Typical LDS Women

June 21, 2004 | 43 comments
By

Michelle recently wrote that she considers some of the women at T & S

” . . . such a breath of fresh air because they are so well-educated, intelligent, and unafraid to put forth strongly held opinions. But may I point out the emperor’s lack of clothes and say you are not typical LDS women?”

I am bothered by Michelle’s suggestion that a ‘typical LDS woman’ is not well-educated, intelligent, or unafriad to put forth strongly held opinions.

Is this true? If so, why?

Starting thoughts:

(1) I mentioned previously that waaaaay more women than men comment when I teach SS. Is this typical, in your experience? Is it only because the teacher is female? Is it because of the kinds of questions that I ask? Because women feel a need to keep conversation going (I don’t think I have ever heard a man get up in testimony mtg. and say, “Well, I hate to see time wasting, so . . .” but women do it on occassion.)

(2) If they are silenced, why? Because they misunderstand the Church’s teachings about women? Because they generally have a lower educational level and fewer professional accomplishments than the men with whom they associate at Church? Because they don’t want to come across as unfeminine? Because they don’t have a backload of missionary experiences or other leadership experiences with which to pepper the conversation?

Some scriptural thoughts:

(1) I read Mark 5:31-34 to be Jesus effort to ensure that the woman doesn’t silently slink away with her blessing but rather publicly commands the attention of the crowd, takes center stage if you will, and interacts with the Savior with the same level of dignity and forewardness that Jairus uses in the surrounding narrative.

(2) While Jesus disagrees with the woman in Luke 11:27-28, he doesn’t chastize her for publicly addressing him, commanding the attention of the crowd, etc.

(3) Silence is not to be equated with powerlessness in the gospel. I refer you to Mark 14:3-9, where the woman says nothing, yet shares a profound testimony of the Savior, His identity and His mission, that is (at that point) beyond the understanding of the apostles (cf. Mark 8:31-32). She anoints Him in preparation for His death and His kingship, certainly not the act of the powerless.

(4) And you already know how I feel about the daughters of Zelophehad.

Thoughts?

Tags:

43 Responses to Typical LDS Women

  1. Kristine on June 21, 2004 at 2:38 pm

    fix

  2. John David Payne on June 21, 2004 at 2:58 pm

    If it is true that “a ‘typical LDS woman’ is not well-educated, intelligent, or unafraid to put forth strongly held opinions,” then I think it is because from a certain point of view (which I ascribe to in my most cynical moments), this description fits 75% of all human beings. Only in Lake Wobegone are all people above average. Elsewhere, half of everybody is below average. Even in the church, I suspect.

  3. Grasshopper on June 21, 2004 at 3:23 pm

    JDP,

    I guess it depends on what you’re taking the average of… after all, the average Mormon could be more or less __[adjective]__ than the average __[demographic group]__

    Am I ever glad I didn’t marry a “typical LDS woman”!

  4. John David Payne on June 21, 2004 at 3:37 pm

    Are Mormons stupider than everybody else? I don’t know, but I don’t think so. But in any population of human beings, only a few are “well-educated, intelligent, and unfraid to put forth strongly held opinions.”

    And given any demographic group, those group members who choose to blog will probably be better educated and more intelligent than the population mean, and due to selection effects will almost surely be less timid and more opinionated. So if female Mormon bloggers seem exceptional compared to average female Mormons, I’m not surprised. This just means that female Mormons are like other groups of human beings. Okay, fine. So what?

  5. Laurie Burk on June 21, 2004 at 4:41 pm

    Yes, I am Dan Burk’s wife. And yes I did quip [relayed through Dan] that ‘Mormon culture makes women less likely to post on a blog like Times and Seasons, although as a victim of Mormon culture, [I'm] not going to post that observation.’

    So now I post.

    Julie said:

    “2) If they are silenced, why? Because they misunderstand the Church’s teachings about women? Because they generally have a lower educational level and fewer professional accomplishments than the men with whom they associate at Church? Because they don’t want to come across as unfeminine? Because they don’t have a backload of missionary experiences or other leadership experiences with which to pepper the conversation?”

    Many years ago one of my missionary comp’s cued me into the fact that in LDS society it is the *women* more often than the *men* who keep other women in line, so to speak. I didn’t believe her then, but as time has passed I’ve come to believe she was ultimately right. And not just about LDS culture, either. Who bound the feet of the Chinese women? Who cuts the genitals of African girls? And who makes sure that all is ‘nice’ in R.S.? It isn’t the men. The men may have unrighteous expectations and exersize considerable power but just as in repressive government, there has to be some degree of cooperation from the oppressed or the oppressor cannot govern.

    I used to comment a lot in R.S. and Sunday School. I used to bother people. I used to not care. But I learned over time that people 1) didn’t want to hear what I had to say and that 2) saying it was rather like tossing pearls before swine. Why go to the effort if all you get is puzzled looks, flustered instructors and exasperated leadership? The expectation is not to question, but to be ‘nice’.

    OTOH, sometimes I feel bad about not speaking out — if just for the purposes of keeping a culture of speaking out going. One friend of mine who teaches at a local university, has just this past year given up speaking out and attending because she couldn’t deal with it anymore. Some people found her comments to be thought provoking. Others to be annoying or outrageous or condemnable [as in asking the Bishop to make her stop] but her comments at least supported something better than the “sweetness and light” and no-questions-culture that I’ve found in so many places in the church.

    Sorry if I seem to be venting, but this really hits a nerve.

  6. Davis Bell on June 21, 2004 at 5:42 pm

    While it would be unrealistic to maintain that there are no gender inequties in Mormon culture, Michelle’s observation is not terribly unlike noting how “articulate” a well-spoken black man is, or congratulation a succesful Hispanic businesswoman whom you don’t know for “overcoming a lot.” The notion that Mormon women are any more unducated, unopinionated, or unassertive than any numerically comparable group of women springs from a hidebound and anachronistic stereotype.

    It is true that the women on this site are *relatively* more “well-educated, intelligent, and unafraid to put forth strongly held opinions” than the average Mormon American woman; however, as JDP notes, the women on this site are also more of those same things than the average Catholic American woman, the average Democratic American woman, or the average woman of any other group with roughly 3 or so million women members.

  7. John David Payne on June 21, 2004 at 5:48 pm

    I guess that “speaking up” and “speaking out” are different things. I also used to comment a lot in priesthood and Sunday School. (Frank McIntyre, among others, can vouch for this.) I also have over time decided to reduce my commenting. But not to censor myself. I just do it because I am a conversational bulldozer, a loudmouth. If I talk as much as I like, other people don’t get to say what they want.

    In a similar vein, there is a guy in my elders quorum (I shall not use his hame) who loves to ask questions that derail the lesson. Whenever he speaks up, everybody knows that we will be spending some time on a tangent, since it seems to be against teacher etiquette to ignore a question entirely or refuse to answer it. Personally, I would not be sad if he would keep his questions to himself a little more often, and I know that some of the teachers agree with me.

    Laurie Burk, I think, is talking about a different phenomenon. She would like to comment more and ask more questions, but feels that she can’t or that she shouldn’t. And not just because she would be taking the discussion in a direction that would not interest the rest of the class. Maybe in a direction that would make others uncomfortable? I don’t know. It isn’t clear to me from Laurie’s post. Perhaps she (or others who understand her point of view better than I) can enlighten us as to the kinds of things she is choosing to hold back.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that it might not always a virtue to put forth one’s strongly held opinions. I used to put forth all the time, and it just made me come across as an arrogant bore. Perhaps I still do.

  8. lyle on June 21, 2004 at 5:54 pm

    so…

    are SS/RS/PH mtgs about:
    1. teaching? or
    2. discussing? or
    3. touchy-feeling motivational trash?

    1. if teaching, then who cares what the individuals say?
    2. if discussing, then it matters alot who is participating/not participating

  9. Jim F. on June 21, 2004 at 6:12 pm

    Julie, I have the same experience as you in my Sunday School class: two groups of people comment and discuss regularly, women and a couple of older men, one the stake patriarch and the other the former stake president. It is uncommon for other men to take part. Oddly, however, in high priests group meetings, we have a lot of discussion. (I wonder if this is related to another observation, that men don’t sing much in Sacrament meeting, but will really belt it out in priesthood meeting.)

    Lyle, could you explain more what you mean by “if teaching, then who cares what the individuals say”? I don’t understand that because it seems to me to make more of a difference what people say when we are teaching/learning than if we are either just discussing or engaged in “touchy-feely motivational trash.”

    However, though I think I know what you mean by the last category and I tend to agree with you about it being a waste of time, it seems to me that it is important to remember that teaching ought also to be motivational and it ought to touch us more than merely intellectually. I’m not sure how to distinguish between teaching that does that and motivational trash, but I think most of us know the difference when we see it. On the other hand, perhaps the reason we see more of the latter than we would like is because it is easily confused with the former. If so, then it isn’t true that it is easy to see the difference.

  10. lyle on June 21, 2004 at 6:30 pm

    Jim: I was just being “ambiguous” in my words (to parrot from the other thread) in order to be brief. I don’t know if I have a better definition. I just figure that participation might vary based on format…rather than gender.

    i.e.: I’m just wondering if the “gendered” discussion above isn’t misplaced and/or really a discussion about _how_ SS/RS/PH classes/mtgs should/are carried out. Personally, I can’t stand the “stupid question” asking socratic format in church. I don’t think it works. If there is a reason why folks don’t speak up…maybe it has more to do with everyone expecting the current/former leaders to have more say than others and/or they are asleep and/or a great range of other reasons.

  11. Nate Oman on June 21, 2004 at 6:33 pm

    I tend to find these sorts of “Mormon ____ are typically….” discussions odd. My tendency is to think that when every people are making what appear to be demographic statements about median Mormons they are more often than not really making statements about themselves. The fact of the matter is that these generalizations are rarely if ever based on anything like a representative sample and rigorous analysis. Rather, we swap stories which I suspect often gain their saliency less from how representative they are and more from how they illuminate or justify a particular world view. For example, I have been in the Church my entire life. I have spent a great deal of time in wards on the East Bench in Salt Lake City, BYU, Arlington, Virginia, Cambridge Massachusetts, and Little Rock Arkansas. These four locales account for roughly 27 years of church experience. How representative is my sample, and how valid are my generalizations?

  12. Mardell on June 21, 2004 at 6:42 pm

    My mom has always told me, “If someone else can do it, so can you.” She has also lived by that all her life. She learns many things usually just by watching some one else do it. My dad has done construction for years and so my mom can do almost as many things as he can. My mom has often been critizied by the other women in her ward that she knows and does to many things that only men should be doing. I have found that in most wards I have lived in. It is only acceptable as a mom to do two things take care of the house and watch the kids, and it is not the men who are critical it is the women.

  13. Dan Burk on June 21, 2004 at 6:56 pm

    Like John David Payne, I tend to speak up quite frequently in Sunday School or Priesthood classes, but not usually because I especially want to. Typically it is because the level of instruction is so abysmally bad. I used to just sulk, or complain in private about it, but heard an admonition from one of the Twelve — I think it was Elder Eyring — that if a lesson is poor, we have a responsibility to try to improve or contribute to it. So, I try.

    I’m pretty sure that there are others in the class who are puzzled or annoyed by this behavior, and instructors who get flustered when I drop a comment they hadn’t considered. But since my other options are to gripe or sit and stew about the quality of the lessons, and not having been vicitimized by Relief Society, I tend to speak up anyway.

  14. clarkgoble on June 21, 2004 at 7:27 pm

    I rarely comment in Sunday School and often in priesthood mainly because the teachers don’t really make it a discussion. That’s fine, I’ve had many Sunday School Presidents or Elders Quorum President ask me, when they call me as a teacher, *not* to make it a too and fro discussion format but to teach a lesson. I admit that I favor the discussion format far, far more. But many don’t apparently. And that’s fine, I probably do better with the monologue and a few directed questions better than the discussion. But certainly as a student rather than a listener I prefer the other. (Favor a more Socratic style as the best – although admitting my limitations as Socrates)

    With regards to Sunday School, I suspect that the comments the past few days regarding gender and tone affect how I comment. I love the academic style debate. To me it is a great way to quickly find the errors in my own belief and is, I think, one of the benefits of an University education. But I quickly discovered that most do not. Further many can’t separate out arguing ideas and arguing *people*. In particular, as the entries note, women don’t like that style. In a mixed group and especially with women teachers, I tend to be very quiet.

    It’s sad in a way. And I find that the gender differences some point out seem rather sexist in a way. After all I’ve known many women who could hold their own and more in a more academic style. It rather bothers me, I must confess, when I read these sorts of comments on gender differences – not because I necessarily disagree with the phenomena. I just wonder if we aren’t re-enforcing a more passivive womanhood akin to the stereotypes of Mormonism.

  15. Davis Bell on June 21, 2004 at 7:43 pm

    Nate hit the nail on the head in saying, “The fact of the matter is that these generalizations are rarely if ever based on anything like a representative sample and rigorous analysis.” I think this observation holds true for about 99% of debate, discussion, and argument (the exception being discourse in scholarly journals).

    However, most of us have neither the time nor the inclination to invest the time and effort required to be able to marshall the relevant facts in a satsifactory way; the trick, then, is finding is finding the middle ground where informed and reasonable people can discuss and make generalizations about certain topics without being wildly illogical or overly exacting. It’s a difficult balance to find.

  16. Randy on June 21, 2004 at 8:25 pm

    Nate says: “I tend to find these sorts of ‘Mormon ____ are typically….’ discussions odd.”

    Nate,

    I take it this is also true of, say, discussions concerning Mormon “liberals”?

  17. Michelle on June 21, 2004 at 8:40 pm

    I suppose it was a mistake to use the phrase “typical LDS women”. Nate’s right. I was simply drawing from my own experiences, nothing systematic. I did spend 6 years in Cambridge, and met there many very intelligent and articulate women (including Kristine). I’ve also met some intelligent, interesting, and opinionated LDS women since then. Julie and Kristine strike me as on the high end of the spectrum (among my limited sample) in terms of education and a willingness to express their opinion.

    I’m sorry if I came across as denigrating LDS women. It wasn’t really my intention.

    I am feeling contrite, and wish to restore relational harmony among the T&S bloggers.

  18. Kaimi on June 21, 2004 at 8:51 pm

    And there you have it, the problem in a nutshell. An intelligent, outspoken LDS woman makes an offhand remark about intelligent, outspoken LDS women; another intelligent, outspoken LDS woman puts the remark under the microscope for further discussion, and suddenly the male heirarchy closes in. A few cryptic remarks from Lyle, a generalization by Nate about how he dislikes generalizations, and we’ve got the women on the run.

    And what shall we do now? Simple — exacerbate it! Press forward, men! Be manly! Let’s finish these outspoken women off while they’re reeling! Sing it together with me, “The world has need of willing men . . .”

  19. Kaimi on June 21, 2004 at 9:11 pm

    And by the way, I think that Michelle is very much onto something here. LDS women are often not encouraged to to speak up. LDS women are often not encouraged to get an education. And the church often (intentionally?) fosters an environment where women’s opinions are taken less seriously than men’s. (No Nate, I don’t have any statistics.)

    There are church organizational aspects that probably reinforce this dynamic. Every general conference, we receive the unspoken message that men’s voices matter more than women’s voices. Similarly, men are encouraged to go on missions, where they are taught to speak up and be heard, while women are encouraged to start having babies ASAP. Doctrinal points like women being exalted through their husbands add to the mix.

    And the church is also a culture, which certainly does not encourage women to speak up. The excommunications of prominent feminist members sends a message. (The term “feminist” is probably considered a negative term by most members). There are a lot of members who proudly retain the social values of a century ago. (And why not? Our leaders often tell us how life was so much better then).

    So yes, Kristine and Julie are the exception, not the rule.

    What is to be done about it?

  20. Julie in Austin on June 21, 2004 at 9:13 pm

    Kaimi, I love you.

    P.S. to Mardell: not in that way.

  21. Michelle on June 21, 2004 at 9:16 pm

    LOL, Kaimi. Honestly, I don’t think I have the mental powers nor the thick skin one needs to participate on a forum like this. Just label me Exhibit A when rolling out the evidence for Gilligan’s theories. Am I a typical LDS woman? I would definitely not dare to speculate.

    P.S. When my mom was in charge of the ward bulletin, she printed as the opening song, “The World Has Need of Willing People” (although that’s an adaptation of the first line and not of the title if I remember correctly). The bishopric member conducting Sacrament Meeting had apparently not read his bulletin in advance, because when he stood up to the podium and began reading aloud, he became completely flustered, tripping over his words, and looking more panic-stricken and confused than anyone I’ve ever seen in a church setting. It was absolutely hilarious.

  22. danithew on June 21, 2004 at 9:39 pm

    Clark G.,

    I was sad to see that some prefer that a lesson be taught over a discussion. We have an excellent priesthood teacher (teaches every third week) in our quorum and he has three rules for his teaching:

    1) He wants the class to say more than he does.
    2) He wants each person who participates to say their name when they offer a comment.
    3) He ends each class five minutes before the hour.

    More importantly, he teaches good and solid doctrine.

  23. Katherine on June 22, 2004 at 12:40 am

    In my experience men comment more than women in Sunday School. There are are at least two reasons I don’t often comment–probably more if I thought about it longer. I am turned off when:

    1)Some commentors seem to want to look smart more than they want to contribute something meaningful to the topic at hand, whether by obscure knowledge, minute correction, etc. I usually notice this more from men; maybe that’s sexist of me.

    2)Men’s speaking style sometimes is off-putting to me. When they express enthusiasm or zeal about their subject I sometimes interpret anger. I’m sure most of that is totally unintended. I even find myself asking my husband to tone down his end of our conversations when he gets excited because he just gets louder and more gesticulate than I am comfortable with.

  24. Davis Bell on June 22, 2004 at 1:33 am

    And to complete the cycle a male steps in to defend the hapless, helpless women who are incapable of defending their ideas or expresing their thoughts without his patronage.

  25. Clark Goble on June 22, 2004 at 2:40 am

    ” LDS women are often not encouraged to get an education. ”

    Is this true where you are? I’ve never heard this and have heard the opposite taught quite strenuously.

  26. Julien on June 22, 2004 at 3:49 am

    I can sympathize well with both Laurie Burk’s and JDP’s comments. Being a convert myself, and thus not having been acquainted with the Mormon community for all my life, have found that there is a tendency in Church-related activities (whether that be Sunday School, priesthood and R.S., institute, etc.) to not make clear opinions the way they are, to censor everything to “churchly correctness”, if you may, and that any sort of controversy is looked upon skeptically. Conversations and debates the way we have them on LDS weblogs would not be welcomed at the LDS wards I have attended so far. Finding people (whether man or woman is unimportant) who discuss freely, even in Church, may be regarded as either “untypical Mormons” or “conversational bulldozers” (JDP, I get that comment, too, every once in a while, that might explain the way I argued and other people reacted on the Gordon B. Hinckley thread… ;). That’s just an experience I’ve made – oh, and Kaimi, what about those excommunications of prominent feminist members? Could you tell me more about that or refer to a source? That would quite interest me!

  27. Julien on June 22, 2004 at 3:51 am

    I can sympathize well with both Laurie Burk’s and JDP’s comments. Being a convert myself, and thus not having been acquainted with the Mormon community for all my life, have found that there is a tendency in Church-related activities (whether that be Sunday School, priesthood and R.S., institute, etc.) to not make clear opinions the way they are, to censor everything to “churchly correctness”, if you may, and that any sort of controversy is looked upon skeptically. Conversations and debates the way we have them on LDS weblogs would not be welcomed at the LDS wards I have attended so far. Finding people (whether man or woman is unimportant) who discuss freely, even in Church, may be regarded as either “untypical Mormons” or “conversational bulldozers” (JDP, I get that comment, too, every once in a while, that might explain the way I argued and other people reacted on the Gordon B. Hinckley thread… ;). That’s just an experience I’ve made – oh, and Kaimi, what about those excommunications of prominent feminist members? Could you tell me more about that or refer to a source? That would quite interest me!

  28. Mike on June 22, 2004 at 5:27 am

    “Conversations and debates the way we have them on LDS weblogs would not be welcomed at the LDS wards I have attended so far.”

    Well, I think that part of the reason for that is church meetings are for a different purpose than weblogs.

  29. Kingsley on June 22, 2004 at 7:21 am

    Like Clark, my experience has been (in both student & family wards) that sisters as often as brothers are encouraged to pursue an education; also, (again in my experience) my sisters in Sunday School are not afraid to comment strongly & express their opinions etc.

  30. Julien on June 22, 2004 at 12:28 pm

    Mike, I wasn’t only referring to Sunday School type things, but anything within the walls of meeting houses, whether that’s between classes, after Church, or on some other social activity. And I’m not necessarily talking about the deep philosophical issues only – I find it a little frightening that I feel like I can’t tell anybody that I sing in a gospel choir run by the Catholic college community for fear to get accused of not singing in Church choir (somehow singing with only people that are 20 to 40 years older than me isn’t quite as fun…), but maybe it’s just a personality problem of mine…

  31. lyle on June 22, 2004 at 1:48 pm

    Kaimi: LDS women are often not encouraged to get an education . . . Every general conference, we receive the unspoken message that men’s voices matter more than women’s voices.

    Lyle: That’s why women are encouraged, _explicitly_, as men are, to get as much education as they can & be civically involved, right? Next?

    Kaimi: LDS women are often not encouraged to to speak up.
    Lyle: Really? I can’t remember the last time that I, or any other LDS individual, w/calling or not, male or female, made such a remark. In fact, it’s plain boring to have to go through the same discussion in the NT each time to defuse the “women should be quiet” verse. Duh. It’s obvious, right? Don’t all _individuals_ have the same encouragement to voice their opinions?

    Lyle: I love Kaimi too; but in neither the Julie nor the Mardell way. :)

  32. Adam Greenwood on June 22, 2004 at 8:08 pm

    I know a bright, well-spoken woman that I try and avoid having conversations with because, with the whole herd of Mormonism available to her, the only horse she ever wants to beat is how the Church oppresses women and so on and so forth to the death of my every inclination to sympathy.

    If I may extrapolate from this and other unrepresentative experiences, I would say that some bright and articulate people of both sexes think that criticism is contribution and wonder why they aren’t more often coaxed into contributing. The truth is, the right to speak brings with it the duty to regard one’s listeners.

  33. lyle on June 22, 2004 at 8:14 pm

    good point adam.

    Kaimi, I apologize for using Michael Moore-esque techniques on your comment. for those that feel sexism & discrimination is alive & well in Zion…for them I guess it is. Just because it isn’t for me doesn’t mean I have to be so contrary. :)

  34. Michelle on June 22, 2004 at 8:56 pm

    “And to complete the cycle, a male steps in to defend the hapless, helpless women who are incapable of defending their ideas or expressing their thoughts without his patronage,” said Davis Bell.

    Well, I know I’m likely to put my foot in my mouth again, but how can I let a comment like that just slide by? So I’m rising to the bait and taking another stab at this.

    I love my ward. It feels warm, loving, nurturing, and inclusive. We are a very diverse ward, in terms of SES, age, education, ethnicity, years in the church, etc. There seems to be a heavy emphasis in R.S. on concepts like “being knit together in love” and “building bonds of sisterhood and unity”. Given our differences, I feel like we do a pretty good job at this.

    On the other hand, it seems that in order to maintain this sense of unity and sisterhood, there is some sort of tacit understanding that we not give voice to certain issues or questions. To raise a question that might be perceived as controversial is to rip an ugly hole in the beautiful fabric we are weaving together. Certain topics are threatening to our sense of community and therefore off-limits. Some of the T&S female bloggers seem to me atypical in part because they seem unafraid to broach these topics.

    In my one-on-one conversations, I think I usually try to be friendly and agreeable. If someone expresses something I disagree with, I try to factor in the nature of our relationship and their personality as I decide how to respond. How bluntly can I express my opinion? How carefully do I need to tread? With which of their ideas can I agree? Am I at risk of offending this person? Can we keep or even strengthen our connection in light of our disagreements? Some of my friends and I can have heated debates and it only deepens our friendship. With others, I am very circumspect.

    I assume everyone does this to some degree. I think Gilligan’s point is that women tend to place a somewhat higher emphasis on maintaining the relationship rather than scoring debate points . (I’m know I’m oversimplifying here.)

    I think it is a challenge to figure out how exactly to develop loving, Christ-like relationships in a forum like this. There’s no face-to-face contact, no facial expressions or vocal inflection to convey those subtle emotional cues we rely on so heavily in normal interactions (as Dan Burk mentioned). There’s lots of disagreement, lots of emotionally charged issues, lots of passion. People are very quick to point out each other’s errors. There’s also the strange fact that you never really know who’s out there reading your words or who might respond.

    On the one hand, I’m drawn to T&S, because it provides something that feels absent from my ward. Really interesting, intelligent, outspoken people (of both genders) willing to tackle lots of difficult issues. It bolsters my faith, in a way, to see such smart people engage in such discussions and remain faithful in the church. On the other hand, it feels somewhat intimidating, threatening, and contentious.

    I don’t know how many of these thoughts or feelings can be generalized to other LDS women. Obviously, we are a diverse lot. But the question was raised, why are there not more female participants on this blog? Maybe these subjective, personal, unscientific, unsubstantiated ramblings can shed a little pinprick of light on the issue.

  35. Matt Jacobsen on June 22, 2004 at 9:29 pm

    Thanks for your comments on this thread, Michelle. Your attitude with regards to T&S as well as with ward members fits very closely with my own outlook. It may be that more women are like this, but there are men out there too. I’ve rarely been in an elders’ quorum lesson that was very confrontational (or evoked much emotion at all for that matter).

    As far as women speaking out, last week in the church foyer, in front of our bishop, the relief society president told me to “go kick his ass” in regards to her husband’s home teaching record. That was a first for me.

  36. tom on June 22, 2004 at 10:54 pm

    My favorite articles from the defunct LDS Onion (aka “the Sugar Beet”) were those about Relief Society. For example, Relief Society Attendees Display Apathy to Ignorant Claims
    and this one, my favorite, “Relief Society Sister Makes Declarative Statement.” It’s missing from the archive…

  37. Heather Oman on June 23, 2004 at 12:44 am

    Why are there not more women on this site? Well, I’m sorry if I going to offend anybody, but there are probably not more LDS woman on this blog because the so-called “typical” LDS woman, the uneducated, shrinking violet, emotionally, sexually, intellectually oppressed woman frankly is too busy to be sitting in front of a computer all day long responding to this kind of stuff. We are out taking our kids to the zoo, doing the dishes (although here I have to admit, Nate does the dishes in our house), cooking dinner, driving our kids to swim lessons, bringing meals to women who are ill, visiting women in the hospital, reading books for book group, babysitting for neighbors, preparing RS lessons, tracking down new members, taking our kids to preschool, etc, etc. Please do not assume that just because some woman have other things to do that there aren’t a whole gaggle of interesting, intellectually stimulating woman out there who frankly just don’t choose to be a part of this discussion, or who don’t speak up in Relief Society because their intellectual beef just might chase the spirit away, and to what end? I’m sorry, I just get tired of these kind of discussions, and I get a little bit angry. Of COURSE Julie and Kristin are the exception, not the rule. They would be the exception, not the rule in ANY group of women because they are a whole hell of a lot smarter than most everybody on this planet. Virtually 10 years of Relief Society service has taught me at least one thing–there is NO SUCH THING as the typical LDS women. She is a myth. Not only that, she’s not even a very likeable one. And after the things that have been said about her on this blog, who would want to be her anyway?

  38. Heather Oman on June 23, 2004 at 12:52 am

    Ok, I’ve got more. What was the phrase–put in a quarter?..

    “Some of the T&S female bloggers seem to me atypical in part because they seem unafraid to broach these topics.”

    But let’s take a look at the fora we are talking about. Is Relief Society the place to broach some of the topics we have broached here? No, absolutely not. I think that’s why we all like it here–it is an appropriate place to vent all of our beefs, and it works. I don’t think it would work in Relief Society, ever. Again, why would you want it too? Don’t get me wrong–I am as in favor of lively discussion as anybody, and I have left many a meeting feeling like I was drugged with boredom. But it does not serve a ward to be divisive with comments in Relief Society. I’ve seen it done, and nobody wins.

  39. Davis Bell on June 23, 2004 at 1:25 am

    Michelle: my comment that you quoted was in response to Kaimi’s following comment:

    “And there you have it, the problem in a nutshell. An intelligent, outspoken LDS woman makes an offhand remark about intelligent, outspoken LDS women; another intelligent, outspoken LDS woman puts the remark under the microscope for further discussion, and suddenly the male heirarchy closes in. A few cryptic remarks from Lyle, a generalization by Nate about how he dislikes generalizations, and we’ve got the women on the run.

    And what shall we do now? Simple — exacerbate it! Press forward, men! Be manly! Let’s finish these outspoken women off while they’re reeling! Sing it together with me, “The world has need of willing men . . .”

    It struck me as ironic that he thought our treatment of your comment was sexist, when in reality, in my opinion, we were simply treating your comment with the same scrutiny we would that of another male participant. Indeed, I thought it a bit sexist that the conversation was seen in terms of gender and oppresion, rather than several intelligent, able people discussing thier ideas and convictions. Of course, I could be misinterpreting Kaimi’s meaning. In any event, my characterization of you and others as “hapless, helpless women who are incapable of defending their ideas or expressing their thoughts without his patronage” was tongue-firmly-in-cheek. Forgive me for any misunderstanding.

  40. Frank McIntyre on June 23, 2004 at 10:47 am

    “doing the dishes (although here I have to admit, Nate does the dishes in our house)”

    Note to Oman Household, Purchase a dishwasher. They are available (portable and non) in fine establishments everywhere.

  41. Heather Oman on June 23, 2004 at 7:26 pm

    Frank–oh, to dream the impossible dream! The rest of y’all might be dreaming about floor to ceiling bookshelves with ladders ala Beauty and the Beast, but here, in post-law school -pre law firm salary -still paying off Harvard debt land, we only dream of such stuff as having a dishwasher AND a laundry room. Such luxury surely must be sinful.

  42. Kingsley on June 23, 2004 at 7:31 pm

    Heather Oman writes: “Is Relief Society the place to broach some of the topics we have broached here? No, absolutely not. I think that’s why we all like it here–it is an appropriate place to vent all of our beefs, and it works. I don’t think it would work in Relief Society, ever.”

    Kingsley: Very nicely put. I would say the same thing about priesthood meetings & Sunday School.

  43. Juliann on June 27, 2004 at 2:21 pm

    Michele says: I don’t know how many of these thoughts or feelings can be generalized to other LDS women. Obviously, we are a diverse lot. But the question was raised, why are there not more female participants on this blog?
    _____

    I have been online and posting in religion forums for many years now. When I posted my academic interests under a gender neutral name I was always (without one exception) taken to be a man. When I began posting under my given name, I noticed that if I did not begin with my scholar sources I was treated with dismissiveness. For anyone who does not think that it makes a difference being known as woman, I challenge you to post under a female name and begin with a chatty rather than academic styled comment. Women who post aggressively or have a pointed style are also treated much more harshly. Given a sample of a heated exchange, men will generally not start throwing the adjectives at each other that they will give the women who will not back down. That is, of course, a very unscientific opinion.

    As for this forum, I have found it to be quite unwelcoming. If I were new to the internet, I would be intimated since few posts are acknowledged unless you are one of the group who seems to know each other. Although I realize that there are not many women here, I have found it jarring to see a thread on women immediately taken over by men discussing and arguing about us. It is off-putting.

    For women in general, there is an LDS culture that values silence over contention. This is not always a bad thing except that women are lost in history because we do not make noise…not because we are not the shakers and movers. The model of woman in general conference is such a caricature that I generally tune out the minute one starts speaking. Most have the “primary voice” that has a really annoying little lip smack at the end of their words and they always seem to have that poofy hair. We need more Sheri Dew types up there.

    I strongly disagree that the former generation of “Mormon feminists” have done anything but set us back a few decades by wrapping an important message in arrogant, self-serving and divisive rhetoric.