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Home >> Blog >> The quote that gave her angst: Part 1

The quote that gave her angst: Part 1

I have been privy to a particular "Women of God" quote being shared on Facebook and Pinterest among the religious women I know. And I hate this quote with a fiery passion, and I just need to get this out there as a personal sort of brain purge of feminist angst. Rage against the machine, if you will. Also, this is my most lengthy blog post to date, so I'll be splitting it up in to two parts. Behold, Part 1:

This quote comes from a longer talk given by Margaret D. Nadauld in the LDS general conference of 2000, when she was acting president of the Young Women's organization.

If you're already outraged that I would critique anything this woman ever said, I'm warning you now there be strong words ahead. Go in peace, Namaste.

Women of God can never be like women of the world. The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.

So I'd like to start with the first line: "Women of God can never be like women of the world."

What is it, exactly, to be a woman of the world? In reality, we're all women of the world whether we like it or not. This is where you live, and where you will always live since we don't yet have the ability to go anywhere else (ideas of post mortal existence aside). As such, saying you're a "woman of God" is really just a declaration of belief, and does not excuse you from being gravity bound to this Earth like the rest of us. So already I dislike the "us vs. them" premise Nadauld has set up from the get-go. Drawing these distinctions is divisive and typically done in service of the ego at the expense of greater understanding.

Let's ponder what a typical woman of the world looks like. This is important to consider, because the realities of a female life on this planet will show this quote to be culturally narrow and narcissistic.

So here's some nuggets to chew on:
  • 7 out of 10 of the world's hungry are women and girls.
  • An estimated 72% of the world's 33 million refugees are women and children.
  • Women own less than 15% of property worldwide. In the developing world, the percentage of land owned by women is less than 2%.
  • Of all the legislators in parliament around the world, only 17.7% are women -– and that number is from an all time high in 2008. In 1995, only 11.3% of all parliamentary seats were held by women.
  • Some 60% of the world's working poor are women.
  • Women in the US currently earn only 77 cents for every $1 earned by a man.
  • On average, at least 1 in 3 women is beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused by an intimate partner in the course of her lifetime.
  • It is estimated that, worldwide, 1 in 5 women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.
  • Violence against women during or after armed conflicts has been reported in every international or non-international war-zone.
  • Women experience sexual harassment throughout their lives. Between 40% and 50% of women in the European Union reported some form of sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • About two-thirds of the estimated 776 million adults who lack basic literacy skill are women. In developing countries, nearly 1 out of 5 girls who enrolls in primary school does not complete her primary education.
  • In some regions, women provide 70 percent of agricultural labour, produce more than 90 percent of the food, and yet are nowhere represented in budget deliberations.
  • The United States is 90th in the world in terms of women in national legislatures.
  • Women hold 17% of the seats in the House of Representatives (the equivalent body in Rwanda is 56.3% female).
  • Women may not achieve parity for 500 years.
  • Only 34 women have ever served as governors compared to 2319 men.
  • Women are merely 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs.
  • Women hold only 3% of clout positions in the mainstream media.
  • Women comprise 7% of directors and 10% of film writers in the top 250 grossing films.

Sources: http://www.unglobalcompact.org/docs/news_events/9.1_news_archives/2009_03_05a/women_stats.pdf

Are you getting where I'm going with this, or shall I brow beat you some more? Because I could. "Women of the world" are not glamorous, affluent, amoral feminists out to destroy all that is good and wholesome. That, my friends, is a notion born of patriarchy to distract us from the fact that women are by and large still over worked, under paid, under represented, and under privileged.

But no doubt Nadauld is addressing a smaller, cultural group, even though the church she represents proclaims to be global. But it's always good to consider the source. Nadauld was able to attain higher education, marry someone affluent enough that she could be a SAHM to seven children, and she was born American; a big leg up for any lady. In her frame of reference, a woman of the world is basically anyone who doesn't value being a nurturing mother and homemaker above all else. She is overlooking, perhaps, that for many women of the world, such values are foreign luxuries reserved for women in more comfortable circumstances. If you read the full talk in which this quote is nestled, it becomes pretty clear that there is a specific set of skills she believes woman can and should cultivate. Referring to daughters of God she says, "May they understand their own great capacity for strength in the timeless virtues that some would scoff at in a modern, liberated world for women."

Notice how she makes a liberated world for women sound bad! Can we even call this a liberated world for women? I think Nadauld is showing how narrow her world view is in this regard.

Before I go on with critiquing the rest of her quote, I want to point out that Nadauld has set up several false choices, and the entire quote is built on this logical fallacy. You can either be this or that. This is good, and the other is bad. She is trying to force a choice when you don't need to make one.

The qualities she attributes to women of God basically come off sounding like "sugar and spice and everything nice." This is what we feminists call pedestalization. Or what I personally call the caged pedestal. As Gloria Steinem has said, "A pedestal is as much of a prison as any small, confined space."

Pedestal - Heather Keith Freeman

But let's get back to the quote. Here come the false choices I was telling you about, and my rebuttal to each.....

"The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender."

I have to wonder what qualifies as being tough in Nadauld's view, and why it is a negative attribute. Certainly a woman who is being threatened, harassed, or otherwise unfairly treated needs to be tough. Certainly the early pioneer women of Nadauld's church who trekked across the plains had to be tough. Is she trying to say that if a woman is tough, she cannot be tender? This is easily dismissed as being a false choice.

Continue to part 2 for more good times!

Last modified: 2019-04-21 09:36:20


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Name: Jo (355 weeks, 4 days ago) utahcountyskeptics.blogspot.com
Ooh! Ooh! It's a false dilemma! Do I get a gold star for naming the fallacy? ;) Can't wait for part 2.
Name: Sarah (355 weeks, 3 days ago)
Excellently argued points! This talk has needed to be deconstructed for so long... Reading this is very therapeutic :)
Name: (355 weeks, 3 days ago)
Can I please tell you what a breath of fresh air you are. Bravo for taking the time to really think about what us woman are being taught. I truly believe our happiness comes from within and we can no longer compare ourselves to others in order to feel superior. Being me is good enought. You are one smart cookie,not your typical sweet tender cookie but stark and real and full of calories rich in thought!
Name: Alyssa (355 weeks, 3 days ago) oxymormongirl.blogspot.com
Slam dunk, Hilary. Your critique is spot on.

And, ironically, perhaps TBMs might not be totally offended to read something like this since there seems to be a culture in Mormonism where it's okay to critique or dismiss the talks made by the female General Authorities. Everyone knows they're not "real" authorities like the men are anyhow. (*Gag.*)
Name: Kathleen (355 weeks, 2 days ago)
Hillary For President! I don't even have words for how much I loved and needed this. Wooooopwoop!
Name: Tiffany (355 weeks, 1 day ago)
So well said. Thank you for putting into words what I knew but never could quite articulate.
Name: Ana (355 weeks ago)
I think you are completely missing the spirit in which the talk and the quote was said. She is I no way trying to diminish any woman with her words.

If you watch any show on television or almost any recent movie,you will see what she means by "tough" women. Women are portrayed, these days to only have value and worth if they act like a man. She is saying that women are so much more than they give themselves credit for.

Ironically, you are being quite harsh and critical when you're accusing her of that very thing.
Name: Amber (355 weeks ago)
I like seeing other points of view so I thought this was very interesting to read since I read this quote completely different than you. To me, being worldly means caring more about worldly/material things and status more than anything else and making those things a priority. Just being a member of the LDS church doesn't make a woman godly and even if a woman is not a member of the LDS church, she can still be considered godly, right? I have a best friend who isnt affiliated with any church and she is a great example to me because she is kind, slow to anger, tender and all those things mentioned in the quote you're referring to. I think I need to work on all those qualities but that doesn't make me feel like my role as a woman is diminished - of course I'm still going to be tough when I need to be-! we could pick it apart over and over again but I also think we should give people the benefit of the doubt - she's just an imperfect woman like everyone else, trying to do her best and maybe she could've said it so that nobody would be offended but oh well. I also think that sometimes we put too high of expectations on church leaders and if we were in their shoes, we'd realize that it's not easy because even trying to be a good example offends people. I'm not as good with words as you are obviously, but I'm glad I read your post to make me aware of what Iight say that would unintentionally offend someone.
Name: Jo H (355 weeks ago)
Hillary, this is fantastic. Thank you for articulating this.

I can understand Amber's point of view. I do think that this was intended to inspire women to try and be more loving, kind, etc, and not to tear women down or to ignore the very real problems they face. However, I think that anyone in a position of authority, be they professionals or lay people "called" into their position, are responsible for what they say. This doesn't mean they have to be perfect human beings. It means that they have to be aware and cautious about the messages they give. Cute turns of phrase can make a speech more interesting and memorable (and quotable), but can cause serious problems if you don't pay attention to the underlying meaning of your words.
End of comments.

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