Posted on Leave a comment

Toscano: From BYU to Utah (Part 1 of 8)

Dr. Margaret Toscano is the Dept Chair at the University of Utah, but she got 2 degrees from BYU and taught there as well.  In our next conversation, we’ll learn more about her time at BYU, and see her perspective on male privilege for scholars at the university.

Margaret:  I started out from BYU, but I’ve always loved literature. That was sort of my first love, being an English major. Then when I was at BYU, I got interested in language, studying Latin and Greek, because I became very interested in Biblical studies and I wanted to be able to read the Bible in the original languages. So I first took Latin and I like to tell my Latin students, this little story. I was an English major and a History minor. I had a boyfriend who I met in a history class, and he persuaded me to take Latin, and I did. Well, that boyfriend is long since gone, but Latin lasts forever. I still teach Latin. I love teaching. I teach both Latin and Ancient Greek and all kinds of courses dealing with religious topics and literary and cultural topics. I teach a big Introductory to Classical Mythology. Sometimes I’ll have 250 students.

I did my masters at BYU in Classical Languages. I started out with literature and then I got really interested in the ancient world in doing Biblical Studies. I did some work with Hebrew, too. I finished my master’s there. Then I got married. In that time period, I became really interested in Mormon theology and history. So it was while I was at BYU in the early 70s, that I began to meet people who were really digging up documents.

I have to say that, for me, the two things that really made me feel like I was a feminist during that period was I began to see these gaps between men’s–what would I say? Not just, in large, about the sort of gender gaps between how men were privileged over womenut , bwithin the context of the church. I began to ask questions about gender equality. For me, it really came very much, at that time, from a place of believing, where I felt like, “Here I am, a Mormon woman. I believe in God, I believe in the idea of the restoration. But I feel like that there are these inequities that strike me, not just wrong, but somehow go against my own feelings of God’s love and what I want as somebody who is committed to spirituality, and to the sort of basic ideals of the gospel.” So, maybe I could just give a couple of examples. So, for me, it didn’t start out with the idea of kind of focusing on priesthood or even the Heavenly Mother, which are two things I’ve written about. I think for me, it started out from the idea of–and maybe this was in a sense connected with priesthood, but I think it was at BYU, that I saw so much male privilege, that as a woman, I felt like I wasn’t taken as seriously as my male counterparts. I was working on my Masters in Classical Languages. I was obviously smart and did a good job. But, it was the idea that my professors were encouraging all of my male colleagues to go off and get PhDs, so they can come back and be these great scholars. But I was seen as somebody where, “Oh, yeah, you’re going to get married, you’re going to have children. We’re not going to take you seriously as a scholar.” So I think that was the first area where I felt it, was the difference in expectations or the way in which I was valued. I began to see that I didn’t feel like I was valued as much as men at BYU, that I was not encouraged to write or to be a scholar or to do anything… “Oh, yeah, we are happy to have you as a teacher, you’re a great teacher, but you’re going to fill this little spot in teaching until one of our male stars comes back from a big PhD program, and then, oh, yeah, then they’ll take your role, and, of course, you’ll be having kids, so you won’t care.”

Find out more about Margaret’s experiences at BYU.  Check out our conversation…

Dr. Margaret Toscano is professor of Classics and Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies here, and also the department chair of this World Languages and Cultures.

Check out our other conversations on Mormon feminism!

Bryndis Roberts of Ordain Women

Bryndis Roberts - Chair of Executive Board, Ordain Women
Bryndis Roberts – Chair of Executive Board, Ordain Women

274: Purge & Actions Since 2014 (Roberts)

273: Ordain Women Leadership (Roberts)

272: Getting Involved in Ordain Women (Roberts)

271: Addressing Gender Inequities (Roberts)

270: From Baptist to Mormon (Roberts)

Dr. Nancy Ross/Sara Hanks – Where Must We Stand?

Dr. Nancy Ross - Dixie State Univ, and Sara Hanks, co-authors "Where We Must Stand."
Dr. Nancy Ross – Dixie State Univ, and Sara Hanks, co-authors “Where We Must Stand.”

211:  Feminist Favorites (Ross-Hanks)

210:  Must Women Be Ordained? (Ross-Hanks)

209: The F-word: Feminism (Ross-Hanks)

208: Nancy & Sara’s Spiritual Journey (Ross-Hanks)

207: Mormon Feminist Successes & Setbacks (Ross-Hanks)

Posted on Leave a comment

Feminist Favorites (Part 5)

In our final conversation with Sara Hanks and Dr. Nancy Ross, I’ll ask them what their feminist favorite essays were.

Check out our conversation, as well as our previous conversations!  What are your favorite essays?

What were Nancy and Sara's favorite essays from the book?
What were Nancy and Sara’s favorite essays from the book?

210:  Must Women Be Ordained? (Ross-Hanks)

209: The F-word: Feminism (Ross-Hanks)

208: Nancy & Sara’s Spiritual Journey (Ross-Hanks)

207: Mormon Feminist Successes & Setbacks (Ross-Hanks)

Posted on Leave a comment

The F-Word: Feminism (Part 3)

Lisa Butterworth wrote a post titled the F-Word: Feminism.  Is feminism dangerous?  Many faithful Latter-day Saints may be concerned that Mormon feminism is a road to apostasy.  Is that true?

GT:  Do you have any ways to assuage that fear for people who are active LDS that are thinking, “I don’t know if I should listen to these two people. One is out of the church in one is barely hanging on.”

Sara: Yeah, right.

Nancy:  So one thing I’ve done is I’ve surveyed Mormon feminists and when I surveyed Mormon feminists, when we were experiencing that great big bubble of hope during 2012-2014. Yeah. That great big level of hope. I surveyed Mormon feminists in 2013, about 1800 Mormon feminists, and I think it was 70 something percent of that group was active. And most Mormon feminists at that time were active and it was a very exciting time to be active, you know? And, they were active and, overwhelmingly, not only were they active, but they had some kind of calling. And many of them had temple recommends. At that time, most people were saying that their participation in Mormon feminism was helping them to stay in the church because it was helping them to negotiate and navigate those difficult points and to give them resources and community and support where maybe they would’ve just left if they hadn’t had community and resources and support to stay in the church. And then at other times, Mormon feminists, in the example of people leaving has helped people leave. Mormon feminism both helps people to stay in the church if that is what their goal is and it helps people to leave if that is what their goal is. And I think that the community…

GT: Let me stop you for a second. Was that your goal?

Sara: To leave? No, but…

GT: Because the reason I’m asking that is because there are going to be people who will say, “Well, if I support it, then I’ve got one foot out the door.”

Sara: Right. It’s tricky. I’m trying to gather my thoughts and figure out the right starting point here. The whole idea of Mormon feminism, helping people to stay or to leave, I relate to that and I resonate with that. I think it didn’t so much–well from personal experience I’ll say this. My faith crisis or my big turning point was when I went to the temple when I was 21. I was about to get married and I went and received my endowment the week before my wedding. I had no idea but walking into the temple I felt completely clear and completely hundred percent all in with the church. And leaving the temple I felt like everything had changed and I didn’t know who God was anymore. And that was very uncomfortable and what I needed at that point, what I wanted more than anything was to see examples of people who had a difficult time with the church for whatever reason, and still stayed because I wanted to stay more than anything. But I didn’t know, you know, looking at my family and my ward. It seemed like everybody was just really comfortable. And so, I thought, “Well, how do I stay if I’m not comfortable and if I have questions? Right? And so Mormon feminism, the people I met, the stories I read, really did help me to stay for 10 years. And because of all these external events: excommunication, exclusion policy, Mormon #MeToo, and sexual abuse, and stuff. I think I have also seen examples that convinced me that there was also a way to leave in a healthy way. Not that that was what I wanted to do, but when I felt that spiritual prompting, that that’s what my next step was, I felt okay. I have seen from these people’s examples that I can do that, and I can still be a spiritual person.

Would the church split like the Community of Christ did over women’s ordination?  Check out our conversation, and don’t forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2!

Feminism is about equality between men and women. But is is a road out of the LDS Church?
Feminism is about equality between men and women. But is is a road out of the LDS Church?