Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Are Mormon Women Oppressed?

I had an interesting book signing last night. I was at the Orem Costco, sitting right across the aisle from the Jello chocolate mousse. I'd eaten dinner, but the visual of all that food was making me hungry again. Otherwise . . . I had some very interesting conversations with people about the Book of Mormon, etc. The most interesting conversation was when a woman rushed up to me. She had seen my poster at the front door of Costco. It turns out she was looking for a book on "Muslim" women, not "Mormon" women.
She said she didn't want to read about Mormon women because we were oppressed. She left Utah and returned 45 years later to find that Mormon women weren't respected. I don't know if I had my best thinking cap on but I replied, "If a woman demands respect, she'll get it. It doesn't matter what religion she practices."
I asked her what religion she was and she said she was Catholic. I told her she might be interested in my chapter on Eve since the LDS view of Eve is unique from all other religions. She said that she'd prefer to believe as the Catholics do about Eve. In the foreword of my book, Dr. Kaye Terry Hanson discusses just that--the differences between our viewpoint on the Fall and Eve's role in it versus the viewpoint that comes from other religions.
The woman went her way, but it left me thinking about our conversation all night. I wondered if the world sees Mormon women as oppressed for one reason or another. I don't feel oppressed. I've felt burned out at various times, but that's had nothing to do with my religious beliefs. I'm proud of being a woman, of being a Mormon, and of being an active member of the church. When I was at BYU Women's Conference last week, I climbed on a bus to ride from the parking lot to the Wilkinson Center. I didn't know a soul on the crowded bus, but everyone was smiling. I literally felt the power and goodness of these women and sensed that together they could accomplish anything. The immediate comraderie of these dozens of women was incredible, all coming together in one purpose, who had left their families and homes for a few days to learn about strengthening their families, developing new friendships, growing their testimonies of the Savior, and sharing their talents.


Nikki said...

When I first read the title of this post I thought it said, Are Mormon Women Obsessed? For some reason this makes more sense to me than oppressed. I think that we are very powerful women. It probably comes from being obsessed with family, the gospel principles, and wholesome activities. We are definately not oppressed, but neither do we push against the world around us. We have learned how to quietly bend the world to our will. So I guess I can see how others may think that we just follow the priesthood blindly. What they don't know is that the men around got their ideas from us in the first place. Ok, the Lord probably guided them as well, which is who we get our ideas from, so it's kind of the same thing. But we are definately not oppressed we are just a quiet force that works behind the scenes to help the Lord in his mission to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."

Cheri Chesley said...

I really don't understand why the outside world sees Mormon women as being oppressed. I had a friend when I got married who worried that I would wake up 10 yrs down the road and not know who I was. But I sure don't feel oppressed. I feel supported and loved. Maybe it has to do with our belief that women shouldn't hold the priesthood. (like I'd want that on top of everything else) Like somehow that oppresses us, keeps us from something. But if we don't want it, how is that oppression?

jenheadjen said...

How interesting that you would encounter this in Orem! It sounds like you gave her a great response though. I've seen this argument from time to time, and you're right - regardless of religion, women who demand respect usually get it. Great food for thought!

Annette Lyon said...

Amen. It's sad that so many people don't understand. I think a good chunk of the world would be stunned to find out that Utah gave women the right to vote before anyone else (but had to take it away to join the Union), that Brigham Young was huge on women getting educations (and even becoming doctors) and the like.

Oppressed? Not hardly.

Charlie Moore said...

All the good things that women have and can aspire to comes from the perfect love the Lord has for His daughters. Respect started with mother Eve and continues eternally.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Aren't signings interesting? I think you handled the situation very well. I, too, do not feel oppressed whatsoever. I feel empowered because of the gospel and the knowledge it gives me.

Great post!

Maria Zannini said...

I hope you won't judge all Catholics by that woman.

Ref: She said she didn't want to read about Mormon women because we were oppressed.

Wait a minute. She didn't want to read about Mormon women because she thought they were oppressed, so she wanted to read about Muslim women? The same women who have to wear a veil and can be stoned by strangers for driving their own cars?

There's something a little skewed about her thinking.

It all comes down to perspective, I suppose. What one person sees as empowering might be construed as constrictive by another.

There's perspective and then there are degrees of perspective too.

All you can do is follow your conscience. I don't worry too much about narrow-minded people. They're their own worst enemy.

Heather B. Moore said...

Maria, I definitely don't judge any Catholics by this woman :-) Yes, I did find it ironic that she wanted to read about Muslim women. I've studied the Muslim culture for my Queen of Sheba book, and I have a good friend from high school (when I lived in Jerusalem) that was a Muslim, converted Christian.

One of my best friends is Catholic and she is honestly the most generous and spiritual person that I know. Someday I hope to grow up to have half of her compassion and goodness.

I love to read about others religions and find varying beliefs fascinating. Thanks for your insights!

Taffy said...

You gave a great answer, Heather.

I think many in the world connect Mormon women with polygamist women or the stories of polygamist women.
Outside of Utah, after friends found out I was LDS they stared at me in surprise.
"You're a Mormon? You don't look or act like one."
"How do they look or act?"
"You know, long sleeve dresses, quiet and reserved..." (sorry. I blew the quiet and reserved part). They also wanted to know if we were allowed to dance, how we liked living with horse and buggy and no electricity.
One person was shocked to learn Utah sells alcohol.
Another asked about my horns.
It's about education and perception.
Both ways.

Heather B. Moore said...

Good point, Taffy.