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As a life-long member of the Church I’ve been involved in and have witnessed many casual conversations in foyers, cultural halls, classroom, and in a variety of social situations. I’ve also worked with many LDS psychotherapy clients who have recounted hundreds of conversations with fellow Church members to me. Through the years, I’ve noticed certain patterns, even in seemingly benign small talk, that send powerful cultural messages regarding gender, potential, life decisions, and worth. These patterns became even more apparent after I got married and observed the kinds of questions directed to me in comparison to my husband.
Although never (or very, very rarely) meant to be intentionally judgmental, the questions we ask, and to whom we direct our questions, often contain powerful cultural assumptions. Seemingly benign questions have the potential to convey a disapproving and limiting message. To illustrate, I’ve compiled a list of 30 things that female clients, female friends and family members, or I have been asked some version of…but that no one has ever asked my husband.
- How does your wife feel about you working?
- Why do you want to go on a mission?
- Will you go home and change? Your clothes are distracting the sisters.
- Do you realize how blessed you are that your wife will babysit for you?
- You got married so young and still graduated from college? You must have an incredibly supportive wife.
- Your wife has a good job, so why do you work?
- Do you realize that men are just as important as the women of the Church?
- Did you know why God made you so handsome? So women would desire you.
- You’re employed because you have to, right?
- Why are you getting a graduate degree?
- Don’t “let yourself go” after you have kids. You don’t want your wife to start looking elsewhere, do you?
- If you get an advanced degree, aren’t you worried your wife might feel intimidated?
- Have you told your boss that you’re quitting after the baby is born?
- Who’s watching your kids?
- Did you know that your greatest possession is your virtue?
- What are you bringing to the ward potluck dinner tomorrow?
- Oh, so you’re a “working father”?
- How do you feel about someone else raising your child?
- Do you really think your special gifts are best used in the world of commerce, politics, and higher education?
- Do you know how special you are?
- Did you know that you are a son of your Heavenly Mother?
- How do you balance it all?
- Don’t you feel bad for accepting that job? You could be taking it away from a woman who needs to support her family.
- Why do you need to know more about your Heavenly Father? Of course he exists. Isn’t that enough?
- You have somebody else clean your house?
- Have you considered going back to school so you have something to fall back on in case something happens to your wife?
- When it says “women” in books do you know it really means women and men?
- What does your wife do for a living?
- Do you still fit into your wedding tuxedo? We’re going to have a groom’s fashion show at Young Men’s this week.
- I’ve already checked with your wife and she’s said it’s OK, so will you accept this new calling?
Our questions matter. Our assumptions matter. What unintentional messages are these questions sending about other’s choices, roles, potential, and value? How can we improve?
For additional articles and resources visit DrJulieHanks.com.
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