Friday, May 27, 2011

Episode 11: Zilpha from Mormon Expression Interviews Sybil about the Daughters of Mormonism Podcast

Right click here to download the mp3.

Doorway Upon Doorway

Here's a great special edition! While I was staying in Utah, I had the opportunity to visit Zilpha from Mormon Expression at her recording studio.

During our afternoon together, Zilpha interviewed me about my new project: The Daughters of Mormonism podcast. At the time, I had just posted Sara's interview, so there were only four episodes up.

It is exciting to see how fast this podcast has grown in the short time since that interview. During this episode, we discuss various women's issues in Mormonism, especially as they relate to our own lives, and I give more of my story.


  1. Not only were you brave in this interview, but both you and Zilpha touched on important issues in Mormonism: women treated as second-class citizens.

    I have often told my husband that I disagree with the short courtships I see at BYU. In my opinion, there relationships are based on some whimsical notion of love, not on friendship--a foundation that is so important in maintaining a healthy, thriving marriage partnership (of course, in my opinion). My husband and I dated for 4 years and had a 27 day engagement. I suppose you could call us the opposite of most prototypical BYU courtships. : )

    As for your views on motherhood, I think you and Zilpha had a great discussion on how stifling motherhood can be. I hate to say this, but I am one of those mothers who really really loves motherhood. Primarily why this is so, though, is because I chose to stay-at-home (I wasn't pressured) and have sought to make it my domain and not some obscure notion of what it should be. For example, there are no crafts, story time, or any other such things. My kids are taught science, philosophy, and how to really enjoy food. But, of course, there are those down days when the TV is turned on and I just veg while they learn from Blue's Clues.

    In another example, I truly thrive on interactions and discussions on-line and with my husband. I read voraciously through books that not only pique my interest, but provide enough mental stimulation for me to be exhausted by the end of the day.

    It also helps that I plan on continuing with my education as soon as we get to where we are going. I haven't put my dreams on the shelf; it just took me awhile to figure out what they were.

    Whew. That was exhausting! The kind of thing I love!!

  2. I find it fascinating how you viewed the marriages of people around you, and think that type of evaluation could serve young adults much better than the current attitude of pairing up as quickly as possible.

    It's great to hear more of your journey Sybil.

  3. Sybil,
    the more you talk, the more I want to know!! And I agree with cc that the sort of observation of married couples that you talked about, would be very helpful for youth.

  4. I do not want to admit how long it took me to realize this was the same podcast I just listened to over on Mormon Expression. No matter, just another chance to give you a huge thumbs up. i found so much that resonates, thank you sincerely.

    For the record I am hoping for this project continuing for "quite some time."

  5. Amber, I totally believe you being a woman who really does thrive on being a mother. I have a close friend who is amazing in that same way. I'm so glad that you haven't put your dreams on the shelf. I would love to talk with you more about your approach to motherhood and how you love while keeping your dreams moving.

    I share your opinion about those super-fast courtships that are so visible in super Mormon areas, especially around church schools, like BYU. It doesn't seem like a sound way to start a relationship that is supposed to be a lifetime commitment.

    (Thanks for telling me I was brave, too. I think I was feeling more crazy than brave that day; it really stretched me.)

  6. Thanks, cc. Yes, rather revealing how I watched the marriages around me. It wasn't until I saw those two marriages that DID work that I had my "I'll never get married" attitude challenged.

  7. Thanks, Juliane. I would like to do a podcast on courtship and young marriage. There are so many in the church who really *rush* to get married, I think mostly because they are attracted to each other and want to get into bed. There has to be another way to approach this.

  8. Stephanie, you totally made me smile. I've had that same experience of being ten or fifteen minutes into something before I realize that it sounds too familiar ... :-)

    I hope this project has a good longevity, too.

  9. This is so interesting--mostly because I feel SO differently about many of these issues in spite of having what seems to be a very similar background.
    I'm making some notes and will touch on some of these things (marriage and motherhood stuff) in interview. I do see those unhealthy dysfunctional dynamics in a lot of families, but mine isn't like that at all. I wanted balance from the beginning--to the point that when we were dating I told my husband that if he got on his knee to propose I would turn him down. (Smart man, he didn't kneel!)

    I think you should really do a podcast with the panel talking about marriage dynamics--what messages we get from the church, what dynamics we see, and what dynamics we are creating within our own marriages. I have a suspicion that a lot of marriages may not be what they seem from the outside...I know that most couples looking in at us from the outside would see a leading wife with a "henpecked husband," but in fact we have a pretty balanced relationship, I just happen to be the louder one. :)

  10. Sybil,
    by "rushed" you mean...say, a couple who was already engaged, when they went on their first date? ;) Like yours truly....

  11. Juliane, you totally made me laugh at myself! I can see how you could apply what I'm saying to your situation--especially since I was responding to you. :-) As it stands, I see your courtship/engagement through a different lens because it wasn't a part of the thick of Mormon Central culture, so the factors at play and the situation were different. I would actually love to talk with you more about what that quick courtship was like.

  12. Jenni, interesting points you're making. I actually really want to do a series on relationships and look at marriage particularly. From my experience, the vast majority of marriages I've seen in my life were not relationships I would ever want to participate in. I think that acculturation has something to do with it. It will be interesting to talk about this further with you.

  13. Gail KnickerbockerMay 29, 2011 at 1:30 PM

    I realize that this is a lot about women in Mormonism and I was left with one thought near the end of this broadcast which relates to my husband. I was the one NOT cut out for motherhood. He was cut out for motherhood, housewifehood, nurturing etc. He also, during his 3 yr stint as SAHD was willing to take the kids to his sisters, sometimes up to 9 of them, while he took classes to become a midwife. In a sense he understood how to do the egalitarian thing on the other side of the coin. I on the other hand felt WRONG to be the bread winner in the culture I lived in and was NOT honored and paid well in my occupation. Even though I was paid more than he had ever been paid. In my office it occurred that because I was a woman I was the back-up, extra-money worker. That is how they referred to me even though I told them repeatedly that I was the SOLE breadwinner and my husband was home with the kids.

    Anyway, my point is that even if you switch roles so that you are each equal but doing what you do best it is still NOT ok in our Mormon Culture. I felt the pressure because of my intent of doing everything RIGHT! By the time I gave that up I no longer had a job and my husband was finally employed in a job that paid us well enough that we have not needed outside financial assistance for our basic needs. The system of beliefs that says women should STAY home and raise their kids damages the woman, the man, AND ALL THE KIDS!!!!

    I feel like I am preaching to the choir here. I sure hope there are some spies from the church reading this too.

  14. Gail, I really feel what you're saying here. The way the church over-defines gender roles creates problems simply because people are people rather than roles. You are so right when you point out that switching roles to apply more to the strengths of those involved as well as the needs of the relationship---this isn't looked on as okay by the church culture.

  15. I find it interesting that there is this negative attitude of polygamy (I understand the stigma from the more fundamentalists sects) Yes you two are saying that all a mother's time and resources are being devoted to your kids and none for yourselves. (which I also understand) Yet I would think that if it were practiced responsibly polygamy could actually be very empowering for women in that when you have several women pitching in with that mother's/housewife roll turns can be taken and it could actually make time for a mother to pursue interests while a sister wife is taking a turn with the kids. All this is considering the practice is being done responsibly and not how the FLDS practice it though. LOL Also, it's not uncommon for women to send the kids to a sitter for a couple hours and go take a yoga class etc or use the time the kids are in school to do such things. I've know MANY mormon women who have no problems finding a little time to finish school or pursue a hobby to better themselves and I honestly never seen it discouraged in the church either. So I don't know where this view really comes from.

  16. Anonymous, have you read much of the church's initial practice of polygamy? Or the OT version of polygamy? I haven't found anything that sounds like a nice idea to me. Not at all. I do not think that polygamy is the solution to mothers having more time to be themselves. And, frankly, I've never seen something that I would actually qualify as a "responsible" practicing of polygamy.

  17. I can see where Anonymous is coming from with this idea of polygamy providing a different kind of opportunity for wives/mothers to share responsibilities at home in order to explore the other things they're interested in. Certainly, I've heard that being touted as an upside for women in polygamous marriages. If that works, more power to them. I haven't really found a resting place in terms of how I feel about plural marriage, but to me, the fact that there are some advantages (even awesome ones!) in some situations doesn't make it a net positive no matter what. If plural marriage is right, it's right for its own reasons. If it's wrong, it's wrong despite having some positive results. We can certainly acknowledge the positive and the negative side-by-side.

    As for "where this view [or negative attitude] really comes from," I think it depends on the person, but some likely answers certainly include the idea that plural marriage, as taught and practiced in the early church, can give a somewhat scary idea of what celestial marriage is and that it represents an intrinsic sexism in the plan of salvation. THAT'S where the negative view comes from. Those possibilities freak me out, honestly. They make me worry for my eternal destiny. The argument that I can get more stuff done or have more opportunities here on this earth by being a plural wife doesn't really soothe those fears or change my attitude; the division of housework just doesn't seem important at all compared to my eternal fate.

  18. You know, I think it's really important to also acknowledge that the contemporary negative attitude towards polygamy actually comes in large part from the church itself. Our rhetoric about marriage has become an exclusively monogamous rhetoric, especially in the recent past. The church leaders and membership strenuously assert that marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman and have heavily invested in that definition. It should be no surprise that there are negative attitudes towards the practice of polygamy, even if we have it in our history. And frankly, we don't give much of any airtime to our past practice of polygamy in most church contexts (probably some at church universities; maybe a little in CES programs like institute [though I doubt it shows up in seminary]; rarely if ever in Sunday meetings).

    I'd also point out that Anonymous's image of polygamy is rather idealistic. It presumes that these plural wives will not have to work outside the home in order to support their families. While it's certainly possible that one man can earn enough to support three or four wives and 20 children, it's not super likely. I think it's more than a little naive to believe that plural wives would be able to free up each others' time to pursue education and hobbies. This was true historically, too. There were absolutely some instances in which plural marriage liberated some of the women to pursue opportunities and enjoy a lifestyle they may not otherwise have been able to. That said, far more plural wives were left in near poverty to fend for themselves and their children while their husbands were spread far too thin between so many wives and children.

    And then there's the inherent inequality in a plural marriage arrangement in which men may marry many women, but the opposite is not true. In my mind, the only way that plural marriage can ever be acceptable is if it's polyamory which any adult can choose to practice in any fashion. When it's limited to only one man married to multiple women, it results in power imbalances between men and women and it harms men because it reduces the opportunity for men to marry.

  19. I really have no problem with people wanting to enter polygamous marriages; if it works for them, that's just fine with me. I do have a problem, however, with institutionally imposed plural marriage that does not allow people the autonomy to determine for themselves whether such an arrangement would work for them without facing serious social, familial, and spiritual consequences. I think that's part of what makes plural marriage such a repugnant idea to so many people, too--this notion that they'll be compelled to do something that they cannot fathom doing and that if they don't, they'll lose their opportunity to achieve the highest level of eternal glory and to dwell with God.

  20. I'm always late, but I enjoyed hearing more about you, Sybil. I just wanted to echo your and Zilpha's dismay at your one bishop's response to your concerns: You're not worth saving???? Unbelievable! It is telling how often, even in this time when chicken patriarchy seems to be ascendant in Church rhetoric, good old-fashioned unvarnished patriarchy slips right through. It makes clear that chicken patriarchy really is just a word game. In any case, sorry you've had to put up with such poor treatment.

  21. Ziff, thank you. Chicken patriarchy is so slippery. It seems to let things slide through all the time. But, yes, this did rather take the cake.


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