I was recently re-reading an article in Slate that talks about why some women refuse to refer to themselves as feminists, even when they clearly believe in equality for women and men. They aren’t giving up the right to vote. They believe women should have the ability to leave an abusive marriage. They believe women should have birth control options available to them. They believe women should be able to get college degrees and drive cars. They believe that women and men who are equally qualified should be paid equally to do equal work. But they don’t claim the label “feminist” for some reason, despite holding these feminist positions. Why is that?
I was partly curious about the article because disclaiming feminism is something I’ve heard fairly commonly at church. Mostly I think it’s misunderstanding what feminism is, assuming that it includes positions that are not necessary to all feminism, a strawman version of feminism. I’ve previously done a more comprehensive primer on feminism here.
My daughter was telling me about a “Meninists” group at her high school. It’s a group of boys who band together to oppose feminism and boost “men’s rights” awareness. I was reminded of that MRA wing-nut who was serial-killing women due to his sexual frustration. I said to my daughter, “Steer clear of those guys.” Her reply warmed this mother’s heart: “Obviously! I’m not an idiot.”
Many years ago, when I worked at Amex, one of my white male colleagues (who happened to be a Mormon) was lamenting all the diversity clubs. Amex is big on diversity, one of the best things about the work culture in my opinion. He said cynically that there was no “White Males” club. While the company would not have opposed the formation of such a group, preferring inclusion, I and several other leaders found his comment unsavory. It reminded me of children complaining about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day whining, “But when is it Children’s Day?” And the obvious answer is, “Every day is children’s day.”
When I lived in Singapore, a friend in Relief Society once introduced me as a feminist, which took me aback. I laughed and said, “Yes, of course I am, but so are you!” (she was). “And I assume we all are, right?” I pointed around the room. “We all believe in equal rights for women, don’t we? We all believe women should be paid equally for doing equal work, right?” They both agreed.
Elder Oaks is also a feminist. When he visited our stake in Singapore, he spent probably half his remarks talking about the importance of equal pay for women, and providing equal educational opportunities. I was actually somewhat surprised by the focus of his remarks for two reasons: 1) it was in the wake of the Ordain Women movement when women’s rights were at the forefront of conversations in the church, and 2) women are on the whole paid and educated equally in Singapore, at least they were in my experience at a professional global company. We had more women in high level leadership roles than men, and I was at the time the highest ranking in my work group in the country. While E. Oaks may not embrace the ordination of women, in supporting equal pay for equal work, he meets the basic definition.
Common misconceptions about feminism:
- That it’s anti-men. While there are perhaps some feminists who bash men (just as there are some men who bash women), that’s not a feature of the movement as a whole. One bad actor doesn’t spoil the whole movement. Most feminists care about equality, not supremacy, seeing equality as a partnership, not a zero sum game.
- A belief that it’s already been achieved. While Virginia Slims cigarettes proudly tout that “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby!” (yay! now women can also get lung cancer!), there’s still more to be achieved. Even if no living person today is a sexist (which we know is not the case), the systems and infrastructure that exist were built by a sexist culture. That’s one reason work place benefits are not structured to support either men whose wives work or women who work.
- That men’s rights will get lost in the shuffle. This comes in two flavors. Some men see the erosion of their privilege as a loss of basic rights, which is patently ridiculous (deserving of ridicule). For example, a man who left Star Wars: The Last Jedi remarking that “Any more men can’t be in leadership roles in the the movies,” is being deliberately obtuse. Just because ONE movie out of hundreds of thousands features women in leadership roles doesn’t mean that men are now oppressed. Get over yourselves. The other type of men’s rights’ complaint which is more valid is that patriarchy hurts men as well as women by pigeonholing them in ways that don’t always serve their interests. But it’s a strawman argument because many feminists DO care about these issues and push for parental benefits (not just maternal benefits).
Those who really don’t want women to be equal:
- Religious extremists. Usually this refers to people who interpret their religious texts as requiring women to remain in an inferior or subordinate role to men. For example, I was at a dinner with couples considering a business opportunity. One of these was an Evangelical couple from the south. Everyone was going around the table and introducing themselves. When we got to the wife of this couple, she didn’t make eye contact and bowed her head saying that as a wife it was her role to submit to her husband so he would do the introduction. I looked at her husband in alarm half expecting him to laugh because it had to be a joke, but instead I saw that his chest was puffed out with pride like a toddler who had just pooped in the potty all by himself.
- Men and women who benefit from women being inferior to men. From the article: “this could include women who want to be financially supported, and men who want to feel valued because of their financial support.” The Trump-voters who proudly proclaimed themselves “deplorables” may also fit into this group.
- People so opposed to abortion and pre-marital sex that they see any steps toward women having choice create a risk to be avoided. While it’s certainly possible to be against abortion while being a feminist, some will reject feminism on these grounds. The majority of feminists (but not all) would put these choices in the hands of women rather than the state.
Some dislike specific byproducts of feminism:
- Divisions between the sexes. Sure, pointing out the inequities that exist can bring those divisions to light (more than say 51% of the population quietly accepting the inequities while 49% enjoy their privilege in obliviousness), but addressing them will overall lead to better empathy and partnership, stronger marriages and communities.
- Women being portrayed as victims. There are some valid ways in which women have been oppressed or victimized by people or systems, and yet, ignoring this doesn’t empower them either. We can’t legislate or regulate disadvantages if we don’t acknowledge that they exist. For example, some like to think that marriages were stronger before it became so easy to get a divorce. For those who think that, consider the analogy of a cell phone contract. If you can leave at any time without being locked in to a multi-year contract, the company has to constantly re-win your business, providing better service, not treating you like crap knowing that you can’t leave. Which way is better for everyone?
- Being opposed to specific issues. There are too many of these ticky-tack issues to list. I will only add that you can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and feminists don’t have to all be on board with every thing every other feminist cooks up. There’s diversity of thought in the movement.
- Wanting equal focus on men’s rights. Most women support equality, not supremacy. It’s just that there’s more ground to make up for women to be treated equally, so the focus is there.
- Bigger problems in the world. Yes, world hunger is important to solve. Hopefully, we can address all areas that need improvement. We need to be able to walk and chew gum, not to be complacent about the progress to date.
- The belief that women have it “pretty good” in the western world by contrast to some areas. Granted that FGM and bride burnings are not generally an issue in the US. Most feminists recognize that countries have different levels of oppression toward women. That doesn’t get us off the hook on working toward equality. But likewise, it’s important that the women in more privileged circumstances don’t overlook the issues faced by other women in other countries.
While the above are issues that people in general might have with feminism, even if they are at core feminists, there are a few aspects to church cultures that create some church-specific disincentives to claiming the term:
- The church’s stance on the ERA. This one surprised me at the time because I had assumed that the church would support equality. The reasons for the opposition seemed tied up in a desire to keep women out of the work force (to retain male advantage for single income families), and in opposition to abortion (and specifically a fear of elective abortion), and also a (now discarded) opposition to birth control.
- SAHMs as preferred. President Benson’s talk to the Mothers in Zion created a regressive effect for women, encouraging them to forego careers in an increasingly dual-income economy. Some who support a single breadwinner model also believe that paying women less for equal work will encourage them to stay out of the workforce, although this means that women who must work are disadvantaged and creates other downstream negative impacts (e.g. leave policies that disproportionately punish women, leadership gaps, hostile work environments, and the inability for single or divorced women to support themselves or their children). Women who sacrificed their own dreams and independence to become a SAHM may be hesitant to support equal pay and rights for women.
- Anti-abortion views. This is an interesting one because the church is actually less anti-abortion than nearly every other conservative religion in the US, and yet many of our politically conservative members don’t realize this. Abortion is allowed when the health of the mother is at risk or for rape or incest. These caveats put us doctrinally in the pro-choice category comparatively. You can read more on this here. We also
- Polygamous roots. Interestingly, Mormon polygamists were at the forefront of fighting for the rights of women: to vote, to have a career outside the home, to divorce if they chose. Yes, it’s true that marriages with multiple wives and one husband can never truly be “equal,” mathematically, but having extra wives oddly gave women more choice than monogamy did. Yet we don’t typically remember this aspect of polygamy, instead focusing on the man as the Lord to his many subservient wives, more of a 1950s version of monogamous marriage.
- Heavenly mother’s downplayed role. While the existence of a Heavenly Mother should bolster the role of women in the church, our complete lack of knowledge about her, including not mentioning her in lessons and talks, means that there’s an unstated assumptions that she’s not a God like her husband or that she’s one of many subservient passive baby-farm wives.
- “There’s no agitation for that.” Pres. Hinckley claiming to Larry King that “there’s no agitation” for women’s ordination was behind the Ordain Women movement. There is agitation for women’s equality; there just isn’t much tolerance for it among the very conservative rank and file or leadership of our church. Agitation is a tool of progressives and liberals more than it is of conservatives.
- Patriarchal leadership. The fact that the church considers the term “patriarch” to be a positive makes things difficult since “patriarchy” is the system that has created advantages for men and disadvantaged women throughout history. Gender studies certainly don’t consider it a positive term, and neither do most people these days, given its history. Still, it’s a term that has lost favor over centuries, and the church is loath to drop traditions.
- Silence among membership. Too often, people not talking about equality means that people assume that nobody is for it. Some assume that it’s a political matter, others that it’s already been achieved, and some think that clearly [everybody/nobody] is for it anyway. Without speaking up, silence supports whatever belief people already have.
Let’s see what you think:
- Do you think Mormons have a harder time on average claiming feminism? Why or why not?
- Are there aspects of feminism that make you uneasy?
- Do you consider yourself a feminist?
I think Mormons have an easier time claiming feminism than most people in fundamentalist Christianity, but a harder time than the average man in the US. I can think of a couple of reasons.
One reason might be that believing members’ opinions on almost everything religious or political cluster around the opinions of the Q15 and Q70s. The leadership seems to be pursuing what they believe is equality without claiming feminism, so most members do, too. Claiming feminism would bring members out of step.
Another reason might be yesterday’s propaganda, and to a lesser extent, today’s. It’s hard to claim something you were brought up thinking is evil, even if you no longer think that it is. The propaganda problem is there in feminism, too: I think its past propaganda has soured a lot of Mormons on all of it.
Another reason might be the disparity between the LDS church’s teachings and actions. I realized just yesterday that while it continually *tells* my wife and daughters that they’re equal to men in worth, influence and responsibility, it continually *shows* them that they aren’t. Maybe at some deep level members recognize this. How can they, whose identity is wrapped up in the church, personally claim to support equality in every way while a little voice inside them says, “No, we really don’t”?
The one aspect of feminism that has made me uneasy is the denigration of motherhood by many of its founders and early adherents. I would like my daughters to have society’s full support in all the good they pursue, inside and outside the home. I understand that this has been changing. For what it’s worth, my believing wife’s reluctance to claim feminism comes down to this. She feels very well supported by the LDS church in her choice to raise children full time, but she doesn’t feel like she would get that kind of support from feminism.
I began to consider myself a feminist around the time that inequalities in the temple liturgy and covenants started making me upset. I converted fully when I realized that my daughters might naturally want or need something different out of life than what the church sets before them.
I think it is because many members associate feminists with specific outspoken factions.
So they espouse the virtues but not the vices.
I think a lot of younger women reject feminism thinking that it will put off mormon dates, and they’re probably right.
Which emphasises the importance of teaching feminism in the home as parents. ‘No success can compensate for failure in the home’. Good modeling from both fathers and mothers can show our children the benefits of co-operative and equal parenting in a way that no amount of teaching feminism outside the home can compensate for.
I think it comes down to Follow the Prophet (and Q15). The general feeling from SLC is that feminism is an attack on the church. Therefore to claim feminist as a personal adjective is to reject the church leadership for many people.
I think the Mormon church accept feminism to an extent and then stops. Members can claim it, but I do think that many equate the term feminism to the more radical men haters. I know I used to think that. It was only a few years ago when reading an article that I checked almost every box for being a feminist, but had a distaste for taking on the term. Now I realize this isn’t a binary either 100% against or 100% for.
The one thing that does turn me off are those that portray all men as evil. I realize that is a small minuscule percentage of those those that call themselves feminist. I actually have sympathy as I could easily see where they have been deeply hurt by men. In fact I am surprised there are not more.
I proudly consider yourself a feminist? I even joined a club at work for supporting women at work, but I try REALLY hard to stay in the background and just give supporting comments 1 on 1 as I don’t ever want to be “that mansplaining guy”
I will answer the first question. Because the specific issues you raise in the first paragraph have all been addressed, for the most part, in the USA and most first world countries in 2017. If these are the sole feminist issues, then there is not much to do.
Now, there are additional real issues that are raised further in the OP. Some of these issues are certainly supported by the majority of the members of the church, but other feminist issues are not supported by most members. When the issues getting the most air time are: 1) feminists want free access to abortion for all women, 2) all women must get paid 25-30% more to make up the wage gap, 3) women are discriminated against in almost all aspects of life, then most LDS and in much of the country most people will disagree and say that they are not feminists.
Obviously the other big issue that is being raised, sexual assault, is a very serious concern, and will likely remain so for a long time. If this was coupled with calls for restructuring work benefits to better meet the needs of all people, closing the 3-5% wage gap for equal work, and other structural issues, there would be a lot more support for feminism.
For my two cents—I think the Mormon church, and traditional Christian churches more generally, are deeply, fundamentally, radically patriarchal. We know it whether or not we use the labels properly. And therefore the “feminist” label is inherently anti-church. Because the churches are so strongly typed, the opposite label is inescapably antagonist.
Stephen nailed it!
I do agree that the most radical feminist women and organizations did somewhat co-opt the term “feminist,” rightly or wrongly.” It usual takes radical actions to get the movement moving. Remember, “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” Not exactly an enduring slogan. At least as far as most religions teach. There is a time and place for that, but “multiple and replenish” the earth is also out there.
Of course , men in the workplace are threaten by women. In most competitive workplaces, they are threatened by other men who might get ahead of them. Women in the workplace just added to that competition. And back in the 80’s/90’s when there were concerted efforts to promote women, it only threatened men that much more. Workplaces were way better off with more women and POC in higher level positions, but the white guys are still frustrated, nevertheless.
I don’t buy into the patriarchal business as much as some. Because I think it depends on the individual Ward, Branch how they include the women. Yeah, yeah, Women don’t hold the Priesthood so that is (in the minds of some) restrictive to what positions they hold. But I think we’ve seen the Church try to train the male leadership to be more inclusive and I’ve seen that in action myself. But even that is not enough.
As far as other Christian Churches are concerned. I attended a wedding of a relative who married into a fundamentalist evangelic family. At the wedding, the Pastor quoted the scriptures from Ephesians Chapter 5 about wives submitting to their husbands. My family, sitting on the bride’s side, groaned. Mind you we were out in the sun and it was about 95 degrees out. If that was not bad enough, he quotes from the Song of Solomon some of the more provocative verses. It was an odd dichotomy.. They groaned further still.
So if we are for equal rights for women in the workplace where roles are gender non specific, I think it is hard not be a feminist.
From the linked Slate article: “Although feminism is really just about advocating for equality, some people think it’s more than that.” This follows a Wikipedia definition. Wikipedia is, of course, the final arbiter of the “real” definition of the word! (And whoever allows a word to have more than one “real” definition is either ignorant or a dangerous subversive!)
The fact that some people think feminism is more than advocating for equality suggests to some that, when communicating with groups including those people, it may be best to either define terms or avoid the label and speak of the concept instead. Disagreement over use of the “feminist” label reminds me of the question whether Mormons are Christians. Clearly, by at least one definition of “Christian”, they are, while by another not uncommon definition they are not. Labeling does not always aid communication, even if it does help define groups apparently subscribing to an us/them mentality on a given subject.
I think that Stephen’s comment about associating feminism with specific outspoken (radical) factions is a very big thing and goes along ways to explaining the author’s question.
The other thing that has not been brought up that I thing will help explain things, at least in the US, is the association of feminism with the Democratic Party. Many of the feminist groups and especially the radical feminist groups are seen as a political arm of the DNC. They exclusively support Democrat candidates, even ones that have questionable behavior with regard to the feminist agenda. With the majority of members of the LDS church in the US leaning more to the right, it is not hard to see they would not want to use a term that is so closely associated with the opposition party, in their eyes.
This is a great post and I’m afraid it’ll recede down the blog roll before getting a good discussion. I also think it’s unfortunate that the blogs have balkanized to the point that they’ve essentially become echo chambers and contrary points of view aren’t often presented, and when they are, boundaries are quickly reinforced.
I certainly wouldn’t call myself a feminist. I could probably write an entire post on this. I agree with them most of the time about most things, but let me just list a few of the attitudes widely held and behaviors widely exhibited among self-declared feminists that guarantee I won’t accept the label:
1. Complicity: the idea that as a male, I’m the beneficiary of so much privilege that simply accepting and treating women as equals is inadequate. No, unless I’m actively advocating on behalf of women in a feminist-acceptable manner, I’m complicit in the repression of women. My wealth is ill-gotten. My achievements built on their subjugation.
2. Equality = equivalence: I don’t believe that men and women are equivalent. They often are in the workplace, but not always (certain roles in the military come to mind). I think most feminists these days would agree that men and women aren’t the same, but I doubt they’d agree that they should ever be treated differently because of it.
3. Sexual differences: Most feminists acknowledge that men and women experience sexuality differently, but they’re very resistant that it matters, or that women should be expected to behave or act in any manner to accommodate these differences (e.g.., modesty, work culture, etc.). I realize that it’s a reaction to the abuse they’ve experienced from the beginning of time, but often it seems to me they go beyond common sense.
4. Destruction of separate spaces: going along with the idea that men and women, boys and girls, are different (statistically as groups), and given that sexual differences affect nearly every aspect of their experience, it makes sense that there should exists separate spaces for the sexes. Generally speaking, feminists cannot tolerate this, because it would by definition exclude women from something men have (e.g. General Priesthood Session).
5. Rage: when I’ve disagreed with a feminist viewpoint in the past, I’ve been told I’m “mansplaining” (which I realize is a thing, but I think I’ve been falsely accused more often than not), “defending my privilege” (associated with my first point), and told that as a male, it is impossible for me to ever understand and therefore my point of view is automatically disqualified. My feeling is that if a guy makes a comment and actually is mansplaining, defending his privilege, and truly doesn’t understand, his point is not necessarily invalid. Yes, this is a bit of an emotional reaction, but to call myself a feminist would be like joining a school of piranhas.
I could go on (did I mention feminists have no sense of humor?) and accumulate the thumbs down, but regardless whether one agrees with anything I’ve said, my primary point is that the term “feminist” is loaded with a whole lot more than just advocating for equal rights for women.
Scott J: The party affiliation question seems to be a chicken egg question to me. The party of status quo (conservatives / Republicans) are not going to advocate to equalize power systems that have barred women from an equal playing field, but the party of social justice (democrats / liberals / progressives) is going to be invested in change. I grant you that both parties are filled with hypocrites who will say anything to get a vote.
Martin: Most of your reasons you list that you state so emphatically that you are NOT a feminist are a reaction to very specific types of feminists. Most 3rd and 4th wave feminists have no issue with separate spaces by gender or differences between the sexes. As for rage, that probably depends on a person’s individual circumstances. Also, it seems that your reasons are very much about how you are personally affected. You don’t like being called a “mansplainer,” or told you are complicit or to encounter the inconvenience of someone else’s rage. It’s like you’re saying “Yes, I know there’s injustice, but enough about YOU, let’s talk about ME.” Are you concerned with social justice for others or is that just not something you care about? (I’m curious, no rage here).
Let me ask a few follow up questions on your individual points:
1) Do you acknowledge your socio-economic privilege? For example, when I go to a third world country, I see that had I simply been born into different circumstances, my entire life would be different, and then I have empathy for others, but I can’t change the fact that I don’t deserve these privileges. I try to remain aware of them, though.
2) In what ways do you think men & women should be treated differently simply based on their sex? It’s scientific fact that men (on the whole) are physically larger and stronger than women (on the whole), yet an individual woman may be stronger or larger than an individual man. Would you not advocate treating people as individuals, without regard to their sex, but instead with regard to their individual abilities?
3) I think your complaint here is mostly tied up in the problem of victim blaming. While most people in society, feminists and others, dress appropriately for the occasion and act appropriately for the social situation, the point feminists are making is that rapists are responsible for rape and men are not all guilty of rape and women should not be blamed if they are raped or put on trial for their behavior or dress as if they are the one who committed a crime. I will simply assume you agree with that point.
4) Women attending Gen PH session isn’t about going to a boring meeting for men. It was originally about the “promise” to women in the temple that they are prospective priestesses. Them being barred from the session proved the lie. The real issue is when women are barred from spaces where decisions about women are being made. Last I checked, that’s the kind of thing that gets your tea dumped in the Boston harbor.
5) Personally, I think “mansplaining” is an overused term. I only use it when it’s clear that a man has less expertise in a subject than the woman he’s trying to explain it to–for example, when someone had the audacity to patronize Cynthia L on BCC about not understanding math (she’s a professor of computer engineering at Stanford). I’ve seen some feminists that I would consider to be early in their rage stage shouting down men over things that I think men are trying to understand. I’d rather be patient and find common ground, but I understand that many women are weary of not being heard.
The old trope about feminists not having a sense of humor is as tired as saying women comedians aren’t funny. Come on, you can do better. Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Lucille Ball–these are some very funny feminists.
And yet when it came to the Civil Rights Act of 1957 1960 and 1964 it was the Republicans who were pushing it over the objection of the Democrats and there use of the filibuster. So the argument that the “party of status quo” would not advocate to equalize power loses some of its punch. Something else must be at work.
“I grant you that both parties are filled with hypocrites who will say anything to get a vote.”
But only one party gets a free pass on their bad behavior by feminist; with Bill Clinton being a text book example.
Feminist routinely belittle and insult female republican office holder, candidates and appointees. And then they wonder why they don’t want to be associated with the name feminist.
Scott J: “But only one party gets a free pass on their bad behavior by feminist; with Bill Clinton being a text book example.” I don’t agree. What I saw is that many feminists were upset with the Dems for ignoring the violations of left-leaning politicians. I think you’re conflating trends in the Democrat party with trends in feminism (that most are Dems).
Martin: “did I mention feminists have no sense of humor?”
That’s either a joke or a hasty generalization. I consider myself a feminist, so perhaps I can’t tell the difference.
Rockwell, it was supposed to be funny.
In that case, the joke is on me.
My wife and 4 daughters are SAHMs by choice… and each have each been dissed by LDS Church members who have made derogatory statements questioning their choice.
I consider myself a femnist in many senses: equal pay, equal rights, equal opportunity…. and freedom of choice to be a SAHM if it is feasible.
Brian M – I’ve run into that too, only the opposite. The most common scenario (as a working mom) is some random women stopping me in the hallway at church to bear their testimony of the importance of staying home with children. I absolutely agree with you that feminism is about accepting choice. I think we have a problem in LDS and general US culture with trusting that someone’s choice is valid and God-led even if it looks nothing like our own. We should be celebrating the fact that a woman is following God in her life path rather than celebrating only a particular life path.
ReTx – you mentioning this reminds me of something my wife said. In RS she said there was one sister that would condemn those women that were not SAHM’s any chance she could. The only issue was, she worked at a school herself and had some of her kids that were latch-key kids. I guess she felt like others that had professional jobs were the ones with the problem.
It’s a bit of a a beam/mote problem isn’t it. And the sad part is that the piece of wood people think they are judging doesn’t even exist. It’s the judging itself that is creating the blindspot.
Right Trousers says, I realized just yesterday that while [the LDS Church] continually *tells* my wife and daughters that they’re equal to men in worth, influence and responsibility, it continually *shows* them that they aren’t.
I do think it’s this lip service to equality that makes it difficult for the LDS Church to “credibly claim feminism,” especially since a large number of the people most affected by it seem to disagree. (As Rosa Parks disagreed that the back seat of the bus, or the other drinking fountain, or the run-down high school with the outdated books, were “equal.”)
Strangely, although this seems clear to me, my wife is either oblivious to it or not terribly concerned. But, then, she’s always done what she needed to do without regard for what people thought; she’s always had a career, she’s always contributed economically, she’s always been an equal partner in decisions in our marriage. She might not be fully aware of the ways the church shows her that she’s not of equal worth because she’s simply always assumed that she is. On those rare occasions when blatantly confronted with Testosterone-Driven Priesthood, she’s simply laughed it out of the room. (A boyfriend at BYU once pulled the “I’ve had a revelation . . .” nonsense on her. She booted him out of the apartment and dumped him immediately.)
My daughters, OTOH, are much more aware of these issues. One no longer attends church; the other might not either – she’s in Utah so I’m not sure. It was the oldest’s ardent feminism that got me thinking and reading and listening.
And here I am. I certainly agree with all of Angela’s basic premises. Nothing about the basics of fundamental equality between the sexes makes me uneasy, although I’m not sure that we’re ready to deal with all of the ramifications of that, yet. No worries, though; we can’t even get our society to agree that a woman should be able to introduce herself at a dinner without her husband’s assistance. (I hope you handed her a large napkin; seems she’d forgotten her burqa.)
Am I a feminist? One of the aspects of Feminism Writ Large, like any other political movement, that I find troublesome is that one can never be pure enough to please everyone. I’m not libertarian enough for some people, and I’m a bomb-throwing anarchist to others. I would consider myself a feminist by most neutral definitions, but the discourse is at the point where, politically, men don’t get to define it. So I am what I am, and I have an opinion on most things. Some of them are even informed, and I’m pretty good at listening and changing them when I’m wrong or new info comes to light. If you want to call me one, I won’t deny it. If you think I’m not strong enough on [pet issue] to be A True Feminist, that’s your prerogative as well.
Angela C: we are going to have to disagree on what we saw from feminist when it comes to the Clintons.
On the point of trends, feminism is by and large an arm of the Democratic Party; this is how most people see feminist, at least those who can stand back and look at it dispassionately. And as such it is off putting for people who are not Democrats; this would be the majority of the LDS community. This is, in my mind, an error made by feminist. By aligning themselves with a particular party they naturally alienate everyone else. This makes it hard for them to forward their agenda beyond their base. And we get article like the one from Slate, wondering why women refuse to call themselves feminist. I think between Stephens’s observation, which I agree with, and what I have written, we have the answer to yours and the Slate article author’s question.
ScottJ: I think the Clinton question is a tricky one for a few reasons, but also a valuable case study for comparison. First, the simple and most obvious explanation is that there are Democrats who lean feminist, and there are feminists who lean Democrat. People are individuals, and they have different priorities. There were some who were willing to wink at his “roguish” behavior because he was otherwise pro-feminism (in policy). That’s a bit hypocritical.
What I think is the bigger issue is that when Bill Clinton’s stuff came to light, it was before the internet (remember those days?), and it was also not very clear at the beginning whether he was just an adulterer or had committed non-consensual acts. This was also stuff that came to light in the 90s, and if you want a shock, watch Season One Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and compare it to Season 17, 18 or 19. We really have come a long way as a country in our education of consent and how to handle complaints of sexual harassment or assault. It’s a very different world now, except for the Trump supporters who are fighting against that and calling it “political correctness” to believe assault victims and claiming the title “Deplorables” with pride.
“people who are not Democrats; this would be the majority of the LDS community” Here’s where I think you are fooling yourself for two reasons: 1) WOMEN are more democrat than MEN are, and 2) in LDS communities, we assume that whatever the man is, so is the woman, and yet, I sit in RS, and I can tell you, most of those women without knowing it are feminists. They don’t own the label, but they don’t believe that women in the workplace should be held down or paid less or that reproductive choices should be denied to them. Plus, for all their so-called right-leaning, Mormon men are FAR more egalitarian in their marriages. Call it being domesticated, but per capita, Mormon men are changing more diapers and doing more dishes and supporting their wives on levels that none of our conservative cohorts do (consider Evangelicals where wives openly submit). And the next thing I’ll mention is that Mormons on the whole are not nearly as conservative as they vote. We are pro-immigration. We have some proto-feminist roots (despite polygamy, and weirdly because of it). We believe in a welfare system that is a fricken social safety net! This is not the GOP of the deep south or the midwest.
Angela C: To begin let me say that I agree with most of your points, to a point. As a country women are more likely to be Democrats than Republican, at least until they get married, then they tend to become Republican. I am not sure your assumption of “whatever the man so is the woman” is a valid notion, never really heard that one. But it would be an interesting study to look at; do married couples more likely have same political parties? I may have to consult the Oracle of Google. I would guess most do, as people who are married generally have similar outlooks, goals and ways of thinking. But I do know couples that don’t. What the percent is? That is a good question.
But using the very low bar of not keeping women down in the workplace or paid less as the definition of a feminist. I would not be surprised to find an almost 100% agreement across both men and women. But we all know when we talk about being a feminist it can be much more than that. And that is the real issue.
Are Mormon men more egalitarian than non-Mormon men? I would have to say yes you are correct; at least that is my observation. I think it is a feature of LDS teach, not a bug. If a man will follow the teachings of the LDS religion they will become a better man, a more complete man. That is the goal after all. But it also works for women too, they become better women, more complete; and that is the goal too. Too many men and women in the church fail to fully implement the Atonement of Christ it their lives.
I think the average Mormon, male or female, leans conservative, but stays away from the extremes. We hear about people on the extremes more, because they are extreme, but your average member is a moderate. When your average member thinks of feminist, they think of the bra burners of the 60’s or the protesters wearing vagina costume and shouting profanity from the stage of today. And they think they are extreme. When the feminist can control the extremist they will have a better time getting there message out. I don’t see it happening any time soon, but I could be wrong.
Scott J: when you say “extremes” I think what you really mean is that Mormons hate activism. We prefer our aggression to be passive. Mormons will countenance utterly crazy nonsense spouted with confidence by some old racist, sexist codger rather than be confrontational. IIt’s probably also why the race ban lasted so long. We don’t want to deal with issues of social justice head on because it’s impolite.
Scott J, if what you say is true, that nearly 100% of LDS men believe that women should be paid equally, and further, that this ‘fact’ is due to LDS teachings that make men more ‘complete’, I find it astonishing that the ERA was not more supported among LDS members to begin with. At first blush, it seems like 35+ years of feminist activism did more to bring about LDS men’s new-found egalitarianism than 150 years of LDS teachings could accomplish.
I don’t meant to be cynical because I do believe that the LDS church produces good people. It’s just that I have encountered so much sexism from LDS men in my life that I am wary of LDS men congratulating themselves too soon, there is still so much to be done.
Angela C: No extremist is what I meant and what I wrote. If I wanted to say activism I would have used it. Activism can mean many different types of activities such as writing letters to the opinion section of your local paper in support or opposition of local law all the way to protesting in the street, burning cars and property and throwing rocks at police. Some activism activities can be extreme but not all activism activities are extreme.
Rachael: Anything after the word further in your post is you projecting your thoughts on what I wrote. I was simply agreeing with an observation of Angela C on the egalitarian of Mormon me. If you don’t like her comment take it up with her.
Yes you mean to be cynical, your not fooling anyone.
I am confused by the claim that I am projecting. After ‘further’, I said, “that this ‘fact’ is due to LDS teachings that make men more ‘complete’”.
I said this in reference to this quote: “Are Mormon men more egalitarian than non-Mormon men? I would have to say yes you are correct; at least that is my observation. I think it is a feature of LDS teach, not a bug. If a man will follow the teachings of the LDS religion they will become a better man, a more complete man.”
I took this to mean that the LDS teachings make men more complete men, on your view, and this is what explains Mormon men’s egalitarianism. If I was projecting, I’m sorry, but I still can’t see how you were doing anything other than crediting Mormonism for egalitarian men. Please help me understand how that was not what you meant by the last couple of sentences of the above quote.