Zelophehad’s Daughters

Feminism is Not a Trial

Posted by Lynnette

Like every other human being on the planet, there are things in my life that I would consider trials. Mental health wackiness. Being single in a married church. Financial insecurity, and wondering whether I’ll ever get a job.

However, the fact that my perspective on the church is informed by feminism is not one of them. And I find myself bristling when concern with feminist issues is placed in that category, as if it were an affliction to be borne. As if some people have to struggle with illness or unemployment, and others come down with a bad case of feminism.

There are those who hold far more conservative political views than I do. I might disagree with their perspective. But it would be condescending in the extreme for me to treat this as a kind of personal trial for them, and express sentiments along the lines of, I feel so sorry for you that you are afflicted with this, and I can only pray that you will be able to overcome this point of view and find peace. Yet I’m thinking of a TA at BYU who commented on a paper about feminism written by one of my sisters, “I feel so sorry for women like you.” Or a home teacher years ago who compared having feminist questions to dealing with the effects of emotional abuse, both situations that required recovery. Or the sentiment I’ve heard more than once along the lines of, I used to see things in a feminist way, but now I’ve moved beyond that particular trial, and I hope you will as well.

I think there is sometimes a tendency among Latter-day Saints to hear any question about doctrine or practice as a request for personal reassurance. But when I raise questions about the implications of male-only priesthood, for example, or the way in which liturgical practices are gendered, I am not looking to be reassured that a) God loves women, or b) the church is true, so not to worry. In fact, if both those statements are correct, it  makes such gendered practices more difficult to make sense of, not less. And I think resorting too quickly to such answers can be an all too convenient way of not grappling with challenging questions.

Yes, church practices regarding gender have caused me personal pain; of course these kinds of questions are more than abstract ones for me. But I see them as qualitatively different from “trials,” at least in the sense the term is generally used in the church. I realize people have very different perspectives on these issues, that there is disagreement about what various doctrines and practices actually mean. But I think we owe each other the courtesy of taking other people’s questions (feminist or otherwise) seriously, rather than dismissing them as a kind of personal trial for the person who raises them.

215 Responses to “Feminism is Not a Trial”

  1. 1.

    (If this post seems a little half-baked, blame crazywomancreek and Enna, for inspiring me to post something even though I haven’t yet decided exactly what I mean by “trial.”)

  2. 2.

    Feminism is not a trial, it’s a deposition! :P

  3. 3.

    Groan. I should have given more thought to using the word “trial” when there are so many lawyers on the bloggernacle!

  4. 4.

    Mwahaha. :)

    (That’s okay, you can blame it on the half-baked nature. Or you could cite to Seraphine’s series and blame any oversights on the fact that as a single woman in the church you have no friends, never date, never get laid, and hate families.)

    (I’m kidding, Seraphine. The series was really very good. I’m just trying to help Lynnette with some blame avoidance, that’s all.) :)

  5. 5.

    Great post Lynette.

  6. 6.

    I believe that there is a tendency in Mormonism to assume that if you have feminist concerns in the church, it is because you have been treated badly by some unenlightened man. Therefore, you just need to understand that most men in the church are nice and, therefore, the gender inequality is just peachy (mostly) really. This sort of reductionism doesn’t really help anybody, in part because it supports all those unenlightened men.

  7. 7.

    “I feel so sorry for women like you.”

    On the one hand I’m with you but, then, I have two hands. Some people who are gay don’t want me to consider that a trial for them because they love who they are and they aren’t “broken.” Some parents of Down Syndrome children aren’t sure they wouldn’t want to cure their kids. People who are deaf don’t necessarily want me to consider that a trial for them.

    Fine, I am happy for all these people that they don’t consider these things a trial, but even if I love them for who they are I still feel bad for them, even if only for the fact that they live in a society where they will not be fully accepted. Why can’t feminism be the same?

    If some non-thinker wants to feel sorry for “people like me” who intelectualize too much then I feel fine with accepting my critical thinking skills as a trail. It does, after all, make it harder to sit through Sunday School. Why shouldn’t it be considered a trail?

  8. 8.

    This is an interesting post. I agree that being feminist while Mormon is in and of itself not necessarily a trial, it often does require some fairly heavy reconciling of (apparently) incompatible beliefs. So the assumption that an identified feminist is struggling with doubts etc. is something I can understand
    Though when it’s laid out like this I do find it worrying that feminism (commonly understood to be the belief in equality of women) would be so widely seen/recognized as a source of concern for an active LDS woman.

  9. 9.

    I think we are mostly dealing with a category error here. Sets of beliefs like universalism, “NDBF”ism, scriptural-hyper-literalism, or feminism is a trial in themselves. Rather the trial is the inevitable tensions that arise with being at odds with lots of other Mormons in any given belief. (For instance NDBF Gary is constantly at odds with the vast majority of bloggernacle regulars in his insistence that there literally was no death on earth before the fall of a historical Adam and Eve).

    It seems to me that if people are saying they feel sorry for you for believing X it could be read as feeling sorry for the pain that believing X leads to in the church as it exists today. Of course if being a feminist or universalist or NDBFist or whatever doesn’t really cause internal pain (or if one never lets on about the pain) it is pretty easy to get by in this rather large tent of a church. We Mormons are in the end more about orthopraxy than orthodoxy after all.

  10. 10.

    I am not looking to be reassured that a) God loves women, or b) the church is true, so not to worry. In fact, if both those statements are correct, it makes such gendered practices more difficult to make sense of, not less. And I think resorting too quickly to such answers can be an all too convenient way of not grappling with challenging questions.

    My hope is that in most cases the real answer is “I don’t know, but I am certain that ) God loves women, and b) the church is true” and the hope of the answerer is that you won’t throw in the towel on either. The just leave the I don’t know part as implied.

    But of course I also realize that there are a lot of people who will tell you to stop talking or thinking about subject x, y, and z because those subjects make them uncomfortable. Heaven knows we have had a lot of people tell us that at NCT over the years.

  11. 11.

    Oops. Looks like I had a few typos above. I meant to say that sets of beliefs are not trials themselves.

  12. 12.

    Geoff (#9), yea, that is what I was getting at too, glad for your distinction.

  13. 13.

    It’s not a trial, but sometimes it’s like grad school oral exams– lots of hard academic issues, and often having to think on your feet and answer odd questions.

  14. 14.

    Lynnette, I’m very sorry for the trial of your feminism, and hope you get over it quickly. I have found that it’s best to just rip it off quickly instead of pulling on it slowly.

  15. 15.

    Hmm. While I generally agree with your dislike of pathologizing feminism, I must admit that I have sometimes thought that being my brand of feminist is a special trial that God has bestowed upon me. I feel like I was born this way–God sent me to earth with this particular set of notions about equality and justice, and God hasn’t necessarily given those same notions to others. Why does my very nature, my essence, my being, scream out against polygamy, patriarchy, presiding, and the like, when my little sister, raised in the same environment, could care less about those issues?

    I’ve sometimes wondered if similar to other challenges that God blesses people with, if it’s my test to try to figure out how to reconcile my feminism with my testimony of the gospel.

  16. 16.

    well, if you consider being single in a married church to be a trial, then it seems fairly parallel to say that being a feminist in a patriarchal church is also a trial, or at least somewhat of a paradox. although, i suppose the difference is that that your relationship status has a potential to change, making it possible for you to “get over” that trial, whereas nobody is looking to get over the feminist p.o.v.

    not to say that i disagree with the point you are trying to make here, though. in fact, i agree whole-heartedly.

    i have plenty of friends who seem to see my membership in the mormon church as the real trial, which, depending on the tone, can seem just as dismissive and patronizing.

    either way you look at it, it’s a point of conflict, which i think it is safe to say most people are looking to avoid. conflict, in general.

  17. 17.

    Those are helpful clarifications. (I warned you that the original post was half-baked!) Being a feminist in a patriarchal church–that disjunct is definitely a huge life challenge, trial, what have you. As I think several of you have articulated, what I don’t like is the notion that feminism itself is something to be endured, something that you can only hope you’ll be free of someday.

    John C, exactly. That’s a way of framing it that makes me crazy. If you are a feminist, it must be because you were traumatized by some domineering priesthood leader. (The implication being that if you can get over that, you can also recover from your feminism.)

    Isobel, after I wrote that, I was thinking something similar about my having used that example of being single in a married church. Though as you say, I don’t know that the situations are completely parallel, given that while I’m not given to bemoaning my single status, it’s not my ideal, either. But yes, it’s very much similar in being a point of conflict.

  18. 18.

    I think what I’m trying to say is that I dislike the tendency to turn questions/concerns about particular doctrines and practices into personal emotional problems. (Which I don’t think is unique to feminist issues.) For example, the sentiment that the problem isn’t that the church is not an egalitarian institution–the problem is that you don’t have a sense of your own worth as a woman, that you have low self-esteem, etc. I’m willing to entertain discussion about what it means that the church isn’t egalitarian, but when I raise questions about the way the priesthood is gendered, it’s not necessarily because I’m up at night wishing that I could have the priesthood and don’t value what I can contribute to the world as a woman, and it’s frustrating to have the question co-opted into that framework–because turning it into my personal burden to bear is a way of not taking the question itself seriously.

  19. 19.

    Kevin, I appreciate you concern, and I’ll try to keep that in mind when I finally have the courage to seek recovery. Would you recommend FMA (Feminist Mormons Anonymous), or do you think their approach is too gradual?

  20. 20.

    Great post.
    It’s too late for me to add much.

    I think the part of Mormon feminism that I find troublesome is that it creates cognitive dissonance. It’s that kind of ringing in my ears that feels like a trial sometimes.

  21. 21.

    Lynnette,

    I’m mulling over your #18. I hear you that you don’t want to be treated like some poor, broken soul. Tensions abound in this mortal life, imo, and I think at some level that is part of our existence…if there weren’t things to work through, agency and the quest for truth would mean nothing. And I understand that you don’t want to be dismissed, to have your questions just swept under the rug. I am sure sometimes when you get answers like “God loves you” and “the Church is true” there may be a motive to avoid tension.

    But sometimes there may not be. And I would argue that many times, that is not the motive.

    You have given me things to think about, things to be careful of in not generalizing or dismissing perspectives “informed by feminism.” But may I suggest that there is a flip side to this? I think the use of the feminist lens to analyze the Church, its leaders, or its members, has the potential to create similar kinds of dismissive tendencies the other direction. I see a consistent tendency to put pretty much *all* the blame on the church for the tension…as though there is *no* possibility for fallibility in the feminist lens, or in those who look through it. There is also a tendency to lump all those who *don’t* use feminism as a measuring stick as “blind followers” or “people who haven’t thought through the issues” or people who “just want the status quo” (as though change in the church is the only solution that can lead to resolution/peace/clarity on these issues).

    I think there are true and good principles in feminism, but I think it’s sometimes treated a bit too much like the constant, quintessential measure of truth. But why is there not more talk of “maybe we should look at this differently” from the feminist point of view? I rarely see feminism get the same kind of analysis that the Church gets when trying to work through the tensions people may feel about gender issues.

    I hope it’s clear that part of why I engage in these discussions is in large measure because personally I love pondering these things. There are few things I think about more, actually. But once questions lead to doubting foundational principles of the Church, dialogue will be more difficult — and I think answers will be harder to find. (Pres. Uchtdorf’s recent talk about how questions can lead to testimony if we don’t doubt the foundations of truth.)

    Also when seemingly simple answers (or those who share them) are dismissed as being too simplistic – as though everyone who believes them is just afraid of the questions, ignorant, or uncaring — there might be missed opportunities to have potentially meaningful discussions with people who have engaged those questions seriously.

    In short, I think all of this can go both ways.

  22. 22.

    m&m, here’s the thing. There’s a difference between feminist *beliefs* and the feminist *movement*. We’re generally not going to critique the feminist *movement* on this blog because it wouldn’t be the right place to do so. Just like I wouldn’t go to a secular feminist blog and talk about all the ways in which I’m dissatisfied with the church, I’m not going to use a blog that is primarily about Mormonism to talk about all the ways in which I’m dissatisfied with feminism. I would find it more productive to go have that conversation with other committed feminists.

    And honestly, some of the members of this blog find themselves quite wary of academic or activist feminism. Some of us are feminist *only* in the context of the Mormon church, and that “feminism” has more to do with an internal moral code than an allegiance to a movement. This means that we’re not necessary saying “look at how wonderful feminism is, and look at how awful the church is.” Instead, we’re saying, “my inner moral sense of what is good and right tells me that there should be more equality in the church (and feminism happened to be the movement that most clearly articulated this moral belief).”

    And to be honest, I don’t think we need more “tables being turned” in the way you are described. I think the automatic assumption when any feminist in the church speaks is to say the problem is solely with her or her lens, and I don’t think members spend enough time looking at the church as a source of part of the tension. Honestly, most of the time we (those of us who might be labeled “feminist”) are not even saying the church needs to change–we’re just trying to point out what is happening in the church as accurately as we see it. We say something like “there are more men in the hierarchy of the church than women,” and the response typically is, “don’t you have a testimony of your own worth?” or “someday you will understand the truth when you reach a more enlightened perspective like me” when all we’re doing is making an observation of how things actually are.

  23. 23.

    *high five* cwc! We brought Lynnette out of hibernation! (how’s that dissertation coming?)

    I think this is a great post. I particularly like the distinction that while being a feminist in the structure of the church may be a trial, being a feminist itself is not.

    To me it’s a lot like being single in the church. I don’t feel like I need to get married to have worth. I don’t feel like I need my singleness cured. But I do recognize that church members often treat me that way. So the disconnect is the trial. Okay, learning not to speak rudely to said members is probably the trial…

  24. 24.

    That being said, I think automatically dismissing someone because they disagree with you is never a good thing, and I’d like to hope we try to avoid doing that on this blog (and that we fully engage with people even if we disagree with them).

  25. 25.

    m&m, I always appreciate your perspective. But I think the end of you comment is kind of what Lynnette is talking about (or at least how I’m interpreting what she’s talking about)

    Notice how your comment starts by validating her feelings, mentions your own, and talks about learning from each other. I think that’s great. But you end with this sentiment:

    But once questions lead to doubting foundational principles of the Church, dialogue will be more difficult — and I think answers will be harder to find. (Pres. Uchtdorf’s recent talk about how questions can lead to testimony if we don’t doubt the foundations of truth.)

    And as a person that expresses any type of church related question, I feel like this tends to be the default – are you questioning the foundational principles of the Church?

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but my questions have nothing to do with my testimony of the Savior and the Atonement, of Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, or who I am as a daughter of God. But it feels like my questions are often reduced to that.

    Lynnette isn’t talking about a crisis of faith, just questions about the way faith is implemented into action in the church… I think they are valid, and frankly interesting things to discuss from an academic perspective. And it’s easier to have those discussions when you aren’t shut down by calling faith into question.

  26. 26.

    m&m, sorry, that felt abrupt after I read through my comment. I really don’t mean it that way… I do love your comments!

  27. 27.

    Lynnette: Are you sure we can say some things can’t be trials when the Lord says his “people must be tried in all things” (D&C 136:31)? I wish more members viewed the commandment to become charitable as the Lord’s ultimate test to see if we will strip ourselves of our sexism, racism, and other prejudices. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more of our fellow Saints followed Moro. 8:16 and were not afraid to go through these kinds of refining trials?

  28. 28.

    I have not encountered the general idea that a feminist is someone to be pitied. Where is it to be found?

    Personally, I would pity people who don’t have feminism as a “trial”–it likely means they are an idiot.

  29. 29.

    .

    I think you’d better let me and Brian come over Sunday to cure you of your feminism….

  30. 30.

    lynette- email me re snacker – does saturday work for you? can we post it on zd?
    oops, i already did :)

  31. 31.

    In the question over whether feminism is a trial, I think one thing that’s being argued over is whether feminist critique belongs exclusively to the sphere of private subjective experience, or whether it has purchase on a more public, universal scale. Feminists implicate institutions in promoting patriarchy and androcentrism, and one response has been to throw these critiques back to the intrapsychic, personal realm and insist they have no traction in the public sphere (“you wouldn’t say that if you personally hadn’t had negative experiences with individual men” or “this is your personal trial to overcome”). To cast feminism as a personal trial is to cast doubt on its ability to make ethical claims on shared, public institutions and to circumscribe its activity to the personal and phenomenological.

    A second issue that I think is being argued over in such discussions is, to put it bluntly, the very legitimacy of feminist critiques. Construing feminism as a “trial” is a way of coopting it into a teleological narrative whose endpoint, through endurance and force of will, is to overcome this “obstacle” to peace and happiness, which are implicitly located outside the issue in question. Happiness, in this narrative, is found not through feminism but beyond it. This may go against individual feminists’ experience of having found redemption through their feminist beliefs rather than by conquering and neutralizing those beliefs.

  32. 32.

    What’s all this talk of snackering!? Seems like things are popping on the West Coast! (I’m not sure why people don’t want to visit New England this time of year . . . )

  33. 33.

    And what about DC? Of course, if you actually managed to get here, you might get stuck here…

  34. 34.

    cwc, sounds great! I’ll email you. (Whether or not feminism is a trial, the discussion of it does seem to bring people together, given that on this very thread there are people planning snackers, not to mention my home teachers planning home teaching.)

    Thanks for the comments, all. I’ll hopefully have more to say soon, but I need to return for a while to the trial of dissertating.

  35. 35.

    Seraphine, nobody wants to have a ‘snacker in DC now because we would want to eat something besides what you have in your 72 hour kit.

    Happy shoveling, Spring is officially only 6 weeks away!

  36. 36.

    Hey! My roommates and I just finished off the pineapple-coconut cake I made a few days ago. And this afternoon I am making a big pot of bean soup (with collard greens and roasted tomatoes and herbs) and an orange cake! I live only one block from a grocery store, and all the snow and no school is giving me time to cook.

  37. 37.

    @Th. Sure, Erik. ;) Although I don’t intend to assist with any cure.

    @Lynnette I’m not sure labeling something as a trial has to imply a dismissal of the issue or restriction of a problem to an individual. Calling something a trial can be supportive, a way to acknowledge someone else’s suffering and struggling. Since we can never really understand the difficulties others experience, sometimes the best we can do is acknowledge the struggle, in an attempt to show others that their suffering is not completely unnoticed. I also don’t believe that “trial” implies “should be overcome”. Maybe I’ve read too many Russians, but I believe trials can strengthen and refine us even if they persist, unresolved, throughout our lives.

    A little reframing could cast this in a more positive way. I agree that being feminist in the church (or in my case, conservative in Berkeley) is not a trial in and of itself, but it’s probably true that for most people, not fitting in to one’s community is a very difficult trial. It’s hard for us humans to continually disagree with our friends, to feel out of place, be misunderstood. If somebody told you they thought your beliefs were a trial, maybe they meant to acknowledge that it’s hard not to be mainstream. Which is probably not surprising or insulting.

    Of course, maybe they really were just thoughtless and dismissive. In which case I’m sorry they’re going through life with such a serious trial of their own: a lack of empathy and understanding…

  38. 38.

    I enjoyed this post, Lynnette. Kiskilili (#31) I think your first point really hit what I think of when I bristle at the idea that feminism is a trial. It says that the problem lies in the person and not in any organization. Isn’t this a classic tactic of totalitarian regimes? “The Party isn’t at fault. You must be insane if you think there’s anything wrong here. Have a good time in Siberia.” But really it seeps into all kinds of situations: “If you don’t want to be a SAHM, you must be mentally off. Here are some drugs.”

  39. 39.

    What?? You can get drugs for that?

  40. 40.

    I love this thread.

    So, what does it say that nobody feels sorry for me because I’m a feminist. They just don’t talk about it. Is that potentially worse? Am I the leper of the ward, recently outcast to Nursery Leader?

    Also, Seraphine, I’ll be in D.C. Feb 24-28. Maybe we could hang out or plan our own snacker! (I’m staying Sat night with a friend on the Exponent editorial committee. I wonder if you know her)

  41. 41.

    m&m,
    So, I just want to make sure I understand your position.

    Is it that the church represents God’s will in all things? Or just the most important things? Is it God’s will that there are no changing tables in the men’s restroom? I doubt it.

    Therefore, if you are willing to say that some feminist issues of equality can be addressed without God changing his mind, then I think we’re in agreement.

    My next question is once you’ve allowed yourself to suggest changes to the men’s restroom, where do you stop? Can you suggest women have the priesthood? I’m guessing no, so where on the spectrum is the stopping point? Who gets to decide what are the foundational issues? Perhaps some would say that men shouldn’t have to change their baby’s diapers and that’s foundational.

    Is this an issue where we consult our male priesthood leaders to ask them where on the spectrum of women’s rights we should stop asking for equality?

  42. 42.

    @Jessawhy You should move to Berkeley, there are 2 heavily used changing tables in the Men’s room. =)

  43. 43.

    I think some people view feminism as a trial because it often (not always, of course) reveals itself in a glass-is-half-empty mentality. Case in point, a buddy of mine recently visited a feminist site in the bloggernacle, and provided the same response you mentioned above, pretty much verbatim, i.e. he “felt sorry for them.” The reason, in his words, many (again, not all of them) of the comments seemed like bitter diatribes about how the women had been wronged due to perceived or actual sleights. This doesn’t necessarily come across as the big-heartedness that the gospel seeks to cultivate in us.

    Regarding the “they were treated badly and therefore they are feminists” argument, I’ve never heard this. I’m sure it exists, but it seems mostly like a red herring.

    I am not looking to be reassured that a) God loves women, or b) the church is true, so not to worry. In fact, if both those statements are correct, it makes such gendered practices more difficult to make sense of, not less.

    I must say I really respect this position. I think most of us have (perhaps “controversial”) questions about the gospel/church that don’t have to impact our underlying faith in such. I wonder, though, about your conclusion that because a) and b) are true, it therefore makes gendered practices more difficult to understand. This seems to assume that if there are gender differences of any kind there must somehow be a problem. (Genuine) question on this point, does feminism account for the possibility that God intended different roles for men and women and that the two will never be the same (i.e. that we are not on an unalterable course to enlightenment which will conclude at a day when all opportunities are available for both men and women)?

  44. 44.

    Re: Jessawhy, on the changing table in the bathroom issue that you raised, out of curiosity, what is it that makes this a feminist issue (or is it not)? I myself am bothered that our men’s bathroom doesn’t have a changing table so I can have a convenient place to change the little ones’ diapers (though I’ve been in some buildings that do have them). Its an inconvenience to me.

    Furthermore, our bathroom is TINY, we can barely fit more than one guy in there at a time. Whats more, the adjacent women’s bathroom is more than twice the size. As a man, should I feel discriminated against? Should I approach someone about this (the bathroom size discrepancy), or should I acknowledge that it is pretty small potatoes and not something to get worked up about?

  45. 45.

    Recession Cone:
    I would love to move to Berkeley. I’d much rather be a liberal there than in Gilbert, AZ. (I think I”m the only one here, actually)

    m&m,
    I’ve been thinking about my response and feeling like it came out a big more aggressive (b/c of all the questions) than I intended. I really am interested in where you draw the line (and who you think is in charge of drawing the line) between changes that don’t impact the “foundation” and changes that do.

    (ps-sorry if this is a threadjack)

  46. 46.

    WJ,
    Sorry, I didn’t see your comment.

    Feminist issues (as Starfoxy point out) center on women’s equality. I think the changing table issue is pretty straightforward on this one. Having a changing table in the men’s bathroom gives the men an equal opportunity to change diapers. It was just the first feminist issue that came to my mind, although I’m sure you’re aware of a myriad of others.

    The importance of the issue is based on your perspective. If you’ve ever been a parent of small children, the availability of changing tables can be the most important functional part of your church experience. As far as your smaller bathroom, I have no problem with your trying to get that changed. Equality is equality.

  47. 47.

    WJ–your friend’s response is EXACTLY what Lynnette’s talking about, I think. Women saying that, for instance, they are excluded from decision-making that affects them, is characterized as a “bitter diatribe.” Pointing out uncomfortable facts can get a woman labeled a malcontent (or worse) even if she is simply making a statement of fact, not expressing her personal pique.

  48. 48.

    I think of Mormonism as my “trial” in this life.

  49. 49.

    Jessawhy, I would love to hang out with you when you come in February! And I may know the person you’re staying with, though I may not (the DC area is a large place). Shoot me an e-mail and we’ll figure something out.

  50. 50.

    So, I was just reading along, thinking this was a pretty good discussion, and all of a sudden I wanted to slap myself. Why on earth do we even think for a second that feminism is the problem, and not the sexist institution we’re trying to exist in. Put that thinking in another context–would we EVEN FOR A SECOND feel ok about commiserating with a slave for the cognitive dissonance his abolitionism caused him? For hell’s sake–this is crazy talk!

  51. 51.

    Haha. You’re so right, Kristine. That’s one of the things I was trying to say in my response to m&m, but you managed to say it much more clearly and directly (as usual).

  52. 52.

    Continuing the analogy, there were plenty of people, including other slaves, who gave all kinds of reasons why slavery really was the best arrangement for all concerned and that to object to it was to object to the will of God.

  53. 53.

    Re: women & slavery.
    Don’t you think this analogy is oversimplifying the situation, and demonizing those who disagree with you? I’m almost ready to invoke Godwin’s law…

  54. 54.

    Nope. At least not any more than identifying feminism as one of the three major problems the church faces.

  55. 55.

    RecessionCone–one does not have to think that a patriarchal religion is as oppressive an institution as slavery for the analogy to hold. We are talking about whether the participants’ experience of the institution and feelings about it is the best measure of whether it is just. In both cases, it is arguably more useful to discuss the equity (or righteousness) of the institution, rather than discussing why some of those discriminated against by the institution don’t mind their oppression that much. I think the analogy works for that limited point.

  56. 56.

    And, just to make it explicitly clear, I emphatically do not think the situation of women in the church and the situation of slaves is equivalent.

  57. 57.

    Kristine, I may not be reading closely enough, who is suggesting feminism is the problem?

  58. 58.

    Seraphine: Honestly, most of the time we (those of us who might be labeled “feminist”) are not even saying the church needs to change–we’re just trying to point out what is happening in the church as accurately as we see it.

    Riiiiiight.

  59. 59.

    Regarding #50.

    Yeah, the problem with your answer is a lot of the feminists here sincerely believe that the Church really is led directly by Jesus Christ. So comparing the Church to, say, human slavery, might be a teensy bit offensive to the believing Mormon feminists you are talking to at this blog. It is a baby step away from calling Jesus an oppressive misogynist after all.

    I should note that it is intuitively obvious that arriving at the conclusion that Jesus is an oppressive misogynist is one possible resolution to the apparent conflict between the Church as it is structured today and feminist ideals. That is precisely why people often preemptively jump ahead to reassuring Mormon feminists that “a) God loves women, or b) the church is true”.

    (I was composing this before I saw your #56 so I appreciate that retraction BTW.)

  60. 60.

    Jacob J, okay “most” isn’t the word I should have used in that sentence. But I think it’s true that while Mormon feminists are hoping things will change, we spend more time asking questions and pointing out inconsistencies with the status quo than going around saying “the church should do X and Y.”

  61. 61.

    Women saying that, for instance, they are excluded from decision-making that affects them, is characterized as a “bitter diatribe.” Pointing out uncomfortable facts can get a woman labeled a malcontent (or worse) even if she is simply making a statement of fact, not expressing her personal pique.

    This drives me INSANE and happened so much I rarely speak up anymore. The OP, (hardly half-baked!), really struck a chord with me. So often I’ve received a touchy-feely response to a logical question or observation – it makes me feel like I’m deemed unworthy of a genuine response. There are few things worse than being dismissed as invalid.

  62. 62.

    we spend more time asking questions and pointing out inconsistencies with the status quo than going around saying “the church should do X and Y.”

    Hehe. Should we read that as “we prefer to be passive aggressive rather than aggressive in our bid for change”? (I can see the wisdom in the passive aggressive approach BTW.)

  63. 63.

    Women saying that, for instance, they are excluded from decision-making that affects them, is characterized as a “bitter diatribe.” Pointing out uncomfortable facts can get a woman labeled a malcontent (or worse) even if she is simply making a statement of fact, not expressing her personal pique.

    This is a fair point, and I agree it would be unfair to label all criticism as “bitter diatribes.” Perhaps the more significant question is when does pointing a problem out become excessive, or at what point is griping/pointing things out unproductive (i.e. become a bitter diatribe)? And its worth noting, this is not an exclusively female problem. Men point out uncomfortable facts as well, and are treated similarly (or treated fine, both women and men).

    In addition, men are also regularly excluded from decision-making that affects their lives, regardless of the fact that they hold the priesthood. Case in point, in church awhile back the bishop botched my calling at the pulpit, and later resolved the matter in a rather tacky way. But in the end, I don’t find the issue that significant and I can’t see how getting spun up about it helps me. Service is service, I have an opportunity to bless the lives of others and I experience personal growth in the process. Its an experience that would be more difficult to have outside of the gospel/church, and for that I’m grateful.

    Its just one example, and may not be a great one, but I think my friends point (the “I feel sorry for them” friend) is why spend so much time lamenting all of life’s injustices?

  64. 64.

    56 was not a retraction, just a clarification for those who misread and took my analogy farther than I meant it to extend.

    I am one of those believing feminists.

  65. 65.

    WJ–there’s a large difference between being excluded from some decision making some of the time because you don’t happen to hold a particular calling and being excluded from all of the decision making all of the time because you don’t have the right anatomy.

  66. 66.

    Geoff J–how exactly would a Mormon feminist go about “demanding” change? Or asking for it in a direct, non-passive-aggressive way? There is literally NO mechanism or forum for even voicing the hope of change. I’m always baffled when I get accused of wanting the church to change–if I believe in the church, and want to remain a member, I can, perhaps, wish things were different, but there is no legitimate way for me to articulate a desire for change. Saying “this seems wrong to me, this hurts” is really all anyone can do, and that is labeled “bitter” or “shrill” or “passive-aggressive” or “unfaithful.” It’s a Catch-22 even Joseph Heller could never have written.

  67. 67.

    In addition, men are also regularly excluded from decision-making that affects their lives, regardless of the fact that they hold the priesthood.

    I’ve often thought that it’d be great if Ziff tackled this idea and gave us actual numbers about how many active men in the church will hold decision making authority in their lifetime.
    But aside from that, the point about noting that women are categorically excluded from decision making authority isn’t that any one woman wants to hold that power personally (I’m sure some do, but I’m talking about generalities here) it is that women want to be represented and have at least some people like them in decision making spots. It isn’t that I personally want to be in a bishopric, it is that I want there to be women in bishoprics so the needs of people like me will be better represented.
    (It’s the same reason I want former nursery workers to be in the RS presidency. Because they will be more likely to remember to make sure the nursery leaders get the announcements and sign-up sheets than the people who haven’t served in nursery and don’t know how isolating it can be.)

  68. 68.

    oops–confused Geoff J and Jacob J in my response. Sorry!

  69. 69.

    ok, one last thing, and then I swear I’ll quit (for now). Geoff J said that saying the church’s structure is unjust towards women “is a baby step away from calling Jesus an oppressive misogynist after all. ”

    That seems like a particularly unsubtle way to understand what it means for Christ to be the head of the Church. You know enough about church history, Geoff, to know that you will get in deep doo-doo really quickly if you insist that every jot and tittle of the CHI was dictated by Jesus (baby or no).

  70. 70.

    Kristine: how exactly would a Mormon feminist go about “demanding” change?

    Well one could go make demands in any number of ways to any number of church leaders.

    Of course I don’t know how to do that in a way that would be effective or that would not lead to church disciplinary action. That is why I said more passive approaches are the prudent path to any sorts of desired policy changes.

    Also, I didn’t accuse you of wanting to change the church. For one thing, I don’t see anything wrong with wanting to change the church for the better so “accuse” is the wrong word. But more specifically, I was responding to Seraphine’s comment in my #62.

  71. 71.

    Kristine: Geoff J said that saying the church’s structure is unjust towards women “is a baby step away from calling Jesus an oppressive misogynist…

    This is what I like about blogs — it is easy to go back and see what I actually said when words get put into my mouth. What I actually said in #59 is:

    comparing the Church to, say, human slavery, might be a teensy bit offensive to the believing Mormon feminists you are talking to at this blog. It is a baby step away from calling Jesus an oppressive misogynist

  72. 72.

    but I didn’t compare the church to human slavery, so I guess you’re right that it’s easy to put words in people’s mouths.

  73. 73.

    Geoff, that’s what I like about blogs, too. We can so easily go back and see that Kristine did not actually compare the church to human slavery (see her 56, above).

    The slavery analogy is constantly and pervasively misunderstood, so if I might venture the heresy of a Kristine paraphrase: the point isn’t to make a historical comparison between two institutions, the Church and nineteenth-century human trafficking practices in the U.S. The point is rather to consider the reasoning and the rhetoric that sustain and justify institutional inequality. We find the reasoning and rhetoric that justified slavery reprehensible. Why then do we accept precisely the same kinds of reasoning and rhetoric when they sustain contemporary Mormon gender inequalities?

    Let’s be careful here. No one is making any claims that the Mormon church is run by slavers who are keeping women in chains. I have yet to see any Mormon feminist make any such claim.

    The issue is one of reasoning–not of historical analogy.

  74. 74.

    Yes, thanks, Eve. In fact, it was a limited and specific element of that reasoning–the one that attempts to justify discrimination on the basis that only some members of the class being discriminated against report being dissatisfied with their status–to which I was objecting.

  75. 75.

    Eve,

    The abolitionist analogy is there in plain sight in #50. I just made the rather obvious point that it is an objectionable analogy to make. (But I did note her #56 as well.)

    Not only is it objectionable, it is also a fairly weak analogy since the Church presumable guided directly by Jesus Christ. Further, it took a horrible civil war to end slavery. Heaven forbid the analogy be true even figuratively in the Church.

  76. 76.

    Geoff, Kristine just explained that she was making a rather limited point about the reasoning involved in the two situations and the types of reasoning that we take as invalidating an institutional critique. She’s said nothing whatsoever making the church itself analogous to enslaving institutions or the necessity of a horrible civil war to overturn the patriarchy. There’s nothing in her #50 to contradict the interpretation she herself just gave us. So let’s read her charitably, shall we?

    Given that rehashing comments’ possible interpretations at this length is always unproductive, and given that her follow-up comments clarify her meaning, why don’t we take her at her word about what she meant to convey and move on to more productive discussion?

  77. 77.

    Kristine: Put that thinking in another context–would we EVEN FOR A SECOND feel ok about commiserating with a slave for the cognitive dissonance his abolitionism caused him? For hell’s sake–this is crazy talk!

    Gotta admit I read Kristine like Geoff.

  78. 78.

    Blake, the point here is that Kristine does not read Kristine like Geoff. No need to speculate about the author’s intent: here she is, right before our eyes!

  79. 79.

    Gotta admit I read Kristine like Kristine.

  80. 80.

    Eve,

    I have no problem with granting good intentions to the objectionable analogy. In fact my point never was about intent. My point was always simply that the analogy is offensive. (One can have good intentions and still be offensive.)

    I am thrilled to not talk about that any more.

  81. 81.

    OK, Geoff, my point is simply that the analogy is offensive only if we insist on reading it globally. There’s no reason to read it globally, particularly when the author herself doesn’t. (In this context I’m using the word “intent” intellectually, not psychologically nor even morally.)

    I see your thrilled and raise you an ecstatic.

  82. 82.

    No one wants to talk about it, but everyone wants the last word. Classic.

    What this thread needs is an Nazi analogy. Otherwise I don’t see how we’ll get to 200 comments.

  83. 83.

    Of course the analogy is offensive; that’s part of the point. We tend to ignore the offensiveness of sexism in the church, in favor of policing the tone of those who object to it.

    I’m not particularly sorry to have offended the conservative men who are reading, only sorry that the discussion is thereby derailed.

  84. 84.

    Kristine, despite your best efforts, you have failed to offend me. I persist stubbornly in the belief that it’s the institution’s practices which are offensive–not the particular rhetoric in which we critique those practices.

    We tend to ignore the offensiveness of sexism in the church, in favor of policing the tone of those who object to it.

    Exactly. Or, as I was told just last week, the sexism wouldn’t be there if I would just stop so inconveniently perceiving it.

  85. 85.

    WJ–there’s a large difference between being excluded from some decision making some of the time because you don’t happen to hold a particular calling and being excluded from all of the decision making all of the time because you don’t have the right anatomy.

    I think your response to my comment inadvertently illustrated my point (or the point of my “I feel sorry for them” friend). The point of my comment was on attitude. Things happen in life that we don’t like or we consider unjust. We can choose to stew on them or we can recognize that they are not a big deal and move on. Feminism often dwells on the negatives (thereby making little things big things), both perceived and real. By doing so it negatively affects mindset. You appear to have missed my larger point on attitude in my post and immediately jumped to the perceived injustice: the difference between priesthood holders and non-priesthood holders.

    Going back to my discussion with Jessawhy re the small men’s bathroom in my meetinghouse, she has staked a feminist position that makes it difficult to admit that arguing about the size of a bathroom is juvenile, in a even a most generous analysis. Its an obvious example of a nonissue, which doesn’t merit the use of precious mortal probationary time to resolve.

    Regarding the priesthood, its a difficult argument to make that women don’t ever have any say over decisions that affect their lives because they don’t hold the priesthood. Again, a glass is half empty view. Women have the same say over their lives that men do re: school, missions, work, children, hobbies, etc. and how they execute their leadership responsibilities in their church callings. While women don’t hold the priesthood and therefore can’t be in bishoprics, etc. the opportunities to have control over decisions that impact their lives are still very abundant. To limit yourself because you don’t hold the priesthood seems to be placing an unnecessary crutch.

    (To clarify, I’ve seen positive posts on feminist blogs, so I’m not saying they’re always negative. But in my experience the number of positives posts pale in comparison to the number of negative posts)

  86. 86.

    WJ–your definitions of “positive” and “negative” need some work.

    Also, I did not miss your point. You should probably do some background reading on this blog so that you’ll know the many, many of your points that have been addressed (and thoroughly refuted) in the past. I won’t rehash the arguments, because I have lots of better things to do, like taking care of my children and fulfilling two callings that I love.

  87. 87.

    WJ:

    You might be a mansplainer if…

  88. 88.

    Kristine: Of course the analogy is offensive; that’s part of the point.

    Har! Awesome.

    I’m not particularly sorry to have offended the conservative men who are reading, only sorry that the discussion is thereby derailed.

    Hehe. This is getting better. (Way to throw Eve under the bus.)

  89. 89.

    Things happen in life that we don’t like or we consider unjust. We can choose to stew on them or we can recognize that they are not a big deal and move on. Feminism often dwells on the negatives (thereby making little things big things), both perceived and real.

    Hmmm… I would consider equality a pretty big deal… Thank God for people that dwelt on the negatives long enough to change them –

    women’s suffrage
    child labor laws
    the entire civil rights movement
    the extension of the priesthood to black men
    free education

  90. 90.

    The abolitionist analogy is useful. I don’t think it’s offensive — it calls inequality unequal, and oppression oppressive. However, this doesn’t equate to calling Jesus unequal and oppressive, any more than the fact that Brigham Young made slavery legal in Utah Territory makes Jesus a racist imperialist who was pro-slavery.

    That said, people who like the marginalization of women in our community are likely to be offended when that marginalization is openly named, no?

  91. 91.

    JNS–I don’t think people have to “like” the marginalization of women to feel defensive of it. I suspect that there are many folks who, in good faith, believe that the church’s current structure is the revealed will of God, and therefore will try to ignore or minimize the sexist aspects of it, even if they are not themselves sexist in their disposition or habits, even if, in fact, they are vigilant against sexism in other areas of their lives and other institutions they participate in. Whether that kind of sexism is more or less insidious than straight-up misogyny is an open question (for me, at least).

  92. 92.

    The point of my comment was on attitude. Things happen in life that we don’t like or we consider unjust. We can choose to stew on them or we can recognize that they are not a big deal and move on.

    WJ, this is actually an excellent illustration of what I’m talking about. You’re effectively dismissing any concerns about structural inequities by framing them as a personal problem of the person pointing to those inequities–the problem isn’t the structure, it’s that the person doesn’t have a good attitude.

    (To clarify, I’ve seen positive posts on feminist blogs, so I’m not saying they’re always negative. But in my experience the number of positives posts pale in comparison to the number of negative posts)

    I’m not sure that the legitimacy of a feminist critique can be judged by whether it produces more “positive” than “negative” posts.

  93. 93.

    JNS: it calls inequality unequal, and oppression oppressive… people who like the marginalization of women in our community are likely to be offended when that marginalization is openly named

    If you assume from the outset that women really are oppressed and marginalized in Mormonism these statements work for you. Most Mormons don’t assume those things, but certainly one could argue for that position.

    However, this doesn’t equate to calling Jesus unequal and oppressive, any more than the fact that Brigham Young made slavery legal in Utah Territory makes Jesus a racist imperialist who was pro-slavery.

    Why doesn’t it equate to calling Jesus an unequal, oppressive, racist, imperialist? I mean we Mormons claim Jesus literally runs the church right? If Jesus does run the church what is the best response to critics who claim Jesus must therefore be an unequal, oppressive, racist, imperialist?

    When push comes to shove something has to give.

    People tread lightly on these Problem of Evil issues for a reason.

  94. 94.

    Isn’t the response normally “human error”? I think that’s what people use to bridge the gap between divine guidance and real-world shortcomings. I don’t think the claim is literally that Jesus runs the church, but that it’s run through human intermediaries, who are conveniently fallible whenever something needs to be explained away, but conveniently inspired whenever they need to play that card instead.

  95. 95.

    “we Mormons claim Jesus literally runs the church”

    I think “literally” is a highly problematic word in that context, and I suspect that your belief that Mormons do or ought to believe that is the root of the problem here.

  96. 96.

    As for “marginalized” and “oppressed”–I wouldn’t use the word “oppressed”, necessarily–there is, in fact, a good deal of value judgment implicit in its use. But “marginalized,” it seems to me, is a bald statement of fact–when I sit in the pew while my baby is blessed, when I literally have to be pushed to the side so that a man can witness the baptism of my children, etc. I am inarguably at the margin, no?

  97. 97.

    Well, I think being marginalized in certain circumstances is supposedly outweighed by being “centralized” in others– like if you’re up on a pedestal and then someone pushes you down in a hole, it kind of averages out.

  98. 98.

    z — Why wouldn’t you just place the blame on Jesus? The buck has to stop somewhere.

    Kristine — If Jesus doesn’t “literally” run the church then what? Figuratively? What would that even mean?

    Also, I agree that the word oppressed implies a value judgment. Or in other words it is a loaded word. But “marginalized” is also somewhat loaded. Both imply a moral wrong on the part of the oppressor/marginalizer.

  99. 99.

    So can we use any words that suggest that there is moral wrong in the situation of women in the LDS Church?

  100. 100.

    Wading back through all this excitement to #43,

    (Genuine) question on this point, does feminism account for the possibility that God intended different roles for men and women and that the two will never be the same (i.e. that we are not on an unalterable course to enlightenment which will conclude at a day when all opportunities are available for both men and women)?

    I’m wary of this because it seems to be the fallback answer to any question about gender-related practices–men and women have different (divinely inspired) roles; therefore, there’s no need to think about this further. Does feminism account for the possibility that men and women are different? Absolutely, yes. But I’m not persuaded that we need external structures to enforce those differences–I think they’ll emerge regardless. And in the context of a theology that emphasizes the potential for growth of all of God’s children, I have yet to hear a persuasive justification that some opportunities should be forever limited to certain classes of people (and before anyone makes the, only women can have babies argument, let me clarify that I’m talking about opportunities contingent on social structures, not biological differences.) If all are alike unto God, why _wouldn’t_ equal opportunity be an ideal? (Unless it turns out that some are more alike unto God than others.) I can see why such a thing might not always be possible for various practical reasons, but it’s hard for me to see what’s wrong with the ideal itself.

  101. 101.

    I’m not sure that the legitimacy of a feminist critique can be judged by whether it produces more “positive” than “negative” posts.

    My particular reason for making the statement that all not all feminist posts are negative was simply to clarify so as not to appear that I was overgeneralizing. My point was not that the legitimacy of a post is based on its positive or negative aspects, per se. Though I do think there is something to be said for spending too much time on the negative to the extent it inappropriately colors our views of the world.

    WJ, this is actually an excellent illustration of what I’m talking about. You’re effectively dismissing any concerns about structural inequities by framing them as a personal problem of the person pointing to those inequities–the problem isn’t the structure, it’s that the person doesn’t have a good attitude.

    Maybe, but I think its important to distinguish between frivolous injustices and serious injustices (or events which are not actual injustices, but we view them as such because we’ve trained ourselves to interpret events negatively). Just demanding “equality” seems empty, unless given teeth through specifics. We can demand equality on the most trivial of issues, but it remains just that, trivial (the botched calling and bathroom size being two examples of triviality — which was what my particular comment was referring to).

    Hmmm… I would consider equality a pretty big deal… Thank God for people that dwelt on the negatives long enough to change them –

    women’s suffrage
    child labor laws
    the entire civil rights movement
    the extension of the priesthood to black men
    free education

    I would agree that equality is a big deal, depending on the issue. Some of the issues you mentioned above are great examples, and I am happy that they were fought for (I say “some” because I’m not wholly convinced free education is quite as glowing or clear cut an accomplishment as the others. Likewise, I think blacks and the priesthood is terribly oversimplified. There was a lot more that went into that than simple societal agitation, such as the faithfulness of blacks in Africa (a lot of them) who were virtually banging on the door to accept the gospel and get baptized into the church — which, for the record, was highly positive, and not negative).

    But this leads me back to one of my earlier questions (which I’m sure has been answered previously on this site): “(Genuine) question on this point, does feminism account for the possibility that God intended different roles for men and women and that the two will never be the same (i.e. that we are not on an unalterable course to enlightenment which will conclude at a day when all opportunities are available for both men and women)?”

    That is, should we slap “the extension of priesthood to the women” to the bottom of the above list? Is that one of the benchmarks of Mormon feminism?

    (incredibly long) mansplaining concluded….

  102. 102.

    Geoff says: However, this doesn’t equate to calling Jesus unequal and oppressive, any more than the fact that Brigham Young made slavery legal in Utah Territory makes Jesus a racist imperialist who was pro-slavery.

    Why doesn’t it equate to calling Jesus an unequal, oppressive, racist, imperialist? I mean we Mormons claim Jesus literally runs the church right? If Jesus does run the church what is the best response to critics who claim Jesus must therefore be an unequal, oppressive, racist, imperialist?

    Well, fine. But slavery was in fact legalized in Utah Territory. So is your argument that Jesus is racist and oppressive? If not, we have to agree that the church and church leaders can do things without Jesus being the immediate cause of the action.

  103. 103.

    Oh Lynnette, you beat me to the punch!

  104. 104.

    I can’t really place the blame on someone I don’t believe exists, Geoff J, so I’m stuck with the explanation that a lot of people are really sexist. But it seems like you’re having trouble with the idea that divine authority has been delegated to fallible human individuals, even though they might make mistakes or abuse their power, and that that’s part of some mysterious plan and doesn’t necessarily reflect the actual views of a particular deity. It’s a pretty common viewpoint among religious people, isn’t it?

  105. 105.

    WJ–I’m not going to address your whole comment, just one historical example you seem to include in the list of good developments: women’s suffrage. As you probably know, there were many in Utah territory, including many GAs who argued vehemently against women’s suffrage, appealing to “divinely appointed” differences between the sexes to assert that women are too delicate, too refined to sully themselves in the political process. Were they wrong then? Are their arguments valid in other contexts, just not for that one?

  106. 106.

    RecessionCone,

    I’m not sure labeling something as a trial has to imply a dismissal of the issue or restriction of a problem to an individual. Calling something a trial can be supportive, a way to acknowledge someone else’s suffering and struggling.

    I think I can see what you’re saying. I’m wondering whether it would be helpful to distinguish between calling something a trial because you can see that it’s a hard situation to be in, versus calling something a trial because you think the person is deluded, wallowing in bitterness, etc. Maybe what I’m trying to get at is the difference between referring to something as a “trial” as an expression of acknowledgment and support, as you’re saying, versus using “trial” as code for “you poor little feminist who just doesn’t understand eternal truth (like I do).”

    @Jessawhy You should move to Berkeley

    Yes! You totally should!

  107. 107.

    WJ, the fact that you think the changing tables issue is trivial is really insensitive. Having to change all the diapers for all your children adds up to many hours over the course of a woman’s life, and interferes with the other things she might wish to do while at church. It’s almost impossible to get anything done if one is being constantly interrupted for diaper changes, which is what happens when one has several small children, and if men can’t do their share it becomes very burdensome for women. If a man can’t change diapers, he can’t be solely responsible for the children at any time, and that prevents the mother from being free to do anything that doesn’t accommodate childcare and diaper changes. It’s only trivial if you think women’s time and women’s activities are trivial. It also negatively affects single fathers and all men whose wives are unavailable to relieve them of their share of diapers. Do their circumstances not matter at all to you? The expense of installing a changing table is what is trivial, and it’s humiliating for women to be denied such a minor investment in their well-being.

    Your comments reflect your privileged position as someone who has never had responsibility for a small child, or always had a woman at beck and call to do the more unpleasant tasks. It’s clearly not at the top of the list of feminist concerns, but your dismissal of it is an object lesson in how oblivious certain men can be.

  108. 108.

    Lynnette–it seems to me that calling something a “trial,” even in a supportive way, shifts the locus of the problem to the individual’s experience and away from the external cause. In the case of feminism, calling it a “trial” for the individual feminist, simply can’t be supportive because it necessarily inverts her critique of the institution and makes her emotional state the problem.

  109. 109.

    JNS (#102): is your argument that Jesus is racist and oppressive

    Nope. Rather I specifically asked: “If Jesus does run the church what is the best response to critics who claim Jesus must therefore be an unequal, oppressive, racist, imperialist?” The answer to that question is at the heart of this discussion.

  110. 110.

    z, I completely agree that the changing-table issue is non-trivial. Our daughters hate to have their diapers changed on the floor of the men’s room. I should start just doing the diaper change in the hallway of any building in which the men’s room lacks a changing table.

    Geoff, who knows? A common answer is that people make mistakes. A possible answer is that God and Jesus really are unjust and we just have to deal with that.

    I’d argue that these concerns about how to answer critics ought to be secondary. The best way to answer critics of social injustice is to change the unjust institutions.

  111. 111.

    I think its important to distinguish between frivolous injustices and serious injustices (or events which are not actual injustices, but we view them as such because we’ve trained ourselves to interpret events negatively).

    Fair enough. But I’m not talking about things like, the bishop pronounced my name wrong. I’m talking about what it means to be in a church in which (to name just a few things) the power to formally act in the name of God is bestowed on one sex, in which women’s voices and perspective are absent from the highest levels of decision-making, in which our sacred texts are written by and (largely) about men. Even if you don’t agree that those are problems, I would hope that questions like this could be seen as serious ones.

    And in contrast to what you’re saying about being trained to interpret things negatively, I actually think we’re so used to the situation that it’s easy to take it for granted. I’m thinking of a time recently when I brought a friend from a liberal Protestant denomination to church and was suddenly acutely aware of how it must look to her–and was really struck by how normal it seems to me to have men running things. I’m one of those evil trouble-making glass-half-empty feminists, and it looks _normal_ to me; I hardly even notice it.

    I also think that because of these broader issues, seemingly small things can take on greater weight. Kaimi did a good post on this a while ago, in response to the fact that women stood after the twelve-year-olds to sustain the prophet. You might say, oh how trivial. But it happens in a context in which twelve-year-old boys are given an authority that women don’t have, and that shapes the experience. Minor gender-related practices that might be trivial in another environment take on more meaning in a patriarchal context.

  112. 112.

    z (#104),

    If it is not obvious I am talking about the Problem of Evil here. One very clean solution to the problem of evil (i.e. “Why doesn’t God prevent the evils he can prevent and how is he not evil for being so negligent?”) is to be an atheist like you.

    But for theists the tensions still exist.

  113. 113.

    “church practices regarding gender have caused me personal pain”

    Last Sunday, as I stood with my son in front of the congregation as he gave a name and a blessing to our 1-month old grandson, I couldn’t help ponder various statements like this that I’ve heard throughout the years. I looked at my grandson, with his eyes open and looking serenely around him as 7 men gently rocked him, and I sincerely wished my wife could be standing next to me, enjoying this moment..

    I am personally very sorry for any pain that any sweet sister feels.

  114. 114.

    Lynnette (#106):
    I’m wondering whether it would be helpful to distinguish between calling something a trial because you can see that it’s a hard situation to be in, versus calling something a trial because you think the person is deluded, wallowing in bitterness, etc.

    This reminds me very much of the great variation in the intent of saying you’ll pray for someone. So when I’m going through something hard and I call you up and tell you, you may tell me “I’ll pray for you” and it’s a really supportive thing to say because I know you want me to get through my, uh, trial (or whatever). But while serving a mission, I remember people saying “I’ll pray for you” as a code for “You apostate Jesus-hating fiend.”

    But Kristine (#108) I think you also make a really good point that calling something a trial in the first place is a handy way of defining the problem as being in the individual and not in the institution.

  115. 115.

    Right, and the answer is that it’s all part of some plan that mortals can’t understand and will all work out for the best. A lot of people seem to find that a sufficient answer. I personally don’t, and probably wouldn’t even if I were a theist because it just isn’t very much information. I guess you don’t like that answer either. I’m not sure why we seem to be talking past each other. Is your point that we all have to think everything is great because otherwise it automatically reflects negatively on Jesus?

  116. 116.

    Nope. Rather I specifically asked: “If Jesus does run the church what is the best response to critics who claim Jesus must therefore be an unequal, oppressive, racist, imperialist?” The answer to that question is at the heart of this discussion.

    No, Geoff J, you put that question at the heart of this discussion. As JNS said, we’re talking about how to deal with unjust institutions (and the more specific problem of how one deals with being dismissed for one’s feminist concerns).

  117. 117.

    Is #115 directed to me?

  118. 118.

    “If it is not obvious I am talking about the Problem of Evil here. One very clean solution to the problem of evil (i.e. “Why doesn’t God prevent the evils he can prevent and how is he not evil for being so negligent?”) is to be an atheist like you.”

    Wait a sec!! You get to go from sexism in the church to the Problem of Evil, but you get all bent out of shape because of my limited analogy to slavery?? Help, help, I’m being oppressed!!

    ;)

  119. 119.

    Yes, #115 is directed to you, Geoff J.

  120. 120.

    Seraphine,

    If the Church is directed by Jesus, then the problem if evil is central to what we are talking about here. If one assumes there is no God or that the Church is not directed by God then we aren’t dealing with the problem of evil. That is true independent of my comments.

  121. 121.

    z,

    I asked because I didn’t see anything in #115 that indicated you understood what I have been saying.

    First, the problem of evil is not answered with a quick throwaway sentence about mystery as you seem to imply. Appealing to mystery is simply shelving the question after all.

    Is your point that we all have to think everything is great because otherwise it automatically reflects negatively on Jesus?

    Nope. Not at all. My point initially was that in the minds of many/most Mormons teeing off on the church for perceived evil sexist practices is tantamount to teeing off on Jesus for perceived evil sexist practices. That is not a good method for creating change in the church.

    The real question for believing Mormons is why does God allow the Church to exist as it exists today? If one firmly believes that God would prefer more egalitarian practices/structures in the church than exist today, and could persuasively argue for that position, I think that would be a pretty productive path toward change.

  122. 122.

    I certainly did not imply that it is answered with a quick throwaway sentence. I specifically stated that I do not find that answer convincing, for cryin’ out loud. But it is undeniable that many people appear to find that answer sufficient.

    I’m done chatting with you.

  123. 123.

    m&m, I know the conversation has gone in a lot of different directions since then, but I did want to respond to your comments. I agree that generalizing can go both ways; I very much take issue with ESO’s (#28) dismissal of non-feminists as “idiots.”

    But may I suggest that there is a flip side to this? I think the use of the feminist lens to analyze the Church, its leaders, or its members, has the potential to create similar kinds of dismissive tendencies the other direction.

    I’m not crazy about the term feminist lens (though I realize I probably set it up that way when I used the phrase “perspectives informed by feminism.”) But it sounds to me like an implicit assertion that those who aren’t using a feminist lens, so to speak, aren’t using any lens at all—that they’re just seeing things how they are—instead of acknowledging that all of our perceptions are inevitably colored by the assumptions and ways of thinking we bring to a question. When people take an approach that places a high premium on accepting authority, for example, I could say that they were using a “McConkie lens.” ;)

    And I should maybe add that when I talk about a perspective informed by feminism, I don’t mean that I whip out a feminist theory machine every time I go to church and run everything through it. As Seraphine mentioned, I’m actually somewhat wary of many trends in academic feminism. (Truth to tell, I probably don’t have enough training in the area to even have a good feminist theory machine!) I do have a strong belief in gender equality, and I will freely acknowledge that my perceptions are shaped by that. But I would note that that particular belief is at least partially grounded in my religious beliefs; it’s not something I’m just bringing from “outside” (i.e., “philosophies of women”) to evaluate religious teachings.

    But getting back to your question, which if I’m hearing it right, has to do with blaming the church for all problems versus looking at what individuals themselves contribute to these kinds of tensions—it seems to me that even setting up the issue that way leaves things in the realm of individual subjectivity. In other words, it’s still the question of, why is this person upset (is it because of the church, or because of her?) It focuses discussion on the emotional state of the person raising the question, and what factors produced that emotional state—it doesn’t engage the actual question. Does that make any more sense?

  124. 124.

    I’m done chatting with you.

    Oh Snap!

    Well when you come up with something insightful to say let me know. (Zing!)

  125. 125.

    Geoff J, I’m not saying that the questions you’re asking are irrelevant to the conversation. I’m just saying they’re not really the questions most of us involved in the discussion are most interested in (or actually) talking about.

  126. 126.

    So, I guess what I’m trying to say is I would appreciate it if you would stop changing the topic of conversation. And please don’t insult other commenters–z can pull out of a conversation if she chooses.

  127. 127.

    This is WJs wife…I have commandeered the computer after the post by z (107). It was hilarious to me to read:

    “Your comments reflect your privileged position as someone who has never had responsibility for a small child, or always had a woman at beck and call to do the more unpleasant tasks.”

    Of course, these must be the reasons why my husband doesn’t raise hell that the men’s bathroom doesn’t have a changing table…what other reason could there possibly be??

    How about, it IS a relatively trivial matter and instead of raising a major issue about it, he changes our two small children’s diapers on a table in the baptismal dressing room instead (while I perform my calling in primary) and just makes do. Sometimes, us women would do well to just make do instead of viewing everything great and small through a feminist mindset. I find YOUR comment reflects YOUR apparent inability to see that there could be reasons for things done both in the church and in society that may negatively impact women in some way and yet there is no sexist or chauvinist motivations behind them.

    Do you all not see the inherent hypocrisy of calling my husband a ‘mansplainer’ since this is exactly what you rail against men for doing to women for centuries? So he should be able to call you all “feminazi’s” without you getting all riled up…it’s all in the name of equality after all right?

    Regarding Kristene’s comment (105)…so do you use that example every time someone appeals to divinely appointed differences between the sexes as a reason the church or society does or does not do something? Of course that argument is valid in other contexts…do you not believe that men and women are different for reasons other than biological purposes?

  128. 128.

    Seraphine,

    Don’t worry, I promise not to be hurt if you choose not to respond to my relevant questions/comments in this thread going forward.

    As for my snarky reply to z, you are right that I probably should have turned the other cheek.

    (On a related note: Have you noticed that “I’m done with you” is the universal “talk to the hand” sign-off at feminist Mormon blogs?)

  129. 129.

    Please do fill me in on the excellent reasons for the lack of changing table. I’m looking forward to your explanation of why this is in no way related to gendered division of childcare labor.

    Having to “make do” for no good reason is itself an imposition, and all these “trivial” things add up just like snowflakes add up to a blizzard. Sure, you can argue that there could be other reasons, but the specific reasons offered are never very convincing, in the context of the treatment of women over many decades, certain explanations seem more plausible than others. I don’t think the church and the men in it are entitled to the benefit of the doubt on gender issues.

  130. 130.

    #127, No, I don’t use that example every time. I have a whole arsenal of them. It’s a serious question, though–why was the argument mistaken when it was used to deny women the vote, but it’s correct now when it is used to deny other privileges and responsibilities?

  131. 131.

    do you not believe that men and women are different for reasons other than biological purposes?

    I feel like this is suddenly feminist theory 101, but oh well. Yes, of course feminists believe that men and women are different for reasons other than biology — in fact mostly for reasons other than biology. They’re different because of socialization. Society has traditionally taught us that gender is one of the biggest and least bridgeable divides in human existence, and that we ought to reconcile ourselves to basically different and to some extent separate existences. But in fact there is huge variation both across and within societies in the nature and relative divide between gender roles, so there’s good reason to think that people can remake them to a substantial extent as we see fit.

    In other words, claiming that men and women are different is just a statement of what is, not of what should be.

    The church tells us that gender involves eternal roles, but it doesn’t define those roles very clearly. Women should nurture, but so should men. Men should lead, but so should women. And so forth…

  132. 132.

    Geoff, the thing is, a discussion of any concern about anything that seems wrong in the universe in any context can be ultimately be reduced to a question about the problem of evil. (And I actually think that at times that move can be a way of not having to think too hard about the specific questions.) In any case, as fun as it is to re-hash that classic issue, in this thread I’m actually more interested in somewhat more limited questions, particularly having to do with what it means to frame life difficulties in terms of personal subjectivity.

  133. 133.

    (On a related note: Have you noticed that “I’m done with you” is the universal “talk to the hand” sign-off at feminist Mormon blogs?)

    No, but I have noticed that an inability to walk away from an argument that’s going nowhere seems to be a near-universal problem at male-dominated blogs.

  134. 134.

    As you probably know, there were many in Utah territory, including many GAs who argued vehemently against women’s suffrage, appealing to “divinely appointed” differences between the sexes to assert that women are too delicate, too refined to sully themselves in the political process. Were they wrong then? Are their arguments valid in other contexts, just not for that one?

    Its also interesting to note that women’s suffrage was granted in the Utah Territory with nary a fight in 1870 well before the national suffrage movement. Brigham Young recognized it as an opportunity to counter the gentile view that LDS women were downtrodden and therefore assented. After Congress repealed suffrage in the territory in 1887, suffragists received church approval to establish a suffrage association in Utah.

    There were of course comments such as the ones you mentioned, primarily from B.H. Roberts, both concern over women becoming embroiled in the dirty aspects of politics, as well as concern that the state constitution wouldn’t be accepted by Congress if it included women’s suffrage, being ahead of its time as it was.

    So again, another example of a historical event being over simplified to further your agenda.

    But you still have to demonstrate that these two situations are analogous. There is a tendency to just assume that historical situations are similar without examination. The tendency goes like this: there was a social movement, church officials opposed it, and it passed. There is now a social movement that some church officials oppose, so therefore it must be the same as the previous issue. But I hardly think this carries the burden of proof. The situations could in fact be dramatically different, with different outcomes. I stress “could,” and not “will” (I’m not drawing conclusions here). But it is your burden, its not a conclusion that simply goes without saying.

  135. 135.

    No, but I have noticed that an inability to walk away from an argument that’s going nowhere seems to be a near-universal problem at male-dominated blogs.

    Is not!

    (just kidding)

  136. 136.

    WJ (or his wife?), I really don’t need a primer in Utah Women’s suffrage. I wasn’t oversimplifying to suit my agenda, but because it was a blog comment, and I was trying to be brief. I promise that I can hold my own if you want to go toe-to-toe on 19th-century Mormon women’s history.

  137. 137.

    No, but I have noticed that an inability to walk away from an argument that’s going nowhere seems to be a near-universal problem at male-dominated blogs.

    Hehe. Totally.

    But on the bright side it does give us a lot of 200+ comment threads.

  138. 138.

    WJ (or his wife?), I really don’t need a primer in Utah Women’s suffrage. I wasn’t oversimplifying to suit my agenda, but because it was a blog comment, and I was trying to be brief. I promise that I can hold my own if you want to go toe-to-toe on 19th-century Mormon women’s history.

    This is me, my wife was only in #127.

    Yes, Kristine, lets go “toe-to-toe” as you say. Lets start out first by noting that it is not appropriate in a blog or other setting to misrepresent a position simply for the sake of brevity. Next you can proceed by responding to my last comment on suffrage in Utah. I already gave you an opening, but didn’t realize you needed a full on invitation … or did you just merely want a chance for a chest-thumping show of intimidation?

  139. 139.

    WJ, please let those of us who run the blog determine what is and is not appropriate. And while you are welcome to disagree with Kristine, I would appreciate it if you didn’t order her around, especially given she is a long term member of this blogging community and you are not.

  140. 140.

    I’m fully aware of the complications of the suffrage issue in Utah, and that GA opinions were widely varying. I have a pro-suffrage quotation from Franklin S. Richards cross-stitched and framed on the wall above my desk. I do not believe I was guilty of any misrepresentation, since I said “_many_ in Utah, including _some_ GA’s”, thus, I think making it clear that things were not unanimous or monolithic.

    I’m likewise aware that the analogy between political and ecclesiastical privilege is not exact. Nonetheless, the arguments used by those who believe women are unsuited to exercise ecclesiastical responsibility are so similar to those used by those who wanted to deny suffrage that I believe it is fair to ask why we are willing to dismiss them in one context and not in the other? Is it just because there are currently no publicly available dissenting GA opinions? (That would be reasonable, if not entirely satisfying).

  141. 141.

    Also, one significant biological difference between men and women makes “chest-thumping” quite painful for women. You should try to be more precise in your language, WJ.

  142. 142.

    Wait, is this the Kristine in this thread? As in Kristine Haglund? I thought it was another Kristine this whole time.

  143. 143.

    bwahahahaha. There’s only one!

    :) Hi, Geoff.

  144. 144.

    Lol. Hi Kristine. Well I wonder if I would have been nicer or less nice to you in this thread if I knew it was you this whole time. (Probably nicer since I tend read friends more charitably than people I assume are newbies. I am not Christlike enough to overcome that one yet…) For some reason I assumed you were an interloper just using the Kristine handle this whole time.

  145. 145.

    You were fine. Although I confess to enjoying the fact that you seemed not to have identified me. I should probably worry about seeming uncharacteristically faithless.

  146. 146.

    WJ, please let those of us who run the blog determine what is and is not appropriate. And while you are welcome to disagree with Kristine, I would appreciate it if you didn’t order her around, especially given she is a long term member of this blogging community and you are not.

    My comment regarding appropriateness was in reference to the rules of discourse, not the rules of this blog. I acknowledge your right to be arbiter of content on this thread, but not the right to determine what is and is not appropriate argumentation. I would hope the fact that you happen to agree with Kristine’s position doesn’t blur this distinction.

    Kristine, my comment about misrepresentation is just that, I’m not saying you provided inaccurate facts, simply that you gave only one side of the facts in a manner that made it appear the church was fighting tooth and nail to oppose women’s suffrage, which was of course not the case. I’m sure you will disagree with me on this point, so I’m happy to agree to disagree. I won’t belabor the point (too late?).

  147. 147.

    Sorry, WJ, I should have been clearer–many of the bloggers and commenters here are people that I’ve known for a while, so I know that they’re aware of the history as well, and I didn’t need to exhaustively document both sides. I don’t think it’s necessary to represent the church as fighting “tooth and nail” against women’s suffrage to make the point I was making, and I had no intention of doing so.

  148. 148.

    The plot thickens. I’m breathlessly awaiting the next revelation–will it turn out that m&m is a different m&m? That Eve is not in fact my sister, but is an imposter?

  149. 149.

    (147) Fair enough, I understand.

  150. 150.

    I appreciate the distinction, but I would suggest that you frame things in terms of “here’s why I find your argumentative strategies problematic” rather than “your argumentative strategies are inappropriate.” The latter, in fact, mildly violates our blog’s explicitly stated rules of discourse (click on the “comment policy” link at the top of the page).

  151. 151.

    WJ, if I were in a pedantic mood, I’d take you to task for not accounting for the complicated ways that the debate over polygamy factored into the suffrage debates and the fact of women being given the vote initially (BY was not a notable feminist, and it’s a pretty easy case to make that he was persuaded to let women vote because it was a way to be sure of outnumbering gentiles in a few counties).

    But I’m not in a pedantic mood, so you’ll get away with “misrepresenting” the situation by not presenting its every facet.

  152. 152.

    >148

    Wait, Eve is one of the ZD? And here I assumed the commenter was the mother of all flesh! *slaps forehead*

  153. 153.

    Memo to ZD: Please keep WJ around. His power to put Kristine and me more or less on the same side of a question is unprecedented.

  154. 154.

    Ardis, given the chance I’d buy you and Kristine a very fancy dinner if I got the chance to watch the ensuing conversation…

    WJ, what’s your point, specifically? Kristine’s comment says that some people in the church opposed female suffrage because of theories about women’s proper place, etc. This is demonstrably true. You say that some other people in the church were important in passing suffrage laws. This is also demonstrably true. So, what’s the problem?

  155. 155.

    Ha, Ardis I’m glad I have managed to bring greater harmony between you and Kristine. My only purpose in coming to this blog was to promote harmony.

    Kristine, I’m glad you aren’t feeling pedantic, because I’d hate for you to have to spend all the time writing a comment about how the additional dynamics of polygamy factored into Utah suffrage.

    J. Nelson-Seawright, please see comment 146 where I preemptively explained my answer to your 154 question. I’d rather not rehash it, its really a side issue and more of a distraction, I think (plus even my own wife disagrees with me on that point — a guy can only take so much).

    Seraphine, I gather that moderating is a difficult challenge, especially for emotionally charged issues like this one. So in that sense I don’t begrudge you, but I would simply note that there are several comments from your side of the issue that also at least mildly violate the comment policy and yet went unflagged. In the spirit of equality, its worth noting.

    I’m begging out all. I immensely enjoyed the discussion. It provided a lot of food for thought.

    I feel sorry for all of you ;)

  156. 156.

    There were comments from both sides of the issue that went unflagged earlier.

    Still, I’m glad you enjoyed the discussion–and I would encourage you to go back through the archives because we’ve actually previously discussed a lot of these issues. :)

  157. 157.

    Whew!
    I hope my facebook update generated more traffic for this super-fun thread.

    And, I must apologize for bringing up the changing tables in the first place. But, I guess I’m not sorry enough to tell one last anecdote about them.

    When my SiL was sealed in the San Diego temple (along with 15 other couples that day) we had the whole family there and discovered to our !shock! that there are NO CHANGING TABLES in the entire temple (men’s/women’s anywhere you can go w/o a recommend). There wasn’t even counter space in the bathroom. So, not wanting to change my baby on the floor of the bathroom, I changed his poopy diaper on the bench in the garden area. Totally gross, I know.

    But, how does a church that teaches about the importance of families not look at something like that? They have a waiting room, and bathrooms, and dozens of children everywhere. but no accommodations for children (unless they are in fact, being sealed in the temple). It was so frustrating.

    Which brings me to my real point. The issue isn’t necessarily that women need the priesthood to be equal to men. My issue is that women need to AT LEAST be allowed within the administrative hierarchy of the church. I can understand a belief that God wants only men to perform religious rites and ordinances (although I don’t believe that personally, I can understand those that do, like m&m and Geoff J). What I can’t understand is how people believe that God wants only men to run the business/bureaucratic/admin part of the church. It just seems like a thin veil of bullshit.

    Or, perhaps just a poopy diaper.

  158. 158.

    WJ, you may be gone — but I want to quickly point out that your #146 doesn’t really get us very far. Kristine’s point was clearly not that all Mormons opposed female suffrage, but rather that some GAs did using the same arguments you’re now using. Those arguments were wrong in that context — so how are they supposed to be right in a new context? The fact that other arguments existed doesn’t affect Kristine’s point. See the issue?

  159. 159.

    “What I can’t understand is how people believe that God wants only men to run the business/bureaucratic/admin part of the church. It just seems like a thin veil of bullshit.”

    Best. comment. ever. B-)

  160. 160.

    Man! I missed all the fun! I checked this out after Jessawhy’s facebook update, and now I’m so jealous I was away from the computer yesterday. Oh well, still worth reading up to see some of my favorite wimminz get all uppity and roll their big fat throbbing brains around the table.

  161. 161.

    Kaimi: The worldwide leader in sucking up at women-blogs.

    In the interest of extending this thread to 200 comments — How do we know that no women weren’t involved in creating, reviewing and approving the plans for the San Diego Temple? With all the contractors and whatnot I find the suggestion highly implausible is all.

    Or more specifically, can you name any actual person who firmly believes “God wants only men to run the business/bureaucratic/admin part of the church”? Seems like a fiction to me but maybe I just hope it is.

  162. 162.

    Geoff, I know you like to stir the pot, but could you please knock off the snarky remarks about other commenters? The fact that you’re repeatedly had to resort to taunting in this thread hasn’t really helped your case.

  163. 163.

    Ok, I thought Kaimi wouldn’t mind a little ribbing but better safe than sorry I guess.

  164. 164.

    A counter-pot-stirrer might point out the odd compulsion that motivates a bunch of male bloggers to come to ZDs and start telling feminists to please stop complaining, it’s not as bad as you say it is, trust us, we’re men.

    I haven’t seen a similar flood in Seraphine’s very good single-saints series; or Kiskilili’s crypto-Catholicism (grin).

    But when Lynnette makes the radical suggestion that “We owe each other the courtesy of taking other people’s questions (feminist or otherwise) seriously, rather than dismissing them as a kind of personal trial for the person who raises them,” suddenly a bunch of men join the conversation. And things are pleasant enough to begin with, but quickly move to eye-rolling (58), motive questioning (77), and so on.

    Is the converse true? Do ZDs or Exponenteers pounce in a group when Geoff floats an idea about reincarnation — err, multiple probation — at NCT?

    What is driving the dynamic here? Why is it that so many intelligent and articulate Mormon men seem to have an urge to tell Mormon women to just shut the hell up about any feminist complaints or concerns?

  165. 165.

    And no worries, I’m okay with ribbing if you are. We men, we have to get in our ribbing somehow, ever since those darned women stole one of our ribs back in the day. :)

  166. 166.

    All right, I’ll try not to interfere too much with the male bonding ritual of trading insults. Just trying to add a civilizing influence, which I hear is the proper divine role of women.

  167. 167.

    p.s. Geoff, your mother was a hampster, and your father smelt of elderberries!

  168. 168.

    Do ZDs or Exponenteers pounce in a group when Geoff floats an idea about reincarnation — err, multiple probation — at NCT?

    Not very often, but I wish they would. I like discussing theology with the ZD sisters.

    By the way, I comment on ZD for all kinds of topics because I love the blog and the participants. I don’t think I’ve established any sort of pattern of coming here to tell them to stop complaining. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever come here to tell them to stop complaining.

  169. 169.

    I like discussing theology with the ZD sisters.

    …and Ziff too (I should have said).

  170. 170.

    Re #161–I’m not sure I want to get in a debate about whether women are completely uninvolved in the “business/bureaucratic/admin part of the church”, or whether they at least get the consolation prize of being minorly involved and getting to add their perspective once in a while. I’ll grant you the latter. (Just as it would be inaccurate to say that no women speak at General Conference.) It doesn’t really change the overall dynamic; male perspectives dominate, and men have the final say on decisions. And since believing LDS do tend to think the organizational structure of the church is inspired, why is it so implausible to hypothesize that some might see at as the will of God to have things be run that way?

  171. 171.

    Kaimi, well said.

    Geoff J,
    I’m not saying people think this, I’m asking if you do. It sounds like you don’t. I’m glad to hear it.

    I’m happy to be on the same page as you are. In fact, I’ll bet if you attended one of the AZ snackers (you live in Gilbert, no?) then we could actually have a good time and get to be friends. I’m sure my husband would like you if you could win an argument with me (not that you would, but if).

    As for women’s involvement in the architecture of the San Diego temple, it’s a possibility. I’ve also considered the possibility that the church does NOT want children on the temple grounds. It seems reasonable enough. I have no way of knowing why the temple lacks changing tables.

    So, we both agree that it is not God’s direct will for men to run his church in a non-priesthood (rites and ordinances) sense. The administrative stuff could be done by women and on some levels it is (maybe lower levels). 3

    But, on a ward level where so much of what happens in the ward is not baptisms, passing sacrament, or other ordinances, you still see men in charge everywhere. Even SS presidencies are men. Why? Is asking for a change in this area asking God to change his mind, or just the men in charge?

    It’s really a fine line. And I’m honestly asking where you draw it and why. I’m not trying to set you up for anything.

    Is it, “Anything to do with doctrine or ordinances or liturgy is done by priesthood leaders (men)” or is it “Anything to do with managing the affairs of the kingdom” or something else?

    One of my struggles is that women (the general RS presidency) no longer gets to choose what lessons women are taught in RS (there is 1 Sunday a month where the local RSP chooses a lesson, but mostly it’s a talk from conference). I’m sure you know that we’ve done several years of prophet manuals both the same for RS and priesthood. You may also know that before that, the general RS presidency wrote the manuals for their organization.

    It seems to me that in a patriarchal church where men have all the priesthood power and authority, nearly all the administrative authority, and clearly all of the cultural clout, they could at least let the women decide on their own lessons for Sundays.

  172. 172.

    Kaimi,

    Come on. Disagreeing on specific points does not equal telling someone to shut up. For instance I initially just objected to Kristine’s analogy in #50. I subsequently defended my objection when lots of folks dove in to defend the analogy. How is that tantamount to telling all Mormon women to shut the hell up?

    Some people may be all about shouting shut the hell up but it is not me, or Jacob, or Blake (the three you mentioned in your comment).

  173. 173.

    Just trying to add a civilizing influence, which I hear is the proper divine role of women.

    Har! Nice.

    Lynnette FTW

  174. 174.

    I’m getting sidetracked, and I’m not supposed to be here anyway because I’m about to give up blogging for dissertating (any minute now!), but I’ve been wanting to go back to something Kiskilili said in #31 that I’ve been thinking about:

    In the question over whether feminism is a trial, I think one thing that’s being argued over is whether feminist critique belongs exclusively to the sphere of private subjective experience, or whether it has purchase on a more public, universal scale.

    I find this a particularly interesting point in a Mormon context, because a central aspect of the LDS faith is the possibility of making public truth claims based on private religious experience. In other words, if you pray about the Book of Mormon and get an answer that it’s true, LDS don’t usually interpret that as a kind of wishy-washy relativist “true for you.” We don’t say, our belief in an anthropomorphic God is just our conception of God; other people might have views of God that are true for them. We say, this is how God is. In other words, we make public truth claims.

    And I think this is an area where a lot of feminist discussion gets murky. Because we’re hit with the challenge of pluralism, so to speak, and it’s easy to just jump back to making the whole thing about private experience, so it won’t step on anyone’s toes. If something is just my truth, my experience, and isn’t making any broader claims, then it’s not really threatening. And vice versa. That’s part of the motivation, I suspect, to reframe it as a question of personal subjectivity.

  175. 175.

    The hypercritical sniping and griping — especially when Geoff simply points out why he objects to a rather objectionable analogy — reminds why I avoid certain kinds of blogs.

    But then I’m just a male — which makes me dominating and repulsive, so what could I possibly add?

    Kami — I feel really bad now. I thought we were friends.

  176. 176.

    Jessawhy #171,

    For some reason I have been confused with a conservative Mormon man in this conversation. I don’t mind too much because nobody ever calls me conservative anymore seems and I am sort of enjoying the strangeness of that. But the reality is you are asking me to defend things I am ambivalent about. In other words, I would be happy on several levels if come April conference an announcement was made that the priesthood and all priesthood callings were extended to women. I would be happy with any organizational changes moved in that direction as well.

    I don’t know why things in the church are as they are today and I don’t know if God likes it this way, would prefer changes, or doesn’t care much either way. I have suspicions on the answers to those questions but delving into that involves all sorts of theological and metaphysical speculations that we don’t have space for here. Luckily we love us some theological speculations at NCT.

  177. 177.

    Okay, Blake, that’s not fair–I would challenge you to find any comment not just in this thread but on this blog that males are inherently “dominating and repulsive.” I could be wrong (I need Ziff to quickly crunch some numbers for me!), but my sense is that our commenters are fairly evenly split, gender-wise. We don’t shoot men on sight, honest.

    (I will say that I’m actually somewhat disappointed that neither you nor Geoff seemed able to engage the point (about similar kinds of discourse) being made in the offensive analogy, because you were so busy thinking about how offensive it was.)

    But I’m falling into the black hole of commenting about the comments of other commenters on previous comments and trying to sort out who had what motivation and did or did not grasp which point, so I’d better quit before this gets worse. Drive-by comments about “certain kinds of blogs” that involve “hypercritical sniping and griping” make me a little cranky.

  178. 178.

    Not very often, but I wish they would. I like discussing theology with the ZD sisters.

    What’s this, Jacob? A kind word in the middle of our complaintfest?

    Actually, I appreciate your saying that, and also that you come by and make comments. I have some guilt about being such a poor bloggernacle citizen that I don’t comment much elsewhere these days, but sometimes I can hardly keep up with ZD– I have no idea how you all keep up with those 200+ threads!

  179. 179.

    I’ve enjoyed this discussion. I have to say when I do discuss my “issues” with the church, I say it that way. It seems to give me a way out. I way to state what I think are problems that need major work, but not attack the church because that is not “allowed.”

    What I hate then is I have made it my problem. I am reminded how most women don’t have that problem or that someone know another person with those same issues. Again a personal problem, but one I kind of initiate through how I bring up feminist concerns.

    Maybe it is time to stop hedging issues, as mine and state them as an organizational problem. What would that sound like exactly? How would it be perceived? Would others just tell me it was my trial, even when saying it differently?

  180. 180.

    Lynette: Another reason I resist blogging is that what I say tongue in cheek just comes across as cheeky. I really don’t like it when somebody says in words or effect: “you’re a privileged white male in the church and so how could you possibly understand what we are talking about — and a conservative male at that!” That hasn’t been said explicitly, but it is how I feel when I read comments like Kristine’s # 83.

  181. 181.

    Makes sense, Blake. If I don’t know people well, I don’t always do a good job of getting the tone right.

    From the other side, I think that’s also what Kaimi’s getting at when talks about men telling women to “shut the hell up!” It’s not that’s it’s being said explicitly.

    (Of course, I’m just an oppressed Mormon woman, so what do I know? ;) )

  182. 182.

    I’m class prepping and doing too many things at once and wrote quickly, and my comment came out sounding harsher than I meant it to be. To be clear, I don’t doubt the good faith of Geoff and Jacob and Blake. It does bug me that sometimes threads about feminism start to look like a male pile-on. I don’t think that’s a conscious choice or a haha-we-will-oppress-you decision. But it does seem that there’s an interesting dynamic going on. For some reason, men feel a particular need to challenge some statements from women. Of all of the potentially questionable statements in the bloggernacle — and there are a lot of them — there seems to be an especially strong impulse to set the record straight when it’s a feminist statement made by a woman.

    Not that one has to agree with all statements made by Kristine or Lynnette or Z or whoever else. But what is it about Kristine’s statement that draws in commenters, while any of a number of other inflammatory or potentially wrong statements don’t merit a response? Why is it that feminist statements get special notice in the “someone is wrong on the internet” department?

    Does that make sense?

    Okay, dashing off to class, I hope this was slightly coherent.

  183. 183.

    Jacob J, Wasn’t it you in #82 that said we’d have to call in a Nazi analogy for this thread to hit #200?

    We’re almost there and I don’t see any sign of Hitler.

    Geoff J,
    Sorry to have confused you with some conservative guy. I really just thought you were trying to defend the status quo, with all that “Jesus directs the church” stuff, but I guess I must have reached that conclusion in error.

    More to the point, I should have just directed my comments to the blog not to you specifically. Perhaps we would need to start a thread (before we scare away the defense) with questions about where to draw the line between “too sacred to try to change”, and “up for debate.” When it’s my turn next at Exponent, I’ll post something and link to this thread.

    Again Geoff J, you have my apologies for assuming you were conservative. If the roles were reversed, I’m not sure I could forgive you.
    Since they are not, you are still invited to an AZ snacker anytime you want. We have them regularly.

  184. 184.

    But then I’m just a male — which makes me dominating and repulsive, so what could I possibly add?

    I think men should refrain from making this kind of hyperbolic statement. It’s self-pitying and tends to derail discussion and force women into an apologetic, stereotypically feminine stance of nurturing and attending to bruised male feelings rather than actually having a substantive discussion. It’s a weak, tired old joke that isn’t really funny, in my opinion, to anyone who knows a lot about feminism.

  185. 185.

    Also, I vote for Valentines day, all the readers pitch in to buy these shirts for the ZD bloggers.

    http://www.despair.com/headache.html

  186. 186.

    Kaimi: For some reason, men feel a particular need to challenge some statements from women.

    Meh. Have you been to NCT lately? We challenge men as much or more. The fact that I respect the ZD writers enough to give them the NCT treatment is a sign a respect, not of disrespect or sexism.

  187. 187.

    But why does it happen so much more often on posts about feminism? I think it’s because it makes men feel attacked and defensive (aww, feelings), so they get jumpy.

  188. 188.

    Oh z, just when I was feeling welcome and understood you come along and tell me I’m not funny. There goes my stand-up-comic gig.

  189. 189.

    z — it doesn’t. Come to NCT sometime and see what real real robust challenge looks like. This is mild in comparison.

  190. 190.

    Does it happen more on NCT posts about feminism than on NCT posts about other topics?

  191. 191.

    z – no, when we discuss a mother in heaven and women’s issues we go after each other the same way as always.

  192. 192.

    Again Geoff J, you have my apologies for assuming you were conservative. If the roles were reversed, I’m not sure I could forgive you.

    Ha!

    I am close friends with lots of conservatives (political, religious, or otherwise) even if I’m not all that conservative myself so I certainly don’t take offense at being mistaken for a conservative in this thread.

    Also, my “Jesus runs the church” talk earlier was mostly pointing out that there remains a legitimate possibility that God wants the church to remain just as it is. We just don’t know for sure. So there is risk in firmly concluding that we are right and the Church is wrong about any particular practice.

  193. 193.

    z,

    I’m afraid Blake is right. We aren’t always as civilized with each other over there as we are with all y’all here.

  194. 194.

    I still don’t think it’s an adequate explanation for the phenomenon Kaimi describes. First of all, not everyone involved is ‘from’ NCT, so what happens there is kind of beside the point. I definitely notice on feminism-related threads an increase in interpersonal tension, attempts to derail, and a strong desire to dismiss the issue entirely on some global grounds rather than engage it on the merits (192).

  195. 195.

    Lower standards of civility at NCT are beside the point. The issue is whether certain commenters behave differently on threads about feminism at ZD and other feminist blogs.

  196. 196.

    Lynnette,

    I would challenge you to find any comment not just in this thread but on this blog that males are inherently “dominating and repulsive.”

    When z was challenged as possibly making too much of a changing table issue she responded (in part):

    Your comments reflect your privileged position as someone who has never had responsibility for a small child, or always had a woman at beck and call to do the more unpleasant tasks. (107)

    When it was pointed out that this is a huge (uncharitable and unfounded) leap, the response was:

    I don’t think the church and the men in it are entitled to the benefit of the doubt on gender issues. (129)

    Blake’s comment was unneccessarily hyperbolic, but these comments come pretty close to what he was saying and on this very thread.

  197. 197.

    z- I’d love to see the empirical data supporting your belief that somehow there are certain commenters who show up and are just tougher on feminist issues.

  198. 198.

    z,

    Well I can’t account for “certain commenters” but I can say that the NCT regulars certainly don’t turn up the heat while over here. The opposite is normally the case.

    No doubt some issues generate more heat than others. Among those are some feminist topics, SSM, abortion, and lots of political issues.

    (I just knew we could get this thing over 200 comments with a little effort!)

  199. 199.

    Jessawhy:

    Jacob J, Wasn’t it you in #82 that said we’d have to call in a Nazi analogy for this thread to hit #200?

    Good point. My working theory is that I was dead wrong. Alternatively, it might be some sort of unavoidable consequence of WJ using the word feminazi in #127. Or perhaps I just continue to underestimate Geoff’s ability to stir the pot.

  200. 200.

    200!

  201. 201.

    I opined that one man’s comments reflected a privileged position. Sure, it was a factual leap, but it’s not at all the same as saying all men are inherently repulsive or dominating. There’s nothing inherent about privilege: people can learn to recognize and compensate for it. Nor are people made “repulsive” by their errors.

    Sorry Blake, but I don’t really see a way to quantify that sort of thing. I still think it’s worth talking about, though.

  202. 202.

    It’s not just “heat,” it’s this odd desire to derail, distract with higher-level concerns that don’t seem to come up in similar discussions not about feminism, pick side quarrels, and avoid engaging the merits of the argument.

  203. 203.

    z (#201),

    The correct answer is:

    “Gee, I can see that when I said “I don’t think the church and the men in it are entitled to the benefit of the doubt on gender issues” (129) it was pretty similar to saying “you’re a privileged white male in the church and so how could you possibly understand what we are talking about — and a conservative male at that!” (180). Good points Blake and Jacob. I’ll try not to make such sweeping sexists comments in the future”

    See. That was easy!

    (stir, stir, stir)

  204. 204.

    No, I stand by what I said. Given all of history, and the sexist context in which most men were raised, I don’t think they should, in general, get the benefit of the doubt as to their ability to refrain from sexism, intentionally or unintentionally. I think gender-specific policies should have to be defended on their own terms, rather than falling back on general claims for charity, the benefit of the doubt, a positive attitude, etc.. And I don’t think it’s at all sexist to point that out.

    That’s not the same thing as saying a particular person is privileged or cannot understand what we are talking about, nor is it the same as calling someone conservative. Liberal men are privileged too, and often all the more blind to it.

    Really, Geoff J, I’ve tried to be tolerant of your tone, but it’s juvenile, and you’ve already been asked nicely to improve it, several times on this thread alone. If you mean the “correct answer” as a joke, it’s tired and weak. Patronizing women just isn’t funny in any context. A lifetime of being patronized by Mormon men is a painful and degrading experience, and not something I enjoy even in jest. Since you’re so un-privileged, so un-conservative, and so very able to understand of what we’re talking about, I’m sure you won’t do it again.

  205. 205.

    z: Patronizing women just isn’t funny in any context.

    Wait, you’re a woman??

    I thought you were a dude this whole time. (Patronizing dudes is always funny after all)

  206. 206.

    I kid, I kid!

    Alright my work is done here. We exceeded 200 comment. I’ll bow out. This kind of rough housing flies better over at our man-place.

  207. 207.

    z – your post 204 is one of the most patronizing and sexist things I’ve read in a long time. I’m bowing out too.

  208. 208.

    I genuinely did not mean to offend you, Blake. But I don’t see what’s so burdensome about having to defend gendered policies on the merits, nor what’s so offensive about acknowledging that growing up in a sexist culture can skew people’s decisionmaking. The benefit of the doubt isn’t an entitlement, and withholding it isn’t a reflection on any particular individual. Nor does it imply that anyone is not in good faith. It’s simply an effort to get us to the right answer on the merits, rather than wishing the controversy away.

  209. 209.

    Thanks for this discussion and making it public. My trial is in wanting to question and plod in my home ward and environs, hoping to thereby seek for answers to and/or changes in the inequities on up the ranks , but then I find myself being taken to task by both men and women for doing so. It’s easy to deal with the men complaining, but not the women. I’ve thought for awhile it is just too difficult for me to do so in the total absence of any other women around my neighborhood with similar interests and inclinations to do so. Yet I find myself attracted to and empathetic with the underlying discussion in the OP here and the ensuing discussion, especially hearing from women who feel as I perceive they deserve to feel and long for change.

  210. 210.

    Lynnette (#174),

    Yes, to the extent that someone is labeling feminism a personal trial so as to undermine feminist critiques as being personal points of view lacking force in the public arena, that is total garbage.

    I still maintain that if they simply mean to acknowledge that as a feminist you are swimming against the stream which is a hard (and wearisome) thing to do then it should not be viewed negatively.

    I’m sure some of both happen in practice.

  211. 211.

    Hi. I’m a lurker. I wanted to put up a quick wondering.

    Usually, when I read on this blog, I find comments that address the issue of the post with conciseness and respect for both the topic and the other commenters. I’m wondering what made this post sort of fall apart into mini-scuffles instead of intelligently addressing the issue. Was it the drive to get over two hundred comments? Actually, one of the reasons I lurk on this blog is because the discussions are contained and meaningful instead of flaring into all kinds of tangents, so I can actually digest the entire discussion.

    As I sifted through the comments here, I kept expecting the Bouncer to show up and say, “Back to the issue, oh ye that wander.” But the Bouncer never showed up.

    Anyway, this makes me wonder why this post in particular ran away so much. I’ve seen smaller instances before, but not like this.

  212. 212.

    Oh my heck!!! (Yes, I grew up in Utah.) I step away from this thread and come back to see that it’s been completely derailed into an argument that I’m losing track of, though it possibly seems to involve the question of whether ZD or NCT is meaner.

    I started to attempt to write something about the question of styles of theological discussion, because I’m not comfortable with how this is getting framed (in terms of the virtue of “robust challenge” and what that means and how it’s being gendered) but I’m thinking I’m probably better off trying to put that into a new post someday, rather than try to figure it out at comment 211.

    Anyway, it sounds like everyone’s bailed out anyway, but yeah, definitely time to drop this threadjack.

  213. 213.

    Hi Lurker,

    Mea culpa. The absence of the Bouncer in a thread that clearly could have used more of him is pretty much my fault. Seraphine diligently tried to tone things down a bit, but I was possibly getting too entertained by the fireworks to do much of moderating the discussion. I’m glad to hear, though, that this seems more like an aberration than our usual style.

    I know that for a while T&S was shutting down conversations at comment 100. Though I probably wouldn’t adopt that, I can kind of see the point–when threads go on and on, it often means they’ve disintegrated.

  214. 214.

    I didn’t know the Bouncer was male. (wrinkles forehead perplexedly)

  215. 215.

    I’m not sure how much more there is to say in this discussion, so I’m going to close comments. Though first I’m going to exercise my privilege as the original poster to get in the last word. (Actually, a few last words.)

    Jacob J, (#196), I’ll concede the point. And though I do think z has made some valid points, I think it’s preferable to give people the benefit of the doubt and avoid making too many assumptions. (Edited to add, after another look at the discussion–I don’t think that’s equivalent to avoiding the issue of how gender inevitably shapes our perspectives on this stuff. But I am nonetheless wary of generalizations.)

    Geoff J and Blake, I really take issue with the way you’ve framed this, and I think you’ve pretty much missed the boat as far as the point of this discussion. But when I’m a little less burned out on the subject I plan to come back to some of the issues that got raised here, so I’m sure we’ll have a chance to re-visit this.

    Jessawhy, I love the t-shirt! And yes, the Bouncer is male. But if you haven’t, you really should read more about him (see here.)

    In the hopes of maybe salvaging a little bit of our reputation for friendliness, I did want to at least acknowledge some of the comments that might have gotten lost in the mayhem– wreddyornot (I can very much relate to the challenges you describe, and I think many here can as well), miles (I think those questions are exactly the ones to be asking, though I’m struggling with those issues, too), Reese (though I find the phrase “roll their big fat throbbing brains” just a little disturbing ;) ), Martine (exactly!), newt (lol).

    Thanks for playing. See you all next time.