Zelophehad’s Daughters

Pay No Attention to the Misogynist Behind the Curtain

Posted by Lady Amalthea

[co-written with Melyngoch]

The following tale of alien encounters is true.  And by true I mean false.  It’s all lies.  But they’re entertaining lies, and in the end, isn’t that the real truth?  The answer is: No.
-The Springfield Files

In his forty-two years of political power, Muammar Gaddafi has usually not been shy about owning his position:

I am an international leader, the dean of the Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of Muslims, and my international status does not allow me to descend to a lower level.  (March 2009)

And as the unrest in north Africa and the Middle East began spreading outward from Tunisia and Egypt, Gaddafi emphasized that although not an unreasonable dictator, he was nonetheless the one in charge:

I am not such a dictator that I would shut down facebook.  I’ll merely imprison anyone who logs into it. (February 2011)

“I am not such a dictator,” he says, acknowledging that he is some kind of dictator — just the benevolent kind who leaves the internet on, though he’ll throw you in jail for using it.

But around the same time, with internal turmoil and international disfavor rising up around him, Gaddafi revealed the real reason he couldn’t leave office: He never had it! He’s not a dictator — he’s not even in charge!

How can I step down? What from? I have no post to step down from . . . I don’t have any position. I don’t lead Libya. Libya does not have a leader or president or king. Libya is a state of the masses. (February 2011)

Gaddafi is a chicken dictator! Of course he’s in charge, but as soon as it becomes unsavory to be in charge, he denies that he ever was in charge, while dropping bombs on his own citizens, as only a person in charge can do.

Seem at all familiar? We couldn’t help but notice how nicely this parallels a certain shift in the rhetoric of sovereignty a little closer to home.

From Brigham Young:

And then let the father be the head of the family, the master of his own household . .. and let the wives and children say amen to what he says, and be subject to his dictates. (Journal of Discourses 4.35)

When I want Sisters or the Wives of the members of the church to get up Relief Society I will summon them to my aid but until that time let them stay at home & if you see females huddling together veto the concern. (Seventies Record, 1845)

Lest you think this its just Brigham Young shooting his mouth off:

In the home the presiding authority is always vested in the father, and in all home affairs and family matters there is no other authority paramount. (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine 286-287)

And, much more recently:

To the man it has been given to lead. To the woman it has been given to love and bear children. (Elaine Cannon, Ensign, March 1971)

But not long after, with second wave feminism rising up both around and (gasp) within the Church, the real reason that the Church didn’t need to re-evaluate its gendered power structure  was revealed: women had been equal all along!

Does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in equality for both men and women? Does it? Yes. The answer has always been yes. The Church is solid and firm and steady. Eighty years ago, when it was a very unpopular view, the Church believed in equality for women. (Beverly Campbell, New Era, April 1981)

And the husband isn’t in charge. (Master of his household what huh?) But make no mistake: he’s still presiding it up, like only someone in charge can do.

The father is the head in his family . . .

. . . Remember, brethren, that in your role as leader in the family, your wife is your companion . . . [T]here is not a president or a vice president in a family. The couple works together eternally for the good of the family. They are united together in word, in deed, and in action as they lead, guide, and direct their family unit. They are on equal footing. (L. Tom Perry, Ensign, May 2004)

Despite the father’s being the head and leading, the family, much like Libya, is perfectly democratic, with nothing but unity and equal footing and the masses to govern it.

It’s not too hard to recognize the lunacy when it’s a semi-coherent megalomaniac pulling this about-face in a matter of days. When it’s the rhetorical habits of a whole institution veering off like a chicken over the course of decades, it’s apparently much easier to disguise.

43 Responses to “Pay No Attention to the Misogynist Behind the Curtain”

  1. 1.

    The apparent contradiction may or not be a contradiction depending on your view of Ephesians 5:21-25 is it of man or God? Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing Husbands love your wives even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

  2. 2.

    Howard: In your comments, please try to address the post. Comments which do not address the post will hereafter be moderated.

  3. 3.

    Growing up in a part-member family where my parents had an egalitarian marriage, I just don’t get the “fathers lead” the family bit. And how a father is in charge, and at the same time mothers are equal. That makes absolutely, and unequivocally no sense. I just don’t see the need for the father to lead, and I’m so glad I married a Mormon man who can see through the nonsense as well.

    I loved this post and I love to see how you drew the parallels between the dictator and the father presiding schtick.

  4. 4.

    Are US Democrats “chicken free traders”? In a given year, different Democrats will stake opposing positions on tariffs and trade deals. What the party at large seems to believe changes from decade to decade.

    Contradictory statements coming out of an organization may indicate internal debate rather than just lunacy. The Gaddafi quotes are fun (apart from their absurdity) because its difficult to imagine Gaddafi having any internal debate that espouses both positions. But just as Bill Clinton and ?Sherrod Brown can disagree on trade, ?Beverly Campbell and Elaine Cannon are allowed to express different views on family governance. Nor should anyone be surprised if committee-produced documents advance differing or unreconciled gender rhetoric.

    This point, I realize, was made in the first dozen comments on the original Chicken Patriarchy post in 2007. Still, call out contradictions by individual manuals or speakers, but take care not to label inclusiveness as lunacy.

  5. 5.

    Disappointed not to find more discussion of the uneasiness BYU shares (used to share?) with Gaddafi when it comes to online networks, but anyway, that’s probably orthogonal to the main point of the post. So, just noted in passing, reading here reminded me of this: http://deadseriously.net/2009/02/21/banned-by-byu/ … Considering how enthusiastic the LDS apparently are now for building a Mormon online presence, it’s amazing to think how it wasn’t so long ago they were unapologetically banning YouTube and the like from BYU. Just out of curiosity, does BYU still block content these days?

  6. 6.

    @ Brian-A:
    That’s a good point. The possibility of internal debate actually gives me some hope for progress in the future. But what does it mean when we hear contradictory statements from individual church leaders, sometimes even within a single talk? Check out this quote from Elder Packer’s talk last conference:

    “The husband is the head of the home and the wife the heart of the home. And marriage is an equal partnership…. The wife sustains her husband. Both parents nurture the spiritual growth of their children.”

    So the husband is the head and the wife sustains him, but husband and wife are also equals who share certain responsibilities. It’s difficult for me to interpret such rhetoric as anything but “we don’t actually want to promote true equality, but we don’t want to scare people off by sounding sexist.”

  7. 7.

    Certainly I have heard sermons that defend patriarchy, praise equality, and do little to reconcile the two. Comparing one of those to Col. Gaddafi’s antics would have been a powerful post, but perhaps Lady Amaltheais and Melyngoch are displaying mercy by not singling out one speaker for such embarrassment.

    Boyd K Packer’s latest conference address has more ambiguity than outright contradictions, and so doesn’t exactly fit the bill. It’s possible that Elder Packer inserted the paragraph Whitney quotes in #6 to reaffirm husbands’ leadership, and everything else is there to soften or disguise the patriarchy. Another possibility is that he is trying to redefine “head of the home” and force existing patriarchal language into a model where women have differentiated but not subordinate roles. The heart has as much a role as the head in decision making, Elder Packer might claim.

    My sense is that church leaders and my ward members advance a mix of approaches. There are some egalitarians that avoid using but don’t publicly condemn the rhetoric of patriarchy; there are probably a few unapologetic defenders of patriarchy; there are plenty that value and repeat ideas from patriarchy but try to soften their implications (sometimes at the expense of logical consistency); and there may even be some chicken egalitarianism pushing gently at the cultural norms but throwing in some old language to comfort the audience.

  8. 8.

    All I have to contribute to this conversation is to share a song which my brother sung to his younger sisters when we were children (to the tune of “I Am Like a Star Shining Brightly”):

    Gaddifi has to go in the garbage
    The garbage is where he has to go
    There he has to stay
    Until comes the day
    That he learns the people do have rights

  9. 9.

    I was just reading an article about a women driving in Saudi Arabia to protest the ban on women driving. The men there defend it saying that women are treated like queens because they are chauffered around by men. So see? Its ok that they don’t drive.

  10. 10.

    Hilarious! I love the parallels.

    Sally, that kind of rhetoric sounds frighteningly familiar.

  11. 11.

    Wow. I’m with Kiskilili–the rhetoric Sally reports sounds very familiar. And it amazes me that the American men who would find that attitude unacceptable don’t see how it’s so similar to the attitudes they embrace in the church.

  12. 12.

    Sure, there may be a few rebellious women in Saudi Arabia who enjoy driving and want to drive, but the vast majority of Saudi Arabian women understand that driving is a terrible responsibility to shoulder, a true burden, and that it’s a blessing for Saudi Arabian women to not have to worry about it.

  13. 13.

    The fact is, Saudi men are terrible drivers and need the practice. That’s why they get driver licenses. Saudi women are inherently good drivers and so it makes sense for them to spend their time polishing less developed skills.

  14. 14.

    Also, Saudi women can give birth. They already have an important role in the community; they don’t need other roles. It’s not fair to the men that they can’t give birth—that’s why they get to drive.

  15. 15.

    Despite the father’s being the head and leading, the family, much like Libya, is perfectly democratic, with nothing but unity and equal footing and the masses to govern it.

    I can’t even express how insulting and ugly this is to the church, and the men and women whose lives have been blessed by church teachings.

    Sure, it would be much simpler to treat everyone the same, irregardless of gender and despite the variable impact of pregnancy. Stupid god for making us this way! Why can’t we be all the same?

    And the cutting humor might be well deserved if not for the fact that church leaders have readily acknowledged that it can be a hard thing to understand. In 2006 conference Elder Oaks made it clear once again that women were NOT subservient to their husbands and dads are NOT in charge the way a bishop is, and he acknowledged that it might not seem to make sense at first glance:

    The principles I have identified for the exercise of priesthood authority are more understandable and more comfortable for a married woman than for a single woman, especially a single woman who has never been married. She does not now experience priesthood authority in the partnership relationship of marriage. Her experiences with priesthood authority are in the hierarchical relationships of the Church, and some single women feel they have no voice in those relationships.

    If Mormon men are dictators and despots, I gotta wonder what they are getting out of it. They come home from a long day of supporting their family, and then pitch in at home, and then go off to serve at church. Doesn’t sound like the typical dictator, but rather a servant.

    And what does it mean for a woman to “support patriarchy”? I totally support patriarchy because I am an equal partner in my marriage. We have different roles, but equal power and respect. Producing children is as important as earning money. I don’t go around with my head bowed to him and thinking he knows best, or that I am less.

    And because I live in a non-LDS area, I can see how supposedly egalitarian families live, and it does not seem better to me. It mostly means that homemaking and childrearing is de-emphasized in importance.

  16. 16.

    Some thoughtful questions and points made in this post, but the underlying tone of the post is too derisive to encourage reasoned dialogue and the scope of the quotes too small.

    We can do better.

  17. 17.

    I can’t even express how insulting and ugly this is to the church, and the men and women whose lives have been blessed by church teachings.

    naismith, this is can only be justified as “insulting” if people whose lives have been blessed by the Church were the only people in the Church. And speaking as someone whose life has been made more difficult as a direct result of all the teachings of the necessity of patriarchy, I find it unfair for you to insinuate that the only valid experiences in the Church are the positive ones. Just because you’ve accepted the function of patriarchy doesn’t require the rest of us to do the same.

    MB, unless you happen to be one of the bloggers or administrators of this blog, you have no call to be making “we” statements about our function.

  18. 18.

    Naismith, I don’t think the parallel Lady Amalthea points to is specifically between Qaddafi’s exercise of power and that of a Mormon father; nobody would argue the church is suggesting men behave like Qaddafi in their families. As with any analogy, there are a number of ways in which it breaks down.

    But the parallel Lady Amalthea is pointing to, as I read it, is between corresponding rhetorical shifts in the way that power structure is articulated. If your point is that patriarchy has always been understood as a form of equality and thus there has been no shift in the church’s rhetoric, you need more than just a quote from 2006 to illustrate it. You need evidence, for example, that the church in the 19th century taught women were not subservient and men were not in charge in their homes, that patriarchy was, perhaps, a council in which all the spouses had equal input.

  19. 19.

    I’d love to see a detailed diachronic study of church leaders’ statements on domestic patriarchy and marital partnership; it would no doubt be enlightening and polychromatic.

    But until I see good evidence to the contrary, I’m going to accept the basic model assumed in the post as the most valid way of making sense of the evidence: namely, under the influence especially of second-wave feminism, the church began absorbing norms of gender equality without jettisoning either its patriarchal structure or rhetoric. As a result, the current situation is confusing not because the church, from the beginning of time, has taught a nonsensical marital structure, but because we’re occupying a historical moment in which change is occurring in an institution that has extreme difficulty processing change. It’s unacceptable in 2011 in the US to say women should be subordinate to men. It’s also unacceptable in the church to say we made a mistake. I think those two basic constraints account for most of the confusion.

    If the scope of the quotes is too narrow or there’s a better way of making sense of the evidence, by all means, provide more broadly gleaned quotes and better analysis.

  20. 20.

    Sorry to have offended you, K.

    I meant the “we” to refer to feminists in general, which includes me as well as you and many of the other voices that appear in this blog in both posts and comments, not the blog authors in particular.

  21. 21.

    I’m not offended. But I also don’t think we can do better.

  22. 22.

    Thanks, K.

    Your response has made me think about activists and politicians in America.

    Over the decades I have watched them as they have worked to fight the things that they perceive as injustices in the society in which they live. They tend to fall into one of two camps; those who practice inclusion and those who practice exclusion. The former work to bring as many voices to the table in whatever way is most effective, including in that dialogue both the oppressed and the oppressors, in order to work out solutions of justice and clarity. The latter work to point out and deride the fallacies they percieve in their opponents’ positions and use language that encourages their constituents to devalue their opponents in order to create division and uprising against oppression. Every side of every political or social battle has some leaders who believe passionately in one of those methods and some who believe passionately in the other and those leaders frequently clash within their respective movements as they work to create change. You can see that clearly in American politics today.

    Those who follow the former charge the latter with fear mongering and creating unnecessary discord and preventing the creation of solutions. Those who follow the latter charge the former with appeasement and weakness and colusion. And such mutual dismissal decreases their ability to create solutions within their respective movements. That is a tragedy.

    So, whether you are an exclusionist or a proponent of inclusivity, creating lines of antagonism between the two camps within your own group decreases effectiveness.

    When you are dealing with a Hitler, Mussolini or Gaddafi, history tends to indicate that exclusionist techniques are more effective. On the other hand, Martin Luther King’s dedication to inclusion in his fight for civil rights in the face of horrendous bigotry in the 1960s was absolutely vital to that movement’s progress and success.

    Your writing and responses have helped me to see a little better where you are coming from. I am an advocate and staunch supporter of inclusiveness both in my work to create change and in my work with the variety of women who see the need for it, which likely is at the root of the “we” in my comment and why I do think we can do better.

  23. 23.

    Thanks, MB. That probably helps clarify our differences of opinion. If I’m reading you right, you don’t object to posts like this on ideological grounds but on practical grounds.

    I won’t speak for Lady Amalthea, but my perspective and aims are fairly different. In a word, my attitude is: hopelessness. I don’t think we can change the church, so for me the question of effectiveness is moot.

    You point to leaders like MLK as models of inclusivity. We probably don’t match MLK’s tone in gentleness or respect. But we’re also not deploying the sorts of tactics MLK deployed in his fight for civil rights, for the reason that they would never be effective in Mormonism. None of us are organizing temple sit-ins where we refuse to leave the men’s side of the room until we’re treated as full citizens in heaven, or going on “freedom rides” forcing gender integration in stake high councils. We’re not even writing manifestos outlining “why we can’t wait,” why we demand immediate access to priesthood, revisions to liturgy and scripture, incorporation of Heavenly Mother into our prayer language and integration at every level. MLK was respectful, but he was absolutely not accommodating to the demands of the opposition. For the most part, Mormon feminism is completely accommodating, because our options are very limited, and because the church claims to speak for God. If we also commit ourselves to rhetorical inclusivity, we’re going to do all of the including and the institutional church is going to do whatever the hell it wants, regardless.

    I think our goals here, in our tiny cave in the vast sea of Mormon discourse, are much more modest: to create a space in which we can air grievances, process and negotiate our experiences in the church, and just generally have fun—in other words, to relate to the Mormon church in a way each of us permabloggers can be comfortable with, which may be very different from how people relate to Mormonism during Sunday services. I think the post absolutely succeeds on those grounds.

  24. 24.

    Some thoughtful questions and points made in this post, but the underlying tone of the post is too derisive to encourage reasoned dialogue and the scope of the quotes too small.

    MB, I will confess that I react badly to comments like this because they give the impression that you see your role as that of someone who grades our blog posts, and decides if they’re good enough.

    My sense, from this and past comments you’ve made, is that you don’t always like our style. Reading your above comments, I think I can better appreciate where you’re coming from. But I don’t like feeling like someone else is imposing their goals on our blog. Kind of echoing what Kiskilili said above–I think sometimes we’re aiming for reasoned dialogue, sometimes we like to be a little outrageous, sometimes we’re just trying to articulate our frustrations, and sometimes we’re just having fun.

    Maybe the thing is that in the end, I can’t take blogging all that seriously. I’m personally not great at activism–I think there are feminists out there who are doing a far better job of that. I do have hope for change, but my guess is that it will be slow. For now, I’m mostly just blogging as a way to keep holding on, to keep talking about stuff–and because for the most part, I enjoy doing it. I’m sympathetic to your aims, and I appreciate what it sounds like you’re doing–but I also hope that as a guest on our blog, you can respect that we’re not always going to do things in the way that you would.

  25. 25.

    Kiskilili – fantastic response in 23. Your last paragraph explains why I frequent the bloggernacle exactly!

  26. 26.

    Duly noted, Lynnette. I will keep that in mind. Thanks.

  27. 27.

    I appreciate, L and K, your efforts to engage with me in dialogue about my response to Lady Amalthia’s post. It’s been helpful.

    So, just so I’m sure I understand. When I encounter derision or hyperbole in a post in ZD I should assume that it is either a form of humor or a creative outlet in which to express satire born of an ability to see irony, or an outreach for connection to the other thirteen bloggers or an expression of frustration that is meant to be harmless. Is that right? My question is honest. I do want to understand. Are there other things I should understand about them?

    One of the challenges for me of being a reader is that it is difficult to discern conversational humor. It is not relayed as well in the printed word as it is in person. If you do not have the usual facial and body language clues, it can easily be mistaken as straightforward opinion. And, since I personally don’t find derisive or sarcastic humor funny (my sense of humor just doesn’t include that), I am further handicapped in that regard.

    I have enjoyed many of the “reasoned dialogue” posts to which Lynnette refers. That’s what first enticed me to become a regular reader. And so I tend to assume that each post is intended to be a further addition to that dialogue. That, I believe, was at the root of my sense of disappointment in this particular one. But what I think you are telling me is that I mis-categorized it. Is that right?

    I tend to be sober and straightforward when it comes to my feminism so you can see how such posts could be misread by me. If you answer these questions I think that it will help me better understand your take on other styles of posts which will help me temper my response to them and save you further grief.

  28. 28.

    And speaking as someone whose life has been made more difficult as a direct result of all the teachings of the necessity of patriarchy, I find it unfair for you to insinuate that the only valid experiences in the Church are the positive ones.

    I feel great sympathy for anyone who suffers for whatever reason. But where does that give you the right to accuse Mormon men of misogyny? Is your pain collateral damage, or were you the direct topic of woman-hating?

    There are many criticisms that can be leveled at Mormon men, but I fail to see how misogyny is one of them.

    I appreciate the explanations in 23 and 24 explaining that you are just a bunch of chicken feminists who are having fun. Okay, I am sorry for taking it seriously.

    I just never did like Pollack jokes and Helen Keller jokes, either, but now I know that is part of this blog, I will refrain from taking your comments seriously.

  29. 29.

    You need evidence, for example, that the church in the 19th century taught women were not subservient and men were not in charge in their homes,

    I wasn’t in the church in the 19th century, so that doesn’t affect me. I joined the church in the mid-1970s, and was attracted because of the teachings on equal partnership.

    This is an interesting theory:

    under the influence especially of second-wave feminism, the church began absorbing norms of gender equality without jettisoning either its patriarchal structure or rhetoric.

    I think another possibility, to which I personally subscribe, is that the church talked about equal partnership because it BELIEVED in equal partnership. Only the church’s idea of gender equality doesn’t match with some people’s vision of gender equality because the church values the roles that have been traditional to women as being as important as what men have traditionally done.

    Which is wonderfully radical.

  30. 30.

    Naismith, nowhere in my comment did I say or even imply the word “misogyny.” All I did was state that I have had encounters with men in the church who were abusing their patriarchal authority, and that it is something that was enabled by the institution because they have patriarchal authority. That has little, if anything, to do with men who hate women, as men who are cruel to women in different ways is not mutually exclusive with misogyny.

    In which case, you still have not addressed my statement. I was not accusing misogyny. And regardless of whether or not I was, why do your positive experiences hold more validity than my negative ones?

    I appreciate the explanations in 23 and 24 explaining that you are just a bunch of chicken feminists who are having fun. Okay, I am sorry for taking it seriously.

    For the sake of this post, Melyngoch and I employed humor to make a point; much the same as Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and the writers of SNL (among others) use humor to make a point. Using humor doesn’t make the point less valid. And your reading of this is an intentional and disrespectful misinterpretation of the nature of this blog, especially coming from someone who has interacted with it as long as you.

  31. 31.

    So, just so I’m sure I understand. When I encounter derision or hyperbole in a post in ZD I should assume that it is either a form of humor or a creative outlet in which to express satire born of an ability to see irony, or an outreach for connection to the other thirteen bloggers or an expression of frustration that is meant to be harmless. Is that right? My question is honest. I do want to understand. Are there other things I should understand about them?

    This is a fair question. As a co-author of this post, I was writing in an over-the-top way definitely intending to be a little outrageous. Of course neither I nor Lady Amalthea think that the problems with LDS patriarchy is qualitatively comparable to the problems with Gaddafi’s regime in Libya. Of course this is intended to be hyperbolic, insofar as it implies that the two are comparable.

    On the other hand, I think we write a little bit outrageously because we’re a little bit outraged, and we think our readers should be too. Isn’t it just a little disturbing that the rhetorical strategy deployed by Gaddafi, to maintain his position of power by denying he has it, is the same rhetorical strategy deployed by the church to navigate its power structures? Me, I’m outraged by that. If I’m inflammatory, it’s because I’m feeling inflamed.

    Sometimes we blog like CNN, and sometimes we blog like the Daily Show. I think both accomplish something. So yes, I think that when you encounter hyperbole on ZD, you can expect it to be humorous and frustrated and a part of the ZD dialect, but usually it’s also trying to make a point.

  32. 32.

    There are many criticisms that can be leveled at Mormon men, but I fail to see how misogyny is one of them.

    No one is saying that Mormon men are a bunch of misogynists. The “misogyny” in the title refers to institutional misogyny, and the institution’s rush to cover it up while not actually removing it, not necessarily misogyny as an assumed characteristic of all the men in the church. The church as an institution devalues women; consequently, individual men feel licensed in their mistreatment of women. (It’s nice if you’ve never known a Mormon man who was abusive, belittling, or superior towards women, but I have, many. Your personal experience doesn’t make mine any less a part of my institutional experience of the church, any more than mine does yours.)

  33. 33.
    You need evidence, for example, that the church in the 19th century taught women were not subservient and men were not in charge in their homes,

    I wasn’t in the church in the 19th century, so that doesn’t affect me.

    Yes, we know. However, if you review the train of the conversation that you started in comment 15, you might recall that Kiskilili’s point was that if you want to argue that patriarchy has always been understood to mean equality, even before second-wave feminism put pressure on the church to adjust its use of the word, then you need to demonstrate that patriarchy was being taught this way in the 19th century.

    I think another possibility, to which I personally subscribe, is that the church talked about equal partnership because it BELIEVED in equal partnership.

    I actually think that, in a certain awkward, unresolved way, the church (or bits of it) does believe in equal partnership. However, I think that remains in tension with the church’s commitment to a male authority and its attachment to the word “preside” in marriages. And, more to the point, the church has taught a lot of things in its history that look nothing at all like equal partnership; the rhetoric of equality only comes to the fore in the 1970s and 1980s. If you have a better explanation for this than the rise of second-wave feminism, we’re all ears.

  34. 34.

    #31, Thanks, Melyngoch.
    That’s helpful.

  35. 35.

    Some playing around with the General Conference Corpus and that seems relevant:
    – Only one of the 16 hits for “equal partner*” from before 1993. (Joseph F Merrill in 1946, speaking of marriage)
    – The Family Proclamation uses “fathers are to preside” and “equal partners” within the same paragraph. Half a dozen subsequent addresses quote both parts of the paragraph, usually without much comment.
    – The speaker who uses “equal partner*” most frequently is Richard G Scott. He has no recorded uses of “preside” in Conference. In 1998, he contrasts “equal partners” positively against authoritarian roles for husbands.
    -“Equality” has more stable usage over history, but its also used infrequently: fewer than 10 hits per decade since the 1940s.
    -Use of “equality” in the 1960s often is abstract or in discussions of civil rights, use after 1975 is mostly about women and men (though rarely in the context of marriage).

    This is far from a detailed diachronic study. It does suggest that either I’m searching the wrong terms or that talk of marital partnerships is scarce at Conference. This sort of research is what several at ZD do well; any suggestions on how to better find (1) when rhetoric on marital partnerships arose, and (2) to what extent those advocating equal partnerships and those advocating hierarchical presiding in marriages are the same speakers?

  36. 36.

    MB, I appreciate your honest questions in #27. I very much agree that tone can be difficult on a blog, and I can imagine that it might be even more challenging on a blog like this which had a kind of erratic mix of post styles. I think Melyngoch probably explained the situation better than I could. But for what it’s worth, I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing with the content of a post (e.g., pointing out the flaws in this particular comparison)–it’s comments that say little more than “this post was a disappointment” that I have a hard time with. (Though, it occurs to me that my concern with comments that I find unproductive might parallel your concern with posts that seem to have the same problem. ;) ) But my thought is that at least on this blog, you might be better off focusing on the content of a post (or ignoring if it you find it too crazy or over-the-top), and responding to that, rather than raising questions about whether the genre of the post is effective. Also, I appreciated what you said about how you read things; that’s actually really helpful in giving me a context for your comments.

  37. 37.

    I appreciate the explanations in 23 and 24 explaining that you are just a bunch of chicken feminists who are having fun.

    I’m guessing you’re using the phrase as a random insult, but that reminds me that we need to do a post on chicken feminism, which I do think is a real thing–like chicken patriarchy, it alters the form without changing the substance. Just in case you don’t think we can be equal opportunity chicken-callers.

    Okay, I am sorry for taking it seriously.

    But how sorry are you? Enough to make us a chicken patriarchy pie?

    (In other words, could we perhaps drop the passive aggressive rhetoric?)

    In any case, back to the topic at hand–I’m well aware that you joined the church because you found the teachings about equal partnership appealing. And I genuinely appreciate that the church has those teachings. But I don’t see that as somehow canceling out all the other teachings that are less egalitarian. You seem to use your personal conversion story as a kind of trump card that overrules any possible concerns about gender in the church, and I just don’t think that works. The fact that you joined the church because you personally liked what SWK said about partnership is great, but those statements are nonetheless one data point among many (and I think to be fair, have to be read in tandem with what he said about presiding).

  38. 38.

    Without singling anybody out, I think it is interesting to observe passive-aggressive behavior among LDS women. Of course, other men and women do it as well, but the Relief Society version, which begins with a really ugly judgement about another woman and then buries it in a kind of sickly sweet rationalization — “Just trying to help!” or “Food for thought!” — is the kind I’m around the most, so that is the kind I notice the most. When these women interact with men instead of with women, they call it “using soft power”.

    Therapists who treat people for passive aggression begin with the assumption that this condition is a result of an environment where the individual is not allowed full expression. As much as anything else, the prevalence of passive-aggressive behavior in LDS women is solid evidence that they are in an environment which limits them in some ways.

  39. 39.

    I just never did like Pollack jokes and Helen Keller jokes, either, but now I know that is part of this blog, I will refrain from taking your comments seriously.

    I’m not sure what this means. Are you saying you’re offended on behalf of Muammar Qaddafi, and you consider making light of him on a par with laughing at Helen Keller’s expense?

    Because that’s the perspective we’re missing in this conversation—the defense of Qaddafi.

    We’re guilty as charged. Even as young children, we never treated the good Colonel with respect. (See comment 8.)

  40. 40.

    Mark, that is SO TRUE! The phenomenon of passive- aggressive Mormon women deserves several posts in itself.

  41. 41.

    Hey! Who you callin’ passive-agressive?

  42. 42.

    (Just food for thought.)

    ROFL

  43. 43.

    Yes, please on the passive-aggression posts. And also please on women who scold each other for no other practical purpose than to make someone feel bad and someone feel righteous. Not that I’ve seen or experienced that recently or anything.

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