The Plight of Mormon Women, as (Accurately?) Described by Non-Mormon Women

I’ve noticed two different posts recently in the bloggernacle that touch on the same theme: Non-Mormon women think that Mormon women are repressed and considered inferior to men, while educated and articulate (and believing) Mormon women are horrified at these broad characterizations.

Janelle at Let Your Mind Alone writes of a conversation with a co-worker who told her that “Mormon women are bred to consider themselves inferior to their husbands.” Janelle was appalled at a broad characterization that potentially includes her, but discusses in her post how many Mormon women do seem to give an impression of inferiority.

Jennifer Jensen at BCC writes of a conversation she had with a woman she met while traveling. “When I told her I am Mormon she was quite shocked. She asked me how I could be so educated and part of such a sexist church, thus allowing myself to be repressed.” Jennifer, of course, replied with a strong rebuttal — an argument which her nonplussed acquaintance apparently found unbelievable.

It’s an interesting question. I’ve known many Mormon women who do seem repressed, and many men who seem to think that women are inferior. I don’t want to stand in the way of anyone who would encourage these members to change their attitudes. On the other hand, it seems that broad statements — “all Mormon women are repressed” or “all Mormon women are made to feel inferior” — run the risk of patronizing or insulting those women in the church who are articulate, intelligent, and educated. The bloggernacle provides great evidence of the existence of such women — just look at our bloggers here, or our guest bloggers, or the bloggers I’m linking to, or many other bloggernackers.

Is there a way to strike a balance here? I’m not sure.

34 comments for “The Plight of Mormon Women, as (Accurately?) Described by Non-Mormon Women

  1. Frank McIntyre
    August 6, 2004 at 12:17 pm

    “I’ve known many Mormon women who do seem repressed, and many men who seem to think that women are inferior.”

    This is, of course, true of non-Mormons as well.

  2. Julie in Austin
    August 6, 2004 at 12:49 pm

    I remember reading (probably in one of those women’s conference books) of a fairly traditional LDS couple. He was the pres. of a major bank or some such worldy endeavor, she the ever-supportive wife. But the point was made that when her calling required her to put on one of those huge stake shindigs, he was in the kitchen with dishwater up to his elbows.

    (Of course, if the situation were reversed, we would conclude that *she* was repressed beyond measure.)

    I think the problem is that LDS women are often caught in the very act of charitable service, but seen through the lens of a worldy perspective, their actions appear to be the result of servitude.

    We have a prophet who repeatedly urges men to treat their wives better, encourages women to become educated and full partners in their marriages, etc. Of course, some members are not in harmony with those teachings. But to blame the Church for that would be tantamount to blaming it for LDS who smoke.

  3. August 6, 2004 at 12:54 pm

    I don’t know if repressed is the right word, but I agree with Frank that many non-Mormon women are frustrated by their lots in life too. Part of the problem is that women tend to be more bound to their children than their spouses, and we live in a society where carework is devalued compared to other kinds of work (especially wage earning work).

  4. John H
    August 6, 2004 at 1:14 pm

    “This is, of course, true of non-Mormons as well.”

    While that may be true Frank, it hardly answers the question of whether some Mormon women are repressed *because* of their Mormon faith. The question is whether the Church has teachings, beliefs, or culturally accepted practices that lead to repression of women.

    I’m not answering these questions in this post, I’m just suggesting they are questions worthy of more discussion than a typical defense of the Church that says “It happens everywhere.”

    A defense of the Church when it comes to polygamy would never be “Well, there are people who are polygamists who don’t have anything to do with the Church.” – the connection between polygamy and Mormon teachings is abundantly clear. The question remains, are some Mormon women repressed, does that repression have a connection to Mormon teachings, and is there something the Church ought to be doing, or are these simply individual problems of a minority?

  5. August 6, 2004 at 1:26 pm

    Kaimi: “On the other hand, it seems that broad statements — “all Mormon women are repressed” or “all Mormon women are made to feel inferior” — run the risk of patronizing or insulting those women in the church who are articulate, intelligent, and educated.”

    I’m sure it was inadvertent, Kaimi, but it seems that the implication of your sentence is that only those LDS women who are intelligent, articulate, and educated have risen above the oppression of the Mormon male machine. Given that many Mormon women value other attributes far more than appearing intelligent, articulate, and educated, someone who believes those three characteristics are the only way to escape oppression might indeed conclude that Mormon women are oppressed.

    My question: isn’t the view that external worldly/intellectual attainments are woman’s only way to rise above oppression another way of oppressing women? What of those that serve quietly in their families/callings/jobs that don’t wish to be seen as brilliant or accomplished, but value charity, motherhood, service and compassion over the more visibly praised traits of today? Are such women necessarily oppressed, or are they only oppressed inasmuch as we look down on them for their choice?

  6. John H
    August 6, 2004 at 1:33 pm


    Rereading my comments, they come across as pretty snotty! I didn’t intend it that way so please accept my apologies.

  7. Frank McIntyre
    August 6, 2004 at 1:34 pm


    Mormons have, in general, ten toes and ten fingers. This is not something peculiar to them so there is no need to look for specific Church doctrines or attitudes to explain this bizarre fact of anatomy.

    Now there may be peculiarities of doctrine and culture that have bearing on repression, but since repression is widespread, there may not be. I am guessing that our traditions both foster repression and abate it, depending on which tradition and which person.

    But before looking for the causes, it is good to recognize that, since repression is not in any way unique to Mormonism, one should keep in mind that most repression could very well stem from the same causes as cause it in the population at large, and not anything peculiar to us as a “peculiar people”.

    This is not a “defense” of repression; repression is wrong. It is a methodology for isolating causes. You cite a poor “defense” of polygamy as being that others do it. But if, in fact, everybody in the world also was polygamous then we would not go around trying to understand why Mormons in particular were polygamous, because everybody else also was.

    Once again, I am fine with the idea that there may be Mormon peculiarities that lead some people to sin in exercising unrighteous dominion or in repressing others or to be vulnerable to repression etc. etc. But even if there aren’t, we’d still see repression because “it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” This is not a peculiar Mormon phenomenon, it is a human phenomenon, like having ten toes.

  8. Frank McIntyre
    August 6, 2004 at 1:39 pm

    Er, so repeal whatever counter-snottiness you find in my comment above.

    Or past comments.

    Or future comments.

    Or the particular snottiness you’d find in the comments I erase without ever posting. Some of those are pretty bad…

  9. Gilgamesh
    August 6, 2004 at 2:10 pm

    I was in High Priest group on Sunday listening to a lesson on being better husbands, when one of our group said the problem with the church today is that the brethren don’t realistically put women in their place. “Men are the heads of the house and ‘called’ to preside over the home and women need to understand that. All this working out of the house, equality stuff is not right and the brethren are just afraid to speak truth for fear of not being politically correct.” He kept quoting the temple covenants as his excuse to disagree with the prophet, which is a whole other discussion.

    Needless to day I was speechless. I felt like I had just entered the 1940’s. Fortunately he was contested, but the experience had me thinking of my own marriage. I believe that I need to have an equal relationship with my wife. I was informed upon my sealing that I would not attain my potential without her, nor her without me. This pretty much makes us partners. I am as reliant on her as she is on me. Only in equality, in my opinion, can there be absolute trust.

    I feel the brethren know what they are doing and if they are “not telling the women to be subservient” maybe it is because they aren’t supposed to be.

    Thanks for the time to vent.

  10. gst
    August 6, 2004 at 2:47 pm

    I wish I had an equal relationship with my wife.

  11. August 6, 2004 at 2:57 pm

    In my own experience it has not been uncommon for even the highly educated to have strong (often false) opinions about LDS women.

    I have had three professors this year challenge the coherency of my self-identification as both a believing Mormon and a feminist. Although I, obviously, think my position is intelligible, they do not. To be fair, however, their widely shared opinion, inaccurate though it may be, is not without good reason.

    It is easy to point to successful LDS business leaders, politicans, scientists, lawyers, academics, even athletes who are men, but much more difficult to point to LDS women who hold such positions of influence. While this pattern is true for society overall, it is, I think, especially pronounced among the LDS and I think that can be directly attributed to LDS teachings rather than other factors.

    Yes, LDS women are encouraged to get as much education as they can. But, that education is not meant to prepare one for a career. As a woman in the church you are encouraged to get an education as a “back up plan” in case of the untimely death of one’s spouse, divorce, or failure to marry. We are told to seek an education to prepare for motherhood (although it is difficult for me to see how most things one might learn in college would do this—think engineering, chemistry, biology, philosophy, french literature, etc.) and so many women (most?) at BYU study early childhood education or child development, and related fields. You can study music, art, history, languages but that training is not seen as preparatory for professional contribution, but rather as personally fulfilling (not that personal development is to be dismissed, of course).

    So far I have only heard two kinds of versions of the “I’m not repressed” voice here. The first is the LDS woman who is single and childless who is happily advancing professionally in a career of her choosing. The second is the LDS woman who has happily *chosen* (i.e. wants to and can) to stay at home with her children.

    My response: Of course, neither of these groups of women feel particularly “repressed”! They are living the lives they want and have chosen.

    I think there is a large majority of LDS women, however, who do not fit neatly in either of these categories. I am not saying that they would accurately be described as “repressed,” but I do think that their inner battles have not yet been represented in what I have read here.

    There are definitely cultural norms within the Church that have profound, and sometimes negative influence on women. Whether or not these norms are repressive is a complex question that requires thoughtful theological, philosophical, legal, and sociological analysis from some of our best minds.

    One last thought—I reject the simple dichotomy that has been presented (rather unreflectively, in my opinion) that women are either brilliant or besotted with their children, ambitious or amiable, compassionate or capable.

    I think it is especially unfair to the brilliant, ambitious and capable ones—since they are then assumed not to have the virtues that are most prized in women among Mormons. On the other hand, if a besotted, amiable and compassionate woman is labeled (unkindly and even inaccurately) as not very intelligent or interesting at least she is excused for choosing the better part.

    Excuse the lapse into Maxwellsian alliteration

  12. August 6, 2004 at 3:00 pm

    I sometimes think that the world reforms itself a little bit and then ten years later starts self-righteously pointing its finger at any viable candidate. I’m grateful for advances the civil rights movement and the feminist movement have offered to minorities and women both in and outside the church. But I sometimes find it a bit odd that people/organizations who were guilty of racism/sexism so recently in history can be so quick to condemn the church and paint us black … can the Church be so evil because it took perhaps a decade longer to respond to these problems?

    At least one comment has mentioned how an LDS priesthood-holder felt that women still had their place. I’m not so sure that’s as common a sentiment as it used to be — but I do get the impression that there are places a lot of priesthod holders feel an LDS woman should not be.

    If I might venture a personal observation…

    Here in Utah, if you want to see certain members of the Church become very uncomfortable or irritated, tell them your wife is a medical student. There are some (competitive) careers/fields that many in the Church still feel should belong exclusively to males. Many members of the church, quietly or not-so-quietly, feel that an LDS woman who gets accepted into the University of Utah medical school is taking a spot that should have gone to the rightful LDS wage-earner man. Maybe it’s because the medical school spots here in Utah are so competitive and coveted. The Utah legislature seems to represent this portion of the population a lot more than others, having run audits for two years in a row (wasting a lot of money and achieving little in the process, I might add). They seem to be absolutely convinced (despite lots of contrary evidence) that less-qualified women and minorities are being thrown a bone while competent white (LDS) males are being discriminated against.

    As a result, some women and minorities have felt that they are being looked at very critically … even though they happen to be very qualified to be where they happen to be. Those who suddenly feel they are discriminated against are very apt to jump on any female or minority example they can discover who appears to falter in any way. It’s amazing how often I’ve heard the same story over and over again of how an Indian female had to re-do her first year of medical school three times in a row, as if she represented all the minority and female medical students who have been here.

    So maybe it’s less about a woman being “in her place” and more about her being out of “someone else’s rightful spot.”

  13. Liz
    August 6, 2004 at 3:40 pm

    I normally don’t comment (just lurk :-), but this thread is something that I have been thinking a lot about recently. I have been confronted on a number of occasions by non-LDS women who are surprised that I am “going against church authority” by being single and pursuing higher education. Although I’ve tried to explain that getting an education, as women, has always been stressed by church leaders (even if only to be used as a back-up plan) and that my being single in my late 20’s has not been a conscious decision on my part to go against church authority, they have not been convinced. When I have pressed them as to why they believe this (expecting them to say it was because of something they’ve heard or read), the majority of them have based their opinions on the experiences they’ve had with other LDS women. LDS women have given them this impression!

    As I have reflected upon this, I think that some of the reasons are that non-LDS women might not value as highly certain traits or attributes that LDS women value (agreeing with Ryan Bell), but on the flip side, I do think that part of it is also how we talk to and teach LDS women, especially young women. I know that if you had asked me some key life questions as a teenager, I would have sounded repressed.

    When I was in Young Womens, I never remember being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Oh, they might ask what I wanted to study in College, but not what I wanted to do as a career. It is always assumed the answer is “I want to be a wife and mother.” Now, I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, but it does affect how you think about yourself. And it made things difficult for me as the years kept ticking away and marriage didn’t happen.

    It wasn’t until my mid 20’s when I realized that it was okay to be single and that was when I determined to go back to school. Now, speaking only for myself, this was a form of repression, not intentional, perhaps, but repression nonetheless.

    I think that things have improved now. When I was in the Young Women’s Presidency in my previous ward, most of the girls had thoughts on what they wanted to study and do (along with motherhood) when they grew up. And I think that more LDS women have become accepting of different ways of being a faithful, LDS woman (at least this is how it seems to me in Relief Society, although, at times, it is still difficult).

    In the end, I think that, in a small way, repression exists in our church. It is not based on principles of the gospel, but on the way we, as humans, interpret and then teach those principles.

    Sorry for the long post, I’ll go back to lurking ;-)!

  14. Gil
    August 6, 2004 at 4:28 pm

    Unfortunately old stereotypes still exist.
    I was in High Priest’s the other day and the lesson dealt with being more caring husbands and fathers. The discussion shifted to the unrighteous dominion of women for wanting, or expecting , equality, because it is a man’s ‘call’ to preside. Individuals cited the temple ceremony as their basis in direct conflict with President Hinckley’s statement from the Mike Wallace interview that “The men hold the priesthood, yes. But my wife is my companion. In this Church the man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are co-equals in this life in a great enterprise.”
    There seemed to be some issue with this concept. Those of us that agreed with it were fearful of a fistfight breaking out if we defended the prophet’s statement.

    Needless to say, I think the emphasis on greater equality for women is precisely because we still continue to have men that cannot get over the idea that women are heirs to the Celestial Kingdom. When I was married our sealer looked at me and said – “You cannot progress without your wife.” Tehn he looked at my wife and said, “You cannot progress without your husband.” We are equally responsible for each other’s progression.
    My mom always reminded me that women are not here just to help men into eternal life, but are children of our God that are meant to progress as well.

  15. Jack
    August 6, 2004 at 4:31 pm

    As a frustrated artist, I find it a little ironic to sit down infront of a computer at the library during my break — after delivering tons of freight in 90-100 degree weather with no AC — and read about a bunch of “repressed” people who aren’t finding fullfillment in their careers!

  16. August 6, 2004 at 4:48 pm


    If art doesn’t work out for you, consider world domination.

  17. August 6, 2004 at 5:00 pm

    Whoops, that last comment I made came awfully close to triggering Godwin’s law. Does that mean this thread has to end?

  18. Jack
    August 6, 2004 at 5:31 pm

    Danithew: Thanks, maybe there is something I can do well afterall.

    I get a little tired of hearing about the woes wherefores of why women (alliteration not intended) can’t find fullfillment in there lives. It seems like there’s always an implicit argument that men *are* finding such fullfillment. Most men are *very* unsatisfied with their careers/work/education etc. (except most of those here at T&S). The fact is that most people are quietly miserable as they muddle through their existence day after day.

  19. ronin
    August 6, 2004 at 6:21 pm

    Didnt some one once say that “we live lives of quiet desperation”? or something to that effect? I dont remember the exact quote

  20. August 6, 2004 at 6:27 pm

    I’ve always gotten the impression when people say someone is repressed it means they are holding themselves back. Perhaps the word sought here is oppressed since others think Mormon women are being forced into these dastardly subjugated lives. (insert eye rolling here). We should refer these smart and wordly people to the (non LDS) Prairie Muffin Manifesto and really give them heartburn. Of course, they would probably breeze right over #5.

    “Prairie Muffins improve their intellect and knowledge as they have opportunity, first by seeking wisdom from God’s word, then by reading good books and other materials which help them to make informed opinions about a wide variety of subjects.”

    I love the statement the Vatican put out this week about so-called feminism. Someone asked about balance here. I’d say most LDS women have the balance – We don’t try to be men (regardless of whether we are in the workforce or staying at home) and we recognize the we are not oppressed.

    Now if a woman, any woman, chooses to be repressed, that’s her own choosing.

  21. August 6, 2004 at 6:28 pm

    The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.

    -Henry David Thoreau

  22. August 6, 2004 at 6:49 pm

    Renee, my only problem with the Vatican’s statement is that it is out of sync with contemporary feminism. The statement dealt with the state of things some years ago, rather than things as they now are.

  23. Ivan Wolfe
    August 6, 2004 at 10:18 pm


    Which contemporary feminism? In literary studies, most feminism has now drifted even further left into the “all women are inherently lesbians and all men are rapists by merely existing” camp.

    Yes – some feminist literary critics are more conservative (or at least moderate) because there are more types of feminist criticism than there were 40 or even 15 years ago. So some forms of feminism are not covered by what the Pope wrote.

    However, Christina Hoff Summers’ book “Who Stole Feminism?” while ageing, still holds some currency: In the popular media the most radical forms of feminism have taken over the label. In the popular mind, feminism equals abortion, lesbianism and high divorce rates. It may not be totally accurate, but thats how it is preceived.

  24. August 7, 2004 at 12:20 am

    Ivan Wolfe: I had in mind not only literary criticism, though as you say there have been some moderate voices even there, but the political climate in general. I agree with you that in the popular mind feminism is often extreme feminism, but I think that suggests that feminism is a much different thing than it was when, in fact, most feminism was extreme. Kristine, Julie, and other LDS women accurately describe themselves as feminists. In the wrong crowds that is likely to get them in trouble. But many people understand what they say without blinking. If that’s possible, then feminism can’t be the same.

  25. Jack
    August 7, 2004 at 3:29 am

    Jim, you have to admit that society has changed as well. Feminism may not mean what it used to mean because everything around it has changed. No more “Father Knows Best”. We’ve got Al Bundy as the standard of the average american male.

  26. August 7, 2004 at 1:21 pm

    Jim writes,

    “Kristine, Julie, and other LDS women accurately describe themselves as feminists. In the wrong crowds that is likely to get them in trouble.”

    I tried to point out in my earlier post that in my own experience, there are very few crowds that aren’t the “wrong crowds” for self-identifying as an LDS feminist. Among most LDS (especially other LDS women) you are threatening to the church and the family. Among others you are merely confused and confusing.

    As a result, there are very few “crowds” in which I admit to being a feminist–individuals yes, crowds no. Further, I think it is easier to self-disclose as an LDS feminist if you are married and staying home with young children. In that case other LDS women may not like it when you use the f-word, but they can excuse it because at least you’re following the program. In my case people assume that I am single (a bad thing) and pursuing a Ph.D. (a questionable thing) because I am a feminist.

    I do think that the word feminism has become a bad word. This is true society-wide. In studies when women are asked they often begin, “I am not a feminist, but . . . ” and then go on to express support for equal education, equal pay, child care, etc. The perception is that feminism is anti-marriage, anti-family, and anti-men. Few women want to be associated with the scary bra-burning, hairy-arm pit image that the media offered of the women’s libbing feminist from the 1970s. The battle over the ERA and its divisive effects among women in the Church has made LDS women especially sensitive to the f-word. The language of feminism has been retained effectively in some quarters, but not among Latter-day Saints. For example, it provoked quite a controversy at BYU last Summer when the Smith Institute seminar on 20th Century Mormon Women’s History was called a feminist seminar in the Tribune article about it.

    I do think that we lack the word, the language to discuss these issues because feminism has largely been appropriated by the radical left side. Unfortunately, the right side’s demonization of feminism is also to blame. By self-identifying as feminist (because there is no other word to use) I try, often unsuccessfully, to work against this demonization.

  27. pencollector
    August 7, 2004 at 5:05 pm

    Rather than the church being at fault, I think, Melissa, that a lot of people find the more extreme forms of feminists ( actually the majority viewpoint in the academy) as described by Ivan in his post offensive. For that matter, a lot of people who are not LDS, or even religious, and who self-identify themselves as liberals and probably are registered Democrats, tend to find the current version of feminism as embodied by academic ‘feminist scholar” types and their cheerleaders in the media rather offensive.

  28. August 7, 2004 at 7:36 pm

    When I think “feminist” I think N.O.W. – an organization that represents a minority of women. When I think “feminist” I think of women who are not content with their lives, have something to prove, and don’t want to acknowledge that men and women are different. Man is not better than woman or vice versa. “Feminist” carries a very negative connotation with a lot of people. The most vocal people of the “feminist” movement don’t present a desire to be feminine and would be better referred to as “masculists” for that appears to be their desire – either that or maybe hermaphrodists? – a single gender for all (why not, we make kids in labs I’m sure we’ll find a way to grow them there too).

    If there’s people who want to call themselves “feminists”, I’m sorry, but they will attach a negative stigma to themselves. If a woman is content in life, going to work, to school, staying home, whatever, I can’t figure why she’d be interested in identifying herself with this label. If she is, fine. Just understand that the vocal members of this label will cause people to assume your motives.

    If men wanted to form a counterpart word and attach it to themselves (hell, maybe they should for all the bashing they’re on the receiving end of) they would be figuratively crucified. Ironically mostly by “feminists”.

    I am married. I work. I don’t have kids yet (by nature’s choice, not mine) and if and when I do, I hope that I can stay home but I don’t know what the circumstances will be. That is the ideal though, to work toward. I will not pretend that the world is perfect for women in every respect and that there isn’t discrimination but I will also not pretend that this Declaration embodies anything but the greatest value any woman could achieve or hope for. That’s enough for me. Maybe that produces scoffs and harumphs in this neck of cyberspace. So be it.

  29. Jack
    August 7, 2004 at 8:18 pm

    Renee: It also produces cheers. (at least three from me!) Let me say though, that while I may differ in my social/political out look from those of some of the women who blog here at T&S, I am truely in awe at the fact that it would require two or three life-times for me to catch up with them in terms of education and raw intellectual ability.

  30. August 7, 2004 at 8:40 pm

    Jack: There are some very smart, capable women here! Even if they do want to be feminists. ;) Seriously, I’m impressed and gladdened to see women unafraid to contribute and initiate discussions on deep or trivial thoughts. :)

  31. January 4, 2005 at 6:40 pm

    As a young girl, I was pressured by the church leaders, teachers, etc. to get married and have kids. I quit college at the expense of my education to assist my husband’s progression, retarding my own. When asked by a Sunday School teacher (before the lessons were sanitized and controlled and teachers could teach by the Spirit) we were asked if any of us had had an experience involving the Holy Ghost. I raised my hand and shared an experience. After the class, several brethren haranged on me and told me that I could not have spiritual experiences because I did not hold the priesthood! I’m now reading Maxine Hanks book on Emerging Mormon Feminism and the award-winning research by Michael D. Quinn which includes entries by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young about the full priesthood being given to women in the 1930s. Women should hold the priesthood, it only makes sense! A video concerning ancient christian records and the suppression of women historically CONTRARY to the teachings of Jesus Christ as preserved in the Gospel of Mary, etc. (DaVinci Code) was shown to 2 million Britains and 3 days later the Anglican Church gave women the priesthood. Utah was one of the first states to give women the right to vote. I think this state should lead the way in fully honoring women as equals to men by actions and not pats on the head! Utah Statistics show that Utah is #1 in depression, prescription drug use, child abuse and rape… All is NOT well in Zion.

  32. January 4, 2005 at 6:48 pm

    Typo noted above: Many women were given the full priesthood power and authority to heal, use the laying of the hands, etc to be followed by full gifts of the spirit in the 1830-38 to be specific. The Relief Society President was the authority for the women without the supervision of the men. (Teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves) Equality for women is coming. It is an upcoming Tsuanmi as women become better informed and educated over the internet regarding historical suppression of women. The internet is a tool that will enhance the world with equality for all men and all women. Blacks were given the priesthood in the early “good” days of Joseph, as well. It is very well documented even though this information has been suppressed in seminary and church lessons…

  33. Rosalynde Welch
    January 4, 2005 at 7:59 pm

    What an interesting thread! I think I discovered T&S shortly after it originated.

    My experience has been markedly different from others. I have forthrightly identified as feminist from my teenage years, even before I was formally trained in feminism: that I should be fully equal to men followed naturally and irrefutably, in my young mind, from my ability to compete intellectually with men on any disciplinary field. Before the Proclamation, I had never experienced feminism to be in tension with what I considered the central doctrines of Mormonism; indeed, if asked I would (and will) immediately give credit to the gospel and the church for any (small) achievement. (As I’ve aged, I’ve begun to think that my parents probably deserve more credit than the church, but I experienced the two influences as nearly synonymous.) I’ve continued to identify myself as an LDS feminist throughout my adult life–in appropriate contexts, of course, not in the middle of Gospel Doctrine–and I’ve never experienced the bitterly negative response of someone like Renee. I think there are several reasons for this: I’ve made very traditional lifestyle choices, so the fact that I was married and had children who stayed home with me throughout graduate school inocculated me against the kind of assumptions Renee makes; I am not professionally ambitious (I don’t claim this as a virtue, merely an accident of temperament); my social affect is quite feminine (unless you consider articulate speech to be unfeminine, which I don’t); by nature I am both nonconfrontational and quite conservative, and thus quick to defend the church status quo. And like Nate, I’m also somewhat clueless about super-subtle social machination, so I may simply be blissfully oblivious of disapproving stares and whispers. Whatever the cause, it has been my experience that, when it really matters, our behavior and words will trump the labels we affix to ourselves and others. As long as the social disruption caused by my identifying as feminist is minimal, and the social benefit of enacting a viable “Mormon feminist” subject position is great (in my mind), I will continue to identify as a feminist.

    On Ryan’s point (not that he’ll ever read this), I disagree. All human (and female) pursuits are not created spiritually equal. Is the completion of a dissertation more important than the completion of a scrapbook? No, morally speaking (and probably practially speaking, too). But is the love of learning more important than the love of scrapbooking? Yes, because our knowledge will rise with us while our scrapbooks will not.

  34. Greg
    January 4, 2005 at 8:59 pm


    Though I certainly agree that not all human pursuits are spiritually equal, I don’t think your scrapbooking riff is fair to Ryan’s point. From his perspective, the question would be framed as “Is the kind of knowledge attained in an academic setting more important than the kind of knowledge attained through charitable service, domestic pursuits such as motherhood, or other non-intellectual, non-resume-worthy pursuits?” That’s a trickier question than the one you pose in your penultimate sentence.

    (So folks don’t have to scroll up, Ryan wrote: “isn’t the view that external worldly/intellectual attainments are woman’s only way to rise above oppression another way of oppressing women? What of those that serve quietly in their families/callings/jobs that don’t wish to be seen as brilliant or accomplished, but value charity, motherhood, service and compassion over the more visibly praised traits of today? Are such women necessarily oppressed, or are they only oppressed inasmuch as we look down on them for their choice?”)

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