Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mormon Women in Pants Face Backlash, Ryan Murphy's Glee Still Hates Women, Seattle Makes Marriage Progress, and More: While We Weren't Blogging

Apparently the world does not stop spinning out sexism just because Erica, Rachel and I are busy. Go figure.

Here's a quick, quick run-down of some recent gendered happenings:

1. Washington state offers marriage rights (and rites) to same-sex couples, leading to a teary-eyed string of lovely photos. I know some of our readers still oppose same-sex marriage, which I take as a good sign about how inclusive our blog can be: there is no litmus test to join the conversation. But I hope even readers who don't support Seattle's policy still appreciate the loveliness of the personal moments in these photos from this week's Seattle weddings.

2. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints launches an official website to address the church's stance on homosexuality. The website has received mixed responses. Pro-gay-rights Mormons see it as great progress that The Church is now officially stating that homosexuality is not a choice, though the website still maintains that acting on homosexuality is a sin. I'm choosing to look on the bright side by focusing on how this website will hopefully encourage more Mormons to be truly loving to others, no matter sexual orientation. For an audience outside the Mormon church, the website is unlikely to do much, but liberal Mormons like me are really anxious to see more positive relations between our church and the gay rights movement... down the road. Down, down, down the road.

3. Glee runs a plot point about a character who develops bulimia, and in the process the show's creator, Ryan Murphy, reveals just how misogynistic he truly is. I'll be following up later with a post that will also go up on emBody. For now here's the gist: the show portrays bulimia as something a character develops as a result of another female student tricking her. In the process of her deciding to lose weight, no characters ever recommend that she consult with a doctor, nutritionist, or guidance counselor (or even a scale). When her bulimia leads her to pass out during a performance, other characters blame her for losing the competition, and AGAIN nobody recommends she seek help. Where is Emma Pillsbury (school guidance counselor) when she's needed? The character even winds up apologizing to everyone and stating that her bulimia was the result of her being "naive and selfish." And nobody, not even adults who should know better, contradict her. Like I said, it's a post worth careful discussion. Not only is Glee misrepresenting a serious disease - they're also trivializing the issue and blaming the very people who are most likely to unfairly blame themselves.

4. And meanwhile, the Mormon blogosphere/ facebook world is engaged in a pants war. A war that none of us who got involved early in this process expected to blow up like this. Don't know what I'm talking about? Well, you're probably lucky, because things have turned nasty. Some context: like many churches, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourages members to wear their best clothing to Sunday services in order to express respect and reverence as they worship. While the Church has no official stance on what "best clothing" does or should mean, in the US Mormons have developed a culture where that means men wearing suits with white dress shirts and women wearing dresses or skirts.

I've been known to complain about this tradition of gendered clothing, mostly because Mormon meeting houses are cold year-round (high AC and low heating) and today's available skirt/dress fashions are much chillier than suits with socks and shoes. Given that men are on average more comfortable at lower temperatures to begin with, putting men in warm clothing and women in chilly clothing is silly to begin with. Is this temperature difference a human rights violation? Of course not! But is it silly to stick with a gender norm that has women shivering even with blankets on their laps, while men are overheated in their suit coats and ties? Heck yeah!

Well, a new group of Mormon feminists decided to start a campaign to build solidarity among Mormon feminists. The goal is to use peaceful and even subtle organized action to work toward gender equality in the church (please note that the term "church" is a very ambiguous term for Mormons that sometimes means official Church leaders and other times means something as ambiguous as Mormon culture). The feminist group's first move? Encourage women to wear pants to church this coming Sunday. Seems simple enough, right? There's no Mormon doctrine or policy against women wearing their best pants to Sunday meetings. Many already do. But the dominant culture pressures women and girls to wear skirts/ dresses.

And so, to quote a little 10 Things I Hate About You profanity: the shit hath hitteth the fan - eth. 

Folks are gettin' maaaaad. I'll let you read about the backlash for yourself, though, because it's giving me a headache. The quotes in that Jezebel article I just linked are sadly, just the tip of the iceberg. People can be real jerks. feminist Mormon housewives responds too. Here's a more positive take.


  1. No one should ever be shunned or kicked out of a family because they are gay--I thought this was such an important point to make and I'm glad the church's new website stresses the eternal nature of families. I remember how difficult it was for my parents when my older sister came out to the family--and I'm so proud that they never once have excluded her or her partner. It never would have occurred to them to tell her she was no longer welcome--but over the years there have been a number of people who've suggested that my family has been wrong to continue associations. Many people thought it was our duty to show my sister tough love by shunning her--so that she would recognize her "sinful behavior" and want to repent. Is it any wonder why there has been such a high suicide rate for homosexuals in the church? I'm hopeful that this website signals the dawning of a brighter day.

    1. Tough love almost always seems to be a way people say hateful actions based on prejudices, but somehow saying it as 'tough love' makes them feel 'christ-like' while being devilish.

  2. Question: What do you say to someone who thinks that Mormon feminists are trying to tell God how to run His church? That by asking for changes, some women are claiming to know better than the Prophet and Apostles?

    I for one don't believe that that's what is happening, or that God is offended when we ask for change. My sister and I have been having a discussion since the start of this pants war thing, and this is her major hangup. I'm not sure how to respond, probably because I don't consider myself a feminist (though perhaps a feminist sympathizer). Does any of that make sense?

    Anyway, thanks for your posts. You always make me think (really think) about things from a different angle, and I think because of that I am a more tolerant person. And a teensy bit of a feminist.

  3. Thanks for a great post. I love you blog so far.

    I too have mixed feelings towards some of the content presented on especially those that seem to confuse gender identity and same sex attraction. However, I feel like it is a huge positive step in the right direction and with many members still having hateful attitudes towards people who are LGBT I think the publication of the website is a brave thing the leaders of the church to publish at this time.

    I also agree that Glee portraying an eating disorder like that is disgraceful and damaging.

    Also, I thought it was really shocking how many people reacted hatefully to women simply wanting to wear pants to church... and I totally agree with you: the church is ALWAYS way too cold and dresses and skirts are way hard to stay warm in. I always put my coat over my legs.