Sexism in the ExMormon Community

Image: Apes (detail) in the Northumberland Bestiary, about 1250–60, unknown illuminator, made in England. Pen-and-ink drawing tinted with body color and translucent washes on parchment, 8 1/4 × 6 3/16 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 100, fol. 15v. Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program

Guest post by Anonymous. Anonymous was born and raised Mormon, served a mission, married in the temple, raised a large family, and has held various ward and stake callings. She wrote for Exponent previously, before having her records removed from the LDS church.

I formally left Mormonism two years ago, and the experience has taught me some startling things about exMormon life.

The first shocking discovery is that I will never be able to fully leave the church, not really. I did officially leave Mormonism–I went on QuitMormon.com and the attorney there was my mediator in asking church leaders to stop contacting me and please remove my name from church records. But only those who live in a country with GDPR compliance are allowed to truly leave, because the record-keepers at LDS, Incorporated do not delete names; they simply deactivate your records in case you return. This upsets me. Mormons in the UK are entitled to an actual record data wipe because they own the rights to their names. Americans like me do not, so I will never truly be free of the religion that I never chose, but which my parents chose for me when I was too young to consent to it.

I don’t like to talk about the reasons why I left Mormonism. They involve abuse that nobody believes, so I keep those details to myself these days. But now that I am finally free and rebuilding my life, my attempts to find support in the exMormon community constitute a strange and noteworthy journey—
First of all, I don’t live in the Utah corridor, so I found a lot of support from people around me when I left the church. That was wonderful. But nobody around me understood what I was going through. Most of the people I know talk about coming and going from their various churches like it is no biggie. They have no grasp of what it is like to exit a religion so controlling that even the very underwear I donned everyday was decided by central authorities thousands of miles away from me, and I had to meet with men at church on a regular basis and answer their questions about what underwear I had on, just to make sure I was still compliant. My dietary habits, media choices, daily activities, finances, sexuality, and marriage venue were all decided by a small cadre of old cishet white men living in Utah, whose commands for my life changed depending on which of the old guys lived and which ones died. The lapsed Catholics in my neighborhood who report for church only at Christmas and easter—and this is enough for their devout Catholic grandparents!—have no clue what me leaving Mormonism did to my temple marriage and extended family.

So I sought support from a few exMormon support groups both locally and online, with the hope that talking to others like me would help me better navigate the ways that my Mormon friends and family were treating me in the wake of my decision to leave the church. I assumed that others who had walked in my shoes and who knew what it was like to leave such a high-demand religion would be able to help me endure this experience. I imagined that everybody there would be like me: disgusted with systemic oppression, in the process of healing, and thus able to help others heal.

Looking back and considering the demographics that make up the majority of LDS culture, I now realize that I should not have made so many assumptions. Because what I found in the exMormon community was almost the polar opposite of what I expected.

Most exMormons would consider me a traitor for what I am about to say here, but it is the truth—
Most of the exMormons I met are replicating Mormonism outside of the church.

The exMormon community mostly follows (and funds) three prominent white men who they regularly refer to as first presidency of exMos, and they don’t seem to see the irony in that. Sure, there are female voices in the exMormon media sphere, but they are about as prominent (and paid as well, comparatively) as are the female auxiliary officers of the church in comparison to the brethren.
ExMormons hold conferences in Utah, just like in Mormonism. They have t-shirts, stickers, and other car insignia so that they can identify each other in the wild the way BYU sweatshirts and “RULDS2” license plates used to do. They have a “one true” meetinghouse, the exMormon subreddit.

One of the most frequent accusations I hear about exMormons is that they left Mormonism because they were appalled by the religion’s human rights violations (polyandry, pedophilia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc). But in the exMormon community, I have experienced sexism galore and seen such subtle racism that exMormons rarely admit to because they refuse to see it. They have lived in all-white sexist communities for so long that they just don’t and won’t listen when those of us outside the Utah corridor call them out on it. I am done talking to them about it, but I have a strong feeling that Mormon women will believe me.

I stopped attending in-person exMormon support group meetings because, during the usual icebreaker period when everybody states why they left the church, I was always getting trolled whenever I said that sex abuse was my reason for leaving. Turns out many exMormon men think #MeToo is just group hysteria, even though most of them left because of “underage polygamy coverups.” After a while I realized a possible reason why: I was the only non-Utahn/non-Idahoan at these gatherings, as well as the only person citing abuse as the reason why I left the church.

The largest hub of support for recovering from Mormonism is the exMormon subreddit. With close to 200K followers, they are THE largest space online for exMormon discussion, but because they are open to anyone, they also leave the door open for Mormon and DezN*t trolls, too. Whenever I tried discussing Mormonism in general, it was pretty easy to spot the trolls and just ignore them. But discussing women’s issues in general, I got downvoted all the way with pretty much no support. I reported gender-based harassment and downvoting parties to the moderators, who reiterated their laissez faire approach, because the exMormon space is not supposed to be as regulated and stifling as Mormon sites. I had to delete my account several times and start over as a result. Most recently, I made a post about discovering a hospital named “Brigham and women” and the visceral reaction that elicited in me as a woman who was raised to worship a man named Brigham but who later came to revile him once I discovered who he truly is. The moderators took down my post, told me that it violated the rules of the subreddit because “it doesn’t pertain to Mormonism.” I argued, “yes it does—it pertains to my experiences as a woman who survived Mormonism and was triggered by this hospital’s name” but they fired back, used my words against me to show that they were right (when I admitted that the hospital had nothing to do with the church) claimed victory, and I remained silenced. And these are the “EX”mormons.

On another occasion, I pointed out how few exmormon female voices are enjoying the patronage (funds, donations, free advertising) that white exmormon men are getting. exMormons keep posting links (ie, free advertising), to white male podcasts, blogs, books, etc but very little space is given to advertising the content of exMormons from other demographics. As I am sure you can imagine, they downvoted the hell out of my comment.

Also, in all online forums there is a weird war going on between Br!ghamite and pro-Joseph factions. Apparently there is a cult up in Rexburg that worships one branch of Mormonism and then the Church of Christ is branched off too, and then DezN*t I think might be Br!ighamite (I have lost track!) but they all have alerts out on these names so if you slip up and mention those names without using asterisks or dashes they will troll and harass you HARD and send you death threats until you need to delete your account and start all over. I could never figure out if these were exMormons, Mormons, another religion, or all three attacking me but it was distressing, triggering, and exhausting to not be able to get support while recovering from religion without getting hounded by male Internet trolls like that—all because I happened to use one of two men’s names. The exMormon community is where these attacks occurred, every time, and where I reported them every time, so even if they were infiltrator trolls from inside the religion, the fact that exMormon spaces is where this was allowed to happen says so much.
This is just a small taste of what it is like trying to navigate exMormon spaces as a woman—one of many.

What I am learning is that even after men leave Mormonism, they still think like Mormons, especially in how they view women, based on the way I am treated when I try to raise my unique perspective in the sea of Utah/Idaho white male exMormon groupthink.

If I want to be treated fairly and magnanimously, I find I am in the best company among people who never attended a high-demand patriarchal religion. Luckily, I live in a geographic region where there are many such folks. But my heart goes out to former Mormon women in the Utah corridor, who think that post-Mormon life among exMormons is all there is. I hope that they make it out one day, out to live among people who treat all humans equally. Because, based on my experience in the exMormon community, religious affiliation does not determine a man’s treatment of women as much as the culture in which he was raised. Actually, this applies to women too, so let me rephrase that: Based on my experiences in the exMormon community, religious affiliation does not determine a person’s treatment of women as much as the culture in which they were raised.

You may also like...

84 Responses

  1. Risa says:

    I could have written this post! Let me be another witness to what you have experienced in the ExMo community. It is absolutely toxic. These people think they’re so enlightened for leaving the church, but as you said, replicate the most dysfunctional aspects of the church in the ExMo community, only now they can have alcohol and open marriages. The three men who think they’re in charge are some of the worst offenders of sexism, and sexual harassment, and their male followers absolutely worship them. I was kicked out of the Mormon Stories Facebook group for calling out Saint John Dehlin for sexism and the men there treated me like a hysterical woman in need of mental health treatment. I have left all ExMo Facebook groups unless they are explicitly feminist (like The Exponent II), anti-racist, LGBTQ affirming, etc. spaces led by women and gender minorities. Honestly the sexism and racism is so rampant and gross in typical ExMo spaces that I’d rather hang around faithful LDS men because most of the time they are more respectful of me as a woman.

    I started a Facebook group for ExMo and progressive Mormons who are also fans of true crime (super niche, I know) that has turned into a safe space for women and gender minorities only because male-led ExMo spaces are so openly hostile toward women, BIPOC, LGBTQ people, etc. The ExMo Reddit is a hostile place for anyone who isn’t a white cis-male. I would suggest if you want to continue to engage on Reddit, create a space of your own and hold to specific standards and boundaries.

    Thank you so much for writing this and calling it out.

  2. Alan says:

    Yessssss!!!!! Thank you so much for this.

  3. Fairie says:

    Who are the three leaders? I’ve only been on exmormon.org, and haven’t really noticed it there? Haven’t been there in a while though, so maybe…?

    • Meghan says:

      John Dehlin, Bill Reel and RFM.

      • Risa says:

        And Bill Reel is especially persona non grata in these parts since he gave a podcast platform to the woman who stole 200K from the Exponent II foundation and went to federal prison for it. He gave her this platform knowing what she did and he continues to defend her and giving her that platform. Another example of how sexist these above listed men are.

      • Julia says:

        Who is RFM?

      • Risa says:

        Julia, I’m assuming Ryan McKnight.

      • Hedgehog says:

        Julia, I’ve long believed RFM is Corbin Volluz
        Former contributor to Rational Faiths blog, former lds apologist, and attorney.

      • Anna says:

        RFM is not a guy, but a podcast called, I believe, Radio Free Mormon, so not a person specifically. I obviously don’t listen to the podcast, so just know of it. But, yes, the podcast is run by a guy. He has kept his personal identity pretty private, so, I only know him by the handle he uses on New Order Mormon. And as far as I can tell, he is not the least bit sexist, but actually a pretty decent fellow.

        And these three guys are not “leaders,” so much as just the guys who do podcasts and so end up receiving a lot of hero worship from the guys at Reddit. Most of those Reddit jerks have never met any of the podcasters, but just worship them as some kind of hero. They have transferred their hero worship from church leaders directly onto podcasters. So, yeah, leaving Mormonism didn’t teach them a thing.

        My personal opinion of the three, is John D is a sexist, arrogant, charismatic jerk. Bill Reel is a bookish, nerd and family man, but decent and honest, and if he is sexist it is the kindly benevolent patriarchy kind that mostly takes women for granted because they have never deeply considered feminist issues- — so, more oblivious than sexist. The guy who does RFM I only know from online, but he is intelligent, deep thinker, kind and a decent guy, who I think is aware of feminist issues

      • AnActualLicensedTherapistNOTaCOACH says:

        That doesn’t makes sense given the context and what was said in the blog piece… she reference three ExMo Men who are basically fawned all over by ExMo folks (especially those who don’t dive a bit deeper)… I personally thought it was referencing Dehlin, Norton, and McKnight, but know and trust Risa’s judgement and expertise here if she says Bill Reel is the third. I left Mormonism unofficially in the early 2000s, formally in the past 8 years, and have in the past couple of years reengaged with Mormon adjacent folks via Exponent and Sunstone. I didn’t not follow the common path than many followers of these three have taken… and as a person with advance training–not only as in psychotherapy–but also in Women, Gender, and Sexuality studies (i.e. intersectional feminism and anti-oppression)–I have witnessed the behavioral patterns of these men and their followers and the sexism flows freely.

        Further, as Risa has highlighted… Bill has intentionally pocked the Mormon/Post-Mormon Feminist community in the eye by giving the woman (our formed treasure) who embezzled $200,000 from this organization a platform… She has caused grave harm to this organization and the women associated with it, and he rushes in to rescue her and give her a platform. This is not the behavior of an ally and is deeply rooted in sexism to attempt to discredit the whole org.

  4. Chiaroscuro says:

    I feel it too. Stuck in Utah, its a hard place to transition for sure. Invisible and second class everywhere

  5. Maggie says:

    Thank you so much for saying something!! I’ve been struggling with this.

  6. Bryn Brody says:

    Thank you for this truth! I find exMo men are not safe people to be around, and there’s still a solid “good ole boy club” where men support (financially, verbally, etc) other men while trampling all over the causes they claim (erroneously) to champion. And on the (very rare) occasion they throw a line to a non-male voice, they expect all the atta-boys, frequently becoming angry and abusive if they aren’t praised enough for it.

  7. spunky says:

    I am so sorry. I wish I had more to say than that, but really, you deserve support and love. Full stop. I am grateful that you have highlighted the sickness in these groups; your words here will protect others. Thank you.

  8. Em says:

    I had no idea about any of this. I appreciate you shining a light on it. You can quit a religion on paper but completely changing your thought patterns is a different and much harder task.

  9. Elisa says:

    I haven’t spent a ton of time in those spaces but I noticed that as well – I expected the community to be inclusive and “woke” on gender issues given their experiences with the Church. I found that was generally not the case and was so surprised – seems like such a weird blindspot.

  10. John Dehlin says:

    An inspiring new Mormon voice, breaking down patriarchy.

    https://www.breakingdownpatriarchy.com/

    • EmilyB says:

      Getting the link from an alpha man kind of defeats the purpose. “Ladies, go visit this feminist site!” –Boss Man

    • Risa says:

      Oh brother 🙄

      • AnActualLicensedTherapistNOTaCOACH says:

        IKR

        As another ExMo woman was sharing…

        “ExMo Woman: talking about ExMo sexism

        ExMo men: (hold my root beer… err beer) This seems like a conversation we should hijack.”

    • AnActualLicensedTherapistNOTaCOACH says:

      I’m so glad chief among the Trinity of ExMo Patriarchs/Presidency has weighted in and offered to arbitrate who are the “real” Feminists we all should be listening to… especially after he’s been banned from the Exponent II for the abusive and sexist ways he engaged women and gender minorities in that space.

    • Carrie says:

      Thank you for your work in dismantling the patriarchy! It is so comforting to have a man lead us to understand how it all works. Do you happen to have a newsletter or run any support groups? I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t mind occasionally putting me in my place? Excommunicate me from your Facebook group then post about it even though you would never publicly shame anyone? You are a natural leader. You likely have no experience (I’m guessing a big wig in tech?) but could you do one on one interviews or counseling? Wildly inappropriate, I know. Let’s call it coaching. You can pretend you’re my bishop or maybe even a stake president, area authority or prophet. Please fill that hole the church left in me with your own problematic wisdom.

      WE HAVE BEEN DESPERATE FOR A MAN TO LEAD US!

      …did this help boost your ego, John?

    • Kristina says:

      The irony of John Dehlin commenting on this when his FB group is one of the worst examples of exactly what this post is talking about is laughable. Try tackling the sexism, homophobia, racism, and all the other -isms in your own group before trying to assert yourself in a discussion by and for women. And maybe ask yourself why you felt the need to comment on this in the first place. Are women’s lived experiences not valid enough?

    • Mary says:

      Ya know how a woman would bring up Heavenly Mother in an ex-Mo space, because Heavenly Mother is a very comforting and empowering idea and then some patriarchal jerk would jump in and bring up celestial polygamy? They knew they were trolling. They knew they were being jerks, but they just had to get their jollies, because they are precisely that small and have precisely that little else to bring them happiness.

      That’s what this comment reminds me of.

      To the OP. Yes, you will always have a little bit of Mormonism in you. It’s kind of like I went to a certain elementary school, but I seldom think of that school or the other kids who went there. It’s a part of me. I learned from it, but it’s behind me.

      I seldom go to LDS spaces, these days. The only reason I came here today is I was wondering what of the current events are being discussed and related to the Mormon woman’s experience.

      I’m mildly curious as to what the Wall Street Bets movement is doing to the church’s portfolio, if anything. I was hoping that women would be looking at what’s going on with Wall Street Bets and the women still trapped in the patriarchy would find a way to give the church leaders their own Wall Street Bets moment.

      That’s not happening. Time to go do other stuff. You’ll get to the point where having been a member will be like where you went to school in your pre-teen years. It’s still a part of you, but it’s in your increasingly distant past.

  11. Bill Reel says:

    Anonymous author of guest blog post:

    “The exMormon community mostly follows (and funds) three prominent white men who they regularly refer to as first presidency of exMos”

    QUESTION: if I snapped my fingers and immediately exmormons choose their favorite creative content producers based on merit and the best product rather than any bias towards gender or race….. how would it look different?

    • EmilyB says:

      exmo church discipline has been administered, by the 1st counselor to the prophet himself. But isnt that the bishop’s job? I thought the 1st presidency typically stays out of church discipline matters?

    • Risa says:

      /mod/: Bill, it’s pretty bold of you to comment here considering you gave a platform to a woman who literally embezzled $200,000 from us and went to federal prison for it. An action you continually justify and have not apologized for. Until you do, it’s inappropriate for you to comment here.

    • inastoneden says:

      White men just LOVE to claim that all their success is “based on merit” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

      • Post-MoTransTxist says:

        @inastoneden
        And it’s amazing how mediocre they really are… and yet not surprising how other mediocre white dudes and the women who love the proximal power white heteropatriarchy affords them… realign their oedipus and electra complexes with these men provide a facsimile of the system they proclaim to be critiquing.

    • zamboni driver says:

      Do you think the top 3 *doesn’t* include (at a minimum) Gina Colvin & Lindsey Hansen Park?!

      • Denea says:

        @zamboni driver
        Gina for sure. Lindsey Hansen Park has seen the light and paid for it… She’s is one of many women burned by these men and their associates… often claiming that she has turned Sunstone into a sorority (ya… and cant seem to see the sexism there), while having turned it around from it’s prior floundering.

        But Gina is still a handmaiden of patriarchy in my book… loves the proximal power in relation to the Trinity of ExMo Patriarchs.

    • Post-MoTransTxist. says:

      Clearly demonstrating White Cishet Male Fragility… and no basic foundational understanding of how systems of power and privilege work… or how intersectional feminism and anti-oppression work (hint: it’s incumbent on those with power and privilege to dismantle it).
      But thanks to Bill and John for being so easily wounded by this feminist critique of the sexism they not only exhibit but nurture in their spheres of influence… Just wondering how long until Norton or McKnight jump in with their hot take.

    • Lindsay says:

      I don’t think there is any way to truly test that. In the Mormon church, we were raised with an inherent bias in favor of male perspectives, opinions, and voices. There is no way to accurately assess whether people truly like the content or hearing reassuring male voices. I think that LHP has, by far, created the highest quality and widest range of content for the exmo community, but she is rarely viewed as an authority figure compared to exmo men. Likewise, there is very little space given to POC especially BIPOC in the exmo world. So how can anyone accurately assess the value of their contributions to the conversation. Honestly, your question sounds a lot like the one I hear, “Well, let’s compare the discoveries, art, and writing of historical men with historical women and see which content is better.” It ignores the oppression that led to decreased access to create and make discoveries, not to mention, the widespread of women’s theft of women’s work. And that doesn’t even begin to touch on the systemic oppressions POC.
      So, ultimately, you are asking a primarily white community, who has been trained to view men as superior, which content creators are superior “based on content”. It’s a loaded question from the start.

    • Nicole says:

      So, you’re just going to come into a feminist space, where women have clearly and repeatedly explained the extremely basic concept that you are asking about, and ask women to provide the emotional labor to explain this basic concept to you, personally.

      As if you expect me to believe that you, personally, are worth the time and emotional labor it will take to explain this concept. And, furthermore, as if you expect me to believe that, with the evidence I have about you currently, you will not just take my words and promptly ignore them.

      No, Bill, you’re right. White men are just naturally better and more talented than everyone else. That’s why it’s always white men in positions of power.

    • Carrie says:

      Bill, I don’t know who you are but this is quite a condescending comment. Are you implying that gender and race have nothing to do with the platform some white men have? There are many resources you could easily educate yourself on. You surely will never understand the effect the patriarchy has on women but that is no excuse in 2021 to be ignorant about it.

  12. AntiCiTear says:

    Ugh, I’m really getting tired of being told that I worship John Dehlin, Bill Reel, and RFM.

    Those guys get taken to task here all the time. I just posted something about two of them on Sunday.

    I find the author’s arguments unpersuasive. The moderators took her post down and that means exmormons are anti-women? Three podcasts are men, so therefore we worship them? Some people go to JDehlin’s (super cringey looking) thrive conferences, and that means all of us worship the guy?

    This is silliness. As a group we are fighting all the time about our identity. Acting as if we are united in bigotry is inaccurate, silly, and dare I say, unhelpful.

    • Risa says:

      If this post doesn’t describe your experience, then it’s not about you. But it’s interesting that the only comments arguing that the ExMo community isn’t really like this are men. The space is for women and gender minorities to have a voice. Well-behaved men are guests in this space. You don’t get to call a post written from the perspective a woman, a perspective you have never lived, “silly.” Don’t you see how calling women’s concerns “silly” is exactly the point of this post?

      • Usually I have a name around here says:

        But this time I won’t use it.

        A woman here arguing that my experience in the exMo community has been nothing like this original post. I have been treated with respect in my corner of post Mo world. Which is not Reddit. Reddit is rude. Maybe we should call it Rudit.

        All men are pretty much the same, in the ExMo community or the larger American society. Some are sexist jerks and some are not. Some will stand up for women and some won’t. And if they feel attacked as one would reading this original post, they might defend themselves, thus what you are seeing in the men jumping in to say not all men even in the exMo world are like that.

        I would have jumped in sooner, but frankly the anger here left me feeling unwelcome to say that my experience in the post Mo world has been really good.

        Not going to be popular to say, but sometimes we create the world we live in. If we as women come out punching, there will be men who punch back. Then we can yell that the sexists punched us, forgetting that we came out swinging. This post came out swinging. It made me want to defend the men I know in my post Mo corner of the world. But I felt that would not be welcome, so I kept my mouth shut. But now that you say “only men are…..” well not only men, but some of us feminist women. If we are willing to treat men with respect, some treat us well, and the ones who don’t, we avoid like the plague they are.

      • RBG is a Feminst; ACB is not. says:

        And here come the handmaidens of patriarchy who love their proximal power and privilege and thus don’t see “benevolent sexism” as sexism… and turn a blind eye to what so many women are experiencing.

        Thanks, Aunt Lydia.

  13. EmilyB says:

    This. All of this. As a fairly recent exmo myself I know and attest to all of this too.

    The sexism I experience as an exMormon woman has been mostly men accusing us women of not being smart enough, just like Mormon men used to tell us we weren’t authorized of god and therefore not inspired enough to think for ourselves. In every exmo forum the guys like to shout down women’s feelings with “fallacy!” -this and “fallacy!” -that and yeah they are just copying Mormonism because the FAIRmormon website is all about calling attention to fallacies too. But I see nothing wrong with intuitive thinking–the exmormon women I know mostly left because they followed their hearts out. Their hearts told them that supporting LGBTQs, racial minorities, women, and the poor is the right thing to do. I think exmo women are wise to trust their judgment and that the male intellectual elites attacking them for supposed fallacies are no different than the male spiritual elites of the church who deny women leadership/a voice for not being born with male body parts.

  14. David Kelly says:

    I’ve been out of the church for close to 15 years. In those days, John Dehlin was just getting started. My online exposure to ex-Mormons came from discussion boards on now defunct platforms. Reddit and Facebook didn’t exist yet. My introduction to feminist thought came from the women on those discussion boards, and I’ll always be grateful for the patience they showed while explaining their perspectives. Much of what they shared wasn’t intuitive to me at first. It was a learning process, much like what we are seeing with many men in the ex-Mormon world today.

    We are all permanently influenced by how we grew up. The problems that Anonymous has encountered in the ex-Mormon world have always been present, especially since the most vocal and engaged ex-Mormons are the newly-minted ones who are just getting their bearings. At some point, the vast majority of us move on and become only peripherally connected to the ex-Mormon world.

    Anonymous is justified in being disappointed with her fellow ex-Mormons. I have often been let down by our community as well. I suspect that Anonymous will eventually settle into a comfortable place. We are all permanently damaged by the cult, and it takes years upon years to unlearn what was once automatic.

    • Men must do the work to unlearn sexism. says:

      No… The point of Intersectional Feminism and Anti-Oppression is to be intentional in unlearning the systems of oppression we grew up with. It is incumbent of those with power and privilege to dismantle the very system that gives them power and privilege over others. It is incumbent on white people to dismantle racism. it is incumbent on men to dismantle sexism. It is incumbent on cisgender and straight folks to dismantle cissexism/transphobia and heteronormativity/homophobia.

      • David Kelly says:

        Unless the lessons resonate, men are not going to learn them. Things that are obvious to some may be totally obscure or even repulsive to others. I have complex feelings myself. The ex-Mormon women I know would almost universally sympathize with Anonymous’s experiences, but they do not all agree on what to do about it, or what they think men should do about it.

        I have found that divergence of opinions only increase the longer people are out of the church. Some will embrace the incumbency to actively participate in the dismantling of sexism, and others will simply preserve the status quo. And the propensity to engage isn’t always correlated with a person’s race, gender, or orientation.

        It is a unique journey for each of us.

      • YouHaveNoClueWhatYouAreTalkingAbout... or how you are proving the point of the article. says:

        David – STFU and listen… your sexism is show… stop mansplaining to feminist women. It’s on men if they want to be sexist and seen by women as such. It’s on men to unlearn this sh!t. Demanding sugar coating it to make it palatable to men is simply another form of manifesting male supremacy. Men can choose to be anti-sexist and unlearn sexism or choose to continue to manifest sexism. We are not interested in men’s hit takes on out experiences of sexism. Women on the experts here and the tools and modalities of out oppressors simply maintain the damn system.
        Sit down. Shut up. Listen and learn. You are not the experts here.

      • “Unless the lessons resonate, men are not going to learn them”

        Are you seriously trying to argue that men are incapable of empathy and learning from experiences that are not their own? And that women should work hard to make sure their messages are in the right tone for men to understand? Cause I gotta say, I know that men can be better than that.

        I’m not shocked that the “men are weak babies who need to be spoonfed” argument has come up. I’m just dissapinted.

      • David Kelly says:

        melanirobison, that’s not what I meant. I have two ex-Mormon sisters that have shared with me their experiences, and I ache for them. I can’t speak for all men, but I definitely feel empathy for what Anonymous is talking about.

        What I am trying to say, unsuccessfully, is that men are in different phases of their journey on this topic. I am still learning, as we all are.

  15. scootd28 says:

    The phenomenon of LDS 2.0 is real. I left in 2015 and took the religion with me. that phase lasted about 2 years. But have since come to recognize the fear and control that permeates the religion and the culture. That’s not even a criticism, because I tired quickly of criticizing. Nevertheless it is my observation. Frankly, I still find great value in Joseph Smith’s mysticism, but the religion that grew out of it is like all others. It’s creeds are indeed an abomination.

  16. Milo Otis says:

    “Most of the exMormons I met are replicating Mormonism outside of the church.”
    Sampling bias: most Exmos just walk away and have little to do with the church. Most people who participate in Exmo groups are recently out and still dealing with issues. People who have been out for 10 years or so think about the LDS Church only when it intrudes on their life via the news or family members.

    She’s basing her conclusions on anecdotal evidence of a handful of people. Bashing people who are trying to rebuild their lives like she is doesn’t help anyone.
    Honestly, and I don’t mean this as an insult, but she probably could use a good therapist. Her refusal to discuss her reasons for leaving hint at some trauma that she probably needs to work out.

    • Risa says:

      /mod/: Telling someone they have mental health issues because you disagree with their personal experiences is against the rules of this blog. The purpose of this space is to give women and gender minorities a voice, one they are often denied in the LDS church, and here you come again painting her as crazy because you haven’t had the same experience as hers. Do you not see the irony? Do better.

    • Mindy says:

      Of course she is basing it on her experiences interacting with people active in exmo communities. People who have left and don’t participate are not part of these communities she is discussing. This is clear in her explanation of exmo communities. Questioning her mental health status is totally uncalled for and inappropriate.

  17. Risa says:

    Look at all these men rushing in to dismiss and discount your experiences once again. They don’t even realize that they’re a parody of themselves.

    • As an ex-Mormon man, I was hoping other ex-Mormon men wouldn’t show up here and prove the author’s point, but obviously my hope was misplaced. All I can do is shake my head and say I’m sorry to Anonymous and all the other women who have had similar experiences.

  18. Jessie says:

    I believe you. <3

  19. Melly says:

    It’s fascinating to me how the men have come and proved here how very right Anonymous is. I can see in their comments the same tactics men in the church use to silence women, and I’m not sure whether to believe they are aware of what they are doing and choosing to use those tactics consciously, or oblivious to it and in need of education.

  20. scootd28 says:

    There are many things about the LDS Church and culture that are less than desirable – that fall short of the real intent of Jesus’ continuing ministry. These things are so imbued in us that they are truly difficult to leave behind. Perhaps this give another meaning to “they can leave the church but they can’t leave it alone”. I think a sign that we have truly left that all behind is when we leave the contention behind; when we leave behind the offense; when we have forgiven all those who “know not what they do”, and begin seeking to BE the unconditional love that is Christ.

    In saying this, I do not seek to minimize the pain, the sorrow, the struggles of many who have left the church – male and female alike. Neither do I seek to minimize or justify that same pain, sorrow, and struggle of those who are still in the church. I especially do not seek to minimize the difficulty of letting it all go. But there is hope.

    I think that there is an ascension that yet awaits us. Jesus has no guile, no resentment, and no judgment.. Contrary to popular opinion, He doesn’t recognize ANY hierarchy, other than one of service and love, and He abhors any attempts to force or control others, no matter how subtly that force may be applied. This is the peace that passeth understanding. When we find this, contention falls away. Pain falls away. We can truly enter into His rest; come unto Him; take His yoke upon us – in oneness and in love.

    Do we dare aspire?

    • AlsoAnActualTherapist says:

      This is literally the worst form of tone policing. How dare you presume to inform us that fighting for equal treatment in public spaces is contrary to the will of Jesus Christ? Active Mormon men don’t ever tell me what Jesus wants me to do unless they are in my formal “line of authority.” I guess leaving the church means you can now receive revelation on behalf of every single woman in the world instead of just a few? I’m particularly appalled that you attribute female pain (from MISTREATMENT) to a lack of adequate religious faith. How dare you. How dare you.

      • scootd28 says:

        AlsoAnActualTherapist. First let me apologize that I so unintentionally elicited this response from you. I re-read my comment, and I honestly have no idea what you mean – why you were offended. I have no idea why you perceived that I’m receiving revelation for anyone at all, nor how I attributed female pain to a lack of religious faith.

        Perhaps I can try again. I abhor heirarchy – whether it’s formal or informal and cultural. I abhor the use of any form of manipulation to control or influence the behavior of others. If there IS a “priesthood”, it is only based on service and love, and there is NO authority implied.

        I also fully believe that Christ thinks the same way. I DID say, or at least imply, that FIGHTING for equal treatment, in my mind, serves only to perpetuate the hierarchy, the implied authority, otherwise, what ARE you fighting? No man has any authority over you except it be by force, or which you give them.

        I truly seek only to love. I perceive you and all men, women, children as equals, and I hope I would never allow myself to seek to manipulate or force you or anyone to do something against their will.

        Nevertheless, if my words offended you, please accept my sincere apology. That was not my intent. I humbly ask your forgiveness.

  21. PostMormon Woman 9996 says:

    I’m in the Utah exMormon community and haven’t noticed it very much among ex-Mormons. I will admit I have had a few run-ins with men who were sexist and used manipulative tactics on me to try and get me to sleep with them, but when I told my exMormon male friends, they stuck up for me and suppoorted me in telling the guys to leave me alone and gave me space to vent about it and vent about the sexism in church, and I’ve seen and heard many other women venting about their abuse in the church and that being the reason they left, and they were given the space and listening ear and support they needed. I disagree about being sexist because of the society we were raised in, I think there are so many people who resist that despite their environment because they are overall good people and would never intentionally harm another person.

    • smithietherapist says:

      And yet fascinating that the dynamic described her is of a woman perpetuating the sexist dynamic of men being protectors of women… and that the commentor dismisses sexism through a blanket dismissal of how systemic sexism (i.e. patriarchy work) and who has power and privilege. But this “good guys” protected you from the “bad guys” so clearly sexism isn’t at play (snark)… when in fact this is the very nature of pedestaling via the acculturation of gender steeped in mormonism.

    • smithietherapist says:

      Cant help but notice a relatively anonymous account that appear pretty new… and discounts benevolent sexism and not sexism…
      I think we are being catfished.

      PS – Systems of oppressions are maintained through microagressions that often not (consciously) intentional… but none the less cause harm and sustain these systems of power. Intersectional feminism and anti-oppression is about raising consciousness about these interactions so that we can leave BIPOC, Women, Trans people, and LGBQ people less harms and begin to dismantle these systems that marginalized.

  22. Shane C says:

    I am a white male who was excommunicated (joined as a convert, lived as a TBM for 43 years) and endured a lengthy faith crisis made complicated by terminal illness and severe addiction within my own nuclear family. I have enjoyed the perspectives of most ex-Mos/Post Mos across the spectrum. I have enjoyed the John Dehlin, Bill Reel, and RFM podcasts discussed here as part of my journey out. And I find myself increasingly drawn to the women (a list of over twenty notable former LDS and nuanced LDS woman who contribute resides within my own notes) because I believe that they, respectively, have the most to teach me. I read this post with sincere appreciation for the challenges this woman has experienced, and I consider her criticisms as valid as any I have read. Most notably, I regularly listen to “The Year in Polygamy” podcast, and I find it very illuminating and challenging to my male-centric perspectives. It is true that white males still dominate the Post-Mormon web space. But I see the contributions of women growing much more quickly and likely overtaking the pure volume of male-centric commentary within the near future. I know that I listen to them at least as much as to the men. And when I see a contribution (written, or otherwise) from a woman, I pay particular attention and ‘seek it out’! Please keep speaking up.

  23. Helen Sweany says:

    Go through some of the fb exmo groups and get the gender ratio who is commenting. This should probably be the same ratio as who’s in power.

  24. mr.mraynes says:

    Not exmo, but I sure believe you.

  25. Helen Sweany says:

    I was a stay-at-home homeschooling, musically talented (and active) Mormon mom. My life was all about making my (now) ex and the kids’ lives excel in the directions they loved. I have no resume for those 27 years. Before marriage I was an honor student through high school and college, never graduating college. I was a legal secretary/researcher and proofed before internet was common. I started the China Project Joint Ventures section in our law office that is still in use today. Prior to that I tutored botany, math, history, literature, theater, piano, speech and debate. My saved income is what financed our family apartment business. The judge eight years ago was angry with me because he said I was lazy for not being gainfully employed. My adult kids all do financially well for themselves; I was homeless for the first three months post divorce. I now live quite well on very little in the cheapest apartment that would rent to me. What a person chooses to do for money (ie your job) nor how much you have does not define who you are. Bill Reel does “merit and best product” include the success of my ex and kids that wouldn’t have been possible without the invisible me?

  26. Cristina Rosetti says:

    Thank you for putting to words the experience of so many. Never been a Mormon, but I’ve been around this block long enough to share a glimmer of this story and believe you.

  27. Anne says:

    Like Anonymous, I live outside the Mormon corridor. Way outside it. Brigham and Women’s hospital is a not-uncommon destination for people in my town who need specialized tests or treatments. The name always gives me a little ‘ping’ of ironic cringe.

    The sexism Anonymous talks about here, I haven’t noticed it particularly on the subreddit. Not that that means it’s not there, just that I haven’t noticed it. I can’t help wondering if that is some of my Mormon indoctrination filtering system still at work?

    I’ve been more aware of the militant insistence on a materialist-reductionist worldview. To me, the immediate trolling of anyone who expresses interest in the mystical, intuitive, numinous, or irreducible, is the most noticeably Mormon-y aspect of the community there. It’s probably not even most people, just a certain vigilant subset who feel the need to stamp down anything that doesn’t fit their version of reality. But it sure feels like being in a Mormon group at times, when I unconsciously censor myself, or carefully phrase what I do say, in order to participate without being trolled.

  28. Kathleen waters says:

    I was active in the Exmormon community for many years on exmormon.org and was on the board of the Exmormon Conference. Here is my take on this discussion: there is no healthy Exmormon “community” where either men or woman can have a healthy life going forward. Being an “ex” is a transitional state in which one moves through stages of recovery eventually arriving (hopefully) at a level of stasis, which for some feels like boredom and others indifference. The pitching of tents and the erecting of a hierarchy with genders vying for equality points to people who made an identity of Mormonism and now replace it with an identity of ex Mormonism. In fact, Mormonism is a unified culture, ie, something, whereas exmormonism is not. It has no unified culture, rather it is an affirmation of the power and value of individualism. You can’t make a tribe or community out of not believing something. Each person who leaves Mormonism needs to find a healthy community of like-minded individuals to build friendship and community on your shared interests and pursuits. We Exmormon need to hold open the door to the real world for others, then pass the helper torch to the next generation and walk through the door ourselves.

  29. Lindsay says:

    5 years ago I approached a prominent, male Exmo blogger about making a podcast or series of episodes within a podcast about sexism within the Exmo community. I figured their platform was big enough to get a real conversation going. They freaked the fuck out about it, and shut down the idea immediately. So they know. They just don’t care.

  30. Anna says:

    I think there are men in the exMo community who are just freshly out who feel that their manhood has just been pulled out from under them. They just lost that magical power called priesthood that made them better than women. And now they have the job of re-establishing an male identity. So they are newly insecure in their manhood. We all know that it is the men who are insecure in their manhood who are the most sexist. Well, exMo men have a new reason to be insecure. They just had their penishood pulled out from under them. So they need to put women down in order to feel good about themselves.

  31. Sheila says:

    I left about 10 years ago and was shocked to find that a lot of the post/exMormon FB groups were full of men super excited to use every misogynistic slur in the book. Patriarchy is way harder to quit than Mormonism.

  32. Shawn says:

    Wow, I had not have imaged this scenario, but I see how it could happen. As others have said, thanks for shedding light on it.

  33. Meagan Cahoon Alder says:

    Thank you so much Anonymous for sharing your story with us. It’s so upsetting and yet not surprising.

    I am not plugged into the online ExMo community very much at all but saw this article being referenced and am glad to have read it. In the comments, I saw the podcast https://www.breakingdownpatriarchy.com/ was mentioned and I wanted to say that this is done by Amy McPhie Allebest, the author of Dear Mormon Man. She is also not plugged into the ExMo community or the Mormon Underground in any significant way and had no idea of the experiences that are being shared about John Dehlin.

    The premise of the podcast is to tackle the patriarchy through the writings of women on the subject–the subtitle of the podcast is “An Essential Texts Book Club”. It’s not a Mormon podcast. Although some of her guests are along the Mormon spectrum. I was one of them and we read Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”.

    I wanted to clear up any confusion there may be about this podcast being connected to John Dehlin…please don’t let his endorsement keep you from checking it out. It is legitimately a massive work for those of us trying to understand this oppressive system we live under–this would have been so helpful for me 20+ years ago as I was trying to make sense of my experiences not just in the church but as a woman in everyday life.

    • Risa says:

      The Exponent II has been tackling these issues for almost 50 years in our magazine, on our blog, and through podcast form. Have you ever promoted us as much as you’ve promoted another John Dehlin project in our space?

      • Meagan Cahoon Alder says:

        I’m so sorry I caused confusion. “Breaking Down Patriarchy” is *not* a John Dehlin project. I thought it was odd that he dropped it in the comments on this article specifically. I saw many responses to his comment and realized that by him putting it out there like that, people would think it was connected with him and not want to listen. It is not connected to him.

      • Risa says:

        Thank you for the clarification Meagan. I am more than thrilled to promote the work of other feminists. Not so much the work of men who have been more than problematic in our spaces.

    • Taylor says:

      Thanks for this. I made the realization in talking with my wife today that I need to “put in the work” to really be able to say that I am not sexist. I want to say I’m a feminist too! I want my wife to feel like this is important to me too. But I haven’t done the work. I think I’m much further along than a lot of men but that doesn’t mean shit if I’m not researching this subject and listening to more feminist voices. It’s easier to seek out entertainment and inspiration from men because I’m just looking for content that speaks to me. I am ashamed of myself in a lot of ways in how I have treated women. That shame puts up so many defense and filters in my brain that it’s hard to open my mind/heart to put the work in to deprogram. But I am going to do it. I’m not going to ask my wife to explain feminism to me. I’m going to start right now to be a part of the solution.

  34. Aaron says:

    Thanks to the anonymous author who was brave enough to write this article. I do think that when you raise a man in a largely white world where men lead and women are expected to shut-up and listen, it creates a blinder to bad behavior that carries out of Mormonism. Things I have noticed:

    Men are more concerned about polyandry (Joseph was taking other men’s wives) than Joseph using his authority and the threat of eternal hell if TEENAGE girls didn’t agree to marry him.

    White men have feminist episodes where they dominate the discussion over their speaker (make sure the feminist stays in her place so he can control the platform).

    It is more likely for a woman podcaster to not get paid than for a male podcaster to not get paid.

    Anytime an ex-Mormon podcast talks about women or race issues, the white male podcaster controls the entire conversation and constantly speaks over the guests.

    And yes, John Dehlin, Bill Reel, and Corbin Valluz are the worst perpetrators of this white male power non-sense.

Leave a Reply to spunky Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.