    Do Bishops have authority on how they set up the order of sustainings in Ward Conference?

    And, yes, I get that they go through all the priesthood starting with the bishopric and then move on to auxiliaries. But why? I don’t think the order is anything other than a tradition that could easily be changed.

    Most women in the church don’t want the priesthood. They just want respect.

  128. Mommie Dearest says:

    The prophets of old may or may not be cultural relativists, but Jesus was not, and is not.

  129. “That is, unless we want to indict Jesus and all of the prophets of old for not choosing to be right and just regarding the treatment of women by being complicit with the cultures of their times. ”

    Except that they weren’t complicit.

  130. In the modern church, at the local level, leadership – or “administrative” authority – and priesthood are don’t always have to be the same thing. As boys we officially respected and deferred to a long list of female authority figures, and in practice we still do as men.

    There is a gender – free mantle of leadership that should not be slighted in petty ways like ignoring age and experience in favor of gender – as if priesthood office was the only gauge of authority. Priesthood is a certain kind of authority. An aaronic priesthood holder should never be implied to “outrank” the relief society president. Or the beehive president, for that matter.

  131. Except that they weren’t complicit.

    Interesting assertion. I’d like to know about that.

  132. Scott, I don’t believe our culture’s current conception of the ideal relationship arrangement is any better than our grandparents’ culture. If you were to distill the most beautiful conception of the ideal relationship between self and others, your great grandkids will find it contemptuous because your conception will be based on very particular cultural preferences regarding a hundred dimensions of social questions, including individual vs community, self vs partner, importance of partner vs third parties, sacrifice vs fulfillment, loyalty vs freedom, specialization vs generalization, etc.

    These cultural preferences are always in flux,

    I realize this has already been said, but this reeks of cultural relativism – an idea that I find repulsive. Some things are just wrong, and just because 50 years from now the world is going to be totally different doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to identify problems from both the past and the present and try to learn from them and better ourselves.

    Like I said before, limiting oneself to be inferior to their spouse is not only wrong in light of a feminist mindset, its wrong in light of a Mormon mindset. That idea flies in the face of so much of what Joseph Smith taught. It doesn’t matter if women were happier 50 years ago limiting themselves. Happiness is not a metric of good v. bad.

    So I’ll make the argument that Scott won’t. In this aspect, our grandparents were wrong.

  133. The prophets of old may or may not be cultural relativists, but Jesus was not, and is not.

    See Jesus’ comments on slavery.

  134. “I’d like to know about that”

    Well, the Church publishes a nice edition of the Bible…

  135. Mommie Dearest, specifically this struck me:
    “And now, I have inactive daughters who are strong-minded and smart, and struggling to make their lives, and contend with submitting to the pressure that exists for them to be “womanly” in a way that is simply stupid for them, not just in the church, but in the world too. That generation of young women just simply aren’t going to play the games some of us older ones have.”

    In the world, I see genius women, coming out of Standford, Harvard, Brown et al, simply thrilled when the man they wake up with the next morning remembers their name. That might not be about Mormon feminism, but we cannot disconnect what we are navigating from the broader society. It manifests in different ways perhaps, but the ultimate result is what it has always been. Repression. Diminishment. Easily patted on the head and written off.

  136. a data point says:

    The issue of YW versus YM budgets and the corresponding experiences those budgets enable is very real in my part of the world. I understand the data. When we hold on to the young men, we hold on to the young women. And even if we lose the young men, we hold on to a much higher proportion of our young women, so put the money where we are most vulnerable. I get it – it’s strategic resource allocation 101

    Here’s one anecdotal data point for the conversation, recognizing that there is significant variation from ward to ward:
    In my intermountain suburban ward (outside Utah), the YW gets 35% of the annual budget, and the YM 25%.

    Yes, that’s right. More than a third of the budget goes to YW, and the youth overall get 60%.

  137. Mommie Dearest, specifically this struck me:
    “And now, I have inactive daughters who are strong-minded and smart, and struggling to make their lives, and contend with submitting to the pressure that exists for them to be “womanly” in a way that is simply stupid for them, not just in the church, but in the world too. That generation of young women just simply aren’t going to play the games some of us older ones have.”

    In the world, I see genius women, coming out of Stanford, Harvard, Brown et al, simply thrilled when the man they wake up with the next morning remembers their name. That might not be about Mormon feminism, but we cannot disconnect what we are navigating from the broader society. It manifests in different ways perhaps, but the ultimate result is what it has always been. Repression. Diminishment. Easily patted on the head and written off.

  138. #136. Good to know. Would be interested to know what each group gets to do with that. Please tell me the YW don’t spend it all on crafts and yarn :). Wondering why it’s not 30% a piece…

  139. Well, the Church publishes a nice edition of the Bible…

    Yeah, that’s the problem with your assertion. I don’t know of anything in the Bible the indicates Jesus was not complicit in the general way women were treated in his time. Yet you claim it is there. What passages do you have in mind?

  140. Scott, if you agree that all of our cultural preferences are socially constructed and there was nothing wrong with our grandparents’ views, then what’s the rationale for objecting to their being taught?

    Kristine, the gospel doesn’t require any of these gender issues — the gospel is compatible with all kinds of potential gender relationships. Our current sensibilities flow from our socially constructed preferences. Whatever scriptural support you believe there is for women’s suffrage or your version of gender equality, for example, was not read by Joseph Smith that way. You and Joseph Smith read the scriptures differently not because the gospel or scriptures change but because you and Joseph Smith have different cultural attitudes that were formed outside the scriptures. Our great grandchildren will have yet other cultural attitudes. By definition, each culture thinks its values are the right values (what values we think are right forms our culture), but we have no basis for claiming that our cultural values are better than those of our grandparents or grandchildren, or better than the pioneers, Chinese, or Indians. Lots and lots of cultural attitudes are compatible with the gospel. The most that can be said about the letter is that it doesn’t represent the only way to live in harmony with the gospel.

  141. Ooops. Sorry for the duplicate comment there. #135 can be removed if an administrator has the energy or time.

  142. a data point says:

    Both groups are free to use it as they see fit. Typically, the YW leadership uses a significant portion of the YW allocation to pay for girls camp to minimize the burden on individual families, but this has varied from year to year. In the decade I have been privy to the budget allocations, the YW have never gotten less than 30%, and sometimes they have had as much as 40%.

  143. Also Kristine, are you also claiming that all the “prophets of old” didn’t go along with the cultural norms of the way women were treated in their times? Are you including 19th century prophets in this claim?

  144. Natalie B. says:

    I agree with Kristine that at least Jesus does appear to have more inclusive notions of gender than we typically find in the scriptures. Appearing to Mary first after his resurrection, the woman at the well story, stopping the stoning of the adulteress, chiding Martha for doing housework, analogizing himself to a hen are just some examples.

    Alas, examples of Old Testament prophets don’t come to mind. But I have no problem asserting that I think our current society is better than theirs.

  145. To Matt – 140,

    “The most that can be said about the letter is that it doesn’t represent the only way to live in harmony with the gospel.”

    Is anyone saying there is only one way to live in harmony with the gospel? I thought this thread was about people with a certain perspective and when developed that perspective.

    Is that perspective not in harmony with the gospel?

  146. Natalie–Moses and the Daughters of Zelophehad

  147. I think the prophet Deborah likely had an different conception of gender roles, at least within the church, than we do. I am hesitant to condemn prophets of old since the scriptures tell us more about those who compiled the record, than they do about the actual lives and acts of the prophets…or Jesus.

  148. #142 a data point ~ thank you. That is encouraging to me. When I was a YW leader, the girls had to fundraise everything themselves for girls camp (bake sales of course) whilst YM/Scouting solicited donations from the pulpit.

    #144 Natalie B. I’m with you on that assertion.

  149. For the record, the document in question could have been lifted directly from “Fascinating Womanhood.” It was in the culture at the time the document emerged and the book was widely discussed, particularly in Mormon circles. I even perused a copy myself. Please note, also, that FW has sold 2 million copies and is in its 6th edition! It has been in print for over 40 years.

    Please, Mormon culture is not out of the evangelical protestant mainstream culture. There are millions of women who subscribe to this theory. The men like it too, especially the dumb part and the shoe part. Did I mention the sehx part? Oh, that was not in the Mormon document, at least not explicitly.

    I had a girl tell me when I was 20, “Bob, I didn’t understand a word you said, but I loved the way you said it!” It is difficult to describe the sensation of being repelled and attracted at the same time. She was cute, too.

    A delight for a feminist poet. He was the Utah poet laureate maybe 10 years ago and is a good friend. The book:
    1998 Mikal Lofgren “Trudi Smiles Back”

    The jar thing: it works for pickle jars, spaghetti sauce jars, anything you buy at the grocery store in bottles. Release the vacuum and the lid turns right off. For you home canning people, it is the sugar and crud in the rings. Either a strong husband or hot water. Either case, brawn is not a perquisite.

  150. Matt Evans (140)

    Scott, if you agree that all of our cultural preferences are socially constructed and there was nothing wrong with our grandparents’ views, then what’s the rationale for objecting to their being taught?

    Ho.Ly. Crap.

    Srsly, I’d love for you to point to any instance in this thread where I have objected to their being taught. (Hint: You won’t find one.)

    I haven’t given an opinion on what I personally think about my grandparent’s ideals being taught to me.* I’ve only said that some other people don’t like it. The whole entirety of my dispute with you could be summarized thusly, regarding the commenters: “They didn’t say what you said they said.”

    *Note, I do have an opinion.

  151. Also, your 140 just demonstrates again the need to explain what several others (including myself) have tried to point out:

    The objection (from others in this thread) isn’t the *ideals* per se; rather the objection (from those same others in this thread) is the “per se intertemporal application of the ideals.” You clearly understand this, as demonstrated by your own words:

    Our great grandchildren will have yet other cultural attitudes. By definition, each culture thinks its values are the right values (what values we think are right forms our culture), but we have no basis for claiming that our cultural values are better than those of our grandparents or grandchildren, or better than the pioneers, Chinese, or Indians. Lots and lots of cultural attitudes are compatible with the gospel. The most that can be said about the letter is that it doesn’t represent the only way to live in harmony with the gospel.

    And yet you then turn around and start asking why people are doing the exact thing you say they will do: thinking their values are the right values and disputing the idea that other values are better, while ignoring your own conclusion–that there is more than one way to skin a cat (and…therefore…imposition of any one generations values on another generation need not be a great thing.)

  152. Mommie Dearest says:

    Geoff J I’m not clear on what you mean by this:

    See Jesus’ comments on slavery.

    Does this mean that you think Jesus approved of the slavery of the times, or was complicit in perpetuating it, and that it makes him a cultural relativist? And whatever you are stating, does it mean that you think that Jesus approves of the way women are positioned in the church today? All this rhetorical beating about the bush is another game I’ve grown weary of. Geesh, either you get it or you don’t.

  153. Christ knows the value of each man and woman, and their role and circumstances in this life. He treated women fairly and kindly when He was here. My favorite scripture in the New Testament is John 21:25.

    “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.”

    Awesome, huh? We know relatively little of Him, but we have enough of His gospel and authority to trust Him. Life’s events can be grim, but I find great peace and comfort in His teachings.

  154. Mormons subscribe to the prevailing red neck philosophy of marriage then maturity rather than the emergent culture of maturity then marriage. How can we have strong women who have to marry boys? It is very discouraging, to say the least.

    When the boys grow up enough to handle real women they have already made the choice. Or when the girls grow up they say OMG, what have I done. It is a rarity when a boy grows up in a marriage to welcome a Ph.D. or a department head for a wife.

    Mary, according to the Gnostics, was the favorite apostle whom Jesus kissed on the lips. It was a form of Christianity willing to accept feminism 1800 years ago. Where did it go? Why did we get the male chauvinist version?

    Longing for Sophia. Maybe she is our Mother and that is her name.

  155. Mommie Dearest: Does this mean that you think Jesus approved of the slavery of the times, or was complicit in perpetuating it, and that it makes him a cultural relativist?

    Well I see nothing in the records that would argue against a yes and a yes to your first two questions. Therefore it is plausible that the answer to your last question is also a yes.

    And whatever you are stating, does it mean that you think that Jesus approves of the way women are positioned in the church today?

    No I haven’t made that argument. If you read the thread you will see that the context of the comments about Jesus and the prophets was my retort to Kristine at least implying that that our modern ideas of the way gender roles should be handled by society are eternal principles. My retort is that according to the records Jesus and all the prophets sure didn’t make many waves regarding gender roles in their day.

    In essence I am agreeing with Matt in #140.

    Geesh, either you get it or you don’t.

    I agree. Either you get it or you don’t.

  156. Mommie Dearest says:

    Well I guess I got what I asked for.

  157. My shinning momment of learning about the oppression of women and girls was when I was attending church activities as a child and tween. While walking down the hall in church I stopped to see pictures of boys my age playing in waterfalls in yet another scout outing they had. This one they travelled to another state. I wanted that too. Instead, us girls were being steered into learning how to sew quilts, apply make-up properly, and to sing to prepare for Sunday’s ward programs. I hated singing as I was never good at it. The differences between the male and female activites were quite the opposite. One day, during yet another song practice with fellow young women and feeling like the VonTrapps (before the governess arrived), I snapped. I got on top of a chair and made a personal announcement to my leaders that I was sick of being forced to sing every week when the boys didn’t have to do anything and were off playing around the church. Well, my parents received an angry phone call that evening asking me to apologize, and I stubbornly said… why should I apologize for something that I don’t feel sorry for -and that is being done to me?! This was also around the same time where I sat in the bishops office crying about why it is that boys have funding to do these activties and girls do not. The bishop seemed to be stunned and at a loss to explain… he was also my dad. To this day, I have not received any good explanations. I don’t think Jesus likes little girls to feel like crap and to be treated as unequal human beings.

  158. Eric Russell says:

    Lots of people out there who fit Scott and LWs description – and then some – who still aren’t feminists.

  159. “No I haven’t made that argument. If you read the thread you will see that the context of the comments about Jesus and the prophets was my retort to Kristine at least implying that that our modern ideas of the way gender roles should be handled by society are eternal principles. My retort is that according to the records Jesus and all the prophets sure didn’t make many waves regarding gender roles in their day. ”

    Geoff, I implied no such thing. Sometimes I’m dumb, but I’m not stupid.

    You haven’t read very carefully if you think that Jesus did not make waves with respect to women. The women taken in adultery? The Samaritan woman at the well? All of the Marys hanging around with the disciples all the time? All of that was scandalous. And those are just the obvious ones.

  160. Kristine,

    See your #122. Regarding gender roles in society your said

    We are not doomed to cultural relativism; the gospel teaches principles that allow us to transcend our society’s current notions of the good (as many people are only too happy to point out in other contexts) and make judgments about what is right and just.

    That is where this whole sidebar about cultural relativism started when I questioned your claim that we are not doomed to cultural relativism on this subject. I still question your claim. I suspect we are and always have been subject to cultural relativism because God is obviously not inclined to change that fact about human society. So I agree with Matt that our grandchildren may very well laugh at our quaint ideas of how the genders should behave just like we roll our eyes at their old-timey ideas.

  161. Alissa, you are right. Jesus does not want girls or YW to feel that way. The Scouts got to do fun outdoor activities when I was growing up, and the YW were steered toward sewing and cooking. I resented it at the time, but I’m over it. There are no good explanations. Our ward and stake today are run very differently. And we have taken our sons and daughters to every challenging and fun outdoor activity that we can find. Our family has way more fun than the Scouts.

  162. “Srsly, I’d love for you to point to any instance in this thread where I have objected to their being taught. (Hint: You won’t find one.)”

    I understood your comment #82, “What is upsetting to some folks here is that those same beliefs, thoughts, and sayings are being recycled for modern use” to say just that. Are you now clarifying that you’re not one of the folks who object or are upset that the beliefs are being taught/recycled? (I can’t tell.)

    More importantly, by pointing out that all cultures believe their values to be right I wasn’t justifying their belief that their values are right, but rather arguing that the fact that each culture and generation thinks their values are right suggests that NO culture’s values are right. Because our culture is no more right than our grandparents’, we (and all of the commenters above complaining about The Letter) have no legitimate basis for objecting to our grandparents’ values being taught today in the form of the letter.

    As I said above, the most (i.e., worst) that Mormons can legitimately complain about the letter is that it doesn’t represent the ONLY way to live in harmony with the gospel. The letter represents just ONE of the many ways people can live in harmony with the gospel. The criticisms of the letter in the OP and the comments were not limited to this legitimate complaint, but were directed at the substance of the letter itself, as most commenters fell into the trap of arguing that their culture’s values are better than those of other cultures and generations.

  163. 160 – I hope my grandchildren do laugh about how naive I was. I hope they will the opportunity to take for granted and benefit from cultural strides achieved by active analysis and occaisional reassessment here in the present. Its called progress.

  164. Yes, Geoff, I did say that, but I said nothing about whether I thought “our modern ideas” are the ones that are eternal.

  165. 162 –

    The problem Matt is a culture that values and empowers men and women equally benefits from the added resource of those fully engaged individuals. It actually is better off.

    Its actually better.

  166. Kristine –

    Why not just say that? Our modern ideas about gender are closer to eternal truth, they simpler allow for the accumulation of light and knowledge to a great extent.

  167. Oops “they’re simpler”

  168. “They’re simpler and allow for the accumulation of light and knowledge to a greater extent.”

    I hang my head in shame.

    It was a good sentence before my fingers decided to eat it.

  169. Maybe I need to accumulate some proofreading skills.

  170. Mommie Dearest says:

    Just because God allows all the stuff that goes on in our “culture” does not automatically mean that he approves of it, and thinking that he doesn’t change it because this is the way he wants it is breathtakingly arrogant.

  171. Wow! Reading through the original post and comments has been refreshing – I really appreciate the sincerity and thoughts.

    I’d like to follow Amanda’s course and stand up stronger when others dismiss my ideas, which seems to go along with something I’ve been working on lately, practicing alternatives to the “denying and numbing*” I have — at least in part — learned from many women and men in my family. Margaret inspires me for continuing to stand up. Awesome.

    I’d also like to encourage you, B. Russ, to choose to label yourself as you please. I like that you’re sticking up for a woman to choose a relationship as she chooses. I’d like to claim you as a feminist, but I totally think you can make that call independent from what anyone else thinks.

    And, on to my moment: I became a Mormon feminist when I realized only boys got to pass the microphone during testimony meetings. It seemed more arbitrary than other boys-only, priesthood stuff because it was such a simple practical task. That realization led me to consider all of it arbitrary, or at least artificial. Reading Sonia Johnson’s book From Housewife to Heretic as an early teenager fueled the fire too. The Proclamation to the World pushed me farther (Let’s see, it came out when I was 11 so it has produced a series of small pushes since).

    My favorite phrase in the whole thread: “idiotic cultural overlay.” Now that I’m no longer living in Utah, I plan to use this phrase while explaining some of the wacky results of this overlay to people asking about Mormonism.

    Oh, and I’m totally down with Karen H.’s motivation. “Our girls deserve a better paradigm.” I think our boys do too, and I have a little more hope for it after hearing about all of these Moments.

    *referring to comment 25

  172. Kristine: I said nothing about whether I thought “our modern ideas” are the ones that are eternal.

    Fair enough.

    Mommie Dearest: thinking that he doesn’t change it because this is the way he wants it is breathtakingly arrogant

    I completely agree. If you ever encounter someone who believes that let me know and we can laugh at them together.

  173. Mommie Dearest says:

    Deal.

  174. I grew up as a nice guy, trying to be respectful and nice. But, as a male mormon I didn’t really sense the big deal until I came of age in college. Then, you can start to question what you hear, even if it doesn’t specifically affect you personally.

    That’s fine, but what made me a “feminist” is having four wonderful daughters. And while I’m around no one is going to hold them back from being as amazing as they want to be. Being involved as a YM leader for the past 15 years in different wards I have had many chances to let people know where I stand on these condescending and damaging cultural notions that creep into our youth programs.

  175. I think the revelations are not a result of people noticing that their grandparents’ culture was different than our own but rather as a result of the following: (1) our grandparents’ culture did not appropriately value the full contribution that women can make in all fields of life, learning, the professions, academics and business (in addition to family life) and very clearly did not present women with a self-concept that allowed for full personhood, as it did for men and (2) that even though this can easily be seen as harmful to women, YW leaders (and presumably stake or ward priesthood leaders with oversight) were and still are presenting a document such as the one highlighted here, in official Church venues, as prescriptively articulating the correct way for women to be.

    In doing so it damages both women and men. It damages women for all the obvious reasons: it retards their personal development in all areas of life for the purpose of keeping them subservient to a hypothetical man in their life. It damages men because we face the prospect of not benefitting from the women in our lives being empowered to unleash their full potential in every area of activity.

  176. The most that can be said about the letter is that it doesn’t represent the only way to live in harmony with the gospel.

    That is incorrect. The letter presents a way to live that does not fully value the contributions of women or their personhood. We can confidently say that as well.

    We have moved past that in our society to a large degree, thankfully. Progress really is a good thing. It can be objectively recognized that women are more equally valued for the contributions they can make in all fields today than in our grandparents’ time. I would never want the world to regress to the postures of our grandparents’ time toward things like what is appropriate work, career, interests, etc. for a woman to have or be engaged in (and then inculcate that in our young women, shutting off their minds to their full potential and limitless possibilities, which, yes, include the miraculous and wonderful parts of life relating to child-birth, child-rearing and motherhood, if they choose that path for themselves).

    It can also be confidently asserted, and not merely as a subjective expression of cultural relativism, that the world is better and the plight of women is better following women’s suffrage. (What an odd example to use as an expression of mere cultural conditioning/relativism.) I do not foresee our grandchildren eliminating the vote for women or confining them to housework as in our grandparent’s generation. That is not in the cards. In keeping with the Gospel, humanity is progressing all the time as we step by step overcome the natural man through obtaining further light and knowledge, not only through revelation and but also through the exponential increases we are experiencing in all fields of learning, both of which (revelation and learning from all fields, including all sciences, etc.) we as Latter-day Saints are taught are circumscribed into one great whole for the benefit and profit of mankind. We should expect nothing less in an age such as the Restoration of all Things when the Spirit of the Lord is poured out over the whole earth so as to cover it as an ocean. To think it would be possible under such circumstances to revert back to a posture toward women that degrades them, devalues the contributions they can make — or outright prevents them from obtaining the learning, skills, opportunities etc. to make such contributions — or does not respect their full personhood is genuinely mystifying. As Mormons we simply aren’t or shouldn’t be encumbered by these troubling social and cultural conventions. We really should be far above that.

  177. For clarification’s sake, my values are and should be normative for everyone. so you know.

  178. I embraced my Mormon feminism after my non-Mormon boyfriend accompanied me to church a few times. After visit #4, he asked me hesitantly, “Doesn’t the status of women in your church bother you?” I don’t remember my exact answer, something about influence being more powerful than official authority etc. and we left it at that.
    But it prompted me to acknowledge the real answer that I had been ignoring for years, which was “yes”.

  179. Matt (162),
    You are correct–I’m not one of those people. I’m sorry if I’ve been unclear. I was only explaining what I perceived others to be saying in response to your initial comment #69, where you said:

    The feminist awakenings recounted here appear to simply be realizations that our grandparent’s culture is different from ours, and to me, stories of BYU students making fun of our grandparent’s views are as funny as stories of white students cleverly ridiculing Indian views.

    This is simply not correct, in my opinion. First, the awakenings are not a result of realizing our grandparents’ culture is different than ours, but rather result from a realization that their grandparent’s culture is still being imposed on them in ways they don’t like. Second, no one is making fun of their grandparent’s culture per se; rather, they are making fun the people who are treating them like their grandparents. John F also clarifies in his 175 what I tried to explain in my first comment (82) to you.

    Now you and I and Kristine and Geoff and anyone else here can agree or disagree or stare at our feet uncomfortably over what we individually or collectively think the “best” way of doing things is in our respective families, and our children will do the same, as will their children. No one is disputing that, I don’t think. The only issue of relevance here (for me) is that you made a dismissal of this thread (your #69) based on a fairly clear misreading of the motivations underlying the OP and comments.

  180. Eric Russell (158),

    Lots of people out there who fit Scott and LWs description – and then some – who still aren’t feminists.

    (I assume you refer to my re-statement of what I interpreted as Aaron’s definition in #30…)

    The reason I haven’t actually given my own take in this thread is that, while I don’t have any problem being called one, I think most of my feminist co-bloggers would probably either vomit in their mouths or fall down laughing if they saw me claim to be a feminist.

  181. John F. (and micah),

    The problem is that you’re merely applying our own culture’s mode of thinking about values, such as the particular ways we perceive human worth and the meaningful life, but our culture’s values don’t stem from the gospel. Joseph Smith would certainly object to your claim that he didn’t value women while he led the church and Nauvoo, for example. This isn’t because you’ve learned something about the gospel that he didn’t know, it’s because the way our culture measures value has changed, so when we speak about valuing women we mean something different than he would have.

    Trying to label all change as “Progress” is a rhetorical approach, not a substantive one. By appealing to gospel rhetoric we could just as easily posit that in the latter-days the world’s values will increasingly stray from the gospel; there have certainly been lots of recent GA statements to that effect.

  182. Matt, I think you’re off on that. It is not difficult to see that women are objectively better off today than in the 1950s or the 1840s. As to the latter, today they can vote, own their own property, work in professional capacities, enter into legal contracts under their own name and many, many more things, none of which have to do with abortion or gay marriage, that were inconceivable for a woman to be able to do in the 1840s. You are right that this does not say anything about Joseph Smith and his own enabling of the 1840s treatment of women in frontier American society (to the extent his work involved any of that). But that does not mean we cannot objectively say, without having to admit that it is only a product of our own cultural position, that women are indeed better off as a matter of fact as a result of the immense progress of women’s freedom and women’s rights that have occurred since that time.

    As to the former, the letter is more a product of the 1950s than the 1840s. In the 1950s women already had the right to vote but cultural influences such as those expressed in the letter were aimed at reducing their options in life and making them subservient in ways that were not ennobling or in any other way positive to a hypothetical man, whose role would be to work outside the home and have every advantage of education, social life, prominence and/or influence in the professional, academic or political worlds. In the decades since the 1950s almost every culturally constructed barrier, such as those that produced the document in the OP, has been removed, thus allowing women the freedom, potential and opportunity, for the first time in the history of the world, really, to truly make their own substantive contribution in every field, if that is their choice. At the same time, they have not been restricted at all in making the choice to get all the education they want but then to become a stay at home mother to raise their children, if that is their choice. This difference is that now they get to choose their path. And that is both entirely in keeping with the Gospel’s emphasis on moral agency and with arguments that, yes, women are objectively better off now vis-a-vis these cultural constructs then they were in the 1950s. And our grandchildren are not going to see that differently because it is a fact. Just like most of us still agree 493 years after Luther posted his theses that the religious freedom that eventually resulted from the collapse of the narrow-minded and (in a certain sense) totalitarian dogmatism of the Catholic Church that prevailed in the 1400s and 1500s constituted real progress that can be objectively observed — because we literally enjoy a greater degree of freedom as a result, and this is an undisputed benefit.

  183. Matt, I like the way you write. I really wish I didn’t always sound so earnest when making a point. I hope it comes from a lack of practice, because I’d like to get better at filtering out the cliche structure in some of my sentences.

    Incidentally, I imagine you’re right and that Joseph Smith would have a difficult time recognizing his shortcomings in some of the ways he related to women. He could have used a little more introspection in that department.

    Of course I’ve learned some things about the gospel that Joseph Smith didn’t know. Continuing revelation and all that.

  184. John F –

    You keep saying everything way more awesome than me.

  185. “It is not difficult to see that women are objectively better off today than in the 1950s or the 1840s.”

    I don’t want to speak for Matt, but I think his point here is that there is no such thing as an “objective” standard to determine what “better off” is exactly; that any rubric we choose will be inherently subjective and biased towards the ethos of our day.

  186. I don’t want to speak for Matt, but I think his point here is that there is no such thing as an “objective” standard to determine what “better off” is exactly; that any rubric we choose will be inherently subjective and biased towards the ethos of our day.

    Lets pretend that instead of being antonyms – Objective and Subjective – that they are on a spectrum of 1 to 10. 1 being Subjective and 10 being Objective.

    I’ll agree that it is impossible to “objectively” determine what better off is, but I’d say we could get to an 8 or 9 on my scale. Sure, it’s still a little subjective, but I think we can determine that (8)Objectively women are better off in our day. Using a number of metrics including: fulfillment, intelligence, freedom from abuse, self-actualization . . . .

    Also note that despite the fact that any rubric we choose will be inherently biased, this didn’t stop both Matt (comment 69) and Geoff (comments 111, 115) from trying to introduce “happiness” as one measurement of better off. (which, should be noted, can only be used anectotally in reference for instance to Matt’s grandparents, and ignores the many women that were abused by our standards today, where that was just considered “marital bliss” by the standards of decades past)

  187. Matt Evans, moral relativist. Who knew?

  188. jimbob, that position is not necessary because it would be a contrived argument indeed to say that it was better for women not have legal personhood, the right to vote, the ability to get an education and work in the professional, etc.

    It can be stated as an objective fact that women are better off in these and other respects in 2010 than in 1840, just as it can be objectively stated that we have greater freedom of religion in 2010 than people in 1510.

  189. (and due to our position of greater religious freedom we are all objectively better off.)

  190. Molly Bennion says:

    I’ve always been a feminist. The hard choice was to become a Mormon in spite of it. I’ve never seen this statement but lots of similar nonsense has circulated, esp during the anti-ERA and Fascinating Womanhood years.

    I’m grateful I knew my husband’s Mormon grandmother, school board member and Spokane Civic Theater actress, as well as mother of many and wife of a mission president. Perhaps Utah culture defined women’s choices there more than did doctrine? I suspect other non-Utah Mormons of her age were more impacted by doctrine than by that culture. The interplay between culture and doctrine in Mormonism perplexes me.

    My grandmother drove an ambulance in WWI and all her sisters worked all their lives. In much of America, that generation, the get the vote generation, set some wonderful examples. Post-war gender theory and economic reality took a toll on my mother, the next generation, as it did so many, but she eventually went on to substantial work both for pay and as a volunteer. Even in her very traditional years, she never presented her choice as mine. My parents expected me to be my own person and worried marrying a Mormon would force me to let someone else make my decisions. They needn’t have worried.

  191. Antoinette says:

    I’m 23 years old, and I’m a member of the Church, and what I’ve notices both as I spent time researching the church and becoming a member is that there’s this interesting dichotomy concerning women. The Church seems to be stuck between idealism and the predominating culture of maturing young women.
    It’s not just the LDS, though. Baptists also struggle with this as well, especially Southern Baptists, and outside of religion, culture plays into it as well. As an African American female, I notice the same dichotomy where I’m in my “child bearing” years and need to hurry it on up. So, it’s larger than the LDS, I think.
    However, there needs to be a balance between the ideal and the reality of it all. There’s nothing wrong with being a help mate to a husband, but at the same time, young people, especially teenaged girls, need to also know how to take care of themselves while also being feminine and knowing Heavenly Father. The ideals presented shouldn’t be used to inhibit, and I think that’s wherein lies the problem.
    Motherhood/wifehood should be presented as a part of a woman’s life, not the sum total, in my opinion. The ideals should have a fresh spin on it, rather than antiquated “letter” that needs some dusting off. A fine balance in life should be the goal, not a preoccupation with only “one” option. Heavenly Father blessed us (all children of God) to have gifts and to use them. Some women may be happy with being stay at home moms, but those Mormon moms or families, whom the General Authorities may not necessarily want on the next issue of Ensign, and would consider “left of center” of the prevailing view should not be marginalized within the culture, but appreciated as examples of a continuing discourse.

  192. John F (and all),

    I agree that women are better off now than they have been in history. But they are better off because they have more choices now on how they live their lives.

    The problem with this kinds of discussions is that people spend a lot of time mocking and belittling the “June Cleaver” option for women. But mocking that choice of life is problematic because some percentage of women are well suited for it and would be most happy pursuing that lifestyle.

    I agree that there was a major problem in the past trying to coerce all women into that mold. But attempting to coerce women out of that option is also a problem.

    Again, more choices is better. So it is not helpful to try to shame women away from that lifestyle just like it is unhelpful to try to shame women away from other choices like careers etc.

  193. Using a number of metrics including: fulfillment, intelligence, freedom from abuse, self-actualization . . . . You don’t even need to go to those more esoteric metrics. There are the far more concrete ones of health, mortality rates, institutionalization (for ‘mental illnesses’) and so on. The maternal mortality rate plummeted after women got the vote, and has continued to decline- not only due to medical advances but due to the altered treatment of women.
    That there are people who will contend that policies and attitudes which lead to women’s death are simply a case moral relativism appalls me.

  194. That there are people who will contend that policies and attitudes which lead to women’s death are simply a case moral relativism appalls me.

    I haven’t seen anyone make that contention in this thread. But I would be appalled too if somewhere to do so.

  195. Geoff,

    I agree with your 192 completely, and yes, trying to coerce women “out” of that option is not a good thing.
    But not glorifying the ideals of the 1950s (through the reading of a letter praising those ideals) =/= forcing women out of that option.

  196. Matt Evans says:

    This isn’t moral relativism. My point is that the gospel is compatible with diverse cultural values and preferences. That latitude is the basis for the church’s statement that the gospel is compatible with a range of political values and preferences. (Political values are subsets of cultural values.) That doesn’t mean that all cultural and political values are compatible with the gospel, of course, but I believe the cultural values of the pioneers and our grandparents, including the way their cultures reconciled God’s love and justice for both men and women, were compatible with the gospel. The culture of our great-grandchildren will have a set of cultural values that we won’t like (given the trajectories since the Enlightenment, I expect that Independence will widen its triumph over Loyalty and Community — our great-grandkids will sympathize with John Edwards more than we do), but those values will nevertheless be compatible with the gospel.

  197. True enough B. Russ. Finding that middle ground between not glorifying the June Cleaver model (ie pushing that model onto all as the one-size-fits-all standard) and not completely ridiculing the June Cleaver model seems to be a difficult task in practice.

  198. 197 I couldn’t agree more. And if anyone on this thread were to have done this egregious thing I would rise up like a … thing that is mighty and beat them back myself. Again, if one were to have done such a thing.

    Ouch- disengaging my tongue from my now bruised cheek. :)

  199. I am afraid I can’t chalk this view of marriage up to diversity in cultural values. For a marriage to be at its best, there must be equality. There is no middle ground on this point.

  200. When I read “Fascinating Womanhood” by Helen Andelin earlier this year and realized that the sexism I occassionally experienced wasn’t just chauvinism on the part of isolated individuals but actual institutionalized sexism. I am still not sure what it means exactly for me to be a “Mormon Feminist” since I am sure I am pretty far from being a mainstream feminist. I do think there is a lot of truth to this:

    troglodytic views on gender masquerading as Gospel insights

    After I read FW and talked to other Mormon women who called it “the most righteous way to be a wife”, I realized that even my good friends had “troglodytic views on gender masquerading as Gospel insights”.

  201. Matt Evans says:

    John F.,

    The point is that while Americans, including women, are “better off” due to our cultural values, such as our ambition and our emphasizing career over family (demonstrated by our willingness to leave family for education and career, or to have long commutes or travel routinely away from family) that make our culture wealthy and therefore make women here “better off” according to certain metrics, there’s nothing in the gospel that allows us to say that the way our culture balances family and relationships vs. career satisfaction and wealth is better than the many cultures around the world (or in the past or future) that have different values even when those values for relationships and continuity result in their people (and women) being “worse off” according to our standard.

  202. Geoff J,

    I also agree with everything you say in #192, and I’m not sure who in this thread would disagree. To go back to the OP, when I and my Freshman friends made fun of much of the language in the letter, we weren’t meaning to say (for example) that any woman who happens to ask her husband to open a jar for her is deserving of contempt. We were, however, mocking the notion that all right-thinking LDS women should strive for physical helplessness as a normative ideal. We weren’t meaning to say (for example) that a woman who fetches her husband’s shoes after supper is necessarily debasing herself by that isolated act. We were, however, meaning to disparage the unmistakble message conveyed by the letter that various subservient postures and actions should be markers of ideal femininity in LDS women. Etc., etc.

  203. Steve Evans says:

    Matt, do you think Paul’s view of women is compatible with the Gospel? How about Abraham’s?

  204. The elephant in the the celestial room in discussing gender roles in the church is that the seeds of our modern disfunction were sown a long time ago.

    In 181 Matt illustrates a part of the problem when as part of his argument he says:

    “Joseph Smith would certainly object to your claim that he didn’t value women while he led the church and Nauvoo, for example. This isn’t because you’ve learned something about the gospel that he didn’t know.”

    Joseph Smith’s issues don’t have to be our issues. Weeding out personal hangups masquerading as doctrine is vital to a living religion.

  205. Aaron,

    I’m with you. I think those things you said in #202 cannot go without saying though. If those nuances are not explicitly spelled out I believe these discussions inevitably will go down the path of (implicitly or openly) mocking a viable and lifestyle choice for many families.

  206. Steve,

    Those are intriguing questions in #203. Where do you stand on them?

  207. “Those are intriguing questions in #203. Where do you stand on them?”

    Carefully. I imagine.

  208. Polygamy was big mistake that we’re still paying for.

    I believe that Joseph was a Prophet. An incredibly brilliant man as well. A man who was drawn to associating with intelligent women. A man who lived in a crazy crazy time where it was improper to develop close friendships with the opposite sex outside of marriage.

    Do the math. The culture + the man = super convoluted mistake that Woodruff finally put right.

    Its the inability to accept that a man can be inspired in certain areas and delusional in others that makes this all much more difficult and meandering than it needs to be.

    Polygamy was a false doctrine that women in the church have to do mental backflips around unnecessarily.

    References to Polygamy are constantly redacted in our teaching materials, so the current leadership implicitly agrees.

    SO, we don’t need to learn lessons on gender relations from the early saints. We are the lessons.

    Okie Dokie.

  209. I doubt there’s a single individual person whose individual ideas or actions don’t sometimes contradict the gospel, including prophets. But I’m completely comfortable asserting that Paul’s ideas about women were less compatible with the mind and will of God and with the celestial social order than are Kristine Haglund’s.

    As for Jesus, I think that, in addition to the examples Kristine cited above, His general indifference and occasional contempt for family relationships—particularly taken in light of the significance of certain kinds of family relations in the grand scheme of things—speaks volumes about His disapproval of and lack of complicity in cultural norms regarding the treatment, dignity, and full humanity of women. In that society, the family, nuclear and extended, was the principle locus of the devaluating and dehumanizing treatment of women.

  210. So glad that micah has finally shown up to show us the errors of Joseph’s ways.

    Bad math, micah, bad religion, bad history, bad sociology, bad assessment all the way around, and your calling Joseph a prophet despite your conclusions doesn’t cover that up.

  211. For what it’s worth, I’m with Ardis on this one…

  212. Thanks Ardis. Sorry I’m so… bad?

    I bring this up because, subconsciously I think not dealing with the Polygamy issue directly affected how I thought of women for a long time.

    Maybe I’m alone in this (doubt it), but it contributed to a malfunctioning in my worldview and subtly commodified women in some distant corner of my mind.

    Tackle it directly, “Joseph made a mistake” – and the problem goes away. New ones arise, but they’re analytical and can be dealt with by adjusting my conception of how revelation works.

  213. Micah: Polygamy was a false doctrine

    What do you even mean by this? That God universally opposes polygamy?

  214. I mean that its reintroduction into 19th century america was misguided and was bad religion, a bad reading of history and a bad assessment all the way around.

  215. Thats funny, my definition of bad religion would probably include stating beliefs of my own as facts without any evidence or call to authority and insisting that those that don’t agree with me are just naive.

  216. So you contend that God was opposed to Mormons practicing polygamy all along then Micah?

  217. You’re right, sorry B. Russ.

    Ardis labeled everything I had said as bad bad bad, so I used the word loosely to echo that language. It was sarcastic and a mistake.

    What facts do we have to go from if I have to say with certainty that God universally opposes polygamy? That’s a big question. I do feel like that assertion is more in line with a simple model that God values his daughters and sons equally and one doesn’t require multiplicities of the other. Its certainly possible that every instance of polygamy, including Biblically, was misguided. Totally possible.

    So, yes Geoff. I think it was misguided. The questions that raises are convoluted as well, but I feel confident that I can come to a satisfactory place with it that strengthens my testimony of how revelation actually works to refine and strengthen the theological foundations of the church.

    I’m a believer! Promise! Maybe I’m in the wrong place for this discussion, but inspired polygamy is not a sacred cow to me. Neither is perfect infallibility in the prophet. I didn’t mean to imply that it would be naive to have a different perspective, but I do think that feeling obligated to defend inspired polygamy makes it harder to align some past practices with present views on women’s role in the church. Something that came to mind when you referenced Joseph and Nauvoo as an example of different social structures that were still compatible with the gospel. I don’t think its necessary to accept that practice as an inspired part of Joseph Smith’s immense contribution to religious thought.

    I thought this was a good place to share this particular opinion, because it feels like justifying the practice unnecessarily (if it was not inspired) is counter productive and might contribute to some of the gender issues that we’ve been discussing.

  218. “What facts do we have to go from if I have to say with certainty that God universally opposes polygamy?”

    Well, for starters, there’s that whole pesky Section 132 thing, which seems to be dispositive of the issue.

  219. Thank you for making my point. I think its okay for parts of section 132 to be doctrinally problematic and still accept Joseph Smith as a Prophet.

    The verse about Emma being destroyed in particular is totally unnecessary for me accept as revelation. As a Mormon, I don’t have to believe in a closed canon. I wouldn’t cry if that verse was erased so that no one ever had to read it again.

  220. By saying that I don’t not have facts, I’m admitting that all I have is my opinion on this. I’m okay with that, because part of my opinion is that its possible that scriptural statements that offer official sanction for Polygamy may have been uninspired.

    It doesn’t affect my testimony of the importance of this work, or its truth, whatsoever to come to that conclusion. We. Abandoned. The. Practice. That was the right call.

  221. Micah: So, yes Geoff. I think it was misguided.

    Well I specifically asked if you believe God was opposed to the practice. I assume you mean yes to that question. If God was decidedly opposed to the practice then everyone who ever practiced it was sinning then right? I mean if God didn’t want them to do it the Holy Ghost should have been able to give them some guidance to avoid acting contrary to God’s will. And if those prophets were unable or unwilling to heed the directions of God on something like that they were failed prophets a best or false prophets at worst (we are talking about Abraham and here as much as Joseph Smith).

    Therein lies the problem for you. You claim to be a believer. But a believer in what? A long line of failed or false prophets?

    Look there are ways of dealing with discomfort with polygamy. I just think you have chosen bad option on that front.

    (Hint: A better option for you might be to assume that God doesn’t mind one way or the other on the polygamy issue. That way you are not stuck with calling the prophets failures/frauds.)

  222. For jar opening, I got one like this.

    http://www.drillspot.com/products/292180/Swing-A-Way_Mfg_CO_711_Adjustable_Jar_Opener

    It works like a charm. The concept is similar to that of an adjustable wrench, and you have plenty of mechanical advantage with the length of the handle. Really important tool for anyone without a lot of hand strength and arm strength.

    I don’t remember when I became a feminist. I just always have been one ever since I remember. The games other girls in my neighborhood played were limited to “house” and “dolls”, both of which bored me. So I played with guys instead, including my best friend Wesley, with whom I ran, climbed, and build things outside. Staying inside was boring for me, and I remember looking out with longing on stormy days and wondering how I could possible stand it until I was allowed out again.

    From the time I was very young, people would constantly say to me “girls don’t do that”, “girls can’t do that”, etc. I found that they were always mistaken. I just went ahead and did what seemed right to me, and never had a problem. My dad his dad and *his* dad were all engineering types, designing and building things. In an open house recently given of a house my great-grandfather designed and built, I could totally see my family’s style of engineering there, which passed down through the generations. It was odd and awesome to see something so familiar it looked like I or my father had built it, but made by someone I knew almost nothing about. From the earliest age I just loved machines, structures, and building. On my mother’s side all her sibs and progenitors were scientists, engineers, and inventors. Sometimes I think I’m the Kwisatz Haderach of engineering, brought here by a longterm breeding project, who arrived one generation too soon and the wrong gender. =)

    Anyway, I remember the unfairness of things from long ago. I loved my older brother’s scouting manuals and stuff. They did such fun and important stuff like learning to make fires, tying knots, boating, etc. so I joined the Brownies and it was so freaking boring. We sang a lot and did crafty stuff. Absolutely nothing fun at all. So I quit after one year and did not fly up.

    I remember that I quickly learned to avoid whatever was specifically made for girls, as it would be sure to be glittery, cheap, boring, and second-class. I actually still loathe pink as a clothing color today. When I was in 3rd grade I asked why girls had to wear dresses to school, and was told the shapes of our little girl bottoms would be distracting to the boys if they were visible. In 3rd grade! How repulsive!

    On the playground in a dress at recess, you can’t climb on the monkey bars because someone might see up your dress. You can’t play any game that requires you to be on hands and knees, because a dress quickly gets caught under your knees and flips you over. You can’t hang upside down from a tree branch because your dress falls over your head and blocks your vision. Dresses are ridiculous. I knew that, and I knew I had to wear them, and I hated it.

    In books and stories, the interesting roles, the protagonists, were almost always boys or men. In the few that weren’t, figuring out how to comply with the draconian requirement always to be ladylike was a major part of the difficulty. That and voraciously searching for husbands who always seemed to turn out to be rich, too, among their other charms. Way to teach girls to sell themselves to the highest bidder! How is that not prostitution? I’m not seeing how, in principal, it is different, though obviously your life is better if you have only one john rather than many.

    And it was the same way all the time. In about 1995 when someone commented how few women were online at the time, a colleague said “oh there are a few there chasing the guys”. Excuse me? Another colleague said to me directly “you don’t have to be an engineer to get a man!” Huh?

    In 1982 I was called the “Lady Programmer”, which is different, I suppose, from being a programmer. Over the next decade in IT it became very equal, with plenty of females. I think the last decade or so has been a time of reversal, when fewer girls went into technical fields. My friend who studied computer game design in grad school said there were zero women in his program at USC. Nary a one.

    I feel like ranting a huge rant, given the obtusity of some of the people who act like girls are just like that or something. No, we aren’t! We’re forced to be that way, and some of us refuse to be forced.

    Another one was the guy at a then new job who goggled speechless at the sight of me using a tape measure. Uhhh… engineer? scores of start ups? long time designer? I so thought we were past that by then! That was around 2001.

    Another one was when my hydraulic supplier responded to me pointing out a glaring error in his schematic by telling me that it was right, that I just didn’t understand, and telling me to go ask my male boss to explain it to me. I explained multiple times the exact problem but wasn’t heard. Finally my boss called them and said “she knows what she’s talking about, listen to her, we won’t buy it until it meets her approval.” That finally did it. I’m kind of grateful to that horrible hydraulics supply company for they forced me to learn all about hydraulics so I could evaluate their machines and fix them. =)

    That’s not even mentioning all the times people assume at first I’m not the person they want, because I’m female. I remember saying cheerfully to one customer “well, I’m him!” when he asked to speak to our electrical guy. (Yes, it should have been “I’m he” but I can’t get away with using good grammar on top of my gender failings.)

    Being a girl has come in handy in some ways too. I often get first pick of the good electricians and millwrights for my job-sites because they find it a novelty to work with a female engineer. I can shame the slowpoke union guys by getting more done myself with my own tools during their 15 minute break than they’ve accomplished all morning. Most guys really hate for a girl to show them up in guy things. Also, I remember one time when I won my point by blithely climbing up a junk tower to show the plant engineer the problem which was not due to my machine but rather to an unexpected proturbance inside the tower. I suggested he climb up and look for himself, and he was reluctant due to wanting to stay clean, or lack of fitness, or possibly fear of heights, but he took my word for it.

    I know sometimes I would feel as though I had to prove my masculinity in these start-up situations at plants with all new guys who didn’t know me. Then I made a conscious decision not to do that anymore, because it’s annoying to me when guys do it so I decided to stop too. But I’ve always been very hands-on, getting dirty and taking a part in the actual work. Most engineers prefer to leave that to the workmen, but I never felt I could, because I needed to know from direct experience how to do every single step of the process, because the workers would ask me, and I wanted to really know how. So I got dirtier than most of the guy engineers on my sites. And I learned a lot too.

    See, ideally you need to be a welder to design a good weldment. You need to be a millwright to make good mechanical designs. You need to be an electrician to design good electrical panels and systems. And you should always take the point of view of the operator to design good control systems. Those people who use it every day are the ones who can tell you the most about your machines, and how to improve them. I always made friends with the operators, and never acted like I was a superior person because my job requires a degree and their doesn’t. This friendliness was interpreted by some people as flirting or hitting on people, just because I’m female. My colleagues at the office who were like brothers to me were always teasing me about how many friends and admirers I would collect on job-sites. Dude, I’m doing my job! It’s not about that. But of course, they think everything is about that if a female is involved.

    So in addition to my skill at engineering design, wiring, inspection, project management, installation, and start-up, in order to do my job I also had to have a fairly thick skin, and be able to ignore all the well-wishing people who tried to steer me toward something cute and decorative and away from the meat and potatoes business of my companies. Also away from the stuff that’s interesting, challenging, and fun, and toward the things that are dull menial work, which people seem to think women like and are best suited to.

    What I hope is that my career trajectory converted a lot of people to the idea that girls *can*. Though I was the only female in the paper industry who did what I did, I hope that I can be followed now by girls who only need the good engineering skills, and aren’t required to have that super thick skin and stalwart determination to do the part of the job that’s fun. That’s my hope.

    When I found out this church was instrumental in defeating the ERA, my earliest political longing, I almost quit. But things have changed, and are changing still, and the restored gospel is still the truth and still very good news. God keeps telling me the place I belong is here. And maybe there’s a reason he wants someone like me in his church. It may be 100% for my good, which I know it’s good for me to make the attempt, even if ultimately I fail. But it just also might be a little bit for the church’s good too. So that’s my Mormon Feminist Manifesto. I’m a girl and I’m here to tell everyone that girls CAN.

  223. I believe (wow your tone there was pretty dismissive) in continuing revelation that must operate through the minds and hearts of actual people that sometimes make mistakes.

    For what its worth, the Holy Ghost guided a lot of people to object to the practice of Polygamy. Their was huge internal resistance to it and it was put away within a generation.

    Course corrected.

  224. What the what?! Tatiana, that is a rad story and a proper manifesto.

    Okay peeps, I’m off to dinner with my one (and only) eternal companion. Friday Date Night. True principle.

    Last thing to Geoff –

    The God Doesn’t Care One Way or the Other What Kind of Cultural Environment His Daughters Live In” thing doesn’t work for me here for the same reasons it didn’t work for me before when you were all lovey with the “Letter”.

    Oh, and speaking of eternal companions, the true and ennobling doctrine of eternal marriage is all wrapped up with the problematic and not useful endorsement of (when sanctioned) Plurality of Wives. I guess a brownie with a roach in it really is still an awesome brownie after all.

  225. Their was huge internal resistance to it and it was put away within a generation.

    Two or even three generations would probably be more accurate, setting aside a few break off groups here and there.

  226. Tatiana, a true Kwitatz Haderach would have mastered the art of brevity. :)

  227. “(Hint: A better option for you might be to assume that God doesn’t mind one way or the other on the polygamy issue. That way you are not stuck with calling the prophets failures/frauds.)”

    Yes, but you are stuck with a God, who “doesn’t mind one way or the other” whether his daughters are treated justly, which is possibly a bit more troubling.

  228. And if those prophets were unable or unwilling to heed the directions of God on something like that they were failed prophets a best or false prophets at worst (we are talking about Abraham and here as much as Joseph Smith). So God’s prophets cannot commit any sin without being failed or false? Or they just can’t commit this particular sin? What makes this particular sin different than other, allowable sins?

  229. Kristine,

    First, I didn’t create the problem of evil. It existed long before any of us showed up on earth.

    Second, I didn’t say God doesn’t mind one way or the other whether his daughters are treated justly. Don’t put words in my mouth — especially egregiously inaccurate interpretation of what I said.

  230. Starfoxy: So God’s prophets cannot commit any sin without being failed or false?

    Sigh.

    No I didn’t say that.

  231. Sorry, Geoff–after reading your exchange with micah, I thought egregiously inaccurate interpretation was the preferred hermeneutic mode for this thread.

    (And, btw, your interrogation about whether his personal beliefs pass muster is in decidedly poor taste.)

  232. Cute.

  233. Since at least three people jumped to wrong conclusions about my “God doesn’t mind one way or the other on the polygamy issue” comment I will give more details. I think it is clear through the revelations that God commands that people treat other people kindly and respectfully. There is nothing about freely chosen polygamous relationships per se that precludes kindness and respect. Therefore, it is entirely plausible that God has been ok with kind and mutually respectful polygamous marriages at times on earth just like he is ok with monogamous marriages on earth. In both types of marriages cruelty is a sin of course.

    Now if Kristine or Micah or Starfoxy would like to write a blog post and argue that there has never been a polygamous relationship that was not cruel to women (or something) and therefore sinful and abhorrent to God I’d be happy to debate that with them in that blog thread.

  234. Why would anyone want to dispute your perfectly clear and simple one paragraph explanation of a problem that has vexed historians and theologians for decades?

    The problem is with a model of marriage that definitionally privileges one sex over the other (since we’re here really speaking of polygyny, not polygamy more broadly). The structure is unjust, regardless of the behavior of the actors in it.

    This is a vexing problem; believing the practice was not initiated by God (i.e., that prophets were mistaken) is no more problematic than believing that God winks at injustice. It’s unpleasant enough to be stuck on either horn of the dilemma without the folks on the opposite horn tossing barbs. A little more respect for people who square the circle differently than you do is in order.

  235. Steve Evans says:

    Geoff, my man, take heed of the voice who has long been your fellow-traveler in the bloggernacle: quit while the quittin’s good.

  236. Kristine: believing the practice was not initiated by God (i.e., that prophets were mistaken) is no more problematic than believing that God winks at injustice

    I don’t think this is accurate. We know for a fact that God winks at injustice to some degree. Or at least that God chooses not to intervene in many cases of injustice on the earth. We know that because it is inescapable evident all around us every day. That is a major part of the ancient problem of evil.

    We don’t know that God is openly opposed to all forms of polygamous relationships. In fact the scriptural evidence indicates otherwise. So even if the idea of polygamy anciently and more recently wasn’t initiated by God the records indicate that God didn’t object to the practice in some times and places. That is a subtle difference but I think it is important. It reveals a certain pragmatism in God when it come to his dealing with humans and his prophets I think.

    My objection to the model Micah proposes is that it requires prophets to be openly preaching and even canonizing scriptures commanding practices that God is completely against. I think the idea of prophets commanding the church to engage in sinful behavior that God hates so undermines the foundations of our faith and scriptures that it is simple an untenable approach.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t respect Micah. It just means I don’t think the model he proposes is viable.

  237. Mommie Dearest says:

    Tatiana #222: Thanks. Your post redeemed this thread for me. Every word was on target and uplifting. Just thanks.

  238. Chupa-freaking-cabra.

  239. I’m not a “Mormon feminist” because I’m not Mormon, and many feminists inform me that you can’t be feminist unless you’re pro-choice. So arguably I’m not even feminist.

    When did I get interested in the problems surrounding the status of women in the LDS church though?

    When I first began studying the church as a teenager, I was fascinated by its structure and practices, at least in theory. That it had offices for “prophets” and “apostles,” contra any of the Protestant churches I had attended, was very intriguing to me. It seemed to follow a pattern that I could trace in the Bible: it had prophets, apostles, elders and deacons. It believed in a literal “gift of the Holy Spirit” and charismatic gifts of healing.

    And when I found out that the church would never let me do any of those things on account of my dual XX chromosomes, it was a little bit like learning that Santa Claus really does exist—but he only brings presents to boys.

    I asked the missionaries about it during one of the discussions, and they spent an entire discussion running through the standard apologetics for it, each more awful than the last: men have priesthood because women have babies, men are less spiritual than women, because God says so, etc. They even became the first people to ask me why I should care about this since I wasn’t a member of the church. Why would a woman who is taking the missionary discussions care about the status of women in the church, let’s stop and think really hard about that one for a minute . . .

    During my time at BYU, I ignored Mormon feminism. I got sick of people using my status as a non-member to shoo me away from the topic and avoid having to examine my questions.

    Then I married a Mormon, and I had a daughter who was blessed and named in the church, which means she’s currently counted as a member of the church. A daughter who has a serious genetic disorder which she has a 50% chance of passing on to her own children. So teaching her things like this . . .

    “The greatest mission of woman is to give life, earth-life, through honorable marriage, to the waiting spirits, our Father’s spirit children who anxiously desire to come to dwell here in this mortal state.” ~ (Melvin J. Ballard, Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin J. Ballard, comp. Bryant S. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1949], pp. 203–4); cited in one of the YW manuals here.

    . . . really bothers me.

    Thus I’m no longer tolerant of people who use my non-LDS status to whine about my interest in this topic. And here I am today.

  240. Steve Evans says:

    Jack, I guess I’ve got no problem saying that the greatest mission of woman is to give life, so long as we say that’s the greatest mission of man, too. As missions go that’s not a bad one I suppose.

  241. Chupa-freaking-cabra.

    One of these days I’m going to be able to open a “Bloggernacle Classics” link and not be in the dark on this one. One of these days.

    The problem is with a model of marriage that definitionally privileges one sex over the other [ . . . ] The structure is unjust, regardless of the behavior of the actors in it.

    I realize that my disagreeing with you is done at my own peril. I will try to tread lightly. While I find the idea of polygamy personally abhorrent, and deeply fear the theoretical reintroduction of the principle when I think about it, I hesitate to infer that one can categorically and objectively declare that it is unjust. In the paragraph before you give a nod to the fact that it has vexed historians for decades.
    From what I understand it sexually favors one gender, but can very easily socially favor the other. Especially when it isn’t so deeply tied to a patriarchal authority model.
    Not to start another threadjack . . .

  242. third paragraph should have been in blockquotes. (as it is Kristine’s)

  243. B.Russ,
    See my forthcoming paper on the bloggernacle chupacabra, BCC 2011, Volume 1.

  244. Geoff. Back from the date, this was a hot topic for my wife and I over our Souvlaki. Good conversation.

    I believe, of course, that my model is viable. It breaks down, however, if its burdened with mistaken assumptions. I don’t buy into the house of cards thing. People hostile to the Church frame the argument that way to freak us out. Prophets can be fallible. Successors can clean up after the mistakes of their predecessors. Revelation can be complicated and the Church can refine its positions over time to become more and more internally consistent and principle oriented. All of that is perfectly fine and can easily stand in direct opposition to the rigid Bible-Centric protestant closed canon Bible is Alive nonsense that helped necessitate the restoration in the first place.

    For me personally, its more than fine. Its endorsement of the purpose of the organization. To disseminate truth and dispense with error. For the perfecting of the saints and all that.

  245. Kevin Barney says:

    Tatiana no. 222, that was an outstanding comment. Thanks.

    My father was an academic through and through and not at all handy. As a result, I didn’t learn mechanical things at his side the way lots of boys do, and so I a similarly am not a handy person. In contrast, my wife is a farmer’s daughter and an artist and is very good with her hands. She’s good at building things or minor repairs around the house and enjoys that sort of thing.

    I’m grateful for my wife’s influence, because my son turned out being extremely handy, no thanks to his father. While attending USU he decided that he wanted to work with his hands, not in an office, so he switched gears and has been studying welding. He just finished his program at SLCC and will be looking for a welding job after the holidays. Because it’s a skill that I lack, I’m always deeply impressed by people like you who are good with their hands and at building physical things. Many white collar parents would freak out that a child wants to pursue a blue collar type of career, but I couldn’t be more proud.

  246. The thing is, I don’t know why one would call it “feminism” if it demeans customarily female things as boring, cheap, second-class, inferior, etc.

    That is merely buying into the notion that males are superior, and it’s all about getting women to be more like men.

    This is incredibly insulting to the work that women do in managing homes, gestating, nurturing children, caring for elders, etc. Work. That women do.

    What movement will respect those accomplishments?

    Yes, choice is important. But it is not a real choice when a university tells mothers that they have to attend school fulltime (like men), that they can’t just take classes while their children are in school. It isn’t a choice when mens’ work (garbage collector) pays so much more than women’s work (day care worker).

    I agree with not making assumptions based on gender, with teaching all our children to cook, mow lawns, use power tools, sew.

    But so often modern feminism becomes a matter of applauding only when women do traditionally male things. I loved Elder Holland’s comments last conference about green jello, quilts and funeral potatoes. He gets it. He respects the work that women do.

  247. B. Russ–I don’t disagree with you, actually, about the complicated effects of polygamy, or that some of those effects helped (some) women. I don’t, on the whole, believe that the benefits outweighed the harms as a practical matter, and as a theoretical construct, I think polygamy is awfully, awfully difficult to characterize as just in any way. But disagreeing with me at your peril? C’mon–I’m a pushover :)

    Naismith–it sounds like you haven’t seen any feminist writing for several decades. Luckily, feminists have been agreeing with your POV for years now.

  248. Of course feminism is not mono-anything but Linda Hirshman’s Get to Work is indeed dismissive of the work that women have done, and the female provost at my university claims to be feminist and she was behind the elimination of part-time options. Don’t accuse me of not keeping up when your sisters are spouting this stuff.

  249. I will accuse you of being ignorant of decades of literature and theory. I will accuse you of also making dumb accusations rooted in one book and one individual. Please tell me you are not in the social sciences.

    For a taste:

    http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2010/11/care-and-obedience-moronism-and-feminist-theory/

    Don’t mess with the sister until you have the skills to do so.

  250. Or sisters, even. I will not judge anti-feminists or conservatives on the comments of Matt…just to be fair.

  251. =) Alright, let me rephrase. I disagree with you on women’s issues at my own peril.

    Mostly because I assume you are much more studied in the subject. (but maybe a little because you are a bit passionate about it)

  252. I’ve heard it said that, amongst the chupacabrai, the males do all the cooking and the females do all the belching. I hold that this is an injustice as males get just as much gas as females and forcing them to fart only hurts their social status.

  253. John, does your library include any specifics on chupacabra cuisine? I’m making broccoli soup this morning and can’t remember whether the correct seasoning is nutmeg or allspice. Perhaps a BCC reader could share a recipe.

  254. #253: Nutmeg. If it’s a cream soup, try Cook.com.
    Steamed broccoli with oyster sauce is great.

  255. #253: Nutmeg. If it’s a cream soup, try Cooks.com.
    Steamed broccoli with oyster sauce is great.

  256. Ardis and Bob,
    Generally chupacabra recipes involve goat jugulars and silly straws. I think spice is optional.

  257. #256: Boy_ does that bring back memories!

  258. Nutmeg it is, then. And chopped goat jugular helps to thicken broccoli soup. Or was that oatmeal? I am so confused.

  259. Mynd you, møøse elk chupacabra bites Kan be pretty nasti…

  260. Just so I understand exactly what the issue is:

    Since Naismith never said all feminists are dismissive of the work many women do in the home, and since she gave examples of what some feminists are saying and doing that truly are condescending toward, dismissive of and damaging to women who choose not to work outside the home, what exactly in her comment was worth being called ignorant? Surely Kristine’s response was every bit as sweeping and generalized as Naismith’s was – and I respect Kristine greatly.

    In essence, Naismith said, “Some feminists don’t value the work women do in the home.” Kristine said, “Some feminists do value that work.” Both are right – and I am certain Kristine and Naismith both would agree that both of those statements are correct. So, why the insults and vitriol toward Naismith’s comment?

    Kristine and Chris H. disagree with Naismith in general when it comes to feminism. I get that. They have major issues with other things Naismith has said. I get that. These two comments, however, are indisputably accurate, imo – and, again, I think both Kristine and Chris would agree if the comments had been written by someone else. (or, at least, the level of condescension and disdain would be different)

    To summarize:

    How feminist is it to dismiss a woman and what she says, just because you personally don’t like her comments generally – especially when the particular comments in question aren’t inflammatory or inaccurate in and of themselves and, in fact, actually give examples of how some women are being hurt and suppressed?

  261. But Ray, what do you think of the Holy Chupacabra? And what do you think Naismith and Kristine think about the HC with respect to Geoff’s chupacabrological theses?

  262. I think I’m going to have to read some Skousen to answer that question correctly.

  263. Ray, good on you for defending Naismith. In this case, I think she’s taking an outlying voice (Linda Hirschman), and a particular, local example (her university provost) and arguing as though they were representative of feminism as a whole. The broad sweep of feminism, even in the broader American culture, has been to value women’s work of all kinds, and to try to maximize choice for women. Within Mormonism, the impulse to value mothering and homemaking has been even stronger–there really aren’t that many second-wave feminists outside of Mormonism with 5 and 6 kids, ferpetessake! (Also, in fairness, her first comment, to which I responded was much less nuanced than the second–there was no qualifying “some feminists” in that initial salvo. Just sayin’)

    I was too brief in dismissing her comment because, honestly, I was in a hurry to go make pancakes for my children, not because of any feelings about her past comments with which I have disagreed.

  264. “there really aren’t that many second-wave feminists outside of Mormonism with 5 and 6 kids, ferpetessake!”

    Yeah, there is that.

  265. “(but maybe a little because you are a bit passionate about it)”

    maybe a little ;)

  266. Fwiw, Kristine, I read “so often” as “more often than should be ideally” – so I saw a qualifier in that first comment.

    Yeah, passion tends to polarize – but it is better than a lack of passion. Opposition in all things, I guess.

  267. “How feminist is it to dismiss a woman and what she says, just because you personally don’t like her comments generally – especially when the particular comments in question aren’t inflammatory or inaccurate in and of themselves and, in fact, actually give examples of how some women are being hurt and suppressed?”

    Likely as feminist as the hand gesture I just made. To be honest, Naismith’s comment was quite passive aggressive, about as passive aggressive as your comment was self righteous. I am neither passive or righteous in any way.

    I apologize for interupting the chupacabra discussion. I am just not spiritually ready for such things.

  268. I know I’m late to the party… but Micah and Kristine, if either of you check back here at any point, I’d just like to give you props. I like the way you two think, as well as the way you express yourselves. Thanks for all your thought-provoking comments.

  269. #267 – Never-freaking-mind.

    Thanks, again, Kristine. (Is that passive-aggressive enough, Chris? I can try harder if it isn’t.)

  270. “I will accuse you of being ignorant of decades of literature and theory.”

    So do you expect me to burst into tears now, or what?

    “I will accuse you of also making dumb accusations rooted in one book and one individual.”

    My accusation is *not* based on one book. That was the one that was the best seller in the last few years, so I thought it would be an easy referent for folks. And the one I remembered when eating lunch and typing on my phone.

    But lots of books in the past half-decade have made similar observations, including of course Bennetts’ The Feminine Mistake, Crittenden’s The Price of Motherhood (which says several times that the person earning money gets greater say/power in the marriage), Stone’s Opting Out (which points to the diverse ways that so many employers are like my university, not accommodating women’s desires to have time for caregiving and home management).

    I am also basing that on years of having professors and employers who ridiculed my desire to have enough time at home with my family, which I find has only gotten worse in recent years. I had one supervisor who reneged on our agreement for me to work part time, claiming to make her decision “…for my own good.” She felt that with my youngest entering high school it was time for me to work fulltime like a grownup (as if I was incapable of figuring that out for myself!).

    “tell me you are not in the social sciences.”

    I certainly am. Maybe you will attend the workshop that I have been invited to teach next year. Just because you disagree with me on this does not mean that I am a bad scientist.

    BTW, one of the articles that came across my desk last year was, “Is the Gap More Than Gender? A Longitudinal Analysis of Gender, Gender Role Orientation, and Earnings” by Judge and Livingston, Journal of Applied Psychology, 2008, Vol. 93, No. 5, 994 –1012. It was an interesting article because they tried to explain how “traditional men (vs. egalitarian men) would enjoy wage premiums through the premise of self-fulfilling prophecies and social role theory.” Well, fine as far as it goes……..but despite the particular theory being tested, in the discussion section one typically wants to bring up alternative explanations for the results, to rule out other possibilities. But nowhere do they mention that the higher earnings of traditional men may come from having a wife at home supporting them in ways that are at a minimum enabling (fewer days off for sick kids) and often instrumental (entertaining clients, editing books, cross-training to help out with the business in times of high demand). An example of the work of women being ignored, dismissed.

    “For a taste:
    http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2010/11/care-and-obedience-moronism-and-feminist-theory/

    It was a lovely post. I was simply writing a response, and I think it would have been inappropriate of me to quote all kinds of theory in a mere response. And gender issues are not my area of research, so if you want to claim superiority, fine. That doesn’t make anything I say “dumb.” I am still entitled to an opinion: “And ain’t I a woman?”*

    Well, if you want some feminist academese, let me quote from “Philosophy in a Feminist Voice: Critiques and Reconstructions,” edited by Janet A. Kourany, who wrote, “And women must deal with that message of inferiority, and combat it, in ourselves as well as in those who…patronize and belittle us.”

    That’s all I was doing. I was uncomfortable with the way so many voices were declaring female things to be inferior. I don’t think women are inferior.

    Also,
    “In this case, I think she’s taking an outlying voice (Linda Hirschman), and a particular, local example (her university provost) and arguing as though they were representative of feminism as a whole.”

    Actually, my comments about female things being demeaned as “boring, cheap, second-class, inferior, etc.” came from upthread in this same discussion. I was not attempting to take on feminism as a whole, which I appreciate has many subgroups, some of which do value women’s contributions as wives and mothers.

    I don’t know if Hirshman and Bennetts are outliers or not. They are pretty typical of the feminists that I currently interact with. I am active in a (non-LDS) women’s group (in a non-LDS town), and we do get an umbrella of women’s groups working together on shared issues like the Take Back the Night march, the battered women’s shelter, Woman of the Year award, etc. Like Ms. Jack, the self-proclaimed feminists absolutely do not consider me one because of my pro-life stance, so we never get around to discussing whether the family stuff would disqualify me:)

    Kristine, can you recommend something mainstream from the last five years which does champion complementary feminism? Thanks.

    *For those who haven’t studied women’s history, this is a reference to the classic Sojourner Truth speech of 1851.

  271. I didn’t say you were passive-aggressive. Stick with the thing I actually accused you of. You are better at that.

    I will try to be more civil in the new year. Maybe I should make all my comments iin the primary-voice.

  272. #271 was for #269.

    Naismith, I apologize. I am sure we will have the exact same conversation again in the future. I look forward to it.

  273. I am convinced that all of these comments are really just Aaron B. making a late run for some kind of longest-thread Niblet.

  274. Steve Evans says:

    “*For those who haven’t studied women’s history,”

    Niblet for Best Attempt At Being Condescending.

  275. Aaron B. (274),

    “*For those who haven’t studied women’s history,”

    Niblet for Best Attempt At Being Condescending.

    Niblet for Best Steve Evans Impression!

  276. Steve Evans says:

    Aaron B. (275),

    Niblet for Best Steve Evans Impression!

    Niblet for Best Meta Scott B. Reference By Aaron Brown!

  277. I love you guys…and Aaron B.

  278. Aaron B. (277),

    I love you guys…and Aaron B.

    Niblet for Best Declaration of Love for Multiple Manifestations of Oneself.

  279. Mommie Dearest says:

    I really can’t go back and read over all the posts, but I did actually read most of them, and I don’t recall any comments that trashed the importance of the traditional work of women at home and with children. I’ve been a little bemused to see the latest derailment of this thread: that somehow, on a Mormon blog discussing Mormon feminism, we are in danger of not giving due recognition of the value of women’s unpaid work at home. I am sure in more radical feminist quarters there is robust debate questioning whether women are wasting their time in the home (or not). But every Mormon feminist I am acquainted with is very much in favor of highly valuing homemaking, and a lot of them are SAHMs.

    I did go back and re-read the OP, and I am kind of amazed that we ended up here. But not too surprised.

  280. “I love you guys…and Aaron B.”

    A threadjack devoted to homosexual polygamy is just what the doctor ordered!

    AB

  281. I was the one who said the comment about girls’ things being cheap, but I meant products made for girls or women are often cheaply made and shoddy. For instance, boys’ and men’s clothes are better made than women’s for the same money, plus they’re more comfortable and useful. They have pockets, for instance. Women’s clothes are designed not for comfort or utility, but more to make women feel helpless and vulnerable. They’re designed to fall off, and to show a lot of skin, and so on.

    Dry cleaning of women’s clothes costs much more for the same garment. The lie the cleaners told about the size of their machines was disproven in court. It’s actually illegal for dry cleaners to charge more for a women’s shirt than a men’s shirt, but they still do it.

    Razors sold for women are dull. Girls’ toys are more cheaply made than boys’ for the same price. Girls’ bicycles are heavier and not as fast as boys’ bikes of the same size. That’s what I meant.

    I personally find the games “house” and “dolls” boring, because I just do, not because they’re intrinsically bad or anything. “House” is very similar to “Fort”, in fact, except there are no battles involved, and battles are fun. They have things like projectiles and defenseworks, dams and crenelations (or the fancy ones do). All that stuff is very cool. “Dolls” as a game is quite similar to what we called “Army Guys”, but again lacks battles and machines of war. Trebuchets are cool. Greek fire is cool. Slingshots and rubber band guns and marshmallow guns are cool. These are my individual preferences and not represented as intrinsic qualities of the games themselves. One can be feminist as can be and still love dolls.

    I actually liked the American Girl dolls a lot when my nieces were growing up. The difference is they had exciting stories to go with them, I suppose, and cool period clothes and stuff. But when I was small I only liked the sort of dolls that did cool mechanical stuff like talk or grow hair or dance or flash lights or something. And I dissected them all to figure out how they worked. I was so disappointed when I found out that talking dolls had little record players inside. I don’t know what I was expecting… perhaps some homunculi or something. I was also let down when the hair growing doll’s hair didn’t grow indefinitely. Once I gave her the requisite punk-rock haircut, it never grew back, which sucked. All my dolls quickly got punk rock haircuts, for some reason. That was the only fun thing I could think of to do with them, maybe.

    Anyway, thanks, micah, Mommie Dearest, and Kevin Barney for the love. Kevin, good welders are true artists, plus skilled labor like that is going to be in very short supply soon. All the new nuclear plants being built are hurting for them. (And there’s no radiation in a new plant, if that worries you.) Steer him in that direction. There are 10 quintillion welds in a typical nuclear plant. Aaron B. you should have seen the length before I cut it down to the bone! I barely touched on the high points. =)

  282. But lots of books in the past half-decade have made similar observations, including of course Bennetts’ The Feminine Mistake, Crittenden’s The Price of Motherhood (which says several times that the person earning money gets greater say/power in the marriage), Stone’s Opting Out (which points to the diverse ways that so many employers are like my university, not accommodating women’s desires to have time for caregiving and home management).
    Did you actually read Crittenden’s entire book? Because yes, she said that in today’s economy women do have to choose between financial security and having/caring for children (and that dependent spouses are dependent, and thus prone to defer to their spouse in unhealthy ways). Then she goes on to show that it got this way thanks to the systematic devaluation of women’s work. Then she goes on to say that this state of affairs is a bad thing for everyone and we can & should change it through policies that emphasize the value of traditional women’s labor, and compensate women for the often overlooked work they do.

  283. re # 239, sad experiences Ms. Jack. Sorry that this happened to you.

  284. The problem is with a model of marriage that definitionally privileges one sex over the other

    Polygamy does that? In which direction (you weren’t clear)?

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