Single Survival


Twenty five years ago, Kay Senzee wrote an Exponent II article about what it felt like to be a single woman in the Church. As I read through it recently, I was struck by how current many of her feelings and observations seemed, even though the Church has certainly made more of an effort in the last quarter century to acknowledge single members. While there have been these concessions, I was wondering – do single members still feel like this? Does this resonate with those of you who are single or who married a little later in life? If it doesn’t reflect your experience, how do/did you deal with the unique problem of being single in a married church? What can married members do or say to help include single members more effectively?

Below is an excerpt from”Single Survival” by Kay Senzee , Exponent II, Winter 1981. If you are interested in reading the entire article, you can find it on the Exponent II website at
http://www.exponentii.org/articles/Singlesurvival.pdf

“…After several romances didn’t work out, I entered my Glare and Hostility phase. I would return to my Midwestern home with chin stuck out and withering phrase ready. “Go ahead,” I dared family and friends. “Just ask about men and marriage!” After Glare and Hostility came Pleading and Bargaining: long, tearful episodes on my knees making every deal I could think of with God just so He would send me a live, semi-willing male body. Sometimes, even now, I get mad at God and think that just as I will have to explain my life to Him, he will owe me an explanation or two.

Pleading and Bargaining was short-lived. I entered the It’s My Fault phase. Obviously my personality or my body or my mind was at fault. I started taking advantage of the self-help classes the Church periodically offers for what I had previously considered life’s losers. I learned about hair and face and weight, played countless games of volleyball, and attended so many exercise classes that my body gave out, automatically putting an end to this phase.

Next, I lost myself in Good Works. If I couldn’t make it to the Celestial Kingdom with a partner, I would saint myself in. Only when I had given up looking, narrowed my roommates to one, and settled in, did I move to the Bitter and Cynical phase. I had a hard time facing the disillusionment of the unfulfilled promises of marriage and children that were in my patriarchal blessing, a blessing that has to be received from an eternal perspective because it isn’t happening now.

Currently, I am in the Detachment and Logical Assessment phase. There are simply too many women for the men in our Church. I laughingly suggest that “the one for me” – if there is such a thing – was killed in some war or that I am destined to be the 56th wife of some dutiful servant of God. I really believe neither. Sometimes I even secretly feel relieved that whatever kingdom I do earn in the next life, I will have earned it on my own. I do not have to take the added responsibility of either pushing my partner or being pulled by him. I also have a strong support group of men and women, married and single, who help me accept myself without the shadow of waiting for Mr. Right that has followed me for so many years…

Yes, I feel deeply guilty about not being married and having children. I was raised with those expectations. I was thirty before I stopped defining “women” as “married, with children.” Somehow, I had felt that the married seventeen-year-old was a “woman”; I, as a girl. She had an edge on me with her secret knowledge and her automatically assumed role that did not have to be justified. I, on the other hand, had and still have to justify my very being. I have to define myself in roles other than wife and mother. I usually do it by my vocation or my current avocation – “Hi, I’m Kay. I take a photography class.” I have also tried to justify myself by providing myself with the accruements of marriage: buying a house, planting gardens, painting things, and pretending my house is a home.

In trying to justify my existence, I have not found much support in the Church organization. Although grateful for scraps tossed the singles’ way in recent conference talks when a sentence suggests that the Church remembers the singles, I note that with the exception of organizing singles wards and older YSI groups, not much has been done to actually confront the singles issue. The Relief Society Board, for example, still insists that the 150 single women in my ward have a Motherly Education class. I continue to feel angry and sadly disappointed that I will have to wait for the Church to expand its vision….”

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women’s Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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  1. Deborah says:

    I find this idea still has traction:

    “I was thirty before I stopped defining “women” as “married, with children.” Somehow, I had felt that the married seventeen-year-old was a “woman”; I, as a girl.”

    One train-of-thought: I was in singles wards for about eight years. The most awkward Sundays — at least twice each year — were the co-ed every-one-gather-in-the-gym chastity talks. I would look around at the mix of 24-to-34-year-olds and listen to the well-meaning but unavoidably awkward and patronizing “warning talks” by leaders not much older (and occasionally younger) than the audience. I believe assumptions about sexuality is a key issue in the treatment of singles as somehow “younger” than married sisters of the same age. Twenty-five and single and a bishop may very well hand you a For Strength of YOUTH pamphlet during an interview. Twenty-five and married, it’s none of his business.

  2. amelia says:

    I agree with Deborah that the conception of womanhood in Mormonism requires marriage and children. I think that we typically see a mission as a rite of passage for boys into manhood. and even if they don’t go on a mission, there’s the priesthood thing. Women don’t have any equivalent other than marriage.

    This is something that I’ve dealt with in the last few years. I finally reached a point where I didn’t want to live any longer in my temporary state in between childhood and adulthood. So I started acquiring the things that I wanted for my own home. and I disagree with the article’s implication that a single person’s house cannot be a home. I have made my apartments my home–a place that expresses my own personality and is a place of refuge for me.

    I certainly understand the problems of being single in a married church and the ways that can result in some of the effects that Senzee describes. I’ve had my strugges with being angry at God and feeling like he has some explaining to do about all those blessings I was given that promised me marriage. and I struggle with the fact that what I want seems so good and I can’t understand why I’m not give what seems to be a righteous desire. I’ve had my moments of wondering if there are Mormon men who aren’t scared of smart, educated women (they are out there; I’ve found some; and they’re worth finding).

    The thing I’ve never felt is guilt. I don’t understand that. and I’m not sure if this is a product of my own personal upbringing or if the church has changed in some way that has made it less guilt-inducing to be single.

    i want to think about this one some more. and i’m kind of tired, so I hope this made sense.

  3. Mike says:

    Are a woman’s single survival struggles are worse than a man’s?

    I know both men and women who’ve really struggled, so I think that the depth of the stuggle can be the same. That said, it might be true that more women go through the struggles, although I have no data to support that conjecture.

  4. Robin says:

    You know, Mike, I suspect that in at least one way it’s worse for men in this church to be single than for women, because they’re held to a higher level of responsibility. Therefore, the reasoning goes, their unmarried state is their fault. And although there’s also an assumption out there that single women remain single because there’s something wrong with them (hey, we buy into that ourselves), I’m not sure that it’s as strong.

    Anyway, to get to the post at hand, I don’t feel guilty either. I’d go so far as to say I really don’t tap into those stages that were outlined. Sure, there are times when I think, I’m never going to be a young bride, or I’m never going to be a young mother (this usually happens when I see somebody else who is!) and then there’s a pang, but on the whole, I have a full and rich life and I like it. And I treasure my independence. And I don’t want to spend all my time and energy pining after something I not only don’t have, but which is to a significant degree beyond my control.

    Do I feel betrayed — that I’ve done my best at keeping my end of the bargain, but I was let down? No, because again, I have enough amazing experiences that I feel I’ve had some sort of compensation. I will say I feel fortunate to live where I do when I do — if I were in this situation just fifteen or twenty years ago, in a place less diverse and accepting than big east coast city, I’d probably feel a lot worse.

  5. Seraphine says:

    I think that single men more often get judgment (i.e. “you’re a menace to society”) and that single women more often get pity (i.e. “but you’re such a beautiful, intelligent sister…”). I’m not sure which is worse.

  6. amelia says:

    robin, i wish i knew your secret. because i’ve been awfully blessed and lucky in the experiences i’ve been able to have as a result of being single. i’ve been able to pursue my education as I see fit without considering how it will affect others. I’ve been able to travel a bit. I’ve been able to study abroad and live in cities where I couldn’t have otherwise. My life really is my own. but quite honestly, I don’t want it to be my own. I don’t want to spend my time pining after something that is beyond my control either (except I don’t think it’s entirely beyond my control; I do think that our choices about how we live and where influence the chances of marrying; it’s an interesting thing because sometimes i think the best way to get married must be to just live your life and be happy; and other times i think it takes a more concerted effort; jury is still out on that one). but i don’t know how to keep from wanting it. i don’t know how to accept my life as it is right now as enough.

    anyway. part of me wishes i could stop wanting to marry. it would be a lot less painful if I could live like that. another part of me thinks that would be a very sad thing to do.

  7. Dora says:

    Reading Senzee’s article was like sifting through the women I have known and been … who are alternately bitter, agonizing, cheerful, busy with other things, hopeful, etc etc.

    Myself? I’d say I’m rather detached, keep myself busy with other things, mostly cheerful with occassional bouts of the bitter or guilty phases.

    Realistically, as has been discussed earlier, the LDS church is full of “the-way-things-are-supposed-to-be-isms.” One of those is married with children. And believe me, I know more that enough about how the women feel. However, I must confess to a little sympathy for the guys. Generally, single women over 30 are given at least a little sympathy for not having attained MWC status. However, single men older than 30 are often viewed as defective or just plain weird. And some genuinely are. But I digress. The point is that singles within the church all have to deal with issues of feeling like square pegs. Blaming anyone … men, superficial cultural ideals of beauty, ourselves … is so counterproductive. Lately I’ve tried to find different ways to invite joy into my life; and if I’m still single at the end of this mortal existence, so be it. But in the meantime, I’m going to have a lot of feel-good and do-good times.

  8. Caroline says:

    Amy,
    I agree with you about the comment in the essay that a single person can have a house but not a home. I was bothered by that when I read the article, but I suppose that was just her personal perception of her situation.

    I think the guilt she refers to has to do with the fact that she thinks she’s letting down a long line of ancestors whose genes are dying out with her. (I had to cut that paragragh out.) Maybe that kind of feeling is a result of the time period in which she was experiencing this.

    Sandra, I also found compelling her description of the various stages she went through. That’s actually why I chose to post it, since it seemed so poignant. Particularly the parts where she was taking self-help classes from the church (!), exercising herself nearly to death, and begging god for a semi-willing male. I loved that line.

  9. Mary Ellen says:

    My friend, Lee Poulsen, had the ward clerk crunch numbers discovered that 50% of the adults over age 18 in our stake are single. In my ward, 52% are single. Lee mentioned this in a high council talk and I was pretty stunned. (Young single, older single/never married, divorced, and widowed all figured into the mix). That may not refelct who’s in the pews on Sunday and it made me wonder what similar church-wide number crunching would reveal…

    When I was working on a Dialogue article on singles, I found that church-employed researchers were very interested in what I was doing, but were not doing any research on singles and hadn’t in some time. Available data from studies by LDS sociologists or at BYU was 25-30 years old. If there are more single members than we realize, it’s pretty disheartening that no one seems to be paying attention.

    On a personal note, I haven’t felt guilty about being single, but I have been insanely impatient and mad at God about it. I’ve stayed away from a lot of wedding receptions because it was just too painful to go. I’m grateful for friends who were supportive and understood that sometimes charting your own course is no damn fun.

    I recently became engaged and I have mixed emotions about leaving my singleness behind. Yeah, there’s a lot to be happy about, but I’ve been single for 20 years of my adult life. And most of that time, I’ve entertained family and friends with horror stories from my dating life. A huge part of my identity has been shaped by being single.

    Now that I’m leaving that demographic, I don’t want to turn into an insensitive smug-married or to forget what it was like to be single. Nor do I want to disappear from my single friends’ lives as so many newly-married people do. Since I’m getting married at 38 rather than 22, I’ll hope for a more graceful transition.

  10. Caroline says:

    Hi Mary Ellen!

    I’m also disturbed by the fact that Church researchers are apparently not doing much to study this demographic. How sad if the Church keeps losing unknown numbers of single people because they are not adequately meeting their needs.

    But on another note, congratulations on the engagement. (I had heard through the rumor mill that there was a Sunstone romance going on.) After 20 years of adult singleness, it will indeed be interesting to see how married life compares to your single life. Being married has been great for me, but I can imagine there are also things you’ll miss about your autonomous single life.

  11. Holly says:

    Mike writes: ” Are a woman’s single survival struggles are worse than a man’s?”

    I’d like to ask: is this one of those feminist forums where a man will jump in every so often to remind the women that “men have problems, desires, concerns and issues too”?

    I see it happen a lot, particularly in Mormon forums, where women are taught to defer to men, even on topics like feminism. I admit I am surprised to see it happen so quickly here, and surprised as well that no one has commented on the gender dynamics involved when, in a forum designed to promote women’s voices on women’s issues, a man calls attention to men’s concerns. after which women rush to agree with him.

    The further problem is that not only does Mike call attention to men’s concerns, he also invites a comparison between women’s struggles and men’s struggles, ostensibly in an effort to show they are the same–and, it would seem, to remind women not to imagine that their problems and difficulties are more severe or more important than that of a man in the same situation.

    Perhaps it is just me, but it seems to me it is the job of feminism to call attention to ploys like this, and it is the job of men who truly want to respect women’s forums and women’s voices to find other arenas in which to invite such comparisons and make such reminders. Women are told in so many that their concerns are not as important as men’s; it seems remarkably insensitive and unkind to draw attention back to men so that women do not focus on their own difficulties, even in a forum like this.

  12. amelia says:

    i’d like to respond, holly. i should first state that i know mike in the real world–as opposed to the nebulous realm of the internet. and he is an incredibly balanced person, always trying to recognize the ways in which very important problems are complex. That said, i’d like to address your comments.

    First, as to the nature of this forum: while Exponent II is certainly a publication for women and by women and the blog is meant to promote Exponent II’s mission in opening a space in which women can share their experiences in an atmosphere and trust (to cite the about us section of the blog), i don’t believe there is anything about Exponent II or this blog that should silence men’s voices on issues that are important to women and issues about sex and gender. I personally believe that one of the mistakes of feminism is to fail to see the problems that men face when it comes to gender and sex—and i’m not alone in seeing this problem. In the preface to one of the most recent editions of _The Feminine Mystique_, Betty Friedan argues that the next step for feminism is to recognize and understand and address the ways in which men are not free to define themselves because of gender constrictions. I’d like to believe that this forum, while primarily meant to provide a space for women, is open enough to consider gender and sex and associated problems having to do with men. We’ll only achieve equality and balance when we solve both sets of problems—those of women and those of men.

    I agree that there can be some problematic gender dynamics when men respond to a discussion of women’s problems by reasserting themselves. I’ve seen this as a debate tactic far too often to argue that it isn’t a problem. However, relying on my knowledge of mike’s character, i can say with absolute certainty that he was in no way trying to say that women’s “concerns are not as important as men’s” nor to “draw attention back to men so that women do not focus on their own difficulties, even in a forum like this.” rather, I believe what Mike was doing was trying to prevent the pendulum from swinging so far to the opposite side that we ignore the problems men have that are related. I fully agree with his impulse, as i believe that doing so can create even bigger problems.

    Finally, while Mike’s comment certainly invites a comparison between men’s and women’s problems, I don’t think it implies at all that the problems men and women face are the same. In fact, the only similarity he pointed out was the “depth” of the struggle, which seems to be a comment on the emotional turmoil and the power of the struggle, not the nature of the struggle. I believe that your gloss of mike’s purpose may be somewhat accurate. But i would rephrase it. His comment is not a reminder to not imagine our problems are more severe or more important, but rather a reminder that men also have problems surrounding the issues of marriage, gender, sex, and family. I believe that if we as women and feminists ignore that fact, regardless of the nature of the forum, we will only serve to reify existing attitudes about feminism and reinforce problems rather than solve them. To assume that gender, sex, marriage, family, etc. are simple, unproblematic constructs for men, or more specifically for white, straight men, is in my opinion fallacious. In order to truly address the issues of gender, we have to be willing to look at all aspects of those issues.

    a little over a year ago, jana and caroline pulled together the panel on feminism that was one of the anchor articles in the Southern California issue of Exponent II last year. They asked me to participate as a panelist, which I was very excited to do. As we discussed the nature of the forum, someone suggested that we allow men to come but not allow them to talk. While I understand the history and the dynamics that informed that decision, i find it repugnant. Because it does to men what they have historically done to women. And retribution is not reform. Our solution was to have it be a women’s only meeting. However, that’s not a solution that will work here. This is a public forum, and as such i believe comments should be welcome from all people—regardless of their gender, religion, politics, etc. i fully expect that if someone posts a problematic comment, it will be addressed. But i would be very sad indeed to believe that the forum was simply silencing men. I believe, with Ghandi, that we have to be the change we want to see in the world. And the change i want to see is gender equity, not gender revenge or women taking a position of power over men. The only way gender equity will happen is if we see these issues with balance.

  13. Holly says:

    Amelia:

    I don’t think any woman who has any male relatives (be they fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins or sons) or any straight woman who has been in relationships with men, can fail to be aware that men face a great many problems when it comes to relationships, family, gender and sex.

    But I am quite convinced that one of the problems men face with regards to gender and sex is a tendency to get anxious when women start trying to work out what the world feels like for women. “Hey,” the men seem to shout, “Don’t forget about me! Don’t reach any conclusions that fail to consider my wants and needs first of all!” (I suspect one reason so many of them are so very anxious about this topic is that they are very aware of the extent to which patriarchy ignores the concerns of women, but perhaps that is not something that needs to be explored here.)

    And you are right, Amelia; it is important to consider the needs of everyone as we make sense of the world. Nonetheless, I would like men–especially men who claim to be friendly to feminism–to trust the process by which women attempt to do that; I would like them to allow women to make a few mistakes, even if that means that the pendulum swings in the direction of setting aside men’s problems, even for a little while; I would like men to realize that they can let the conversation proceed for a few hours at a time without inserting themselves and their concerns into it.

    I am not interested in silencing men. I am, however, interested in pointing out how often men, when they enter forums that are ostensibly about women’s issues, attempt to draw the conversation back to the topic of men. I am interested in pointing out that it is possible for men to ask questions about women’s experience without foregrounding male experience. I am interested in pointing out the extent to which Mormon women defer to men, even in forums designed to promote women’s concerns and women’s voices.

    I don’t know Mike; I’m perfectly willing to believe that he’s a lovely person in real life, just as the men I know and love are wonderful human beings. That does not prevent them from acting as privileged agents of patriarchy from time to time. I tried very hard in my comments not to attack Mike directly or criticize his character; I tried to talk about general trends rather than chastise Mike specifically. Nonetheless, you begin your comments by defending his character, and you invoke his character throughout your comments. OK, fine: YOU have privileged information that helps YOU remain comfortable when he puts into action a gender dynamic you admit is extremely problematic.

    The question then becomes, is this a forum primarily for a group of insiders, who all know each other? Or is it a forum where a group of diverse people who might or might not know each other, conduct a conversation focusing on women and gender issues? And if it is, it is possible to call attention to ways in which gender issues are invoked to minimize women’s concerns, not just in the world at large, but right here on this blog? Are we allowed to discuss the larger issues of feminism, or just the application of them to LDS lives?

  14. Mike says:

    Holly,

    (Nothing’s better for a blog than energetic conversation, eh?)

    You’re question about what type of forum this blog will be is a good and very relevant one. I’m glad you raised it, and I hope more people comment on it.

    Let me tell you that my questions/comments about single men’s and women’s struggles were sincere, and not to “ostensibly show they are the same” (your words), and I’m troubled that you so quickly interpreted it that way. In fact, it is my feminist wife who often has raised questions about gender similarities and differences among LDS singles, and she is by no means saying that the problems are the same.

    Personally, I think the depth of singlehood struggles for men and women can be quite quite similar, however, I have noticed one big difference. Within the church single men are criticized and feel guilty for being single, whereas I’ve known women who feel bad about being single and ALSO for not having children. Do others agree with this observation? Is this difference worth noting and acknowledging? It seems to me that this blog is the right place for this sort of discussion and a man’s point of view seems very relevant for it.

    Now there is a more fundamental issue. I don’t dispute your worry that just being good guys “does not prevent them from acting as privileged agents of patriarchy from time to time” (your words), even unknowingly. However, I think a person should be careful when accusing men of being “remarkably insensitive and unkind to draw attention back to men so that women do not focus on their own difficulties, even in a forum like this” (your words). Calling attention to gender similarities and difference–even when done by a man–is not always a negative gender dynamic, and it worries me that you’re so quick to believe that it is. You hint at having personal experiences that have led you to jump to such a conclusion so quickly, but why not give a male commenter on this blog the benefit of the doubt? At least at the start before he proves himself to be a moron, as some will.

    P.S. By the way, mindonfire John introduced us in SLC last summer. Nice to talk to you again. 🙂

  15. Deborah says:

    Holly and Amelia:

    Interesting discussion! I’ll hold off adding to it for now in favor of responding to Holly’s questions. Much like Exponent II started as a small group and grew, this fledgling blog is fruit of a small group of women – both close friends and relative strangers — who, with the board’s approval, wanted to bring a piece of ExII to the internet. Most of theses initial comments, then, are necessarily from the bloggers and their spouses — to get the conversation going.

    However, our overt goal is to grow and create a place for vibrant discourse much the way the paper has done. (We’ll take advertising ideas!) We plan to publish old articles from both the original Exponent and Exponent II, we seek guest essays and poetry (interested?), we want engaging comments, and we want to highlight women’s voices from other forums. The parameters? Simply put, from the original Expoent II mission: “Our common bond is our connection to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and our commitment to women.”

    So yes, this seeks to be a place for diverse voices. Discussion of the ways gender dynamics subtly and overtly affect discourse is clearly a topic worth of examining.

  16. Deborah says:

    Looks like Mike and I were writing at the same time.

  17. Holly says:

    Mike:

    You initially wrote,

    “Are a woman’s single survival struggles are worse than a man’s?

    I know both men and women who’ve really struggled, so I think that the depth of the stuggle can be the same.” (emphasis added.)

    You later write,

    “Let me tell you that my questions/comments about single men’s and women’s struggles were sincere, and not to ‘ostensibly show they are the same’ (your words), and I’m troubled that you so quickly interpreted it that way.”

    Given that you write explicitly that you think the depth of the struggle can be the same, do you want to tell me why you’re troubled that I was “so quick” interpret your statement as saying just that?

    I don’t think your intentions, sincere or otherwise, are the most relevant issue here. I don’t think I need to extend or withhold the benefit of the doubt in regards to whether or not you are genuinely interested in women’s lives. What I think is the primary issue is the way LDS people conduct discussions of things like gender, and the extent to which men find it difficult to let women speak for and about themselves.

    I WAS careful about suggesting that your remarks could be interpreted and remarkably insensitive and unkind. And, carefully considering my options, I stand by my statement.

  18. Caroline says:

    At the risk of putting words in Mike’s mouth…When Mike said that he thinks the depth (emphasis on depth) of struggle can be the same among men and women, I think he was saying the feelings of pain and unhappiness can be similar – I don’t think he meant to say that the actual experience of singleness is the same for men and women. As we’ve already pointed out, there seem to often be very different struggles that men and women face regarding singleness in the Church.

    You raise a good question about men’s voices in this forum. I personally don’t have a problem with men posting questions or their own personal experiences, but I agree with you, Holly, if men continually came and hijacked conversations about women’s issues in the Church, I would be very annoyed. But since Mike is the only male that posts at this point, I really have not reached that annoyance threshold yet.

  19. Janna says:

    I think Holly’s point about the ways some men point discussions back to themselves is compelling. My experience has been that most of the men that use this conversation strategy are, in fact, working to discount my assertion about women. The same type of dynamic often happens in discussions of race.

    I don’t think, however, that Mike’s comment carried that same intent. I think he was just trying to extend the conversation, which lands us on the question: do we want the conversation to extend in that direction?

    Maybe we just need to see how it all shakes out over time with men’s involvement.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I think the reason men and women’s struggles are so different as singles in the Church is that women do not have the priesthood.

    Every male over the age of 12 is awarded the Power of God because he has the right anatomy and he’s a member. Women often hear that their “femaleness” is equal to “priesthood” because of their childbearing capacities.

    Except faithful single LDS women don’t get to bear children or attempt to have them at all. So there is no equivalent to having “the power of God.” There is a definite inequity.

  21. Mike says:

    I realize it’s been a couple days, so I hope this isn’t too late.

    Holly, you said:
    I don’t think your intentions, sincere or otherwise, are the most relevant issue here. I don’t think I need to extend or withhold the benefit of the doubt in regards to whether or not you are genuinely interested in women’s lives.

    I fundamentally disagree here. Intent does matter, and it matters a lot. A sincere question should not be ignored. If my intent were to belittle women’s struggles, then by all means ignore it or criticize it.

    When I said that your interpretation troubled me I meant that your interpretation led you away from the purpose and intent of the original question, which is troubling because by not addressing the question itself, then we are never going to advance the cause of understanding.

  22. Holly says:

    Mike:

    I just read your comment on John’s blog, where you state that you believe that “language is a matter of coordination of understanding.”

    I ask you to pay me the compliment writing precisely and reading me precisely. Your original statement, after all, was “Are a woman’s single survival struggles are worse than a man’s?”

    With a statement like that, language is indeed a matter of coordination of language–and of guess work. OK, yeah, typos happen. But let’s own up to the fact that we don’t always say things as clearly as we should. And when someone does say something clearly, please pay attention.

    What I actually said is this: “I don’t think your intentions, sincere or otherwise, are the most relevant issue here.” I intended that as a precise statement. I meant to say that there are other matters more relevant than your intentions–because the fact remains that what we cause or achieve can be vastly different from what we intend to cause or achieve. Your intentions are not utterly irrelevant–but, as I said, I do not consider them the most relevant issue.

    YOU and your intentions are NOT the most relevant issue, and frankly, I am rather bothered by the fact that in a situation where I have tried to call attention to the ways men in feminist forums often insist on drawing conversations away from the topic of women and back to themselves, you continue to do just that. Perhaps this is a “sincere” attempt to prove… you’re a nice guy? That I misunderstood you? That I’m right? I don’t know. I don’t know you, and I don’t really want to judge you personally (I keep saying you and your intentions aren’t the most important issue to me, and I really do mean that) but you’re making it kind of hard not to. As Deborah said on John’s blog, it’s really nice when men in feminists forums err on the side of listening. You could do a lot to establish your “sincerity” by “erring” in precisely that way.

  23. Holly says:

    A few more things, Mike:

    If your question was so sincere, why did you answer it yourself?

    And if you could answer it yourself, why did you need to ask it?

    Do you see why your “intent” could seem suspect? And do you see why focusing on your intent fails to the address the larger issue of how discourse will be conducted in a feminist forum?

    Because, after all, if you insist on focusing on intent, you can only assert your intent, and others can only judge the extent to which they believe you.

    And I admit that given what you wrote, given how hastily composed it was and given the fact that you had already formed an answer to the question you posed, I cannot but continue to doubt your “sincerity.”

    So tell me now: is that what you want to be the most relevant issue in this discussion?

  24. Mike says:

    Holly,

    Since you asked, by offering a possible answer with my question (which is something I do a lot when I teach), I was only trying to spark further discussion in a way I thought to be consistent with Caroline’s original post and with the goals of the ExII blog.

    I fear our back-and-forth has taken us far afield of Caroline’s original post. I agree 100% that women need a place to discuss and explore topics of importance, and I didn’t think at the time that my participation was jeopardizing that sanctity. I’m truly sorry if it did.

    Getting back to the original post…

    I agree with anonymous that something is different for the two sexes w.r.t. singles’ struggles because of the priesthood=men/motherhood=woman association. I dislike this association, but it does exist in many Mormons’ minds. I don’t want my daughter or son to make that association.

  25. Dora says:

    Yes, this discussion has gone far afield. Yes, in this forum, we focus on women’s issues. However, if we do not connect them with human issues, then we are really limiting ourselves. By failing to look at the other side of the coin, we perpetuate the mistakes we are trying to rectify.

    I love the article that Amy posted about Skeleton Woman. One side does not dominate the other, but both work together to create beauty. As women, we do ourselves a real disservice by trying to alienate the insiders and outsiders who are all trying to achieve the same goals.

  26. Mike says:

    This is a totally different Mike, and my first time posting here-

    I think that one thing about the correlation between women’s and men’s struggles in this area can be beneficial, but it does seem that raising the question may indeed turning it back to the men, and an instance of men seeking validation from women who have seen and called out the patriarchal system that is so screwed up. I know it is something that I unwittingly do. An instance of attempting to empathize- but in reality being selfish in doing so.

    That said- I think that asking for a comparison can be valid. One reason for asking the question is it also gives a point of reference. To understand how an issue influences one gender specifically it may be necessary to look at how it influences another gender as well.

    I think that the statement that women are pitied and men are vilified for being adult and single in the church may have some truth to it; and I think the pity is worse. I think it is condescending, it reinforces assumptions we have about both men and women that are damaging to society as a whole, but that seem explicitly damaging to women.

    Pitying women universally and vilifying men universally seems to do nothing more than define women as being victims inherently and capable only of such. The assumptions behind the pity seem to say not only that being single is a horrible fate- but that a woman can be saved from said horrible fate through no actions of her own but only by a man, and only through having a husband come and rescue her.

    This idea of salvation only through a man, achievement only through some one else’s choices in regards to oneself, and all that this implies concerns me. It reminds me of how uncomfortable I am with other Church doctrines (or our perception of doctrine) church ceremonies, and things that should be purely good and positive.

    I know this conversation has died down- and I hope that

    I do think that the lack of study on singles in the Church is concerning. As we set out to study this issue- What should we ask? Should we look at the difference in the experiences of women and men? If so, how?