Extreme Feminist Mormon Mommy?

Today in my Sociology class, several students referred to “extreme feminism” in their comments. When pressed to clarify, one defined an extreme feminist as a woman who says, “I’m just as smart as men, and I should get paid the same. I should be able to support myself.” These are, for the most part, very young students about a half-generation younger than I. Many of them nodded in agreement.

Do you agree, too? Does my being a single mother who supports her family and wants to be paid fairly for the work she does make me an “extreme feminist?” Should I spend more of my time and effort looking pretty so I can find a man to support us instead? Should I pretend to be weaker and less intelligent than I am in order to be more attractive?

Don’t think it’s a real problem?

One of my far-more-liberal-than-average suitors once peeked at my resumΓ© then asked what I did in a typical day at work. I answered (rather diminutively I thought); that I wasn’t programming much and in fact was struggling to keep my head above water with a print design project, but I was very happy with my job and felt like I was doing well. His response: “Wow Velda… Way to make a man feel completely inadequate.”

And it’s not just in dating that I’m being told I lack traditional femininity. Another person was kind enough to point out that, in the workplace, I would do better to use a barely-there handshake so I wouldn’t come off as being too powerful or confident.

Still another, an older gentleman, who I admire much, flattered me in his explanation of why my male and female coworkers had trouble accepting me. He explained that he knew Sheri Dew, and that I reminded him very much of her: smart-as-a-whip, passionate, and strong … and that because people don’t expect that in a woman, they find it intimidating.

Does my belief that I shouldn’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not make me an extremist, too?

Personally, I would say an extreme feminist is one who says a woman’s value is only in how well she penetrates the male-dominated workforce and political sphere. There are women who believe full-time mothers are wasting their mind and talent, and I couldn’t disagree more. Having spent a fair amount of time in the office myself. I’ve accomplished some neat things, but nothing compares, in my mind, to the importance of what I’m accomplishing at home. If I could, I would much rather spend more time with my children. That has always been my goal, and I’ve given up much for it, but I’d hardly consider what I’ve given a sacrifice. My kids are worth it.

Now for you Mormon folk: some see our beliefs as misogynistic, particularly where it comes to supporting the Priesthood. Others, like the girl in my class today, see women who believe they’re worth just as much as men are extreme. What does the doctrine teach us? We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. Remember the Young Women values we strive to live? Remember the Relief Society Declaration? How can these possibly be interpreted as womanhood being of a lesser worth?

For those who believe that, in Utah at least, our Mormonism perpetuates these ideas, just have a look at any national magazine or TV advertisement. Take a look at MTV. Women are still reduced to sex objects time and time again. Even when we talk about empowering women, or women in power, her looks are still criticized. This isn’t a mormon problem. It isn’t just a media problem, either, and we aren’t going to solve the problem by pointing fingers.

Anyway, I’m not even sure how to conclude this right now. I have further ideas on the matter, but I’d like to go enjoy the fall colors with my kids this evening, so I’m logging off for now. I would love to hear your honest feedback and thoughts. I tend to think this sort of post in itself intimidates people, but please don’t be afraid to speak up. Is this a problem? Am I overly feministic to reject the importance of looks? What, if anything, should be done to influence the upcoming generation?


  1. rob aubrey

    I believe that women and men are different for sure. Men that believe that because they are a man have superiority are actually inferior men. I believe there is a biblical role of a husband and wife and is not to be confused as a man and a woman, they are clearly two different topics.

    One is based on a marriage relationship (Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church, means lay down your life for your bride without condition, only a real man can comprehend that)

    I also believe in the merit system in the work place, you should be paid based on production. Any other system is wrong and I would not be involved in that.

    I believe motherhood is the most noble profession on the planet. Being a single mother was never the design of parent(s) and I promise you very few men could accomplish being a single parent.

    In response to "Way to make a man feel completely inadequate" Only a man can make himself feel inadequate.

    Again same thing "I would do better to use a barely-there handshake so I wouldn’t come off as being too powerful or confident." R E A L L Y ?


  2. JennyJones

    Wow, I am just in shock that people thought that it was actually ok to say that out loud. The scriptures tells us that we aren't supposed to bury our talents, and that the one that does, loses them. You've been blessed with a smarter brain than many, stronger courage than most, and a very large HEART. Yes, it's going to be a task to find someone to be equally yolked to, but you've seen what it's like when you're pulling the lion's share of the load in a marriage. We're supposed to hold hands side by side, not drag the spouse who laggs behind. I'm thinking that you're 100% correct and that the people who have commented that you are "too strong" maybe should work their own muscles a bit and see if they can learn from you. Aren't leaders supposed to lead?


  3. Lonnie Olson

    I disagree that is the definition of extreme feminism. Extreme feminism is believing that women that fulfill traditional roles (mom) is wrong and giving women a bad name. Eg. Man haters.
    Moderate feminism is believing that both men and women are created equal and deserve equal treatment.

    I do believe that the LDS church is misogynistic though. It teaches specific roles based on gender. Just because you are a specific gender shouldn't determine your family role. Both genders are equally capable of filling either role.


    1. velda

      I used to think that, but when I was pregnant and supposed to be on bedrest, it really would have been nice to not have to be everything from the breadwinner and the trash-taker-outer. I really needed to rest. Being pregnant is exhausting, even when things aren't going all wonky. And throwing up uncontrollably several times a day is hard enough at home, let alone in the office.

      I also think breastfeeding is important, and while it wasn't impossible to do that and work at the same time, having to bring a pump everywhere was not fun, and I don't think giving men hormones to do the feeding is really the best answer either.

      So I think it's fair to say that biologically, women really are more suited to taking care of their younger children, and that it's best if the father can make it possible for her to fulfill as much of that role as she is willing to take. I do think that fathers need to realize that an 8-hour-per-day job that pays very well does not make them somehow more valuable than the one who stays home working all hours for her family without pay.


      1. Travis B. Hartwell

        So the discussion of gender roles, particularly within the church, is something that I have struggled with a lot recently. When I was married, I never considered myself superior to my wife because I was the husband, held the priesthood, etc. I've come to call myself a feminist.

        But as you might know, Velda, I've lost almost every way I've defined myself as an adult man in the last few years. I'm not able to work a full time career and support myself financially (let alone a family). My temple marriage ended, and I still struggle with feelings of sin because of the divorce — especially during conference when I hear the general authorities repeatedly say it is the priesthood responsibility to be married and the biggest thing we will be judged on is our relationship with our wife. For various reasons, I haven't been able to be as active as I like, and so I haven't been able to exercise the priesthood in service. And, most of all, I haven't been able to be a father.

        As I look forward in my life and realize that I might not be able to work full time ever again, as I realize I will be even more limited as I go blind, I will even more not be able to fulfill the roles I see as the man's role. One of the most precious things to me about my relationship with my ex was though she was 4 inches taller than me, I was sufficient for her to feel safe and protected. I've never been able to fulfill that role for anyone else. And now that my health is even more precarious, as I have the limitations that I have, as I have the "baggage" that I bring with me with the divorce, how can I fulfill the traditional role of leadership in my home? How can I provide for a family? And spending time with my niece and nephew this weekend made me question my ability to even keep up with children, as I face near exhaustion.

        I understand a bit of what you say about the reactions of men in the church towards women. My younger sister has been very successful in her career, previously holding some very prestigious sales positions and now as an executive director of a national program at a media research firm. Add to that she has the opposite problem as me, being rather tall. I know that she has expressed to me frustration in the past about reactions from young single men towards her. In fact, she is now dating the man I believe she will eventually marry — and he is not a member of the church. In fact, these things are so completely do not bother him. He's an elementary school teacher (honestly, a stereotypical woman's role) and it's safe to say she makes more than him. But for them, it works, and it doesn't seem to affect their relationship at all. I'm glad that they've been able to start to define their relationship on the roles they want to fulfill, and not on "tradition".


      2. velda

        Yeah…. I don't even think some men consciously consider what makes a girl attractive or not; if they were to do so they might question some underlying sociologically programmed assumptions (like, a woman has to be shorter / less-powerful).


      3. Travis B. Hartwell


        This was the largest problem I had before I was married. In fact, before I met my ex, I had given up completely on ever finding a companion. In my entire life, I have only known 2 women interested in me as a partner and I married one of them.

        I even got in an argument with a tall young woman in my YSA ward when I had mentioned my brother (who is 6'4") married someone who was 5'2". She had the audacity to say, "stick to your gene pool." My brother and his wife are a great match, it doesn't matter their height difference.

        From an evolutionary psychological perspective, I can understand why there might be a desire for a woman to seek out a man taller than her, as he could "protect her" better. But, if I were to overtly use the same type of criteria with a woman and say I wanted a woman with large breasts and wide hips because she would be good at bearing and raising children, I'd be called sexist.

        Alas, I can't overcome society's perceptions and I'm forced to accept a limited pool of potential partners. Which makes my divorce sting even more.


      4. Travis B. Hartwell

        My wife and I separated around a year and a half ago, and our divorce was final this February.

        Sorry if it sounds like I'm whining all the time. I don't mean to; it's just there's not a moment that goes by that I'm not reminded of my health or my divorce. I feel that my experiences have lead me to be able to feel empathy for a wide variety of situations, but unfortunately, it always seems to come out like I'm complaining when I say, "me too."


      5. velda

        Ouch, it's still really fresh then, huh? My divorce was finalized almost a year and a half ago, and we were separated for about that long, too. Hang in there and live the Gospel, and it will get better.


      6. speckk

        I'm sorry life has taken such an ugly turn for you; but I always felt you had an engaging personality and were generally well regarded when I knew you in Austin, so I bet you can make the best of it. Better to have tried and lived than to never live at all.

        Being a fairly active person, my personal preferences tend toward physical compatibility, and I occasionally express doubts when I see friends dating people with superficially incompatible heights/interests/intelligence/body types/morals/etc.. I recently discouraged someone from judging an externally perceived incompatibility, since ultimately a couple gets to choose what's most important to them. I've generally tried to mind my own business and the only time I wish I'd pointed out a perceived problem in someone else's relationship was when a more innocent acquaintance started dating a player that I'd suspected of taking advantage of a few girls. In every other case, there's no reason to cast doubt and judgment into someone else's otherwise healthy relationship.


      7. Dave

        I know you've rejected it when I've said this before, Velda, but I *really* think you need to move somewhere else and surround yourself with a different kind of people. I can't think of any of my close friends that wouldn't be aghast at the description of the people around you, much less fault you for desiring equal pay or bat an eye at the mere suggestion that a woman can be smart and strong. In fact, many of them *are* smart, strong women — and they're amazing people.


      8. velda

        Being a divorced chica, it'd be really difficult to leave the state without a custody battle. Thanks for thinking of me, though. And clearly, by the responses here, there are plenty of good knowledgeable people in Utah, too πŸ™‚


      9. speckk

        There are narrow minded, exclusionary people wherever you go. Being in tech means Velda can often live wherever she likes to do her job. It also means she can be subjected to the abuse of internet trolls no matter where they live.

        I was disappointed, but not particularly surprised to just read some of the accounts on geekfeminism.org of abuse applied by a tiny minority of internet predators to amazing, accomplished women, just for publicly sharing their accomplishments.

        Velda lives in a very safe, beautiful, inexpensive, and supportive environment. While there is some small town provincial ignorance, it's a small price to pay in comparison to loss of friendly support and the damages her amazing kids could face adapting to a new town. In addition, she can set an example to these poor ignorant fellow students whose sheltered environment and lack of responsible adult experience prompted such ignorant comments.


      10. velda

        It's true. I don't know how much longer I'll get to stay here in light of the recent shakeups here – – and my landlord is getting married, too! But I do have lots of good friends here. I don't think I would have been shocked by the students comments if I weren't surrounded by people who get it. Dating here has been another task for certain (one I'm putting on hold for a while again), but I can't imagine it'd be that much easier anywhere else.


  4. tammyhart

    Hey Velda,

    I don't know if you remember, and I'll also repeat for all readers: I am happily married with 3 daughters and I am the sole breadwinner in my family. My husband is a minister, but is not currently pastoring. He helps me with household duties and the children and I couldn't make it without him. Huge kudos to you for doing what you do on your own!

    To say we have struggled over the last 5 years or so with our "role reversal" is like saying that water is wet. It has taken a lot of prayer, patience, and forgiveness, but we have finally come to a place where we can at least get along with each other, and "duties" are handled peacefully for the most part. Somedays I dream away about raising babies, make school play costumes, and planning meals and grocery lists like I'd want. My husband beats himself up way too much about not being the provider, and the reasons behind it are way too complex to get into at this point. I am proud of what he does for our family and I am happy to be his wife and help meet.

    I agree with you completely on what extreme feminism really means. I don't know much about how mormans view roles and genders, but I know what the Bible says. It's pretty clear about what women are to do. I believe these roles do spill over to other relationships and it's why I am very strongly against a female president and female pastors, but I also believe there are times and places when females are very able and "allowed" (so to speak) to be in leadership roles. Just think about Deborah, Lydia, and Priscilla.

    If what these people say about you is true, then it must also be true for me, and since I am me, I have a hard time agreeing with that. πŸ™‚ My husband does get intimidated by my success, but he's also proud of it at the same time. At the same time, I am astonished and intimidated by his success as a minister of the Word. His ability to comprehend the Word and deliver it the way he does when he preaches completely blows my mind! THAT is the talent and ability that God gave him, and I beam with pride and joy when I hear others thanking him for his ministry and receiving so many blessings through it.

    I don't think that you have to care more about your looks. The real treasure of a woman is her ability to tackle any challenge with grace and respect – Proverbs 31!

    Have you read "Created to be His Help Meet" by Debi Pearl? One of my favorite parts was where her husband Michael interjects a chapter and talks about this overweight, sloppy dressed woman that ran a small store but every man was drawn to her like a magnet because of her spirit and smile.

    You are who God created you to be. Don't let anyone try to conform you to their mold. That's not to say we don't have Biblical guidelines for holiness and what's becoming of a Christian. Rather, I encourage you to continue in your successes and your abilities. God has a plan for you (that may or may not include a husband), just trust and obey.


    1. velda

      Thanks Tammy, good to hear from you! I do think a woman could make a fine president (like men, it's more a matter of trying to find the right one and I don't think our current political setup does well with really letting the cream of the crop run), and while we don't have pastors (our Bishop is probably the closest match and those are only men), we do have plenty of female teachers at church. I'm glad you're a kindred girl geek.


  5. Amanda

    Hey Velda, it's Amanda ! I just found you here. I actually wrote a post the other day on feminism, about how I was afraid to say it out loud for fear of those connotations you talk about….in the context of the book being read this month for APW's book club.

    But I wouldn't consider this “I’m just as smart as men, and I should get paid the same. I should be able to support myself.” radical at all.
    I think feminism has gotten al this bad publicity around girls that we are afraid to say it, to fight for it, because in a way we take things for granted? And it is a general thing. Actually if you like I can send you the book, it is quite some food for thought…


    1. velda

      Hey Amanda! Good to see you here. How did I miss your blog all this time? That book does look interesting. I was afraid to tell my parents about this article I wrote because both of THEM have said things about this ultra-feminist or that, but they agreed heartily. So sure, I'll say I am a feminist — one who is blessed to have some great women AND men in my life. πŸ™‚


      1. Amanda

        Hey , well I just started this July, it's kind of a new thing πŸ™‚ Now you know, you are welcome anytime πŸ˜‰ And yeah, we are blessed, to have good examples and people around us πŸ™‚


  6. velda

    Okay, so Stephanie summed things up perfectly on her blog. THIS is how I feel, as a mormon woman, about women, too: http://diapersanddivinity.com/2011/10/19/can-of-w

    It's not a competition and should not be. We should all treat each other with fairness and respect, regardless of gender. I have to do it on my own right now, but you know what? While I'm happy that I can get along alright (and feel downright lucky compared to my other single-mommy friends) I would love to have a kind, respectful man in my life who loves God, his neighbors, the kids… and me, too. I do believe we are meant to be in families, that men and women do need each other, that that's what it's all about, really. I hope I can find that someday.

    But in the meantime, I really do need to be able to take good care of my kids, physically, financially, emotionally, spiritually, etc. That is hard to do on my own. I am super thankful for the friends who step in and help, and thankful for those who treat me fairly as a professional. And yes, I am thankful for the women and men who worked to make it possible for me to support myself.


  7. Amanda

    Yes I agree with all of that. I hope that man will come to you soon, I also believe men and women need each other, and I do hope with all of my heart you will find it. Pray for it with all your heart and be happy like you are. You are in fact a great inspiration and I admire you a lot .


  8. Becky H

    I love what you've written. It really made me think. I'm LDS and a stay-at-home mom. It's interesting to realize the the world defines "extreme feminism" as equality with men and that many in this same world believe women in our church are suppressed and made to feel less than men. Many women in the church, I think, also believe their role is to be inferior to men. I'm glad that you mentioned the Young Women theme. The reason these young girls recite this aloud each week is to remind them often of their incredible worth—not to remind them that they are less than their Priesthood-holding counterparts. Thank you for writing this and giving me further justification that Christ leads this church. You may visit me at http://cinderelladuty.blogspot.com!


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