Some of my favorite parts of Mormon history are the accounts and stories of rank and file members, tales from their lives that show the impact of the gospel and the culture around them. I like to see how people interpreted (or do interpret) their religion, and how their faith plays out in their lives. It’s not a secret that much of earlier Church history lacks firsthand accounts and stories from women. [Read more...]
In Part I I highlighted the fact that Salt Lake City has more plastic surgeons per capita than any other US city. I noted that this could be an indicator that either:
- Utah/Mormon culture makes girls and women more susceptible to media messages, or
- Mormon girls and women are receiving messages about what it means to be beautiful from influences besides media, or
- A combination of media influence and Mormon religious culture compound to make a bigger impact on girls and women about how to be beautiful and desirable.
- Or, as has been noted, it could mean nothing more than SLC has lots of plastic surgeons.
First, media influences play on the natural desires of women to want to be beautiful and attract male attention. Contrary to the idea put forth that advertisers are trying to get women to want to look a certain way, marketing techniques simply take advantage of women’s own existing vanity. [Read more...]
In the past several years there has been a growing backlash against Western media portrayals of women. Media outlets, and even actresses themselves, have not been remiss in pointing out digital nips and tucks. To counteract this barrage of picture perfect female forms, there is a trendy movement to redefine what beauty looks like. These movements vary from going without makeup, to daily self-affirmations of just how beautiful you are, to athleticism as beauty, to the well-known marketing campaign by Dove. Amazon and other book dealers carry many titles on the topic like Redefining Beautiful, Beauty Redefined, and Girls and Self-Esteem. Within the Mormon community this trend also promises to help women and girls feel more beautiful as they accept their bodies. [Read more...]
Neylan McBaine is a recurring guest at By Common Consent.
By now, it’s old news that rock star Brandon Flowers of The Killers is Mormon. And perhaps you’ve heard of our other coolest Mormon performer, internationally renown DJ Kaskade. But what if I told you we could also claim a female rock star? A drummer, at that? A drummer whose band’s single reached #1 on the Alternative Rock Chart? Meet Elaine Bradley of the Neon Trees at the Mormon Women Project. [Read more...]
The last six years have been a lot of fun, and I count myself very fortunate to have been able to work on this project and to work on it with Kristine. Honestly, there were moments in the Church History Library when I thought to myself, “If I never have the opportunity to see anything else or work on another project, I will still be full.” We owe many friends and institutions much for their support. Thank you.
One year ago today, I sent out an email to a few hundred contacts, announcing that I had posted 18 lengthy interviews with interesting Mormon women on a new website, http://www.mormonwomen.com. On the first anniversary of the launch of the Mormon Women Project, Bethany’s interview represents the best of what the MWP offers: authentic, comprehensive insights into the lives of women whose life paths deviate from our stereotyped ideal (either by choice or by circumstance) but who treasure their relationships with their Savior. Bethany was confronted with her husband’s pornography addiction four years ago, and has since gone through different stages of hurt and healing which she shares openly in this interview.
A few weeks ago I finally yielded to the raves of several friends and gave Fox’s hit show Glee a try. Over the past few weeks, my husband and I have raced through all of Season 1 on Netflix. It’s everything my friends said it would be: funny, charming, musical, a bit campy. What struck me immediately was that amid the knowingness and too-smart-to-be-anything-but-cynical vibe that defines everything in our generation, this show stands out as relentlessly cheerful. I searched and scrutinized for the “we’re being so happy ironically angle,” but my search was in vain. This really was earnestly chipper. Je savais what this je ne sais quoi was: it was high-octane Mormon.
That’s right, if BYU-TV thinks they have a patent on happy-go-lucky “see the good in the world,” it’s past time for their lawyers to initiate a barrage of cease and desist letters to Fox headquarters. Yet the litany of reasons why Glee re-runs won’t be syndicated on BYU-TV anytime soon is lengthy and pointed.
Women are endowed with special traits and attributes that come trailing down through eternity from a divine mother. Young women have special God-given feelings about charity, love, and obedience. Coarseness and vulgarity are contrary to their natures. They have a modifying, softening influence on young men. Young women were not foreordained to do what priesthood holders do. Theirs is a sacred, God-given role, and the traits they received from heavenly mother are equally as important as those given to the young men.
—Vaughn J. Featherstone, October 1987
This past year I was asked to give a talk on the value of motherhood in our Mother’s Day sacrament meeting service. As I prepared the talk, I posed two questions to a number of women and mothers I know, including my wife.
What is the thing you most enjoy hearing in talks about motherhood?
What is the thing you most dread hearing in such talks?
The answer, it turns out, in virtually all cases, was identical. For both questions: [Read more...]
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.
Kris Wright is a former BCC blogger.
Every important new discovery about the past changes how we think about the present, and what we expect from the future; on the other hand every change in the conditions of the present and in the expectations for the future revises our perceptions of the past. In this complex context, history is born ostensibly as a reflection on the past: a reflection which is never isolated from the present or the future. History deals with human life as it “flows” through time. 
Recently I listened to a podcast interview here at BCC in which Scott B. interviewed Jonathan Stapley about women and Mormon healing rituals. During the discussion, Jonathan was able to share his broad knowledge of Mormon history and spoke about the history of women and healing in his trademark erudite manner. Because I was already familiar with the historical sources used in the forthcoming paper and the conclusions drawn from them, the most interesting part of the podcast for me occurred in the final eleven minutes, where the theme of the uses of history and the question of objectivity emerged. Scott asked Jonathan what his hopes were for the paper and what it meant for the modern LDS Church. [Read more...]
The BCC Zeitcast returns with a brand new season!
In this two-part episode, Scott B. and J. Stapley discuss the long-promised and oft-cited paper on Female Ritual Healing which Stapley and BCC Emeritus Kris Wright co-authored, and which will be published in the Winter 2011 Journal of Mormon History, due out this January. [Read more...]
Yesterday morning I attended the worldwide training broadcast announcing and distributing the new edition of the General Handbook of Instructions. Below are some notes and thoughts I had from the meeting. For those also in attendance, please add your own highlights in the comments. Everyone can watch an archive of the broadcast (I expect that will be a routine instruction to newly called presidencies for some time).
Continuing with the theme of how awesome I am at my callings, I thought I would share one of the more successful Sharing Time lessons I’ve done in my current calling in the Primary presidency.
The theme for Sharing Time was “Family members have important responsibilities” (last year’s program). I was to do a week on mommies’ responsibilities, a week on daddies’ responsibilities, and a week on kids’ responsibilities to the family. Sis. Okazaki gave a great talk about the Japanese word kigatsuku, which means being aware of one’s surroundings and doing good without being asked, which fits perfectly with kids’ responsibilities in the family.
This week our Relief Society lesson was combined with the Young Women in the ward. On the table stood three large, framed photographs of our three recently graduated Laurels. Next to those were three identical stacks of books, each tied with a ribbon. On the side table were many platters of sliced sweet breads ready to be served. Ladies, welcome to the awesomeness that is Relief Society. [Read more...]
There seems to be a wide-spread belief, and one that my personal experience would tend to confirm, that the Relief Society runs more smoothly than its equivalent priesthood quorums.
In the current issue of Atlantic Magazine is an article called, ‘The End of Men.’ Its premise is that men are not navigating the new realities of modern life and modern economies well. It discusses how women are becoming more and more the primary earners in households, are graduating with 60% of university degrees (both masters and bachelors degrees) and 50% of all professional degrees, with men’s percentages falling and women’s rising. It then explores the question, “What would a society in which women are on top look like?” [Read more...]
My wife and I recently agreed to write an essay on “embodiment and sexuality” in Mormonism and as I have often confessed to many of you I know very little about the Utah period of Mormonism. I suspect that, other than being a little tired of the constant fights about the status of Joseph Smith’s dual wives in Nauvoo, many others are curious about how participants in polygamy might have talked about or understood sexuality, how the Mormon family system might have resisted or intersected with trends in the broader American society. Any of you out there have any primary or secondary sources that you strongly recommend for someone interested in understanding more about sexuality in 19th-century Mormon polygamy? I think it’s fair to say that the Victorian polygamy romance novels are not at the top of my interest list, though if there was one you thought was absolutely exemplary it might be interesting.
Summer, 2003: I was a wreck. My sixth child was six months old, and I wasn’t even close to recovering from his birth and the trauma that followed: For him, lung failure and three weeks in the NICU. For me, a profound emotional and spiritual crisis. The combination of outward and inward events shook me hard. My testimony was intact, but I felt disconnected from it. Unmoored. All my usual connection points failed me: church meetings, scripture reading, even prayer. [Read more...]
As a tall woman whose garments fall about 4″ above the knee (regular, not petite size), am I obligated to wear skirts or shorts that cover the garment well, or that go all the way to the knee?
My thoughts: the church can’t be bothered to manufacture garments to fit too-tall freaks like me (update: see comments #36 and #38), I get that, totally. But, guess what, neither can any commercial clothing company. [Read more...]
Sunny Smart returns for a second guest post.
I grew up in the shadow of Phyllis Schlafly and the Eagle Forum. Phyllis was the founder of the STOP ERA movement of the ’70s and early ’80s and is largely credited for the ultimate failure of the ERA. Once the ERA had passed congress and had been sent to the states for ratification, Phyllis, the LDS church–and my mom–went into action. While we lived in California, my mom was heavily involved in STOP ERA efforts. Then, not long after moving to Utah, my mom became the Utah Director for STOP ERA. And how. [Read more...]
Or, putting some fun into our dysfunctional discourse on gender. If you haven’t already ready read Cynthia L.’s excellent post, please read it now before proceeding.
This post introduces a new feature called the BCC Puzzler. Consider the following situations and the questions which follow. If you think you know the answer to any of the questions, please write the answer on the back of a twenty dollar bill and send it in. And if you just paid your tithing yesterday and can’t find a twenty, please write your answer in the comments. [Read more...]
There is what looks to me like a terrific conference coming up at CGU April 23 and 24. Below I’ve attempted to paste in the information from the program. (One with eyes to see will note a lot of bloggers on this program!) Those of you able to should definitely check it out (notes will be appreciated). [Read more...]
I first encountered Joanna Brooks during freshman orientation week at BYU in 1989–she was sitting on a table in the checkerboard quad recruiting for the Student Review, swinging her feet and looking like a pixie with her freckles and short, dark hair. She quickly gained a reputation on campus for being articulately outspoken on various social issues, and I admired her from afar. But I didn’t get to know her until my junior year, when both of us took a certain contemporary literary criticism course from a certain feminist professor. On the first day, I spotted her a few seats down (her hair was longer then–super thick and shiny), and knew this would be a class to remember. And I was right.
I’ll spare you the details of the wild, semester-long romp through Kristeva and Cixous and Jaggar (drop me an email if you want to hear about the bra burning). Instead, let me tell you about the groundbreaking multi-state event that Joanna is spearheading this month: Our Voices, Our Visions: A Mormon Women’s Literary Tour. Better yet, let Joanna tell you about it in this mini-interview we had recently: [Read more...]
Suppose that you are faithful Latter-day Saint who lives in a part of the world where there are few members of the Church, and everyone knows each other–or knows someone who knows those you don’t. A small, close-knit network of several 3rd and 4th generation families and their children, minimally impacted by converts and migration.
Suppose further that your spouse is a very well-respected member of the Church–generally regarded as a highly spiritual person, faithful to temple covenants, magnifies callings, has friends in lofty local leadership positions, and serves in the ward otherwise in ways that demonstrate to all observers that he is an honest, loving, faithful Latter-day Saint, husband, and father. Suppose, however, that the truth is, your spouse is a monster who uses the gospel as a weapon to demean you, to malign you, and to compel you into submission in all areas of life. [Read more...]
The Old Testament is a fairly intimidating source of scripture as it was produced thousands of years ago by a culture that is greatly foreign to our own. The strangeness of the Old Testament text and cultural milieu is likely particularly potent for women who approach the text. Among the few things that we can say with confidence regarding the culture of Ancient Israel is that it was misogynistic. Therefore, Camille Fronk Olsen’s recent book Women of the Old Testament is best considered as a good introductory text to help teachers, particularly those interested in applying scripture to women’s lives, tackle this very difficult work.
The following was submitted by regular BCC commenter blt, whom the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has retained in its membership solely on the merits of his willingness to teach eleven year-olds knots. He currently (p)resides with his wife in Korea where he teaches middle school.
Dear BCC readers,
I recently came across a cache of old MormonAds (they were probably called something else back in the day) while going through some of my Mom’s old things. I thought this might be a comedy gold mine, and I offer this first image (with the original text from the back of the ad beneath) for your captioning: [Read more...]
Had I not been raised Mormon, I suspect that I would not have majored in English literature. I like nonfiction more than novels, but literary criticism offered me women’s studies and a vocabulary through which I could think critically about how my Mormon culture prescribed gender roles that I found constricting. Being able to grasp a historical perspective on the evolution of gender was liberating to me, because this understanding gave me an expanded psychological capacity to choose how I would live my life. I appreciated that I found a place that was willing to take women’s experiences as serious objects of study, thus making significant experiences that were often under-valued. [Read more...]
ELOUISE: I took beginning creative writing from Elouise Bell, who demanded quite a lot. I loved the experience, and decided I would indeed become a writer. I didn’t do particularly well in it (I think I got a B), but I loved the freedom of creating stories. I loved the give-and-take of her class–though I was frankly intimidated by her back then.
I still use some of Elouise’s exercises as I teach my own students. More than her teaching, however, I remember two specific incidents involving Elouise. [Read more...]