Dear Ensign (we can’t be what we can’t see)

ensign-2015-junDear Ensign,

I have enjoyed many of your articles this past year. It’s great to see the familiar word: “Ensign” in my mailbox each month. I appreciate the steady stream of articles on the Savior, the family, and the Sabbath Day. Even more, I appreciate the broadminded articles that go deeper into difficult problems like pornography – or deeper into church history like the seer stone article in October of this year.

I just received my January Ensign and am looking forward to reading Elder Holland’s article on the Godhead and the article on fast offerings.

I noticed that the authors of the articles are by both men and women – and that the artwork represents both men and women. I believe this variety adds richness to the messages we see and read.

Perhaps you could take one more step in the good work you do on gender equity. Headshots. In the January Ensign there are 5 articles by men and all these authors have a small square headshot with their article. The eight articles written by women have no headshots, but many do have a quote by a male general authority with his headshot.

A good example is the article “I Thank Thee for this Body” by Starla on page 62 of the January Ensign. Starla does not have her headshot, but there is a headshot of Elder Gong on the opening spread of the article with his quote. On first look, it appears that Elder Gong wrote the article, rather than Starla. Because all the headshots in the Ensign are male, it appears as if only men are writing.

Would you be able to get headshots of all authors to accompany the articles you publish? It would be much appreciated.

We can’t be what we can’t see.

Thank you,


Suzette lives in the Washington DC area and works as a Professional Organizer. She enjoys blogging and serving on the Exponent II Board. Her Mormon roots run deep and she loves her big Mormon family which includes 20 nieces and nephews, 6 sisters, 5 brother in laws, 2 parents - and dozens of cousins. Her favorite things about church are the great Alexandria wards, temple worship, and all things Visiting Teaching.

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9 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Amen, Suzette. Optics matter. Slapping male head shots with supporting male quote on female-authored pieces is unnecessary. We should be lifting up and celebrating female authors in the Ensign, so I too would love to see their head shots instead.

  2. anita says:

    Amen! Hope you mailed a copy to them.

  3. spunky says:

    I love this. I LOVE THIS!

    I needed to feel hope … even about the small stuff, and this is just what I needed to see today. Thank you!

  4. Liz says:

    Agreed. Seriously, putting a male head shot on a female-authored piece?? There’s no reason to do that! I hope the Ensign will make this easy editorial change and have more women’s faces in the publication!

  5. m says:

    Just a quick note to point out a few things:

    – All the people with headshots are general authorities. In the Ensign, female General Authorities also get headshots. This month didn’t have any.

    – All headshots published are of General Authorities. This is because the Ensign has these headshots readily available and they are of consistent quality.

    – The only men publishing articles in the January Ensign are General Authorities (with an exception for Pres. Hunter’s son, whose article is about his father).

    • M, I actually agree with you in many ways. I think lack of female visibility is not the problem in and of itself, but rather, a symptom of a bigger problem. Women are invisible not just because we don’t bother to post photos of them, but because women are not important enough to the Church and within the leadership structure of the church to be worth photographing. According to your assessment, and I would guess it is basically accurate, only General Authorities are considered important enough to have headshots. I would guess that only General Authorities are considered important enough to be quoted and have their headshot placed next to an article written by someone else, as well. The real problem is that only men are allowed to be General Authorities. Even while men and women are doing the same activity equally well, such as writing an Ensign article, a women will never receive the respect of a male author because she has lower status–she can never be a General Authority.

      (Your comment implies that women can be General Authorities. I am sure you are aware that is not true, but I assume you were just trying to say that the nine women who are General Auxiliary Leaders might have the opportunity to be recognized with a head shot photo. But of course, as was the case in this recent issue, even so, the chances of seeing a female with a headshot are low since only nine women would be eligible under this standard, compared to about two hundred male General Authorities.)

      • m says:

        It’s interesting you say women are invisible in the Church. This seems like a gross exaggeration, to the point of being unhelpful.

        Women are general leaders (not authorities, good catch, thanks!), council members, speakers and, in the January 2016 Ensign, the majority of authors.

        They may be less visible than you would like, but they are in no sense, invisible.

        Again, the headshot issue has nothing to do with gender. If a female general leader had written an article for the Ensign, her headshot would have been published.

        Instead, it has to do with whether the Church has a headshot of consistent quality, readily available. It would be quite the mess if they asked members to provide their own. From varying levels of ppi, to aspect ratios, to people (like me), who would flatly refuse to provide one, the Ensign staff would have a very complex process on their hands.

        In my opinion, turning the lack of a headshot into a commentary on the Church’s position on women simply creates a smokescreen and distracts from more significant issues of respect.

      • Ziff says:

        “They may be less visible than you would like, but they are in no sense, invisible.”

        Eh, they pretty much are. The decisions made at the top levels of the Church are made by men. Councils of men. A few recently started including a tiny number of women. But at the top, decisions like the new exclusion policies? Those are made completely by men. It’s not an overstatement to say that women are invisible. They might be more visible than you would *like*, but they’re in no sense visible in decision-making like this.

      • Lena says:

        “Instead, it has to do with whether the Church has a headshot of consistent quality, readily available. It would be quite the mess if they asked members to provide their own. From varying levels of ppi, to aspect ratios, to people (like me), who would flatly refuse to provide one, the Ensign staff would have a very complex process on their hands.”

        You mean, like hundreds of other publications do? As a matter of routine? (AND part of the publishing contract.) I’m sorry, the Church’s budget must be too stretched to accommodate that process? Dang, what’s the point of owning a media conglomerate, then?

        It’s not the just the lack of a headshot: it’s the fact that a man’s headshot accompanies each woman’s writing, but NOT hers. If that’s not literally invisible, I don’t know what is. It’s not a smokescreen: it’s a visible symptom of a very real problem. Only General Authorities, according to you, get headshots published, and hey, it just so happens only men can be General Authorities. Puzzler, that. Nothing we can do. Why, if we put headshots of the actual authors on all articles, people might lose track of which authors are actually General Authorities! And certainly, we have to put a General Authority’s picture on articles written by women so readers know that it’s okay to read them. Approved, so to speak. Plus people might get confused about which articles are important (after all, isn’t that how many publications indicate the difference between “major” articles and “filler”?) Simmer down, ladies, and think about More Significant Issues. I don’t think you’re invisible, so you shouldn’t feel that way.

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