Mormon Times says religion can be bad, but not theirs
I couldn’t help but stop by MormonTimes.com for this headline, “Elizabeth Smart case shows best and worst of religion’s influence“. I thought since Brian David Mitchell is a splinter from Mormonism the writers at MormonTimes might suggest something really “out there,” like, maybe, Mormonism can, in fact, be bad for humanity if certain ideas and practices are emphasized rather than others. Okay, the odds of that happening are virtually zero. But the headline grabbed my attention. Instead, what we get is efforts to distance Mitchell from Mormonism and even from religion, like the following:
In fact, when Mitchell used his quasi-religious beliefs to justify victimizing Elizabeth Smart, religion itself came under fire.
In the local press, some commentators compared Mitchell to Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asserting that Smith also used claims of religious authority to victimize others. If some people have trouble distinguishing the likes of Mitchell from Smith, Smart does not. In her testimony she denounced Mitchell as an evil hypocrite.
The article fails to admit that this assertion – that Mitchell and Smith both did use their religious authority to victimize others – is true, and even in the same way: they claimed divine retribution against girls if they didn’t stick their penis in their vagina. I don’t mean to suggest that Smith and Mitchell are the same; as far as I know Smith never actually abducted any women and raped them over a lengthy period of time. He was a much smoother operator and apparently liked variety over domination. But the method employed wasn’t that different.
The article then turns its focus to how Mormonism has helped Elizabeth Smart cope with her trauma:
Faith in God helped Smart cope with violence, even violence hypocritically perpetrated in God’s name. When asked by KSL-TV why she chose to serve a Mormon mission, Elizabeth said she wanted others to know what she knows: “Whatever could happen to me, whatever happens to me, I will always be with my family,” she said. “I know that there is a God and he loves us, and that no matter what people can take from you or do to you or harm you, they can’t take that away from you.”
I don’t want to dismiss the fact that it does seem to have helped Elizabeth. I’m glad Elizabeth is doing well and I do hope she continues to do well in light of the trauma she suffered.
I just think the phrasing of the article, using qualifiers every time it talks about Mitchell’s religion (“hypocritical”, “quasi-religious,” “quirky”), is interesting. It isn’t uncommon for people to insist that those like them who behave in deplorable ways are, in fact, not like them. My favorite example of this was what a student in one of my classes said when I noted that there are Christian terrorists. The student said, “I’m a Christian. I would never do that. So, they can’t be Christians.” This perfectly illustrates my point: Mormons are, well, Mormons. And since they value their religion and think of it as a good thing, they have a hard time believing that their religion could motivate people to do abhorrent things.
News Flash for the MormonTimes: Religion isn’t necessarily good or bad; it can be used in good ways and bad ways. Religion doesn’t make people good. And quasi-religion doesn’t make them bad. What do you say you add a little nuance to your articles that better reflects reality?
“Religion doesn’t make people good” — this has been something i’ve tried to assert as of late myself. it’s a dangerous argument, i think, especially since it convinces people that they wouldn’t/couldn’t be good without god. so they stay.
gotta love the MormonTimes.
this reminds me a little of my evangelical stepmom who allowed her young child to roam free at a christian concert, simply because “they’re all christians here”
Is not religion REQUIRED to make a good person do bad (in the name of their god)?
“Is not religion REQUIRED to make a good person do bad (in the name of their god)?”
Some think so.
“With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
The student said, Im a Christian. I would never do that. So, they cant be Christians.
Someone needs to acquaint the student with the No True Scotsman fallacy.
“In fact, when Mitchell used his quasi-religious beliefs to justify victimizing Elizabeth Smart, religion itself came under fire.”
I rather wonder how it is the Mormon Times differentiates between “religion” and “quasi-religion”. Perhaps it’s the same way some Christians determine who is, or is not, a “True Christian”.
Mitchell didn’t use his “religious authority” to rape Elizabeth Smart.
He used a knife.
Do I get to blame atheism for the Columbine shooters now?
Mitchell didn’t use a knife to rape Elizabeth Smart. He used a knife to kidnap her. He used his penis to rape her. He used his religious beliefs to justify both.
At least the jury thought so, since that was the basic argument the prosecution used to establish that Mitchell wasn’t crazy: he was relying on beliefs, practices and teachings well established and recognizable within his community, not fabricating stuff out of thin air, meaning the whole business of middle-aged men somehow being considered anything but total sexual predators when they say that God commanded them, on penalty of death, to marry adolescent girls.
Not that it is any excuse, ff42, but any utopian belief system can motivate self-righteous ruthlessness, it doesn’t have to be religious.
Lenin, Mao, and Pol Pot wanted to create heaven on earth. The holy inquisition wanted to save souls for the hereafter. Either way, the abuses were unspeakable because certain people presume that they can foretell the future and therefore know what’s best for the rest of us.
Given how Joseph Smith behaved in Missouri and Nauvoo, I cannot tell if there is a difference between him and those other characters or if he was simply much less powerful. While Joseph did not go as far as the 20th century tyrants, he did cross the line of violence in the service of some self-proclaimed “greater good.” So there are indications either way.
It does not really matter. It’s not about individuals but about creating institutions and a culture where you can hold the powerful accountable.
I guess, there has been progress in Mormonism since Brigham Young’s demise. Now the prophet has to obtain the unanimous consent of the fifteen apostles, which is better than being ruled by the whims and moods of one.
Elder Oaks’s emphasis of seeking personal confirmation for priesthood leaders’ instruction is also a step in the right direction. The problem is that you are only allowed to talk about the revelations that you receive if they happen to confirm the instructions from the hierarchy, which in the long run usually turn out to be personal opinions.
However if anyone says as much at the time, you will be quickly dispatched as an apostate, even when lives are on the line.
Clearly, relying on the congregationalist roots of Mormonism, the Community of Christ has created a healthier approach to power and authority than our church. The people who pay and who do the work ought to be able to speak their mind without having their motives questioned and being ostracized.
Hellmut, that reminded me of this poem from Ira Levin’s creepy sci-fi novel This Perfect Day:
(Wood and Wei are characters in the novel.)
Somehow rapists always manage to find justification for doing what it is they do from whatever ethical system and world view they happen to hold at the time.
No one blames “optimism” when an optimist rapes someone. I don’t see what the use is of blaming Mormonism when a Mormon rapes someone.
is it the optimism that causes an optimist to rape someone? Even from the optimist rapist’s perspective?
Even if the rapist happens to be an optimist, I don’t often hear of “optimism” being the ethical system/worldview that the rapist ever uses to justify what they did. Not even theoretically, in reductiones ad absurdum.
When optimism has a fully developed idea about sex that privileges male power and commands women to submit and is discussed at length in optimists’ sacred texts, your comparison will be something other than laughable and absurd, Seth.
Seth, I think you’re missing the point of the original post. The author of the Mormontimes piece said that Mitchell used religion to JUSTIFY his actions. So, too, did Joseph Smith. No one said Mormonism causes rape. That’s a strawman. Of course it doesn’t, at least not directly. It serves as a tool to justify the immoral behaviors of both Mitchell and Smith. And that is a bad thing. Mormonism inspires very positive behavior, too. But the point of my post was that the Mormontimes piece minimized the harm religion can do while maximizing the benefit. That seems disingenuous.
As far as Mormonism leading to rape, it probably contributes by: discouraging pre-marital sex, encouraging patriarchy, and encouraging women to be passive objects of beauty, all of which are characteristics of cultures where rape is common.
I’d say that discouraging pre-marital sex is far from established as a contributing factor to higher incidence of rape. In fact, I’d be inclined to argue the opposite.
And since rapes happen just as much at enlightened places like Harvard as they do at other places like Provo, Utah – I think the claim that the LDS paradigm is somehow producing a greater incidence of rape is suspect as well. Mind you, I’m not really invested in this – I’m willing to accept the idea that religion produces both good and bad results – like any powerful and motivating idea. But I don’t find this to be established.
In fact, since alcohol consumption seems to be such a big factor in at least college age rapes:
I would think the rape incidence lower in a Mormon context rather than higher.
Speaks of the supporting role that exclusively all male groups have in defining women as “other” in promoting a rape mentality:
But here in mentions bars, fraternities, and places where men are encouraged to talk about women sexually – which doesn’t fit much with LDS all-male institutions at all.
Of course, rape is one of those things where effectiveness of law enforcement, willingness to report, and such are all in question. So in a sense, we are all talking out of our hats here.
Too many hyperlinks. Comment in moderation.
shazam! now I’m fishing comments out of spam filters on three sites!
Speaking of strawmen…. so what if factors outside of Mormonism lead to rape more often than factors within Mormonism? That’s not the point. The point isn’t that Mormonism is the only belief system that canonizes ideologies that justify sexually predatory behavior by men. The point is that no matter what is going on in other systems of belief, Mormonism canonizes ideologies that justify sexually predatory behavior by men–and in fact claims those ideologies are the pinnacle of righteous living.
Given that profxm said explicitly, “No one said Mormonism causes rape,” it’s rather strange that you would respond, “I think the claim that the LDS paradigm is somehow producing a greater incidence of rape is suspect as well.”
What’s most suspect about that statement is the fact that no one here ever made it. So what on earth are you responding to?
“As far as Mormonism leading to rape, it probably contributes by: discouraging pre-marital sex, encouraging patriarchy, and encouraging women to be passive objects of beauty, all of which are characteristics of cultures where rape is common.”
so explain how that passage you quote, which acknowledges doubt (hence the word “probably” rather than the word “definitely”) and discusses contributing factors rather than a sole cause, translates into an assertion that “the LDS paradigm is somehow producing a greater incidence of rape.”
It doesn’t, but I admit I’d like to see your explanation.
Shrug. It’s possible, and perhaps even likely, that my comments don’t match up exactly with profxm’s assertions (or non-assertions). But I think people here can manage to figure that out for themselves. I don’t have much to add at the moment.
I don’ t know if Mormonism encourages rape. Surely, we can all agree that it encourages the domination of women.
Aspects of Mormonism encourage it. Perhaps the symbology of the temple, for instance.
But I don’t experience that kind of culture in my wards, in General Conference, at Deseret Book, at BYU, or many many other sources of Mormon culture and norms.
Seth, you must be living in a ward where your daughters get to pass, prepare, and bless the sacrament.
Seth R. wrote, regarding the assertion that the LDS church encourages the domination of women: I dont experience that kind of culture in my wards, in General Conference, at Deseret Book, at BYU, or many many other sources of Mormon culture and norms.
See why I say he’s an apologist, Hellmut? And isn’t at all interested in truth and accuracy? Somehow he imagines that LDS culture is immune from influence by its sexist doctrines and practices, that the symbology in the temple doesn’t hold meaning for Mormons outside the temple, doesn’t affect the way they see the world and their relationships. He can listen to conference, with its myriad talks about divinely ordained gender roles, and then tell us that he, in his privileged position as a straight white guy, doesn’t experience any sort of culture that encourages the domination of women. The domination of women is so invisible and insignificant to him that he can’t be bothered to look at the ways he does experience it. He experiences it every day; it just doesn’t register.
Hellmut, that’s a good point, but I think you can only take that message so far.
I’ve always said that symbolically, the image of women in the LDS Church is a bit lacking (I don’t think it’s horribly lacking – but the deficiency isn’t trivial in my mind either). But the reality of the culture is something else entirely. Both aspects of the culture need to be properly acknowledged.
But the reality of the culture is something else entirely.
No it’s not.
The culture is thoroughly misogynist. It’s misogynist for innumerable reasons, including the fact that the most sacred ritual in the church places women–or rather, one single solitary woman, in contrast to the half a dozen or so men who show up in the temple ceremony–in a subordinate position, with Eve being told that Adam will rule over her (that’s pretty explicit domination), and that furthermore, in the temple women have to stand chest to chest and knee to knee with some man (and it is indeed a man) they don’t know and exchange a bunch of handshakes, a thoroughly creepy act of that reinforces both the psychological and physical subordination of women. It’s misogynist because its sacred texts advocate a thoroughly unegalitarian form of marriage–and tell women that if they don’t submit to it, they’ll be damned. It’s misogynist because it creates a culture where people argue that a middle-aged man who told adolescent girls that they had to marry him or else he’d be killed and they’d suffer eternal torment is not in fact a sexual predator but is instead the most important religious figure since Jesus Christ himself.
And that’s just for starters.
Here’s an easy way to start seeing the misogyny in the church: in any given situation, ask yourself: where are the women? Are there even any women present? If not, that’s a problem, because cultures that value women let them be participate in its most important acts. If there are women present, what are they doing? Do they equal men in number? Do they lead or obey? Do they act or are they passive? Do they have both power and authority? if so, are they not only allowed but encouraged to exercise both on a par with men?
Revisit General Conference and answer those questions.
“I don t know if Mormonism encourages rape. Surely, we can all agree that it encourages the domination of women.”
I think that the patriarchal structure of Mormonism *requires* that women submit.
Great discussion — a lot of excellent points!
I the interest of keeping it civil, I think it would be better to avoid labeling Seth an “apologist” (unless he self-identifies as such) since it’s a bit of a pejorative around here. Also, this remark is making speculations about Seth’s motives and character. It’s fine (actually encouraged) to point out logical fallacies in others’ arguments, but it’s better not to take it to the next step of drawing such personal conclusions.
Naturally, if you disagree with my assessment, or if you have a complaint about any of Seth’s remarks, you are welcome to say so.
This line from ProfXM’s excerpt is a good example of why Mormon Times probably ought to let other papers run with certain stories and why TSCC might be better-served if MT would sometimes just leave well enough alone:
Quick, don’t think of
Joseph Smith a religious con man a pervertan elephant.
Good luck with that.
But hey, I’m impressed to see a review of that new Jack Anderson bio over at MT. If MT could focus on more under-reported Mormon stories like the Feldstein book instead of playing me-too with the Mitchell trial, that’d be great.
Seth, you’re right that alcohol consumption is a contributing factor to rape. I’m not going to argue that. And I will also admit that I’m not an expert on rape. I cover this topic in my class on Human Sexuality and, according to the information I’ve read, there is no simple explanation for rape and no profile of rapists.
However, there are some cultures where rape is more common, and since humans are biologically pretty much the same across cultures, sociologists turn to cultures to explain differences in the rape rates. Lots of things contribute, like: patriarchy, misogyny, objectifying women, etc. Included is limited access to consensual sex (leading some to pursue illegitimate access to sex), which will occur in cultures where pre-marital sex is frowned upon, like in Mormonism. Also included is discouraging masturbation, which is another knock on Mormonism.
Thus, I do think it is fair to say that some of the characteristics of Mormon culture may contribute to rape, while others may discourage it. We can look at the statistics for Utah (as a proxy for Mormonism) and, based on those statistics, arrive at certain conclusions.
So, what do the data say? The US ranks 9th in the world in rape rates (i.e., 9th highest rate; see here: http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_rap_percap-crime-rapes-per-capita). Within the US, Utah ranks 19th (per here: http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2010/tables/10s0297.xls). What does this tell us? If we can assume that Utah’s culture is still heavily influenced by Mormonism, then Mormonism is not doing much to prevent rape relative to other states in the U.S.
Again, Seth, I’m not saying “Mormons = rapists” or that “Mormon theology = rape is okay.” Nope. Not saying that. What I am saying is there are characteristics of Mormon theology that are known to correlate with higher incidences of rape. That may contribute to rape.
I’m also saying that Mormonism can be used to justify sexual victimization. Yes, so can Islam or Judaism or Christianity generally. Again, that doesn’t mean those religions make people rapists. It simply means it can be used to justify rape. I don’t think the same could be said of atheism or optimism – there is nothing in these worldviews that suggests women should be submissive to men in any way.
profxm, the rape rate for the United States is almost certainly inflated.
Any responsible study of rape statistics will freely admit (and the one you refer to most likely does as well) that the rape numbers are largely determined mostly by two top factors:
1. The prevalence and effectiveness of law enforcement (who report the numbers) and
2. The willingness of women to officially report the crime.
This is why the US ranks so high most likely – not because more rapes happen here (I find it ridiculous to suggest that more rapes per capita occur here than in… say… the Congo), but because it’s better reported here than just about anywhere else.
I don’t disagree that factors in any culture (including Mormon culture) contribute in their own unique way to sexual crimes.
I actually agree with your last paragraph conclusion in the original post. In fact, I’ll take the notion that religion isn’t necessarily positive or negative one step further and posit that if religion did NOT have the capacity to negatively motivate people, it would be an indicator that it wasn’t sufficiently potent to fulfill even its positive sides very well.
Seth, I disagree. If it were simply an issue of effectiveness of law enforcement and women being willing to report crimes (suggesting, therefore, that rape rates are universally equivalent), then Western European rape rates would no doubt be close to what is being reported in the U.S. That is clearly not the case.
In order for your assertion to be true, you have to accept the following:
1) women are raped at the same rate around the world
2) prevalence and effectiveness of law enforcement in other highly developed countries (e.g., Japan, Norway, Sweden, Finland, etc.) is worse than it is in the US
3) women in other developed countries are less likely to report rapes than are women in the US
None of those assertions are likely to be true. And, in fact, based on the evidence I’ve seen, rape rates are actually under-estimates as over 50% of women who are raped never report it (often because it was under murky circumstances where they aren’t sure if they consented because they were inebriated or it was their spouse or significant other). So, maybe the US is a little high compared to the Congo (which isn’t on the list because there is no reporting), but I fail to see how your argument works for South Africa, which is clearly much higher than the US, less developed, and likely has worse law enforcement.
So, if you’re willing to concede that your suggestion that rape rates are lower in the US is flawed, then we are forced to look at why rape rates might be higher in the US than in other developed countries. Proclivity to rape is likely universal. Why, then, are rates higher in the US? Current best evidence suggests a misogynistic culture that is also sexually repressed.
Here’s a fun statistic for you: rape rates are lower in countries with legalized prostitution. Hmmm….
You and I might be looking at different studies.
I just came from looking at a worldwide survey that ranked fifty nations and the US scored far higher in rates than Zimbabwe – which is clearly ridiculous given the multiple reports from central and south Africa I’ve been listening to all year about the huge problem of rape in that region.
I wasn’t talking about comparisons to France and Germany.
If you’re looking at a different study that suggests rates are higher in the US than in Zimbabwe, I’d be really, really surprised by that. As far as I know, there is very little data on rape rates in most African countries, and the ones we have data for are very disturbing. So, maybe we are looking at different data. I was going off the link I provided which shows the US at #9 of about 65 countries, but that means over 100 countries aren’t included. In that list, the US ranks above pretty much every other developed country.
Sure. Even the study I was looking at was acknowledging that law enforcement and reporting rates were the determining factors – and why the US was ranking higher than some of those other countries. But I don’t have an opinion on how the US stacks up to the developed world.
I seriously doubt the US’s rape rates are lower than Japan for instance. I happen to know that culture, and women there are actually known to get “felt up” in Tokyo subways and not say anything. I imagine the rate of reporting of rape in Japan is abysmal.
Holly @ 26:
Blanket statements like this seem unhelpful. Any time I bring up feminism with my mother, she tunes out because she assumes that “feminism” must mean “anti-Mormon” (and that “Mormon” means “anti-feminist”). I’ve made some headway with her by emphasizing that feminism begins with every woman, including LDS women, so by definition, Mormonism and feminism can’t be mutually exclusive. We should work between the idea of women as victims in the culture and the idea of what liberation would look like, since there’s more than one version of feminist liberation. In a lot of ways, it’s up to Mormon women (and men) to decide what this will look like. It’s up to me and whoever else to say to Mormons: “Look, I can’t join your faith because you don’t ordain women” (notwithstanding a bunch of other issues).
I agree with you, Seth, about the larger point about the comparative statistics of rapes by country. But let me tweak it a little bit.
Rapes in the United States are not over reported. Rather in other countries, rapes are even more under-reported than in the western world. I would expect that sexual abuse is most under-reported in places with high ratios of inequality. When people have power, they use it to obtain sexual favors, like Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Smith. Then they use their power to suppress reports of their abuse, again Smith is a good illustration of that behavior.
For that reason, I also suspect that rape and other sexual abuse rates are higher in places where women have little power.
Another indicator of high rates of sexual abuse are cultures that suppress sexuality.
For all those reasons, sexual abuse rates ought to be at record levels on the Arab peninsula, where, by the way, alcohol consumption rates are also the lowest in the world.
Speaking of the western world, the United States is consistently more violent since the beginning of time than other developed nations. If we compare ourselves to countries with similar levels of development, we will probably lead the pack with respect to rape and sexual abuse even though our peers have pretty good, if not superior, data collection efforts.
I don’t want to apply that Mormonism without data but after reading the case files of the Mormon Alliance, I doubt that we can reasonably claim that our church has been dealing better with ecclesiastical sex abuse of children than the Roman Catholic Church, for example.
However, for context, 2010 was the year of uncovering child sex abuse in Germany after similar scandal waves in the United States and Ireland. It turned out that Lutheran and secular boarding schools and orphanages suffered from the same maladies as Catholic institutions, which suggests to me that the abuse is primarily rooted in the discrepancy of power between children and their “care takers” rather than celibacy or other religious practices.
Catholic, Lutheran and secular reform schools, it appears were also equally complicit in covering up child sex abuse.
Largely I agree with the gist of this Hellmut, but I don’t think I really buy the correlation between cultural sexual repression and higher incidence of rape. At least, not when you put it that simply.
It depends on what KIND of sexuality is being “repressed,” and how it is being repressed.
I stood on a morning commuter train in Japan and had a middle-aged Japanese businessman sitting there with a porn mag on his lap in full view with a centerfold of some woman elaborately tied up, and sitting right across from him with a clear view of the centerfold was a 20 something woman also commuting to work. Even while I’m stealing glances at the magazine (you’re darn right I looked – I was 19), I couldn’t help but feel a little outraged that this guy didn’t even give a damn, and was being so disrespectful of the woman sitting across from him (and anyone else in the vicinity).
She didn’t comment even once and didn’t even indicate she had noticed (the Japanese are good at this), but there was really no way she didn’t see it.
I found out over my two years there, that this disregard for women, and objectification of women is commonplace in Japan. I saw Japanese teens and college guys treat their girlfriends shockingly badly (“here woman, get my gym bag ready – and make sure you have a sports drink ready when I’ve finished team drills”). But sex was openly advertised and celebrated everywhere. They were very open about it. They, after all, had none of these Christian Puritan hangups about sex being “dirty” and all that. It was on display everywhere, and a rather high percentage of Japanese women claimed not to mind so much if their husbands had affairs – just so long as he kept it discreet and didn’t cause a public scene. You could find more “love hotels” in Japan than McDonalds and convenience stores put together (we even accidentally tried to put Book of Mormons in one of them once…. oops.). Japanese high school kids openly talk about porn in front of their female classmates and even bring it to class to oggle (and believe me – they are into some REALLY messed up varieties of porn).
Honestly, the level of misogyny and callous disregard over there makes Boyd K. Packer look like Terry Tempest Williams.
So no, they aren’t really “repressed” sexually I would say. But the culture is a lot more dangerous for women than ours in several respects (and more safe in other ways).
This is not an area that lends itself well to generalizations.
And study of porn use and impact is deplorably underfunded and neglected in the United States.
Two issues going on: the helpfulness of blanket statements in general, and the helpfulness of THAT particular blanket statement.
You were quite willing to make blanket statements in your discussion of “Mormonism, disability and same-gender attraction, such as “Biologism is problematic for everybody” and ” But, if youre like me and youve been hearing biology your whole life, you move back to choice, because biology isnt really all that liberating.”
I am certain you haven’t heard biologism for as much of your life as any woman alive, since we are treated differently from the moment our sex is known, whether in the womb or just after we exit it. However early your gayness manifested itself, it wasn’t at the moment you were born. You will NEVER have to deal with the ramifications of biologism in ways that women do. And yet, for all of that, feminists are often very focused on biology, becasue it is a genuine factor we must confront–not just in forming our identity, but in determining what sort of health care we get, and how much money gets spent on it, and what sorts of violence we are subjected to, and how much money we can earn in certain jobs.
In other words, I don’t think you really have a problem with blanket statements as such, despite their likelihood of being wrong.
As for the specifics of the statement that LDS culture is thoroughly misogynist–well, it might be not particularly helpful for older matrons who don’t undestand either feminism or misogyny and remain committed to LDS culture and doctrine. For younger women who do understand feminism and misogyny, stating the truth about LDS culture is actually quite helpful.
Seth R @36:
I happen to know US culture, and women here are actually known to get “felt up” in US subways, grocery stores, night clubs and not say anything. I know for a fact that the rate of reporting of rape in the US is abysmal.
Holly@41: I thought the biologism argument for homosexuality is that people are “born that way.” So, according to this theory, wouldn’t my gayness have been manifest when I was born?
A woman’s femaleness as manifested when she’s born…well, isn’t this just a reduction of a woman to her body parts? Political arguments based in biologism are dehumanizing and problematic. You’re right…I have no problem with blanket statements.
But in terms of Mormon misogyny, what about young women who remain committed to LDS culture and doctrine, the daughters of those mothers who were turned off by 1970s feminists who homogenized all LDS women as “victims?” Are you prepared to conclude that women who are Mormon, Catholic, Muslim (all faiths that centralize maleness) are just ignorant of their own victimization? Actually, how about any woman who centralizes a male god in her life? My point is that there is more than just one feminism. This is not to downplay the social justice element of equality that I think you and I both share, but simply to recognize the reality of how “feminism” is taken up by multiple audiences.
Thanks, Seth That’s interesting. I expect that we can account for the Japanese case in terms of the balance of power.
Observing the manifestation of the child sex abuse scandals in Germany, I am beginning to suspect that power relations are more important than theology and culture. Insofar, of course, as one can separate power from culture at all.
I think that’s a likely correlation Hellmut. Can’t verify it, but rape is more about power manifestations than anything. There are certainly aspects of LDS culture and structure that can (and probably do) contribute to that. But they will be hard to isolate from the broader surrounding culture I think.
I was born in 1971 to a faithful LDS mom who shunned the word “feminist” and fought the ERA — while teaching her daughters a lot of feminist values. Your statement is infuriatingly reductionist and polarizing, steamrollering over the complexity of the situation for women who value and internalize some gender roles while struggling and chafing against others.
Yes. And the fact of the matter is, women ARE reduced to their body parts in many ways, which is a reality feminists must confront. Pretending otherwise doesn’t solve the problem of misogyny but instead makes it impossible to solve.
for instance, across the world, even in industrialized ostensibly egalitarian countries like ours, female infants are nursed less often, for shorter periods and weaned sooner than male babies. It’s even more obvious and extreme in third world countries, where you’ll see fat, healthy male babies, and skinny, undernourished female babies.
Women are alloted fewer of the world’s resources from the day they are born, simply on the basis of their genitals.
Political arguments based in biologism are dehumanizing and problematic.
Says who? The theorists you’re reading in grad school? I read them all in the 1990s, the heyday of theory, for my PhD. I think they’re wrong and I think you’re wrong. One of the things that drove me crazy about coursework was the fact that so much theory seemed as oblivious to reality as so much theology. Embodiment is our most basic reality. Everything we know we know through our senses, which are rooted in our bodies and our biology.
However much the fact that women are treated differently because of their bodies offends the theoretical construct you want to work with, it’s still the truth.
BTW, I’d like to give a slightly different twist to counterbalance my earlier negative comment. Ever since reading your earlier remark about conservative backlash against the 70’s, I’ve spent my afternoon walk reminiscing about the 70’s and what a great time it was to be a kid!
Speaking of backlash, it’s true that a lot of the social changes of the 60’s really were a fringe “counter-culture” movement — the average person (even youth) was still living in the 50’s (from a modern perspective). My dad — who grew up a Southern Baptist — attended Berkley in 1969, and that’s where he converted to Mormonism. He was horrified enough by the counter-culture to run as fast as he could in the other direction: into the arms of the Mormons.
By the 70’s, though, a lot of liberal ideas (especially feminism) weren’t fringe anymore — they were mainstream. Even conservative (religious, Republican) households like ours were affected, and had a mixed reaction: embracing some new values, rejecting others. I remember singing “Free to be You and Me” with other Mormon kids. (Not at church, mind you, but with other Mormon kids.) And it was all just normal to me at the time because (being a kid) I didn’t have any other era to compare it to.
Every new idea provokes a certain amount of backlash. Feminism, in particular, is a very tricky theory because females make up more than half the population. They don’t have the same interests, backgrounds, and opportunities. It is extremely difficult (sometimes impossible) to decide what is the “the feminist position” on any given issue.
Let’s say you were also born with a propsenity for male patterned baldness and premature graying. That would not have manifest at birth, would it?
To continue what I was saying about women being treated differently because of their body parts…. Let’s not forget the issue of female infanticide, the fact that more female fetuses are aborted and more female infants murdered than male babies, simply because of what their groins look like.
that’s a pretty stark reality. And until it’s changed, you’ll understand, Alan, why I shrug off as naive and worthless your assertion that “Political arguments based in biologism are dehumanizing and problematic.”
Women are dehumanized because of their biology, and constructing theories and arguments that ignore that fact will not result in their elevation to fully human status.
Sorry Seth r., but there is an inverse correlation between rape and porn. The more porn, the fewer rapes. Try this article.