17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

When people in the ward drive you mad...

how do you react?

A recent Sunday I had three separate interactions with people in my ward that challenged my patience. The first was with a "mommy friend" (aka: we probably wouldn't be friends except that our kids are the same age and like to play together) in the foyer before Sunday school. I had politely asked her about a car insurance snafu she had been working to resolve. She made an offhand remark that at least insurance rates were cheaper in our area than in the Arizona town she and her husband had recently moved from as "all the Mexican who stole cars and drove uninsured really drove up the cost of insurance for all of us good people." Yes, that was her direct quote. I looked at her kind of stunned (had she failed to notice my MEXICAN AMERICAN husband or my BROWN-SKINNED children or my Hispanic MARRIED NAME?) and muttered an excuse about getting to class and tried to take a lot of deep breaths.

Just before Relief Society, I struck up a conversation with another woman in our ward. I admire this woman a lot. Her kids are extremely articulate and friendly and their teenage son is our favorite babysitter. This son is a senior in high school, extremely bright and getting offers from many colleges. I asked this woman how the college search was going and she commented how she was pushing him away from Ivy League schools. Her reason? She was afraid he would marry a woman with career ambitions and who carried a lot of debt from her education into the marriage. More deep breathes. This time I smiled and tried to respond in a polite manner, "Well, I guess it just depends on what type of woman [her son] wanted..." She agreed. New topic.

After church the ward financial clerk handed me an envelope and said, "Please give this to your husband right away." Ok, no problem. I looked into the envelope and found the printout of our annual church contributions that everyone gets at the beginning of the year for tax purposes. More deep breaths. Trying to be rational, I looked at the printout to see if it had DH's name. Nope, both of our names were listed. I tried to find any rational reason why he would think that I would not be involved in our family's financial dealings. None. Last straw for the day. I made some snarky comment about how I handled our family's finances so in the future he could come to me with his little printouts.

I don't like the snark and I don't like the silence. I do believe a ward family should be treated with respect and love. But what do you do when people in your ward share attitudes and values that go completely against your own? I don't want to be labeled as a troublemaker or malcontent, but remaining too quiet will inevitably make me resentful. And as my children grow up, I especially want them to know that even at church, they can raise up their voice and respectfully disagree.


  • So, looking back at the post I just wrote, I didn't really clearly state my question for discussion. When do you step out and disagree? All the time...politely as possible? Do you pick your battles? Are there times it is best to just walk away? Please share your experience and advice. I do like my ward for the most part, but I can see too many experiences like the ones I mentioned putting an ugly dent in my experience with these people.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 2/24/2008 05:45:00 PM  

  • I too have had moments at church when I have just wanted to strangle the person that I was speaking to. Especially when it comes to the male dominated roles (such as your financial situation). I have even had callings for me approved by my husband before speaking to me about them but alas I digress.

    I think that most of the time stereotypes prevail at church. And some days you are hit with many of them up front and in your face just one too many times. But I honestly feel that most of these comments are not said to offend or provoke. In fact, I think that the people don't even notice that they have said something inappropriate or insulting.

    So to sum it up, in my experience, I just try to blow off many of those comments. Although some days it is extremely difficult (like when you get three comments in one day). On those occasions where I just can't keep quite, I have approached the person and had a sincere conversation about what was said. Most times, I feel better after we've spoken and I'm confident that at least around me, they will watch their comments.
    posted by Blogger Ryann at 2/24/2008 05:53:00 PM  

  • I have to agree with everything ryann said. But I am an analyzer, so taking your experiences, here's kind of how I thought of them:

    The "friend" that stated a racial remark will probably feel really stupid later. It's best to just let her feel stupid and not make it worse.

    The lady you admire? I would have laughed and responded, "you mean girls like me?" That would have put across your point, but in a very non-confrontational way.

    The clerk? Nothing wrong with mentioning his sexist assumption; but yes, you could have made your tone more kind...?

    The thing is, half the time people offend, they don't realize they are offending. I know when I've been with people I'm comfortable with, I say things without thinking about them. People are rude and have no tact, but most of them don't realize it. That's where a great deal of forgiveness comes in. For most of us, I think we have to look past the rude remarks and try to take things from their point of view. Who knows what type of pain they are enduring right then? What is going on in their lives that could illicit such remarks? When I look past the words and look at the person, I find myself feeling less "put upon", you know?

    (Jen, this a great post.)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 2/24/2008 06:09:00 PM  

  • This is a great post because I think we can all relate! There are times when someone says something that is offensive or ignorant and I wonder... "am I really of the same religion as this person?" It can can be tough to know when to say something and when to just let it roll off your back.

    Most of the time as mentioned people don't even realize what they have just said and it is best to just let it go. But if someone has said something multiple times and it really affects YOU as a person it is time to stop it. You can be polite but very direct at the same time.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 2/24/2008 06:32:00 PM  

  • We have recently had an enrichment lesson and a RS lesson on this topic. Yes, the ladies in my ward need help! But I think really, it's a universal thing since we're all human. My take-aways from these lessons that I'm trying to implement are:

    1- Try to give them the benefit of the doubt, realize that most people are trying to do their best and sometimes mess up, and

    2- Trite as it may sound, ask how the Savior would respond in the situation. There were times when he walked away, and times when a response or correction was required to protect people He loved and righteous principles.

    There are few things that get under my skin, but several that have made me so angry lately, I'm trying hard to figure out how to deal with it, because I've finally realized that my anger drives the Spirit away from me. I'm interested to read the other responses.... I think this topic is a huge life lesson to grasp.
    posted by Anonymous jane at 2/24/2008 06:54:00 PM  

  • Jen, I'm screaming for you! AAAAAH!

    I think that you can totally call people out on this...obviously none of these people intended on hurting your feelings, and you could TOTALLY educate these people in these moments.

    To the girl: Did you know that my husband is Mexican?

    Just see what she would say.

    Follow ups, "did you know that Hispanic people are not JUST Mexican, that there are several countries and languages and cultures that makeup Latinos, and that not all Latinos steal...maybe you would like to come over some time and partake of some of the Mexican Cuisine that I have learned to cook since spending time with the Abuelos, oh yeah, I am bilingual too. And I guarentee you will leave with everything you came with...wink. "

    To the other lady: "Did you know that if a woman is as educated as you fear this woman is, she will probably be pretty smart about paying off her debt and might even be able to make more money than your son. You know, your son is such a great babysitter, maybe going to an Ivy League is JUST the thing. He can marry a smart and talented and driven woman who can provide for the family while he stays home with the kids? Get his Mr. Degree"

    To the clerk: Oh, why did you want me to give this to my husband? Just see what happens.

    At the very least there might be a little social discomfort, which when feeling resentful can make you feel a bit empowered, at least for a second...

    My DH reported on the sunday school lesson he attended in Ogden, UT, and there were quite a few sexist comments made about Hillary Clinton, one such: Hillary, can you stop wearing pants already?

    Excuse me? What does Hillary Clinton and her pants have to do with a Sunday School Lesson that I believe was titled: Jesus Christ, Redeemer of the World.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 2/24/2008 07:00:00 PM  

  • Thanks for the comments so far.

    Ryann- I think sincere conversation is often a good solution. In fact I think I would have to have one of those sincere conversations if my DH was ever asked to "approve" my new calling!

    Cheryl- I liked your comebacks...I'll have to remember those.

    Anon- I think I ask myself every Sunday your question about sharing a religion!

    I do agree with the general consensus that the comments weren't meant be offensive or hurtful. I do think people make the assumption at church that since we share a religion, we must agree on all social/political issues and I don't like that at all.

    Finally, I completely admit I've made a ton of stupid remarks to people in my life and I do try to forgive others and hope that my words are forgiven as well. It is hard for me, however, when there is a pattern of sexism and racism to the remarks I hear.

    I guess I am particularly critical when I hear it from people my own age (such as the financial clerk). I don't bat an eyelid when I hear a racist slur from my 90 year old grandfather or when an older woman in the ward refers to me as a "girl." I do expect more from people our age....maybe that's unfair? I'm not sure....
    posted by Blogger Jen at 2/24/2008 07:09:00 PM  

  • Kage, I LOVED your comebacks. Unfortunately I can't think on my feet like you can.

    I am guessing your DH went to High Priest Group in Ogden. Oh the stories my DH has told about HP outside of NYC...they should seriously disband HP altogether, from the stories I hear its nothing more than an hour of Hilary-bashing and BYU football recaps....
    posted by Blogger Jen at 2/24/2008 07:23:00 PM  

  • kage-
    That's the best laugh I've had in days!
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 2/24/2008 07:50:00 PM  

  • I have to agree with Kage. Jen, I can really relate to this post too. My family is VERY diverse. We have just about every religion, race, sexual preference, etc. in my family. I have had many people make comments to me, not necessarily meaning to be offensive, but I'm sorry - at some point I think in this day and age how can you make "those sorts" of comments and not wonder or suspect if the person you are talking to may or may not have family/friends that are gay, black, mexican, muslim, or whatever! On the same hand, I've had a bunch of people say things to me about Mormons, too. Obviously before they knew I was a Mormon. I think these are opportunities to say something like, "Oh, well my husband is Mexican" or "I'm a Mormon and have never had that experience personally" or whatever the specifics of that situation may be. With the clerk I would even say, "Oh actually both me and my husband handle the financial stuff so either of us are fine". It may open the eyes a bit of the person who made the comment. Of course they aren't meaning to offend, but isn't that exactly why you should say something (politely of course). If their intention is not to offend, they probably wouldn't want to make the comment again. And comments like that can oftentimes hurt, even when the intention wasn't ill-meant.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 2/24/2008 08:17:00 PM  

  • PS - I have to say that I don't think I've ever had a bad experience when saying something to someone who made a comment like this. As long as it's done in a respectful, polite, even "light" sort of manner. I'm always a little nervous to say something, but when I do it has never been a negative experience. :)
    posted by Blogger Beth at 2/24/2008 08:24:00 PM  

  • Ironic that in a post about being tolerant some of the comments include stereotypes about Utah Mormons.
    I didn't grow up in Utah but I do live there now and it is interesting to see how much flack Utahns get outside Utah. It is a stereotype I often face when visiting wards outside the state. I usually try to politely disagree with rude comments (about Utah or otherwise:) or counter with positive comments to change the tone of the conversation.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 2/24/2008 08:51:00 PM  

  • I don't think I have ever "spoken out" when someone has made an offensive remark to me. I'm too scared. I'm too afraid of social situations that are uncomfortable. Recently, I've found myself agreeing with people I really don't agree with JUST to keep the current conversationa "agreeable." And then I get home and rant and vent to DH about how frustrating or offensive such and such a situation was. Your questions make me think, Jen. Should I be more bold?

    The situation with your "mommy friend" seems to not only betray her beliefs about Mexicans but also the fact that she probably doesn't see your DH as fitting into those stereotypes and therefore doesn't consider him Mexican or think of him in her regular "Mexican" terms. So interesting what our comments betray about us . . .
    posted by Blogger sunny at 2/24/2008 10:49:00 PM  

  • I would have said the same things that Kage did (but sometimes my tongue gets away from myself.)
    posted by Blogger Azúcar at 2/25/2008 12:25:00 AM  

  • anon, re: Utah stereotypes, I was trying to be really specific about an incidence that my husband had and where he had it, not trying to stereotype...it ACTUALLY happened. I am sure it could just as easily could have happened in our HP group here in Queens, it's just that it didn't.

    everyone else, writing these things down is a lot easier than saying them out loud, but I DO think that a lot of what I wrote would make for a great conversation and introduce a new idea to the atmosphere.

    Sunny, I don't really believe in being agreeable for the sake of agreeability with a few exceptions...perhaps a professional situation or one in which you may not meet the person again...but not if it is a racial stereotype against my husband or a gender thing against my own education level....

    If who you are talking to is willing to make such out-there comments that are so opinionated to one side than I think you are automatically allowed to express the same sort of opinion, especially if it's opposite.

    Where's todd l when you needh him?
    posted by Blogger Kage at 2/25/2008 05:03:00 AM  

  • True, true, to all the comments, but embarassing people you see on a weekly basis by calling them out on a comment which they probably didn't intend to be rude doesn't seem to help anyone, in my opinion. A more mellow approach, as Beth suggested, would probably have a more lasting effect if you are truely intent on teaching them to think before they speak, instead of making them so embarrased THEY go home and rant to their spouses and do it again another time.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 2/25/2008 06:41:00 AM  

  • Ah, the awkwardness of church sometimes!

    I have witnessed similar situations, but not usually in one-on-one conversation. It's usually over the pulpit or comments in class. Which always boggles my mind, but it happens no matter where I go to church--Utah, California, DC. In fact, although in Utah I have heard many seemingly stereotypical "Utah" comments like Kage's husband heard (btw I love Utah and don't find most stereotypes to be true across the board), it seems to be the most noticeable where I live now in Northern Virginia, where my ward is populated with professional politicos, many of them staunchly conservative.

    NOTHING against political conservatives. In fact I hate the stereotype of Mormons = conservative (e.g., Mitt Romney's quote, "You don't get more conservative than Mormons")--my husband and I have had several arguments about this! However it seems to me in the wards I've been in that most of the outspoken comments have to do with the conservative side of immigration, taxes, etc. Awkward! Regardless of how many in the class agree, it's awkward because we're not there to discuss these things!

    BTW don't mean at all to insinuate that conservatives = intolerant. I think you find intolerance and tolerance equally wherever you go (maybe the intolerance sticks out more). Just using politics as an example of awkwardness at church. People can get really fired up about these things.

    I'm sorry to hear about your very awkward and hurtful conversations. I agree our tongues can get away from us sometimes. Sometimes it's more than a coincidence and that may be when it's appropriate to step in seriously.
    posted by Blogger Eliza at 2/25/2008 07:02:00 AM  

  • Obviously I wasn't party to the conversations, and I have an annoying habit of playing devil's advocate.

    1) Less than educated to be sure, but as a long time resident of Arizona, auto theft is a severe problem. Most of the thefts are either taken to the near by indian reservation or driven south of the border into Mexico. So a simpler person might easily conflate Cars being stolen and taken to mexico as being done by Mexicans.

    2) Was the lady's concern that her son marry an educated woman? or was it the debt that might come along with an education (which for many ivy league schools can top $100k for an undergraduate degree). Or is it that he will find someone who's career is more important than the gospel (I am not conflating children to the gospel) or similar.

    3) Was this the exact quote? Or was it "Make sure your husband sees this?" Does your husband give the tithing checks?
    This one seems to be the least defensible tho.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 2/25/2008 07:56:00 AM  

  • Jen, I have to warn you that I've recently had a stalker from my ward who discovered my blog name (I think it's the chief of police, a real peach of a guy) and has been finding my posts, looking only for things to criticize and then shown them to another person who hates me. It's been awkward. Not awful because I've been true to myself, just awkward and I think many of my friends are wondering what I'm saying about them. :) Just a warning.

    About your question, I state my objections immediately loud and proud. For instance with that woman, I'd've said, "what are you, shit for brains? Look who you're talking to! How racist are you?"

    I've no trouble confronting.

    The second woman expressed legitimate (to her) concerns. She sounds like the kind of person you could say, "you know, there's another side to that coin...." and present your case.

    The third, oh, I'd've taken him down in seconds, kid. I'd've said, "Why?" And ripped him to shreds. That kind of interaction gets my blood boiling. But most people know me well enough not to do that. LOL

    There's something valuable about being seen as a cast iron bitch. I'm not recommending my ways to you Jen, but I certainly do agree with your objections.

    Again, you never know who's reading. For me, I'm really really mad.
    posted by Blogger annegb at 2/25/2008 08:00:00 AM  

  • I guess this is when coming from a completely crazy family comes in handy. I'm used to blowing off offensive or crazy comments. I probably wouldn't even have noticed they'd said something offensive until later.

    I lived in a ward that didn't include my name on our tithing record print out. At the time I was the only one working, too---my husband was going to school fulltime. I still think it's kinda funny.

    I think everyone needs to re-read President Benson's talk on pride every so often. Myself included.
    posted by Blogger Susan M at 2/25/2008 08:54:00 AM  

  • oh, jen. great post. i can relate with a lot of these examples. why do the clerks do that when I am the one who pays every month's worth of tithing and I am the one who pays enough attention to notice when it's time for tithing settlement (not to mention that i make a small part of our income as well). early in my marriage, my husband was approached about a potential calling FOR ME long before i knew of it. I was livid. my husband learned a lot from that experience and when i went to the bishopric counselor about it, he actually apologized and later said he learned from it too. but it took bringing to his attention how it comes across for him to realize (yes, he thought he was being conscientious; etc. blah blah blah).

    as for stupid racist comments. this just happened to me after our move from the DC area to white-bread Colorado (stereotype?). i was out visiting teaching. the sister we were visiting was a convert and biracial. she was saying something about some negative experiences she had had while visiting Utah. my companion piped up and said something about how when they briefly lived in South Carolina she had been totally uncomfortable by the large numbers of blacks in the area. i was MORTIFIED and said something to the effect of, "it's probably good to experience being the minority every now and again" or whatever. Just trying to save the situation. As we left i noticed for the first time a series of photos on her wall of her ancestors--all black. that sister was later dropped from our VT route. my only regret is that i didn't call her and apologize for my companion, but at the time i felt like that was somehow out-of-line.

    lastly, my mother-in-law made a comment soon after i was married that she never imagined her son would marry "someone like me." meaning i had my degree and was working? my husband's response to me was simply, "obviously, she doesn't know me very well."

    yes, i think sometimes it's best to just walk away. but sometimes, like in the case with the bishopric counselor, it's necessary to speak up or some people will never learn. it can be a hard call. i know my VT companion would never mean to hurt someone, she was just clueless and maybe i should have talked to her and clued her in? same with my mo-in-law. anyway.

    unfortunately, when people say rude things, for some reason i am so surprised that i don't react quickly enough to say something in disagreement or i react TOO quickly and say something i regret. thanks for the conversation about this!
    posted by Blogger Ashlee at 2/25/2008 08:54:00 AM  

  • Yesterday in church my husband and I were in the foyer while an older sister in the ward was going on and on (and on and on) about the evil pharmaceutical companies trying to get you hooked on terrible rot gut medications that you would have to take the rest of your life.

    Luckily my husband, who is a scientist for one of the companies she was mentioning by name, was facing away from her as he turned red and bit his lips to keep from laughing out loud.

    My husband had to laugh later about what she said including saying that her body was so acidic, and "when you have PhD like that..."

    Neither of us tend to get offended by conspiracy theorists. I mostly think they're funny and try to stay away from them.

    I will mention that I have said things that people could have taken offense at. It is a blessing that they didn't take offense (that I know about, at least). When I interact with people regularly, I try to mention to them that sometimes I put my foot in my mouth and please don't take it personally.

    Also, when it is other people saying something that is offensive to me, I try to choose mercy over justice in dealing with them.

    A final thing: when we lived in So Cal people (mostly outside the church) tended to be offensive very frequently. This was before blogging got popular, but the way I learned to cope with it and get the offense out of my system was to write a short essay about it. Turn experience into art.
    posted by Anonymous Researcher at 2/25/2008 09:24:00 AM  

  • "When do you step out and disagree? All the time?"

    No, but when it's needed. The first comment you listed about "those Mexicans" - whoa. WHOA. Totally a time to speak out. I'm extra sensitive about racial comments being a mom of a black son, but still - that comment was awful.

    The one about marriage? Annoying and old fashinoned, but she's not going to change her mind.

    The last one with your financial clerk is one of my biggest pet peeves, too. I handle all the money for our family. I write both our names on the tithing slip. Yet the paperwork ALWAYS comes back to just my husband. I've brought it up before to the Bishopric, and I'll do it again. We are a FAMILY, of which I am a very important part - especially since I handle the money!

    Off to read the comments - I want to hear what everyone else said!
    posted by Anonymous Julie P at 2/25/2008 09:39:00 AM  

  • I can't believe all three things happened on the same sunday! Kind of funny (in a disturbing way).

    This may come as a surprise, but I am all for NOT keeping quiet. :)

    But I don't think that snarkiness, defensiveness, or being offensive back is the answer either (although I have indeed dealt with similar situations in these ways as well).

    Like some of the commentors have said, these are people who you will see every week at church, so it's not a great idea to make them feel bad or stupid, or make them think they have completely offended you.

    I think it is always a good idea to learn how to respectfully voice our opinions while at the same time being not easily offended.

    And people can change. Even older people whose opinions have been embedded deep from their generational upbringing. I have seen it happen through kind and honest conversations. So they are definitely conversations worth having if the situation lends itself.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 2/25/2008 09:47:00 AM  

  • I know I'm being hypocritical here, because I let offending things like this go ALL the time (and hate myself afterwards for not saying anything)... BUT it really is in everyone's best interest to say something. You might be able to help the other person think twice about repeating an offensive comment, and you might be able to save other people from having to hear future offending comments. There is a way to respond that can be helpful and point out to the offending person that not everyone thinks the way they do, and that what they said could be offensive to many people. Most of the time, people say things out of ignorance, and you can be the one to spark a meaningful conversation about how that comment was hurtful.
    posted by Blogger tamrobot at 2/25/2008 10:59:00 AM  

  • We have two Mexican sisters and their husbands who live in our ward. They hosted an Enrichment activity to teach us how to cook some Mexican dishes.

    And then they told us that they buy the ingredients from one particular market. Because the others that cater to Mexicans and Latin Americans are filthy.

    I quote, "I never understood why Americans disliked Mexicans until I came to America. I don't like Mexicans in America either."

    And I know several people who have been the victims of automobile accidents with uninsured Mexicans.

    Yeah, what you encountered weren't sensitive comments. And most days I'm not particularly patient with insensitivity.

    But usually I just fume until I can go outside and yell at a stop sign. (Learned that trick from my Mom)
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 2/25/2008 12:40:00 PM  

  • I'm in favor of mildly making a comment such as, "my husband is Mexican" to counteract a rascist comment. I do not believe a rude or snarky reply is going to help anything. That's just going to give the person you were talking to a reason to rant about you.

    As for when to make it an issue, I'd make it an issue when it involves you personally. The comment about Mexicans needs a gentle reply because of your husband's nationality. But unless you graduated from an Ivy League school with $100,000 in debt, let that comment slide. And the clerk - just a mild mention that you handle the finances is plenty.

    I am not shy about pointing out dumb statements, but I try to be nice about it. And I have never regretted biting my tongue on a snarky comeback. Being rude just means you have to apologize later for making the situation worse.

    Also, realize this happens everywhere, not just in church. With co-workers, you could assume that since everyone is a teacher, they should know better, or whatever your profession is. People are people, whether it's at work or church or just around the neighborhood.
    posted by Blogger Melinda at 2/25/2008 12:52:00 PM  

  • I think you are doing these people a diservice by not saying anything. Don't snap back, but like most others have said, a polite respectful response is totally in order. If you would have said something to your mommy friend, maybe next time she will think twice before making a racial comment. Letting the lady you admire know that you are well educated AND a good wife/mom might open her mind a little and provide an easier road for her future daughter in law. The clerk one I would have let slide but after the day you had I can see why you responded like that.

    I definitely think keeping things light is key. Making a joke like "wow, I hope my Mexican husband paid for the car I am driving" or something like that can let them know you aren't cool with what they said without being rude.
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 2/25/2008 01:23:00 PM  

  • Wow your post obviously is something we all can understand!

    I agree with those who have said that is totally acceptable to speak up kindly, and show that there are other viewpoints!

    It's totally natural to feel irritated, but I do think it is counter productive to stew over some comment someone said in ignorance. Tons of people say ignorant things all the time, and it hurts us more than them to be offended. I hear that stuff, think "That was a really ignorant thing to say." and I may or may not try to point that out to them, depending on whether I think they will be receptive to my retort. And then I forget about it. I have better things to do than waste my time worrying about what ignorant people are saying and thinking.

    I also do our budgeting and bills, and when I write out our tithing slip, I always write MY name first on the slip -I don't know why- I am sure they never notice but somehow it makes me feel better! haha! I am the BOSS of our money and both my DH and I are perfectly happy with that.
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 2/25/2008 01:27:00 PM  

  • Great post, Jen. I struggle with this issue, too, and I have yet to figure out the best way to deal with it.

    I think in the first situation, saying something would probably have been good. Racism is not acceptable. But then again, you saying something probably wouldn't make her any less racist, and you'll have to keep interacting with her, so who knows.

    In the second situation, I think your reply was very appropriate. Not only does it show that you wouldn't have a problem with your son choosing a woman like that, but it also reminds her that she should really keep her opinions about who her son should marry to herself, since it's his decision.

    I don't know what I would have said to the clerk, but I'm sure I would have said something, and probably something snarky. Like "Why would I give this to my husband, he wouldn't know what to do with it." I find that I also expect more out of people my own age.

    Also, I have to say that unlike most of the people here there have been times I regretted speaking up and voicing my opinion. One example that happened recently, was when another mother who was over for playgroup mentioned something about scouting, and I said that I didn't really like the church having scouting as it's official young mens program. This led to a long conversation that, while not an argument, was kind of close. I think she left kind of offended, because, in her words "if the prophet thinks we should all do scouting, then who are we to disagree" or something to that effect. I wished that I had just let the subject drop to begin with, since this is someone who I think I've now offended just by having a different opinion, and I have to keep interacting with her on a regular basis.
    posted by Anonymous Vada at 2/25/2008 01:50:00 PM  

  • Great post. I think the "no snark but no silence" approach is best. I face these situations speechless all the time, and I, too, am trying to find an appropriate way to respond. My VT partner found out I'm pregnant and in law school and immediately said, "So, are you excited about dropping out?" Awkward pause. I'm not dropping out. "Oh. I guess *I* just never wanted to be one of those mothers that put their career ahead of their children."

    Hahaha! Ouch!
    posted by Anonymous bonz at 2/25/2008 02:04:00 PM  

  • bonz, you're kidding! That's hysterically awful. I love it.
    posted by Blogger marian at 2/25/2008 02:25:00 PM  

  • Jen, my blood is boiling for you! That first comment is totally unacceptable...
    posted by Blogger Chloe at 2/25/2008 03:11:00 PM  

  • It's funny...sometimes when you write a post you think it's really going to strike a chord, and you get like four comments, all from your friends who don't want you to feel lame. And then there are posts like this one...that I really thought would be written off as a "rant post", even though that wasn't my intention at all...and you get a lot of meaningful discussion. So, thanks everyone for the good discussion!

    A couple of thoughts:

    -I do think one can achieve a balance between snark and silence and I appreciate the advice and examples given in the comments of this approach.

    In my own case, it is going to take some work and risk because my comfort zone right now exists on the extremes...its easy for me to stay silent and easy for me to get riled up and take shots. Both leave me feeling guilty. I am not always great at expressing myself verbally, so this will be a project.

    The ward I'm in now is a great place to start though...full of a lot of wonderful, well-meaning people who have completely different political and social stances than my own!

    -A lot of the comments centered around my "mommy friend" and her love of the Mexican people. I just have to say this even though it doesn't really need to be said...I don't think these racist attitudes prevail any more or less in our church than out of it. As a SAHM a lot of my outside interactions with people occur at church right now...so that is a big frame of reference.

    -offending someone or being offended. that has come up a lot during the comments. In all three of these separate (yet amazingly close together) encounters... no...not every Sunday is like this for me thankgoodness...I never felt offended....just frustrated that the person had made comments like these because they assumed they knew the person I was...but they were completely wrong. I guess I am "offended" that we don't get to know each other better as women and just assume X and X because we are this religion.
    Is that what others feel or not? Bonz?
    posted by Blogger Jen at 2/25/2008 07:02:00 PM  

  • Jen, I consider myself a career woman and I laugh inside when I meet new people at church who ask me what my husband does and how long I have lived in New York and that's it. I sit there with my eyebrows raised in anticipation of the question: "What do you do?" and when it doesn't come I just think...if you only knew, simply because my life is crazy and I get to do a lot of cool things that are outside of my mothering and sometimes incoporate my mothering in a fun way. Point: Many mormons assume I do not work and that I am SAHM. Which, in many ways I am, and in many ways I am not.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 2/25/2008 07:18:00 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 2/25/2008 10:34:00 PM  

  • Kage - I totally agree. Since having T and moving across the country almost all of my friends right now seem to be LDS. Primarily because that is where I have found my community. I always think it's funny that we aren't asking each other what we did before we were SAHMs or what our interests are outside of being mothers. There is so much more to me than being T's mom (although that's a great job of course). At the same time, I need to ask this question more of women I meet as well. And offer up information about myself. I often think that we don't ask each other about our "pasts" (or presents) because we don't want to make each other feel like being a SAHM isn't enough. But maybe this is another post all together......??????

    And I just have to disagree with the comment that you shouldn't say something to correct a racist remark because that person will probably never change anyway. I just can't get myself to think that way. I have seen a lot of people change in regards to racism. Maybe not always drastically, but still.... every little bit helps. Even older people who we may assume are more "set in their ways". People can always change or have an eye-opening moment.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 2/25/2008 10:35:00 PM  

  • beth, I know...about the mom thing...but sometimes we lose ourselves in the vortex of mothering. Right now in my life I am really trying to make an effort to develop my friendships with non-mother. When I have a chance I will meet a friend who works at their lunch hour and have lunch, or I will try for a breakfast date with a few girls who don't have kids and maybe tote my toddler along...I really enjoy talking about politics or their work or something other than potty training or practicing violin.

    As for the change. Man, some people really get set in their ways of thinking. I have really tried to be open to change on many levels just to better myself. When someone has the courage to educate with me with another POV I am always grateful, and that's why I believe in doing the same to someone else...if you do it with sincerity (not sarcasm), and maybe a little humor then you know if they get defensive or are offended, that their issues are pretty deep. But I really do think it can make a big difference when we stand up for something....I agree with you beth.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 2/26/2008 03:47:00 AM  

  • Jen, this has happened to me quite a few times too. I am also not one who can think of a quick and appropriate response, so I am often left fuming over what I didn't say. And venting to dh.

    It makes some amount of difference to me whether the person is just spouting their own opinion or whether they are acting in some kind of official church capacity. I can tolerate random comments a little bit better than when the ward clerk, like in your case, says something off base.

    Last year, we got an envelope in the mail from the stake presidency. It was addressed only to my husband. I thought it was about a preisthood meeting or something to do with his calling. But, it turned out to be the stake wide goals for the year. I was so mad about the fact that I had been not been directly addressed, as if by speaking only to dh I was taken care of, or as if I was comparable to a dependent child. That I was not a full member of the stake Every time I saw that envelope, I fumed about. That lasted for a month or so until I finally decided to write the stake presidency a letter letting them know politely how I felt. I know there was no malicious intent, and it was probably just a conveniency thing with MIS to print the address labels that way, but it made me feel a lot better to have written the letter. (Unfortunately, I never heard back from them and have been too chicken to bring it up anytime I see them.)

    Another time I did nothing, though. This past Dec during tithing settlement, the bishop turned to dh and asked him if he was a full tithe payer, but didn't ask me anything. Even if I contribute absolutely nothing to the family bottom line in a year, I disliked the implication that it was only dh's money, only his choice to pay tithing. I wish I would have said something about that.

    When church members make random comments in their everyday conversations with me, I ususally just blow them off or reply with a small comment. For me, I have thought a lot about gender issues in the church, and it seems to me that a better way to influence women about what they think rather than directly engaging in a confrontation (something I don't like at all) is through small comments at random times. In our book group, we talk about women stuff all the time, and I don't want to spout off about "patriarchy" and "inequality" and "feminism" but I just mention things that they can more easily relate to. And I think that it makes it more palatable for them.

    I'm sure a person could do the same thing with any issue they felt strongly about--immigration, the environment, etc.

    I've also thought about putting together a "fact sheet" for the things that commonly come up in the church. So, that I have some data based responses when people say something like "I don't believe global warming is really occurring. After all, in the 1960's, all the scientists were predicting major global coolling. Even if it is warmer, I think it's just part of natural climate cycles." I haven't done it yet, but maybe I will sometime.
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 2/26/2008 07:47:00 AM  

  • This is an interesting post... to those who were trying to rationalize the situations, I don't necessarily disagree, but if it was an instance where Mormons were being disparaged, I somehow doubt we'd be so quick to rationalize.

    I'll give you an example: a colleague of mine was writing a story on Mitt Romney during his campaign. Great writer, great guy and very open-minded to the Church. (He grew up in Colorado near a temple.)

    Anyway, we sit next to each other at work and one day, an editor came over to shoot the breeze and inevitably, the Romney article came up.

    She suddenly starts going off on this ignorant and hateful rant about Mormons. (It was something to do with the fact that Romney served in France and that because he was born into privelage, he somehow greased the skids to go on an "easy" mission. Obviously, we all know that's beyond idiotic.)

    Keep in mind, I'm sitting about three feet away the entire time.

    When she walked away, I turned to my colleague and said: "You know, she knows I'm Mormon. And surely she saw me sitting here. How offended should I be?"

    Initially, I was furious. But after talking to guy who wrote the story, we had a good laugh about it, and we talked about the church for a while, and in the end, I decided to just let it go. There just wasn't much to be gained from any confrontation.

    My point is, most of the "moments" we endure are often harmless in the grand scheme of things, but every once in a while, it's not a bad idea to clarify, especially if you value them as friends, sisters and/or brothers.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 2/26/2008 10:02:00 AM  

  • Humor always works in these type of situations. And people say the craziest stuff, not just at church. And you can sometimes call attention to how outragoues people are being, without being offensive--like saying, "Surely not EVERY Mexican steals cars? I mean, I've been married yo a Mexican American X number of years, and I haven't seen a stolen car yet! Hmm..maybe I should tell my husband I admitre that Jaguar..."

    I usually make it known that I am Mormon when somebody outside of church says something offensive, but I let things slide a little at church, or, like I said, play it funny. After all, you never know when you have to be visiting teaching companions with the woman who thinks all Mexicans are theives, and better not to have to start the relationship on awkward footing.

    I might have been a little snarky about the education one, though. Maybe said something like, "Yeah, those dang educated women. What nuisances they can be."
    posted by Blogger Heather O. at 2/26/2008 04:46:00 PM  

  • This December a member of our Bishopric handed me the envelope for our tithing settlement and it was addressed to both me and my husband. I didn't think much of it at the time; of course it should be addressed to both of us! But after reading this post and comments I'm really grateful that perhaps we have a more foward thinking bishopric.

    I too have felt like Kage when meeting new people who ask what my husband does and not me. So I bring it up myself. I own a business, I work hard and I am successful in my own right. I usually get questions about wow that must be hard to work and raise your kids full time and it creates a great opportunity to talk about how I try to balance and what it has taught my kids.

    I'm not blessed with quick comebacks; I too tend to fume and boil. But ever since I had kids (especially my second one) I've become more outspoken and less willing to put up with stupid comments. One of the perks of becoming a mother, I guess...
    posted by Blogger Chloe at 2/26/2008 05:17:00 PM  

  • I have to admit, I worry that sometimes I get so excited about talking to an adult, rather than a 3 year old, that my mouth gets carried away and I say something I didn't really mean. I'm sure we've all said something at least once in our life that was offensive to someone else without meaning to be. I think in these instances, humor is a great response and then let it slide. Of course, sometimes that's easier said than done.
    posted by Anonymous Checkers at 2/26/2008 07:14:00 PM  

  • Wow, what a great post! I loved reading all the different comments and viewpoints. Jen, it is totally understandable why you were frustrated. However, I have found that people don't always realize when they put their foot in their mouth. Their remarks, because of their individual background and experience, may have been completely normal in their viewpoint (even though it's so completely abnormal to us). It's hard to put offensive remarks aside and just roll with it. I think it takes a lifetime to achieve that skill. But I loved the ideas of incorporating humor with a response to an untactful statement. That way, the tension is lifted.

    So, usually for me when this happens (especially with the untactful "Everybody Loves Raymond" mother-in-law I have), I just shrug my shoulders and move on with my life. Because, in my opinion, no one can make you feel angry or offended without your consent. And at church, I'd rather just shrug those comments off as ignorant and try to remember why I'm there at church in the first place.
    posted by Anonymous Mommy of Four at 2/26/2008 11:19:00 PM  

  • I have a friend who lost an arm in an accident. (important detail for later)

    When I first moved to Canada, I had this wierd thing happen a few times. My husband would pay cash for things (wierd enough...but there is more!) and the cashier would hand the change to me. I thought it was just one of those Canadian things and didn't think much about it. LATER, this friend and I were talking about when he first lost his arm. He said he would get so angry at first because he would pay for things and the cashier would hand the change to his wife. I told him that that actually happened to us all the time. He was shocked. He had taken personal offence to something that apparently they do to everyone. Hmmm.

    In the church it can be so hard to turn the other cheek. People have said the rudest things to me, especially when I was married to a non-member. ("Just keep being faithful! He'll come around" as if it had anything to do with ME!) I was usually just silent about it and walked off. Now that I am older and wiser, I would have to say there are fewer things I walk away from, but it depends on the person. Some people wouldn't be able to handle a reply.

    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 2/27/2008 04:58:00 PM  

  • I often don't ask what a woman "does" because I don't want her to feel like she is being put in a "working mom" or "SAHM mom category" and being judged.
    I never ask what a husband does either though.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 2/27/2008 05:58:00 PM  

  • "My husband is Mexican. I've met so many Mexicans through him, and I have found them to be a warm and loving bunch of people; just delightful."

    "I hope my children and future children-in-law get the best education they can. It really warms my heart to see our young people making such strides in so many fields. I think these kids will really be a wonderful position to make a positive difference in the world."

    "Oh, I'll be happy to take care of that. I keep track of our finances, and I know just where to put that. Thank you so much!"

    Disarm them with your twinkly eyes and your smile!
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 2/28/2008 03:08:00 PM  

  • I turned down a calling for my husband once! Not because I didn't want him to take it (I did), but because I knew he wouldn't. I laughed out loud when the Bishop told me his plans. I think the Bishop only told me first because my husband was unable to make it to our joint interview. I ended up with the calling, and now DH is the official "babysitter" while I'm doing my calling--which is needed just as badly.

    Sorry, that didn't really answer your questions. I just wanted to share a story I found humorous.
    posted by Anonymous Brittany at 3/01/2008 10:01:00 PM  

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