Poll on Feminist Concerns

There are a number of standard feminist issues that get discussed again and again in the Bloggernacle. And we’re curious–for those of you who do have such concerns (and we’re quite aware that not everyone does), which ones would you say are the most important to you? Just for fun, we’ve decided to do a poll on the subject. (Obviously these categorizations are rather artificial, as many of these issues are closely interrelated, so just do your best to pick your top three.)

You’re also quite welcome to comment on this thread explaining what you would select and why. However, we don’t want this to turn into an argument about whether certain issues are legitimate, so please resist any urge to critique other people’s concerns and keep comments focused on your own experience.

If you have feminist concerns regarding the Church, which of these issues is most important to you?
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Which of these issues is second most important to you?
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Which of these issues is third most important to you?
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  1. For me, the third option–limited female participation in Church administration–has to be #1. If this were changed, if women fully participated in Church administration, I suspect that all of the others would change. The temple ceremony would change, women would get the priesthood, we would get some scriptures written by women telling stories with female protagonists, etc.

  2. For me, it was the other way around– I don’t see women ever getting more say in anything until women get the priesthood. Always second class citizens till then, so I guess I don’t see more participation in church administration until that happens.

  3. Well darn it. I filled in the forms and voted, then promptly forgot what I voted for. Sigh.

    Anyhow I’ll tell you what I’d list as my top three issues and why. 1. Gender representation in the Temple. The Temple is the ‘last step’ so to speak, and so has the aura of being the most advanced class- it’s easy to feel that the truest doctrine we have is taught in the Temple. Also we are reluctant to dissect what is taught in the Temple so most members are left without tools to interpret complex symbolism and end up taking things at face value. This leaves us with too many women and men taking the least sophisticated meanings of the Temple ceremony as the final word on gender roles. Addressing this would, I think, serve to give other problems less weight. For example I am less concerned about my husband ‘presiding’ over me when I view parts of the Temple ceremony in a different way.

    2. Limited participation in church administration. No matter how righteous a leader is, they will always be most in tune with the needs of those the most like them.

    3. Gendered language. There are too many times when I find myself hoping that ‘Men’ means humans and not just males but can’t quite get rid of the feeling that it really does mean just males. Even adding footnotes to make these cases clear would go a long long way. Part of me fears that the reason there aren’t footnotes or similar is because it really does mean ‘males only’ more often than we would like to admit.

  4. It was really hard for me to choose which one was number one because most of them are so intertwined. I agree with those who have posted; I think things would snow-ball if any one of those things happened. But since I had to choose one, I did. I think women need to be present in the church administration. Once this step occurred, most, if not all of the others would happen too.

  5. My number one concern is gender roles in the temple ceremony. My numbers two and three were the male-only priesthood and husbands presiding. The reason these things bother me more than the others is because these are things that are not just of this world, but of eternity. I don’t love that there are no women in church administration, but I also believe that church administration is only applicable in this life, so it doesn’t bother me as much. What really gets to me is the suggestion and implication that I’m going to be a second-class citizen not just temporarily, but forever.

  6. Mine were 1) husband presiding; 2) teaching that women should stay home (I believe a PARENT should stay home and that the family should decide who that is – self serving since my husband is a stay-at-home dad); and 3) lack of women in church administration.

    My concern over the temporal/social issues and not the doctrinal issues probably speaks somewhat to my lingering spiritual doubt. I try to stuff those in a closet and not think of them at all. Probably not the greatest plan for dealing with doubt, but it keeps me sane right now. I really don’t care if women get the priesthood or not, because other than blessings (and the ability to participate in church administration – and I don’t think priesthood should be required for that), having the priesthood or not just doesn’t seem to make much of a practical difference in life. Outside of that function it seems more like an honorary designation, and I just don’t care. (Is that blasphemous?)

    My issue with the husband presiding – I think this speaks to all of the other issues. I am not going to explain this well because I am hurrying, but I have a multitude of issues with this. We are equal partners, but the husband is ultimately in charge? (People go on about how that’s not what preside means, but yes, it IS what preside means, and if that is not what the church means, then they ought to use a different word or stop including it in revelations given to the church.) Why? Because of a sin Eve committed? What happened to the atonement? Or is it that they preside because of the priesthood? I’m sorry, but so what? My husband has given me some great blessings, and my children, but the priesthood doesn’t seem to give him any edge up on receiving revelation for our family that I can’t also receive. Should I respect his opinion more because he has the priesthood? Should he respect answers to my prayers less because I don’t? So if I get one answer in prayer, and he gets another, and they conflict, we go with his because he is a guy? I don’t think so. Luckily, my husband doesn’t think so either. We don’t believe in presiding. The only thing it means in our family is that daddy gets to pick who says the prayer. Other than that, nil. We pray together and make decisions together and there is no FINAL word. If the church doesn’t believe that the priesthood means that the man is spiritually superior in some way then they really need to stop talking about it until they can explain what they mean. Because it seems to have almost no practical application other than keeping women from participating fully.

    Wow, that was quite a rant. I’m not normally so angsty, I guess that’s been sitting inside for a while…

  7. I put polygamy first because it was learning about “celestial polygamy” when I was about 12 that slugged me in the gut and got me started on the road to feminism. Though I haven’t come to terms with polygamy, it is not the most pressing church/gospel issue for me NOW, yet it is very primal because I still get riled when I think of it.

    Lack of info about Heavenly Mother is second for me. My mother was killed in a car accident when I was 7, and so being both temporally and spiritually motherless is vexing–Carol Lynn Pearson speaks well to this in her poem, A Motherless House. Many in this thread have identified one or another issue as speaking to the rest, and I see this one as a precursor to the others: if God is male, then male is god (I forget which feminist said this first, or I’d attribute it). The lack of visibility of a female deity who is “power equal to” encourages the development of a religious culture that rests on unequal relationships in power both in organizational structure and familial structure, and dismisses the lesser in holy writ.

    Thanks for this poll and the great followup comments. It has really made me think.

  8. Men and women are equal but being equal doesn’t have to mean doing all the same things. Interestingly (at least to me) when I read the list of possible “feminist issues” I found I didn’t have a problem with any of them. I don’t think there’s a lack of women’s influence in the administration and I don’t believe polygamy is any more inherently “female unfriendly” than monogamy is. I believe young children need their mothers and it makes sense for women to stay home and raise them; I have no problem with a man presiding in the home because someone has to be the head and if the mom is staying at home with the kids then isn’t that enough responsibility? Why does she have to make ALL the decisions in the house? My father, for reasons I won’t go into, wasn’t a very active parent and that left my mom as The Parent and The Head and I can tell you she neither enjoyed nor flourished under the double yoke– and this was a woman who graduated summa cum laude from college while raising my older half-brother alone.

    I believe in equality for men and women but personally, I have no issue with the issues you listed.

  9. It will come as no surprise to many of you that my top issue is the temple (although I’m interested in every issue on the list). There are a number of reasons for this.

    Perhaps the most important is that I myself have solemnly undertaken to become the agent in my own dehumanization. Listening to talks advocating doctrines I consider sexist is certainly uncomfortable, in the way that watching a sexist movie might get me riled up. But the temple is on a different scale entirely, in which we go beyond passive observation to active commitment to the model that is taught. I’m no fan of the FamProc, for example, but I’m not under eternally binding oath specifically to “be presided over” simply as a result of its publication. The temple, in contrast, requests that I use my agency, allegedly one of God’s most prized gifts, to curtail that very agency.

    Another reason is that the covenants made in the temple govern all spheres of my life and not just my ecclesial participation. In what should be my two most intimate relationships, those with my husband and with God, I’ve agreed to relinquish my sense of myself as a human agent worthy of respect.

    Another reason is that the temple is far and away the most difficult issue to discuss, for at least two reasons. One is that it is shrouded in secrecy. The other is that, in the Church as a whole, the doctrine the temple teaches about gender is simply unacknowledged; the vague and contradictory statements the Church concocts leave little space for discourse, since official statements advocating a whole range of models for marriage can be invoked. There’s so much anxiety about the straightforward message the temple teaches on gender that on the whole we’re quick to quash people’s concerns, retreating behind a smokescreen of extra-temple statements to interpret the language of the temple.

    The reason I’m unconvinced by such arguments is that I see no reason to harmonize everything the Church teaches–it’s fairly patent that the Church is teaching and has taught different models for marriage and different views on gender, in the same way it’s clear the BoM’s model of the afterlife does not match up to that found in D&C 76. However we make sense of the differences, the first step should be to notice them. The first principle of hermeneutics is relying on the text itself to interpret the text, and the text in question gives no hint of equal partnership or of God interacting with women directly.

    Furthermore, I’m under no oath of any kind to practice a marriage of equal partnership. I am in fact under solemn oath to practice a hierarchical marriage, so naturally I accord more weight to the latter model.

  10. My top issue was also the temple, Kiskilili, and it was ultimately what led me out of the church (after 13 years of study and prayer–not a decision I took lightly).

  11. I have no problem with a man presiding in the home because someone has to be the head and if the mom is staying at home with the kids then isn’t that enough responsibility?

    Why does someone have to be the head? In our marriage, we’ve seen no need for one person to be in charge, or to have the final say. I don’t understand why it would be necessary…

  12. Hi Wendy! I’m glad to see you’re still around.

    I agree with you, Sue. I understand why someone has to be the head of a ward, and why others’ ideas might have to be subordinated to the wishes and inspiration of that individual. But do two people really need a head? It seems we’re claiming subordination is the only way to achieve unity.

  13. (Sorry, I’m not obeying the injunction that we keep comments focused on our own experience rather than debating the legitimacy of any given issue, an endeavor to which other past and future threads are more appropriate–apologies!)

  14. Sue, I agree. My husband and I have found that since we make our decisions by consensus, there’s no reason for one of us to be “in charge”.

    Re: the poll – I have to say, it’s hard for me to decide whether I’m more concerned about our (lack of) roll in church administration, or about the 20th century demotion of endowed women from Priesthood bearers to spiritual children. I’m not sure which is the chicken, and which is the egg, so to speak.

  15. I agree mostly with what you have all said.
    I put gender roles in the temple as number 1 because that is how I feel today. I had a really hard time ranking them. But, as most people have said, I think if any one of those things changed, it would largely help the others. I think most of them are possible of change except polygamy. I mean, I don’t see the First Presidency saying “we apologize, that was a major oops and so now, if you are sealed to more than one person, the subsequent sealings are null and void because polygamy doesn’t exist.” So, I think the other things could change. Oh, well I guess women could be sealed to more than one man. That would make it more equal. Okay, nevermind.

    They could all change! But some are more likely than others, and then that would help the harder ones I would hope. I, personally, am working on changing the gender-exlusive language because that’s something I can do all on my own and I hope it influences others.

    I agree with Kiskilili, Sue and others: why does there need to be a head? Shouldn’t the mom and dad be equally in charge?

  16. I put limited female participation in Church administration as #1 because I’ve had several unfortunate experiences of my teaching in the Church and my personal activities being subject to “approval” by male authority figures.
    But now that I’m writing about it, I find that my #2 choice, lack of info about Heavenly Mother, really affects me quite strongly on an emotional level. Why is she so hidden? Kiskilili, Sue, cmac: Shouldn’t the “mom” and “dad” be equally in charge?

  17. I am concerned about all of the things on the list, except the teachings that women should stay home with the children. My personal experience has been that I really miss my kids and feel out of whack when I’m away from them. I think it’s fine and dandy if another woman would rather work and her husband stay home (although I don’t know how you would keep your house from falling apart)
    My top 3 (in no particular order b/c I can’t remember them) were gender-roles in the temple, lack of info about Heavenly Mother, and lack of female participation on church administration.)
    I am really glad to see this post. I check this site regularly and haven’t seen much action lately. It’s nice to see things going again.
    Just curious, what will happen to this survey? Will it lead to other threads?

  18. Like many others, I had a hard time deciding, because the issues are so interrelated. My basic concern, I think, is the sense that women aren’t valued as full human beings, but are rather understood as kind of accessories to men. And that’s a theme that I see running through many of the concerns listed.

    Good question, Jessawhy. I’m not really sure what will happen to this; it’s something we’d been talking about doing for a while just because we were curious. I actually didn’t expect this many responses (who knew that there were this many feminists out there reading our blog?) So thanks for answering, everyone that did. I’ve enjoyed the comments; I find it fascinating to learn more about what issues particularly resonate with people, and why.

  19. I’m looking forward to the weighted results and the posts discussing the top five.

    I find it interesting that my #1 (stay home and raise kids) is so low ranked. Perhaps it’s because so many LDS women do it.

  20. I chose the things that I believe, if corrected, would fix all the other problems. My number one priority is women in church administration, for the same reasons that others listed. Once women are decision-makers in the church, the other things will take care of themselves.

    The second priority for me was women working outside the home. It’s been my experience that when women have equal economic power, they also have much more decision-making power in the household. I’m sure a truly equal partnership is possible regardless of economics, but it seems to be much much easier to achieve in real life when both partners have as much to lose from a breakup, and both have similar life-options. Once a woman has been out of the career track for 10 years, and has 6 kids, her choices are much more limited. This means that when it comes down to it, she has to accept what the husband decides, unless staying becomes life threatening for herself or her children, the way extreme poverty is life-threatening. He, on the other hand, can experience male menopause, and dump his first family for some hot young chick who gets his hormones going again, without the same sort of desperate plunge in his standard of living. That’s not an equal partnership. These are hypothetical situations, but they are based on multiple examples I’ve known and heard of in my life experience. That’s why I hold that it doesn’t have to happen, but it is much more likely when the earnings potential of the two spouses are widely disparate.

    The third thing that upset me is the fact that there’s not gender-neutral language in our worship. I mentally change it. I sing “by this shall all know ye are my disciples”, and so on. But each time it comes up, it bothers me. I think you are right, starfoxy, that they really do mean men.

    I’ve not yet gone to the temple, and hearing this I’m not sure I want to. 🙁 Perhaps I will wait a while longer. I don’t think I can solemnly vow to be a second class person. It would be embarrassing for all concerned if they asked and I said no thanks.

  21. My #1 was husbands presiding, #2 Heavenly Mother, and #3 polygamy. It was really a toss-up for me which was more important than another. I feel like I could handle my husband “presiding” if I understood the eternal, divine pattern of couplehood (which is what whole concept of two heavenly parents implies). I feel like I could handle polygamy if I understood this Heavenly Mother(s?) business as well. Maybe Heavenly Mother is the #1 issue for me. But I feel like I could handle not even having a Heavenly Mother, if it weren’t for all those other persnickety issues.

  22. 1) Teaching that women should stay home and raise children.
    I do intend to be a mother one day, and believe strongly in being the one that raises my children from infancy, as opposed to daycare. I spent a large part of my childhood in daycare, and what it cost me isn’t something I’m willing to take away from my children. So that isn’t the issue. My problem is basically living the happy homemaker stereotype. I have career goals too. I have dreams of being a journalist and an author. That is going to require time for myself to have a career. While having a family is something I’m not willing to sacrifice, neither is my career. And I don’t think I should have to just because I have a family. Teaching me to that I must choose isn’t a very good way of cultivating my divine potential, because I truly believe I can have both. How about having some faith in me?

    2) Teaching that husbands “preside” in their families.
    My father was pretty much a failure as a parent. Just because someone is a husband does not mean they are qualified to preside over anyone, especially their family. Gender roles are difficult for me because of my experiences. I believe that an equal partnership is much more healthy to a relationship. If there are roles, it’s up to husband and wife to decide what they shall be, and no one person’s authority should override the other. To do so is harmful spiritually; I know because I grew up in a household where my father demanded to preside, then abused his position. To teach unequal balances of power within the home only enables for what happened to me growing up.

    3)Limited female participation in Church administration.
    I’m not suggesting that women should be able to hold the priesthood, or that any kind of roles be changed as far as ordinances are concerned. I believe they’re clearly defined by Heavenly Father for a reason. I believe that Heavenly Father created gender specific roles that cannot be changed because that is how it’s supposed to be. If we have to ask the Priesthood for a blessing, rather than being insulted, I think we should instead question why Heavenly Father would have us do such a thing. (For me, I’ll say that I’m grateful, because I have issues with pride. To have to ask someone for a blessing if I need one is a humbling experience for me, and one that I need to improve myself.)
    However, I think it is absolutely possible for women to play a more active role in the Church. Even if it means allowing the Relief Society to preside over Sacrament Meeting once a month or something. What harm would that do? I’m a convert, so I don’t know if there’s anything in the scriptures that explicitly forbids anyone who doesn’t hold the priesthood from presiding over Sacrament Meeting… but if there isn’t, what’s wrong with the idea? And if there is,… see previous question.

    I run the risk of contradicting myself by saying I don’t like gender roles, then defending them in the next breath. However, male presidence in the home and male presidence in church are two different things. I see the church and ordinance differences between men and women as an allottment of specific tasks; the home question as a power struggle. We can have different tasks and be equal in influence and control. I don’t see what’s wrong with such a concept… so I guess I better find a husband that feels the same way, eh?


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