The following is by Katya’s friend Nocturne, who is gathering information for a paper she’s writing, as explained below. We’re hoping her questions will generate insightful reflections upon personal experience and lively discussion. If you would like to respond to her questions privately, we’d encourage you to send your answers to “info at zelophehadsdaughters dot com” and we will happily pass them on to her.
Sex, in the biological sense, is the irreducible raw material upon which the social construction of gender is built. The Mormon meaning of gender and gender roles is inextricable from the history of power differential between genders. I am writing a paper on the contradictions that women in the church either have to accept or dismiss, explain away and legitimize or fight against. As women in the church, we are presented with contradictions: on one hand, we are taught that we have agency to act as you feel right, told to get educations, expected to be self-reliant, and held to high spiritual and intellectual standards, but, simultaneously, the church creates the expectation (and, maybe, manipulation) of only choosing one route: married, stay-at-home housewife, mother.
In my experience, when presented with this contradiction, women often choose the cultural expectation and role of married, stay-at-home mom, homemaker even when not sure if this is what they wanted. I find that that path is the most prevalent (please, correct me it I’m wrong).
Why is it that one should win out over the other? How is this contradiction presented so that many do not see it as contradiction or how is it presented so that one seems to win out in actual cultural development? These are the questions that I am concerned with in my paper on woman’s gender roles in the modern LDS church. My paper is going to have a similar structure to many works by Eve Sedgwick, which incorporate first person stories into the theoretical framework of her argument. I hope to add other women’s stories and experiences as well.
Therefore, I need stories about events/instances when you felt the church’s doctrine has been contradictory when it concerns women. Contradictions such as the belief in agency, but the Church having specific expectations; getting an education, but that being seen as secondary to motherhood/less important than male education; desire for a career to make a difference in the world, but being told you should reserve that for your own home, etc. I could use stories about how you have or have not reconciled yourself to these contradictions and how they make you feel.
I am not writing an anti-Mormon paper and I am an active member of the church, in case you are worried. Everyone lives in contraries and contradictions; what differs is the specific set of contradictions we live. I’m trying to explore the contraries and contradictons most Mormon women feel and learn or don’t learn to live with. Real names will not be put in the paper.