December 5, 2016

What Mother Jones Doesn’t Get about Mormon Women

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A few feminists have disparaged women like me because we did not say “I’m with her” on Election Day.

A writer for the infamously liberal publication Mother Jones went so far as to suggest that Mormon women did not vote for Hillary Clinton because we are — evidently — oppressed by our faith, uneducated and too afraid to stand for a feminist candidate.

Spouting such fairy tales, Mother Jones might as well be called Mother Goose.

“Utah can be a difficult place to be a woman,” the article says. “The patriarchal culture of the state’s dominant religion is strong. Women aren’t allowed to be ordained as leaders in the LDS Church, and they’re taught to be subordinate to men.”

This kind of condescension toward Utah women is a throwback to anti-Mormon screed depicting Latter-day Saint women — my pioneer ancestors — as brainwashed rubes.

Hillary_ClintonAt the expense of dashing Mother Jones’ feminist fantasy, Clinton’s “women problem” in Utah had little to do with patriarchy and gender but everything to with integrity, authenticity and the fact that Utah’s economy, public policy and communities actually provide more opportunity, more choices and more freedom for women.

While many rightly struggled with the decision of whom to vote for, in Hillary Clinton many Utah women saw a flawed and unimpressive candidate whose policies would ultimately disadvantage and decrease genuine opportunities for themselves, their daughters and granddaughters.

Utah women are not afraid of those who value the freedom and power to choose a full-time professional career. Utah women recognize that their own influence — whether in the community, in the workplace, in the halls of Congress or in the home — plays a far greater role in shaping the future than superficial feminist causes or identity politics.

We know what authentic leadership looks like because we live it.

Although it is still important for more female voices (and male voices) to engage in the world in meaningful ways, Utah is already fostering many extraordinary female entrepreneurs, business people, religious and community leaders, and — equally important — mothers, wives, grandmothers, sisters, aunts and friends.

The women from Mother Jones are hardly in position to cast aspersions on the women of Utah. Surely if a man did that, Mother Jones would cry foul.

They represent the great liberal feminist irony — they want all women to feel empowered and able to choose, unless, of course, those women’s choices break with liberals’ views of womanhood.

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State Senator Martha Hughes Cannon

Hillary Clinton was not the candidate for Utah women, and it’s not because we are too suppressed to hold our own politically.

Indeed, Utah women have long been a driving force in shaping the state, whether in the traditional halls of power or in the far more powerful halls of home.

Utah, for example, was the second state in the nation to grant women the right to vote. Utah Latter-day Saint Martha Hughes Cannon became America’s first woman state senator (defeating her own husband).

In 1911, Mary Chamberlain, a Utah Mormon woman, became the first mayor with an all-female town council.

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Mary Chamberlain

More recently, Olene Walker was the state’s lieutenant governor for 10 years before becoming governor. Far more important for Walker, however, was raising seven children. And, before her death last year, Speaker of the House Becky Lockhart provided fearlessly authentic leadership not only in the House but also in the home, where she raised three children.

Congresswoman Mia Love has just been re-elected to the U.S House of Representatives as the first black Republican woman. She, too, is a mother of three. 

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Utah Speaker of the House, Becky Lockhart

Utah is headquarters to two of the largest women’s organizations in the world, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint’s Young Women’s organization and Relief Society. These groups do more service, leadership training and humanitarian work than can be measured.

Utah women lead in countless ways and we do not judge those who choose a path in politics or business against those who build homes — after all, they aren’t mutually exclusive.

The work of all serves to create a better Beehive State. 

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Congresswoman Mia Love

The publication Mother Jones is famously named for a noted labor activist who began her political organizing career in earnest after her four children and husband tragically died in the Chicago fire.

Ironically it may have been the lessons learned as a mother and wife that helped her develop the skills and perspectives that made her an effective, authentic and compassionate political leader and earned her the exalted moniker Mother Jones.

On Wednesday, after the election had been called, and while the finger-pointing feminists began their blame-and-shame crusade, an almost unrecognizable woman addressed the nation.

Nearly polar opposite to the harsh, dishonest, power-hungry candidate, Hillary Clinton came across as an authentic leader more concerned about others than herself. She was a leader who encouraged young girls to know they have value, that the country needs to hear their voices and that they can both choose and achieve any dream.

That is the type of woman Utah women may have rallied around. That authentically passionate and sincere woman was who women everywhere needed in a candidate. To Clinton supporters and nonsupporters alike, we all must realize that women’s voices need to be heard and their influence must be felt in the home, in the workplace, in the government and in the community — on their own terms.

By Sarah Matheson
Sarah Matheson is president of The American Agenda, an organization focused on engaging millennials in the pursuit of upward mobility and opportunity for all.

Comments

  1. I was a student at BYU in 1974 working for passage of the ERA as a member of the Provo Chapter of the National Women’s Caucus. I sat in many BYU Forums and Devotionals listening to the General Authorities tell me that the ERA was a tool of the devil to lure women out of their homes (where they belonged) and into the workplace (where they did not). It is ironic that a Mormon author writes defending women of influence in Utah knowing the history of the church against equal opportunities for women. Mormon women are reluctant to acknowledge the fact that the Mormon Plan of Salvation for righteous Mormon men is that they will be gods of their own worlds; the reward for righteous Mormon women is that they will be polygamous wives populating those worlds for eternity. Sorry, Sarah, if you accept the Plan you accept women’s subservience to male Priesthood holders. There is no choice about it.

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