≡ Menu

The Sexist Church

A few years ago, Sam and I attended an endowment session at the Salt Lake Temple. As we approached the gate, a man stood on the public sidewalk a few feet away, holding a sign that read:

Joseph Smith had 27 wives!

A couple crossed the street on their way to the temple, saw the sign, and the man yelled, “That is a lie!”

Sexist ChurchI responded, “Yea. It’s probably more like 34.”

Both men looked at me in startled silence.

When discussing troubling policies or doctrines, lay church apologists fall into a typical trap. Someone makes an inflammatory comment about the church and the defender loudly denies it. Even if it’s true.

And then we really look dumb.

The other day an acquaintance of mine posted a link on Facebook to an article titled Women want to attend Mormon priesthood meeting in October. The link was accompanied by her opinion that the women involved (in full disclosure, I’m not one of them) were disrespectful and clueless.

After reading the article, I couldn’t understand the description. Yes, I can see why many would disagree, but could not understand the inflammatory ad hominem that ensued from the original poster and got worse as the comments progressed. 

I pointed out that — while it may be completely acceptable to God and within his design (which I’ve acknowledged many times before) — the church simply is a sexist organization.

This statement was met with almost universal disagreement. So let’s analyze the word:

sexism |ˈsekˌsizəm|noun
prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.

Can any of us, with any sense of integrity and/or intellectual honesty, claim that the LDS church does not discriminate based on gender? In fact, even in the negative sense of the word discriminate (which isn’t generally the first definition), can we really claim that church policy hasn’t been at least as gender-skewed as the culture at large?

Here’s my proposal. We stop being dumb when we act as self-appointed church apologists. When someone points out that the church is sexist — and it obviously is — let’s come up with some rational explanations and reasoning rather than just shooting of our mouths in denial mode.

Joseph Smith had 27 wives? Yes, and then some.

Do you have some rational responses to the gender distinctions in the church? Let’s hear them!

{ 35 comments… add one }

  • Mandie August 30, 2013, 5:12 pm

    Wait, stop. Really? Are you saying JS really WAS a polygamist?

  • Howard August 30, 2013, 6:21 pm

    Well done!

    Loved this: When discussing troubling policies or doctrines, lay church apologists fall into a typical trap. Someone makes an inflammatory comment about the church and the defender loudly denies it. Even if it’s true.

    And then we really look dumb.

  • Grantley August 30, 2013, 6:41 pm

    Well, let’s see. My first wife confessed to the bishop that she was having her third affair, this last one having continued for three years. Despite having a temple marriage, she was only disfellowshipped. This remains true today, even though she ceased that affair for all of one week. While I was dating my new wife, I was reminded to be morally careful lest I be excommunicated, even though I was fully divorced. I am not saying that I should have been able to freely engage in premarital sex with my fiancé, but how on earth is my ex, who uses money she gets from the church (despite being fully employed as an RN) to buy marijuana which she smokes around her deeply faithful young adult children, regardless of the migraines it gives one of them. Apparently her need “to feel normal” outweighs the pain it causes her son. In my current ward there are kids from six different families who either refuse to attend church on mother’s day because their mothers have utterly abandoned them or physically abuse them, and they can’t endure listening to talks that extol the virtues of all mothers everywhere and the quasi-doctrine that women are just naturally more righteous than men.
    There are also two very active men who are friends of mine whose wives are having very public affairs and neither of those women has been excommunicated. By public, I mean that they bring their dates to church. And one of those men, like I was, has been warned to avoid impurity lest he face excommunication.
    I really don’t like fathers’ day at church because, unlike the mothers’ day talks which just congratulate women for being awesome, I am reminded annually from the pulpit that as a father I just don’t measure up.
    Here’s what you will hear if you attend a priesthood meeting.
    1. Avoid pornography because it will hurt your wife’s feelings,
    2. Online affairs are affairs,
    3. Support your wife in her callings,
    4. Do more as a father so your wife doesn’t burn out,
    5. Love your wife more,
    6. Pray for guidance in how to love your wife and kids more,
    7. Be considerate of your wife’s feelings,
    8. Don’t put your career, friends, hobbies, etc above your wife or kids,
    9. Never speak ill of your wife to others,
    10. Having the priesthood does NOT make you the boss,
    11. Your wife is your partner.
    There they are; all the deep male secrets of a priesthood session. They boil down to: love, respect, and support your wife and kids. Feel free to barge in and demand whatever you think is being hidden. But then invite us to Especially for Women and Homemaking on Thursday night.
    For the record, I am not a bitter misogynist. My new bride of over three years is, in fact, all of the things that a mother and step mother should be and is incredibly supportive of me as a husband struggling to clean the mess of my first marriage. My mom and dad have perhaps the best marriage I have ever seen. Second to that is my brother’s marriage to a wonderful woman who is all anyone could hope for.
    When my mom was a young wife, she did indeed face all kinds of sexism, from the sisters who told her that she was damning her kids by working outside the home (as a nurse). My dad faced sexism from the men because he was a male nurse. But that was the 1970s. My wife wears pants to church on occasion and no one has ever said anything. Some of younger mothers have cleavage that makes it difficult to focus on the testimony they are bearing (baring?) and no one says a thing. It seems that, at least outside of Salt Lake, times have changed since my mom was my daughter’s age.

  • Kristine August 30, 2013, 8:26 pm

    I’m pretty sure that anything Alison and I agree on can be considered a universal truth :)

    Thank you for saying this!

  • jennycherie August 30, 2013, 9:28 pm

    Great article!

    As for rational explanations of the gender distinctions, this has been on my mind a lot recently! I have heard all sorts of speculation over the years, but most of them don’t sit well with me, or at least are not totally correct.

    -men need the priesthood to learn how to be like women
    -women need to be taken care of by men
    -women will have it some day
    -women have childbearing so men have the priesthood
    -it’s a parallel between the ancient church and the latter-day church

    I could go on, but that is enough. What really makes sense to me is that having only men hold the priesthood is much like needing both a man and a woman to conceive a child. It means that we must rely on each other. We can work around it – just like modern technology will allow us to conceive babies in test tubes, but I think there is something significant in needing both genders to do their part in order for the work to be done.
    jennycherie recently posted…Update on the HateMy Profile

  • Kathy Thompson August 31, 2013, 1:22 pm

    Well, we are a “sexist” church. I’m Ok acknowledging that. Now, we each have to decide for ourselves how we feel about that and whether to continue to participate. I consider myself to be a feminist. I think women deserve the same basic human rights as men and should get equal pay for an equal job. I am an equal in my home, and in many ways I lead what happens in this household. I have a position of “leadership” in my ward and I’m OK with not holding the priesthood. I’m OK with getting to be the Mother. I would not trade jobs with my husband for anything. With so much on our plates as women, why would we want to add Priesthood responsibilities to the list? I don’t feel less of a person because I go to Relief Society instead of Priesthood meeting. The roles are different. No one is better than another, just different. As for Joseph Smith being a polygamist … if anyone’s shocked by that, it just shows you need to read up on your church history. (A whole other topic).

  • Gerald Smith August 31, 2013, 2:52 pm

    Alison, great post. I think LDS do need to take a good look at what we think our beliefs are, as we often confuse tradition with core doctrine. Also, we tend to say anything we can to defend the Church, even when we do not know what we are saying. Yes, some of our actions are sexist. I hope none of our actions are mysogenist.

  • Yas August 31, 2013, 5:15 pm

    Mormons look dumb no matter what.

  • Naismith August 31, 2013, 5:41 pm

    First, let’s put the blame where it belongs. The church is not primarily the culprit here. The real problem lies with the dumb-ass creator who made two genders, which are different in many ways. If we were more sensibly designed, all the same, then we would not be having this conversation.

    So how to deal with this dichotomy? Some encourage women to minimize and ignore the differences, and act as much as possible like a man. Simone deBeauvoir’s THE SECOND SEX is demeaning towards chidlbirth, breastfeeding, and parenting. Linda Hirschman’s GET TO WORK tells women to have preferably no children or at worst, absolutely no more than one.

    The church celebrates the differences between the genders, and elevates parenthood. Mothers are seen as contributing in a way that is equal, though not the same, as their husbands.

    So which approach is more discriminatory to women?

    I live far from Utah, and struggle daily with the notion that someone might want to make family their priority, which is out of favor here. There is still a lot of prejudice against those who are not willing to be employed fulltime, as if there is something magic about the number of hours one spends sitting in a desk chair (and forget the studies showing part-timers are more productive). I know a lot of women who want to have a second child, but don’t because of the potential damage to their career. I know women who work long hours in a second shift at home because their husband either doesn’t agree the work needs to be done, or feels that since she earns less, he is entitled to lie on the couch swigging beer and watching sports while she cooks and cleans.

    If one accepts the value system that the only things worth doing are those which earn money, are highly visible, and preferably traditionally male, then yes, Mormon women are screwed and subservient.

    But what if the truth is that we are all servants, that all gifts are appreciated, and bringing spirits to earth is one of the most vital jobs in the kingdom? Then maybe the church is not so stupid. Maybe they are elevating and empowering women rather than disadvantaging them.

  • Charles August 31, 2013, 6:56 pm

    This article is badly flawed. By the definition presented there is no Reasonable evidence that the church is sexist.

  • Alison Moore Smith August 31, 2013, 9:14 pm

    Forgive me for being slow to release modded comments. (With the exception of Yas, whose post should have remain modded except that it is a good example of the pot calling the kettle black, so it was fun to post.) Our show opens next week and…well…if you perform that’s all I need to say!

    Thanks for your comments. Keep them coming. I’ll get back to them!
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Artificial GroomingMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith September 1, 2013, 9:27 am

    Mandie, Joseph Smith was a polygamist. After growing up in the church (mostly in Utah valley, for heaven’s sake), graduating from seminary, and graduating from BYU, I didn’t know this was true until I moved to Florida and read Mormon Enigma. Kind of blew me away when I finally admitted that it wasn’t just due to me sleeping through Sunday School class. :(

    Thanks Howard.

    Kristine, I suspect your formula is right. :)
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Rancherito’s Awful Service vs. Olive Garden’s Stellar ServiceMy Profile

  • Matt September 1, 2013, 12:22 pm

    The word “sexist” is a not a neutral term. It is almost universally recognized as a negative term. It might be hard for most active Mormons to wrap their brains around the term. As you mention, discriminatory may be better, but I think even this word has too much baggage with it. Also look at the the other words in the definition: prejudice, stereotyping. Also not very neutral terms. If you want Mormons to swallow this, you are going to need to start with a smaller pill.

  • Alison Moore Smith September 1, 2013, 3:44 pm

    Grantley, thanks for your input.

    Despite having a temple marriage, she was only disfellowshipped.

    While I agree the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, I don’t think it’s helpful to get into: well you show me your church discipline and I’ll show you mine. At least not unless there is systemic sexism still in it.

    • I had two good friends in high school who were excommunicated for having early-term abortions. Trust me, I’m strongly pro-life. But given the ages and knowledge the girls had, I’m not sure it was helpful to them. In fact, I know it wasn’t, in both cases. Not to mention the horrific and unhelpful former practice of announcing church action in priesthood meeting — even with boys there.
    • I have another friend who was married in the temple, had three children, and her husband had an “affair” with the 13-year-old babysitter. (We call that rape around these parts.) He was excommunicated and served jail time. Then he went back to live with his family (who waited for him). Then he did it again (different teen girl), was exxed (how do you spell that?) again, went to jail again, and this time his wife divorced him.

      When he was released he married another (really stupid) woman — in the temple — and served in some leadership positions. Woot!

    • Another friend, who was a teen, was put on probation (whatever that means) for committing fornication, while neither of the returned missionaries (who were known to the bishop) who were the other parties had any kind of discipline.

    I acknowledge that there is unfairness in church discipline — I mean the decisions are made by volunteer humans — but I don’t know that it’s systemically, consistently unfair toward men. Do you think it is?

    While I was dating my new wife, I was reminded to be morally careful lest I be excommunicated, even though I was fully divorced.

    Can you provide some details on this and how it fits into sexism?

    Can you finish the sentence that started with, “I’m not saying that I should…”? Can’t tell what your point is.

    If people are misusing church funds, that can be addressed. I’ve seen it happen lots of times. The church is pretty good, in my experience, about taking care with donations.

    In my current ward there are kids from six different families who either refuse to attend church on mother’s day because their mothers have utterly abandoned them or physically abuse them, and they can’t endure listening to talks that extol the virtues of all mothers everywhere and the quasi-doctrine that women are just naturally more righteous than men.

    I don’t have a problem with Mother’s Day — except that I know I don’t fit the professed angelic mode at all. Honestly, I think it’s kind of a compensation or distraction or guilt-assuagement thing. I just do. “Look how much we honor you! We think you are so much better than us! No, you can’t give the keynote at your own meeting and you certainly can’t speak in ours, but HEY look how much we honor you!”

    I do think men and women have tendencies to different vices, but I don’t think men are worse than women and I agree that it’s wrong to promote that idea. I’ve written about that in the past, too, but don’t have time to look up references right now.

    You said you don’t like Father’s Day because you are reminded you don’t measure up. Do you really find this to be the case? While there is never the effusive fawning we see on Mother’s Day, I have seen a trend toward positive recognition (and the giving of candy bars or other treats).

    That seems ramped up from the former position which was never condemnation, but mostly just ignoring the day altogether. Which, honestly, I think comes from the idea that it wasn’t very appropriate for the men in charge to plan a day to honor themselves. Do you see what I mean?

    I agree with you about the content of general priesthood meeting. When Sam comes home I usually ask him something like, “What did you get scolded for at the semi-annual secret meeting?”

    But I don’t actually think that we need less counsel for men, but more counsel for women. Good heavens, I get tired of the stroking. It seems patronizing to me. Anyway…

    Feel free to barge in and demand whatever you think is being hidden.

    And there it is. Obviously no one thinks it’s hidden, Grantly, since it’s published. Later. But why do some insist on this type of verbiage?

    As I said in the OP, men do attend the General Relief Society Meeting. They are definitely a minority, but they are they, in the congregation. And they preside over the meeting. And they always give the keynote address. Always.

    And NO ONE ever accuses them of “barging in” or “demanding.” Why is that?

    But then invite us to Especially for Women and Homemaking on Thursday night.

    Especially for Women? Don’t know what that is. Homemaking was done away with in 1999. :) But you can go if you want to.

    When my mom was a young wife, she did indeed face all kinds of sexism, from the sisters who told her that she was damning her kids by working outside the home (as a nurse).

    Benson’s pronouncement that women should stay at home was definitely sexist (and I am a stay-at-home mom because of that talk). [Please note I'm not saying he was wrong, just that this counsel is obviously an example of gendered decision making.] And while I honestly don’t believe that anyone told your wife she was “damning her kids,” I’m sure there were those that argued that t he prophet’s counsel — that any woman who could stay at home should stay at home — was correct. I just wouldn’t call proclaiming prophetic counsel as accurate and good sexism.

    My dad faced sexism from the men because he was a male nurse. But that was the 1970s.

    I’m sure he did. Just as female doctors did.

    When my son spent a month in the hospital last year, we had the best nurses on earth (shout out to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center pediatric unit, especially those in intensive care). And when you’re there that long, you get every nurse for multiple shifts. :( Three of them were men and were superb.

    One of them always had the coolest super hero scrubs and always chatted Samson up. When he was doing his painful laps around the ward, he always stopped to cheer him on — whether Samson was his patient at the time or not. Another, a former truck driver with still a bit of scruff about him, was quiet but went out of his way to serve. He found out Samson missed his parakeets and so he got paint and painted an enormous bird on the glass wall of his room. He gave him a special blanket to keep and a book and some toys, always looking for something to cheer him up.

    After years of having only male doctors, I had two of my kids delivered by female OB/Gyns. They were incredible and, yes, they had been through delivery themselves and understood it at a different level than those who hadn’t.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…What About Socialization? The Perpetual (and Inane) Homeschooling QuestionMy Profile

  • Naismith September 3, 2013, 7:55 am

    Oh, are we going tell stories about people who are sexist? Based on the title, I thought this was going to be about whether the church was sexist.

    I could match you story for story about times when people have failed to recognize the differences between the genders, to the detriment of women.

    Starting with my classmate in graduate school who was flushed out of the program because she couldn’t keep up due to her illness during pregnancy. They didn’t make allowances or permit a leave of absence. You do it like men do, or not. I thought of my time at BYU, and how professors were so great about recognizing the importance of motherhood, and allowed me to turn in term papers up to a year later. Sexist behavior, since my husband did not get the same accommodation.

    A few years ago, I had to choose between two professional part-time jobs. I turned down one, accepted the other, and showed up for work the following week. Only to find out that I had a full-time job. They decided that they needed a full-time coordinator for that grant. “You can thank me later,” the woman said. “You’ll find out that your family doesn’t need you as much as you think they do.” She thinks of herself as a feminist, but not much respect for other women’s choices going on.

    President Benson never pronounced that *women* should stay home. He suggested that *mothers* of young children should consider being at home with their children when their influence was most needed, and offered other great advice about childrearing. It shaped a lot of what we did as parents. And it presented a radical concept for those who live in areas where full-time parenthood is rare.

    But it wasn’t even a general conference talk. It was a fireside for North America, and a lot of people didn’t hear it because their building’s dish hadn’t yet been installed yet. I read a mimeographed copy of it. I was in graduate school at the time, when my youngest started kindergarten. I prayed about it and felt disappointment from the Lord: “All those miracles that I pulled off to get you here and give you that scholarship, and you would doubt what you should be doing?”

    But because of the talk, I continued to take all my classes when my own children were in school, so that I could be home with them after school and cook dinner. That meant I could not take some classes that I would have enjoyed. And because of President Benson’s counsel about being there at the crossroads, we started staying up late to be there when the high schooler got in on the weekends, something my own parents had never done.

    I can understand that people who live in Utah feel that fulltime motherhood is shoved down their throats, but it comes across very differently to those outside the intermountain west. I never considered being a fulltime mom until I went to BYU and met so many great examples. And neither did most of the women where I live.

    When one of my children was in middle school, she was involved with a group project, and they worked on it at our house since we were the only ones with parental supervision after school. One of the boys flat-out asked me what I did all day, and I told him. It was an eye-opener for him about a different way of life.

    This is an issue at the state university one of my children attends. Their career counseling is aimed only at fulltime careers with no consideration of careers that might be more conducive to part-time work during the childbearing years. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, accounting, pharmacy, all offer part-time options at a good rate of pay, but nobody will talk about that. Whereas at BYU it was drummed into me that having the best education would allow one to spend the least time away from family, and that sound advice guided my career choice. As a part-timer, I earn more than a full-time school teacher, partly because the latter are so underpaid.

    I don’t think there is any doubt that the church treats women differently. But I am grateful for those differences, and find that many women benefit from them. And I love that the church is one of the few places where traditionally female contributions are respected as having value.

  • Carnegy September 3, 2013, 9:41 am

    I see Nasmith in different places in the Bloggernackle. Usually the chip on her shoulder is big enough to crush an entire congregation. I don’t understand why she can’t just have a conversation without all the attitude. What gives?

  • Alison Moore Smith September 3, 2013, 10:31 am

    Kathy Thompson:

    Well, we are a “sexist” church. I’m Ok acknowledging that. Now, we each have to decide for ourselves how we feel about that and whether to continue to participate.

    While I agree in theory, this seem to be taking the leap that many do: if you don’t like the way the church is run TODAY, you can just leave.

    I think that is wrong-headed.

    Last April —for the first time in history — a woman gave a prayer in General Conference. In fact, amidst the sessions, women gave both a closing and an opening prayer. (Which is significant if you’ve been following the issue of women praying in LDS church meetings.)

    I don’t think anyone can reasonably conclude that this change in historic practice was completely coincidental with the urging of All Enlisted.

    In other words, if you don’t like what’s going on, there appears to be some room to have a discussion and sometimes things might even change to your liking.

    I’m OK with getting to be the Mother.

    I’m honestly unsure why this always seems to come up. What does being a mother have to do with the priesthood? Men are fathers, are they not? Why are these mutually exclusive?

    With so much on our plates as women, why would we want to add Priesthood responsibilities to the list?

    I’m just going to refer that question to a post I wrote last March: Dumb Reasons for Exclusively Male Priesthood.

    I’ll also suggest that we tell our boys that same thing: “With all the obligations you already have, why in the world would you want to add priesthood responsibilities to that list?”

    As for Joseph Smith being a polygamist … if anyone’s shocked by that, it just shows you need to read up on your church history.

    Honestly, I don’t think that’s a fair statement. For decades the church consciously and intentionally covered up Joseph Smith’s polygamy (both polygeny and polyandry) — probably because it’s hard (impossible?) to explain absent direct revelation.

    Even today, the topic is avoided. Look at the teachings of prophets manuals. The “biographies” are almost all edited to remove any appearance of polygamy. (In other words, we erase the women who were valiant enough to participate for the sake of appearance. Augh!)

    On the topic of polygamy — particularly that of Joseph Smith — members basically have to make the choice to read nothing at all or read sources outside the church. The outside sources, as we all know, may be accurate or biased — and it can be hard to tell which it it.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Adoption: Q&A from an AdopteeMy Profile

  • jennycherie September 3, 2013, 12:15 pm

    “She thinks of herself as a feminist, but not much respect for other women’s choices going on.”

    one of my biggest frustrations with feminism!

    “I don’t think there is any doubt that the church treats women differently. But I am grateful for those differences, and find that many women benefit from them. And I love that the church is one of the few places where traditionally female contributions are respected as having value.”

    beautifully said, Naismith!
    jennycherie recently posted…Update on the HateMy Profile

  • Cambendy September 3, 2013, 3:26 pm

    Didn’t we have a big back and forth about the “fireside for North America” a long time ago? Do we have to go through that again?

  • Angie September 3, 2013, 7:39 pm

    Late to the game, as usual. President Benson also spoke on this topic in a General RS meeting. He doesn\’t really differentiate here between women and moms of young children. He says that women should be home if they can, and that motherhood AND homemaking should be the priority.Here’s the link: (edit: won’t let me post the link but the talk is called “The Honored Place of Women” and it was given at the RS General meeting in October 1981 if you want to look at it).

  • Alison Moore Smith September 6, 2013, 12:06 pm

    Well said, Gerald. :)

    Naismith:

    The real problem lies with the dumb-ass creator who made two genders, which are different in many ways. If we were more sensibly designed, all the same, then we would not be having this conversation.

    I’m unsure what point your ongoing sarcasm makes. If it’s to point out that you respond negatively (or not at all) to everything I’ve ever written in any venue or that you have the ability to jump the shark with any discussion, then I think that point has already been made ad naseum. If it’s something else, I welcome a clarification. I try to be civil (if direct) in my responses to you, and I hope you would do the same.

    Suffice it to say, I’m not only a woman (sometimes even a feminine woman) who has six children and has been a stay-at-home mom for over 26 years. So I kind of do not hate women and I kind of do not hate traditional feminine stuff. (Except cooking and sewing. Which aren’t salvational requirements.) And I like sequins and wish I could find SOMEPLACE to wear my tiaras.

    The church celebrates the differences between the genders, and elevates parenthood.

    I agree they elevate parenthood — generally motherhood far more than fatherhood (which is problematic to me). This is good. I’m not sure how they “celebrate” gender differences, or even note them other than to say we have different roles.

    Mothers are seen as contributing in a way that is equal, though not the same, as their husbands.

    I get into a definitional problem when I hears such sentiments. Maybe it’s the math-centric side of me. But I have no idea how to measure “equality” outside of “sameness.”

    equal
    being the same in quantity, size, degree, or value

    What we generally do is claim that the responsibilities or duties or roles of women are the SAME in VALUE as those of men. So, we are, in fact, saying that SOME quality is the SAME, if it is, indeed, EQUAL.

    So how does this equation work, then?

    giving birth = collecting fast offering
    breastfeeding = healing the sick

    Other than actual physical limitations (contributing sperm/egg, having a working uterus, breastfeeding) there are few parenting duties that are mutually exclusive. So, really, I don’t understand how “be pregnant” means “don’t ever bless your child.” I don’t know how to explain that. (And given that I’m adopted and my mom couldn’t “bring my spirit into the world,” I don’t see how “be pregnant” is somehow the ultimate excluding quality.)

    In addition, the temple verbiage seems to make it clear that priesthood is not really gender-exclusive. So all the claims that the ability (some) women have of giving birth excludes them from priesthood responsibilities are nonsensical.

    I know a lot of women who want to have a second child, but don’t because of the potential damage to their career.

    I see this as a simple opportunity cost where we make the choice that is best for us. Of course taking off time to pursue other things (whether parenting or sailing around the world) will impact our employer or our business. We have to decide individually whether the cost/benefit analysi puts is. And our employers, customers, clients do, too.

    Not sure how this is germane.

    I know women who work long hours in a second shift at home because their husband either doesn’t agree the work needs to be done, or feels that since she earns less, he is entitled to lie on the couch swigging beer and watching sports while she cooks and cleans.

    I agree this is a problem, but don’t know how it is germane. It sounds like these women married men who don’t share their value sets and/or are illogical jerks. Doesn’t it?

    If one accepts the value system that the only things worth doing are those which earn money, are highly visible, and preferably traditionally male, then yes, Mormon women are screwed and subservient.

    The first two aren’t issues as far as I’m concerned. I haven’t asked about money or visibility — except in the sense that in the church visibility often equates to authority and voice. But when your culture has been systemically sexist (for most of the world for most of world history), then, yes, the things that are “traditionally male” are the things that give you a voice and opportunity and freedom, etc., so I don’t know how you separate them.

    It’s like ME deciding that chocolate is a woman thing and telling men they have to deal with eating only vanilla. Or ME saying that choosing your own flavor isn’t a big deal, that vanilla is JUST AS IMPORTANT as chocolate, and you have better things to do than direct your own eating choices, given your biological makeup and all.

    I suppose I’d ask why — particularly given the language in the temple — you would accept the “value set” that says only men can preside, bless, be ordained, etc. If a priest is so because ordained, why would it be any different for a priestess? (And where the heck are they???)

    But what if the truth is that we are all servants, that all gifts are appreciated, and bringing spirits to earth is one of the most vital jobs in the kingdom?

    And vanilla is still a flavor. And some people like it better.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Self-Mastery is Not Just for Girls – a Response to FYI (if you’re a teenage girl)My Profile

  • Naismith September 7, 2013, 10:08 pm

    N: The real problem lies with the dumb-ass creator who made two genders, which are different in many ways. If we were more sensibly designed, all the same, then we would not be having this conversation.

    A: I’m unsure what point your ongoing sarcasm makes.

    That’s not sarcasm. That is sincere. Before I joined the church, I was very angry at a creator who gave women the short end of the stick. Having read a lot of science fiction, I can envision a world in which there are no genders or multiple genders (e.g., Ursula LeGuin’s THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS to name just one.) So why WOULD a creator make these two different genders? When I joined the church, I started to see a glimmer of why this might actually be a worthwhile idea.

    If it’s to point out that you respond negatively (or not at all) to everything I’ve ever written in any venue…

    That charge, true or not, has nothing to do with the topic at hand. Could we please talk about this post? You are the one who asked a question, and I answered in all honesty. I disagreed with some of your points, agreed with others. I never criticized you personally. Is disagreeing enough to qualify as “negative”?

    Suffice it to say, I’m not only a woman (sometimes even a feminine woman) who has six children and has been a stay-at-home mom for over 26 years. So I kind of do not hate women and I kind of do not hate traditional feminine stuff.

    And since you have been at home for 26 years, and I’ve been employed part-time, I have a different take on this, offering a different point of view (not criticizing or negating yours in any way). And my experience has been that outside of the church, I have found little support for motherhood. I mentioned some of those experiences in my comments. I am suggesting that despite the current problems in the church, erasing gender distinctions may not be a panacea.

    At least for me, living in a place and working for an institution that has tried to erase gender distinctions, it has not been all positive for women.

    I get into a definitional problem when I hears such sentiments. Maybe it’s the math-centric side of me. But I have no idea how to measure “equality” outside of “sameness.”

    I don’t feel the need for an algorithm. After all, we are talking about equality in the Lord’s Vineyard, where an hour’s work was paid the same as a full day (Matthew 20 1-15).

    Other than actual physical limitations (contributing sperm/egg, having a working uterus, breastfeeding) there are few parenting duties that are mutually exclusive.

    While this may technically be true, it may strike some young moms as dismissive. For a lot of women, they spend years trying to get pregnant, ill while pregnant, recovering from complicated deliveries, dealing with the diabetes and other problems they picked up in pregnancy, struggling with breastfeeding. For me, it was a solid decade of physical demands plus 9 years of hearing a child calling and trying to figure out how to get into a financial position where we could bring that child to earth. And two surgeries later to fix the damage.

    So, really, I don’t understand how “be pregnant” means “don’t ever bless your child.” I don’t know how to explain that.

    I wouldn’t try. I am not a proponent of motherhood = priesthood in a direct formula.

    N: I know a lot of women who want to have a second child, but don’t because of the potential damage to their career.

    A: I see this as a simple opportunity cost where we make the choice that is best for us. Of course taking off time to pursue other things (whether parenting or sailing around the world) will impact our employer or our business. We have to decide individually whether the cost/benefit analysi puts is. And our employers, customers, clients do, too.

    Yes, except that outside of the church the cost-benefit analysis is different. The benefit of bringing another spirit to earth is often not recognized as part of the formula. And the contribution of homemaking is often not recognized. And people may not have the skills to save money that Mormon women often have, from all those years of frugal tactics taught in RS meetings.

    I agree this is a problem, but don’t know how it is germane. It sounds like these women married men who don’t share their value sets and/or are illogical jerks. Doesn’t it?

    Well, the church tends to “make bad men good and good men better.” There might be some LDS men who do that, but they can’t do so without disregarding all counsel for at least the last two decades or more.

    It’s like ME deciding that chocolate is a woman thing and telling men they have to deal with eating only vanilla. Or ME saying that choosing your own flavor isn’t a big deal,

    I would not tell another person that their pain is not a big deal, and I don’t hear that from church leaders. I don’t claim to have all the answers. I am only saying that in my experience, erasing the genders doesn’t work as well as I thought it might before I had children.

    I suppose I’d ask why — particularly given the language in the temple — you would accept the “value set” that says only men can preside, bless, be ordained, etc.

    And where did I say that I did? That wasn’t in my comment. I talked about the positives that I have experienced as a woman in the church. There may be a way for us to erase gender distinctions and still retain those benefits for women…but I haven’t seen them in other places.

  • annegb September 13, 2013, 3:45 pm

    I don’t know how I feel about the “sexist” label. And the use of the word “we.” Some Mormon men are chauvinists; some are not. Some women are sexist; some are not. I personally am kind of sexist in that men make me madder than women. It’s a childhood thing—my dad was an abuser. Sometimes leaders will lean on the side of the woman; sometimes the man. If we’re defining patriarchy as sexist, then guilty as charged. I again personally feel more comfortable with a patriarchial order until I get crossed then I throw a bloody fit. Which has earned me some labels. I do think that Mormonism as a whole attracts, among others, chauvinistic mysogynistic men (hope I spelled that right). On the other hand, couldn’t that be true of most religions? Certainly Islam—ultra-orthodox Jews,too? Catholicism has its share. Maybe religion is sexist. I believe this is more of a societal than Mormon problem and feel our faith has deeper problems.

  • Alison Moore Smith September 24, 2013, 2:02 pm

    Charles, if you want to add some details I can respond to your comment. Otherwise, it makes no sense to me.

    Matt:

    If you want Mormons to swallow this, you are going to need to start with a smaller pill.

    LOL You might be right. Probably are. But there it is. I think we should just grow up and accept the dictionary and move on. :) Kind of like “cult.” I just say, “Yes, I do belong to a cult! So do you!”

    Naismith:

    President Benson never pronounced that *women* should stay home. He suggested that *mothers* of young children should consider being at home with their children when their influence was most needed, and offered other great advice about childrearing.

    Sorry. Not confined to young mothers, not even confined to mothers, not confined to “when influence most needed,” and not much like a suggestion. I was there.

    “The husband is expected to support his family and only in an emergency should a wife secure outside employment. Her place is in the home, to build the home into a haven of delight.

    “‘Numerous divorces can be traced directly to the day when the wife left the home and went out into the world into employment. Two incomes raise the standard of living beyond its norm. Two spouses working prevent the complete and proper home life, break into the family prayers, create an independence which is not cooperative, causes distortion, limits the family, and frustrates the children already born.’

    “‘I beg of you, you who could and should be bearing and rearing a family: Wives, come home from the typewriter, the laundry, the nursing, come home from the factory, the cafe. No career approaches in importance that of wife, homemaker, mother—cooking meals, washing dishes, making beds for one’s precious husband and children. Come home, wives, to your husbands. Make home a heaven for them. Come home, wives, to your children, born and unborn. Wrap the motherly cloak about you and, unembarrassed, help in a major role to create the bodies for the immortal souls who anxiously await.’”
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…What About Socialization? The Perpetual (and Inane) Homeschooling QuestionMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith September 24, 2013, 2:09 pm

    annegb:

    I don’t know how I feel about the “sexist” label.

    Here’s the problem. As Matt said, it is generally used as a pejorative. But if we deny it, we get caught up on the fact that it’s definitionally true. And we look stupid.

    To me, the better tactic is to accept it, clarify it, add our own conditions to it. Then, we can try to explain the sexism in ways that are reasonable — which was the real point of this post that got lost in the gender shuffle, as usual!

    And the use of the word “we.”

    Sorry, which one are you referring to?

    I do think that Mormonism as a whole attracts, among others, chauvinistic mysogynistic men (hope I spelled that right). On the other hand, couldn’t that be true of most religions?

    I would guess that any system that promotes patriarchy and/or an all male God would attract those that accept a male dominant society/culture, etc. I suppose that’s what’s so intriguing/sad/confusing about the LDS Heavenly Mother who is sort of there, but invisible.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Isn’t This What You Discuss During Dinner?My Profile

  • annegb September 24, 2013, 3:22 pm

    Most major religions are somewhere in the process of evolving from sexism, I think, some more so than others. But for thousands of years, the world was a patriarchial system and it’s only been the last couple hundred that women began to come into their own. In that sense, everybody, including most women, were sexist in accepting men as rulers. It’s unfair to point specifically to the Mormon Church. Although I accede to your point that we are more patriarchial in nature than many religions, there are enough others to indicate that this is a sociological phenomenon rather than a specific religion’s mind-set.

    “And then we really look dumb” I don’t know, this just sort of bothered me. Because you haven’t looked dumb in being an apologist, have you? I haven’t, I’m not even up to that intellectual level. Maybe you didn’t want to sound accusing, but really, it was an accusation that would have been more honest if couched in “they look really dumb” rather than we. A lot of Mormons take exception to apologists and don’t want to be included in that number. I guess it’s kind of a royal we, though, heck, maybe you’re right. We do look dumb sometimes.

    Lastly, it does my heart good to read Naismith being sarcastic to other people besides me. I’ve been feeling like a total reject over that.

  • annegb September 24, 2013, 3:24 pm

    I mean, really, if you think about it, we’re the only major Christian religion that teaches about Heavenly Mother. Which does make us look kind of dumb, in a way.

    But! Things are getting better! I gave the opening prayer in our last stake conference Saturday meeting and a woman gave the closing AND a woman prayed the next day. Works for me.

  • Alison Moore Smith September 25, 2013, 12:38 am

    annegb:

    Most major religions are somewhere in the process of evolving from sexism,…It’s unfair to point specifically to the Mormon Church.

    I think you’re absolutely right on the former points. It’s a process and only in it’s beginnings historically. But I don’t think it’s “unfair” to call a spade a spade in the LDS church or any other. Do you?

    Maybe the calling out needs to be done with the historical perspective and some comparative images?

    Honestly, I just get so sad thinking that I’m just too old to see this transformation.

    Although I accede to your point that we are more patriarchial in nature than many religions, there are enough others to indicate that this is a sociological phenomenon rather than a specific religion’s mind-set.

    To be sure. I like how you noted that women are historically sexist as well in what they accept. Heavens, just look at the debates (among women!) that ensue when a woman – horror of horrors — asks that the policy dictated in the handbook (written by men) be followed, by allowing a woman to pray in GC!

    As for the “we look really dumb” I’m not quite sure I understand your objection. What I meant was that collectively LDS apologists (and I consider myself one on a very low scale) look dumb when LDS folks, in the name of defending the church, make false claims. We are all implicated to some extent.

    Does that make more sense or just muddle things further?

    I actually gave the opening prayer in sacrament meeting last Sunday. While I admit it would have carried more thunder if it had occurred before the big GC reveal, I’ll take it. Honestly, it was just nice to have the issue resolved and be able to move on.

    As Angie said, just check those easy things off!
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Best Chicken Coop Kits for Your Backyard ChickensMy Profile

  • annegb September 25, 2013, 10:06 am

    “But I don’t think it’s “unfair” to call a spade a spade in the LDS church or any other. Do you?” Well, yes, obviously I do think it’s unfair to single out the Mormon Church in that way, although in the above sentence, you qualified it by adding “any other.” Believe me, there are lots of things about the church that piss me off (not the least of which is that our stake center was designed by A MAN, who put only one restroom in an obscure corner of the building), but I’m bothered by by what I perceive as a knee jerk requirement to criticize.

    “We are all implicated to some extent.” Yeah, you’re right. I didn’t give it enough thought.

    I’ve complained ad nauseum about women not giving the opening prayer in my stake’s sacrament meetings and once won a bet with a bishop’s counselor which entitled me to give the opening rather than the closing (to the chagrin of some of the men in the chapel, ditwads). I’m infamous in my stake for throwing a fit about it for all these years, so it was pretty funny when I was asked to pray in stake conference because I was scared to death. I said “I didn’t mean ME, I meant some spiritual woman.”

  • Alison Moore Smith September 25, 2013, 10:56 am

    annegb :

    Well, yes, obviously I do think it’s unfair to single out the Mormon Church in that way…

    I suppose I don’t understand your use of the term “unfair.” I’m a Mormon and this is a Mormon site. I’m not going to spend my time addressing the sexism in the Jesus in the Now Global Ministry, right?

    Seems a bit like last night when I was talking to my 13-year-old son about an issue (in this case not being personally responsible with “screen time”). He pointed out that other kids his age engage in the same behavior. In essence, I was “singling him out” for behavior that exists elsewhere, everywhere.

    Is it “unfair” for me to discuss an issue with my own son in our own home — even though he’s not remotely the worst kid on earth (or in our neighborhood) on this issue? I don’t think so.

    …once won a bet with a bishop’s counselor which entitled me to give the opening rather than the closing (to the chagrin of some of the men in the chapel, ditwads).

    Kindred spirit. I love you.

    “I didn’t mean ME, I meant some spiritual woman.”

    LOL This is what is so laughable (and bizarre) when the comeback about priesthood issues is “Why do you want to be the bishop?”

    Good heavens, I do NOT want to be the bishop MYSELF. But it would be awesome if “some spiritual woman” was or if “some spiritual woman” was seen as having relevant info to pass on to men in the priesthood session or if “some spiritual woman” was seen as a “general authority” in religious matters.

    I am about the furthest thing from an Obama supporter. But I totally get the rush from having a first black president and breaking down that barrier. I just wish the first black president had been someone who’s values and political ideology actually matched mine. I can’t support a candidate BECAUSE of skin color (isn’t that the very definition of racism?).

    In the same way, I would love the have artificial gender barriers break down, but it’s only helpful if those on the forefront are competent and capable. (Which isn’t ME in the spiritual realm.)

    When I look at history, women got the vote about 50 years after black men did. If that correlation holds true, women might get the priesthood in 2028. Ugh. I’ll be 68.

    I hope I live to see the day — and I hope it’s not that long. :(
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…More Than a Princess – Also a BrainMy Profile

  • jennycherie September 26, 2013, 4:26 am

    “But I totally get the rush from having a first black president and breaking down that barrier.”

    I totally agree!

    “When I look at history, women got the vote about 50 years after black men did.”

    Every time I think we might have a woman president some day, we have a woman run as a candidate for vice president and the media spends a lot of time talking about her appearance and calling her foul names related only to her gender (which behavior is never criticized by so-called feminist organizations) and not her political position or intelligence and I think we may never see a woman president.
    jennycherie recently posted…Update on the HateMy Profile

  • annegb September 26, 2013, 8:48 am

    I’m sorry, Allison, I’m totally without context, really. I used to comment on every blog every time and I felt like I knew everybody, now I know very few. I’m bothered by many who seem to need to criticize the church no matter what. By the nitpicking. Obviously, you are not that person. I think we are very similar in that we are moderates. To tell the truth, I bridle whenever a man in the church dismisses me or tries to boss me around. I have a bit of a reputation as a big mouth bitch, I think. I’ve never seriously considered women as bishops or holding the priesthood, but I have many friends who feel this is crucial. I still don’t have an opinion, I guess.

    But……..I do think it’s unfair to single out the church on issues that are systemic to civilization, as if the church created the problem. Again, and “very well then, I contradict myself” our church, more than many others, attracts men who are jerks. Workaholics, perfectionists, dictatorial and mysogynist.

    I have always resented the secretive nature of the priesthood session of conference. I’ve asked Bill what was said and he replies in irritation “nothing unusual.” So I applaud the women who’ve brought about change and frankly, I applaud the leaders who wisely choose not to fight over something not worth fighting about. Perhaps they just need to eliminate the priesthood and Relief Society meetings of conference altogether. Another unnecessary dang meeting I feel guilty about not attending—it would be good not to have it.

    Our church is in many ways run like a business which leads to exclusion of those not on the “boards of directors” and comparison and judging. But we are making progress. And like we say in Alanon “Progress not Perfection.”

  • Alison Moore Smith September 26, 2013, 12:03 pm

    jennycherie, “content of our character” and all that, right? Some day.

    If you haven’t seen the Beauty Redefined movement, check it out. I love what these women are doing!

    I do think it’s unfair to single out the church on issues that are systemic to civilization, as if the church created the problem.

    You make a valid point. I will still speak out, but could be much more careful to qualify that the problems I address often to stem from the culture at large.

    Great points all around.
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Artificial GroomingMy Profile

  • jennycherie October 13, 2013, 7:12 pm

    ugh. Thought of this thread today when I was approached in the foyer by a single man who is middle aged. He informed me that some of our sisters who are new converts need to be instructed on how to dress modestly. He named one specific sister and described a dress he had seen her wearing (talking in a normal voice while a reasonable distance away from me – not at all private) and that is showed her cleavage. Is this ever appropriate? It was bizarre!
    jennycherie recently posted…Update on the HateMy Profile

  • Jasmine Everett January 16, 2014, 11:12 pm

    Where are the women apologists? Can you picture the heart stopping scene – the dust-speck on the clover and the clover held in Horton’s outstretched trunk over the boiling cauldron of beazle nut oil in “Horton Hears A Who”? With the Whos in Whoville I say, “We Are Here. We Are Here!” Though new to my 50th decade and a Bible college educated Christian, I am an apologetic newborn. While it saddens me to think how apologetics wasn’t even offered me in school, it’s wonderful to be able to say that my newly- begun journey into its study has been met with sincere interest and encouragement by men and women alike at my church. I just finished leading a group study over Dr. Craig’s, “On Guard”. About 15 women from different walks of life faithfully came to pray and study together. Many of us are continuing to meet regularly to encourage one another. The group study will be offered again next year. Thank you, thank you, Jonalyn and everybody for so many new resources and erudite comments. It’s been a little like drinking from the firehose, but I’m inspired. God be praised.
    Jasmine Everett recently posted…No last blog posts to return.My Profile

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge