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:


I pulled up another popular Facebook page with over 25,000 followers called “Latter-day Saint Women”, and found a nearly identical pattern: 

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!)

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19 Responses

  1. Jan Signore says:

    GREAT call out. The pages you mentioned in the beginning, I noticed, seem to reflect the lack of women in our general meetings, where even in our general RS meetings the male speakers outnumber female speakers.

  2. Elisa says:

    I mean, that group should really be called “Latter-day Saint Women Stand in Support of the Patriarchy.” It’s an awful group. But I digress.

  3. Caroline says:

    Love this, Abby! You’re totally right to call out this incredibly strange and off-putting trend. It astounds me that so many LDS women don’t seem to care that male voices dominate their women’s groups.

    • Abby Hansen says:

      I wonder how many would care if it was pointed out to them – I know some would say it still didn’t matter, but I think at least *some* of them would be bothered enough to start making changes! I think we do it subconsciously, without even thinking about it.

  4. Tina says:

    This sums up why I am weary of sacrament meeting speakers assigned to speak on general conference talks. Usually the people in my ward do a fantastic job of saying a sentence or two about from the conference talk then giving their own talk and telling their own story and experiences. I’m not sure how this trend of general conference talk worship got started but it feels like a golden calf worship.

    I’m curious — could you do an experiment to re-post things from The LDS Women’s Project to the Latter-day Saint Women Stand page to see what would happen?

    • Abby Hansen says:

      There’s no way to post on these pages without being an administrator of the page, but I suppose you could post it in the comments of another thread they’ve started themselves. My experience has been that they delete and then quickly ban any controversial or critical comments and the person who made them (which is their right), so saying anything about it to them is likely pointless (unfortunately).

  5. Katie Rich says:

    I really appreciate the work you have done on this post and your post a couple of months ago to show what Mormon women’s representation looks like online, including in spaces intended for Mormon women. Hearing mostly from men and amplifying only men’s voices becomes so common in Mormon spaces that it probably doesn’t seem weird to many women. Visuals like these can disrupt the assumption of normalcy.

  6. Miriam C Brown says:

    Do we have female leaders? I think the church has taken great pains to make sure that the women are called “general officers” and not “general authorities.” Relief Society presidents report to the Bishops so women’s voices and concerns are filtered through priesthood holders. Bishops can then represent any concerns that they find significant to their Stake President who can filter it further before discussing it with “general authorities” who are men. The female presidencies do not report to General Officers who are women. So the “female leaders” are largely a symbol of what a faithful woman should be rather than true leaders who represent the women of the church.

    • Abby Hansen says:

      You’re right – female “leaders” are more like “female advisors to the actual male leaders, who may or may not choose to consult them before making the real leadership decisions”.

      That’s maybe why nobody thinks it’s weird that we lack the women’s voices, since we’re looking for quotes and guidance from those with actual authority to be shared. Only men have authority, and general “authorities” are only men.

  7. Mortimer says:

    Elisa is right, Mormon Women Stand (MWS) is an awful group. It became popular as a backlash to the early days of Kate Kelly and Ordain Women (OW).

    Many will remember that when OW, a highly organized and well established group, was garnering national news as many LDS women faithfully expressed heartfelt concerns and pain at the treatment and representation of women in the church, OW requested a meeting w the General RS presidency. That request (which was repeated a few times) was rebuffed as the RS Presidency cited not having “time” for such interactions. But then the Gen RS Presidency immediately turned around and granted an audience *and a press release* with the unorganized pop-up Facebook group MWS that regurgitated happy, problem-free, LDS, and mostly male-centric quotes.

    It was a painful, but clear message- the female LDS leaders and their “charity never faileth” motto would stick their heads in the sand when faced with sincere needs and concerns poised by a large and well organized group of their faithful sisters, but would go out of their way to gush over a fly-by-night privileged group that sang “all is well in Zion, yeah Zion prosperith”.

    Did MWS decline the meeting, or acknowledge that OW had been in line first and with a more pressing need? No, they played along with the game.

    Am I surprised by the results of the analysis of their content? No. The overwhelming percentage of male quotes is no accident or oversight, but intrinsic to their purpose and existence.

    • Abby Hansen says:

      I remember exactly what you are talking about! They were so very proudly posting photos of their meeting at church headquarters on their Facebook page, and it felt like it was middle school all over again and they were bragging about how the popular kids had invited *them* to their lunch table and snubbed the Mormon feminist group.

      It also felt very painful to see the church choosing to engage so publicly with this group of women who was bending over backwards to tell them how perfect and great they were, and pretending that those who were raising concerns didn’t even exist. I remember learning as a teenager that being ignored is worse than being hated – because at least hatred acknowledges someone’s existence.

      Ordain Women was completely ignored – not once were they acknowledged despite their pleadings to come and meet at the table with their leaders. Temple recommend holding women, Relief Society presidents, active returned missionaries – they were completely ignored because they were asking leaders to pray for possible revelation that could change women’s roles in an increasingly painful position in the church.

      Instead of responding to their faithful pleas for help, they were painted as disruptive and disobedient (for literally just asking the prophet to pray about something rather than leaving the church – which is actually a very faithful and proactive thing to do). The women who jumped up to condemn their sisters in Ordain Women publicly and brutally and proclaim loudly that they *loved* the way things the male leadership was running everything were the ones invited in for a get together at headquarters. This allowed them to come back and gloat about their acceptance and the approval they received.

      And why a group of women who had done almost nothing of substance (other than start a two month old Facebook page re-posting quotes from general conference) were invited to this meeting seemed pretty clear to me – not that the church cared that deeply about them and their Facebook page, but because it was the best way to show Ordain Womem they were being purposefully ignored. They were saying, “We’ll invite literally any women in the church to meet with us at the table EXCEPT you ladies.”

  8. DT says:

    I made a concerted effort to use female quotes and experiences in my RS lessons and many women told me that if they came to any RS lesson at all, it would be mine. Some asked me in advance what weeks I was teaching because they felt uncomfortable with other teachers.

    Then I was replaced without notice by a new teacher who immediately taught a lesson based all on male perspectives and insights that proposed a high level of orthodoxy. Including gems like if you are not living a perfect life you will not be able to feel the Spirit at church. Many women told me afterwards that they no longer felt like there was a safe space for them at church.

    I agree that those who step up are quickly pruned. That is one reason that I no longer attend. Not because I was offended by my release but because of the unbearable silencing of female voices.

  9. Mortimer says:

    Exactly. It was a painful time, and a clear message. I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but at times I am ashamed when we (as a collective church) fail to help and love each other. In this instance- the gap between our best selves and Christ-like behavior and our actions was a chasm.

  10. ElleK says:

    Abby, I love these posts. Representation is something that I look for and notice constantly, and to have it so succinctly quantified in pictures like that is important and jarring.

  11. spunky says:

    I love this! So tired of men telling women how to be women. There are not enough eyeroll emojis in the world to describe my feelings on that!!

    There is also an Instagram page called “InspiredbyLDSwomen” which only shares quotes from female members of the church.

  12. Mindy says:

    Thank you for this post! It is so important to see these visual representations.

  13. I just added LDS Woman Project to the pages I follow on Facebook! Thanks for the tip!

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