Monday, December 14, 2009

on self-realization

I think I’ll take a break from just posting YouTube clips here on my blog – I’ll put them in a more appropriate spot, like my locker my facebook wall.

Yes, today I’ll tell you of an experience of self-realization which came to me a few weeks ago. As I was In Recovery, and therefore banished to my bedroom for most of my hours, I was looking forward to Getting Back Into The Swing Of Things. One morning, after the children had gone to school, I decided to take my show downstairs; that is, I hobbled down three flights of stairs with my cane to sit at the computer and continue to listen to a radio show whilst I checked my email. Darin was home from work that day, typing away at his laptop. I opened the show’s chatroom to listen along, and about fifteen minutes into listening while catching up on my google reader, an interesting topic of conversation came up. One of the show’s personalities, The Producer, is fresh-faced, Mormon, in his late-20s, and single. He mentioned, casually, that for him, dating someone who doesn’t have, or isn’t on her way to receive, her college degree, is a deal-breaker. Oh, sure, he may go out with her once to be nice, but his involvement ends there. This conversation was brought on by the relaying of some information that throughout our country, post-secondary education enrollment numbers were down for men, but up for women . . . that is, except for here in Our Fine State, where more men (wah-waaaaah) are enrolled than women. Speculation followed that perhaps this is because the women here are Doing Their Duty Getting The Spirits Here.

Now, remember, I was listening to this on my computer, and as it was something that sparked some interest (ie, something about which people began to phone in to give their opinions), I switched over to the chat room. The people in there were giving their own opinions, none so readily as someone I’ll refer to as dragonflygirl (being that that’s how ‘she’ refers to herself), who was saying things about how, “No Wonder – because he’s a Mormon, and the Church Leaders discourage women from getting college degrees.”

That’s when I stepped in.

“The church encourages all, perhaps especially women, to go to college, to get all the education they can.”

Dfg: “No they don’t.”

“Um, yes they do.”

Dfg: “Um, no they don’t.”

This prompted other chatroom participants to allcaps yell FIGHT!

“They absolutely do.”

Dfg: “They absolutely don’t. I’ve seen the letters.”

“What letters?”

Dfg: “The letters that church leaders send to girls when they graduate from high school.”

“Again, what letters?”

Dfg: “The letters that tell them that they shouldn’t go to college, they should be spending their time looking for a husband.”

“If those letters exist, they aren’t from leaders of the Mormon Church.”

Dfg: “Yes they are. My friends have shown me their letters.”

“I’ve never even heard of this.”

Dfg: “Just because you’ve never seen them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Try thinking outside yourself. These letters are sent in places that aren’t Utah.”

“Most of my life has been spent in places that aren’t Utah.”

Dfg: “Even in Utah girls are sent these letters. The ones I saw are from friends who live in small Utah towns.”

“If your friends received letters like that, they weren’t from leaders of the LDS church.”

Dfg: “Yes they were. I saw them. The were signed by local county leaders.”

“Church isn’t a county thing.”

Dfg: “The local leaders. They send them out.”

“My husband is A Local Leader, and he’s sitting right here, I’ll ask him. Hm. Weird. He has never heard of it either.”

Dfg: “When you’re close-minded because you’re involved in it, you can’t see it for what it is. Mormon church leaders don’t want women going to school.”

At this point I had a realization.

My blood boiling, and the fact that this girl was either lying or just uninformed and certainly wrong, I saw myself: 32 years old, mother of 6: In a chat room.

Come on.

So my reply was, “My intention is not to argue. Just saying what I know, just like everyone else here, I suppose.“

My bow-out was followed by others typing in, “Love you,” and “You’re welcome here anytime,” messages to me.

As I let go of that and continued on my morning, I followed along casually to see what else was discussed and found out that dragonflygirl is currently Taking Classes. One guess as to what her major is.


Fig said...

Sounds to me like she's majoring in Being A Dillhole, but what do I know?

Shar said...

What? You didn't get one of those letters? :)

Sparks said...

Nicely handled. I woulda flipped my lid. I remember when Pres. Hinckley told us gals to get an education. The mythicism of those letters Dragon spoke of aside, pretending they were legit, who cares? Buck stops with the prophet.

If anyone wants to get me going, they should tell me about how my sister decided not to finish school and stay home with her baby instead. I'm all for SAHMs, but not ones who make an actual decision that having an education ain't necessary. Just try and get a good job without one. My other sister, who didn't go to college, constantly kicks herself for that decision because she can't help to provide properly, and knowing that has been a bitch 'cause her spouse has a rare disibility that's very likely going to prevent him from being an effective sole provider one day.

Gee, no one asked and I already started ranting.

Bunsies said...

Does DFG realized intelligence is a Godlike quality? Nevermind--she probably doesn't understand the importance of that concept.

I'm not sure I would even know how to get into a chat "room"

Emily Hill said...

I'm not sure I could've bowed out gracefully like you did...kudos to you. I framed my letter from my local county leader and still have it hanging on my wall...right next to my Bachelor's degree from the Y. ;)

La Yen said...

Your mom goes to chat rooms.

wait, she just said she doesn't. Never mind on the burn.

sue-donym said...

Darin lets you go to chat rooms? Lucky.

Emily said...

Holy Crap...people are so insane! By the way...what is going on with you...why are you using a cane...I must have missed something.

Mo and Jayme said...

Laney peed on me while I was reading this post. I think it was intended for flygirl.

Word verification: frecar
I think I won

Queen Scarlett said...

Duuuuude... explain the lesson I just taught to a room full of Beehives (12-13 ...busily making honey -ha!) about the value, necessity and joy of an education. Oh...and Brigham Young who states clearly... "You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation."

Education for women can't be more clear. Sister Camilla E. Kimball is an inspiration... a constant thirst for learning, improvement...curiosity.

Clearly this chic is an idiot.

Azúcar said...

I tore my letter up in some sort of goat-related ritual that I'm not allowed to talk about.

And then I got my degree.

Tara said...

laughing, laughing, laughing.

Caroline said...

I'm not Mormon (or religious at all), so I obviously don't have the inside information that you do . . . but I am a history major at Berkeley with a focus on women and religion, so this is very interesting to me. I also grew up (literally) in the shadow of the Mormon temple in Los Angeles and I have many dear LDS friends.
I definitely agree with you that the LDS church has stated many times that college education for women is vital. However, from an "outsider's" perspective, I can see where this girl is coming from, just a little. I haven't seen any data on this, but almost all of the Mormon girls I know are majoring in home economics, childhood education or development, etc . . . and I think this may cause some people to see their degrees as only preparation for motherhood and not as a "real" education. There are both flaws and some truth to that statement, however. A Mormon woman I know got her B.A. in home ec, but she later got her real estate license and also manages her family's grocery store. I do think it's interesting, though, that BYU just cut their women's studies department- technically it will be preserved and absorbed into another department, but there's not much evidence of that happening so far.

Statistically, Utah has a very young marriage age for women as well, which might confuse people who don't realize that a lot of women get married and continue to get their degrees. I would argue, however, that while LDS teachings encourage women to get an education, they don't necessarily provide the best support for them to use their education outside the home in any but a temporary career that is a precursor to motherhood (nursing, teaching, etc). I have met a LOT of Mormons, but never a female lawyer, business executive, or surgeon. It's definitely been shown that fewer Mormon women, especially in Utah, place a high value on a professional career compared to the average women.

Again, I'm not in the church, but I have studied it extensively for the last few years and read the Book of Mormon as well as the D&C and lots of Church literature. I do remember reading that famous "mothers who know" talk in the Ensign at a Mormon friend's house, and being surprised that motherhood was the ideal for everyone. Don't get me wrong- I definitely want children! But it saddens me that many of my Mormon friends aren't using their professional abilities. I guess I just believe that marriage and motherhood, while sacred, are not a woman's only existence. For example, the girl who tutored me in math in 9th grade was a brilliant mathematician . . . she went to BYU and graduated with perfect grades, and is now a mother of 3 at 25. I know she's happy, and I'm glad for her, but she and her Mormon friends often saw college as a way to meet husbands (there is an undeniable dating culture at both BYUs). This is also very circumstantial evidence, but look at the average "Mormon Mommy Blog" (excluding yours of course!). I actually wrote a paper on the Bloggernacle- weird I know - and one overwhelming aspect is that the women, while loving and kind, often have horrible grammar and spelling . . . I'm talking about you"re/your- things that high school (and definitely college) and adult reading would teach you.

Caroline said...

I guess it just comes down to how much you value motherhood. I am dying to meet my unborn children, who I already adore, but I would not be a mother if it meant I would have to give up all the other aspects of my life, and in some ways I think the LDS CULTURE (different from the church!!) encourages this. I also feel like the "motherhood is divine" thing is a bit suspect . . . I can't say enough how great motherhood is, but is it really comparable to what LDS men have? The primary career, the priesthood, all the governing positions in the Church (RS leaders don't really count theologically)? We have Mitt Romney and Harry Reid (my dad works for him and he's BRILLIANT btw), but the only female Mormon politician I can think of is Nie and C Jane's mom, who's a city councilwoman. Sometimes it seems like women are being pacified. The fact is that not all women want to be or should be mothers.

I'm sorry this is so long-winded and rambling! I just thought it might be interesting to see the views of a non-Mormon feminist who actually knows a bit about the Church's perspective. I would also love to hear what you guys have to say about the subject, besides that this girl was stupid (which is self-evident =] ). There's also a great discussion on the blog "Feminist Mormon Housewives" on motherhood and education . . . I'll try to find the link. Finally, I just wanted to say thank you for handling that girl in such a classy way- you're so intelligent and clever and I (as a long-time reader) really admire you!

cabesh said...

Please tell me that she's majoring in "beauty school".

Lisa said...

Caroline, Thank you for your honest perspective. It is interesting to see things from a different perspective.

As a Mormon mother of five who has a degree in English and still uses it (I have a part-time job writing as well as developing curriculum), I just wanted to let you know that my mother, also a mother of five, is using her Education Degree to develop mentoring programs for children world-wide, my sister in-law is a mother of four and a pediatrician, my childhood friend is a mother of two and a physicist, and my grandmother (now 93) is a mother of four and ran for Congress. (I have more examples, but I'll stop.) They are all active Mormon women.

I guess I just wanted to share my perspective, too. When I see discussions like this I'm always surprised because I have never in all my three hours a week for Church meetings, weekly meetings, summer camps, General Conferences, etc. in 35 YEARS heard a message (or felt that was the underlying meaning) about education not being VITAL for a woman. Even my great grandmothers and grandmothers were educated at periods of time when the rest of the country discouraged educating women.

It's an interesting discussion, and I think the difference is, when addressing Mormon women, that we have different priorities than other women a lot of times and those priorities are not popular. Not always, but more often than not, women are expected to have it all at the same time. I think that I can have it all, just not at the same time.

(I can also relate to your frustration with the whole "your/you're/" and "there/their" thing on so many blogs. I wish it were unique to Mormon Mommy blogs, but, of course we all know it's not.)

Caroline said...

Thank you for being so much more eloquent than I am! Your family sounds incredible and I have so much respect for women who were educated before it was socially appropriate to be so. I think you basically said what I was trying to say, but in a better way: that education often gets trivialized when people think of the stereotypes of Mormon women. Most people I know think that marrying early = dropping out of college, but that's usually untrue for Mormon couples, and that misconception might lead to people like this chat room lurker. All stereotypes are based on fact, but this one has been so convoluted that the tenants on which it was based are long out of date. I think the main reason most non-Mormons assume that there is a general bias towards women in the culture is the lack of women in leadership roles in the church . . . but in my "culture of christian religions" class we discussed how people often assume the same about Catholic women, who also don't serve as priests. Besides, as we know, generalizations are pretty ridiculous . . . I'm the child of atheists- a Berkeley woman's studies major and a liberal political media adviser - and I am an agnostic who does wear (not singed!)bras and does not sacrifice goats!
I don't want to hijack this post, but I'll keep reading the comments because it's a really interesting topic!

Lisa said...

Well said, Caroline! The Priesthood and its role in a woman's life and vice versa is often misunderstood. As long as we can agree on wearing bras, (a woman my age shouldn't sway on that decision there--just simply succumb to social standards on this one and call it good) I think we'll be great friends.

compulsive writer said...

i think you handled it brilliantly jenny.

but to be honest, i'm feeling a little left out because i didn't get a letter either.

as for your epiphany--i think if you were busy spreading truth then you were probably right where you needed to be--chat room or no.

good on you.

~j. said...

Caroline and Lisa, I thank you for your civil discussion, and points made.

One thing I'd like to add is a thought regarding a point made by Caroline, that of a woman having to give up all other aspects of life in order to become a mother, and this being encouraged, not by The Church (doctrinally speaking), but by LDS culture. I agree, Caroline, that this kind of pressure certainly is, or has been, a reality for many women, unfortunately, and I think that perhaps that's why the direct counsel from church leaders (token caveat: leaders don't give counsel based on what's culturally popular). Women need(ed) to hear it. So do/did men. And young men and young women. Education is important. "Get all the education you can." (President Gordon B. Hinckley, againandagainandagain)

I like also, Caroline, that you pointed out that just because a woman gets married at a young age, it doesn't necessarily mean that she discontinues her formal education. My husband and I celebrated our 12-year anniversary this year and he has been going to school, year-round (save the summer term we were married) the entire time I've known him. Most who would (and let's be honest - have) thrown the argument my way that if a woman gets married she'd likely quit school usually make no similar comparison regarding men. (perhaps off-topic, but certainly something to be considered?) As for using that degree, it's true, many (not just) LDS women choose (get) to be home with their children on a full-time basis. Having studied the religion, I'm sure you must have come across the document The Family: A Proclamation to the World, issued in 1995, which states, in part: "By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children." Following this formula and description of how we (might) regard family life, the Mom-Stays-Home model could be more understood.

Growing up in NY, I didn't know any female LDS lawyers, business executives, or surgeons; living in Utah, I know many. I think that may (may) be an issue of population sample.

Finally, Caroline, and again, thank you for speaking up. The manner in which you brought up those issues was great, I feel much more comfortable discussing such things with those who are willing to listen and learn, as that is what I strive to do as well. And even though I am a Mormon, and I am a Mommy, and I am a Blogger, I am thrilled that you consider me NOT an average Mormon Mommy Blogger. (Why is that? My longing to stand out just that much? Another post for another day...)

c jane said...

J, I just want to know, did you really ask Darin, or did you just say you were asking Darin? Because thinking about that exchange is what makes me laugh the most.

Logan said...

Interesting comment thread, but at the end of it all, I really just want to know what her major is! I admire how you handled the situation J. I have a hard time holding back my snarkiness (I may have just made up that word) in situations like that, especially through the internet, where it's easy to be semi-anonymous!

I also appreciate Caroline's comments, though I must admit, I may have lost some of the respect that was building for her when she proclaimed Harry Reid to be "BRILLIANT". *Shudder*

(Dang that snarkiness!)

Lisa said...

Hey, ~j, remember when you were in that chat room with Dfg and she totally lied?

Shell said...

WOW!!! I think dfg is not going to school at all because she would just flunk out anyway because she obviously doesn't know how to distinguish between fact and fiction. She should be a researcher of knowledge. :-)

Caroline said...


Brilliant mind =/= good politician!! (coughcoughhitlercough)

p.s. no I am not comparing Reid to Hitler.

p.p.s. I'm half Jewish so I'm allowed to make Hitler jokes!

p.p.p.s. word verification was murdar!! divine vengeance for the Hitler joke??

Carrot Jello said...

I got a letter.
I keep it in my apron pocket, and pull it out from time to time.
You know, when people say I should go back to school.

Sarah said...

I am NOT Mormom, and never "met" any till I started blogging. And my first impression, after doing a little research of my own, is that your religion, the way it regards any stage of life...ROCKS. I have never "met" a more educated, talented, creative, proud...revered by husbands, sons, fathers, church of women ever.
Letter my arse...

Stephanie said...

My name is Stephanie Waite. I actually came over here to tell Jenny that she is the second runner up on an auction I am doing for a newly widowed LDS mom on my site.

Then I started to read this post and some of the comments.

I don't have time to read ALL the comment string, but I wanted to throw my perspective into the mix here.

I am an LDS woman who is a Georgetown Law educated woman. I got married in the middle of law school and finished my last year and a half married. I took the California Bar and passed. I practice criminal defense law doing mostly murder and rape trials for a year.

Then I had my first child. When she was three months old I went back to work to do an arraignment. I sat for three hours in the court room next to my accused armed robber client waiting to stand before the judge and say "not guilty, your honor." I missed my baby so badly. The last place I wanted to be was in that court room. I quit the next day. I feel incredibly lucky to have a husband who can provide for us financially right now so that I can focus on my children and enjoy these few years I have with them in my home.

My fourth child died in a tragic accident last year. Now more than ever I am grateful that I choose to put my career on the back burner for these years when my children are young and in my home. I cherish every minute I have with my little ones.

Someday I will work again. I am glad the church has encouraged me to educate myself. I love education and enjoyed my experience in law school and working. I feel confident that I could provide for my family if I needed to and someday I will use that education in the working world again.

So there you go from an LDS woman who is an attorney. And by the way I have 3 other LDS women attorneys in my ward and several other friends who I did not go to school with that are also attorneys.

Now -- Jenny,
Do you still want to buy the cards you bid on for $20 on my blog? Item number 42? If so they are yours.

Please email me at stephaniewatie @ and let me know so I can get them to you or put them back up for auction.

Thank you,

Sparks said...

Caroline, I love you. I know that sounds awfully hyperbolic, but it's the only word I've got for the swell of affection that just pummeled my soul.

Your polite, educated, and rather accurate observations are unique. Especially in that you're informed.

I'm a Marmen with a college degree, a husband of seven years, and no kids--not as a result of infertility but as a result of choice. Because I'm not mired in the joy/horror of motherhood, I have the joy/horror of observing the culture of Mormon motherhood with a sort of detatchment. Though, for the most part, it's a faceted thing--stereotypes are born of accuracy, and in this case it's an accuracy far too rampant for my taste.

Of my five sisters, all innately bright women and all residing in Utah Valley, not one has demonstrated that she understands the importance of a college education. I feel an actual sinking in my chest when I think about it. Not only because circumstances can change and they may one day find themselves with regret but because (although they--as mothers--are gaining experience in bushels) they lack the empowerment of secondary education.

I have so much more to say, but my fingers are cold and won't type as quickly as my thoughts are forming.

Anyhow, thanks.

Carmen said...

I recently sat on a Q&A panel of LDS women who live around the Ann Arbor, MI area for a young women's activity. The professions varied greatly; I'm a construction manager, I was sitting next to a federal prosecuter, there was a speech pathologist, a musician, a nurse, etc. I love, love, love to see women participate and succeed in the work force. But here's the deal, when I have kids, you'd better believe that being with them to love, teach, adore, and guide them is way more important than any building I could build. So, as much as I know that I could work my way to upper management of some large construction firm, and as much as that picture appeals to me, I know I will not be there...and that is a conscious choice. I will work again when kids grow out of needing a full time mom, and overall I will have a good, solid career. But it won't be the stellar, high profile thing it could be (and that is OK).
Some things are more eternal.

Rudy Rukus said...

It was nice to meet you over in cjanes community today! you are awesome and I think I will put your button on my blog because I am awesome too haha!! Your readers leave long comments can you send them my way hehe!!

Julie said...

You don't know me, I don't know you. I found you through CJane's blog (who doesn't know me either, but, anyways...)I read your post earlier, and I haven't been able to get it off of my mind.

Do you think that DFG is referring to a Patriarchal Blessing?? If so, I highly doubt it would discourage a young woman from furthering her education, but it may have leaned in the way of family. I am a Mormon (life-long), a Mommy (of 4), a wife, and a Registered Nurse. I feel lucky that I get to work 1 day a week because I want to (and could do more if I had to). In my own Patriarchal Blessing, I have been encouraged to "seek the highest degree of education that particular area of mental agility for which I'll become noted." Which, to me, says "life-long student"! I received my AA with baby-in-belly...maybe I'll earn my Doctorate with my grandkids cheering me on...who knows?! But, educated Mormon Mommy Blogger I will be!!

Thanks for making me think today! I needed it! (and I liked it!)

crystal said...

Jumping in here, belatedly and briefly:

I am a former high school teacher who quit my job when my first child was a baby. I looked up at my class one day and asked myself, "Why am I here educating other children (definitely the best profession in the world), when I could be home educating my own child all day long?"

I felt a lot like Stephanie did, as she sat next to her "accused armed robber client"--except I was looking at high school kids.

And Caroline, I too appreciate the tone of your comments. It's refreshing to read a civil debate. In regards to your lamentation of the bad grammar, I can't resist pointing out that in your sentence,
"I am dying to meet my unborn children, who I already adore,"'s actually "whom."

Couldn't resist. :)

Napolean said...

Your mom goes to college.

dfg said...

( DFG NOT dragonflygirl..just a names) Anyhoo...I heard this and you won a spot on my favorites list for this post.

Azúcar said...

My mother is a professor and a faithful LDS woman.

(Yes, my mom DOES go to college.)

My grandmother was a professor, also LDS.

I know lawyers, doctors, writers, entrepreneurs, executives, developers, nurses, medical professionals, engineers, accountants, local politicians, mathematicians, journalists, who are all women and faithfully LDS.

I have a degree in History. I have a career in business. I'm an LDS mom with small children.

I know more LDS women with college degrees than without.

I think the rest of the world sometimes sees LDS women take time out in their 20s and early 30s to raise families and mistakenly assumes that's it. How wrong they are! These are women who generally go back to chosen careers AFTER their children are older and somewhat raised. They reenter the workforce in the 30s and 40s.

Why is that interesting?

Because in the rest of the western world, it's opposite: women build their careers in their 20s and 30s, and then try to have/raise children in their 30s and 40s. EITHER WAY WORKS, and both have their pluses and minuses. It's easier to have babies when you're young, but it's harder to get a career going when you're older. It's easy to get a career going when you're young, it's much harder to have babies when you're older.

But let's not assume that women who raise families first are repressed, uneducated, or have not made a fully empowered choice.