Out of respect for them

The Provo Daily Herald reports “Authorities break ground for new LDS temple in Payson”:

Following his remarks and the closing exercises, Oaks invited the four general authorities in attendance to shovel a scoop of dirt from the shallow trench, followed by the 26 stake presidents in the Payson Utah Temple District, then local government officials, and lastly, any 12-year-old ordained deacons.

Oaks noted that he purposefully excluded women from the ceremonial shoveling out of respect for them because of the muddy conditions in front of the podium. He didn’t want their shoes to get soiled.

No comment.


  1. Mostimportantly says:

    Can I bring this up the next time I am asked to clean bathrooms, help at a canary, etc? No dirty jobs for me please. It just wouldn’t be respectful.

  2. Mostimportantly says:

    *cannery. Although I am sure helping with canaries would also be messy.

  3. Had I been there and known so I’d have been happy to kick my shoes off and join in. It must be the shoes that are being protected because I figure if my sweet little self can respectfully give birth I can probably recover suitably from mud.

  4. observer fka eric s says:

    Its well known that GA and Stake Prez’ wives shoes cost way more than GA and Stake Prez’ shoes. So he was just being consciencious of cost to repair. [cut part. -admin]

  5. What?

  6. Ow. Have a headache from pounding it against this wall. That is all.

  7. Oh, dear.

  8. Ah, Cynthia L.! This reminds me or the line from 40 Year Old Virgin, where Carrell says, “I respect women! I respect them so much I stay the hell away from them!”

    Conversely, maybe there is a reason so many men empathize with Rodney Dangerfield, cuz we get no respect, I tell ya! No respect!

  9. It was nice of Elder Oaks to explain his reasoning — otherwise, some people would have imagined their own, perhaps more sinister, motives.

  10. laurenlou says:

    I think it’s a lot better for my sanity to pretend this is an Onion article.

  11. ji – its not so much a sinister thing, its more of a faulty type or logic that leads to sinister things. Also, exclusion as a form of respect just doesn’t make any sense!

  12. buraianto says:

    Huh. In the picture I see a green carpet laid out to keep shoes clean. If only someone had pointed out the existence of the carpet.

  13. Sigh.

  14. I’m reading “out of” here the way I read it in “out of gas” or “out of excuses.”

  15. I nominate Brad’s #14 for BCotW.

  16. Oh, wait. He’s not eligible. Too bad.

  17. Has he posted lately? I’m not sure he’s a perma.

  18. oh laurenlou…YES thank you. much much better. Perhaps it can continue with a discussion of how women shouldn’t touch any dirt or mess of any kind (diapers and toilets included). I could be safe with my precious books and feel quite respected. Some good shoe adds would be helpful as well.

  19. Christopher says:

    /banging head against the wall repeatedly for the rest of the afternoon/

  20. On the one hand, deference to leadership and, particularly, singling out ordained deacons explicitly invokes a connection between the act of breaking ground and priesthood administration. On the other, he downplayed women’s non participation by basically claiming it was a consequence of his not having a coat handy to drape over the mud for them to stand on. The problem is that it at least implicitly aligns whatever virtue is believed to be associated with differential access to participation, voice, and authority with the virtue of chivalry. It smacks of the kind of protect-them-from-the-dirty-realities-of-the-political-and–business-world arguments of anti-suffragists.

  21. In 1855, my great-great-great-grandmother, Evaline Brown, gave birth to twins at Chimney Rock in the middle of her journey across the plains. She endured such extremity in order to reach Utah, where, among other things, she could receive her endowment at the Endowment House (which she did in 1856). I wonder how she would feel to hear that the daughters of her legacy were barred from participating in a ceremony related to the temple on account of not wanting their shoes to possibly get dirty.

  22. touchstone says:

    This plus “The Lord is counting on us and our sons—and He is profoundly grateful for our daughters—who worthily serve as missionaries in this great time of the gathering of Israel” from Elder Nelson this last conference, is making me think that “women are incredible”-ly appreciated, but are unneeded in the real work of the kingdom.

  23. Appreciated, but unneeded in the real work of the kingdom.

    Except birthing/nurturing future priesthood holders, of course.

  24. Even if he had extended the invitation to all, there was nothing forcing anyone to participate. Anyone extremely concerned about his or her shoes could have just not come forward. Why not let women choose? They will vote with their feet [so to speak] and we’ll see if they want to risk getting muddy or not.

  25. I’ve mentioned before that when they broke ground for the Church History Library, I sneaked in to turn my own shovelful after the bigwigs had gone and left their shovels in the sand. Ridiculous, I know, but I wanted to take part in the groundbreaking and feel like I had a stake in this place that I expected to be such a large part of my life.

    That really can be the only possible significance in participating in a groundbreaking. It’s purely sentimental, absolutely without significance except to gratify emotion. It doesn’t even have any practical value, because the dirt is always either trucked in for the occasion or at the very least already turned and broken up so that it will be easy for the man who puts the shovel in and turns the first spadeful while the cameras roll. Most of that emotion is anticipating the feeling of a personal attachment to a place, a looking forward to remembering that you were there at the start of a significant thing. “This is my temple. I was there at the beginning, and I’m still here, and I always will.” Those 12-year-old boys who were invited to participate didn’t bring any priesthood authority to bear — inviting them to participate could have had no purpose other than creating that emotional bond to the place and helping them feel important.

    It would have meant just as much to any 12-year-old girl invited to participate. Or any 52-year-old woman. Anybody who cared more about muddy shoes than the symbolic participation — or who thought that someone would so care ….

    Words fail me.

  26. h/t EmJen– In the set of 25 photos of the event posted at Deseret News, there is one (#14/25) of a group of young women shoveling. The caption says that after the event was over, they went over and, it sounds like, basically helped themselves. ROCK ON to those young women.

    Also, Elder Oaks looks super adorable in a hat (#2/25). All old men should wear hats.

  27. BTW, it’s also clear from the many photos that nobody’s shoes are really getting muddy. Not that that should even matter.

  28. Anon for this says:

    It’s unfortunate his gesture is getting framed this way. My parents had lunch with E. Oaks recently, and commented particularly on his sensitivity and thoughtfulness; I have little doubt he opens doors for women as well, and was simply trying to be thoughtful.

  29. I think it’s a cultural thing. We have elderly men who, I honestly believe, don’t understand that their “protection” is interpreted as condescension by the younger generations.

  30. I think this is no big deal.

  31. I can believe he was trying to be thoughtful but when thoughtful equals protect people from succeeding, helping, doing the good they want to do, protecting them from the option of choosing and thinking for themselves….it doesn’t feel very thoughtful. When it’s passed off as thoughtful other people try to be equally as thoughtful and the idiots feel validated in protecting -their- women right out of any choices at all.

  32. I suppose, “We don’t want you to muddy your pretty little shoes,” is better than, “women don’t know how to hold a shovel,” and far better than, “women don’t have the authority to use a shovel.”

    I’m just hoping his joking tone was lost in print.

  33. @Anon: why not just announce that they can come up if they want to and let them decide? Why actively exclude them? I have no doubt that he was “trying” to be thoughtful, in the same way that somebody who tells a parent whose child just died, “Don’t feel bad, you can just have another one!” is “trying” to be thoughtful.

    Oaks hasn’t done the latter (as far as I know), I’m just saying that sometimes it is possible to being trying to be thoughtful, yet spectacularly fail in that effort.

  34. Anon for this says:

    I’m saying there appears to be a lot of mind-reading, assuming that this is deliberate sexism under the mere guise of sensitivity, but really *we* know it’s priesthood exclusion. There’s plenty of gender-based priesthood exclusion; I just don’t think it’s fair to excoriate or make E. Oaks in particular the poster-boy for it in this case.

  35. Steve Evans says:

    I agree that this isn’t deliberate sexism by Oaks — I am sure that it would horrify him to think that his gesture, which he likely intended as chivalry, is being interpreted as sexist exclusion. And yet, it’s clearly a form of exclusion based on sex, so there we are.

  36. Anon, I don’t think anyone is arguing that it’s priesthood exclusion. The problem is that even taking Elder Oaks at his word (and I see no reason not to), it’s an unbelievably demeaning exclusion. It’s WORSE than if there were some notion that priesthood authority was involved.

  37. No comment.

    I actually wish you had provided a bit more commentary. I can’t and won’t apologize for any sexism–intentional or unintentional–but this doesn’t really seem like more than an easy jab at an apostle.

  38. Chivalry=sexism

  39. Scott, if she had made the appropriate commentary, then you’d be accusing her of worse than an “easy jab.”

  40. Steve Evans says:

    Kristine, just so: chivalry is inherently sexist. But I don’t think we ought to categorically get angry when a man opens a door for a woman, either. This one is particularly, er, not great because it basically boils down to excluding women from participating in an historic groundbreaking ceremony under the guise of chivalry (however jokingly offered).

  41. Kristine,

    Scott, if she had made the appropriate commentary, then you’d be accusing her of worse than an “easy jab.”

    Do you say that because a) you think Cynthia is incapable of writing/articulating thoughts about a difficult subject in a way that treats all affected parties fairly and with empathy despite disagreement, or b) because you think I’m incapable of seeing any commentary on this subject as anything but an “easy jab”?

    Whichever you pick, I’ll disagree with you in advance.

  42. Yeah, I realize that it’s sexist to hold a door for a woman, or to step aside and let her go ahead of me, but I don’t give a damn. I’m an old man (and I have the hat to prove it) and I’m not going to change.

  43. Interesting. I think there were plenty of women shoveling at the Philadelphia groundbreaking…

  44. Cynthia L. says:

    Scott, I thought it was self-evident that this was an example of unfortunately misguided chivalry, which had a very sad outcome for the young women involved. You seem to agree. Whence the accusation of “easy jab”? That’s strong language.

  45. Kristine does not need my help, but this does not seem to be chivalry. It may not have been intentionally sexist…but it was sexist as hell. This is 2011.

    It is an easy jab because it deserves to be hit down.

    BCC permas: Please do not get into an nasty fight between permas. That is what T&S is for.

  46. Steve, right–I have been known to not bite a man’s head off because he opens a door for me. But the fact that it’s possible to either think it’s no big deal to exclude the women, and a little joke will be sufficient by way of apology OR to think that women really are so materialistic and shallow that they’d be uninterested in participating in an important ceremonial occasion for the sake of their precious shoes suggests that, under the guise of chivalry, Mormon men have put women so far up on a pedestal that they’ve forgotten women are actual people. And thinking of women as either shallow or superfluous has not been chivalrous in any century.

  47. Stephanie says:

    Double sigh.

  48. Mark,

    Ironically, holding the door for a woman, or stepping aside, is an act of deference and respect to that woman. Not allowing women to participate in a historic ground breaking over an issue of muddy shoes is not respectful or deferential. If I rush ahead of my wife to open the door for her, I’m not sending her a message that she is incapable of opening the door. I am sending a message that I consider her a queen, and only the servant should open the door. She’s perfectly free to say, “Dan, you don’t have to open the door for me” and I will stop, because that would be her choice. I agree with others who have stated that it would have been better for Elder Oaks to have given women a choice to participate or not, irrespective of how muddy they might get their shoes. Because that’s how you send a message of respect and deference to the women in the gathering. Who is he to say women cannot participate because they might get their shoes dirty?

  49. Steve Evans says:

    Kristine, word up.

    Chris H., it always hurts the kids when mommy and daddy fight. But just like I tell my kids: it’s your fault we’re fighting.

  50. Stephanie says:

    It sounds to me like men (priesthood holders) were intentionally included, and when it was realized that women were unintentionally excluded (common), a little joke was pointedly made so they wouldn’t feel bad. Double sigh again. I think I will go crawl back into my kitchen now.

  51. Stephanie says:

    In my 5 inch spike heels.

  52. Moriah Jovan says:

    Dude, it’s easy. Just put your coat down for her stand on. Chivalry 101.

  53. The comment almost seems like an ad hoc one. As though he realized that no women had been invited up and felt that he had to say something.

  54. “But just like I tell my kids: it’s your fault we’re fighting.”

    I know! Stop! Stop! I am now going to cry in my room.

  55. Is it really fair to infer things about “Mormon men” from one incident that isn’t even the norm in these occasions? The only man at fault here appears to be Elder Oaks.

  56. I am imagining standing there with my soon-to-be-12-year-old daughter. What would I say to her?

  57. Perhaps not, JRL. But in a way, I think this is really not about Elder Oaks making a well-intentioned but clumsy off-hand remark. That remark should be literally unthinkable in 2011, and the fact that it isn’t says important things about Mormon culture, which does implicate Mormon men who do the talking about how pure and delicate and naturally into baby-poop women are.

    But I’m willing to grant you a waiver, JRL ;)

  58. Steve Evans says:

    #53 — exactly. It was pretty clearly off-the-cuff, which is one reason why I think we should cut Elder Oaks some slack. the other reason is that he’s an apostle of Jesus Christ and probably due no small amount of deference.

    That’s not to say the statement and the consequences aren’t ugh-worthy; they are. But…

  59. Stephanie says:

    “Aren’t you glad you don’t have to get your shoes dirty on that green carpet, dear?”

  60. Cynthia,

    I thought it was self-evident that this was an example of unfortunately misguided chivalry, which had a very sad outcome for the young women involved. You seem to agree. Whence the accusation of “easy jab”?

    I do agree with you–it’s kind of an obvious thing. Since it’s so obvious, I’m kind of at a loss as to what your purpose in posting it was, since all you said was “No comment.” It seems unlikely to me that your goal was to publicly shame Elder Oaks, since that’s not your shtick, but since you (again) didn’t provide any commentary, I’m left to wonder what exactly it is you were hoping to discuss.

  61. Steve,

    How can an Apostle today learn that that kind of comment is not acceptable today? I doubt he reads this blog to see what people think of the remark. Do you think his wife said something to him? Is there anyone who doesn’t feel the need to “defer” to him due to his apostolic position that he could convey that such a remark distracts from the event and is not helpful today?

  62. Steve Evans says:

    Dan, Elder Oaks reads BCC every day.

  63. Steve, you’re right, of course. It would be awful for most of us if people were hanging on our every word–as I said, I think the outrage is only just barely about Elder Oaks personally.

  64. well then, we’re in the clear. :)

  65. I thought “Aaron Brown” was really Elder Oaks.

  66. “In my 5 inch spike heels.”

    See, that’s the real tragedy here: No photos of hot women in heels with shovels! What a missed opportunity!

  67. barefootbhakti says:

    The exclusion in itself – no big deal. The fact that Oaks seems oblivious to the inequality of women in the church – because had he been aware and cared – he surely would have offered a shovel to the YW around him? Big deal.

    When one small exclusion of women happens within an organization that is actively striving to be egalitarian, it’s natural to let a small event like this slide. When this type of thing happens over and over and over – when this kind of exclusion of women happens at the very heart and make-up of the organization, those who care about equality are less likely to ignore it. This type of behavior is not acceptable any longer. We need to ask our leaders to hold to a higher standard.

  68. This after I spend the morning trying to playfully defend my liberal mormonism from the ignorant and the dismissive on Slate. Want to yell in my Gob Bluth voice “Come on!!”.

  69. Some of you are making a muddy mountain out of a muddy molehile!

  70. Jeez. Keeping the women-folk from the mud, while you are stepping in the sh*!%. Me thinks this one could be a parable.

  71. I agree with Chris H. on this looking ad hoc. Also:

    How can an Apostle today learn that that kind of comment is not acceptable today? I doubt he reads this blog to see what people think of the remark. Do you think his wife said something to him? Is there anyone who doesn’t feel the need to “defer” to him due to his apostolic position that he could convey that such a remark distracts from the event and is not helpful today?

    I wonder about this, too. I had an acquaintance in a single’s ward who wrote a letter to a particular apostle who made a sexist remark at a fireside. She actually was invited to meet with him in SLC where he apologized to her. I wonder if a letter would help at all, even though we are counseled against such a thing. Wasn’t there some fellow on the blogs saying how it is easy to give feedback to church leaders? Where is he?

  72. Blair, I think that’s a good idea, but the problem is that it isn’t about making a few women feel better about a single insensitive comment. Like most affronts to women in the church, by itself it’s not worth making a fuss over. But our dignity dies by a thousand stupid cuts, any one of which we could be justifiably cajoled out of getting upset over. I’d love to sit down with Elder Oaks and diplomatically explain what was wrong with this particular comment, but it’s hard to see what impact that would have on the larger problem.

    I’m not actually expecting you to respond–that isn’t a particular criticism of your comment. I’m just being sad out loud.

  73. I don’t imagine a meeting like that will be able to make a seachange in the Church, but I do think a combination of many little steps might help. And for Elder Oaks’s sake, too, maybe, although that sounds condescending.

  74. @Scott #60: “I’m left to wonder what exactly it is you were hoping to discuss.”

    Sorry, I’ve been attending to kids freshly out of school for the last couple hours.

    I didn’t really have anything I wanted to “discuss,” which is why I didn’t say much, although, admittedly, a few thoughts occurred to me later that you can see above in the comments. My purpose was simply to document. When Mormon women talk about feeling devalued at church, often people say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I can’t think of anything that devalues women.” As Kristine put so well, “our dignity dies by a thousand stupid cuts, any one of which we could be justifiably cajoled out of getting upset over.” That thousand-cut quality of the wrong makes it hard to explain what it is that makes us upset, which in turn makes it easy to dismiss as women just being irrationally upset over nothing.

    I think that just documenting all the thousand cuts publicly, inserting them into the collective consciousness, even without pages of accompanying analysis and deconstruction that you seem to feel are required in any public statement, serves important purposes in (1) validating and healing women by saying “you’re not crazy! it’s not ‘just you’! these things really happen,” and (2) building a case and motivation for change by documenting the existing problem. If there is no problem, there is nothing to fix. I don’t think we’re at a point yet where any kind of problem exists in the minds of many people.

  75. Cynthia,

    I think that just documenting all the thousand cuts publicly, inserting them into the collective consciousness…serves important purposes

    I agree that bringing these things into the collective consciousness is important. I hope that isn’t lost in our apparent disagreement here: I agree with you! Where I jump off the boat is with this:

    even without pages of accompanying analysis and deconstruction that you seem to feel are required

    Come now–there HAS to be some middle ground between the extreme example you put in my mouth for me, and what the OP offers (zilch). Like, maybe…1-2 sentences? From my perspective, posts like this–where no thought or explanation of motive or purpose are provided–can just as easily undercut the “important purposes” that you’re trying to forward.

  76. Scott B. – if she.really needed to provide analysis to spur commentary, I don’t think this thread would have reached 70 comments! Also, being somewhat familiar with Cynthia L’s writing, I don’t think she really needs to spell out how she feels or what she’s thinking in this case.

  77. > Like, maybe…1-2 sentences?

    Meh. Again, IMHO the basic outline of what happened here and how it fits into the bigger picture of Mormon life is self-evident. It either deserves a few pages really analyzing it and connecting it to all kinds of theory and related events, or nothing. I’m not sure what 1-2 sentences adds. Maybe you could convince me otherwise by providing an example. In any case, I consider it an honor to have a friend true enough to say hard things to me, in this instance and in many past. I continue to value that from you, even if I disagree in this case.

  78. Kristine, I’m happy to know that had I been there in my purple pumps (which you’ve yet to see), I wouldn’t have had to get them dirty.

  79. snort!

  80. The more I read it, the more I think he was taking a jab at what the reporter asked. This especially seems the case when, apparently, women have shoveled in these dedications before. I don’t think that take on it is any more probable than the nefarious reasons put forth here. Any one want to contact him and ask if he was serious?

  81. . . . or at least a jab at questions he expected to get. Women were not excluded:

    “Janette C. Hales Beckham, former Young Women general president and a native of Spanish Fork, spoke at the groundbreaking. Beckham thanked many of the people in her life that helped her to achieve temple worthiness and ordinances.”

  82. touchstone says:


    From a facebook account of someone who attended, this was not in response to a reporter, but an offhand remark said while he was conducting. I wasn’t there, but this is how she remembered it: “Ladies, we would have invited you up but we didn’t want you to get your shoes muddy.”

  83. Jettboy, how would contacting him to know if he was “serious” (what does that even mean?) change the fact that as many as a few hundred 12-13 year old girls did not get to shovel in the ceremony? That fact makes me very, very sad for them.

  84. Instead of “no comment”, Cynthia should have just said “Oops.” All the analysis you need.

  85. Why invite deacons (Aaronic Priesthood holders) to participate at all? Because, per Oaks, “A temple concerns the ordinances of the Aaronic as well as the Melchizedek Priesthood.”

    What do you tell your 12-year-old daughter? “After the boys have gone, you and your mom can have a turn, too. No, God hasn’t forgotten you. Even though you don’t hold the priesthood you’re still important. After all, men can’t participate in the most significant temple ordinance of marriage unless there’s a woman there. They can’t be exalted without you, dear, and they can’t have children sealed to them unless you’re intimately involved in the process.”

  86. She also could have said: “huh.” or “seriously?” or “Thanks?” Maybe you should hire a consultant next time, Cynthia.

  87. @85: Suffice it to say that I don’t think that saying that to a Beehive who was excluded last week will be effective.

  88. LRC–I can’t tell if you’re attempting satire or making a serious suggestion. The fact that I can’t tell is alarming, but not quite as alarming as your comment if you’re actually serious.

  89. @ 25 Ardis said, “the dirt is always either trucked in for the occasion or at the very least already turned and broken up so that it will be easy for the man who puts the shovel in and turns the first spadeful while the cameras roll.”

    Several years ago I participated as part of a camera crew at the ground breaking for a Mormon Battalion Monument at Utah’s “This is the Place Heritage Park.” Elder Ballard was the presiding officer and keynote speaker. When the time came for the shoveling, Elder Ballard and the dignitaries picked up the gold shovels and went to the designated patch of dirt. Elder Ballard went first. He exerted some considerable effort and couldn’t do much more than scrape a little dirt off the top. Then he said, “You know, usually they pre-dig this for us!”

  90. Susan W H says:

    Sorry, but in my opinion Oaks comments were inappropriate.

  91. Meh. Again, IMHO the basic outline of what happened here and how it fits into the bigger picture of Mormon life is self-evident. It either deserves a few pages really analyzing it and connecting it to all kinds of theory and related events, or nothing. I’m not sure what 1-2 sentences adds. Maybe you could convince me otherwise by providing an example.

    It would take minimal effort for me to fetch you 3 different types of people: one who reads Oaks’ comments as intentionally sexist (maybe, say, Wally Hulker), one reads them as unintentionally sexist but still harmful (Sister Meh 2.33), and one who reads them as nothing short of perfectly appropriate (“Rocketgirl” or maybe “skittles&mints”).** All three of these people would certainly agree with your statement that “the basic outline of what happened here and how it fits into the bigger picture of Mormon life is self-evident,” yet they would have wildly divergent views as to what Elder Oaks actually meant, as well as the conclusions to be drawn from that meaning.

    These three people would also agree on one other thing: Based on the OP, they don’t know if you agree with them or not.

    While some people are willing to dive into comments, many don’t. In this case, though, even if we do–it only takes a quick scan of the comments to see that there are, again, really divergent views of what happened and how this fits into the “bigger picture of Mormon life.” Indeed, as seen in your #44 (“I thought it was self-evident that this was an example of unfortunately misguided chivalry, which had a very sad outcome for the young women involved.”) when compared to Kristine’s #57, (“I think this is really not about Elder Oaks making a well-intentioned but clumsy off-hand remark.”), even after digging into the comments, it becomes apparent that, “No comment” is quite insufficient to “document” what it is we’re dealing with here.

    In any case, I consider it an honor to have a friend true enough to say hard things to me, in this instance and in many past. I continue to value that from you, even if I disagree in this case.

    Same to you, Cynthia.

    **With a few more seconds, of course, I could fetch you 5-6 people to fit into the various interpretational gaps between those 3 positions, but we’ll leave it there for the sake of simplicity.

  92. One woman I know pointed out on FMH on FB, that on her mission to North Carolina, she got her shoes muddy often when tracting & riding a bike. Having served in the Georgia Atlanta region, I can see that very well myself!

    On the other hand, I’ve also accidentally made sexist sounding remarks when I intended no offense.

  93. Stephanie says:

    I read comment 85 as satire. I thought it was quite good.

  94. I am just shocked that BCC lets women participate in the rough and tumble world of blogging. Clearly they are too pure for such vulgar activities. Have you all seen Kristine’s shoes? No temple is worth dirtying such footwear.

    Now, I think Scott should appreciate that Cynthia recognizes her place. Surely a delicate flower such as she should not be directly addressing an Apostle of the Lord in a disapproving manor. “No comment” is the only proper female response.

  95. Is citing FMH…on FB no less…allowed?

  96. “I am just shocked that BCC lets women participate in the rough and tumble world of blogging.”

    Yah, but they keep our ratio of men to women in check, so no worries.

  97. I personally feel that what ever his intentions were (noble or not), Elder Oaks actions and words were wrong, exclusionary, and hurtful. Had I been there with my wife and 3 daughters (6, 12, and 15) I would have wanted them to have a chance to dig just as much as the 12 year old boys. My oldest is planning on trying out for the local High School Football team next year and has a pretty good shot of making it. She could have out shoveled any of those 12 year old boys and certainly needed the spiritual and emotional experience of the participation in the ceremony just as much as the boys did, “Priesthood” had nothing to do with it. Hurrah! to the Young Ladies who went up and dug of their own accord.

    While I tend to be on the more liberal side on most things myself, I do still believe in some aspects of “Chivalry,” or what ever you may wish to call it, and do not feel that every attempt at “Chivalry” automatically equals sexism. I always open doors for my wife and always will. I will also open doors for any woman I am with. I may be almost 40 but people older than me are still “Sir” or “Ma’am.” I tend to not use the first name of a person older than me until invited to do so. I was also taught to never extend my hand to a woman who was older than me to shake her hand until she offered hers first. You can call these things sexist if you want (or ageist or what ever) but I was taught that these kinds of actions are signs of respect. I also try to respect the feelings and beliefs of others. I have been in the company of women who asked me to not open doors for them so out of respect for their feelings I did not.

    For what it’s worth, here are the feelings of Dr. Samuel D. Proctor, as expressed in his book, “The Substance of Things Hoped For: A Memoir of African American Faith” on why he still believed in some aspects of “Chivalry”:

    One of my white students entered an elevator that I was in already, and I removed my
    hat. `Doctor Proctor,’ she said, `Why in hell did you take your hat off when I got on the
    elevator? You are living in the Victorian age.’ She laughed congenially.

    `If you will get off the elevator with me for a moment, I’ll tell you.’ At my stop, we
    both stepped off. `I’m not a Victorian,’ I said, `but some things stay in place from one
    generation to another, and certain manners stand for values that I hold dear. I believe that
    a society that ceases to respect women is on its way out. Women bear and raise our
    children, they are bound to them in early infancy; they need our support and security
    through this process. When we forget that, the keystone of family and home is lost. When
    we neglect and abuse women, the family falls apart and children are less well parented,
    and they fill up the jails and are buried in early graves. I believe that respect for women
    is the linchpin of the family and of the society. Therefore, when you entered the elevator,
    I wanted you to have automatic, immediate, unqualified assurance that if the elevator
    caught fire, I would help you out through the top first. If a strange man boarded, and
    began to slap you around and tear your clothes off he would have to kill me first. If the
    elevator broke down and stopped between floors, I would not leave you in here. If you
    fainted and slumped to the floor, I would stop everything and get you to a hospital. Now,
    it would take a lot of time to say all of that, so when I removed my hat, I meant all of the
    above.’ Tears sprang to her eyes. There are some values that abide. They have no racial
    or ethnic label.

  98. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for that, andrew h.

  99. mmiles,

    I have met many of the male permas. Not a particularly manly bunch. I am not sure if the numbers mean much.

  100. Let’s not get offended over something Elder Oaks would likely regret in retrospect. This is really a perfect opportunity to demonstrate a willingness to think the best of someone else in their weakness.

  101. Sorry, chris. It’s not about Elder Oaks or what anyone thinks of him. It’s about the 12-year-old girls who just got told they’re less important in God’s work than their brothers. Thinking happy thoughts and not taking offense won’t fix that.

  102. Cynthia L. says:

    Chris, as in regards to Oaks personally, I completely agree, in fact done and done. However, I think we should pause to reflect on what it is about our structure and culture that makes things *like* this occur with such alarming regularity. I daresay perhaps more the rule than the exception.

  103. This is generational. All it proves is that people in their seventies carry around in their head the manners they learned in the 1950s. One day my early 1980s sensibilities will be hopelessly outdated and offensive. But by then my friends and I will rule the church (or at least express our manners in the occasional spontaneous comment). From an assisted living center.

  104. #101 Kristine – Exactly. And we say to our girls that they’re less important in many, many ways. Some so subtle that we don’t even notice the message we’re sending.

    When the 12-year-old deacons are writing to a future president of the church asking them if God loves boys as much as He loves girls, we’ll know the pendulum has swung too far in that direction. Unfortunately, it still seems stuck on the other side where boys are doing and girls are in the background; where boys are participating in the feast and girls are left on their own to scrounge for themselves; where boys and men are mentioned in scriptures, hymns and pulpit stories and girls and women have to write themselves in; where women study men’s works and women’s works but men only study men’s works.

    We have a long way to go and if the attorney-apostles are still able to forget to include the girls, it’s a lot longer than I thought.

  105. I agree with andrew h, Elder Oaks’ actions were wrong, exclusionary, and hurtful. When I think of those young women who waited until afterward to go and turn some dirt, I just want to cry. And it really isn’t about Elder Oaks. What a sad, sad commentary on our culture, that something like this could occur and not be surprising.

  106. Kristine 101,
    That retort really brings a lot of history and assumptions and hinges them all on this one instance of failing to show better tact. It’s impossible that one can pretend to be a fair and loving judge while accusing him of actually just having told 12 year old girls that they are less important in God’s work. That intrepretation is all of your own making and responsibility.

    I am not telling anyone they “must” think this way…. but since we are all willing to put our own POV out there, my personal take, that I aspire to be able to apply to myself is a willingness to respond, “But even the dogs eat scraps that fall from their masters’ tables.”

    Surely, this women could very easily respond to the Savior that women, and non-Jews are worthless in the sight of the Lord when he gave a very uncharacteristic analogy comparing some of God’s children to dogs. Had she went away being upset, she might have been considered “in the right” if the scales of justice where only balanced in the course of a momentary dialogue.

    As it is, I look to that example of the tremendous outpouring of blessings that occurred that very hour based on the depth of humility showed in her response. If anyone had a right to get angry she did. And like wise, if anyone had a right to respond with wrath toward those who wrong them, the Savior did.

    And yet in both examples, I see humility that I can rarely live up to, but quite frankly perhaps see the motes in other eyes better than I can see my own beams. I’m not blind to any of that… I could sit on my hands and type nothing, but here we are…

    The response that naturally it’s always the man “telling” the woman to be humble when the women feels wronged is certainly not lost on me.

  107. Again, I just want to add, I am not suggesting I think Elder Oak’s response was the correct one. But there is a better way to respond to an incorrect response.

  108. “The response that naturally it’s always the man “telling” the woman to be humble when the women feels wronged is certainly not lost on me.”

    Right. Don’t do that. That’s also why I think it is more productive to reflect on our own actions and things that are happening around us to see if women are being treated wrongly “out of respect” in our own circles of influence–our families, our wards, etc. I hope that, with this example tucked in our collective consciousness, we’ll be that much quicker to act rather than be passive if we see stuff like this happen again.

    I find with myself, when something happens that I think is wrong, I am usually too taken aback to act quickly and decisively. I let the moment pass, and then because of that it usually ends up in just letting it go entirely because “what’s done is done”/”it’s in the past now.” Only as I have experienced this cycle repeatedly have I been able to say to myself, “Ok, I didn’t do anything this time, and the moment passed, but now, doggonit, I won’t let this happen again without speaking up!” It’s like they tell us at church :-) you have to make the decision how you will respond BEFORE the moment happens. I hope that hearing stories like this can build up that resolve in all of us.

  109. Considering I pay for my wife’s $500 boots, I am damn glad she didn’t get them muddy.

  110. E – I am surprised to read this story (I personally don’t read it as another typical instance of beneath (or on) the surface institutional sexism that rears its ugly head — well anymore than the typical beneath the surface imperfections that give necessity to an atonement), and it also nearly brings me to tears thinking about any young girls in the audience that were hurt by this. Elder Oaks certainly strikes me as a person who tries to keep their conduct above reproach. So, I would actually assume Elder Oaks would be mortified to discover their sorrow of anyone he gave reason to be offended.

    I really hope any girls that were expecting to participate, are able to understand. If anything, what worries me most is that a simple mistatement like this could become ammunition to use against listening to or discounting Elder Oaks in the future.

    It really shows how fragile our rhetorical relationships in some instances are. I’m out for the night, just wanted to put my cents in, hope I’m not scorning or at risk of being scorned.

  111. Real quick before I really go as I saw Cynthia’s 108, my hope, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Elder Oak’s hope in retrospect be someone simply SPEAKING UP! and saying, “You know President, I don’t think the girls will mind at all…” It’s hard enough to find people who talk back to their boss in a respectful and appropriate way that gets things done properly. It’s probably a lot harder with an apostle.

  112. #111: totally agree. “hope I’m not scorning or at risk of being scorned.” No, I think it’s clear that you’ve worked hard to be a thoughtful and easy to get along with commenter.

  113. “I really hope any girls that were expecting to participate, are able to understand. ”

    By the time the girls are 12, if they’ve been raised in the church, they’ve likely had plenty of opportunities to figure out how to understand. One more straw shouldn’t be a problem, should it?
    – You want to go to day camp this summer? sorry no girls in Cub Scouts. Hope you understand.
    – You want to make a Pinewood Derby car? sorry – Cub Scouts again. Hope you understand.
    – You want to go camping with your Dad and brothers? sorry – it’s a father/sons thing. Hope you understand.
    – You want to go home teaching with Daddy? sorry – it’s a priesthood thing. Hope you understand.
    – You want to sing songs about women prophets? well, they just weren’t in the scriptures much. Hope you understand.
    – You want to walk around the aisles with the Sacrament tray instead of just passing it along the pew? well, that’s a priesthood thing that only boys can do. Hope you understand.
    – You want to read scriptures that talk about all people instead of men? Well, “men” means “men and women” or “people” so you can think that in your head when somebody reads. Hope you understand.
    – You want to go on a mission? Well, you don’t HAVE to, you know. It’s really just something the boys are supposed to do. Hope you understand.
    – You want to know about your Heavenly Mother? well, we can’t talk about Her much. hope you understand.

    That’s just the way life is right now. Heavenly Father still loves you, you know. You are not forgotten, you know. What? You didn’t know that? Whatever do you say that for? How could you not know that?

  114. LRC

    For What it’s worth:
    – I have been in Wards that do Pinewood Derby for the girls too
    – I have taken my daughters on every “Fathers and Sons” outing I have been on, and so have other men I know, including some Bishops, and no one has corrected or attempted to stop me yet.
    – I have taken my daughters Home teaching with me on many occasions including during the time I was EQP
    – We talk about Heavenly Mother in our family.

    I can’t do much about the Sacrament trays. I can do my best to help my daughters be able to relate to the scriptures despite the lack of women in them. Most primary songs are pretty inane. We focus on the ones that apply equally to both sexes in our family.

  115. Wow. That is an excellent parable for the way the Church structure excludes women. You couldn’t invent something this apt if you tried.

    A few days ago, in a fit of pique, I told my husband that I hoped we didn’t have any daughters, because daughters are only good for giving birth to sons. Only men are allowed to do things that make a difference.

    I didn’t really mean it (well, sort of), but this isn’t helping me feel better about the whole thing. You can’t make a difference in the world if you’re too precious to wade into the muck. Chivalry is sexism; its kind intentions don’t excuse it. (The quote posted in 97 is, however, the best framing of sexism that I have ever seen. I was actually moved by that)

    I just have to remember that I’m a disciple of Christ, not of the Church culture. And Christ believes I can cope with a little mud on my shoes.

  116. I can’t help thinking that some Church leaders, rather than leading us to Zion, are trying to lead us back to the 1950’s.

  117. If the reporting is accurate, Elder Oaks invited specific males to shovel the dirt – I am sure that there were other males that were not invited. Did they feel excluded? No excuse was given for why the whole throng (cf 3 Nephi 11) were not invited. It wouldn’t upset me to be among the group of men excluded.

  118. “That retort really brings a lot of history and assumptions and hinges them all on this one instance of failing to show better tact.”

    chris–nope. It brings a lifetime of experience as a girl and a woman in the church, and a fair amount of study about the history of women’s experience in the church. As I’ve said repeatedly now, it isn’t about this one particular instance, which by itself can be dismissed as merely an unfortunate gaffe that we ought to be charitable about, but about what the possibility of such a slip in the year 2011 says about where Mormon culture is in terms of respecting and valuing girls and women. I’m not setting myself up as anybody’s judge, fair or loving or otherwise.

  119. Perhaps I should have said I don’t think Elder Oaks intended to send that message. But actions have semiotic value quite apart from actors’ intentions–that’s all I’m saying.

  120. T.A. Harward says:

    Once again, 12 year boys are preference above grown women by the church. Only one woman, an elected Council woman was officially invited to “turn a shovel.” And if the 12 year old girls had been invited up at the same time as the boys, it would all have been just fine. For heaven sakes! Its not a priesthood ordinance to shovel dirt!

  121. It’s pretty astonishing how some of the comments here actually enact and reproduce the very cultural dynamics of exclusion and condescending get-over-it-ness that underlie what was wrong with the whole thing to begin with.

  122. I think it was so nice of Pres. Oaks to invite the 12 yr old boys up. It’s something they’ll remember all their lives. And it was raining.

  123. “It’s something they’ll remember all their lives.”

    Only if it’s done right; or, in other words, painfully.

  124. “It’s something they’ll remember all their lives.”

    Yes, yes it is.

  125. Stephanie says:

    MJ 117, specific “males” were not called up to shovel dirt. People were called up for the leadership positions they held that represented groups of people. Except the 12 year old deacons with the Aaronic priesthood. Why were they called up?

  126. Not astonishing at all, Brad. Alas.

  127. And when the astonishing is not astonishing at all, K, something is seriously wrong.

  128. I nominate #117…for something.

  129. “It wouldn’t upset me to be among the group of men excluded.”

    That’s because you would not for a second think that, like so many, many other examples from your life in the Church, you were being excluded precisely because you are a man.

  130. Yeah… it’s a real shame God chose to exclude me from the possibility of giving birth … just because I am a man.

    You missed my point. Maybe some men did feel excluded… because they were not the right kind of man. I don’t know. I wasn’t there and haven’t spoken to all those who were.

    Maybe Elder Oaks is a sexist… or maybe if was just a joke (badly made). Can’t say but it is a bit sad to turn this into another example of the patriarchal church excluding women… as if they are lower than dirt.

  131. “I held the door because of your age, not your sex.”

    My 12-year old daughter is my home teaching companion, authorized by the Bishop. She doesn’t mind it, but she does see plenty of inequity between the boys and the girls at Church. I used to try to point out that being a boy in the Church isn’t all it seems to be – with the campouts come a lot of moving, yardwork, and even cleaning the campgrounds for Woodbadge, but that’s a hard comparison to get when you’re young. So, now I bellyache along with her for a few minutes, we complain about how the crummy boys never behave during Sunday School but then still get to build fires and throw knives around, and then we go hit a bucket of golf balls or hit some archery targets together.

    But, I agree. Elder Oaks lost some cool points on this one.

  132. Steve Evans says:

    MJ, walk away! Take it from me and just walk away while you can. Your #130 is just a big bag of FAIL.

  133. M J: I feel like Elder Oaks shouldn’t have had to be in a position where that sort of joke was even necessary to start with.

  134. M J (#130):
    All I’ll say is that I share your sadness at the fact that an occasion like this was turned into another example of a patriarchal church excluding women.

  135. MJ, that was just terrible.

  136. Did anyone steal a shovel?

  137. I feel sorry for Elder Oaks after reading alot of the comments. He’s just an older guy that is thinking of his wife and the women around him. They do care about their shoes.
    If I were there I would have walked up and shoveled anyways. People need to learn to look at the intent behind the words.

  138. I actually feel sorry for the 12 year old boys. What a pain to be invited to do something you might not want to do but how do you refuse when the invitation comes from an apostle?

    Maybe the invitation should have been general – come if you want – but the camera aren’t going to catch all of you!

  139. I agree with highlighting the issue – in a positive way. Sorry if my comments gave the impression that I think it is ok to exclude those that could be invited. I don’t. Although I recognise Elder Oaks was probbably trying to be polite he wasn’t being politically correct. And there is a need to equalise on those things that we can.

  140. if your daughters (and mine, for that matter) do not grow into strong, confident women, it will not be because of the people who pointed out the obstacles which stand in their way

    Well, it might be, if we teach them to view the world through a lens of sexist oppression and to spend their outrage on any one of the thousand little cuts. Life is full of little cuts. If all we had were little cuts, we ‘d count ourselves fortunate. It’s the fact that we’ve resigned ourselves to ignoring the big cuts that allows us to have a 100+ comment thread on dirt-shoveling and invites people to roll their eyes and shake their heads at our pettiness and feel justified in their dismissal of our legitimate concerns.

  141. Is the lens of sexist oppression a false lens? They roll their eyes no matter what.

    This thread has made me sad. I sometimes think that we should just give up.

  142. Stephanie says:

    Wow. This thread makes me sad, too.

  143. I thought it was meant as a joke (assuming the idea that he was taken seriously is due to a poor journalist) and further supports the opinion that Oaks just should not try humor–he fails almost each and every time. Stick with telling my husband to do his Home Teaching, you’re good at that.

  144. DEAR WELL-MEANING TSK-TSKers IN THIS THREAD: <—oh that's right, I'm busting out all caps.

    It would probably be best if you viewed visiting this thread as visiting a hospital ward for women injured in the cultural battles that tell women they are less-than. Going around telling the wounded and, in some cases, the dying, that "you know, your moans are just a little too depressing for me, a guest in this hospital ward, to listen to," or "that cry is just sliiiiightly off-pitch, a touch flat, could you please consider the feelings of the doctor who might be a bit pained to hear that sour note?" or "if you could just made your deathbed whispers of 'nurse! nurse!' a little more full-throated and staccato, that might be more effective," is just NOT COOL. And here's the other thing: it is still NOT COOL even in the cases where it is true. That's just the etiquette of being a visitor in a hospital ward. If you are that concerned with the doctor's poor ears, you could, you know, try to comfort the wounded so they didn’t make that sad sound anymore. If you are concerned that the patient is not, in your not-so-humble opinion, summoning the nurse in precisely the pinnacle of most effective way, you could, you know, actually help by going and fetching some nurse or other help yourself! You are most welcome to volunteer in this hospital, we are short-staffed and could use any help you can offer.


    –The lady in room 5

  145. Newly,

    Joke or no, the fact remains that women and girls were excluded. There is no excuse for that.

  146. Steve Evans says:

    Thanks Lady In Room 5. Apologies.

  147. Whether or not his stated rationalization was a joke, the act itself of excluding the girls and women is only a joke in the cruelest of universes.

  148. In reference to chris’s comments #100 and 107, and all the others that are like it…

    Why is it so hard for you to accept that Elder Oaks did something that hurt people? Yeah, he probably would regret it, assuming he was aware of it. Does that negate the hurt feelings he caused? Do you really think that we shouldn’t be hurt, shouldn’t discuss the situation and express our feelings, just because he’s a nice man and probably didn’t mean it?

    The point has been made several times that this is an issue only because of how often this kind of thing happens. No one is personally vilifying Elder Oaks here, just expressing thoughts and feelings. No one should have to apologize for feeling hurt.

    Why is it our responsibility to interpret this event in the least offensive way possible? (Who was it that was talking about reading minds earlier in the comments?) Why should we invalidate our own feelings by saying that it’s wrong of us to feel this way, that we should know better than to think he meant it? How is that our responsibility?

  149. Can I nominate the the lady in room 5 for BCotW?

    Thank you, Cynthia. It’s not just that the cries are wrong, it’s doubting there was an injury to begin with that hurts again and again. It’s being told that those off-key cries are illogical and unnecessary to begin with. The patients are made into seeming hypochondriacs who now have to spend their already exhausted energy on trying to get anyone to acknowledge, then attend to, their wounds. It is beyond disheartening.

  150. In fact, using a joke offhandedly to explain an act of painful exclusion doesn’t make it better. It actually makes it worse buy trivializing it and the very real if usually silent pain it and acts like it cause.

  151. #150 Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

  152. Did they know it was going to be muddy beforehand? Maybe Oaks was in a tight spot. I think the language he used to describe his decision was unfortunate, but maybe he was just trying to keep things comfortable for everyone. Let’s say he invited some of the women to shovel and they weren’t expecting it. Are they all in a position to easily shed their shoes and jump in and easily get cleaned up afterwards, or are there some wearing panty-hose? Are they going to feel extremely awkward if they don’t want to wreck their shoes and get all muddy at a somewhat formal occasion and don’t accept the invitation? Maybe next time they should just bring some galoshes for people in case it’s muddy.

  153. Stephanie says:

    Hoost, did you look at the pictures?

  154. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

  155. Steve Evans says:

    ED! Good to see you.

  156. #150 Yup. You’re right on.

  157. Ha! I didn’t see those pictures. Those guys are high and dry on astro-turf! Nevermind my earlier comment. This really is sad

  158. Sharee Hughes says:

    Although Elder Oaks’ little joke was inappropriate, and I hope it was not intended as a slight against women, we do need to remember that this was a single incident and that women are not always excluded from such things. I remember the cornerstone laying of the Jordan River Temple, Some friends and I attended and we were up really close. I don’t remember who was officiating, but after he had put the first bit of mortar in (and perhaps there were also a few other “officials” that had taken a turn) , he turned to me and handed me the trowel. I had not expected this. We were just there to watch. I had no expectations of actually taking part in this ceremony. But I did spread my bit of mortar on that cornerstone. There was no looking around for other priesthood holders to do it. I was there and the trowel was handed to me and the fact that I was a woman made no difference, which is he way it should be.

    And #97,I appreciated your post. Common courtesy is never out of date (although it often looks like it is) and chivalry is no more than common courtesy and respect. I never feel a man is being sexist if he holds a door open for me. However, if I happen to be ahead of a man going through a door, I will also hold it open for him. Courtesy works both ways.

  159. Just wanted to provide a different perspective rather than the “Down with Oaks/Church/Chivalry” sentiment some comments left me with. I apologize for sharing a different opinion and not bothering to back it up. (and asking “are we wrong to be hurt” is like asking if it’s wrong for me to have a different take on it. The answer is no, I just wanted to express that not everyone is hurt by the same statement.)

  160. NewlyHousewife (since it sounds like you’re referring to my comment)–I wasn’t referring to yours. I appreciate the way you’ve offered your opinion without saying that, because you weren’t offended, no one else should be.

  161. Sharee – “chivalry is no more than common courtesy and respect.”

    I agree 100%. You were far more succinct than I was. And you are right, courtesy should work both ways. Many a time I have been walking into the chapel or some building with baby carrier in one hand and a toddler or diaper bag in the other and a lady has opened the door for me. We could use a lot more courtesy in our society in general.

  162. I think the sad commentary on our culture (wait your culture this isn’t my culture) is all the griping. You are pathetic not his actions/words. You took offense where none was intended.
    Women have shoveled dirt in previous Temples’ ground breaking, as well as sealing mortar in the cornerstone at a dedication. Grow up and stop being five. There was no guise. So some women didn’t get to throw some dirt, are you gonna cry about it? Obviously.
    What does child birth have to do with shoveling? Does it make you above men who can’t?

    Over and over again people talk about it not being a priesthood ordinance? Then why are you freaking out like the checked for line authority before giving a 12 year a shovel? You gonna ask that womankind be added behind any mention of makind in the Bible too? Better yet, demand that Congress change the spelling of Woman to Womyn, number will be inferred in context as to make no reffrence to Man/Men when talking about Womyn.
    How does chivlary = sexism? Are you kidding? Sorry some men are being kind. They honestly don’t think you are incapable, but go ahead be a botch and assume you are better somehow (thus not equal you hypocrite).
    If you are so insensetive do you really think you can handle shoveling dirt? Look at yourself.

    I read all these examples people imagine in their heads about being exlcuded in other things and all I can think is GET SOME THERAPY!!!!! You have a serious complex and you need help. Bad. Tragic. I’m glad you weren’t given a shovel you probably would have dug your own grave and claimed some right to have your burial site not over looked for a Temple. You are teaching horrible things to your children in your imagination, I shudder to think what you teach them in real life.

    They didn’t exclude women and girls they just weren’t invited due to a circmstance that seems pretty logical. None were prevented who tried and did participate. I don’t see anyone being called into the Bishop’s office for apostacy.

    Grow up.

  163. Newly, there is totally, totally nothing wrong with “providing a different perspective” or “sharing a different opinion.” But sometimes, in the way it is worded, it can sound like, “it was just a joke, nobody should be upset” rather than, “I personally was not hurt by this, though I can see how those Beehives who were really looking forward to participating could have felt sad.” I don’t think the former is ok in a situation like this. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with the latter. I don’t imply that yours was the former, but it looks like maybe some people took it that way.

  164. Thank you for your comment, Chanel. I like how you showed us by example what not “griping” looks like.

  165. Out of respect for the ladies in this thread, I will not call a spade a spade.

  166. #162 for WCoW–and probably the year, and maybe ever.

  167. Adam G., bringing the respek for the ladiez.

  168. Amen to mmiles.

  169. Can I get a third?

  170. Witness!

  171. Amen, Amen and Amen.

  172. This WCoW at least has the virtue of revealing the cliquish and judgmental nature of bloggernacling. Social control, woot!

  173. Adam you’re just jealous you didn’t get nominated.

  174. LRC in 113, that was beautiful and gave voice to what I’ve been feeling and unable to articulate. Thank you.

    97 (the Victorian doctor anecdote) – would he not do those same things for a man? Isn’t the commandment to love one another? Why does it have to be because she’s a woman?

  175. Miri,

    I apologize. Mistook the comment as an attack on mine. Thank you for clarifying.

  176. observer fka eric s says:

    (159) – Newly – What would possibly make you think that anyone on this thread would want to attack a comment of yours?

  177. O, hai, Steve Evans, hey, was this cross-posted at FMH?

  178. I know I am late to this discussion, but it seems to me that the remark was made by a man in his 70’s who has spent nearly all his adult life in one ivory tower or another. And he would be horrified to learn that his remarks hurt or offended anybody. He may be out of touch, but he tries very hard to be a good, kind man. He was likely completely unaware how condescending his remarks were.

    It is therefore fortnate that, as Steve Evans says, he reads BCC daily. This inadvertent mistake won’t happen again–at least not from him. It is also likely to be a topic of conversation at the next meeting of the 12–right after his report on testifying to Congress.

  179. Comment #2 is my nomination for best comment of the week. Canaries are, indeed, very messy.

  180. Is the lens of sexist oppression a false lens?

    I don’t know. Is the proctologist’s view of the world a false view? Do you feel strong and confident when your eyes are trained to look at the obstacles instead of the way forward? Identifying obstacles is necessary, but the important thing is to get where you want to go–whether you should go around the obstacle, crawl over the obstacle, or move the obstacle out of your way depends on the circumstance. But you could sit around and describe the obstacle all day and not get anywhere. Going nowhere doesn’t make you strong and confident, even if you do know exactly what is standing in your way.

    They roll their eyes no matter what.

    I invite people to roll their eyes at the eye-roll-worthy. I think this was the intent of the OP, but the thread has gone out of control.

  181. If the church had its own canaries, who do you think would be in charge of them?

  182. You know what, I am the first to look for inconsistency or differences between men and women in the church. I do not see this as one of them. This was a ceremony where those attending were in Sunday best. That means many women had on high heels, or nicer shoes. Although Elder Oakes’ logic may not resonate with everyone, i am sure that his heart was in the right place, and truly was out or respect for the women there who were not dressed for muddy conditions. I prefer to keep my battles regarding gender in the church to issues that have no logic.

  183. Connie, I’m sure his heart was in the right place. However, a couple things:

    (1) Why not just announce that they can come up if they want to and let them decide? Why actively exclude them? I have no doubt that he was “trying” to be thoughtful, in the same way that somebody who tells a parent whose child just died, “Don’t feel bad, you can just have another one!” is “trying” to be thoughtful. Oaks hasn’t done the latter (as far as I know), I’m just saying that sometimes it is possible to being trying to be thoughtful, yet spectacularly fail in that effort. [quoting my earlier comment]

    (2) Take a look at the photos of the event. There was no danger of mud whatsoever. They were all standing safely on a very clean layer of astroturf. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700186360/Ground-broken-on-Payson-LDS-Temple.html (click “view all 25 photos”)

  184. it's a series of tubes says:

    Why is it our responsibility to interpret this event in the least offensive way possible?

    What Christ said in Matthew 6:12 and 14-15 seem to intimate something along those lines… see also D&C 64:10, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13, Mark 11:25, Matthew 18:35, D&C 98:40, etc. Or at least, even if we interpret it highly offensively, we have a clear responsibility as to what our response must be…

    Miri, as a father of three daughters I feel sensitive to the issues at play here, and I agree there is no reason women should have been excluded, and that the quoted remarks were (hopefull unintentionally) hurtful. That being said, it seems that many of the comments in this thread have been, shall we say, less than charitable.

  185. No one was commanded to participate. Some were invited, some were not. All were in sunday best, wearing clothes equally susceptible to soiling in the almost negligible amount of mud beneath the green astroturf. He could have warned of mud, and told people to participate at their own risk. He did not. He used the mud as a rationalization for something he was well aware he was doing: excluding the women and girls present from participating in something that he considered meaningful enough that he invited deacons to have the special experience.

  186. Maybe pregnancy has made me more cynical of women, but I agree….. what does bearing children have to do with an invitation to carry a shovel for a purely sentimental value? Is it a qualifier?
    More importantly will responding to threads put a shovel in your hands at the ground breaking? If you are here to rant on and thus feel better about yourself, rant on my friend, and by all means let yourself feel better.

    I don’t know who said it in the thread, but yes, the ground is usually pre-dug. Then after the ceremony they excavate the whole thing anyway with a giant bulldozer, so shoveling dirt is purely for show. I understand that participating for many is an experience in and off itself, but they did not prevent anyone from participating. If you were present and didn’t, it was your own assumptions that prevented you from doing so. (i.e. not playing video games at all, ever, because of warnings of being entrenched in them) I don’t even know where to begin addressing those who weren’t there getting in a huff, so I will avoid it altogether. Point being to all, this event should not be a reason to fight a war.

    i would hope those who are hurt by the comments they infer as sexist, exclusionary, or otherwise stereotyping, can realize that they concluded without actual reason, meaning intent, specific to this situation, and if not at least move forward with meaningful life pursuits. As a woman and a ‘feminist’ (i will not use Mormon feminist, b/c I don’t want to be included with that nuisance) i think there is more overreacting going on than when Pastor Jeffress called Mormonism a cult. I feel no maltreatment from this specific occassion, from E. Oaks, as an individual or on behalf of the church and its practices.

  187. And to clarify, did they actually “actively exclude” women and girls? Or did E. Oaks just explain his reason for not inviting them? If they took shovels away, I can see some (meaning those specific individuals) being hurt, offended, or otherwise justified.
    Muddy or not.

  188. He specifically commented on the fact that he was not inviting women and girls to participate, which means that he was aware that that was what he was doing.

  189. LA, he could have said, “participate if you want, but fair warning, it’s muddy up here,” and let them choose. That’s what I meant by “actively exclude”—not an oversight/forgot to invite them, or leaving it up to them, but saying “you are not invited.”

  190. Well, here’s a thing. Are women systematically and routinely excluded from wielding shovels at ground-breaking ceremonies? (Say, the same way they are systematically and routinely excluded from offering prayers at General Conference?) If not, this seems like an instance of a nearly-80-year-old man failing to imagine that female persons might want to shovel some dirt, too–quelle surprise. If so, I guess we have just had a conversation about proper ground-breaking etiquette and have laid the groundwork, so to speak, for a movement to change the policy or unwritten order of things that makes dirt-shoveling appear to be a priesthood duty when presumably it is not.

  191. Wait–wasn’t one of the local government officials a councilwoman? He probably just assumed he’d met the female quota.

  192. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to interpret things in the least offensive way possible–I’m saying that we shouldn’t be blamed for feeling hurt simply because he might not have meant to hurt us. All anyone did here was discuss the fact that they felt slighted, and others felt the need to criticize them for it.

    I am also saying that it’s not for anyone else to tell us that we should or should not be offended. No one has the right to tell a person how they should feel, and if we were hurt by something, no one has the right to blame us for feeling hurt. The only point I am trying to get across is that it doesn’t matter what Elder Oaks intended–our feelings are legitimate.

  193. I love miri’s last comment here, and I’m closing the thread on that note.

  194. Update:

    I’d like to just add a quick further response to arguments along the lines of, “it’s truly intended out of respect and kindness, not to be degrading.” I thought I’d addressed it (a few times) in the thread, but maybe these analogies would help clarify the issue:

    Situation: Woman in Old West days stands at the side of a muddy street, wanting to cross.
    Here are several possible responses from a man in the vicinity:
    Response A: “Here, let me enable your desire to cross the street by putting down my coat so you can cross without getting dirty.”
    Response B: “I see you want to cross. Watch out, it’s a little muddy.”
    Response C: “Sorry, but I am not allowing you to cross this street because it is muddy. Even if you came here and braved rainy weather in large part looking forward to the opportunity to cross, and even if it means so much to you that, while other women may opt not to cross, you personally would be willing to get muddy in doing so, I’m just excluding all women from crossing.”

    Situation: Woman approaches door of building.
    Here are several possible responses from a man in the vicinity:
    Response A: “Here, let me support your desire to enter the building by opening this door for you.”
    Response B: “Just so you know, that door is pretty heavy. You might have a hard time with it.”
    Response C: “Sorry, but that door is heavy and you may or may not have a hard time with it, so, I am excluding all women from entering that building.”

    Hopefully this illustrates that exclusion–even when it is done with the very noblest and kindest of intentions–is not true chivalry and kindness. Of course, response A is the “above and beyond” chivalry one, and I think that would almost universally be judged as a kind response. But response C, the response of sincerely attempting chivalrous action but having that action be to exclude women and inhibit their purposes and desires, is worse than response B, just issuing a warning but basically doing nothing. Excluding someone “out of respect for them” is the same mindset that was used for so long to exclude women from the right to vote–a right, I will note, that our own Relief Society was very actively engaged in fighting for (see information about Relief Society general president Emmeline B. Wells’ suffrage campaigns, for example).

    As a further note, I hope it is clear that perfectly lovely, kind, gentle, sensitive souls can quite accidentally do things that have unintended negative effects on or interpretations by others. I am not a perfectly lovely, kind, gentle and sensitive soul, but my goodness!–I know I unintentionally hurt other people all the time! Sometimes it is because I don’t understand nuances of cultures or generations that are slightly different from mine, sometimes it is just not having lived other people’s lives and not knowing what it is like to be them, sometimes it is just a slip that happens in a moment. However, I hope that when I do that, people will not be afraid to point it out to me.

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