Mormon feminists? Yes they exist, and they're for Obama

SAN FRANCISCO Thu Oct 18, 2012 11:08pm EDT

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - One group was not surprised to hear Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's comments about "binders of women" at the presidential debate this week - Mormon feminists.

Yes, there are Mormon feminists, and no, they do not think it is impossible to believe in women's rights and be devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a religion that once allowed polygamy and places a heavy emphasis on the role of women in the home.

But Romney's phrase, delivered in the presidential debate on Tuesday and which quickly went viral on social media, underscored the tensions over the role of women in the church.

Aimee Hickman, co-editor of the Mormon feminist magazine Exponent II, said Romney's remarks in which he said he looked at "binders full of women" while searching for staff as governor of Massachusetts suggested he was comfortable having powerful women around him, even if he put it awkwardly.

Yet when he then described setting up a flexible schedule for a senior aide so that she could go home and make dinner for her family, he was speaking in the church's paternalistic language that casts women ultimately as mothers, she said.

"The emphasis on them (women) being seen as leaders or them being seen as breadwinners is still really missing from our rhetoric," Hickman said. Romney's response put that "on full display," she added.

Hickman noted that feminists in general tend to be liberal, and Mormons are no different in that regard.

"I pretty much know every Mormon feminist, and I can't think of any of them that are going to vote for Romney," laughed Lisa Butterworth, who runs a blog called Feminist Mormon Housewives here

Exponent II (, which is about to publish an issue on politics and the 2012 election, began conducting an online poll this week just before the debate, and Democratic President Barack Obama is ahead of Romney, his challenger in the November 6 election, 72 votes to 30.


A self-selected group of about 100 is not much of a poll sample, but Hickman said the results matched her view of how the race was shaping up among her readers.

Readers were also invited to comment on Romney for the current issue, and there was a range of views, frequently involving issues other than women's rights.

"Although I'm socially liberal, I'm a fiscal conservative. I am ecstatic about Romney's nomination," Andrea Alexander of Windham, New Hampshire, is quoted as saying.

"I'm not voting for Mitt, but I think he is a good person," an anonymous reader said, reflecting an oft-stated belief that Romney means well.

"I can't help but feel he is so far removed from my life he can't begin to imagine how his actions help or hinder it," wrote Eugene, Oregon, resident Emily Gilkey.

Romney himself was a lay clergyman, or bishop, in the church, which now claims 14 million members, about half abroad. In the United States, the religion is known for big families and conservative politics, although feminists say it has a history of powerful women, starting with the pioneers who trekked to Utah and Mormon suffragettes, who fought for women's right to vote.

Mormonism believes there is a Heavenly Mother, and lately senior leaders have been urging local bishops to consult women more frequently about church work. Earlier this month, the age limit for women to go on church missions was cut by two years to 19. That was seen by some as encouragement for women to try a mission rather than going straight into marriage.

"It is a very slow shift to an organization run by very old men," said Butterworth, who added that neither Romney nor Obama had addressed the deeper issues of women's rights and family.

"How can we create a system where the burdens of parenthood are shared among all of us, rather than falling just on women?" she asked.

(Reporting By Peter Henderson; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Eric Walsh)

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Comments (10)
AnIowan wrote:
Most feminists I’ve met are practical people first. Those who voted for Obama feel betrayed. All of them have expressed having an open mind to Romney. Lets face it, Obama has lost the countries support.

Oct 18, 2012 11:53pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
AnIowan wrote:
Most feminists I’ve met are practical people first. Those who voted for Obama feel betrayed. All of them have expressed having an open mind to Romney. Lets face it, Obama has lost the countries support.

Oct 18, 2012 11:53pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
flashrooster wrote:
AnIowan: Practical people will stick with Obama who has succeeded in turning the economy around, finally was able to do something to improve our absurdly expensive healthcare, and got the guy responsible for the 9/11 attacks, which Bush should have done had he not allowed himself to be distracted and invade Iraq. The stock market has almost doubled since the day Obama took office. The housing market is coming back, and we’ve had over 24 straight months of positive job growth. To reverse course now when things are improving and go back to the policies that got us into trouble in the first place is deeply impractical.

Practical people will not support a ticket that has zero foreign policy experience between the two them. What’s worse, their foreign policy advisers are the same advisers Bush had, and Bush’s foreign policy couldn’t have been much worse. We suffered an enormous blow to our credibility because of Bush. He got us into 2 wars without even paying for them. American Presidents have never done that before, because it’s stupid and insane.

Practical people will not support Romney when the cornerstone of his campaign is built on a tax plan that he can’t even explain. $5 trillion in new tax cuts and he can’t tell us how that will be paid for. What we know is that there aren’t enough tax loopholes to close to cover it, and that’s including tax credits Romney has claimed he wouldn’t get rid of. The only things he says he’ll end is funding for PBS and Planned Parenthood. That covers about one half of one percent of his tax cuts.

We tried this under Bush. The idea was that if you give the rich tax breaks they’ll create jobs. All it succeeded in doing was to take us from surpluses to deficits. Bush has the worst job creation record of any President for the last 70 years. Businesses are sitting on $2 trillion as it is. What makes you think they’ll create jobs if they’re sitting on $4 trillion? There’s no logic to it.

Practical people have to realize that Romney will say whatever he has to say to get elected President. Once elected, he’ll do whatever the Republican party tells him to. Republicans want to end a woman’s access to abortion. Romney enthusiastically stated during a primary debate that if such a bill were to cross his desk, he’d be thrilled to sign it. Republicans also oppose equal pay for women for equal work. So women won’t see that happen under Romney. He also oppose having insurance companies pay for women’s contraception. But he’s all for putting women in binders.

Practical people do not support this impractical Republican party. They have become a threat of our nation’s well-being. All serious economists say that tackling the deficit will necessitate both spending cuts AND tax increases. All serious scientists agree that man is contributing to global warming, which poses a serious threat to our very existence. The Republican party doesn’t recognize global warming, and even have Senators sitting on the science and technology committee who don’t believe in global warming or evolution.

There’s nothing practical about today’s Republican party. Obama has done a good job under the most adverse circumstances, and the impractical Republican party, instead of trying to help Obama succeed for the country, has done everything in their power to make him fail. And there’s nothing practical about that.

Oct 19, 2012 2:46am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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