Late, late Saturday night I was listening to my daily scripture reading and working on a fairly rudimentary painting of Lehi’s Tree of Life for my Sunday morning Primary Sharing Time (imagine a cross between a truffula tree and the burning bush with dots of sparkly nail polish) when my sister emailed me this article from Salon.com: Why I can’t stop reading Mormon housewife blogs.
I was blown away. It never occurred to me that anyone outside Mormon Mommy-dom was obsessing over the details of those blogs. I mean, sure C Jane is pretty funny and often poignant. And NieNie made it on Oprah. (You go, girl! I’m not sure if I’m talking to NieNie or Oprah there.) A few years back I even read a quote in Newsweek from Feminist Mormon Housewives. Who knew Mormon Mommies were gracing not only the pages of Salon.com but also Jezebel and Vogue? Heck, an old friend of mine from high school just had her cookbook released nationwide, through Shadow Mountain, and it’s got “Mormon Moms” in the title.
Is it possible that Mormon Mommies actually have some cultural capital?
My first thought was that this is the fulfillment of prophecy. Remember this quotation from Spencer W. Kimball?
My dear sisters, may I suggest to you something that has not been said before or at least in quite this way. Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different–in happy ways–from the women of the world. “¦ Thus it will be that female exemplars of the Church will be a significant force in both the numerical and the spiritual growth of the Church in the last days.
It would seem that Mormon Mommy bloggers are fulfilling this prophecy in ways no one ever anticipated. The ubiquitous love of vintage dresses, excellence in cupcake making, and a proclivity for cutesy cards and furniture reupholstering has propelled these women to the forefront and given them an interesting, and probably unforeseen, chance to introduce the world to Mormons.
For me, though, the article at Salon.com is reason to celebrate but also begs a question: will Mormon Mommy bloggers, and as an extension, Mormon women, ever be seen as something more than a stereotype? It seems that to the wider world the nuanced expressions of Mormon women are reduced into two camps: the bright, simple, happy mom who loves Jesus, loves her husband, and loves her cupcakes and the somewhat disaffected, itching-for-change woman who isn’t sure why she’s a Mormon at all. But the world of Mormon women is so much more than that. What about the divorced Mormon woman who still bakes cupcakes for fun? What about single women of the Church who are making waves in their professions? What about the woman who loves Jesus and itches for change? (And, if you are like me you are wondering, “What about those of us who don’t wear vintage dresses?!?!”) Where are those blogs?
Just because we bake cupcakes doesn’t mean we’re simple. And just because we don’t bake cupcakes doesn’t mean we’re not good Mormon women.
It seems like the narrative of the Mormon women within Mormon-dom has only recently opened up to models other than those two stereotypes. Segullah, Mormon Mommy Wars and probably a lot of other blogs that I haven’t ever heard of are expanding the definition of what a Mormon woman can be and how she can best fulfill her covenants. We are just starting to work our way out of self-limiting molds. Let’s hope we find a way to avoid being pushed back into them by the rest of the world. Being different in happy ways means just that: being different and happy. Not being stereotyped.
How about you all? Any of you closet Mormon mommy blog readers? What stereotypes of Mormon women do you see in the bloggernacle and Mormon literature? What are your favorite representations of Mormon women?