a couple articles I noted this week…

Some good pieces out this week focusing on gender in the Church.

(For a classic lengthy article on Mormon masculinity, check out this old Sunstone article from 1992.)

This piece is neat:

A couple passages from the interview stuck out for me —

My gut told me differently: […] if I kept [my sons] around Belmont, they would leave the Church because this group made them feel unusual. There were times when I would ask the congregations Boy Scout troop leader how my boys were doing, and he would say pretty good, considering. And I would ask, Considering what? and he said, Considering they dont have a father. This was in the 1980s.

This hit close to home for me. I remember feeling uncomfortable as a kid in the 1990s Church when elders would tell me to “look after my mother” and how I was “the man of the family” when I attended church with just my mother and my little sister. It’s so true… the idealized gender dynamics can really make kids feel like their family is broken if their family doesn’t match up to the ideal. The funny thing was, my parents were actually still married at the time; my father simply wasn’t interested in Mormonism. Either the elders didn’t know that, which I’m sure they did, or they were trying to plant seeds in me that my father was like some kind of parasite — for if he wasn’t “the man of the family,” then what was he?

Sister Dushku, youre right. He [Romney] treats women from outside [of Mormonism] wonderfully and with such respect. Women from the New York Times and businesses in Boston come, and he is the most respectful and relaxed person. He says hi to us but we are so clearly on the sidelines. Were not criticizing him, and we still support him, but we do think of you when it happens.

I had asked in a previous post whether Romney was capable of choosing a female VP. My answer was no — a Mormon man would not invite a woman into that powerful of a position. A commenter disagreed with me, stating that Romney has shown himself to work well with powerful women when he was governor.

It seems that there is a balancing act performed by powerful Mormon men with regards to their treatment of non-Mormon women versus Mormon women. Choosing a female VP would have brought this tension to the forefront, I think, maybe even for the Church as a whole — but I don’t see Romney being the kind of person to push that envelope. He just seems to be embodying the gendered tension his church has with America at large. Ann Romney, too…goodness, did anyone watch her RNC speech? It was uncomfortable to watch.

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3 Responses

  1. chanson says:

    The points about Mormonism and gender are interesting, but some of the statements within Joanna Brooks’s questions are almost more interesting. Specifically:

    “You know, giving interviewsthats breaking some unspoken Mormon cultural rules: like speaking outside the official chain of command, and only saying positive things about Mormonism in public, even if it skirts a complicated truth.”

    I’d be curious to hear Joanna give some explanation of how this applies to her own life. She has certainly taken some flack for speaking outside the official chain of command. Yet part of the reason she is accepted by many faithful Mormons as an (unofficial) representative because she follows the latter constraints pretty well. Like in this later question, for example:

    “Now you hold the position of Stake Relief Society president, which is a position of authority over the women in several congregationsparallel to the position of stake president once held by Mitt Romney.”

  2. Alan says:

    I get the sense that she utters things like that as an attempt to empower. Relief Society is what women have in the Church, and to say that it’s “parallel” includes a kind of “let’s make it truly parallel” type of reasoning.

    Reminds me of how she said on Daily Show interview in reference to Mormons marching in Pride parades this summer, that gay Mormons “belong to us. We’re not going to push them away!” Well, considering church policy inherently does push gays away, it might be better to speak the truth FIRST, and THEN be idealist. It’s not always appropriate to blend the two together.

  3. chanson says:


    It’s clear to people in the know that she means to describe how things should be in hopes of making it so. But it’s not clear to outsiders (a large part of her audience), and hence it’s misleading.

    Given the integrity issues the Newsroom is facing, it’s not helpful if the edgy-insider perspective on Mormonism embraces the same strategy of routinely using misleading half-truths when describing Mormonism (and then complaining that outsiders misrepresent Mormonism…)

    Anyway, the Stake Relief Society President is a respected position, but it’s only the presidency of one of the segments of the Stake (the adult women). The Stake Primary President could be called a “parallel” position to the Stake Relief Society President. But to claim it is “parallel” to the position of Stake President is like saying that being a Cabinet members (running one of the departments in the executive branch of the US government) is parallel to being president.

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