Feminist Mormon Housewives is Bust-ed!

Every couple of months, I pick up the latest issue of Bust magazine (“For women with something to get off their chests”) from the local Borders. Sometimes I get weird looks from the cashier, like I’m mistaking it for Maxim or some other soft-porn monthly. Anyhow, I was especially excited to read this issue because of this:

It’s difficult to see in this blurry image, but my Mormon feminist friends made the cover: “MORE THAN A MORMON: feminist mormons speak out.” I grabbed the next image from the Bust website. It shows the two page photo spread that leads into the article. The headline — “Desperate MORMON Housewives” — is a bit sensational, but the rest summarizes the article perfectly: “Often regarded as mutually exclusive, Mormonism and feminism are making strange bedfellows as church ladies take to the Internet to reconcile the two for themselves.”

Considering all of the directions she could have run with this topic, the author, Priya Jain, was evenhanded. Her focus is primarily on women who take on the feminist mantle and choose to remain within the fold (though I was surprised to learn that one of my favorite LDS bloggers, Kiskilili of Zelophehad’s Daughters, had left the Church). Jain’s facts check out, her portrayal of both the Church and its internal feminist critics is respectful, and the article serves as a personal and pithy introduction to Mormon feminism (to Bust’s target demographic, which is hip, younger feminist women) and to feminist wing of the bloggernacle. This four page article packs in continuing revelation, Heavenly Mother, Mormonism’s positive view of Eve, the concept of motherhood as parallel to the priesthood, the founding of the Relief Society, and LDS support of the suffrage movement. She lets fMh‘s Lisa, Janet, Artemis and EmilyS speak for themselves, and they sound smart. Laura Thatcher Ulrich and Margaret Tosacano are quoted as well.

Here’s a couple of excerpts:

Jain’s reaction after lurking on LDS feminist blogs:

To a secular lurker, their discussions are at once familiar…and foreign, because they are couched in conservative Mormon culture and manners…every viewpoint is treated with respect.

She also makes this comparison:

Although it may seem that, in this regard [that women don’t hold the priesthood], Mormonism is no different from, say, Catholicism, the big difference is that all Mormon men have the power of the priesthood.


I feel that the blog is building a community of people who are aware of these questions and who are less and less afraid to ask them. And if at any point in time there is to be a change, I think enough people need to be asking the question that prompts the prophet or whoever is in charge to ask, ‘What should I do with this?’

On a personal level, the article made me proud to be a supporter of the feminist presence in the Bloggernacle, and I was delighted to see the names and pictures of my favorite bloggers in print. If you don’t have the copy, get thee hence to the local magazine stand or big bookstore. Yell at them if they don’t carry Bust. Better yet, subscribe–it’s less than $20 for six feminism-filled issues.


  1. As BUST subscriber (and may I take a moment to encourage you the casual reader to subscribe as it keeps them in the black) I really enjoyed the article. Found it eye opening acutally.

  2. Janet

    Here’s a total vanity note: the photo looks NOTHING like me. Nothing. My sister flipped right past it, in fact. The photo of Lisa and her kids is gorgeous though, isn’t it?

    I’m pleased by the article–I thought Priya covered salient issues with a great deal of understanding.

    Thanks for the review, John!

  3. Thanks for the write-up, John. My advance copy went astray, so these are the first excerpts I’m seeing (and I’ve been nervous because I can’t remember what I’ve said–if your excerpt is representative of my remarks, then I guess it can’t be that bad!).

    Now that I know it’s on the stands, I’ll have to rush out and get it, so I can cringe at myself and see the weird Janet picture. 😉

  4. Thanks for the write up, John. I got a complimentary copy of this issue of Bust since Priya spent a couple hours interviewing me.

    I thought it was very well done, overall. The part I had the biggest issue with was the title “Desperate Mormon Housewives.” Like you said, that seemed a bit unnecessarily sensational.

  5. John

    Thanks for the thanks everyone, but you did the work! I didn’t think the Janet picture was strange, and I loved the picture of Lisa and her energetic, flaming-red-headed children.

    Shana, point of clarification: I’ve bought every issue for the past couple of years. I resist subscribing to magazines, because my tastes are so eclectic and one of my eccentric life-joys is to go periodically to Borders and to come out with a stack of magazines. But I buy Bust consistently enough (in spite of my earlier claim that I was leaving it for Bitch) that I should probably consider subscribing.

  6. I’m a subscriber of Bust. I have not read the article. That magazine rocks, I must say.

    As for feminist lds circles, much like any human, there is some incongruence between professed ideology and actions. Those have increased over time for a few.

    There are some amazing feminist lds women out there who don’t get nearly the attention they deserve. Maybe that’s a good thing. There are some who perhaps have gotten too much and they have changed. To be honest, I’m not familiar with the writing of every woman mentioned in your post. I’m speaking regarding those which I am familiar with – and it why I avoid those circles now.

    John, I think sometimes you’d like to see yourself making a bigger mark in the world/blogosphere. Personally, I’m glad you leave a worthwhile mark on a smaller corner of it.

    “Fame makes a man take things over
    Fame lets him loose, hard to swallow
    Fame puts you there where things are hollow”
    – David Bowie

  7. Janet

    Sidenote on the subject of LDS feminists and recognition: the new display on Women’s History at the Church Museum of Art and History has a lovely little shrine to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and her Pulitzer Prize winning book. Made me happy to see it alongside the celebrations of more traditional womanly accomplishment.

  8. John

    nee made a couple of keen insights that prompt some soul-searching:

    As for feminist lds circles, much like any human, there is some incongruence between professed ideology and actions.

    I struggle continually with the gap between my ideals and practice (not just on feminism). Sometimes it makes me want to ratchet down or even silence my advocacy of those causes. I soldier on in spite of my hypocrisy, though I try to minimize the gap as much as I am able. I agree with you, though–the larger the apparent discrepancies in others the harder it is to be generous with them.

    I like the fMh bloggers because they aren’t very dogmatic–their feminism speaks in a heartfelt and often vulnerable way from personal experience. It’s an example I should follow more often.

    I think sometimes you’d like to see yourself making a bigger mark in the world/blogosphere. Personally, I’m glad you leave a worthwhile mark on a smaller corner of it

    I would. It’s my curse. 😛 I really do want my passage through this world to make it a better place, and I have a hard time being satisfied with a little splash. I want to maximize my positive impact on humanity, as it were. The older I get though, the more I learn to be content with a smaller circle of influence.

    When I look at my blogging impact over the past couple of years, I think that my two best contributions are helping to grow the intimate little community here at MoF and my post at fMh encouraging Mormons who struggle with eating disorders or self-injury to talk about those issues. This community probably wouldn’t thrive at a blog the size of fMh, and the ED/SI post wouldn’t have reached as many people here at MoF.

  9. John

    Thanks, Janet. I make a regular pilgrimage to the Museum whenever I’m in SLC (usually in conjunction with my Sunstone pilgrimage), so I’m looking forward to seeing Laurel’s exhibit. Shoot, I’ve got to get around to reading both A Midwife’s Tale and The Age of Homespun.

  10. Kiskilili

    Thanks for the review, John!

    (Technically, I haven’t yet received my letter confirming that my membership’s been annulled, so until that day I suppose I’m still officially a member . . .)

  11. I did end up reading the article. I was thrilled to see a photo of Janet and read the section on her. When she was a guest blogger briefly I was delighted with her posts and our short correspondence in email.

    I disagree with the author’s impression that it’s a respectful place (mo fem blogs). The dominant one is a clique and behaves as such with a handful of exceptions and is moving further and further away from feminism as time goes by.

    Kiskilili, you may need to follow up multiple times. It took me 9 months to get my letter including multiple phone calls to the bishop and stake president. Around month 6 I pointed out that it took mere days to be baptized and become a member. They will ignore requests for removal as long as they can and hope you forget. My experience is not unique.

  12. One more thing – John D has posted parts 1 and 2 on Mormon Stories podcast of a story on women in the church. Very good stuff. I learned a few things I didn’t know and expect the rest of the series will be equally enlightening.

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