Mormon Masculinity

An exercise in historical imagination, if you please: you’re sitting in the tabernacle on a hot Sunday afternoon, Brother Brigham at the pulpit. He says,

I want the sisters to so far use the abilities which God has given them as to learn to set type, and have your printing office and carry it on. It looks very unbecoming to me to see a great, big six-footer stand and pick up little type and put it in its place to make a word or a sentence, a book or a paper; and when he has got his stickfull, taking the type out of the stick and setting it on the galley. To see a great six-footer doing, this, and measuring off tape, which is about the same, has always appeared to me, according to that which I understand, as if men were out of their place. … I know that many arguments are used against this, and we are told that a woman cannot make a coat, vest or a pair of pantaloons. I dispute this. It is said that a man is stronger and that he pulls his thread stronger than a woman does. I will take any of these ladies to a tailor’s shop and they will snap every thread a tailor sews with. Tell me they can not pull a thread tight enough, and that they can not press hard enough to press a coat, it is all folly and nonsense. The difficulty is the tailors do not want them to do it, and they try to shame them out of it or to make them believe they can not sew a seam, press a collar, wristband, sleeve or body of a coat, and if women do it ever so nice the tailors will say it is good for nothing, and so the great, big six-footer sits there cross-legged sewing. This is not the order of prudence and economy; neither is it according to the nature of the calling and the ability that God has given us as men and women, to see a man measuring tape, and such light work, it is far more suitable for women. … They say ladies do not eat enough to make them strong-why I have seen scores and scores of them that could pull a hand press, and we do not use them now; they would have nothing in the world to do only to take the paper and lay it down. “But don’t you let a woman know she can do this, don’t say to a woman that she is capable of setting type, or of setting a stick of type on a galley, and making up a form and locking it up with a little mallet that weighs eight or ten ounces. Do not tell a woman she can do this-no, no, it would spoil our trade.

Suffice it to say we want to enlist the real understanding and good sense of these women, and to tell them what their duty is. We want to make our own school books. We are paying now from thirty thousand to sixty thousand dollars a year for school books that can be made here just as well as to send and buy them abroad. This is carrying out the plan and principles of building up Zion, whether you know it or not. (JD 14)

When I get my hands on the remote to the Great Videotape in the Sky, you can bet I’m going to watch this episode. Aside from its entertainment value—Brigham’s comic repetition of “great big six-footer� kills me every time—this passage sketches in some fascinating features of early-Saint gender. In Brigham’s view, masculinity is the primary definitional category, and femininity, as the natural complement to masculinity, fills in the social blanks. If it’s indecorous for a man to work at indoor handwork, and if that work must nevertheless be performed, then it is proper for women to do that kind of work. And both masculinity and femininity, in this formulation, are secondary to Brigham’s characteristically overriding concern with home industry. Some historians have suggested that polygamy freed up women to work outside the home, citing the celebrated woman physician Ellis Shipps as evidence for this view. This passage, however, suggests that early LDS women’s roles were overdetermined primarily by ideologies of masculinity, not by family structure.

I’m interested in present-day Mormon masculinity, and in the ways in which church practice and teaching reinforce or define what it means to be a man. As feminism has politicized ideologies of femaleness, ideologies of masculinity have moved out of the social spotlight. It is my suggestion that the primary and secondary definitional gender categories have been reversed since that afternoon in the tabernacle: femininity now carries most of the weight of prescriptive definition, and masculinity merely fills in the social blanks. If women must be the nurturers, and if nurturing precludes breadwinning, then men must be the breadwinners. It’s never (or rarely) argued that men are inherently better equipped to bring home the bacon from the modern marketplace, or to hold public or spiritual positions of leadership, or to fulfill any of the traditionally male roles; rather, it’s argued that women are inherently better equipped to nurture, or love, or serve—that is, to fill the traditionally female roles—and thus men must fill in the blanks.

Still, there exist what sociologists call “homosocial� spaces in the church, spaces where men predominate and a positive ideology of masculinity might be promulgated, including church sports, priesthood quorums, most of mission culture, and home teaching. What is the ideal of masculinity that emerges from these spaces? Is there a coherent and distinct Mormon masculinity?

106 comments for “Mormon Masculinity

  1. Bryce I
    December 8, 2004 at 12:43 pm

    It is my suggestion that the primary and secondary definitional gender categories have been reversed since that afternoon in the tabernacle: femininity now carries most of the weight of prescriptive definition, and masculinity merely fills in the social blanks.

    I think that you’re going to have to work a lot harder to convince me of this. Even though “feminism'” now exists as a word that we can use to prescriptive effect, masculinity still enjoys, by and large, the privilege of silence — we don’t define categories explicity in terms of masculinity because it is already done implicitly. Just because we can and do make such definitions with the feminine as the primary does not mean that the feminine has replaced the masculine as the default assumption.

  2. Frank McIntyre
    December 8, 2004 at 12:46 pm

    “This passage, however, suggests that early LDS women’s roles were overdetermined primarily by ideologies of masculinity, not by family structure.”

    You use the word “overdetermined” and I am not sure if you are attaching to it some special meaning. Since I’ve noticed you using it before I’m guessing you mean something specific by it.

    In mathematics, overdetermined sets of equations are (loosely) those that have more equations then variables. This means that there is no solution to the system.

    What do literary types mean by “overdetermined”?

  3. Rosalynde Welch
    December 8, 2004 at 12:56 pm

    Bryce, I don’t disagree. I don’t see “primary definitional category” as equivalent to “default assumption.” Femaleness, I’m arguing, is now the target of more ideological attention than is maleness, but this doesn’t change the fact that most social structures are residually oriented toward masculinity.

    Frank, Marxist cultural theory uses the term “overdetermined” to mean “determined by multiple factors.” Thus there is no simple one-to-one causal relationship between women’s roles and ideologies of masculinity, since both roles and ideologies are multiple, and other causal factors may contribute. But an attenuated causal connection does exist. My sentence was poorly worded, since “primarily overdetermined” would seem to be a contradiction in terms.

    But come on, guys, is there a Mormon ethos of masculinity?

  4. Jonathan Green
    December 8, 2004 at 1:07 pm

    I’ll have to think about this one, Rosalynde. Until then, please remind John that he married up. Way up.

  5. cooper
    December 8, 2004 at 1:12 pm

    Rosalynde, while I am not being trite, I have yet to see a male primary president.

    I do not wish to get into the self hating feminist rant I see sometimes here. I think your question and post is worthy of much discussion and yes there seems to me that there is an ethos of masculinity in the church. It seems to come from an ill percieved definition of modern social mores. Thus my above statement again. Any male primary presidents all?

  6. Frank McIntyre
    December 8, 2004 at 1:17 pm

    “Marxist cultural theory”??

    Marxists apparently could not get their math right and their economic predictions were going nowhere…

    Time to become cultural theorists!!

    As for Mormon ethos masculinity, tt is that of the righteous Priesthood holder who obeys the commandments, loves, protects, and provides for his family, and serves God and others.

    Unfortunately, to really discuss the issue requires thinking about what characteristics are emphasized in masculinity more than femininity. That is a discussion that is rife with confusion and people getting needlessly offended.

  7. David King Landrith
    December 8, 2004 at 1:36 pm

    It?s never (or rarely) argued that men are inherently better equipped to bring home the bacon from the modern marketplace.

    I never pass up the opportunity to play the troglodyte, I’ll argue.

    First, I wonder whether this “bring home the bacon” euphemism trivializes the role of one fulfills when he endeavors to secure material support for his family. (not that this bothers me; I’m just wondering.)

    Second, when it comes to actually “bringing home the bacon,” I’d say that the men view their activities as reaching diminishing returns sooner than the women do. Thus, men who are the primary “bread winners” are more likely to remain motivated to pursue increased material support (or income) past the point where it is merely sufficient or even quite luxurious. We see this in the distribution of income, where married men with children earn more than married women with children given comparable education, seniority, and the like. (Incidentally, married women earn more than single men given comparable education, seniority, and the like.)

    Please note: It cannot possibly be the case that the woman is doing the same work as the man for less, or there wouldn’t be a woman available for hire anywhere.

  8. Rosalynde Welch
    December 8, 2004 at 1:38 pm

    Hi Cooper–I’m not sure what you mean by “self hating feminist rant,” so I won’t respond to that. And let me clarify one thing–I’m interested in exploring the Mormon meanings of masculinity, but I’m not necessarily arguing that the *general* Mormon ethic is masculine. (That argument could be made, but I’m not making it here.) As for your question–I was just thinking about that the other night. No, I’ve never heard of a male member of a primary presidency, although it’s common for primary teachers to be men. I personally would like to see more leadership callings be gender neutral–it seems like primary leadership callings, Sunday School leadership callings, and other positions that don’t required priesthood authority could be shared among the genders. That would result in mixed-gender presidencies, which could be rough at the beginning but could have potentially beneficial social results. So how do you think that the fact that there are no male Primary presidents bears on the masculine ethic?

    And yes, Frank, it is one of academia’s great ironies that the economists have all but forgotten Marx, while he lives on in a rich (and increasingly hegemonic) tradition of cultural theory that stretches across several disciplines. You’ve laid out a start for a present-day masculinity, thanks!

  9. Wilfried
    December 8, 2004 at 1:50 pm

    At the risk of being shot down, I’ll bring in the intercultural perspective. Europeans, at least from the top-industrialized countries where emancipation has been going on for decades and where many women have top-functions, often are “appalled” at what they perceive as still existing masculine-feminine role contrasts in American society. So, to what extent is Mormon masculinity part of a certain American masculinity? Oops, risky suggestion…

  10. Mark B
    December 8, 2004 at 2:09 pm

    There may be males in Primary presidencies, someplace, but if so it is contrary to the instructions (either in the handbooks or some subsequent statement from the First Presidency).

    You can talk all day about why that is, but I have other things to do.

  11. Rosalynde Welch
    December 8, 2004 at 2:20 pm

    Hi Mark! Well, the handbook would explain why we’ve never encountered male Primary Presidents! I don’t think it need shut down the discussion, though, as seems to be your desire–although my initial question wasn’t about church callings. Have fun with your daily work. :)

    Wilfried, interesting suggestion. It’s my uninformed feeling that Mormon masculinity may be distinct from mainstream strands of American masculinity, in its domesticating emphasis on family obligation and loving affect. In my ward, the elders quorum virtually all stand and bounce their infants during the lesson. American varieties of masculinity, from the cowboy to the metrosexual, seem to emphasize independence and bravado, which I haven’t encountered so much within the church.

  12. Frank McIntyre
    December 8, 2004 at 2:23 pm

    Rosalynde, an aside:

    Marx’s low status among economists was not due to some sort of mass forgetfulness, but rather to the implausibility of his assumptions and the incorrectness of his predictions. I suppose I should do a post on it sometime.

  13. Adam Greenwood
    December 8, 2004 at 2:25 pm

    current Mormon masculinity is mainly negative: don’t watch porn, don’t be mean to your wife, don’t neglect your family

    The provider stuff gets mentioned a little. Being a “protector” hardly at all. When I joined the military I was cheered by the older men and the ones from more rural areas, while most of the rest had an Abraham-Lincoln-on-spiritualism attitude: well, if that’s the sort of thing you like to do. . .

    I think we’ve suppressed the masculine virtues that can be found in conflict and aggression, for a variety of reasons not entirely related to their inherent sinfulness, but in this as in lots of things I’m kinda out in my own little world.

  14. Frank McIntyre
    December 8, 2004 at 2:26 pm

    The handbook also, I am told, specifies that the Sunday School President should be a Melchezidek Priesthood holder. This would be more interesting if the calling of Sunday School President played a larger role in the ward. Although I am certainly ignorant of th eins and outs, it seems as if SS Presidents largely coordinate substitute teachers and set up occasional special classes.

  15. Rosalynde Welch
    December 8, 2004 at 2:28 pm

    Frank wrote: “Marx’s low status among economists was not due to some sort of mass forgetfulness, but rather to the implausibility of his assumptions and the incorrectness of his predictions. I suppose I should do a post on it sometime. ”

    From the tone of your comment, perhaps we’ve discovered another issue as divisive as gender roles and SSM! :)

  16. Frank McIntyre
    December 8, 2004 at 2:35 pm

    From the tone of your comment, perhaps we’ve discovered another issue as divisive as gender roles and SSM! :)

    Yes, I tried to put a little emoticon of a growling dog but I couldn’t find one on the keyboard. I had to make do with tone.

  17. December 8, 2004 at 2:49 pm

    “Marx’s low status among economists was not due to some sort of mass forgetfulness, but rather to the implausibility of his assumptions and the incorrectness of his predictions. I suppose I should do a post on it sometime.”

    The later economist Marx of Das Kapital was clearly wrong about most things. However, the early Hegelian Marx of The German Ideology, “Theses on Feuerbach” and “The Jewish Question”–which is the materialist Marx which Rosalynde invokes–remains basically right.

  18. December 8, 2004 at 3:00 pm

    Okay, maybe I’m missing something here. I’m a little slow at times.

    From what I read, Brigham advocated realigning some traditional gender roles based on two things:

    1) Physical aptitude or misaptitude (the “big six footer” trying to do small things);

    2) Economic integration of women (i.e., women can be tailers just as well as men can).

    I’m having trouble reading from this that “masculinity is the primary definitional category, and femininity, as the natural complement to masculinity, fills in the social blanks.”

  19. Jonathan Green
    December 8, 2004 at 3:11 pm

    Rosalynde, I remember now: Boy Scouts. They might have some bearing on how Mormon ideals of masculinity are constructed, but I hesitate to bring up the issue (see the “most popular entries” bar to the right).

  20. David King Landrith
    December 8, 2004 at 3:19 pm

    Rosalynde Welch: What is the ideal of masculinity that emerges from these [homosocial] spaces? Is there a coherent and distinct Mormon masculinity?


    Rosalynde Welch: It’s my uninformed feeling that Mormon masculinity may be distinct from mainstream strands of American masculinity, in its domesticating emphasis on family obligation and loving affect.

    Jonah Goldberg once described his marriage as his wife’s continual battle to keep him from eating his dinner over the sink. And I observe that many Mormon wives view their husbands as overgrown man-boys who’d be completely lost if it weren’t for them and the priesthood.

    And Mormon culture recognizes that the priesthood shares this responsibility (of civilizing the guy, that is) with the wife, and that wives should use it to their advantage. For example, in Relief Society lessons on priesthood blessings, there is often some sagely older woman who will (correctly) emphasize the need for wives to ask for blessing early and often so that husbands can get practice.

    So this is how I define Mormon masculinity: Mormon guys are like Ralph Cramden minus the bombastic threats of spousal abuse.

  21. Frank McIntyre
    December 8, 2004 at 3:21 pm


    We’ll have to have an argument sometime about whether Marx’s contributions to philosophy outweigh his poor economic track record.

    And by the way, are you sure that that is what Rosalynde was referring to? Ar the sources you cite what the cultural marxists are basing their theories on? Obviously I have no idea. I’ve never read any of them.

  22. December 8, 2004 at 4:02 pm

    DKL inquired as to the use of bacon (e.g., bring home the bacon). This made me think of an usage that was common among my friends back in the undergraduate days: “I want her bacon� or “she wants my bacon�. Maybe that doesn’t reflect well on the ethos of the time (I can’t say it is simply a masculinity thing as it was used by both sexes).

  23. David King Landrith
    December 8, 2004 at 4:28 pm

    J. Stapley: This made me think of an usage that was common among my friends back in the undergraduate days: “I want her bacon” or “she wants my bacon”.

    So at BYU you could bring home the bacon, but only at certain hours and you couldn’t take it into your bedroom.

  24. Jed Woodworth
    December 8, 2004 at 9:46 pm

    Rosalynde: A thought-provoking post. Your point about the reversal in prescriptive definitions points to the flux in constructions of gender over the last center and a half. Doubtless some T&S readers would say “inherent” flux at work from the beginning of men and women; others would not go so far. I actually don’t have a very good read on what this crowd thinks about gender essentialism.

    I want to play with the idea of flux. If we go so far with you as to say that there has been a reversal in the weight of the prescription, with women now more or less determined and men filling in the blanks, why not also loosen up the space between prescription and blanks? If there is flux between roles over time, there can most certainly be flux within them. My sense is if your “it’s argued” statements are grounded in history, you’ll find an increase in comments in church sermons charging men with “nurturing” responsibilities, and a decrease in statements locking women into the prescription of nurturing only. These days we seem to be more alive to the possibilities of male nurturing and women bread winning, a you-can-do-it-all-phenomenon absent from all periods of our history. The Proclamation, as you recall, says women are “primarily” responsible. But that still assumes the nurturing male. Thirty years earlier males would not been given so much responsibility within the home.

  25. Jed Woodworth
    December 8, 2004 at 9:48 pm

    I guess I see the “sensitive” male making a comback in the church–that is the point. I don’t want to be locked into a blank.

  26. Rosalynde
    December 8, 2004 at 11:24 pm

    Some interesting comments, all, thanks. (I guess beginning a post with a long quote from Brigham Young tends to dampen readership, but I appreciate you who persevered. Actually, the fact that there were relatively few comments might in fact prove my point that Mormon masculinity in weakly defined–not many people had much to say about it.)

    Adam: really great point, that present-day masculinity is defined mostly by negatives. I think you’re right about that. If the aggregate message of RS general meetings and Priesthood meetings over the past five years could be distilled, I suspect it would be, respectively, women=mothers and men=shouldn’t watch porn.

    TOTAL Nathan: Hey, if my degree doesn’t allow me to strenuously interpret obscure texts, what else is it good for? ;) I do think that my reading is supported in the cited passage, which clearly starts from the category of maleness, and from there extrapolates femaleness according to economic necessities. But to argue, as I almost do, that this was a generalized move is, admittedly, unsupported here.

    Jonathan: Great point. Scouts is really key in Mormon masculinity, I think, particularly in its emphasis on duty. More on that. (By the way, John says hi and wants to know what you’re up to.)

    DKL: Ah ha! I’ve figured you out! You’re really a woman doing your very best to project the caricature of a troglodyte (what’s that?). How else would you know what goes on “in Relief Society lessons on priesthood blessings”? Indeterminate gender aside, I think you make an interesting point about women (ie family obligation) and priesthood (ie church obligation) acting as co-civilizers of men.

    Jed: I agree that the nurturing is not absent from Mormon masculinity, but I’m not sure it’s a strongly defining element, except as processed through priesthood=service ideas.

    My best stab at a contemporary Mormon masculinity would be man=obligated–obligated by duty to family, to church, to God. maybe to country. The new Young Men’s program might reflect this in its title, “Duty to God,” a pointed contrast to the Young Women’s “Personal Progress.” The different emphases, one on obligation and one on self-improvement, may be partly compensatory, and are (unintentionally) ironic: it’s the young women, by and large, whose lives will be more fully circumscribed by duty, whereas many young men (not all, but probably more than young women) will have opportunities to pursue self-improvement through career. I actually find the concept of duty to be a compelling one, and I’m glad it’s being taught to the young men, and I think it should be emphasized to the young women, as well.

  27. Jack
    December 9, 2004 at 12:23 am

    Mormon masculinity = Priesthood. The Priesthood (the proper execise thereof) is the last bastion of virtuous masculinity.

  28. Larry
    December 9, 2004 at 1:14 am


    You are right, but the problem as I’ve observed over the years is that the man is not the judge of it. The women are. As a result men cannot behave as men w/o facing criticism.
    In other words the blurring of the differences between men and women has adversely affected the male. That is why so many young men don’t know what it is to be a man. They end up acting out in inappropriate ways.

  29. David King Landrith
    December 9, 2004 at 8:39 am

    Rosalynde: DKL: Ah ha! I?ve figured you out! You?re really a woman doing your very best to project the caricature of a troglodyte (what?s that?). How else would you know what goes on ?in Relief Society lessons on priesthood blessings”?

    You are good. You’ve removed the word chick from my posts, you’ve dignified my comments with a response, you’ve scrupulously avoided scolding me, and you’ve used humor to poke good-natured fun at my masculinity (in a thread about masculinity, no less!).

    The one flaw in your approach is that your joke implies that my wife is [gay].

  30. David King Landrith
    December 9, 2004 at 10:33 am

    At any rate, I hate to disappoint your inner lesbian, but I am, in fact, a guy. Jim F. may be able to vouch for this since he tried (probably against his better judgment) to teach me Hegel, though he may have forgotten since I seldom actually attended my classes (though he may remember that I referred to Hegel as “The Magnificent Georg” in all my assignments, exams, and papers, because I believe he would have wanted it that way).

    And from all I can tell, troglodyte means son-in-law.

  31. Mark B
    December 9, 2004 at 8:05 pm


    When I came back to this scintillating discussion :-), I finally figured out what you meant in your comment on the scapula-clavicle thread.

    No, although my comment (about why the handbook says what it does about Primary presidencies) may have reeked of hostility, I suppose it was simply jaded ennui, and the harsh black and white of the computer screen didn’t convey that.

  32. Adam Greenwood
    December 9, 2004 at 8:22 pm

    Consarn it. Somehow I missed J. Green’s boy scout remark until Rosalynde W. replied to it.

    Anyway, I wonder if a synthesis of his comment and mine might explain the halfhearted, slightly confused way Mormons go about doing scouting. We’re a little vague on what it means to be a man so we’re just a little unclear on why we’re doing scouting. We learn ropes and semaphore because . . . because . . . we don’t know why, when all the time the answer was “to promote a vision of manhood as rugged, somewhat militaristic, outdoorsy, and all-competent.” Which sounds cool to me.

  33. Adam Greenwood
    December 10, 2004 at 1:41 pm

    Let me expand on what I mean when I say the Church’s vision of manhood is mainly negative. It seems to me that the message now is that women’s holiness and happiness comes through fulfilling and pursuing their nature*, as mothers and nurturers. Men, on the other hand, find holiness and happiness by resisting their nature–they resist their more physical and visual sexuality through fidelity and staying away from porn, they resist their lack of nurture by disciplining themselves to care for their families, etc.

    There are a number of good reasons why this might be the message right now. I’m not complaining. I only wish there were some way of getting more information. Because it seems to me that in a fallen world the flipside of both messages must also be true. There must be dangers about what women do/are by nature that need to be resisted. More importantly for me, there must be good uses to which men’s nature can be put when “baptized”, so to speak.

    *Some people don’t believe in nature. You’re wrong. Also, substitute ‘culture’ or whatever instead.

  34. Rosalynde Welch
    December 10, 2004 at 4:08 pm

    “There must be dangers about what women do/are by nature that need to be resisted. More importantly for me, there must be good uses to which men’s nature can be put when “baptized”, so to speak”

    Adam, I think we’ve found something about gender that we both agree on. *

    *If you substitute “deeply internalized cultural constructs” for “nature” in the quote above.

  35. Shannon Keeley
    December 11, 2004 at 2:44 am

    Hi Rosalynde,
    I like this thread, but I am groggy. Brian has been working nights and we are all mixed up and disoriented and sleep deprived. Hold on. . .I guess that pretty much describes the way we are all the time.
    But I digress. . .groggy.
    Anyhow, I like Adam’s point about how we define masculinity mainly in negative terms these days, telling men what they should not be, but rarely telling them what they should be. I think part of the reason for that is because when men are told what they should be, “providers,’ “protectors,� “presiders,� (is that a word?) women like myself get all offended and worked up, It just seems less controversial to define masculinity by what it’s not.
    It has always really bugged me how certain callings require the priesthood, like, you know, Bishop. Just kidding. I’m groggy. No, I mean like Sunday School president, etc. What responsibilities in that calling could possibly be better served by a priesthood holder than by a non-priesthood holder—be it male or female!
    I don’t think there will ever be mixed presidencies, be it in Primary, Sunday School, or whatever. I don’t think they want men and women working together in presidencies. Only in committees, but not presidencies. I don’t think that will ever happen,. And it’s too bad, because it destines women to only have leadership callings in primary, relief society, and young women’s.
    By the way, Rosalynde, I’m glad that you defined “homosocial.� Brian has been wondering what it meant since you first used the word back on the 6 Degrees thread. If I ever see him, I’ll tell him what it means.

  36. Rob Briggs
    December 11, 2004 at 4:20 am

    Rosalynde: “I’m interested in exploring the Mormon meanings of masculinity, but I’m not necessarily arguing that the *general* Mormon ethic is masculine.”

    I think the general Mormon ethos is feminine, or you can make a darn good argument for it. It shows in our leadership. It’s a male-dominated hierarchy, yet to a man they are, er, feminine, for lack of a better word. Meaning that I’ve never seen them exhibit the qualities of my favorite actions heros. I mean never.

    Just like the general sense of Jesus in the NT is “feminine.” Except of course when he kicked butt in the temple. But other than that, his virtues & actions tend more to the “feminine.” (I know, I know, these may be (largely) socially constructed. (But I do think that aggression is more pronounced in the male of some species. Couple weeks ago visiting Idaho, my brother took me to an elk “farm.” The cows were docile. The bulls were locking horns. (It was that time of year.)))

    The most valued traits in the Christian hierarchy of virtues are “feminine” (in quotes to lower the hackles of the social constructionists). Except when you’re clearing moneychangers from the temple, the Christian virtues are (largely) feminine.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  37. Rob Briggs
    December 11, 2004 at 4:35 am

    I’m making posts as I work down the log. I just got to Jed at # 25 & the “sensitive” male.

    Yeah, that’s what I mean, the Sensitive Male. There are those feminine qualities again.

    BTW, I’m not objecting or complaining. I just think it’s interesting.

  38. Frank McIntyre
    December 11, 2004 at 8:26 am

    As for mixed presidencies, that is a great way to encourage what we already have more than enough of, which is to say, adultery. There are benefits to mixed presidencies. They almost certainly will not outweigh the costs (at the general Church level) until we are a whole lot better people than we currently are now.

  39. greenfrog
    December 11, 2004 at 9:06 am

    Perhaps we should include curtains in meeting rooms, as well, with men and women on different sides. That way, all could hear the lesson, but attention to the potential for illicit liaisons — rather than to the lesson material — will be reduced.

  40. Frank McIntyre
    December 11, 2004 at 11:32 am

    If the benefits outweigh the costs, then sure. But in that case, the benefits do not outweigh the costs. Such, greenfrog, is the beauty of thinking in terms of costs and benefits.

  41. Michael Hooten
    December 11, 2004 at 12:01 pm

    Okay, I’m new to the blog, but I’ve read through this thread with some interest. For background, I am a convert to the church who grew up in Texas, and both of those things probably affect my views on these things.

    I think that Mormons have a very definite masculine ideology, and it goes something like this: men are to strive for a perfect priesthood, starting in their homes and extending to the church. This means a fierce devotion to their wives and children, and then to the structures and pricinples of the gospel. I’ve always seen Mormon men as combining the best of traditional masculinity (macho breadwinning tough guy) with the compassion taught by the prophets (so that we end up with quorums full of infants being dandled).

    I think that the confusion comes from how the church projects itself to the world. We have downplayed the warrior aspects of the priesthood, and emphasized all that we do to promote women. Individually, I think this continues, as men downplay all the times that we are called to do physically strenuous work while the women provide food and cold drinks for us. If we point it out, it sounds like we are either complaining or chauvanistic, and I don’t think it’s either. I think it falls more in line with what Brigham was saying, which is that men and women are naturally built for different forms of physical work.

    Yes, I struggle with what it takes to be a good man. I think that that is a part of our culture as much as anything else right now. The church gives me guidance for what I should be doing, but doesn’t say anything about the attitude we should do it with. And stoic resolution, a wonderfuly masculine attitude, is often taken as passive acceptance, a rather effeminate attitude.

    Have I been sufficiently offensive for the topic?

  42. Kristine
    December 11, 2004 at 12:40 pm

    Frank, I always hear the temptation of adulterous liaisons as the reason for avoiding mixed presidencies, but I don’t buy it–I’ve never been in a presidency meeting that provided an occasion for romantic activity of any sort. Most Mormon men now regularly work closely with women in their professions; it’s silly to think that they couldn’t collaborate with women at church in appropriate ways.

  43. Brian
    December 11, 2004 at 1:19 pm

    Gotta disagree with Kristine on this one. One would think that there’d be no occasion for romantic activity in a district meeting or zone meeting, but everyone who’s ever been on a mission knows half a dozen stories about Elders falling for Sisters and vice versa. You would think strict mission rules and having a companion would stifle romantic possibility, but it doesn’t. Perhaps the argument can be made that in a typical mixed presidency everyone would be older and wiser, but I don’t think so. I’ve heard far too many stories of adultery among individuals who worked closely together at church. True, in today’s world professionals collaborate closely with women, but in today’s world workplace liasons are also extremely commonplace, or at least in my experience. It’s not silly to think that occasionally men (and women for that matter) would act inappropriately. Experience has shown that they do and would.

  44. Kristine
    December 11, 2004 at 1:25 pm

    But at some point you have to quit trying to babysit everyone. I think the culture that says “men are not to be trusted to keep their pants zipped, and women are dangerous sexual provocateurs ready to lead righteous Priesthood holders astray at the first hint of opportunity” is extremely damaging to both sexes, and to the possibility of building a church that can develop and use the gifts of all of its members.

  45. David King Landrith
    December 11, 2004 at 1:30 pm

    Rob Briggs: The most valued traits in the Christian hierarchy of virtues are “feminine” (in quotes to lower the hackles of the social constructionists). Except when you’re clearing moneychangers from the temple, the Christian virtues are (largely) feminine.

    This point of view is prevalent, because it has altogether fallen out of favor to associate virtues with the beleaguered notion of masculinity. So, unless it concerns brute (or brutish) strength, there simply isn’t any room to call a virtue masculine.

    That said, let me propose two Christian virtues that are exemplified most often by men, even if they aren’t any more considered masculine virtues.

    First: 1 Timothy 5:8 states: “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath henided the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” In Mormonism more than elsewhere, the man remains the breadwinner. I doubt that, for example, a single father would be looked upon as sympathetically as a single mother in regards to his financial needs.

    (Incidentally, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been any reference to 1 Timothy, seeing how it emphasizes many of the social conditions for the worthiness of men functioning within the church.)

    Second: Men do not manifest an exquisite sensitivity to the terms according to which their sex is described or referred. Surely, there is some aspect of charity in this.

  46. December 11, 2004 at 1:36 pm

    I think that Mormon masculinity probably should have something to do with what Mormon women want. How often it does, I don’t know. Here are some characteristics that are usualy desirable: handsome, rugged (has muscles), smart, educated, funny (has a good sense of humor), a good dresser, faithful to his wife, holds down a job, spends time with his family and kids, etc.

    For some reason the lyrics to Salt N Pepa’s “What A Man” come to mind, though they do have a sensual focus that many Mormons wouldn’t talk about in public (by the way, the chorus is basically the words “what a man, what a man, what a mighty good man” over and over again):

    I wanna take a minute or two, and give much respect due
    To the man that’s made a difference in my world
    And although most men are ho’s he flows on the down low
    Cuz I never heard about him with another girl
    But I don’t sweat it because it’s just pathetic
    To let it get me involved in that he said/she said crowd
    I know that ain’t nobody perfect, I give props to those who deserve it
    And believe me y’all, he’s worth it
    So here’s to the future cuz we got through the past
    I finally found somebody that can make me laugh
    (Ha ha ha) You so crazy
    I think I wanna have your baby


    My man is smooth like Barry, and his voice got bass
    A body like Arnold with a Denzel face
    He’s smart like a doctor with a real good rep
    And when he comes home he’s relaxed with Pep
    He always got a gift for me everytime I see him
    A lot of snot-nosed ex-flames couldn’t be him
    He never ran a corny line once to me yet
    So I give him stuff that he’ll never forget
    He keeps me on Cloud Nine just like the Temps
    He’s not a fake wannabe tryin’ to be a pimp
    He dresses like a dapper don, but even in jeans
    He’s a God-sent original, the man of my dreams

    Yes, my man says he loves me, never says he loves me not
    Tryin’ to rush me good and touch me in the right spot
    See other guys that I’ve had, they tried to play all that mac sh**
    But every time they tried I said, “That’s not it”
    But not this man, he’s got the right potion
    Baby, rub it down and make it smooth like lotion
    Yeah, the ritual, highway to heaven
    From seven to seven he’s got me open like Seven Eleven
    And yes, it’s me that he’s always choosin’
    With him I’m never losin’, and he knows that my name is not Susan
    He always has heavy conversation for the mind
    Which means a lot to me cuz good men are hard to find


    My man gives real loving that’s why I call him Killer
    He’s not a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am, he’s a thriller
    He takes his time and does everything right
    Knocks me out with one shot for the rest of the night
    He’s a real smooth brother, never in a rush
    And he gives me goose pimples with every single touch
    Spends quality time with his kids when he can
    Secure in his manhood cuz he’s a real man
    A lover and a fighter and he’ll knock a knucker out
    Don’t take him for a sucker cuz that’s not what he’s about
    Every time I need him, he always got my back
    Never disrespectful cuz his mama taught him that

  47. December 11, 2004 at 2:10 pm

    Bah, somehow I forgot one of the most important characteristics of Mormon masculinity. That would be spirituality.

  48. December 11, 2004 at 2:21 pm

    I tend to agree with Danithew. What women want often determines in large part what men become. I think women downplay how much power they have socially. We can criticize the way it is manifest or expressed, but there is a lot of social power there.

    Just look at recent changes in culture. In the 60’s a hairy man was ideal. Now it is a hairless man and sculpted muscles (unheard of in 60’s action stars) is almost required. So what do men do? They often shave more and in more places than ever before. They go to the gym more. They wear longer shorts to cover the hairy legs. And so forth.

    Within the church, what women want especially in dating habits, often affects what men become. And yes, that is somewhat different than in the world. I’d also note that what women show they want men to be like and what they say they want men to be like often is quite different.

  49. Rob Briggs
    December 11, 2004 at 2:26 pm

    Brian: “in today’s world professionals collaborate closely with women . . .”

    Oh, dude, do I feel sorry for you. You are gonna be toast. If I were you I’d make the fastest retraction in blog history.

    T&S Femaledom is gonna rain fire & brimestone on you. You better be wearing (mixing metaphors) the Brown Helmet. You’re standing way to close to the fan (mixing metaphors) when you-know-what is about to hit it. You’re . . . Dude. You dead.

  50. December 11, 2004 at 2:28 pm

    I forgot another major point of masculinity. One that probably seems obvious but is often overlooked.

    Men are supposed to be tall (in comparison to women).

    I helped transcribe interviews on a dating study at BYU years ago and one of the research papers derived from that study determined that the absolute #1 factor that women look for in a man is someone who is taller than them.

  51. David King Landrith
    December 11, 2004 at 2:30 pm

    Don’t feel too bad for him, Rob. I’ve experienced the wrath of the T&S women and they just aren’t that ferocious.

  52. Kristine
    December 11, 2004 at 2:33 pm

    “I’ve experienced the wrath of the T&S women”

    No, you haven’t yet, David. Not even close. However, as they say where I’m from, you’re fixin’ to!

  53. David King Landrith
    December 11, 2004 at 2:35 pm

    Interesting point about height, danithew. My daughter’s are watching “Shrek” while I write this, and in it Farquaad is made all the more ridiculous for being small—there are even jokes about him compensating for something. Now that I think of it, “Shrek” seems to have quite a lot to say about the masculine ideal, especially since the cultured, ambitious aristocrat is the buffoon and the ogre is the leading man. (Other than that point, which I find personally vindicating, I’m not a huge fan of the movie.)

  54. David King Landrith
    December 11, 2004 at 2:38 pm

    Kristine: No, you haven’t yet, David. Not even close.

    That’s a big relief. I was beginning to think that I had nothing to look forward to at all.

    Kristine: [A]s they say where I’m from, you’re fixin’ to!

    I can’t imagine why.

  55. alissa
    December 11, 2004 at 2:39 pm

    Wanted to comment on the male primary presidency.
    I was once in a ward, a big ward, so there was no problem finding people for callings, where we had a male in the primary presidency. He was strange and a little femmy, but he was male all the same. Guess the Bishop dropped the ball there if it says that’s not supposed to happen in the handbook. Actually, thinking back, the Bishop of the ward was a little strange too…

  56. December 11, 2004 at 2:44 pm

    I hadn’t thought of that Farquaad example but it definitely fits the principle.

    The height factor isn’t a constant but it is almost a constant. Think of the wedding pictures you’ve seen in your life and how many of them had a groom that was shorter than the bride.

  57. Rob Briggs
    December 11, 2004 at 2:56 pm

    David, start at “Clan of the Cave Bear” & continue on to “Braveheart” and “LA Confidential” and conclude somewhere around “Saving Private Ryan.” You have pretty well encompassed 100,000 years of your traditional masculine virtues.

    Ever since JS hung up his wrestling togs, Mormons virtues have tended toward the feminine. As they should, I suppose, since Christ’s virtues were mostly feminine. Like I say, I don’t have a problem with that.

    I agree with your example # 1. # 2 is couched too obscurely for me on a Saturday morning.

    (Sorry about the references to Braveheart and LA Confidential. I couldn’t help myself.)

  58. Shannon Keeley
    December 11, 2004 at 3:04 pm

    Have you seen the Ellen DeGeneres HBO special where she does a reading / “performance� of this very Salt N Pepa song at the end of her show. It’s fabulous.

  59. David King Landrith
    December 11, 2004 at 3:14 pm


    I think that all of your examples of movies that display masculine virtues display them in terms of either brute (or brutish) strength or guns. Loyalty isn’t any more important a part of “Saving Private Ryan” than it is in “Steel Magnolias” or “The Golden Girls.”

    By my #2, I was referring to the type of thing that requires you to use scare quotes around feminine (and offer an accompanying explanation) when nobody feels a similar need to use scare quotes or qualify references when referring to the masculine. As to whether it has broader implication, I’ll leave that for others to sort out.

  60. December 11, 2004 at 3:15 pm

    Shannon, I had thought of that (because it was friggin’ hilarious!) but I remembered there being some line about an uzi. So I googled it and found that it’s the same group but it’s the song “Shoop.” And I’m glad you brought it up because it makes me laugh just thinking about it.

    Here’s a link to the lyrics:

    Salt N Pepa are very in-your-face and ribald but the attitude and the swagger and the rhythm of their songs wins you over. At least that’s how I feel about them.

  61. Shannon Keeley
    December 11, 2004 at 3:16 pm

    Here is my beef about mixed presidencies:
    I agree, Kristine, that it’s ridiculous to “babysit� grown adults by keeping them from serving together to help them avoid having affairs.
    However, having said that, I have to admit that I do see a potential danger just in that fact that when you work closely with someone in a church presidency, you develop a real bond and intimacy with them. Perhaps church leaders are afraid that this bond could be mistaken for or lead to inappropriate behavior.
    The problem is that avoiding mixed presidencies doesn’t stop male and female members from working together closely and developing those bonds. Male and female members work together on all sorts of committees, PEC, Young Mens & Young Women’s, as ward missionaries, etc. And, sadly, these associations do sometimes become the spark for extramarital affairs.
    That some church members make terrible mistakes in letting this happen, however, doesn’t mean that men and women shouldn’t serve together in various ways.
    Since the “no mixed presidencies� approach doesn’t really safeguard against church members having affairs, I see no reason to avoid them. Unfortunately, I am pretty sure that mixed presidencies will never ever become a reality in the church, so perhaps my point is, well, pointless.
    What this has to do with a concept of “Mormon Masculinity,� I have no idea. But I have always wondered about mixed presidencies, so that’s my two cents.

  62. Shannon Keeley
    December 11, 2004 at 3:18 pm

    Oh yes, you’re right, it was “Shoop.” I love her HBO specials. I’ve seen them both several times and they always make me laugh. I always use her “I did everything I could!” line when I can’t find the right buttons to keep the elevator door from closing.

  63. Rob Briggs
    December 11, 2004 at 3:19 pm

    Yeah, David, you’re right. I was thinking some of the same. I started thinking that most of my examples sounded like the Natural Man. Also most of my examples had Scots-Irish blood. Hmmm, come to think of it, are the Scots-Irish the original prototype for the Natural Man?

    I think I found my problem.

  64. December 11, 2004 at 3:38 pm

    By the way, there seems to be some kind of concept that some races/ethnicities are more masculine or feminine than others. I have no idea if it’s a politically correct concept or not, but this principle reveals itself in the way mixed-race marriages play out. For example, you’ll see African-American men married to Asian women but you’ll amost never see an African-American woman married to an Asian man. I stumbled on this concept in an article about mixed-race marriages from National Review:

    Of course, this isn’t always true, as the author himself points out:

    Obviously, these are gross generalizations about the races. Nobody believes Michael Jackson could beat up kung-fu star Jackie Chan or that comedienne Margaret Cho is lovelier than Sports Illustrated swimsuit covergirl Tyra Banks. But life is a game of probabilities, not of abstract Platonic essences.

  65. David King Landrith
    December 13, 2004 at 11:18 pm

    I just remembered a story that is, perhaps, more about Mormon gender roles than about masculinity, but here goes:

    I was a little late getting to ward temple night one evening, and thankfully the Boston Temple is small enough that they can rush you up in pinch. At any rate, when I got to the room, there were no seats available on the guys’ side. To my utter astonishment, they seated me on the other side. (I didn’t even know that this kind of thing was allowed!) Luckily, one more person showed up, and she took my seat. They turned up a folding chair for me.

    When we finished the session, I got a hard time from a few of my contemporaries. “Ooooh. You almost got to sit with the ladies,” they said with a smirk. Of course this was meaningless banter, and it wouldn’t have really mattered in any case. But sitting on a certain side of the room in this context seems to be some form of gender entitlement, and it is certainly part of the expectation created for each sex.

    Perhaps it’s odd, but surely it’s so.

  66. Rosalynde Welch
    December 14, 2004 at 1:12 am

    Wow, I totally missed the second movement of this thread. Thanks for the comments, all! Especially to Michael Hooten, first time commenter. And sorry, Rob, to have made a liar out of you by neglecting to rain fire and brimstone. :)

    I’ve gotta say, I think the adultery argument against mixed presidencies is pish-posh. In my experience, the presidencies that work most closely together (and thus would pose the greatest risk of improper intimacy) are the YW and RS presidencies, and it would be inappropriate to have male members of these presidencies in any case. Sorry, folks, I just don’t think members of the Sunday School presidency are going to be spending late nights together, or even the Primary presidency. Furthermore, it could be argued that one of the reasons adultery may occur between ward members (although this has never happened (that I know of) in any of my wards) is precisely because there are so few opportunities to develop collegial friendships between men and women; instead, a thoroughgoing gender segregation leaves the opposite sex exotic and thus desirable.

  67. Rob Briggs
    December 14, 2004 at 2:00 am

    Rosalynde: “a thoroughgoing gender segregation leaves the opposite sex exotic and thus desirable.”

    Sorry, Roz, this doesn’t happen in my ward, mixed presidencies or no mixed presidencies. (For exhaustive explanation, see thread on Mormon garments.)


  68. Adam Greenwood
    December 14, 2004 at 9:49 am

    Agreed that our current understanding of Christ and Christianity is feminine. We probably need to incorporate the Christ of the Second Coming to get a complete picture (the Book of Mormon gives a more complete picture, I believe. On one page Christ announces that he has buried that great city Jacobugath that the blood of the innocent will no longer cry out against it–the list of cities gets pretty long–and then he laments and says that he would rather have gathered them as a hen gathers her chicks. Medieval chivalry or turn of the century muscular Christianity knew something we do not.

    On the other hand, my family is majority Scots-Irish so maybe we have a warped view.

  69. Michael Hooten
    December 14, 2004 at 10:49 am

    Sorry for butting in again, but I’ve noticed this theme running through this thread that was made explicit in the last post: that Christ, as presented in the gospels at least, is somehow more feminine than masculine.

    I don’t see this at all. We’re talking about a man that stood up to all the powers of his time: the Sanhedrin, the Roman govenor, the Pharisees and the Sadducess. These were not some figurehead positions, but men with real power in their world. Jesus stood up to each of them, told them that they were wrong and He was right. And they used their power to kill Him.

    So I don’t see Christ as some effeminate, mincing wimp. I see him more like the stoic western cowboy, who does what’s right and damn the consequences. He stood in a synagogue and told the audience that he fulfilled the prohets words. He met every rhetorical challenge with simple authority, claiming to be greater than Abraham, as great as God Himself. He stood up in the middle of a storm and told the weather to be calm, and it listened to him.

    How is this not masculine? He was the Ultimate Authority, both then and now. No, he wasn’t brutish about it, and his only recorded physical anger was at the money changers, but why is that the only incident that people want to call masculine?

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems to be a particularly masculine thing to show the level of courage that Jesus did, especially when his words were sure to cause his death sooner or later. That he did it wothout pride or showmanship is all the more impressive.

    (I don’t mean to say that women can’t be courageous. It’s just that in the division of virtues into gender classes, I see courage on the male side.)

    So why do we insist on seeing Christ and Christianity as more feminine than masculine?

  70. December 14, 2004 at 11:10 am

    Jesus wept.

  71. December 14, 2004 at 11:16 am

    Sorry for that semi-silly retort. I actually agree that Jesus is very strong and masculine but from what I read in the scriptures he certainly was not above tears or expression of deep emotions that might sometimes be more associated with the feminine. I actually wrote a post here at T&S that dealt somewhat with this issue titled: “Savior and Destroyer.” Like Adam (in an earlier comment on this thread) I try to remember that Jesus can destroy cities as well as heal and be loving.

  72. David King Landrith
    December 14, 2004 at 11:18 am

    I’m with you, Michael. I see the same tendancy to view Christ as a cross-dresser, so to speak. I think that this dovetails with the point that I tried to make about the denigration of masculinity. And I think that masculinity has been denigrated primarilly due to the facile assumption that women are more virtuous than men because they are subjugated.

    This is all symptomatic a larger theory that Bertrand Russell calls, “the superior virtue of the oppressed.” He wrote an interesting essay about the its history and origins (in modern times, he traces it back to Rousseau), and though he supported votes for women, he recognizes more than a little of it in the women’s rights movement of the early 20th century.

  73. Frank McIntyre
    December 14, 2004 at 12:01 pm

    Rosalynde et al,

    You seem to be under the impression that Church trysts and adultery are very rare events and so needn’t be excessiively guarded against. My experience has been that they are far too common. This probably explains our differing views. Perhaps I will find that I have just happened to observe several problems even though the actual probabilities are low. But having talked to others and heard the talks in Conference, I am not inclined to be so sanguine.

    As for Rosalynde’s argument that the unknown is more erotic, and so interacting with the opposite gender decreases our interest, this is true on a superfluous level, but I doubt this is really the dominant effect. Men and women talk plenty without mixed presidencies in order that the opposite sex is not some unknowable object. A far more important effect is that the mixing provides the opportunity for meeting and working together in private on a regular basis. Some percentage of that will unfortunately become intimate. I find my wife attractive not because I don’t know her but rather because I do.

    And what exactly is the gain? I think the gain per presidency would have to be quite large to overcome the destructive fallout from the occasional presidency that goes awry. The only place this really matters is Primary. Surely few wards really have so many more competent men than women that it is neccesary to use men in the primary presidency. And if there really is some large gain in a particular ward, they can always get special permission. Then we get just the really high benefit mixed presidencies while minimizing exposure to the risk of fallout.

    I am inclined to believe that support of mixed presidencies is largely based on an a priori opposition to any gender differentiation, rather than a careful examination of the particular issue.

  74. Rosalynde Welch
    December 14, 2004 at 12:05 pm

    One of the problems with talking about masculinity and feminity as essential, time-transcendent and utterly segregated categories is that it leads to statements like this: “So I don’t see Christ as some effeminate, mincing wimp.” Michael, I don’t get the sense from your contributions that you are a misogynist (on the contrary, your comments have furthered a productive discussion), but there is misogynism latent in this sentence–unintended as I’m sure it is. As everyone know, it’s nearly impossible to think about an absolute binary that is not also a hierarchy.

    Plus, it’s just bad thinking. Take, for example, the assertion that masculinity is defined by the priesthood. As a descriptive statement about how Mormon men understand masculinity, it may have some value; furthermore, I think that the priesthood can serve as a positive identity-marker for LDS men, particularly in comparison to other strands of American masculinity. But as the basis of an argument for what a trandscendent masculinity *should* mean, it falls apart: it simply channels the social vision of the speaker. On this thread, for example, the priesthood is used as a codeword for the “masculine” virtues of authority, leadership, and strength. On the thread about priesthood on Feminist Mormon Housewives, though, the priesthood is seen as a mechanism to “socialize” men to the (feminine) Christian virtues of service, submission and love.

  75. Rob Briggs
    December 14, 2004 at 12:05 pm

    Michael, I don’t see Jesus as an “effeminate, mincing wimp” either. I agree that he courageously faced the authority figures of his society. It’s just the “meek” and “mild” and “lowly of heart” business.

    The idea is not mine and frankly I can’t recall where I first heard it. But as I’ve considered it there seems to be some sense to it. It may be an error to divide “virtues into gender classes,” as I impliedly did. But in some rough sense, I think there’s something to the idea that many of the Christian behavioral ideals are . . . feminine. For (nearly) every instance we could cite, we’re confronted by that meekness and similar qualities. That doesn’t fit my idea of the stoic western cowboy.

    I just see multiple ironies. We’re in a church whose leadership is strongly domonated by males, to the point that it drives some women crazy. Yet the leadership style of the male-dominated leadership is, well, soft. The model of behavior we’re expected to follow is far from macho. In my experience, women are able to follow the model just as well as men and better in many instances. Just think about what I call the “general authority voice.”

    No one with that voice could ever make it as a drill sergeant.

  76. Rosalynde Welch
    December 14, 2004 at 12:11 pm

    Frank: “I am inclined to believe that support of mixed presidencies is largely based on an a priori opposition to any gender differentiation, rather than a careful examination of the particular issue. ”

    You will see that I have not advocated the abolition of all gender differentiation in the allocation of church callings. Furthermore, the “gain” of mixed presidencies would not be measured per presidency–indeed, the notion the church callings are allocated on the basis of maximizing efficiency or some other quantifiable variable seems profoundly antithetical to the LDS understanding of callings. The “gain” of allowing women to participate more fully in church leadership (not advocating giving women the priesthood here) inheres not only in the positive effects such a move would have on the spiritual life of women and the organizational structure of the church, but in the unquantifiable adherence to principles of justice and equity.

  77. Adam Greenwood
    December 14, 2004 at 12:25 pm

    “As everyone know, it’s nearly impossible to think about an absolute binary that is not also a hierarchy.”

    Aha. Much is explained.

  78. Rob Briggs
    December 14, 2004 at 12:57 pm

    David: Subjugated, scrubjugated.

    Michael & David: I’m not insisting on “seeing” Jesus as feminine, nor am I hellbent on the denigration of masculinity. I don’t think I’m “viewingâ€? it that way. I think there’s something in the thing itself (the Christian virtues) that partake of the feminine as much as or more than the masculine.

    Hmm, I’m reminded of a thought I’ve had as I contemplate old married couples (beginning with my own parents) – something about the blending of the masculine & feminine in each of them. Something about how some part of the masculine has rubbed off on the woman and the feminine on the man; the moderating effect that each has had upon the other. Is that really there? Or, as you suggest, am I just “seeing it” — imposing my thoughts on the object. If it is there, and if marriage, long term marriage, is commanded, and if we’re to become gods, and if marriage is the laboratory which is to help bring it about — did Someone intend that the masculine and feminine would in some sense “blend” in marriage? Is the wife to moderate the strong masculine tendencies of the husband, and vice versa? I don’t know, but I think it happens in long-term marriages. As my mother was the best thing that ever happened to my dad (& I can think of many similar cases) I think it’s a good thing.

    Getting back to the gospel and whether the ideals we’re urged to emulate are more masculine or feminine. Guys, maybe it’s all just an unconscious rationalization on my part — rationalizing about the parts of the gospel that I find so damn hard to live.

  79. Frank McIntyre
    December 14, 2004 at 1:04 pm

    As for how Church callings are chosen, let’s presume that they are chosen because God wants them there. Why does he want them there? Because they achieve some purpose of His better than some alternative person. As such, God would be “maximizing” a social welfare function of some type known to Him. And yes, one can quantify justice and equity if by quantify you mean “rank” them.

    As for mixed presidencies, since the dominant mixed presidency at issue is the Primary I am at a loss as to how opening that up to men “allows women to participate more fully in church leadership”. I don’t see that the Sunday School Presidency does enough in the current hierarchy to make it worth arguing about.

  80. David King Landrith
    December 14, 2004 at 1:25 pm

    I must confess that I’m a bit lost here. Do I hate women if I believe that men shouldn’t be effeminate, mincing wimps? Do I hate women less if I say that men should be effeminate, mincing wimps? Or is the association between being a wimp and being effeminate that is bad (this would seem to be a trivial association to me)? Or is it simply the usage of “effeminate” as a pejorative term (though I’ve never heard it used any other way) that means I hate women. Or is it merely the use of the term “effeminate”?

    Belching contests are common among drunken college guys. As are deep voices, hairy chests, jokes about genital size, etc. Is it man-hating to say that a woman is overly masculine if she engages in belching contests, has a deep voice, hairy chest, and makes jokes about the size of her genitals?

    I’m just a caveman, but I take it as a given that the qualities typical of one sex are often less desirable when found in the other. And I feel comfortable saying so without offending either sex (though admittedly, I have few friends of either gender, but I’ll think about that some other day…).

  81. David King Landrith
    December 14, 2004 at 3:10 pm

    Michael Hooten: I see him more like the stoic western cowboy, who does what’s right and damn the consequences.

    There is something of a macho element to the Jesus portrayed in Mel Gibsons recent, “The Passion” because it emphasizes his defiance in the face of physical torture. This is a masculine virtue simply because it won’t do to portray women getting tortured. (Still, however, the movie is lacking. My general impression is that they hit Jesus real hard, and he falls down a lot.)

  82. Rosalynde Welch
    December 14, 2004 at 3:14 pm

    DKL, can you possibly mean that you hear “effeminate, mincing wimp” as an absolutely neutral descriptive statement of female-like affect? If so, I know why you don’t have many friends (your words, not mine)–it’s not because of your views, it’s because you’re completely tone-deaf to the social usage of language.

    What’s offensive in the formulation is the presumption that “effeminate, mincing wimp” is “the qualit[y] typical of” females.

  83. December 14, 2004 at 3:18 pm

    I’m sort of responding to Rosalynde Welch’s comment. I had an experience once in a combined Relief Society/Priesthood where we (men) were asked what we loved or appreciated about our wives. I responded by saying that I appreciated that my wife was “strong person” and “tough” and my wife was embarrassed. I guess the First Presidency or the Relief Society had just released a statement saying that there were too many “tough women” and that they needed women to be more feminine and gentle. That statement had been part of a lesson the women had received just a week or so earlier. Whoops. How was I to know?

    Thing was, I didn’t mean to say my wife isn’t feminine or gentle. She also just happens to be strong and tough also.

  84. David King Landrith
    December 14, 2004 at 3:49 pm

    Rosalynde Welch: What’s offensive in the formulation is the presumption that “effeminate, mincing wimp” is “the qualit[y] typical of” females.

    You’re oversimplification of my formulation has lead you to equivocate (in the sense of the informal logical fallacy where one bases conclusions on multiple definitions for the same word, not in the sense of deceive). As you note, the idea is that some qualities typical of women aren’t desirable in men. And as this implies, it is inappropriate to describe these qualities in women using the pejorative terms used to describe the qualities in men. Thus, “effeminate, mincing wimp” means something different depending on whether one applies it to a man or a woman.

    And so, I maintain that being an “effeminate, mincing wimp” does reflect qualities that are typical and inoffensive in women, but undesirable in men. Specifically, it’s OK to prance around, spend a lot of time shopping, and cry at the drop of a hat if your a woman. But it’s not if you’re a man. And I really don’t see what’s so offensive about this view.

    And regarding your other comment further above, it sounds like my position (viewing the priesthood as a partner with the wife in civilizing her husband) is closer to what’s being discussed over at Feminist Mormon Housewives than it is to the position that uses Priesthood as a codeword for masculinity.

  85. Rosalynde Welch
    December 14, 2004 at 4:05 pm

    “Specifically, it’s OK to prance around, spend a lot of time shopping, and cry at the drop of a hat if your a woman.”

    Is this supposed to be less grossly offensive because you also reduce men to “deep voices, hairy chests, jokes about genital size,” ?

  86. December 14, 2004 at 4:19 pm

    Danithew, the “tough women” reference reminds me of Margaret Nadauld’s October 2000 General Conference talk, “The Joy of Womanhood.”

    “Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.”

  87. December 14, 2004 at 4:24 pm

    Justin, that is exactly the quote that featured prominently in the lesson my wife had heard before I complimented her for being tough.

  88. Michael Hooten
    December 14, 2004 at 4:35 pm

    Rosalynde, thanks for the benefit of the doubt. I certainly don’t feel like a misogynist, but it kind of raises my hackles when people describe Christ and Christians as being feminine. So I tried to swing the pendulum back the other way.

    As for the rest, I am inclined to agree more with Rob, that there are both obviously masculine and obviously femine traits to Christianity, and specifically to the LDS Church. And I had to laugh at the idea of the “general conference voice” being used by a drill sergeant.

    Still, our own history is replete with strong men. Joseph Smith wrestled in the streets of Nauvoo, and Brigham Young was known as a patriarch from the Old Testament tradition. Even now, we have hordes of young elders roaming the world who we expect to be outstanding young men in a very old-fashioned sense of the word: clean cut, polite, hard working, and earnest.

    My original point was that as Mormons, we do have a well defined sense of the masculine and the feminine, especially when applied to men and women respectively. True, some of our men may be “softer” than would be expected in a very machismo culture, but then again, I think that a lot of our women are “stronger” than they are given credit for by modern feminists. But I thought that the original question was how we, as Mormons, see Mormons. The rest of the world is going to think we’re weird no matter what we do.

  89. December 14, 2004 at 4:36 pm

    You know Justin, I was re-reading that quote and its interesting how much it depends on alliteration to make its point. The woman who gave that talk must have been very proud of herself to come up with so many words that had the same consonant sounds. I’m betting she used a thesaurus to do it too. I wonder how many of us have heard that kind of alliteration to a point where we automatically nod our heads and think “it sounds like truth to me.” It’s the kind of thing that almost arrests the mind from committing any kind of critical analysis.

    I was just thinking that a woman (unlike a steak) can in fact be tough and tender at the same time. At least that’s the way I affectionately think of one of my grandmothers. She’s a sweet tender lady but if you give her guff you sure can expect a response!

  90. December 14, 2004 at 4:43 pm

    I don’t know that it has anything specifically to do with Mormon masculinity, but it seems to me that by and large the professionalization of warfare has not been good for coherent notions of masculine virtues. Traditionally, it seems to me that male virtues have been warrior virtues, those of loyalty, courage, discipline, and self-sacrifice. Advances in technology, however, have placed the role of defender farther and farther away from most males. The result is that the traditional image of the righteous warrior has become increasingly anachronistic.

    Also, the warrior virtues also inclued things like ruthlessnes and agression, both of which can become quite dangerous outside of the context of war. Hence, not only has the social role that justified the old warrior virtues receded, but those virtues have in some cases become positively dangerous and suspect. Combined with anachronism this suspicion has not been good for the traditional model of male virtue.

    I am not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand, I think that I can at least understand Adam’s moral nostalgia, at the same time it is not clear to me that the warrior virtues are really Mormon virtues. Ultimately, I think that they lead to Achilles, who on many levels was a real jerk.

  91. David King Landrith
    December 14, 2004 at 4:52 pm

    Rosalynde Welch: Is [the notion that it’s OK for a woman to prance around, spend a lot of time shopping, and cry at the drop of a hat] supposed to be less grossly offensive because you also reduce men to “deep voices, hairy chests, jokes about genital size,” ?

    You’re very funny.

    Of course, you’ll have to excuse me if I’m a bit lost on this notion you have that other guys are so sophisticated. For my part, I’m quite happy to be reduceable to my deep voice, hairy chest, and the jokes I make about the size of my genitals—after all, these are my finest qualities (ask my mom). Perhaps this is why I see it as something of an epistemic primitive that its fine for women to prance around, spend a lot of time shopping, and cry at the drop of a hat. Or perhaps I just watch too much television.

    At any rate, it’s just a fact of the matter. Try complaining to a guy that some woman prances around, spends a lot of time shopping, and cries at the drop of a hat. Your likely to get nothing but dumb stares.

  92. Adam Greenwood
    December 14, 2004 at 5:21 pm

    Just you wait, Nate Oman. I’ve been brooding like a hen since almost the beginning of the blog on a post about how combativeness and anger are eternal and godly traits. One of these days I’ll hatch that post and send it out into the hard, cruel bloggernacle

  93. December 14, 2004 at 5:24 pm

    Adam, I hope you’re not entirely joking. That’s a post I’d want to read.

  94. Rob Briggs
    December 15, 2004 at 3:02 am

    Michael & David, rereading where I said, “the general Mormon ethos is feminine” “just like the general sense of Jesus in the NT is ‘feminine” and similar statements, I think I overstated the case. I’m not sure I can clarify any better now, but what I’m struggling toward is the idea that the Christian virtues partake of both the masculine & feminine. To say categorically, as I did, that the Mormon ethos is feminine, is wrong. David reacted to my overstatement with some overstatement of his own, and ended up catching a bit of flak from other quarters which I’m sorry about.

    But I stick by the idea that the Christian virtues are a sort of blending of both the masculine & feminine. And that marriage produces in the marriage partners, over the long haul, a blending of the masculine & feminine; a moderating of the extreme masculine in males and of the extreme feminine in females. (I’m still not sure I’m articulating this very well.) But most emphatically I stand by one thing.

    There are no General Authority drill sergeants.

  95. Rob Briggs
    December 15, 2004 at 3:36 am

    Also this: Rosalynde started with her definition of Mormon masculinity. But by the time I joined the thread I was not using Rosalynde’s definition. The masculinity I was considering was locker-room jockstrap masculinity: laugh. scratch, cuss and throw back some brews with the guys; high priority on trophy females; Jack Kerouac On the Road; the drifter with few long-term connections.

    That was my point of departure and starting with that idea of masculinity it’s pretty clear the Mormon guys, by and large, don’t have those attributes. By that definition, Mormon guys aren’t masculine. If that’s your idea of the masculine, Mormon guys tend toward the feminine.

    There are a lot of counter-arguments to what I’ll call Drifter masculinity, starting with the simplest counter: that it is an irresponsible, ersatz masculinity. But for my comments I was accepting for the sake of argument Drifter masculinity. So I introduced the equivocation into the thread.

    Me bad.

  96. David King Landrith
    December 15, 2004 at 12:01 pm

    Rob Briggs: But I stick by the idea that the Christian virtues are a sort of blending of both the masculine & feminine.

    I agree with you here.

    Rob Briggs The masculinity I was considering was locker-room jockstrap masculinity: laugh. scratch, cuss and throw back some brews with the guys; high priority on trophy females… If that’s your idea of the masculine, Mormon guys tend toward the feminine.

    To some degree, yes. Perhaps I’m just projecting, but I think you’re giving Mormon men too much credit (assuming that one takes what you describe is a bad thing—which I don’t). In my experience, Mormon men use surrogates for the types of things you mention. I’ve suffered through too many elders quorum lessons where men try to justify why they think it’s OK to choose which women they date based on whether they’re pretty (I’m sure that this occurs less now than it did when I was first an elder, because the elimination of local Quorums of Seventy means that the average age in the elders quorum is now higher). Mormon men love to exchange outrageous missionary stories and they often play top-that-sin. The discussion over at Nate Oman’s “My Only Real Regret” post has a lot of Mormon guys talking about ladies’ underwear, which is probably something like the Mormon equivalent to locker-room humor (and, not surprisingly, our own Rosalynde Welch found it creepy). And then there’s the inevitable behavioral drift…

  97. danithew
    December 18, 2004 at 2:52 pm

    First I’ll just remind people that I had the gall to post Salt N Pepa’s lyrics to “What A Man” in this thread.

    Now it’s confession time. I was just watching VH1 and they were doing one of their overviews of people who made the news this past year. One portion was referred to “some dudes” who normally aren’t celebrities but were in the news. These “dudes” they were talking about were the two guys who married Britney Spears (in one year), the father of Julia Roberts’s twins and finally “some dude” who won on Jeopardy. You know … that guy. :)

    And when they showed the images of Ken Jennings, what music were they playing in the background? They were playing the chorus from Salt ‘N Pepa’s song “What A Man” over and over again.

    So forget all your warriors, soldiers, farmers and other burly aggressive guys. THE image of Mormon masculinity is Ken Jennings. What a man. :)

  98. David King Landrith
    December 18, 2004 at 6:39 pm

    Yes, danithew, you are the one that had the gall to post the lyrics to a Salt N Pepa song on this thread. It’s tempting for me to take a dim view of this. But its all too re-assuring to know that I’m not the only one who posts comments with content of dubious value, even if I am the one who does it most frequently.

    Regarding VH1; Can you really watch that stuff? I remember my first exposure to music video TV was after a roadshow some family hosted a post-roadshow party. Someone turned on the TV and a bunch of music videos were playing. I thought, “This show will end soon, and we can do something fun.” But the music videos just went on and on and on and on. At some point I broke down and asked how much longer this TV show with music videos was going to last. I was absolutely dumbfounded to learn that this was a new channel called MTV, and all it showed was music videos. Everyone seemed to think this was exciting. I thought to myself, “Surely, this cannot last.” Alas, it has.

  99. a random John
    December 18, 2004 at 9:46 pm

    As a historical note, when I was very young my father was in the primary presidency and the president was a man as well. This happened in Centerville, UT, the heart of Zion, unless you consider Provo to be the heart, but I think it is the spleen.

  100. December 18, 2004 at 10:38 pm

    I always considered Provo the liver. With some onions.

  101. danithew
    December 18, 2004 at 11:25 pm


    I was flipping channels and VH1 happened to be showing footage of Ken Jennings at the time. I simply found it amusing that they were showing a cleancut college-bowl caucasian Mormon guy and playing hip-hop music as the backdrop.

    Sometimes I do enjoy music videos. It just depends what music is being played and how well the video was done. I liked MTV when it came out just like I enjoyed listening to rock-and-roll on the radio. My complaint (unlike yours) about MTV these days is that it doesn’t play all that much music.

  102. Adam Greenwood
    December 18, 2004 at 11:59 pm

    Danithew, #94:

    I’m not joking at all, Danithew. I’m just waiting to make sure that no one i know reads this blog before I write the thing.

  103. danithew
    December 19, 2004 at 7:45 am

    Good luck Adam. There are many lurkers who never post comments and of course new people discover T&S occasionally.

  104. LInda Gordon
    December 29, 2004 at 8:42 am

    It’s interesting to note that before the comment section, as I read the original quote by Brigham Young, I got the distinct impression that he was saying that women were just as strong as men and were able to do work as well as them.

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