“Your problem,” he said, “is you don’t need a man.”

just the three of us

Ok, stop what you’re doing right now and go read this New York Times’ essay by Mormon Nicole Hardy: Single, Female, Mormon, Alone.

Now that you’re back, let me quote an excerpt from her piece.  She writes:

Obviously, I was left over, too — I was just never sure what my problem was. Until one man let me know. After overhearing a friend and me comparing our weekend horror-date stories, he walked up to me and asked, “You know what your problem is?”

No, I did not know what my problem was. And I was dying to find out.

“Your problem,” he said, “is you don’t need a man.”

I thought that was a good thing — to be able to take care of oneself.

He asked if I had a job.

“Yes.”

“A car?”

“Yes.”

“A house?”

“Yes.”

“Clothes?”

“Of course.”

“Food?”

“Obviously.”

“That’s your problem.”

“Excuse me?”

“Men in the church are raised to be providers. We are the breadwinners, the stewards of the household. If you have all the things we’re supposed to provide, we have nothing to give you.”

“What of love?” I asked. “What of intimacy and partnership and making a run at the world together?”

“Nope,” he said. “We’re providers.”

This reminds me of a conversation I had no too long ago with a single LDS friend where she spoke of the ‘entitlement’ that most single LDS men seem to wear so easily. They are men, so they are a valuable commodity. They have their choice from a vast sea of eligible and desirable LDS women, which gives them a huge amount of social power in their relationships with these women. The women, on the other hand, are left waiting for a man to choose them from among a crowd, to be his wife. There seems so little the women can do to progress spiritually (or perhaps even physically, as Nicole points out) because they are dependent on being chosen.  And it seems true that men are groomed from a young age to be the “provider” for the woman that they choose.

Which makes me wonder….what would happen to LDS social structures if women weren’t dependent on men? What if they could take themselves through the veil in the temple? What if they could choose their sexual partners rather than waiting to be chosen? What if they were in leadership positions where they decided their own temple worthiness, or that of others? What if they didn’t need men to provide anything for them?

Can you even imagine the church functioning without women’s dependence on men?

(Note: picture above is of me sandwiched between my two tall teenage children)

Jana

Jana is university administrator and History professor. Her soloblog is http://janaremy.com/pilgrimsteps/

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51 Responses

  1. kew says:

    Wow, that piece was amazing.

    Based on what I’ve heard about in other, more liberal faiths, I think I could imagine a more egalitarian community. It would be wonderful.

  2. Amy says:

    Unfortunately, I think we assume – because the world has for so long- that the man’s role is better. Just because we are different and not just like men, definitely does NOT mean that we are less than men. Trying to be like them will not make things better.
    I read that piece, and it is sooo unfortunate that men are so intimidated by capable women. But, I think that is more generally cultural than just cultural within the LDS church. I have had men be intimidated by me as well. Luckily, I was able to find someone who I didn’t intimidate, and I definitely feel for Nicole who didn’t yet. And I wish I had a good answer for her and anyone else in her position.

  3. Lorraine says:

    For many years Modern Love has been my favorite Sunday Morning tradition. I was surprised this week to find something there so painfully similar to my own story. The foregone conclusion of my dependence on men made me give up dating in general for most of my adult life as well.

    I lived this exact life for so long, just like this woman- terrified of dating outside the church, and completely at a loss for dating men in the church who found my liberal opinions and fierce independence to be “a turnoff” as one fellow told me. I find it laughable that there are men who happily live a life being “turned on” by the act of complete and utter fake feminine helplessness. Many the good woman I’ve seen pretend to be sillier and needier than she was to earn her husband. The Church suffers with every act of helplessness and the chasm grows with every reinforcement we give men in the church that we need them as providers.

    And Jana, I like the distinction that you make in your final questions of asking questions which don’t imply matriarchy, but equality. We don’t seek dominance, merely acknowledgment for what we are as human beings.

    And now that you mention it, as a woman who is uncomfortable with almost all men besides my husband and the men in my family, I can’t imagine how my relationship with the church might be different if I could seek council, temple recommends, blessings or other spiritual requests from a woman instead of a man. That would be a new organization unto itself for me.

    • T.H. Shrum says:

      “uncomfortable with almost all men”

      Is that like being uncomfortable with Jews, gays, African Americans, Hispanics, Moslems?

  4. DavidH says:

    This is a problem not just in Mormon culture, but in U.S. (perhaps general human) culture generally.

    Maureen Dowd wrote a fascinating column about this “Men Just Want Mummy” in terms of male reluctance to partner domestically with powerful females. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/13/opinion/13dowd.html?scp=3&sq=maureen%20dowd%20powerful%20women&st=cse

    And the letters in response are all interesting.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/15/opinion/l15dowd.html?scp=16&sq=maureen%20dowd%20marriage&st=cse

    I am glad my grandfather was not too intimidated by his LDS medical school female classmate in Pennsylvania almost almost a century ago and married her, practiced medicine and raised three children with her.

  5. PaulM says:

    There was an article in the WSJ last summer which addressed this issue. The writers interviewed a number of unmarried professional women between 35 and 45. All stated that they had a desire to get married but expressed frustration at their lack of success at finding a “suitable” mate. The general conclusion drawn by all is that given their relative success they recognized that: 1) they could afford to be picky; and, 2) many men were turned off by the prospect of being in a marriage as the secondary bread-winner. This is not a Mormon specific issue. This is an issue of technology outpacing evolutionary development.

  6. Jana says:

    PaulM:

    Sure it’s not an exclusively Mormon issue, but I think the argument could definitely be made that it’s worse in the LDS church than in general society.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing that article. I don’t know if I would have come across it otherwise.

  8. Kajabada says:

    “They have their choice from a vast sea of eligible and desirable LDS women, which gives them a huge amount of social power in their relationships with these women. The women, on the other hand, are left waiting for a man to choose them from among a crowd, to be his wife.”

    That reminded me of a blog post Jana Riess wrote a few weeks ago: http://blog.beliefnet.com/flunkingsainthood/2010/11/mormon-standards-night-and-sex.html#preview

    The relevant quote:

    “Some of the materials in our lesson manuals do not encourage girls’ agency, and that must change. One particularly disturbing piece of the curriculum that stays in my mind is the YW lesson “Preparing to Become an Eternal Companion.” Don’t get me wrong; I support the basic values underlying this lesson. Every young woman should prepare herself to have a loving eternal relationship, and to run a household. Family should be our life’s work.

    However, so should every young man learn these lessons and practice these values. And yet that’s not the counsel that the YM are given in their companion lesson to this one, which is aptly titled “Choosing an Eternal Companion.” I once heard someone in the Church complain that while we’re sending boys the message that they are in control of their own destiny, we are subtly telling girls that it is not their role to choose but to wait to be chosen. That’s certainly true here.”

    “Preparing to Become an Eternal Companion” vs. “Choosing an Eternal Companion”!! I was horrified when I read this! (Both because I went through these lessons, and because I have 4 daughters who will be going through these lessons.)

  9. MJK says:

    Having friends who are in that author’s age bracket/situation, I feel for her. If I had not met my husband and married him when I did I am almost certain I would have eventually made the same choice.

  10. Angie says:

    This post, the topic, that amazing NYT piece – I’m just going to let my thoughts flow. YES!!! I agree with the NYT author on many things. I moved to Las Vegas, after college at the U of Arizona and grad school at BYU. I was in university and singles wards for nine years. One day, at a singles ward activity in Las Vegas, I was struck by the thought, “we women don’t NEED men!” Most of the women in my ward had college degrees, jibs, and owned houses. Most of the men didn’t. In fact, there were men in our ward in their late 20’s who rode bikes, because they didn’t have steady jobs.

    But I never thought that was a bad thing, even though some of the men were probably sad about this situation. I thought it was actually great – when I choose a husband, I want it to be because I want to be with him, not because I’m financially dependent on him!

    I finally did meet a husband who loves my brains, and I’m grateful for him. But I I hadn’t met him, if I’d been single my whole life, then I’m pretty sure I would have stayed celibate my whole life. Why? Because I know that the pain of being alone is nothing compared to the pain of violating the law of chastity. The law of chastity protects women. Also, not having a man is nothing compared to separating myself from God through sin.

    Please know that I’m not downplaying the agony of loneliness – I’m emphasizing the complete despair of sin. And of course relying only on the hope and power of God to get through all of these challenges.

  11. Angie says:

    Oh, and one more thing – as bad as being alone is, it’s worse to be Ina bad relationship. And being connected to a man who does not value my standard of chastity or who does not value my intellectual gifts is a bad relationship.

    One more “one more” thing – if I had stayed single into my late 30’s and the near-end of my child-bearing years (which is where I am now), I would have extended my dating pool to non-LDS men. I think there’s nothing wrong with a civil marriage “til death do you part” for love, passion, and companionship for a lifetime. That’s definitely better than a lifetime alone. But a temple marriage is definitely important for raising kids in the church.

  12. Caroline says:

    This piece was outstanding. Thanks for directing us to it, Jana.

  13. Susie says:

    I found this piece rather nauseating. She’s blaming the gospel for holding her back when it only propels people forward. If she wants a solution to her virginity, go out and sleep with a man and see if it was worth getting out of your “adolescence.”

    There’s nothing wrong with finding a man outside the church. Who said there was? The church gives the principles, members choose to apply them to their lives.

    She should find a man strong enough to want her for her, not be scared by her money or whatever. She’s demeaning Mormon men by saying that they only want a baby for a wife, and not a woman.

    And seriously, a doctor doing an exam on her wakes her up? It’s all just ridiculous and makes the church look idiotic as well as the law of chastity. Fine, she should have slept with the men she dated who had been having sex for years, she could have gotten all their awesome STDs which would have made her officially grown up.

    If you don’t like how men are in the church, get married to someone outside of the church, have kids, and raise your boys to be strong in their manhood. Voila, problem solved!

  14. Kate says:

    My overwhelming emotion after reading the article yesterday is sadness, but not in a “I pity you” type of way. It was the sadness I would feel for a good friend who is going through a difficult time. It makes me sad that in our faith community, her experience of feeling isolated/alone/not part of the community/sees no hope for herself if she continues in the same path is all too common. Her ultimate choice to leave the faith made me sad. I have asked a few LDS professional friends in their late 30s (and single) if they would consider dating outside of the church. They all say they would, but if meeting a 35-45 year old LDS man who has a job, a testimony/respects their faith, is not socially awkward, and interested in dating a professional woman of the same age is hard, its just as hard if not harder to find someone that fits all of the same categories outside of the church. This echoes earlier comments.

  15. ESO says:

    To be fair, no man can take himself through the veil, either. No one takes themselves through. Same with judging temple worthiness: we all judge our own worthiness. Whether male or female, we are asked to judge ourselves.

    It is hard for me to see how adherence to the LoC would be less of an obstacle for men than it is for women. Perhaps some would argue that men have more “choices.” I don’t think so. Women have the same choices, and there have been lots of suggestions on this thread about them.

    While the piece was a good read, I hate it when people blame the church for their very own decisions (to obey the Law of Chastity, in this case). Are immature men aggravating? Sure. Is it THEIR fault that she thought the LoC would be a positive influence in her life? Not at all.

  16. amelia says:

    You know what drives me batty? The way people try to absolve the church of all responsibility in situations like this. That absolution shows up in the comments here in several forms, including:

    1. arguing that this is not a church specific problem but is common to our wider culture; therefore we should not blame the church.

    2. arguing that the church doesn’t cause the pain, it prevents the worser pain of being separated from god; therefore we should not blame the church.

    3. arguing that the church is perfect and in its perfection can only do good for all of its members if only they’ll be humble enough to do exactly as it says; therefore we should not blame the church.

    4. arguing that the church presents options in an unbiased fashion and that it’s for its members to make choices from which natural consequences flow without being influenced by the church, its leaders, its culture, and its members; therefore we should not blame the church.

    5. arguing that it’s just as bad for men in the church as for women therefore we should not blame the church.

    They’re all bad arguments. Let’s be honest enough to admit that the church is absolutely not without culpability in the pain and angst that we experience as its members. To deny that is to deny the church any real power at all. In this the church is no different from any other social organization. When we organize as humans, we accept certain costs. We could, as a society, pony up the money for so much security that there would be no more terrorist attacks–we could decide, as a group, to submit to full body (including body cavity and x-ray) searches every time we travel, for instance. But we don’t. We accept that in exchange for protecting a certain right to privacy (though a shrinking one, given recent TSA practices), we may again experience a terrorist attack via our air travel system. It is a cost that we are willing to pay. We could pay more in tax money, enough to provide a solid education and three square meals a day for every one of our citizens. But we don’t. And in not doing so, we agree to a certain cost–the cost of a core of impoverished individuals who, due to circumstances, may starve or suffer illness or die premature and preventable deaths. We accept the costs, even if we do so while trying to ignore them.

    The costs that our church pays are every bit as real as the costs our larger society pays. And one facet of that cost is that those who remain single inside of the church suffer loneliness and frustration and anger and depression. For some, the answers the church provides are enough and the loneliness and frustration and anger and depression are mitigated and manageable. These people remain in the church and, for the most part, happily accept their role in the church. For others, the answers are entirely inadequate. Some of these people remain and suffer, usually silently. Others leave altogether. And some navigate an existence in the borderlands of the church. Regardless, it is wrong and ignorant to absolve the church of responsibility.

    I am all too happy to point out the many, many ways in which the church is partly responsible for the good in my life. It has helped make me honest and caring and compassionate and joyful and loving and kind and dedicated and trustworthy. It has given me wonderful experiences that have helped me navigate my life and my world. It has led me to an understanding of the divine that I cherish, even if it is rather unorthodox. But it has also saddled me with terrible depression and loneliness. It has told me over and over that my life is worthless because I am unmarried and childless. It has blamed me for my outsider status. It has paralyzed me with my failure to achieve even that basic and universal quality “loveable.” Do I blame the church? Damn straight I do. And I think anyone who refuses to blame the church is lying to themselves and to everyone around them. That is not to say that the church is the only party who has influenced and shaped my identity. It is not to say that I am without responsibility. It is not to say that the church should be jettisoned because of its share in the responsibility. It is simply to say that the church has been formative in who I am and in how I experience my life–in all ways, both good and bad, not just in the good ways. I’m very sorry but you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If the church shapes us for good, it also shapes us for bad.

    As for this article: I declare Amen, and Amen! I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    And Jana’s thought exercise is an excellent one. I very much doubt most men inside the church (and most women, too) could even begin to imagine a religious world in which women are not dependent on men for their spiritual welfare and progress. And I, for one, refuse to believe that the church will achieve the Zion state God requires until we are truly an organization of equality in which none of us is limited by our sex and our gender. And do spare me the mental gymnastics necessary to argue that the LDS status quo is anything other than unequal where sex and gender are concerned. Also spare me the fallacious argument that because I want equality, I must want to be the same as men. I do not. I want to be a woman. I like being a woman. I would not become a man if I could. I very thoroughly understand that equal does not mean same and I ask that you respect my intelligence enough not to accuse me of lacking that basic bit of information.

  17. ESO says:

    Amelia–it seems you are entirely uninterested in hearing from anyone who does not agree with you, but it is clear you are very passionate about your own thoughts.

    My second-grade teacher gave me the clear idea that I was an idiot. It was a formative time. It affected me for some time, but if I was still a captive to her idea of me as an adult, well, that would be very immature of me. If I blamed all my ill feelings, mistakes, and poor self-image moments on her, I would be wrong to do so, wouldn’t I? Even if the relationship had been more fundamental, like my parents, would I STII be correct in blaming my parents for my decisions? I don’t think so.

    If “the church” (whatever you mean by that from your YW leaders to scriptures to a lifetime of GC talks to your actual personal relationship with God) contributed to your feelings of depression, loneliness, being an outsider, etc., it is still YOUR decision to give them that power. I am sure you have experienced that is is pretty easy to dismiss criticism that comes from a source you don’t find credible; whether you laugh off a fat kid calling you “fat” or choose not to take financial advice from the grocery-store clerk or the meanest person you know tells you that you are cruel, well, it’s just easy to dismiss that. So if the “Church” (again, I am not sure what exactly that means–I am sure we have different definitions of who and what that includes) gives you bad advice and you follow it, who is to blame?

    FWIW, I am an active LDS member. I have served in many a presidency and a mission and have been married (not anymore) and have now joined the enviable ranks of the divorced single moms. While I think I have a certain amount of “credit” in my ward–being an active member who mostly refrains from making crazy comments in SS–I am certainly not an “insider.” I guess I could let that get to me, but it doesn’t because I don’t buy that kind of a social construct. If I bought into it, I could certainly make myself lonely and depressed and get paranoid about all the crap people say or the pitying looks. But you know what? Other people’s idea about me have NO bearing on my worth, even of those ideas are the Bishop’s. It only has power if you give it power. I am well aware that I might be appalled at the ideas my fellow congregates have about gender and my personal worth, but I chose not to be too concerned about that stuff since I have no control over it.

    The lady in the article gave her interpretation of the LoC (and the nebulous “Church”) power over life and now she doesn’t. The change in her life was her choice–she decided not to give power to the LoC or those adhere to it and instead gave power to her own desires/philosophies/what have you. Some applaud. Some think it is sin. My only concern is that she own her choices and not blame others for her ideas or actions.

  18. Rebecca J says:

    I really did sympathize with the author of this piece, and I agree that the church can encourage women to be passive by expecting them to be passive. There are problems in the church with how we treat/talk about women and singles. I’m on board with all of that. However, I thought it was disingenuous of her to present her problem as being too independent. She mentions that she doesn’t want children. Does she really think that doesn’t factor into whether or not a Mormon man will want to marry her? Yeah, there are some men who don’t like independent women–maybe it’s more of a problem in the LDS community, and I can buy that it’s even more common among 30+ men who haven’t managed to get themselves married yet–but “independent” and “has a job” are hardly deal-breakers for the majority of Mormon men that I’ve known. “Doesn’t want children,” on the other hand? Definite deal-breaker for most Mormon men. That portion of the article really annoyed me, although I did find other parts of it compelling.

    • Caroline says:

      Rebecca J,
      Interesting. I didn’t read the author as saying she never wanted to have children. I read her as describing herself as a single woman who was content with her non-motherhood (which seems like a very healthy thing since she was single.) She talks at the end about getting an IUD instead of a child, but once again, I attribute that to the fact that she had accepted her single status and was choosing to live with it and not bring children into a situation with only one parent. But I can see how you came up with your interpretation. And yes, a determination to never have children would probably be a turnoff to Mormon men who didn’t already have some.

      • Rebecca J says:

        Just so we’re absolutely clear, I don’t think it matters why she’s not married, in terms of the rest of her essay. I’m very sympathetic to her frustrations, her loss, her desires; I’m not particularly inclined to judge her for her ultimate choice. I just think it’s unfair, and frankly silly, to suggest the crux of her problem is her independence and the fact that she doesn’t need a “provider.” The crux of her problem is that she hasn’t found someone to marry; that could be due to anything, but most likely it is just bad luck. I don’t mind indicting the church and the culture on legitimate charges; I just don’t think this is one of them.

  19. ESO says:

    Ummmmm…how about when she says (in the fourth paragraph) “there is no place in that community for a single woman who doesn’t want children”

    she also refers to herself as “happy-without-children.” I think it is a pretty obvious part of the equation as written.

    I suspect that LDS men who don’t want children would have an equally chilly response on the dating scene.

    • Caroline says:

      ESO,
      I saw the ‘happy-without-children’ comment and interpreted as I explained above, but I missed the one you pointed out in the 4th paragraph. And now the New York Times isn’t letting me access the article to read the context. So I’ll take your word for it. And yes, men who don’t want kids would probably be a deal breaker for a lot of women too.

  20. amelia says:

    ESO, are you suggesting that your second grade teacher or even your parents were as formative of your identity as the church? If so, your experience in the church is radically different from my own. By “the church” I mean everything–the organization, the power structure, the leadership, the culture, the people, the lessons, the meetings, the expectations, the very idea of who God is and how he relates to me. My experience growing up Mormon was all-encompassing. Everything about who I was as a kid was shaped by the church. Everything about who I was as a young adult was shaped by the church. Please read very carefully: in my previous comment I very clearly stated that the church is not the only party that shaped my identity. There are many other influences–most of which were themselves shaped and influenced by the church, since I’m a 9th generation Mormon. And I am, of course, one of the influences that shape my identity (though trying to separate out what is me and what is church is a bit of a chicken-and-egg question). But the fact that there are other influences does not take away from the enormous power the church exerts to shape and control its people’s identities.

    I find it a little disingenuous for you to suggest that when we are immersed in an institution that dictates and influences and shapes every aspect of our lives from what kind of underwear we wear to what we drink to how we speak, from our educational goals and career pursuits to our plans for relationships and family, we have some kind of autonomy by which we can simply consciously choose not to let such an all-pervasive, dominating entity affect things like our spirit and our psyche and our emotions. I was always already Mormon. I had no choice about that fact. None. No matter how much the church and its members spout off about agency and the right to choose for ourselves. I was not given that right. Not without an unspeakable and immoral price attached to choosing to opt out. And even that choice (the choice of paying that unspeakable and immoral price) was not really an option until I was an adult and outside the direct influence of my parents.

    I am absolutely willing to take responsibility for my own actions and choices. I claim my own psychological struggles and emotional turmoil. Do I contribute to my own depression and loneliness? Absolutely (and if you read my previous comment closely enough, you’ll see that I acknowledge that responsibility there). I have certainly contributed to who I am and how I experience my world, sometimes more consciously than others. But I reject out of hand the church’s effort to blame me for what’s wrong with me rather than admitting its own culpability. And I reject out of hand other church members’ attempts to do the same. If you can admit that the church has contributed to both the good and the negative of its members experiences and identities and psyches, I’m more than happy to engage in a conversation. But blithely insisting that the church somehow exists outside of any sphere of influence over its members is simply untenable. To say that it is my choice to give the church the power to contribute to my depression and loneliness is like saying that it was my choice, as a small child, to allow my mother and father to shape my moods and emotions.

    The church–its leaders, its lessons, its members, its culture, its society–regularly does this. It regularly lays claim to all the wonderful, good things about its members–their kindness, their compassion, their generosity, their dedication to hard work, their honesty. It never lays claim to the ways in which its members may be screwed up. If there’s a member who is screwed up, it’s because that member has sinned. Or, in your slightly (but only slightly) more benign formation, because the member is too weak to consciously choose the right. I call bull shit. That’s not how it works. The church can’t expect to exert as much influence as it expects to and does exert without causing both good and bad. I really don’t see why it’s so much to ask that the church–its leaders, its members, its culture, its materials, etc.–acknowledge that it exacts a high price from its members, a high price that is in some cases (like the case of this author; like my own case) debilitating and paralyzing and demeaning. Quite frankly, the church has it in its power to exact a lower price from its members, but it does not. It wants to exert almost complete control over those who remain within its boundaries, whether by exacting conformity or enforcing silence. If it could, instead, simply do as Joseph said it should and teach correct principles while allowing its people to govern themselves, then I very much believe the church would be a radically different place. But we (we, the church, because what is the church if not all of us?) are too frightened of what may happen to do that. And fear is nothing but the tool of Satan–a force and emotion for which there is no room within perfect love.

    • ESO says:

      I don’t know your background, so I can’t say why our Church experiences have been so different. All I can say is that I have been in many wards and branches on 4 continents and I do not perceive “the church” to be as monolithic as some members clearly believe it to be. My Seminary teacher was a dear heart who occasionally taught false doctrine, but is certainly a vital part of my Church. A certain Bishop we called Smiley was an ass, and I don’t give him or anything he said any credence. I loved my youth Sunday School teacher and he may have been “the Church” to some people, but he and the things he said and did and the lessons he taught certainly do not have the same level of Church credibility as my relationship with God or Christ. It seems kind of silly to blame the Church for whatever the resident judgmental bitch of the ward said to you when you were 14.

      Of course my parent’s influence is greater on my life than the Church! But that’s just me, I guess. I have also never heard anyone at Church talk about how you or anyone else just doesn’t measure up. If anything, I hear at least once a Sunday how we all are too hard on ourselves and maybe just need to lighten up.

      Say I was born in Germany; I grew up speaking German and living a good old German lifestyle and imbibing the culture. Maybe when I’m 35 or so, I decide that I really don’t FEEL very German: I don’t care for precision and kind of hate all thinking and speaking a language that has 16 different ways to say “the.” I decide Jamaica is more my style and immigrate. Cool. Just my style. But why should I be mad at all the Germans? Is it so bad that thy really want to be on time and make great knives? No–maybe it’s not my style, but why say they are to blame for not valuing that I am totally laid back and casual?

      I just see no reason to kick the trash of the Church for not agreeing with me.

      • Janna says:

        Are you married and, if so, were you married in the temple?

      • Janna says:

        I just wanted to know your background – and this is an admittedly enormous generalization – because I find that many people who have temple marriages have a difficult time understanding or showing compassion regarding the sex issue with singles in the church.

        I read through all the article comments on the New York Times site, and one person noted that the majority of the reactions to Hardy’s article were of the “well, that’s not my experience” variety and that, as such, what she is expressing is invalid, wrong, etc. The commenter explained that the article was in no way purporting that her experience and perceptions were general, but rather “her experience” and should be respected for just that. Clearly, Hardy’s experience in the church has negatively affected her perception of herself and intimacy. Perhaps for you, the church hasn’t had that sort of pull. If so, you are fortunate, indeed.

      • ESO says:

        Yup, gross generalization and totally off in my case. I actually don’t think I have displayed a lack of compassion at all; if you read my comments through just once, you would see that I have not levied judgment on anyone for the actions they take, just for an unwillingness to own their choices. Whether someone practices LoC or not, I just want them to be genuine about why they are doing it. If you had read my comments, or indeed even skimmed them, you would also have seen that I have already revealed my marital status.

        I expect non-members to conflate Church teachings with taking away choices, I do not expect members (especially 9-generations!) to do that. I don’t abstain from alcohol because I am told to, I choose it. I don’t wear garments because I allow the Church to dictate my dress, I choose to. I don’t obey the LoC because I can’t get laid or because I don’t want to make my grandma cry–I choose to. Other people make other choices, but it all falls to the individual, not their cohort.

      • Janna says:

        I was just responding to this comment thread, in which you did not share your marital status.

        Could you agree that cultural components influence action? I think that is all that Hardy is saying. Her experience in the church influenced her choice, and now other factors are influencing her choice.

        I agree with you completely that, ultimately, we are responsible for our actions. I am just not sure if Hardy is blaming the church for her actions, but rather, outlining salient factors that have influenced her perspective and final choice on the issue.

  21. Elizabeth J. says:

    I am so greatful that she wrote this piece. I am a 26 year old virgin and I am waiting for marriage. My friends support me in my decision but, I can agree that many feel as though I am an anomally. Its nice to know that there are so many women out there who save themselves for religious beliefs despite what the norm is.

  22. Janna says:

    I’ve found that refraining from seeing a man as a provider has afforded me the joy of experiencing men as, simply put, people.

    Certainly, having a man around me who is generous not only helps me out, but makes me feel loved and cared for. But, having a “provider” heart is lovely in any gender.

  23. Notmyrealmoniker says:

    This article could have been written by me a few years ago, before I realized that the only way to save my sanity and my life was to leave the Church, which I did. Leaving the Church was one of the most excruciatingly painful experiences of my life. It was not a decision I took lightly. However, the selfloathing, unconfident, retreating, emotionally stunted woman I was becoming had to be stopped in her tracks and redirected.

    I fully point my finger at the Church’s teachings on single women and the family. I identified with my gay brothers and sisters in the church. We were all told to zip our pants up, superglue our knees together, pray and bang on the doors oh heaven until our knuckles bled and all would be well. Guess what? I didn’t buy it. I wanted to meet my own man on my own terms. At 40, I wasn’t looking for a 45 year old cherub who self-flagellated at every sexual thought and was Peter Priesthood Personified. No thanks! I wanted a cheeky, smart, lusty, brave man who could take my breath away.

    So I also went on birth control and stopped playing the Spencer W. Kimball tape I’d been playing I. My head for 25 years. No, my life would not come to a tragic end if I dared to marry outside the teme. No, masturbation would not “turn me gay.”The Church has dialed back on some of it’s scare tactics, but it still tries to manipulate and control what you wear under your clothes, who you snuggle with under the sheets. No, thanks!

    I found the man of my dreams. I did not end up “sleeping around.”. But I was free from fear. I think that’s all Ms. Hardy was talking about, frankly.

  24. Notmyrealmoniker says:

    Forgive the multiple typos above.

  25. Naismith says:

    I’m not sure if LDS women are dependent on men, or if women and men are interdependent. I think the latter is ideal.

    I think the guy in the article was merely immature and stupid about such things. There is so much that LDS men cannot do without a wife. Men can’t have sex without us, can’t have children without us, can’t have some church callings without a supportive wife, nor the career of their dreams (if it happens to be a field where a supportive spouse is essential).

    Yes, I’m married. But my husband wasn’t within thousands of miles when I traveled down to South America with 4 kids and enough supplies to run a household and homeschool for five months. I had to plan, pack, clean and rent the house, lug the trunks and suitcases. All on my own.

    During my husband’s grad school, he may have had his name on the assistantship check, but I did a heck of a lot of providing for the family by gardening, canning, making children’s clothes out of adults, etc. (Toddler training pants were made out of old cotton garments and t-shirts.)

    So I do not think of myself as “dependent” on him.

    My current ward is a mid-singles magnet (ages 30-45). I don’t think anyone looks down on them. We just put them to work.

    I never wanted children before I joined the church, so I could totally relate to the essay. I honestly don’t think I would have missed them or felt incomplete if I hadn’t had them. It’s interesting that many infertile LDS couples are choosing not to adopt. I think the diversity strengthens all of us.

  26. Naismith says:

    What I meant to say was that I am not dependent on my husband in a one-sided way. We are dependent on each other, so I am dependent on him–but no more than he is dependent on me.

    • Caroline says:

      Naismith,
      I appreciated your perspective. I truly wish I felt like you – that my husband and I are interdependent and that he needs me to survive as much as I need him.

      Sadly, I just don’t think it’s the case for me. As a current non-wage earner, if he died, I’d be screwed. I can only make about half what he does as a full time worker. I’d probably lose my home, my kids would go to daycare, and we would be impoverished. Not to mention the fact that I’d lose a wonderful and helpful partner. If I died, Mike would be very sad. But making as much $ as he does, he’d be able to stay in our home, maintain his career, and simply hire someone to be a nanny/housekeeper. He’d have to tighten his belt a bit to afford the nanny, but not too much given his natural thriftiness. The sad truth is that he can afford to replace many of my contributions, but I could never replace his.

      I hate to reduce my relationship and myself/spouse down to a paycheck, but my reality is that I’m more dependent on him than he is on me. It’s terrifying.

      • T.H. Shrum says:

        But according to whoa-man’s post titled, “Capable of Providing,” the only important thing is that the provider, your husband, gets to feel pride and power in providing for you. The fact that the person provided for is left in a vulnerable, dependent, position, didn’t seem to be worth mentioning for her and those commenting. Perhaps you could comment on that post that they’re missing something in that their need to feel pride and power comes at the cost of leaving someone else in a vicarious position and effects them for a lifetime.

      • cchrissyy says:

        Caroline,
        I was in that exact, vulnerable position not long ago. It spurred me back to work, for the good of the whole family. Don’t be afraid to make some change : )

    • Alisa says:

      I really appreciate Naismith’s perspective (and the South American example is so powerful!).

      I am the sole earner in my family, and I absolutely depend on my husband. I depend on him to care for our special needs child. I depend on him to run the home and plan meals and cook and do all the errands I can’t. He’s actively looking for employment, and if I still need to work when he finds a job, I worry tremendously about how we’ll care for our son and run our home without my husband doing all that he currently does there.

      Caroline, if I could address some of your concerns. If only women who are at home could reverse roles with their wage-earning husbands for awhile, I think (I hope) you would see things differently. I believe many would see how valuable the stay-at-home person is. Think of the opportunity cost that you have for choosing to stay at home. Think of what you could be earning had you purposefully enetered a career. That’s the price your family is willing to pay for you to stay at home. And that’s a big deal. It means that work is so important, much more so than what a hired person could do.

      I hope it doesn’t sound consescending that I say this (as I’m typing from work). It’s actually coming from a place of longing to be at home with my child right now, and appreciation for my husband who does it when I can’t. No nanny could replace what he does. A nanny wouldn’t have the emotional investment or the partnership he offers me. You’re not so replaceable as you think.

  27. Alisa says:

    Sorry if my thoughts are coming out funny. I am really tired, and having trouble thinking clearly. 🙁

  28. Naismith says:

    “Sadly, I just don’t think it’s the case for me. As a current non-wage earner, if he died, I’d be screwed.”

    Then why haven’t you taken steps to make sure you are unscrewed? Many couples with young children take out a lot of term life insurance during the years the kids are little, to ensure that if one parent dies, the remaining family can maintain their lifestyle until the kids are older and return to the workforce is more doable for the surviving parent. Or if the real concern is that he will leave, a post-nuptial agreement might allay such fears.

    Such resigned victimhood does not seem consistent with a strong feminist vision.

    I don’t mean to sound cold and unsympathetic, but truly it does come across that way.

    There are things that can be done to help a mother at home survive such a loss: Adequate insurance, developing one’s credit rating in their own name, getting future employment references through volunteer commitments, etc.

    “I can only make about half what he does as a full time worker.”

    I think that is hard to know until we try. One may need to shift fields, and work at a job that is less fulfilling, something that men do all the time. But there are a lot of good-paying and/or good-benefits positions out there that require a college degree, but it doesn’t matter so much what the degree is in.

    “If I died, Mike would be very sad. But making as much $ as he does, he’d be able to stay in our home, maintain his career, and simply hire someone to be a nanny/housekeeper.”

    It’s actually not that easy to find someone to do that, and to do it near as well as a wife does. A while back when a child in our ward came down with a severe illness, a custodial dad had to bring his ex-wife in from out of state and hire her as a housekeeper, because he could not find anyone else to handle the home and kids as well as she could. She shared a bedroom with the sick child.

    My husband would have to find someone who could be there all hours of day and night, come on weeklong trips, etc. And that doesn’t include the financial management, manuscript editing, etc. He definitely would be pretty screwed, and thus we had life insurance on me as well when the children were little, because he would need multiple layers of help.

    So I guess being both screwed if we lost the other partner is a form of equality?

    • Caroline says:

      “Such resigned victimhood does not seem consistent with a strong feminist vision.”

      I don’t think of it as ‘resigned victimhood.’ I think of it as facing the reality of my vulnerability. Choosing to stay at home has costs and benefits associated with it. In my perspective, one of the costs is the vulnerability (can that really be disputed?) of the parent who chooses to take herself out of the workforce for an extended period of time. Sure, one can hopefully in the event of a tragedy claw one’s way back into the workforce despite a stale resume, but it would be very difficult for many non wage earning parents, depending on their degree, training, etc. And to manage that while raising babies as a widow…. that scenario doesn’t compare to the difficulties my husband would face if he was widowed.

      I have taken out term life insurance on my husband. Lots of it. That would see me through several years, but in the end I’d still be in a vulnerable position. His pension, his social security, and the income differential between what he makes and what I would make, stretched out over the next 35 years of his working life…. well it adds up to well more than what we would get in life insurance. I suppose I could do what Susie Orman advises and take out enough life insurance to cover 25 years of my husband’s salary, but we haven’t gone that far yet. Though I should probably look into it.

      I think it’s telling that he has taken out no life insurance policy on me. He knows he doesn’t need to.

      And if I died, I have no doubt he would marry a very nice woman within a few years who would completely take over all of my tasks.

      That’s not ‘resigned victimhood.’ That’s just my reality.

      • cchrissyy says:

        I think they key is to un-stale your resume now, in advance of the need.

        Having life insurance is crucial – and enough of it. But as a SAHM the higher odds are divorce, disability, and his unemployment. I found that vulnerability to be unacceptable for my own life as well as for my children. Your opinion may vary but I sure found that launching a career cured the situation. Yes, my kids were small but life was looking unstable and I felt that putting this off was too risky.

        (not casual or low wage work, but the kind of career that could support them all singlehandedly. If that would require new degrees, there is no time like the present to start earning one!)

        Also, my husband is much releived to not be sole provider in this economy, and to focus more on family time than overtime to please the office.

  29. Alicia says:

    I have to say that everyone has different experiences in AND out of the church. I have been both. I was raised in the church, quit going for awhile, and now have been married in the temple for 6 1/2 years. And the only time I heard that I was not on the same playing field as a man was from people outside of the church. I have two wonderful parents and 6 older brothers all who taught me to be happy with who I was and if I wanted something to go and get it. I did not sit around and wait for someone to ask me out, I went and asked them out on a date, in fact my now husband admits that he was to shy to ever ask me out and we probably would not be married with three beautiful children right now if I didn’t make the first move. My husband was raised in the church and he never once has made me feel like my successes were too much for him. In fact when he lost his job I was able to go get a job and help support our family. Right now he is the sole money maker of the family but I feel that my job at home is just as important to our family. And more importantly he feels the same way. He left the decision up to me about whether to quit my job or not after he found work himself. He is not in charge of me and I am not in charge of him. I guess it just depends on who you talk to and what attitudes they are raised with. But we really cannot blame “the church” for these attitudes. I have attended many different wards and have never felt that a women is less than a man. Whether they are the breadwinner, single, a stay at home or anything in between. I am thankful for the church for showing me that it is very valuable to stay at home with my children or go to work and support my family. I believe that when something has gone wrong in our lives it is easier to blame someone or something else.

  30. Notmyrealmoniker says:

    One thing that resonates with me about Ms. Hardy’s story is her willingness to be daring and take control of her sexuality. In the church it’s almost as if we expect gays and singles to be asexual. By getting herself fitted for birth control, Ms. Hardy is saying, “yes, I’m open to sexuality, and even though this is an internal device, I’m telegraphing to the Umiverse that I can make adult decisions about my sex life.”

    Everyone has a sex life. Everyone has sex thoughts. Most people masturbate. Adults should be having orgasms, or trying to have them, solo or with a partner. Not everyone is capable of being partnered for life.

  31. stacer says:

    This is a little late of a reply–it’s been a while since I’ve had time to read blogs, and I’ve been trying to catch up–but I just wanted to say, from the perspective of a 36-year-old single woman, that the article resonated with me in many ways, but not in a few others. I have chosen to live the Law of Chastity because I believe all these other things are true about the Church, and so it puts me in a tough position of waiting, as Jana said in the original post, to be chosen. And… no one wants me.

    The environment that creates, me as an object of pity in many women’s eyes, and invisible in many men’s, makes it very hard for me to want to go to church anymore–not because I don’t believe, but because I have an anxiety attack about whether anyone will care to be my friend, whether I’m too fat or too mousy or whatever to be noticed by the few single men in my ward (and whether that matters at all), etc. These fears have nothing to do with the gospel and everything to do with my own insecurities, but my depression and anxiety added on a few health problems get to me, more and more often as I get older.

    I don’t blame the Church per se. Like Amelia, I feel like I recognize it’s a side effect of a family-centered teaching. Families are valuable, stay-at-home moms are valuable, therefore I’m not.

    I don’t have the answer. I wouldn’t choose the direction that the girl in the article did, though it’s tempting sometimes. But after 18 years of trying to date toward a goal of getting married in the temple—and after breaking up with my non-member boyfriend in college who was perfect in every way except that he didn’t believe, because I’d had a spiritual experience/personal revelation that told me it was something I needed to do—giving up now and dating non-members feels like it would invalidate the last 18 years of my life. I’m glad I’m not a veterinarian living in western IL with two kids and on the verge of divorce, because I’m sure that had I married him, we’d be divorced or nearing it right now. We were too young, and I had no idea what I wanted professionally, and I had a lot of healing (from abuse not related to him, growing up) and a journey to travel.

    Yet it still feels like I’d be giving up if I decided to date outside the church. Even so, I put up a profile on a mainstream dating site, to try it out… and everyone who messages me or whatever is someone who seems like a nice guy but I’m not sure I’d want to try to date a Catholic, or whatever, especially when they mention in their “compatibility” answers that they feel like it’s natural to have sex on the 4th or 5th date.

    It’s a tough situation, one I don’t have the answers to. So I can’t condemn the article’s author for deciding to do something, anything, to change her feelings of loneliness. Yet I don’t think it’s my path.

  32. Caroline says:

    Stacer, what a lovely, thoughtful reply. Thank you.

  1. January 14, 2011

    […] 14, 2011 in Uncategorized I read this Exponent Article and discovered, I don’t need a man.  But, I also do. I need love, intimacy, partnership, and […]

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