I really enjoyed reading this. I also enjoyed listening to your interview on Mormon Stories.
My wife and I have left the Church. We were tired of a lot of things, but keeping this post relevant, the Church’s sexist views of women was towards the top. They are marginalized, but then told to believe and proliferate the lie that they in fact are actually not, all evidence to the contrary.
They talk of clothing as a something to do to “show respect to our bodies” and not give the wrong idea to someone else. Personal respect shouldn’t come from clothing selection. And that entire dilemma of objectification is largely men’s problem. Men are generally the ones who are doing the objectifying. It’s not up to women to change their lifestyle, down to fashion and buying habits, to hopelessly keep me and every other man’s sex drive at bay.
And thank you so much for the comment about garments. In addition to the loss of feminine choice my wife grieved, which is incredibly traumatizing for women, they are shamed away from allowing themselves to grieve for that loss. And functionally speaking, they don’t breathe! It caused ongoing health issues with my wife where she was perpetually dealing with it by alternating between medicines and dietary approaches to try and be comfortable down there. And no more tank tops in 100 degree weather! God doesn’t want you to be comfortable.
The subtle comments from the pulpit, talks, testimonies and enrichment evenings that create the impossible standards that just turn into more self-shame are not missed. Perfect wife, perfect homemaker, perfect scrap-booker. There is definitely a cultural expectation for what habits a Mormon wife is supposed to have.
And are you a single woman over 30 in the church? If you are, you don’t exist. The Church isn’t for singles over 30. They don’t know how to deal with you or where to send you. I’ve sat in PEC and Ward Councils where we racked our brains on what to do, and the fact of the matter is local leadership has little they can do because, on a fundamental level, the Church isn’t designed for unmarried people. Proudly so, unfortunately.
And layered within all of this is the barely-subtle, passive aggressive way the women make it harder on each other; Comments after meetings about the length of a sister’s skirt, the uncleanliness of her home — during a surprise visit, no less — or her poor performance with visiting teaching. They should be bringing each other up and in some wards they are the worst offenders at making other women feel inadequate.
We realized we felt mostly shame and exhaustion. And it wasn’t shame because we weren’t good enough. What was hardest to deal with was how we were still unhappy even after powering through it in good faith. We could deal with failing at the impossible standards, because that is a common theme in the church; “Reach as high as you can, and the atonement will close the gap” we were told. Built into the doctrine is the message that it is impossible, but it carries the promise of peace and joy while you are reaching, because the gospel will take care of the rest. But it didn’t. We were unhappy and stressed out. We hated ourselves because we were supposed to be happy. We hated that maybe on a core level WE were broken. And the only answer we got was MORE. More faith, prayer and scriptures. More of a broken process isn’t going to work.
We weren’t the problem after all. After leaving and finding the joy of self-expression, sexual equality and marital equity, we are the happiest we’ve been.
There are beautiful, kind people in the church. I’m proud to call most still our friends. I also know that everyone has to find their own way. And I hope, for those true believers that find joy in the practice of the LDS faith, that the leadership in the Church will reform their views and their doctrine to accommodate women and create greater equity among the sexes.
And for those who are thinking about leaving, try it and see how it feels. The ones who leave and come back seem better off. And there are a lot like my family who have left and never looked back.
-Chris in Colorado