How Feminist Friendly Is Your Ward? (Poll)

By: hawkgrrrl
March 11, 2014

Would these people fit in your ward?

We frequently talk about how different our local ward experiences are from place to place, and even over time.  I put together a quick and totally subjective rating system to determine how “feminist-friendly” our wards are on the whole.  This is using a 1-5 scale with 1 being hostile to feminists and 5 being welcoming to feminists.

1.  Pants!  Pants are not in and of themselves significant except that they are officially allowed but culturally frowned on for women.

How many women wear pants to church in your ward?

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2. Working Women.

How does your ward treat women who work?

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3.  The Proclamation on the Family

What is the attitude in your ward about the Proclamation on the Family?

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4.  How is it handled when couples are assigned to give talks?

How are couples given speaking assignments?

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I thank thee that I was not asked to speak!

5.  Women praying

Do women give closing prayers in your sacrament meetings?

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6.  Young Women budgets

Do your Young Women get the same kind of budget the Young Men do?

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7.  Youth recognition

Do Young Women receive equal attention and recognition for their achievements with the Young Men?

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8.  Female leadership

How diverse is the female leadership in your ward?

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9.  Male leadership

How do male leaders approach women in your ward?

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She’s all right, but hottest?

10.  Modesty

How does your ward address modesty?

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11.  Baby blessings.

What is the role of women in your ward when their baby is blessed?

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12.  Men’s norms and roles

How are men treated in your ward?

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Did your ward come out on the progressive side (lots of 4s and 5s) or the anti-feminist side (lots of 1s and 2s)?  Has your ward changed over time?  What caused the changes?  How does your current ward compare to other wards you’ve been in?



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31 Responses to How Feminist Friendly Is Your Ward? (Poll)

  1. hawkgrrrl on March 11, 2014 at 8:00 AM

    I’ve noticed a pretty big difference between my ward in Scottsdale and in Singapore. In Singapore, women were always invited to hold their babies while they were blessed, modesty was not discussed, the Proclamation was almost never discussed, and women wearing pants was common. In my Scottsdale ward, it is much more conservative with fewer visitors, and much more “norms” as a result. I think when there’s a lot of movement, people moving in and out, visitors, and investigators, expectations and norms are less important and making people feel welcome becomes the focus.

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  2. spatty on March 11, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    I live in Kenya, so this doesn’t all apply- specifically with BSA, but there are some areas of church that could definitely be improved upon. For instance most women have jobs, but they are unskilled. Men still have all power- women aren’t even allowed to sit on the front row of chairs if they are speaking. I sat there for my talk and was asked to move behind into the choir chairs. I politely refused, pretending to not understand. One of the counselors routinely only calls men to say prayers, the other two members of the bishopric don’t seem to mind for the opening or closing. Modesty and the family proc are probably the worst, but its very cultural. When a judge rules in favor of a man’s right to sex because the girl was wearing a miniskirt, you know you have a problem. There are extreme anti-homosexual feelings here- like in Uganda. I think they will also try to establish those kinds of laws depending on how bad the backlash is against Uganda. Otherwise, its a normal place. Maybe I just don’t know the gossip enough to comment on men or women who don’t fit the norm… but I assume most of the leaders are quite affluent.

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  3. Hedgehog on March 11, 2014 at 8:56 AM

    My ward are all over the place with this one. It is generally acceptable for women to work, even if they have a husband who is seen as successful. But there are no uber rich in any case. Modest incomes are the norm, and very often 2 incomes are necessary, simply because of housing costs.
    There are not enough active members for people to be too fussy over small details about who gets called to leadership positions. That said, a few years ago one regularly trouser wearing sister was called to the RS presidency, and the other presidency members seemed to anticipate that with the call she would refrain from wearing trousers. She didn’t, and apparently got a lot of flak for it at the start, and appealed to the handbook to defend her position. Noone has said anything untoward to me about wearing trousers for the last year. That said, I was released from primary presidency (the whole presidency were released) after I started wearing trousers, and have not been recycled in a leadership position since, though that may well be coincidental. Our YW presidency includes one single, never married sister; one divorced sister; and one married in the temple still married sister.
    The Family Proclamation is revered and described as scripture (I argue the point in Sunday School, but it’s not possible in sacrament meeting) and it does hang in homes.
    Dress is conservative generally, but I’ve not seen anyone called out over modesty issues. We seem to be pretty welcoming.
    Women do not get to the hold the baby during the blessing. I don’t know if anyone has asked. This is a departure from practice when I was a child when women were permitted to hold the baby.
    We don’t have scouts for the YM in Britain, so as far as I am aware funds are allocated on a per head basis between YM and YW. Though I might be wrong because the YM certainly seem to spend more. Leastways they have more outside sporting activities, maybe the girl’s budget gets spent on ingredients and craft materials. It’s only a small budget anyway.
    Boys do get more recognition, if only because the Duty to God programme has certificates for the completion of each quorum section, and also because they need to be sustained by the congregation for priesthood advancement too. I have yet to see any of the YW recognised for progress in the Personal Progress programme. It’s only seems to be acknowledged once they’ve finished the lot.
    Speaking assignments seem pretty random. Couples are not assigned to the same week. Women have been the final speaker. Some people are assigned far more frequently than others though. I seem to be a less frequent speaker, for some reason, though I always get lots of positive comments when I do speak. The last time I was the final speaker. I haven’t been asked to speak by our new bishopric yet, though I have said both opening and closing prayers in sacrament meeting.

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  4. Tabatha on March 11, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    Though my spouse is the step-father of my sons, he is the one the male church leaders ask to speak to at my doorstep concerning church matters involving the boys. When I ask them how I can help or what is needed, they tell me they will just talk to my husband about it, that it’s about Home teaching assignments and doesn’t concern me. I told them if it involves my children, especially assigning my boys to be home teacher companions with someone, it most certainly does involve me. I’m their Mom, whether they respect me as a feminist, inactive, or non-member; anything brought to my doorstep or involving my children should still involve me in the decision making and information process.

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  5. canadacole on March 11, 2014 at 9:33 AM

    We’ve gone through a lot of different Bishops during the time we’ve lived in our ward, and I’ve found the environment of the ward shifts as the Bishopric shifts.

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  6. Mormon Heretic on March 11, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    In my old ward, after a baby blessing, they would ask the mother to stand and “show off” the baby to the congregation.

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  7. Annie on March 11, 2014 at 9:52 AM

    Looks like the single adults have been forgotten in these polls.

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  8. Naismith on March 11, 2014 at 10:38 AM

    An amusing poll, but the questions are so complicated as to be misleading.

    Women who wear pants to church may or may not be feminists. Women routinely wore pants to church in my ward for years before MoFems co-opted the symbol.

    Dual-earner families may be no more feminist than those in which one person’s name is on the paycheck. I know many families where mom wants to be at home at least part time but dad refuses to provide sole support. These men do not respect homemaking as contributing, and in some cases they are so demanding of the women to earn money that it borders on abuse. Not feminist in my book.

    And finally, I understand that some folks have issues with the PotF, but let’s please talk about the wording itself; it does NOT promote “1950s gender stereotypes.” Equal partnership was not accepted in the 1950s, and wives did not have primary responsibility for anything. I’m as much against 1950s gender stereotypes as anyone, but that is not what I read in the PotF.

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  9. KT on March 11, 2014 at 10:43 AM

    I answered almost all 1s and 2s and I live in a mid west ward outside the ‘morridor’. I asked to hold my baby for a blessing and was told ‘no’. Leadership approached my husband about extending callings before talking to me. Some women work, but few, and mostly out of financial necessity. No women wear pants and men who wear anything other than a white shirt are considered ‘less worthy’.

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  10. catherine on March 11, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    Agree with Naismith – questions are too complicated. Interesting survey, but it’s impossible to take accurately because each question is asking multiple things that the author mistakenly assumes will always go together.

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  11. Frank Pellett on March 11, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    Anyone else have trouble fitting their ward into the categories? I’ve a problem with trying to quantify something that doesn’t have a set definition. Also, why low scores when the ward isn’t really diverse, when boundaries are set without regards to diversity? How many decisions, budgets, conversations, invitations, etc, in our ward are we actually privy to? Are we just extrapolating our personal (and often singular) experiences to how it “must be” for the entire ward as a whole?

    This just seems like a good chance for people to complain about how bad things are in their ward, not to mention an opportunity for people to take the results and use them as a poor reference to beat others with. “Nobody wears colored shirts, and I only counted 17% pants wearing in women. You are so not feminist!”

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  12. Carly Phillips on March 11, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    My ward is a very warm loving ward, where I have felt loved and accepted, We have women who work and those do not, alot of people wher we are run their businesses from home or at least themselves. Its a properous ward but not a stuffy one. People dont “dress to impress” thry dress appropriately, some blur the line a bit by wearing short skirts but you know thats not why I go to church- to judge others. Our ward looks after each other when someone is sick, or someone’s loved one dies we are all there for each other- we know each other, we like each other- our stake has a goal of being Zion and that may sound corny to some but its working for us and I am happy there, I am not a feminst but I care about the women I know and I feel like I am treated equally by the men in the ward.

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  13. hawkgrrrl on March 11, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    Frank Pellet & Naismith: I think your consternation stems from viewing these questions as indicating how “feminist” the ward is rather than how “feminist-friendly” it is. There’s a big difference. Women work or wear pants for many different reasons, but if NO women wear pants, and a feminist wants to feel at home in that ward, the norms dictate that she should not wear pants. Maybe the ward will accept her; maybe not, But either way, she’s the one who has to steer a course into uncharted territory.

    Likewise for working women. If only those who are poor or non-leaders have working wives or no other women have career ambitions, the ward is not very “friendly” to those who do. I lived in one ward where almost no women worked except out of necessity, and when they did they felt very stressed out and put upon because finances were tight. I was literally the only woman in that ward with a “career” by choice. I had many friends in the ward because I am a friendly person. But was the ward “feminist friendly”? Not in the least. If I made comments in RS, most people looked at me like I had a second head. My thought process and comments were just so different from others in the ward that I finally learned to just keep my mouth shut and zone out during lessons. People were my friends, but we had almost nothing in common, and our lives were so different people just didn’t relate to me, and vice-versa.

    I hope that helps explain the difference between a ward being feminist and being friendly toward feminists.

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  14. Jeff Spector on March 11, 2014 at 11:55 AM

    I found the questions complex as well, so I only answered the ones where it was clear cut. Perhaps a poll with a pre-ordained outcome (or is that foreordained)?????

    These things tend to be in the eye of the beholder. Some never see anything wrong, some see everything wrong, and it is somewhere in the middle. I see our Ward as pretty balanced all around and less judgmental. We have our moments, like any other, but by and large the leaders are very fair and loving.

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  15. LiteralHipster on March 11, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    I’m surprised that four people(so far) have said that mothers can hold their baby in a baby blessing. This blatantly goes against Church Handbook 2 which says only “Melchizedek Priesthood holders” can participate. Of course this also technically prohibits a deacon from holding the microphone…

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  16. Stargazer on March 11, 2014 at 2:24 PM

    Doesn’t it depend on how you define “participating” in the ordinance? The chair holds up the person receiving the blessing, is it participating in the ordinance? (**NOT that I am comparing the mother to a chair.** Just trying to be clear about what it means to “participate in an ordinance.”).

    I also felt like our ward didn’t really work for some of the questions (East Coast USA). We have a lot of recognition for the YW, nearly as much as the YM. Our previous bishop and one counselor were POC… now they are all caucasian but one is single. Our ward and all the other ones in this region are very transient, so there is like 40% turnover of the ward in a 3 year period. Families leave and come back.after 2 or 3 years due to job relocation.

    It is still an interesting effort to “poll” how things are done regionally. More women are working in our ward than 5 years ago, who knows if that is the economy plunge in 2008. The women leaders (presidents) all are moms who don’t work more than part-time, but since I know that thoughtfulness and prayerfulness that went into making those decisions, I don’t feel like they were just at the “whim” of the bishop.

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  17. Douglas on March 11, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    Hawk – I would agree with some of the commenters that your “questions” are themselves somewhat leading and biased. I doubt I’d ever see anything like this on what the Gallup Organization produces. Still, I found it better just to “chill” and answer as best as I could. I’d say that my new ward (just moved, it was the move from ‘Hades’ and the only way that I’ll be moving again if anything about it have I to say is when on a gurney, sheet draped over my head…) is a mixed bag overall. The bishop, I’ve had him as bishop before (since then, there was a realignment of ward boundaries, and he was called again) is a bit of a “old-fuddy-duddy” but I feel that he’s a sincere and loving old man who does his best. Certainly I give him and the rest of the ward leadership the benefit of doubt b/f making any judgments as to their effectiveness, including their care for the sensititivies of all their members.

    I’ve never seen a mother holding the child as it’s being blessed in F&T meeting, or a mother holding the newly-minted “child of record” before the congreation. It seems that’s culturally treated as Daddy’s moment to shine. Still, I see no reason that the proud couple couldn’t be together for this ceremony…c’mon, it was a JOINT effort, wasn’t it?

    As for judging any discussion of PoF to how “gay-friendy” POVs are entertained…sorry, that’s a definite non-sale. However, I don’t think that a PH quorum meeting of “gay-bashing” is going to edify or enhance the Spirit. The most that I’ve ever done is challenge my fellow PH holders to come up with cogent arguments as to why proscription of gay marriage, and to not merely pontificate. If the Lord invites us to “Come, let us reason”, then surely we that hold His P/H can have a rational discussion. I’ll be our dear sisters, down the hall in RS, can teach us a thing or three with regards to engaging in a meaningful discussion.

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  18. Taylor Clarke on March 11, 2014 at 3:21 PM

    In our ward/stake, it’s the opening prayer that women usually don’t get asked to do. When my husband was executive secretary, he was told that only a priesthood holder could open the meetings. After the relatively recent General Conference, I got a text asking me to say the opening prayer in our sacrament meeting. I don’t know if they thought they were texting my husband, but I replied as if they had asked me and said I would love to but we would be out of town but I would love to do it when I got back. Since then, there have been other women say the opening prayer. Talk about baby steps.

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  19. robf on March 11, 2014 at 6:00 PM

    All fives except 1 & 11. Feel free to move to my ward in NJ. The bishop has a beard.

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  20. el oso on March 11, 2014 at 6:16 PM

    We are a suburban ward in a fairly prosperous area in the middle of the USA. Feminists who care about some of these issues would probably be welcomed individually, but may look around and feel like they stand out. Some of the questions may not fully apply to our ward (there are currently no black or hispanic members, although there were some who attended in the past) but there are other diversity issues, like young transient families vs. older locals. We have had a wide range of women in leadership positions, including a RS president who works full time and is married to a non-member.
    Some other observations about these issues:
    YM & YW budgets are nearly identical in the ward and stake. I am in a position to know this.
    The male head of household is not always consulted about callings, let alone beforehand. I found out about my teenage daughter’s new calling when her name was read in ward conference!
    Single women and married women with no children are both called to YW leadership positions.
    We have lots of new families moving into the ward in the past year. Most of the adult talks have been wife-husband (in that order). This is partially done to introduce the family to the whole ward. When there were not many move-ins the talks were much more random and not aligned with families nearly as much (maybe one a month).
    There are and have been many families where the wife earned the same or more than the husband. One woman worked in a traditionally male job and her husband stayed home. They were not here long enough to get a good shot at a leadership calling, so I do not know if there was any bias there. The families with young children where both parents work full time have not been called to top leadership positions. When the children get older, they do get those callings.

    Good poll questions!

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  21. Kat the Cactus on March 11, 2014 at 6:18 PM

    I’m with Annie–most of these questions did not apply to my Arizona YSA ward. Singles wards are kind of a special case. The absence of other auxiliaries tends to make invisible a lot of differences between the treatment of women and men that crop up in family wards, which I think would have a tendency to make singles wards feminist-friendly. Our bishop utilizes the talents of the men and women in our ward pretty equally, and a feminist like me can go for months of daily lived experience in the ward without running into many troubling practices.

    However, I think most singles’ earnest and sometimes naive hopes for marriage, children, and happily ever afters tend to keep the rhetoric fairly unfriendly to feminists. For example, while almost every woman in my ward works and many have professional careers, the rhetoric of Relief Society lessons still tends to skew conservative. A few months ago, we had a lesson about “women of the world” v. “women of moral courage” where one of the first identifiers of “women of the world” that got thrown up onto the whiteboard was “women with careers.” This did not seem at all incongruous to the fifty working woman sitting in the room.

    Well, I am now intrigued, and may have to ask my known feminist associates if they think singles wards are more or less feminist-friendly than your average family ward.

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  22. hawkgrrrl on March 11, 2014 at 8:33 PM

    Kat the Cactus: that is really fascinating information about the disconnect between women working in careers who are single, yet decrying women working in careers. Cog dis.

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  23. Howard on March 12, 2014 at 8:12 AM

    When I read this I thought it was the best poll I’ve seen in 8 years on the bloggernacle because it begins to quantify change, I was surprised by the contrary comments but I guess that just highlights the POV gap between the orthodox and me. My ward is a poor example because it is older mostly 60s to death, only a few families with young children and a couple of single women who seem to be nearly invisible to the rest of the ward, they remain silently in their place. The Bishop is the son of a former Bishop (who is still a ward member) and is a loving man but VERY traditional and orthodox, he has a case of the Miracle of Forgiveness in paperback that he hands out for almost any reason, sinning is not necessary required. The concept of “act and not be acted upon” was introduced in a leadership meeting by an apostle a few years ago and it has been the ward’s epiphany since, a revolutionary new concept for most! While there are a few bright, alert and awake members, backward sums up the majority of this ward, feminism is largely a foreign concept.

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  24. Bro. Caiaphas on March 12, 2014 at 8:26 AM

    I already loved my ward (small ward in rural area, mid-Atlantic USA) but after looking at this poll I love it even more. It’s not even that we’re “progressive,” we’re just down to earth and accepting of everyone. We’re too busy being happy that people show up and contribute to worry about what they’re wearing.

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  25. Douglas on March 12, 2014 at 12:10 PM

    #21,22…Kit, Hawk…I’d say an appropriate answer to heaping condemnation on a sister for being employed outside the home is to take a healthy dose of STFU, and MYOB. Ok, find a milder form if you can, but some folks need to butt out. Typically, especially in the case of single sisters, they can’t give up “luxuries” like rent, food, electricty, etc. I certainly don’t mind digging in a bit deeper to help a family out where the best thing is that mother stays home and looks after her brood in person(why then, pray tell, is the family in this predicament, and what are they doing about it, but I trust that most LDS Bishops are wise enough to handle it and drawn upon resources like LDS Family Services). I don’t recall that sisters are queried in the Temple recommend interview about their employment status, so, in the spirit of D&C 58:26,27, we ought to let our fellow members being adult enough to work out their (temporal) salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phillipians 2:12)

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  26. Joni on March 12, 2014 at 12:27 PM

    I guess my ward is pretty middle-of-the-road, mostly 2′s and 3′s. We’ve had two divorced Primary Presidents in a row (both adult converts, both completely wonderful individuals) but I’ve never seen a divorced woman in the YW or RS presidency. Only once in seven years in our ward have I seen a female final speaker (a young lady leaving for her mission) but on the other hand I gave the closing prayer in Sacrament Meeting last week. And beards are remarkably common, I blame this awful winter we’ve had.

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  27. Naismith on March 12, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    I think “consternation” would be too strong of a word for my reaction. For one thing, some items seemed to expect me to know more about other people’s lives than I do or want to. How would I know whether a woman earns more than her husband? That is none of my business whatsoever. How would I know whether employed women are a “pitied” minority? That’s a feeling, which folks may or may not express. And I honestly don’t know the employment status of many ward members.

    The Pinewood Derby issue intermingled with recognition is problematic because it is a classic double-barreled question. A lot of wards have great recognition for YW who complete personal progress, but may not include girls in Pinewood Derby because of local scout rules. It would be better to separate those out. And using a male-normative function as a measurement stick does not impress me.

    The notion of a split between feminist and feminist-friendly only adds another layer of confusion. Not all feminists want to wear pants. Not all feminist have career ambitions. A lot of MoFeminists insist that fulltime parenthood is a legitimate choice for feminists, so why is that a factor? And a lot of non-feminists have career ambitions, so….

    I think Brother Caiaphas nailed it in pointing out that the real issue is respect for all people, period, no matter what. An open and welcoming ward is good for everyone, not just feminists.

    And how much disrespect do you show for other women by referring to them as “non-working”?

    Because of living in college towns, we’ve always been in a ward where we’ve had people of all ethnicities, hair color, whatever. We’ve had divorced people serving in the bishopric and as RS president. We’ve had couples living together without being married (although in some happy cases they married and were later sealed in the temple). I spoke last when my husband and I spoke in Sacrament Meeting earlier this year.

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  28. Stacy Whitman on March 13, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    The idea that women who need to work are a pitied minority completely ignores the experiences of women, who, like someone said above, really like to eat and have a roof over our heads. In most family wards, there are a HUGE number of single people who just don’t attend. In Seattle in one ward I attended, we had SIX HUNDRED single people on the rolls, though only about 30 singles attended regularly. I’d say pretty much all of those single women had to work–needed to work–and it isn’t a pitiable thing to earn your living. In fact, we’d be looked down upon for not working.

    The logic of these questions simply doesn’t apply when you factor in the experiences of single people (which is par for the course in LDS culture). I’m just really sick of how this idea is perpetuated again and again and again in LDS feminism.

    Also, there’s a lot of privilege in the idea that poor people are, by necessity, on the fringe. Hugely problematic.

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  29. hawkgrrrl on March 13, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    “it isn’t a pitiable thing to earn your living” and “there’s a lot of privilege in the idea that poor people are, by necessity, on the fringe” I could not agree more! Which is why these attitudes make a ward less friendly to feminists and others who may not fit the stated ideals. The more conformity and “the ideal” and the prosperity gospel are preached in local wards (or not discussed but quietly enforced by who is put in ward leadership), the less welcoming wards are to those who don’t fit those norms. I have unfortunately been in wards where it was assumed that every married woman who worked had just married someone who was unable to support her. That reveals an attitude of privilege and entitlement, two things that make wards unwelcome places.

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  30. Douglas on March 13, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    #29 – Hence a reason that Mormon thought it important to include this:

    And they began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up achurches unto themselves to get bgain, and began to deny the true church of Christ.

    (IV Nephi 26)

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  31. Kevin Rex on March 16, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    I’m about a week late, I realize, but I didn’t have time to comment before now. Question #5 was so hilarious for me and my family because it exemplifies the pure stupidity of the original “rule”. I’ve served in a couple of bishoprics and as a stake high councilman. Knowing the history of the “rule” about the OPENING prayer in sacrament meeting, and trying to be as anti-sexist as I could be while serving, I asked our then-high-councilman assigned to our ward about whether women could say the opening prayers I was given the task of assigning each week. He said yes, that a “first presidency letter” said the closing prayer was to be given by a Melchisedec Priesthood holder. A couple of weeks later, another high councilman serving from our ward mentioned to me that it was the opening prayer that was the important prayer as it “invoked” the meeting and properly began it as an “ordinance” meeting and should be by a man. Later in the year, we were visiting down in Utah and I asked my extended family about it. An uncle of mine serving as a high councilman said it was the opening prayer that was important and should be by a man. When I returned here to Washington state, I made a point of asking the stake president directly, but not before asking the stake executive secretary. They both thought it was the opening prayer that was only to be offered by men. So, the following Sunday, after receiving the “official” word from the Stake President that only men should offer the opening prayer in Sacrament Meeting, I didn’t ask anyone at all ahead of time; I just called on Sis. Shoemaker from the audience once I caught her eye from the pulpit as I was conducting and announcing before the meeting began. So there, you sexist males, who can’t remember what’s important and what’s not! As if it mattered any way! Follow-up, until just this year, our stake continued to enforce ONLY the opening prayer by men after I caused such a stir, and my “stir” was more than 10 years ago! Truly the baby, baby steps to turn away from our sexist traditions.

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