Hostile Sexism and LDS Trump Supporters

An article in Vox showed the statistical correlation between Trump supporters and hostile sexism. One interesting aspect of this analysis was that this is not an issue of Republicans in general being hostile to women, just a correlation between those who are and those who support Trump. The trend was not the same when Romney ran in 2012. Romney appealed to benevolent sexists rather than hostile sexists. The difference, as they say, is yuge.

Let’s unbox these terms. Benevolent sexists are the old-fashioned kind of sexists, those who believe that there are differences between the sexes that make women weaker, softer, morally superior, and requiring of men’s protection. Benevolent sexism is the kind we usually hear preached in the church. It’s the set of assumptions behind talks like LDS Women Are Incredible!, references to GA’s “angel mothers,” and the gender roles outlined in the Proclamation on the Family. It’s bread and butter sexism in the church. While it undermines equality (by treating women differently than men in terms of financial independence or moral culpability or leadership), it’s not overtly hostile to women. It’s not coming from a place of hatred, but one of protectionism and a belief in binary genders that are complementary. [1]

Image result for pedestal womenWhen Romney tried to galvanize voters against Trump, he used an argument of benevolent sexism in his vanguard tweet:

This is a protectionist argument. He’s casting women in the role of wives and daughters, people men are supposed to protect. He’s not saying that Trump has degraded women who are our equals and deserving of respect (although he may also feel that way and as a business executive with literally binders full of qualified women probably does). He calls on his followers’ duty to protect their cherished women from “vile degradations.” It’s sexist, but it’s not hostile. Women represent the best humanity has to offer. They’re not gross and disgusting like horrible men. They don’t lose their temper. They don’t poop.

Image result for women don't poopHostile sexism by contrast is overtly suspicious of women and sees feminism as a threat to men. Hostile sexists, whether men or women, see the battle of the sexes as a zero sum game in which any gain for women is a loss for men, and a loss for men is not to be borne. Hostile sexism is often a mask for masculine resentment due to erosion of their privilege. And unfortunately, hostile sexism is no stranger to our congregations and even to our church leadership. When Boyd K. Packer declared feminism one of the three threats the church needed to stamp out, he was motivated by hostile (rather than benevolent) sexism in that statement. Feminism takes from men. Zero sum game. Men must win or everyone loses.

To recap, here’s a definition of the contrast from Wikipedia:

Hostile sexism is an antagonistic attitude toward women, who are often viewed as trying to control men through feminist ideology or sexual seduction. Benevolent sexism is a chivalrous attitude toward women that feels favorable but is actually sexist because it casts women as weak creatures in need of men’s protection.

Image result for trump sexism

Claims respect for women while threatening one IN ALL CAPS.

Both attitudes denote prejudice about women, but one does so by attempting to protect women, assuming they always act in good faith or placing them on a pedestal, while the other is more antagonistic toward women, assuming they act in bad faith. This dichotomy is often associated with the archetypes of mother / whore. The mother archetype paints women as nurturing angels incapable of the full spectrum of human emotion. The whore archetype paints women as tricksters and manipulators who are trying to get an advantage over men through seduction or lying.

From the Vox article, there were 4 questions on the survey that indicated hostile sexism:

  1. (Agree) Most women interpret innocent remarks or acts as being sexist.

  2. (Agree) Many women are actually seeking special favors, such as hiring policies that favor women over men, under the guise of asking for equality.

  3. (Disagree) Feminists are not actually seeking for women to have more power than men.

  4. (Disagree) Feminists are making entirely reasonable demands of men.

Image result for trump sexism

Illustrating the difference between hostile sexism (bimbo) and benevolent sexism (lightweight).

Agreeing with the first two and disagreeing with the second two statements indicate attitudes of hostile sexism, strong opinions that women act in bad faith. While sexism, benevolent or hostile, also correlates to some extent with party affiliation (as can be expected when sexism is “old fashioned” and one party is “conservative”) the degree of sexism influencing voting is greatly different in this election, which is either a byproduct of a woman candidate, or more likely, the statements made by Trump that have even turned off plenty of Republicans in the election cycle.

It’s one thing to believe in protecting “wives, mothers, and daughters” and quite another to boast about being able to get away with sexual assault because one is a celebrity. In this instance, benevolent sexists are outraged by hostile sexism. This isn’t merely a difference of degree, but of kind.

Brian Schaffner, a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, used the same survey as part of a poll in New Hampshire, and found that sexism was a much bigger factor in the 2016 election than it was in 2012:

 Clinton’s candidacy is another piece of important context — it’s possible that strong support for Trump among sexists is in part a reaction to the first woman who could plausibly be elected president — but Schaffner’s findings back up the idea that Trump’s core supporters are unusually hostile toward women and feminism.

I want to be clear here. There are reasons church members will vote for Trump that are not related to sexism, but Trump’s sexist words have created a barrier for both feminists and benevolent sexists in a year when his opponent is a woman, one he is painting in terms familiar to hostile sexists: terms like liar, bad wife, untrustworthy, manipulative, criminal. [2] For example, I know individuals who support Trump because they are wary of government in general or because they want the Affordable Care Act repealed or because they believe he will appoint conservative supreme court justices. [3] These are not inherently sexist reasons. Church members who are voting for him are willing to overlook his character and his sexism.

What gives me pause when I hear LDS Trump supporters speak about their views is when they reveal attitudes of hostile sexism. This is an attitude that is unbecoming and unsavory in the context of someone purporting to follow Christ, although I certainly recognize that we all fall short from the Apostle Paul on down to me. Disliking Hillary on political grounds is, to me, quite different from hand-waving away Trump’s horrific statements on women and his boasts of sexual assault as mere “locker room talk” or worse, blaming his victims for being vindictive in accusing him or implying that his victims are seeking notoriety. [4]

I don’t think hostile sexism is a majority trait in our congregations. And yet it’s certainly not unheard of. I rather think it’s a clueless, vocal minority that thinks it’s benevolent. I can think of examples of hostile sexism that I’ve heard at church, although they are less frequent than the pervasive benevolent sexism I hear. I also hear plenty of feminism without owning the term.

But where we hear hostile sexism spoken in our congregations, it’s time for us to speak up. When we hear a Gospel Doctrine teacher saying that women who dress immodestly are asking to get raped or when we hear a youth speaker lament that the Steubenville athletes’ bright futures were blighted by the accusations of vindictive party girls, we need to check these attitudes–kindly, but firmly and directly. Our failure to correct these attitudes, our fear of being confrontational instead of too doggone nice, may be the tipping point that results in Trump winning Utah’s electoral votes, smearing our collective good name and erasing the opportunity to demonstrate the superior moral values to which we should aspire as disciples of Christ.

What a wasted opportunity that would be, both for the church and for the Republican party.


[1] Don’t get me wrong–I’m against it, but it’s certainly not in the same category as hostile sexism even if it is on the sexism spectrum.

[2] Those charges aren’t inherently sexist if they are proven to be accurate. They are value judgments often placed on ambitious women by hostile sexists.

[3] In other words, they believe he’s actually a conservative and not a completely unpredictable loose cannon.

[4] Particularly unfathomable to me are those who state that voting for Trump protects women by promoting conservative values. They must not have watched the same debates and interviews I did.


  1. When I read Mitt Romney’s quote, I remarked to my husband how kind it was of him to include lesbian couples… as they might have “wives” and daughters too. At first my husband din’t get my joke… Clearly Romney was speaking (possibly even unintentionally) just to men.

  2. As both a staunch Trump supporter and an active member, I don’t fit well in either camp. Nor do many or most of the Trump supporters I know. Most of us find Trump’s so-called locker room talk offensive and repulsive. We would much prefer our candidate had the inner goodness and moral compass of a Mitt Romney, and still regret that Romney lacked the vision and killer political instincts to beat back the morally corrupt Leftists led by BO and HRC.
    Whether or not Trump proves to be a true conservative or something other remains to be seen. One thing we can know with absolute clarity, however. Having Trump and Melania in the White House portends infinitely better for this country than Hillary and Bill and Huma and Weiner, and all the rest.
    In my 60 years in the church, I’ve not heard many hostile sexist comments. Can’t really think of any. Have heard plenty of the benevolent kind, however. Regardless, I would argue that recognizing and accepting the fact that men and women are uniquely created and perfectly suited to complement the other sex is more truthful than sexist. We each have important and essential roles to play in the family of God. “Neither the man without the woman, nor the woman without the man in the Lord.” That’s pretty much how I see it.

  3. “That’s pretty much how I see it.” Not remotely surprising.

  4. Great post, Angela. The consequences of both kinds of sexism are quite similar – although I would expect more violence from those holding hostile views towards women. In any event, I guess it’s a bridge too far to ask members to treat women as independent people not defined by their relationship to men.

  5. Whether or not Trump proves to be a true conservative or something other remains to be seen.

    Not really. Trump revealing himself to be a “true” conservative–whatever that means in the 21st century–is about as likely as a drop of ink diffused into a glass of water reforming into a drop of ink in that same glass–not impossible but staggeringly unlikely.

  6. This is great, Angela. While some Trump supporters might not be hostile sexists, the anti-Hillaryism that was established decades ago by right-wing media absolutely springs from hostile sexism. Think she belongs in jail? That she’s a murderer? A fraud? A minion of George Soros? Those narratives were shaped by hostile sexists.

  7. it's a series of tubes says:

    When Boyd K. Packer declared feminism one of the three threats the church needed to stamp out, he was motivated by hostile (rather than benevolent) sexism in that statement.

    This is a great article, but isn’t the above statement a bridge too far? You don’t, and can’t, know his motivations.

  8. Motivation or not, the statement is hostile sexism.

  9. it's a series of tubes says:

    Then why not simply identify it, rather than impugn motives? It’s simpler, cleaner, and more accurate.

  10. So instead of engaging Hawk on her point, we’re going to tone-police her writing style. Also not remotely surprising. These are tactics to keep the focus on the writer, rather than on the subject she is engaging.

  11. it's a series of tubes says:

    Tracy, this isn’t tone policing. The OP elected to baselessly slam the motives of a dead person in a post about the wrongness of HOSTILE motives. Pot, kettle, and all that.

  12. When an authority says something, doesn’t it behove us to believe they mean their words? So when they say something that is unquestionably hostile, it’s not a leap to assume they mean what they’re saying. Do you argue BKP didn’t mean what he said about feminism?

  13. Elder Packer’s hostile sexism was manifest in his words and deeds, tubes. His war on feminism is a matter of record. It’s far from baseless but it’s also not the topic of this post. Now let’s move on, please.

  14. A person’s words and actions are the only evidence we have of their motives.

  15. I agree with tubes. Feminism has had (and still does have) a lot of different flavors and there are many that would argue that at least some of those flavors that have dominated are not actually pro-women. Thus when many people (at least members of the church) say they oppose feminism, they really mean they oppose these elements/flavors. This is also why a lot of people don’t own the word when the OP thinks they should. There’s a lot of history that some people are uncomfortable with. So due to the complexity and variety of what is actually meant by the word feminism, I don’t think you can make a blanket statement that anyone that says they oppose feminism is exhibiting hostile sexism. Benevolent sexism perhaps but even that could be complicated.

    By all means, if you think Elder Packer displayed hostile sexism, then go ahead and provide evidence. I just think that the example given in the OP doesn’t work for the reasons given above.

    Otherwise, I thought the article was good. I especially appreciated the acknowledgements that there are political reasons for supporting Trump and opposing Clinton. This has not been an easy election for Mormons, which is to our credit I think. And the fact that you give these examples of hostile sexism in church probably suggests that you heard those specifically. That is sad.

  16. *beating my head on my desk…*

  17. A couple of thoughts on the comments:
    When you use the term “morally corrupt Leftists,” that is the moral equivalent saying that all Trump supporters are hostile sexists. That some are does not mean all are. And, for that matter, let’s at least acknowledge that the corruption of said leftists is, perhaps, a matter of debate, rather than a self-evident truth.

    kevin (and tubes, I guess),
    Boiling down a movement to its worst aspects is not what people who are generously inclined toward said movement do. That Elder Packer, without qualification, named feminists as a threat to the church is actually evidence of hostile sexism. Imagine, if you will, that the Tea Party movement was portrayed almost entirely by images of old white people waving racist signs and saying deeply ignorant things. You might assume that the people using those images had some sort of bias. If your understanding of feminism is so distorted that you only know of its worst aspects or if you believe that in order to embrace the term you have to embrace even the aspects of it you find wrong-headed, then you are not extending the charity that this post is extending and all you have learned of feminism came through the filter of hostile sexism (perhaps filtered a second time via benevolent sexism, but still).

  18. Maybe he was only being hostile towards hostile feminism.

  19. When Elder Packer condemned feminism, he made no distinction among different “flavors” of feminism. I see no good reason to read that kind of nuance into his comments.

    I’m a little uncertain about Angela’s point, though. I suppose it’s true that hostile sexism is more disturbing than benevolent sexism, but benevolent sexism is still pretty disturbing. We ought to be speaking up in response to any kind of sexism. The stridency and aggressiveness of many hostile sexists might justify a more aggressive response, but benevolent sexism always deserves to be put in its place.

  20. all you have learned of feminism came through the filter of hostile sexism (perhaps filtered a second time via benevolent sexism, but still)

    So well said, John C.

    Angela, really great post that has me thinking. I like Romney a lot but that tweet reveals some tone deafness that some people include as a reason for his loss in 2012. There is no other way to interpret the tweet other than that he is speaking to men as the voters in this country. It’s not even 1955. It’s 1915.

  21. My favourite flavor of Feminism is Oreo, followed closely by Cookie Dough. Keep that thrice cursed Mint Chocolate Chip in it’s place though. It is a threat to the Church.

  22. it's a series of tubes says:

    It’s far from baseless but it’s also not the topic of this post. Now let’s move on, please.

    Steve – point taken and will do.

    But where we hear hostile sexism spoken in our congregations, it’s time for us to speak up. When we hear a Gospel Doctrine teacher saying that women who dress immodestly are asking to get raped or when we hear a youth speaker lament that the Steubenville athletes’ bright futures were blighted by the accusations of vindictive party girls, we need to check these attitudes–kindly, but firmly and directly.

    Angela, I agree with the above wholeheartedly. I think you weaken these important points, however, when you tie them so directly to your desired political outcome, and assert that only that outcome would represent a demonstration of “superior moral values”. A nearly infinite set of issues and concerns may be the primary (or even sole) driver of how any particular person votes. For example, a family member of mine votes straight-ticket democrat because the death penalty is abhorrent to her. And a staff member where I work has never voted, and will never vote, for a candidate that supports on-demand abortion. Both are informed solely by a “moral” concern, yet the outcomes are vastly different.

  23. While I agree with many of the points made in the original post, I too must object to the ascribing of motives to BKP’s statement. In fact I do not ever remember him saying the Church needed to stamp out feminism. I did read he said it was a threat, but at the time I remember, abortion and gay issues seemed to be the dominent themes of feminism. The other issues addressed by the feminist movement had fallen off the radar. Many women I knew who were determined career women refused to identify as feminist because of the direction being pursued by the movement at the time. So I will give him the benefit of the doubt because my remembrance of the times requires it.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I confess this seems a bit of a Rorschach test to me as do many criteria of sexism. I think there’s many practices and statements we’d all agree are sexist but there’s also a blurry area where we don’t. Many of us who strongly want equality of the sexes disagree over how to get there or even what being there means.

    When I read those questions by Vox the first thing that springs to mind is how different people are apt to interpret the questions very differently. “Many women” is pretty ambiguous. A small percentage of women is a lot of people. By many women what do we mean? And to label someone as sexist based upon they interpret that seems unfair. Likewise the questions take their meaning in an already politically polarized environment. This is why, as pollsters have long pointed out, people tend to guess the intents behind the questions. When George Bush was President people who disliked him and his policies were apt to agree with silly questions about conspiracies behind 911. Likewise when Obama was president people who disliked him and his policies were apt to agree in polls with stupid questions about birth certificates. Answers to poll questions often don’t reflect the actual views of the people but more a general sense of identity in the broader political polarization. It’s unfortunate given how well known this effect is that people uncritically use such polls.

  25. In your view, Angela and Tracy, is it possible for a man to speak and act with chivalry towards women without being a benevolent sexist?

  26. I won’t speak for Tracy or Angela but my understanding is that chivalry IS benevolent sexism.

  27. Janet, a little googling of “Boyd Packer feminism” will perhaps refresh your recollection.

    I agree with Angela that when we hear hostile sexism at Church, we must speak up.

  28. BKP notoriously refused to allow his daughters to pursue careers in anything but traditionally female occupations like nursing and teaching. Also, he had his family members refer to him as “Elder Packer,” and used his influence to obtain paid positions in the Church for incompetent family members. The guy was, to use a euphemism popular among Mormons, “a real piece of work.” He was a stain upon the Church.

  29. Anonymous 9:44: the percentage of self-identified Democrats that indicated a belief in the GWB administration having a role in 9/11 was always much lower than the percentage of self-identified Republicans that believed that Obama was not born in the United States.

    Partisan epistemic closure is a problem on both sides of the aisle, but it has been a much bigger problem on the right than the left in the past 10+ years, largely as a consequence of the construction of an entire right-wing media establishment that abandons all pretense of journalistic objectivity.

  30. “let’s at least acknowledge that the corruption of said leftists is, perhaps, a matter of debate, rather than a self-evident truth.”
    John C –
    If the most recent and never-ending trove of revelations, disclosures, investigations, leaks, and discoveries don’t clearly point to rampant corruption on the Left and a vast media / Democrat cabal, then I’m not sure what would. Shall we list the data points already in play?

    -Obstruction of justice (multiple counts)
    -Destruction of evidence while under Congressional Subpoena (30,000 emails, phones, laptops, etc.)
    -Violation of US Government policy with respect to email communications housed on a private and unprotected server
    -Collusion with media to sabotage primary election opponents
    -Collusion to cheat by gaining access to debate questions in advance, and failing to mention it to investigators or other authorities
    -Accepting huge sums of money for “speeches” while granting favors to allied interests
    -Hiding the truth about the vast and rapidly increasing number of border crossings and “refugees” currently being held here in South Texas (RGV region) and elsewhere along the border. This place is in CRISIS mode and no Democrat is willing to acknowledge or accept the truth.

    Such a list could go on for pages, and would be outdated the moment it was published. What may have at one time been a matter of debate, has quickly morphed into the “self-evident truth” to which you refer.

  31. Thanks Janet. That is the point I was trying to get at. It’s not a matter of opposing the whole movement because of its worst parts. Rather, at certain times it was dominated by issues the Church opposed. And so opposing feminism at those times was largely equivalent to opposing those issues (or at least viewed as equivalent which is what matters when discussing one’s motives). While feminism is not always dominated by these issues, enough people remember the times when it was so that is how they still view it. Whether we like it or not, people use labels both internally and externally. Some people choose to adopt labels for themselves which largely fit even if there are “aspects of it [they] find wrong-headed.” Others choose to reject those labels even if they largely fit because they do not want to be associated with those aspects of it they find wrong-headed. I think it’s rather uncharitable to assume that the latter have only learned of said label through hostile means.

    As for my use of flavor, I work a lot with people not born in the US and they use the word flavor in this way regularly. I suppose it has rubbed off on me.

  32. Batcat,
    This is an unnecessary thread jack. Let’s accept that you believe me to a nogoodnik and I believe you to be crazy, paranoid, and poorly informed and we can all move on, okay?

  33. BatCat, where we differ is that I don’t see those grievances as existentially threatening to the health of the nation, the sanctity of the Constitution, the rights of minorities of all kinds, or the safety of the city I live in with my family (which would probably be incinerated in the event of World War 3). Nor are any of them exclusive to Hillary or the Democrats. Nor are they all true, though many are.

  34. BatCat, I expect this will fall on deaf ears, but none of the “data points” you rattled off support your argument that teh librulz are thoroughly morally corrupt. But more importantly, there are other places on the internet where you can go to indulge in conspiracy theories. That discussion doesn’t belong here.

  35. Equating chivalry with benevolent sexism seems like hostile feminism.

  36. Can any of you see that you are asking women to *prove* their experiences to you, over and over, and you are not simply allowing that different people have legitimately different experiences? Do you have any idea how *exhausting* it is to constantly have to reaffirm and fight for your right to take up space and even, in some settings, to exist?

    Chivalry is, by definition, benevolent sexism. Read what Angela wrote. Chivalry is well intentioned. It plays nice. (The dudes who do it feel good about themselves– the may even feel entitled to a smile.) Some recipients may genuinely like it, some may shrug and not care, but by definition, it IS sexism- it’s the notion that women are different and somehow in need of/deserve male protection or help.

  37. Can’t speak to most of the other points beyond noting that feminism is a pretty broad category. It’s well noted many women haven’t wanted to self-identify as feminists and it’s worth asking why. To assume anything suspicious of feminism is inherently sexist seems a bit dodgy.

    APM (9:55) we might think other actions or comments of Packer were sexist without thinking that particular statement was problematic.

    APM (10:01) in the oft quoted 2006 poll 22.6% said it was very likely Bush was behind 9/11 and 28.2% said somewhat likely for a total of 50.8% of democrats. During the height of the birther nonsense in 2011 51% he wasn’t which is pretty much on par with the poll about 911. In a recent poll at the height of the Trump/Clinton polarization only 41% of Republicans said Obama was not born in the United States. There was also a 31% who neither agree nor disagree but that’s a problematic possible answer for various reasons. (Such as pure ignorance)

    I’m just quoting those statistics without going deeper into the nature of the questions. (I just don’t have time) Often with these types of questions there’s a fair bit of intentional priming of respondents in terms of the phrasing of questions and the questions prior. Also note the place of ignorance. For instance PPP did some deeper birther questions and found that some of those who though Obama was born outside of the US thought he was born in Hawaii. i.e. they either interpreted the question as about continental US, didn’t know Hawaii was part of the US, or were just saying something anti-Obama because they didn’t like him even though they didn’t believe in birtherism. That latter point is what many pollsters see as pretty common particularly around election time. That in turn undermines the significance of such polls for getting at nuanced beliefs.

    My guess is that this latter point is what’s biasing the Vox polls. Because many GOP dislike HRC who is associated with feminism they’ll intrinsically be more likely to answer questions in such a way to show that dislike. That’s not to say there isn’t a real problem with sexism and racism in Trump supporters. I think there is. I definitely think this election cycle shows that this is a problem with more of the GOP base than most GOP elites or the conservative intellectual class had thought. I’m not sure that means traditional liberal stereotypes of the GOP are correct mind you anymore than traditional stereotypes of the left by conservatives are fair or correct.

    (Links left out because BCC flags as spam any comments with more than one link)

  38. Chivalry is a patronizing and marginalizing form of kindness. A pseudo-kindness. When we are truly kind and loving, chivalry is irrelevant.

  39. I might be missing something, but as I reflect on this, it seems like the difference between hostile sexism and benevolent sexism may be blurry at the margins. I get that hostile sexism is defined as being overtly suspicious of women and seeing feminism as a threat to men, and benevolent sexism is defined as viewing women as weaker than men, but innately more moral than men, and wanting to protect women.

    But where would you place somebody who is not suspicious of women per se, sees women as more innately moral than men, but is suspicious of feminism, and sees feminism as a threat to both men and women? It seems like such a person would be subjectively motivated by something like benevolent sexism, but there’s shades of hostile sexism in there as well, even if the subjective motivation is benevolent sexism.

    I guess it is possible to both see women as needing protection and be suspicious of women to the extent that they try to do anything other than sit there as an inspiring object.

    Maybe this is just another way of saying that benevolent sexism is still sexist.

  40. When we talk about women ‘needing protection’ I literally have no idea what we are talking about. Historically, yes. But in 2016? What is it exactly that I need protecting from?

  41. I think we’re getting distracted by what one means by “chivalry.” Bearing in mind that Mormons define “patriarchy” and “preside” in increasingly ridiculous ways, I’m open to the idea that when Mormons say “chivalry,” they are not necessarily thinking of a code of ethics that must be sexist. Women *are* different from men. Generally speaking, it is not difficult for a man to overpower a woman physically, if he a) wants to and b) decides he should. Historically, the concept of chivalry has served to motivate men not to act like brutes toward women, whom they could easily subdue. Now that we all have guns, maybe that’s a moot point, but the idea persists in people’s imaginations. Rather than argue about what “chivalry” means, maybe we could agree that respect for women should be based on the idea that women are adult people, and we deserve the respect and consideration that men would want to receive, by virtue of the fact that they are adult people–neither angels nor children, just regular adult people.

  42. kevin,
    I was alive in the nineties, back when President Packer said the feminism thing and I was also aware at the time that feminism being boiled down to “issues the church opposed” instead of everything feminism touches upon was a gross oversimplification. I am even more aware of that now.

  43. JKC: “But where would you place somebody who is not suspicious of women per se, sees women as more innately moral than men, but is suspicious of feminism, and sees feminism as a threat to both men and women? It seems like such a person would be subjectively motivated by something like benevolent sexism, but there’s shades of hostile sexism in there as well, even if the subjective motivation is benevolent sexism.” I think this is an interesting question. First of all, nobody is going to claim to be a hostile sexist. People who use terms like “hostile feminists” or talk about “men’s rights” doubtless fit into that category, though. They see any push for equality – equal pay, affirmative action hiring, or general access to jobs traditionally favoring men – as a threat to men (and perhaps by extension to the “fabric of society” which in your wording would be “to both men and women.” So there’s a point at which someone moves from benevolent sexism to hostile.

  44. John C: That’s a valid point. When the ERA came about in the 1970s, I was shocked when the church opposed it. I had thought it was an opportunity for the church to show that we believe our women are equals and deserve equal opportunity. But the church’s opposition seemed to be against a caricature of ERA – boiling it down to mostly just abortion and men no longer being seen as the head of household. I was pretty young, but taken aback when that happened.

  45. If only Adam had told Eve to get her own club and kill her own meat, perhaps evolutionary biology would have saved us thousands of years of sexism.

  46. ‘People who use terms like “hostile feminists” or talk about “men’s rights” doubtless fit into that category, though. They see any push for equality – equal pay, affirmative action hiring, or general access to jobs traditionally favoring men – as a threat to men (and perhaps by extension to the “fabric of society” which in your wording would be “to both men and women.”’

    No doubt. I think the point is that hostile sexism doesn’t have to be motivated by subjective hostility to be hostile.

  47. I think understanding benevolent sexism hinges on understanding benevolent patriarchy, and for that I can’t recommend Andrea R-M’s 2014 Juvenile Instructor post highly enough:

  48. Chivalry is benevolent sexism because if makes women a special class. Being chivalrous to everyone is just called “being polite”. It doesn’t need a special word to make it sound more than it is.

  49. Tracy, you can have your experiences and you can take up space–looks like the space here in the comments are pretty evenly taken. I don’t think that the perception that men and woman are different takes that away from you. I like a lot of men was raised to be kinder to women than men. If that’s sexist to you, you have the right to that perception.

  50. It’s not sexist “to [her],” it’s sexist, period. Being kinder to one gender than the other, regardless of why, is literally the definition of sexism. You don’t have to believe that there’s no difference between men and women to recognize that fact.

  51. Bro. B,
    One time I was in a meeting of potential faculty candidates at BYU, where someone asked the faculty member leading it what they thought of BYU’s reputation for sexism. The faculty member responded: “We don’t have a sexism problem; we would really like to hire more women though.” Another participant noted that this was the textbook definition of sexism: noting to a mixed-gender group of potential candidates that you prefer some of them over the others, based on gender. The faculty member seemed unable to process how this was sexism, perhaps because it went against the standard understanding of what sexism is (anti-woman and motivated by ill-intent). Of course, one need only talk to any group of women working at the Ys to discover that both benevolent sexism (like this) and hostile sexism are alive and well at these institutions. Perhaps listening to women’s experiences, rather than trying to solve their problems on their behalf (as chivalry would have one do), would lead to fewer blind spots.

  52. The easy way for “chivalrous” men to avoid being accused of benevolent sexism is to apply the principles of chivalry to everyone, not just women. This is also known as “courtesy.”

  53. Bro. B, just be nice to, serve, and protect everyone! There, problem fixed!

  54. John C (1:25) I think many groups talk past one an other because they’re using the same terms in different ways. Sexism and racism especially in academic circles are tied to power imbalances. So something is racist if the consequences result in a worse effect on a racial group in a weak power position. The way many, especially on the right, use it is to make a judgment in terms of race or sex. Especially if the *intent* is to provide benefits for the race/sex with more power.

    Because the terms mean radically different things it’s hard for each group to understand the other.

    I think politics and communication would benefit tremendously from having different words for this power consequence sense and the more neutral and often intent based sense. (The closest is the term ‘bigotry’ but due to semantic drift from these other terms even that is often confused)

  55. Consider me duly chastened. :) For the record, I am courteous and I do hold the door open for everyone, not just women. But let me ask this: If the commenters here consider Mitt Romney’s statements about protecting his wife and daughters from Trump’s verbal and physical assaults against women as benevolent sexism, would you also consider Jacob sexist for his statements in Jacob 2? Seems to me that both are trying to protect women. Women are much more victimized than men and so by definition they need more protection.

  56. Now let me get this straight… According to the article, if you are male, you can avoid the horrors of beings labeled a benevolent sexist if:

    1. You do not believe that the disaster victims should be given a preference for care or rescue based on gender. Warning: If you offer your place in the line to a woman because you think she should be saved before you, you are a sexist.
    2. You believe that women do not possess any spiritual or psychological differences from males. So women do not deserve nor should they receive any preferential treatment under any circumstance. Gender-based customs of politeness (like opening doors) should be swept away.
    3. You are unwilling to sacrifice your own well-being in order to provide for the women in your life.

    Huh, I think I want my daughter to marry a benevolent sexist.

  57. Bro. B,

    “would you also consider Jacob sexist for his statements in Jacob 2?”

    Yes! Most scripture is sexist, because most societies are sexist. This doesn’t necessarily change its inherent value, but it is something to be considered. Also, I think we can safely presume that God values the chastity of young men just as much as he values the chastity of young women.

  58. Bro. B, I have four daughters and also want to protect them against sexual assailants like Donald Trump. But hopefully I would not imply in a tweet that only men are voting in the USA in 2016.

  59. Old Man,
    You want your daughter to marry someone who loves her for her. Not someone who does things for her because of some societal expectation of how one should treat women. There’s a difference there. People who love each other are willing to sacrifice their own well-being for the other, no matter what gender. People who love people may well choose to sacrifice themselves in the midst of a disaster regardless of gender. That dude who let other people go ahead of him in the downed plane in the Potomac didn’t check their genitalia to figure out if they were worthier of life than him. And women and men vary in personality; there may be broad stereotypes that apply to mass groups of them, but making assumptions on an individual basis is passé and potentially offensive. As I’m certain your daughter could explain to you.

    All ya’ll hailing chivalry, please take a moment to remember that the ideal of courtly love was for everyone to pretty much yearn for adultery. The purest form of love was considered in that mode to be the version that went forever unconsummated.

  60. In my former dating experience, it was the guys who prided themselves on being chivalrous, who saw themselves as going above and beyond the demands of common decency (they weren’t), that also seemed to think I owed them something at the end of the night (usually it was merely my affection they felt they deserved, but sometimes it was something more rapey). I think the problem with these types of ‘nice guys’ is that they tend to think their niceness entitles them to something. I would much rather go through the world being treated as an equal, and even occasionally being the brunt of other people’s rudeness, than be around people who think I owe them for their politeness.

  61. Indecently, I think that that sense of entitlement is frequently what causes benevolent sexism to bleed into hostile sexism. Because if a person doesn’t get what they think they deserve, they feel justified in being angry. If a woman dares to be her own person, with thoughts and feelings of her own, and, rather than behave in the matter a sexist thinks a noble, pedestaled woman should behave, she dares to makes her own decisions, then, the hostile sexist thinking goes, you have the right to call her ‘nasty’, a ‘witch’, a ‘whore’, or (worse!) a ‘hostile feminist’.

    (None of what I said is directed at you, Bro. B.)

  62. Here’s a case study question in sexism prompted by John C.’s above statement about sexism at the BYUs. We know that one reason for the wage gap is that women, disproportionate to men, take exit ramps from the workplace that make them have less earning power and be less desirable candidates to some employers. It’s why the law doesn’t allow discrimination against women (although the BYU’s have sought and obtained an exemption from this discrimination law so that they can ask intrusive questions about personal reproduction, marriage, and family plans that are not allowed for most employers). How do you solve a problem like this when the system was originally set up under the assumption that only men hold these jobs?

    A hostile sexist approach would say women shouldn’t be accommodated because that takes away from men, and that attempts to change the system will harm men. Affirmative action and accommodating women would be seen as taking away from men. Women who work are a threat to male employment opportunity and therefore women should be excluded unless they are otherwise unfit to cater to a man as a housewife (e.g. single, divorced or relegated to low paying jobs like secretarial work that men don’t generally want anyway).

    A benevolent sexist approach might say we need to pay men more so the women don’t have to work because the men are responsible anyway and the women should be financially dependent. Only if a man “can’t” provide for his family due to disability should we offer employment to a woman.

    A 2016 equality-based solution would involve getting input from women as the candidates sought after. Women would doubtless raise things like on site day care, paid maternity AND paternity leave (so that both parents are capable of bearing the financial burden of caregiving when a child is too young to be left in child care), and access to flexible schedule options for BOTH men and women (so that hiring women is not a disadvantage).

    Guess what the approach is at the BYU’s. I’ll give you a clue. It’s not the third one.

  63. Stephenchardy says:

    What is wrong with chivalry? It takes away from women the right to be a peer.

  64. The reason why benevolent sexism is objectionable is because of the flipside. The benevolent sexism (or chivalry) in the church–being labeled Incredible and put on a pedestal, is intended to be the consolation prize that balances the deficits of the infantilization and resulting control of adult women in the culture of patriarchy. Men either will not or cannot see this, because they can’t/won’t connect holding the door/putting away the chairs/protecting the helpless girl with a measure of responsibility for the culture they benefit from that doesn’t allow women to bless the sick, determine their own curriculum, or collect and disburse their own funds. All of those things were taken away from women under the leadership of benevolent sexism.

  65. Bingo, MDearest.

  66. I, for one, want to be put on a pedestal. Not a metaphorical pedestal, mind you, but an actual pedestal. One where people come and stare at me in awe, as often occurs with things put on pedestals. Of course, I’d need a couch and food up there, as well as some sort of entertainment system, so it would have to be an above-average size of pedestal. And probably a hoisting machine of some type, since I’m not going to climb up there like a Neanderthal.

  67. Steohenchardy says:

    Jimbob: no one climbs up on a pedestal. They’re placed there by someone else. Someone who wants to stare at them and admire them. But not someone who sees them as an equal.

  68. Susan W H says:

    My own experience as a missionary, attorney, wife and mother, is that benevolent sexism can turn hostile very quickly when challenged by an assertive or even a usually accommodating woman. Also, it isn’t limited to men. I’ve come across a number of LDS (and non-member) women who have also quickly turned hostile when their view of “woman’s place” was challenged.

    Excellent post–I wish I had not found it so it late in the day and before it became so political.

  69. David Day says:

    Thank you Angela.

    When I was in law school at BYU, we had a class discussion one day (it was admittedly off track) in which the female law professor (one of my favs) pointed out that if we really believe that men and women have different skills/advantages/etc., then we absolutely should believe that we need both men and women involved in any specific task, so that the task can benefit from both skill sets. Alternatively, if there are no differences, then it doesn’t matter who does the job. That class period certainly forced me to start to re-think some of my underlying benevolent sexism assumptions.

  70. I cringe a bit at the nitpicking of Romney’s tweet. I mean, _of_course_ men feel protective of their wives and daughters when a predator looms nearby. And Romney has been standing up to his party in a brave and serious way. Let’s cut him some slack.

    I only wish Romney would do more. It will be so so heartbreaking if Utah goes red this year, and Romney could maybe help with that. Clinton and McMullin are splitting the anti-Trump vote. It is not clear which one to rally around.

  71. T, I’m with you for the most part in feeling like Romney’s tweet was bold and important for the GOP. He paved the way for others to dissent. But it is weird that he basically assumed all voters were men in how he worded that (or lesbians as noted above). Maybe he assumed women were wise enough not to vote for someone who brags about assaulting women, in which case, he’s greatly overestimated the American public.

    Also, if we are concerned about speaking up against benevolent (vs. hostile) sexism at church, get ready to speak up constantly. Benevolent sexism is literally encoded in our doctrines. You’ll be hard pressed to find a Sunday when it doesn’t occur. I don’t like it, but first let’s get rid of the hostile sexism, and then maybe when women aren’t treated with suspicion we can work on getting women to be taken seriously as peers. That’s a tougher sell. I do think one byproduct of more women serving missions will be far more respect for women as equals (not just in relation to men) in future generations.

  72. I doubt that there’s somehow a stepwise process of eliminating hostile sexism first, then benevolent sexism later. It’s probably true that the mode of responding to one is different from the mode of responding to the other, but it’s a big mistake to just let benevolent sexism slide.

    As with so many things in the church, we should seldom be aggressive in pursuing an argument. In my experience, direct attacks on benevolent sexism are seldom effective, and I do have to pick my spots—constant pecking doesn’t work. Polite disagreement and pointed humor usually works best. I do not try to win the point. My objective is to make my disagreement clear and, whenever possible, to suggest a better way. It plants a seed. I hope it sets an example. It is a very soft and slow method of bringing change, but it’s far, far better than biting my tongue and just hoping for a better future.

    I’m a man, so my experience with this undoubtedly differs from many women’s experiences. But male or female, our acts of love are powerful. When others do not doubt our love, our sincere and resolute convictions become persuasive.

  73. Loursat, I agree that humor is the key to eliminating all forms of sexism. Sexism dies like communism did in the Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic. When sexism is viewed as simply laughable and irrelevant to experience (as communism was in that revolution) its power will end.

  74. Rebecca J says:

    I didn’t see Romney’s tweet as addressing male voters. I saw him speaking as a man, contrasting the way he sees women and the way Trump sees them. You can still call it patronizing or whatever, but I don’t think it excludes women from the audience. It’s not like he said, “This demeans *your* wives and daughters.”

  75. I think the reaction to Romney was pretty overstated. Not as bad as the disingenuous reaction to “binders of women” but close. To say that one is worried about how women you are extremely close to view Trump is not to say that’s the only concern one has with Trump. Further it’s pretty darn difficult to be nuanced in 140 characters. (One reason I try not to have discussions on Twitter)

  76. I don’t think Romney was intentionally addressing men, but that’s part of how benevolent sexism works. The examples he came up with, “our wives and daughters”, are the categories of women men historically “own”. He could have just said “women” and been much more concise in the length of his tweet, but this signals men more likely to subscribe to that historical belief. I don’t see it as “nitpicking”, but as trying to help someone unlearn an old, contributory habit of thinking.

    Benevolent sexism is what enables hostile sexism. It’s the camels’ nose, the gateway drug, the “just one couldn’t hurt”. It’s a distinction we make to tell ourselves we would “never be -that- bad”. All of it needs to have some reaction, some pushback against it, or we risk just moving the line without actually fixing the problem.

  77. Frank: “Benevolent sexism is what enables hostile sexism.” Probably true. Interesting point. I’d definitely like to see benevolent sexists quash hostile sexists, though, in the manner Romney’s tweet attempted. But even better to be rid of them both.

  78. Parallel thought (and continuing away from the post) – why do we accept benevolent sexism but not benevolent any other -ism? We never hear about benevolent racism; it’s unacceptable in any form or depth. Why does sexism get an “it’s not so bad” category?

  79. “We never hear about benevolent racism”

    Isn’t that exactly what Affirmative Action is?

  80. Jax, no. Affirmative Action is geared towards improving the status of historically oppressed minorities, thereby improving their station. Benevolent racism keeps people as they are.

  81. These comments are genius. The’re plants designed to illuminate the problems with both hostile and benevolent sexism, right?
    I think this is a really interesting post. I have seen several people from my ward who support Trump with little time spent on at least attempting to justify his worst statements and behavior. It’s so out of line with the majority of mormons I know who are voting for him – voting for him in spite of what he says instead of because of it. Great distinction in the post!

  82. We have our whole lives to grapple with benevolent sexism.

    But in four days, Donald Trump is on track to win Utah with (according to today’s Deseret News) 33 percent of the vote.

    All because the other 67 percent (which includes the vast majority of Utah Mormons) cannot get their act together and rally around a candidate.

    Am I the only one who sees this as an emergency?

  83. If benevolent sexism is believing that women need men’s help/protecton, then benevolent racism would be thinking that another race needs our help/protection. So if in the US we talk about minorities and affirmative action we have exactly that, a population benevolently giving aid to others based on race (racism) that they think is less able to take care of themselves, less able to advance themselves, less able to find success in society unless we condescendingly help them out. The argument for Affirmative Action being something like “obviously whites in the US can “improve their station” on their own, but those other races need some help because they are less capable of doing it on their own.”

    With women it would be “Oh you poor thing, because your sex makes you weak and less capable let me do the hard things for you” or “because your gender makes you special, let me give you special honor (opening doors, pedestal, items talked about above)”
    With minorities it would be “Oh you poor thing, because your race makes you week and less capable let me lower the standards (make things less hard) for you” or “because your gender makes you special, let me give you special honor (black history month, etc)

    Affirmative action not racist?? HA! Nothing says “treat me just like everyone else” quite like “lets have a special set of requirements just for me”

  84. No, Jax. The problem is not that some groups are weak or less capable. The problem is that they are being held down. Surely this has been explained to you before. Stop whining.

  85. Seriously, Jax, stop it.

  86. Loursat – Could it be that some benevolent sexists believe women should be treated differently not because they are weak or less capable, but because they have historically been held down by the hostile sexists? Motivation and intent seems to matter in the case of affirmative action, why not then in the case of benevolent sexism?

  87. Let’s go back to the OP for a definition of benevolent sexism. “Benevolent sexists are the old-fashioned kind of sexists, those who believe that there are differences between the sexes that make women weaker, softer, morally superior, and requiring of men’s protection.” That’s very different from believing that women are equally capable but have suffered from discrimination.

  88. Ronaldjward – I’d argue the actions are different as well. A benevolent sexist wants to take care of a weaker/lesser person and their problems. Someone fighting oppression seeks to remove barriers, increase opportunity for someone of equal strength to themselves.

  89. In that case, I need a new term – modern benevolent sexists. They’re like the old ones but they don’t believe women are morally superior. They also believe women are equally capable but also recognize that women have a limited window of time in which to bear children and should not suffer any cultural pressure to forego that opportunity should they choose to pursue it.

  90. ReTx – what’s so bad about wanting to take care of a weaker/lesser person and their problems? Was Christ a benevolent sexist?

  91. ronaldjward, I don’t see the point you are trying to make.

  92. There isn’t anything wrong with wanting to take care of a weaker person. Heck, what is parenting if not that? The problem is judging adult women as weaker/lesser just for being women.

    I agree completely that women should not suffer cultural pressure to forgo having children. I also fell women should not suffer cultural pressure for waiting on children or not having children at all. I look at women and see them as being capable, strong, and smart enough to make that decision for themselves (in partnership with their spouses and God). And I trust that having made it, a woman’s decision should be respected.

    Errr… Are really arguing that as Christ is to Man, Mankind is to each other?

  93. The OP and many commenters seem to be making the point that NO differences between the sexes can be acknowledged for different treatment lest they be interpreted as judging women as weaker than men. There are many practical differences. I knew of a mom who had voracious sons who always made them wait to be served at dinner until after their sisters, who may have had smaller appetites but wouldn’t have much food left otherwise. I’m sure you could judge the sons harshly, but would you also call the mom a benevolent sexist?

  94. So what if a married lesbian had tweeted the exact same words as Mitt Romney: “Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.” Would she be labeled a benevolent sexist?

  95. ReTx:
    Christ is to Man, Mankind is to each other… that’s arguably good theology: D&C 103: 9-10

  96. “Would you also call the mom a benevolent sexist?” I’d call the mom aware of the differences in her individual children and setting up the situation to solve problems the best she could. (As someone interested in behaviorism, I’d personally focus on creating a situation where the sons are rewarded for becoming aware of how much is appropriate/inappropriate to take in a situation where food is to be shared. Which has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with manners. Based on our ward’s potlucks, not many LDS kids get this lesson at home…)

    My personal argument is that instead of focusing on vague ‘differences between the sexes’ let’s focus on specific difference between individuals – which is both more compassionate and more meaningful. Men and Women are different. But so are women and women. Men and Men. Etc.

  97. I’m sure the dad was on the same page with the mom but (echoing Old Man’s point above) I’m betting he’d be called a benevolent sexist here on BCC.

  98. Bro. B., the family with the voracious sons is not an example of sexist discrimination. The mother was discriminating on the basis of appetite, or (more likely) based on which children had better manners. That this discrimination fell along gender lines was a coincidence. In other words, the mother did not decide that the boys should eat last because of some innate difference between boys and girls.

  99. As soon as I posted that, I knew it was going to send the wrong message. My apologies. You could have thrown much worse (err… better) scriptures at me than you did.

    As to what I was trying (badly) to say…

    To the question of “Was Christ a benevolent sexist…” Which seems to be implying that because Jesus cares for us/directs us (mere mortals as compared to his Godliness), men caring for / directing women is approved of God. Inherent into the Christ to Man relationship is a directionality in terms of power/knowledge/experience/etc. He is God. We are not God, but mere mortals. He is superior to us in every way.

    To say that this same relationship of power/knowledge/experience/etc. innately exists between one class of mere mortals to another is abhorrent to me. Whether that be because of sex, skin color (we once believed that one for sure) or anything else.

    Now to be honest, the as ‘God is to man, man is to woman’ directionality is exactly what I learn in the temple when women are promised to become priestess unto their husbands.

  100. “…exactly what I learn in the temple when women are promised to become priestess unto their husbands.”

    ReTx: oddly enough, I interpret that temple teaching exactly opposite of most. If a priest is the intermediary between God and an individual, what is a priestess? She (my wife) serves as an intermediary between me and God. She provides vital service to me by teaching me, by demonstrating attributes of godliness I would otherwise not be able to perceive of have access to. I perceive the marriage relationship as symbiotic, not individualistic or hierarchical.

    I also interpret the veil worn over women’s faces as a moment when women commune with the matriarchs of old (this springs from an old Kabbalistic teaching). The women are communing with the matriarchs of the human family. But I better shut up and let you all debate sexism.

  101. Old Man – I can’t tell you how much I wish I could believe in your interpretation. I think it would only work for me if men also were priests unto their wives though and the service/teaching was mutual (which I recognize in real life it is for most of us).

    I also really like your interpretation of the veil. I should probably look into related Kabbalistic teachings. It sounds interesting.

  102. Loursat, yes I agree, but my point is that there are many differences, like appetite, that generally fall along gender lines, and are innate differences, but if the woman (in my example, the mom) discriminates on that basis that’s one thing, but for a man to do the same (in this case, the dad) would probably be considered here as benevolently sexist.

  103. Loursat – my point is that a benevolent sexist should not be lumped together with hostile sexists. Intent matters. For example, someone with good intentions would be open to feedback when harm results from their good intentions, whereas someone with evil intentions would not.

    Contrary to what the article argues, gender roles outlined in the Proclamation on the Family (or any assumptions necessary to support them) do not: denote prejudice to women, assume women always act in good faith, or place women on a pedestal. The author appears to acknowledge a qualitative difference between benevolence and hostility but also appears to argue that the teaching of divine gender roles should be done away with just like hostile sexism. But what if gender roles are our friend, not our foe, in the fight against hostile sexism? That view does not appear to be represented here.

  104. Bro. B., I see no evidence that the father in your story “would be considered here as benevolently sexist.” Back to Romney’s tweet. Romney uses familiar language that calls to mind the image of women on a pedestal. That puts his tweet in an unmistakably sexist context, and it opens him up to Angela’s criticism. That criticism is based on what he said, not the fact that he’s a man. Of course, it’s not a coincidence that these kinds of sexist remarks usually come from men, but there are women who say such things too. Just look at some of the commentary about the recently deceased Phyllis Schlafly.

  105. ronaldjward, thanks for the clarification.

    “Intent matters. For example, someone with good intentions would be open to feedback when harm results from their good intentions, whereas someone with evil intentions would not.” I agree.

    “But what if gender roles are our friend, not our foe, in the fight against hostile sexism?” That depends on how we talk about gender roles. I don’t agree with you that the Proclamation’s approach to gender roles is harmless. I’m open to talking about gender roles. I just think that the Proclamation misses the mark. Which is to say, I mostly agree with the OP.

  106. ronaldjward: “a benevolent sexist should not be lumped together with hostile sexists. Intent matters. For example, someone with good intentions would be open to feedback when harm results from their good intentions, whereas someone with evil intentions would not.” Benevolent sexism is probably even more insidious than hostile sexism because it’s benevolent–people aren’t ashamed of it or hiding it, and in the case of chivalry are even proud of it. Supposedly good intentions that limit an entire category of person or relegate them to a partial personhood are still harmful. Not every plantation owner beat his slaves–some saw how they economically cared for them while making sure they were fed and congratulated themselves on their largesse–but that doesn’t mean slavery was positive. Any positivity was superficial. So it is with benevolent sexism. Would you rather be taken seriously or placated with superficial praise?

    Bro. B.: “The OP and many commenters seem to be making the point that NO differences between the sexes can be acknowledged for different treatment lest they be interpreted as judging women as weaker than men.” Here’s a novel concept. Treat everyone in your life as a real, full person with unique needs, strengths, and abilities. Listen to them, take their ideas seriously, do your best to see their full potential. Just as you would like to be treated.

    Making pronouncements that “women are like this” and “men are like that” only limits people. There’s no upside to it. I’ve said many times elsewhere that the Proclamation’s gender role descriptions are irrelevant at best and harmful at worst. If they are descriptive of how people behave naturally, then what’s the point? And if they aren’t, then why are we trying to force people into a box that doesn’t fit them? Marriages have to work these things out between the couple. Nobody else’s opinion matters.

  107. Angela C “I’ve said many times elsewhere that the Proclamation’s gender role descriptions are irrelevant at best and harmful at worst.”

    Yes, you’ve said that, but the prophets have said differently. They aren’t irrelevant because they describe how people behave naturally, they are useful as a guide to how people ought to behave. You think that behavior harmful, but many of us view it as divine.

  108. Angela C – Just like any other norm, gender roles are partially descriptive (most people are “norm”al) and partially proscriptive. Yes, they limit people or put them into a box. But why should that come as a surprise? We all have certain appetites or tendencies we’re expected to curb to conform with society’s norms and we all generally recognize that such norms make our society better off. I guess where we disagree is whether gender roles, a norm we’ve had more or less since recorded history began, are worth keeping.

  109. But having said that, gender roles (at least those prescribed by the proclamation) do not necessitate superficial praise, etc

  110. “I guess where we disagree is whether gender roles, a norm we’ve had more or less since recorded history began, are worth keeping.” That’s largely a myth. Women’s roles being defined as not earning outside the home is mostly a post-WW2 fabrication. Homes were hubs of industriousness. Families ran farms and businesses.

  111. Angela C – It sounds like you know more about history than I do so I will concede that women did more bread-winning before WW2 than after. I see a big difference, though, between a family farm/business and a job that keeps a mother far, physically and emotionally, from her children. In fact, I view a family farm or business as an ideal setting in which to implement the principles discussed in the proclamation.

  112. Ronald: Why the hand-wringing over a career keeping a mother far (emotionally and physically) with no accompanying concern about keeping a father far (either physically or emotionally)? And physical distance does not mean parents of either sex are emotionally distant from their children any more than physical proximity makes them emotionally close. When families rely on single bread-winners that usually means that fathers are physically (and sometimes emotionally) distant. This is unnecessary. Parents can work together so that both have quality time with their families and build an emotional connection; both can have better physical proximity.

    If we really care about families, we will build nurturing skills in both parents and bread-winning capabilities in both as well. Otherwise, we are leaving families with no succession planning.

  113. Angela C – I think the family model you propose can work. It seems to be working ok in places like Sweden, for example. However, it also appears to have the downside of substantially smaller families and fewer marriages overall. I guess that may be a good thing in your view, though.

    Also, it seems you are arguing that physical proximity does not affect emotional connection (“physical distance does not mean parents…are emotionally distant…any more than physical proximity makes them emotionally close.”) I would need to see more evidence of that to believe it.

  114. ronaldjward: Well, not necessarily on family size. If we also encourage employers to have family-friendly policies, family sizes can be whatever people want–large or small. We had 3 kids this way, and we could have had more if we wanted and if my health had allowed it. The better your financial resources, the more you can support a larger family. As to fewer marriages, I think there are other factors that cause that in Sweden, like low religiosity rates in general. People cohabitate instead. People also cohabitate in Australia because marrying creates a tax disadvantage. Basically, as a society we should legislate to encourage the behaviors we want. If we make policies family-friendly and prevent discrimination against parents, families have more choices and will benefit.

    I do think physical proximity affects emotional connection, but it doesn’t guarantee it. A mother suffering from depression can retreat and become distant despite proximity. Suburban housewives are often joked about retreating into drinking wine–at least where I live that’s the normal joke. Susan Smith was obviously not mother of the year despite proximity. The best emotional connections are usually forged with a combination of distance and proximity, and most of all SUPPORT. Absent husbands / fathers with 100% present wives / mothers is not the ideal recipe. It’s just the model that was in vogue post WW2. It wears down both sexes.

  115. Angela C – I think you raise some good arguments, but the social sciences do not give me a burning in the bosom on this subject. That’s what it comes down to for me.

  116. “Why the hand-wringing over a career keeping a mother far (emotionally and physically) with no accompanying concern about keeping a father far (either physically or emotionally)?”

    I think this is a really important point, actually. We’ve gotten really good at encouraging mothers to be present in their kids’ lives, but we haven’t yet figured out how to do that with fathers very well. “Just work so you can provide a good living” is not enough to fulfill the role of a father. I’m not saying that fathers should all stay home (though there’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s what they’re inspired to do) but I don’t think we as fathers can choose demanding careers that take us away from the home for long hours without paying the price. In my experience and opinion, it is far better, if you can, to work less, earn less, and be home more, than it is to work more, earn more, and be home less.

    But we don’t seem to talk about that much. You hear it some (“no other success can compensate, etc.”) but we seem to almost entirely make mothers responsible for balancing work and parenting, not fathers. It’s not healthy.

  117. Clark Goble says:

    JKC, I’m not sure we don’t hear much about it. Rather I hear it all the time. This gets into the traditional problem of “how much do the wards I’ve attended reflect the Church.” Still that saying of McKay still is repeated non-stop everywhere. Most of the Church’s various ad campaigns end up tied more to that issue than they do Mormonism proper. That’s just as true of contemporary ads as it was those early ads in the 70’s. The themes are still constant in priesthood sessions of conference too, such as this talk by Elder Eyring in April’s conference.

    Now saying all that I fully agree women still get too much of the burden for various reasons. That really has to stop. Some of that is what’s acceptable in society where work tends to be given much more value than family despite the numerous pop-cinema warning of this. Some of that is tied to the unfortunate ways spheres of responsibility were set up in a less than helpful fashion. Some is probably just inherent to instincts people have. But of course having an instinct doesn’t mean it’s good – most of ethics is learning to rationally control our instincts. Far too many men don’t.

  118. What I mean, Clark, is that while we do hear, from time to time, the McKay quote being repeated, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a discussion about taking this into account when choosing one’s career path. It’s always, “get an education and choose a career that will provide sufficient and stable enough income to support a family,” and that’s about it. If my experiences aren’t typical on this, that’s great.

  119. I’d add that we as a society heavily reward men with powerful, high-paying jobs. In my entire life I’ve never had a bishop that was a mechanic or janitor. (Not that it doesn’t happen entirely of course…) And status symbols are pretty big in Mormonism too (the house, car, technology, etc.) If we really want to change the family dynamic so that dad’s focus is on his family, then men who actually make that choice need to be the ones held up as role models. Otherwise, all the words spoken at conference and all the cute MormonAds are just rhetoric.

    RJW: Why did you say, “I guess that may be a good thing in your view, though…” I’m genuinely flummoxed on why you’d think an LDS woman would prefer fewer people to get married and have children…?

  120. Clark Goble says:

    I can but speak to when I was at BYU and this seemed a huge concern to many people. Indeed I frequently heard many careers condemned precisely because of the amount of time it takes from family. (High finance, concert pianist, etc.) I don’t hear that quite as much in my current EQ, possibly because it’s either people already with careers or students married having already decided on a career. But it’s definitely seemed like a big issue. But again just doing a quick search on I find lots of conference talks addressing precisely the issue you raise.

  121. Clark Goble says:

    ReTx part of that is that people with good paying jobs are often the ones able to take the time to do the tasks of a Bishop. I’ve certainly been in many wards where the person who was Bishop weren’t “powerful high paying jobs.” Admittedly Provo might bias things somewhat. But the first Bishop in my current ward ran a small hotel in downtown Provo. The second one worked at the BYU library. My current Bishop teaches family science/sociology.

  122. I agree with Clark @1:53, trying to find a career that paid enough to support a family and that allowed enough time to be with that family while serving in the church was a common theme in YM and AP lessons when I grew up as well as in casual conversations about careers I had with other YM in high school and at BYU. And as a father of two boys just out of their teens I know it is still a common concern today. Why else is there an abundance of LDS dentists? It’s not because as a people we are extraordinarily gifted with the ability to do manual labor in a tiny space.

  123. ReTx – You inquired why I would wonder if an LDS women would prefer fewer people to get married and have children. First, that was probably an exaggeration. I don’t know for sure whether Angela C is LDS. It appears maybe she once was, but may no longer adhere to the faith. Second, she seems to value individual independence a great deal. Less marriage and fewer children equates to more independence.

  124. Clark Goble says:

    KLC, to such a degree that I think many Mormons perhaps go too far the other extreme judging unfairly certain trades or professions.

  125. ronaldjward: “It appears maybe she once was, but may no longer adhere to the faith.” On what could you possibly base this assumption? You are very mistaken. I am an active, regularly attending LDS church member, and I completed a full-time mission. I participate in an early morning seminary carpool, for crying out loud. Trying to dismiss my opinion on the grounds that I’m not faithful or committed might make you more comfortable, but it’s unjust and untrue. I seem to be guilty of having an opinion while being female.

  126. “Less marriage and fewer children equates to more independence.” Err… Okay, if that’s your belief, then that is your belief. Please let me reassure you though that as a married, active LDS woman with plenty of children and a career, that independence has little to do with the existence of these factors (or lack thereof) and everything to do with what one does with these factors. Also reducing the argument to dependent vs. independent disregards interdependent – which I’d argue is the best definition of family life.

  127. Angela C – I apologize for my incorrect accusation. You sound like a terrific person. I was suggesting you might not be LDS only for the sake of arguing that I had a plausible basis for saying you would possibly be ok with a family model that results in fewer marriages/children. So please bear that context in mind.

    ReTx- I agree that marriage and children increases interdependence and that is a good thing. So to the extent you equate independence with interdependence I see eye to eye with you. I just don’t equate those two terms.

  128. RJW – I see interdependence and independence as having big, fuzzy gray areas between them. In a totally practical sense though, does being financially interdepndent with my spouse mean that I am not financially independent?

    I could argue no. Neither I nor my husband alone could meet our financial goals.

    I could argue yes. Both my husband and I could keep our family far above poverty on our individual incomes should that need arrive.

    And of course there’s the question of does financial interdependence require both parties to be working? I don’t think it does for many marriages. (For me it does, but I accept that not everyone is on my personal life path.)

  129. I know that the time to comment on this has long passed, but I just read a fascinating article on this topic that I think really expands the conversation about hostile/benevolent sexism and the women that support it.

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