Patriarchal cultures are the universal reality of modern society. People who believe in equal rights for women try to expose the pitfalls of patriarchy. A role of the feminists is to fight patriarchy. In Salt Lake City, Utah where there are a number of people who belong to the Church of Latter Day Saints, also known as Mormons, patriarchy also exists. Terry Tempest Williams discusses patriarchy and women’s connection to the land in Refuge. Over time women’s status in society has become better, however in Mormon culture women’s rights have decreased. In Refuge, Terry Tempest Williams as an ecofeminist defies the traditional Mormon woman’s role.
In Refuge the gender roles are not as clear as in society. Williams chooses to display the gender roles more subtly. We learn that women are very close to other women. We see men doing manual labor. You see the mother as the nurturer and the father as the provider. Terry Tempest Williams gives readers insight on the culture but not explicit ideas about how gender in constructed in Mormon culture. Outside of Refuge, women have really lost rights in the last few years. In recent years women have lost the right to have priesthood and give blessings though polygamy has ceased (Stack 2003). These struggles are specific to Mormons but there are many struggles that women face all over the country.
The struggles that women face internationally are extensive. The female Mormons in Utah are not exempt from this struggle, in fact their struggles compare to women in the third world. In some Islamic states, the women have to cover their bodies so men can not see their bodies at all. Though Mormonism is not exactly the same, the status of women in the church has become progressively worse, making women’s empowerment less of a central issue. For example,
In the 1980s, women again began talking among themselves about a Heavenly Mother -- a concept that for decades had lost its potency -- and some acknowledged praying to her. Church leaders swiftly condemned any public display of devotion to her (Stack 2003).
This idea, of the heavenly mother, is one of the ideas that Mormon feminists wanted to bring up in questioning of their faith. This questioning itself may be detrimental to your future participation in the faith. But to point out Mormon women in particular as participators in a patriarchal religion is unfair. As Sheena James, a Mormon Middlebury College student, said “My church, like many religions, is a patriarchy. I think this would be an interesting question to ask many women of many different religions” (4/13/05) when asked about her participation in a patriarchal religion. Surely women of other Christian denominations and other faith recognize that their religious establishments do not necessarily see women as equal to the men. But religion is not exclusive in these beliefs.
Our culture, though many may disagree, is a patriarchal culture. Terry Tempest Williams will likely agree with this statement...