Mitt, Mormonism, and Feminism

In this week’s Bloggingheads, I spoke with Tresa Edmunds, a co-founder of the LDS gender equality group LDS Wave and a blogger at Feminist Mormon Housewives. In this segment, we discussed whether Mitt Romney’s positions on the contraception mandate, abortion, and other issues were more reflective of his politics than his Mormonism:

You can watch the whole thing here; we also discussed Victiorian ideals of motherhood promoted by LDS leaders; what it means to be a feminist Mormon housewife; Ann Romney’s reaction to Hilary Rosen’s comment; and how Mormon feminists have tried to reclaim Heavenly Mother.

Relatedly, today the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, a Romney defender, lashed out at BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins (who is Mormon) over a piece he wrote about how “for many Latter-day Saint women, staying at home to raise children is less a lifestyle choice than religious one — a divinely-appreciated sacrifice that brings with it blessings, empowerment, and spiritual prestige.” (Coppins’ explanation of the Mormon ideal of motherhood is the same as Edmunds’ in our diavlog, and he also describes “Mormonism’s vocal feminist community” that has pushed back against it.) 

But Rubin complains that Coppins’ piece was merely a “hook” for “a discourse asserting the Mormon faith is discriminatory and oppressive toward women.” That there are organizations like LDS Wave, which Edmunds co-founded, and the “vocal feminist community” that Coppins discusses and about which Joanna Brooks has written extensively here at RD, shows that there is indeed a gender issue within Mormonism (as there is within other religions and denominations). Coppins piece was merely laying out some context for the Romneys’ discourse on stay-at-home motherhood. In fact, as Edmunds and I discuss at some length, Romney’s political positions appear designed to earn favor with the Christian right and the modern Republican Party, rather than an effort to politicize Mormon doctrine. Still, given LDS teaching on motherhood, it is not inconsequential to political coverage of the “mommy wars” pseudo-controversy. Although Rubin gripes that Coppins failed to prove the influence of Mormon motherhood ideals on Ann Romney’s life, it’s prepeosterous to argue either that an explication of the faith is irrelevant for a political reporter or that Coppins was engaged in an anti-Mormon hit job. 

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email