How Well Are Women Actually Represented on Latter-day Saint Women pages? (Spoiler: Really Terribly!)
There’s a popular Facebook page called “Latter-day Saint Women Stand” (formerly “Mormon Women Stand”) with over 55,000 followers. This page regularly posts faith related content and updates on the LDS church, and a number of my friends online follow and enjoy this page. Recently one of those friends shared a post from this page, and I clicked over to check it out.
I’ve been doing a new experiment lately where I look at any church related sites and posts and pretend to be an outsider. (A couple months ago I first did this with my own ward Relief Society Facebook page and wrote about it HERE.) What would this look like to me if I hadn’t spent a lifetime in the church and Utah? Would it look normal, or would something seem strange? Well, something definitely seemed strange when I went to this popular LDS women’s page – there are almost no women quoted or pictured as I scrolled through the recent posts. I scrolled through sixteen (16!) posts with photos and quotes by male leaders before I found the first one about a woman. I scrolled through eight more male posts and found the second woman (now out of 24 posts).
And it just keeps going, and going, and going…the number of posts that are given to women’s voices compared to men’s voices is abysmal. I can’t imagine what this looks like to an outsider investigating the church. If I were investigating the Catholic church and went to a Catholic women’s page and found only information about men, I’d be confused. If I went to a Presbyterian women’s Facebook page and scrolled for ten minutes and found only three posts by Presbyterian women, I’d think they mislabeled their page accidentally. If I went to a Methodist women’s Facebook page and found man after man after man featured, I’d probably think the Methodists were nuts.
But in my own church, it’s so normal and commonplace that nobody running this page (or the 55,000 people following it) seems to recognize it as a problem (or that it’s even something out of the ordinary).
The day that I noticed this I took screenshots of the most recent posts, which I have now marked with either a blue checkmark if it’s a post about a male leader, or a pink checkmark if it’s a post about a female leader. You can see that it heavily skews towards the blue checkmarks:
What if it was reversed? What if there was a Latter-day Saint Priesthood Holder Facebook page, and over 90 percent of the posts were from Relief Society presidents or Primary presidents? Would anyone NOT notice that was odd?
I’ve also recently moved into a new house and a new ward. To be clear, I’ve received nothing but kindness from friendly ward members and they are absolutely free to post whatever they want on their personal social media pages with whoever’s words resonate with them most (male or female).
However, two very nice members of my new Relief Society presidency stopped by to visit me and welcome me to the neighborhood after church one day. I sent them both a friend request on Facebook afterwards and was happy to have met them. What was interesting to me was a quick glance at what these two top female leaders in my ward (which is a very large ward of over 800 people) choose to post on their personal walls. They both quite frequently share LDS quotes and messages, and the vast, vast majority of those are from male leaders, not female.
It took scrolling back a full year (and past 28 re-posts of male church leader or scriptural quotes) to find the first reference to a woman on my new Relief Society president’s Facebook wall. (Is this possibly a character trait of the women that bishops are most likely to choose as Relief Society presidents – women who really enjoy repeating the words of their priesthood leaders?)
I did find a few more LDS women referenced on her counselor’s page, although it was still heavily male. In the most recent forty religious posts (like the president, she posts a lot of them!), seven of them were from women.
I wish ward Relief Society presidents as a whole would begin to expand the influence of women by sharing more quotes and inspiration from female leaders, authors and artists in the church. I would feel much more comfortable inviting female friends outside of the church to a women’s organization that valued and promoted the words of other women, but it feels like no one – not ward Relief Society Facebook groups, not public social media pages geared towards LDS women, and now not even my new ward’s Relief Society presidency (on their own personal walls) feel odd about promoting almost exclusively male viewpoints and advice. One would think that in a women’s organization the gender imbalance would skew to the female, but it almost never does – and almost no one seems to notice.
Is this any surprise? For years we studied “Teachings of the Prophets” in Relief Society. I never heard anyone ask for “Teachings of General Relief Society Presidents” next to balance that out. We regularly cover general conference talks in Sacrament Meeting talks and lesson plans, which are by men the vast majority of the time, and we depend on patriarchal blessings to guide our decisions in life with no comparable revelation from a wise older woman in our stake. The only reason we don’t recognize how weird and lopsided this has been is because most of us have never seen it play out any other way.
Finally, to end on a positive note – I did find one Latter-day Saint Facebook page that is doing it right. It’s called “The LDS Women Project”. Look at all the pink checkmarks, and do your best to make the rest of your world look more like this one:
(And of course, keep following The Exponent blog and subscribe to the magazine, because we produce phenomenal female oriented content all the time!)