Sunday, April 7, 2013

Another Empty Victory for Mormon Women!

Prepare to be shocked.

The LDS church, in a move doubtlessly intended to demonstrate their benevolence toward women, has subtly solidified their implicit status as inferior to men:  they've restructured missionary leadership to include some token female positions.

As announced on the Mormon Newsroom, the church is introducing a "Missionary Leadership Council" which will include the mission president, his wife, assistants to the president, zone leaders, and the brand spankin' new Sister Training Leaders.

The sister training leaders "will be responsible for the training and welfare of female missionaries assigned to them" because obviously it's unacceptable for a woman to be in charge of a man.  They will "spend time each week training and evaluating the needs of female missionaries" and "report directly to the mission president on the needs of sister missionaries."  So the women are in charge of only worrying about the women stuff while the big strong men get to carry the responsibility for everything that goes on in the mission.  Also, mission presidents' wives will be "asked to play an enhanced role in training and caring for sister missionaries," cementing the idea that the women will be taking care of women stuff.  Nowhere does this announcement make any reference to the remotest glimmer of possibility that any female could ever be in charge of any male.

The icing on the cake, though, is this line:
Full expression from all participants is invited in council settings, unifying the efforts of both male and female council members.
There is no assurance that opinions from male and female sources will be given equal weight and there's no chance in hell that the councils will be in any way numerically gender-balanced, but at least the few women on the council will be allowed to express themselves.

The church leadership doesn't seem entirely clueless--they seem aware that people both inside and outside of the church are calling for better treatment of women.  But this move is disingenuous.  The church is effectively saying that, to prove how much they value women, they're going to give women a few empty positions of leadership that are still subject to male oversight and allow them to go off into a corner and do their womanly stuff together with their own mostly useless leadership structure.
That makes two kind-of-good-but-not-good-enough strides for feminism within Mormonism in the past few days.  But if women ever gain truly equal footing with men in the church, that day is a long, long way off.  Because both these victories have been subtle put-downs at the same time.  

And that doesn't seem right to me.


  1. I have served as a (male) Primary teacher for the past 4 years. I have been a Primary teacher at other times as well.

    In all cases my "boss" was a lady, and not the Primary President, but one of her counselors.
    I consult my "boss" regarding all aspects of my class, asking permission for special events or activites. I ask her advice if I'm having a problem. Neither I, nor any other male Primary teacher I know of, has ever had any problem with a lady in a leadership position in Primary.

    No two different things can never be exactly equal in all respects. Even your right and left feet are not exactly equal.

    It takes a left and a right foot to march along. Neither are better than the other, but both are surely needed to make progress.

    There is no dark plot to "hold women down" or to limit their contribution. Just as in the Army, "Forward March" means that everyone leads off with their left foot, followed by the right foot, different roles in life and in the Church don't mean a lessor role for either gender.

  2. Okay, I guess I didn't think of the primary program as a situation in which a male may serve under a female. But, of course, this falls under the category of "womanly" things, as it involves children. Women get to be in charge of other women and children. Men can run the ward, run the stake, and run the entire church.

    Of course it's easy for you to say that there is no evil scheme to subdue women--you're not the one making church policy! I think the truth is that women are kept lower than men on the totem pole, despite the church's repeated claims to the contrary. The point is often made that men have the priesthood and women have motherhood, which makes the two sexes equal. But men have fatherhood, a male approximation of motherhood, and women have no female approximation of the priesthood.

    The church must be marching in a circle because one of its feet takes much longer strides than the other.