Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Where is Molly?

About a month ago I conducted an online survey about Molly Mormons for my Anthropology of Mormonism class. Many that took the survey were interested in what the results were. I was going to just post the paper I wrote, however it was 10 pages long... and I am sure the majority of you (like me) get kinda bored when bloggers get too wordy. So here is an attempt to make it a bit more concise. Feel free to skim and read the parts that you find interesting.

My sample size was relatively small. I only had 35 respondents. I had hoped that all were actually LDS females, however, I found out later that my brother-in-law also took the survey. But I do feel that the data does reflect the rest of LDS female population.

First question
: Please describe what a Molly Mormon is.
I broke the answers down into four domains that I felt were common:

I found it interesting that when an answer mentioned fashion, it was always the first part of the description provided. One can assume that those giving an answer felt it important to create a mental image of the person they were describing. When describing her clothing, informants explained that she dressed modestly, conservatively, old fashioned, and simple. One went on to say that this modesty came at the expense of fashion. Another commented that she looks like she stepped out of a “For Strength of Youth Pamphlet”, which is a small booklet of moral standards produced by the church for the youth in the church. When describing her hair it was said that she often wore bows, ringlets or French braids. For jewelry she wears a medallion that she earned in Young Women’s and a CTR ring, reminding her to choose the right. If Molly wears make-up at all it is reminiscent of the early 90s.
(I got this picture from http://awkwardfamilyphotos.com/page/9/)

When attempting to imagine the above description in my head, it could be construed as someone that is similar to a member of the FLDS sect. FLDS Mormons are often looked upon as fanatics. They separate themselves from the rest of American culture in many extreme ways. In secularization theory, the FLDS lies on the far end of the spectrum, it is a sect. Molly’s fashion shows that she is clearly not a part of mainstream Mormon fashion culture and therefore lies at the further most extreme of conservatism.

Level of faith-

All of the informants agreed that one of Molly’s core attributes was her dedication to living according to the teachings of the Mormon Church. She is very obedient to the commandments taught by both ancient and modern prophets. She tries her best to follow every rule both from the church and what is expected culturally. She strictly obeys the word of wisdom, she doesn’t watch R-rated movies, and over achieves in her church callings. Other words used to describe her were devout and righteous. However, her spirituality seemed to have a negative twist. Several informants mentioned that her strong focus on being obedient was a way to get attention and respect from others. Others said that because she was so obedient, she had lost all sense of self. Her faith was blind, which entailed that she did what she was supposed to with out thinking about or questioning why. One informant stated, “she follows the letter of the law regardless of the spirit” which can be interpreted to mean that she is following the rules to such a rigid extent, that she looses sight of the big picture of what it means to be Christian.

Again, we can see that Molly is depicted as a fanatic. She appears that she will follow the teachings of the church at all costs. She does this because she firmly believes that if she meticulously follows the rules it will be like a scientific equation that will guarantee salvation. Only one informant mentioned that Molly was willing to serve her fellow human beings. The tone of the rest of the informants was that Molly is obedient to the standards of the church for purely selfish motives.

Unfortunately, Molly isn’t very good at relationships. She is very shy and has an immature view of men. She is “prude” and doesn’t have the best social skills. Being forward or easy with boys is not her thing. She won’t marry a boy unless he has served a full time mission and is usually attracted to domineering and fanatical men.

In describing the personality of Molly, informants seemed to contradict themselves and each other. She is stuck up, yet nice. She is self-righteous while at the same time sweet. She is judgmental but perfect. She is well rounded and uneducated. These contradictions show that at a certain point, informants feel that Molly does have more than one dimension to her personality. She is not all cold and rigid. She does have some good.

What the informants did seem to agree on were that she personifies the female gender role from 1950. She hates feminism and believes that women belong in the kitchen. She has mastered all domestic skills and pastimes. She is willingly sheltered and will only watch television if it is the Disney Channel, PBS or BYU-TV. She is very embarrassed to talk about sex. She is, to many, childlike. Indeed while describing Molly, informants used the word ‘girl’ twenty times and the word ‘woman’ only six times.

One informant said that Molly is not fun to be around. Indeed, the collective voice of those surveyed would indicate that they feel that Molly has been socially retarded by her fanaticism. This is why she is a homebody that is innocent, pure, naïve and uneducated.

In many conversations that I have had with other LDS women, I have often heard of the term “Molly Mormon”. It is used to describe a certain member of the Mormon culture. I have often wondered who or what a Molly Mormon really is. So many people would use this term to describe others and yet, to my recollection, I do not recall ever hearing of an LDS girl referring to herself as a Molly Mormon. Why wouldn’t anybody claim the title? And so I began to hypothesize that the majority of female Mormons would avoid claiming the title of Molly Mormon for one of two reasons. First, because there is a negative connotation or second, because to some feel that Molly is the personification of perfection and they would not feel worthy of such a title.

That is why I asked the next question: Do you consider yourself a Molly Mormon? Why or Why not?

Again I was able to put the answers into four different groups:

NO- I do not, in any way feel like I am a Molly Mormon. (13 fell into this category)

Those that made it clear that they were not a Molly Mormon were more candid in discussing why the title has such strong negative connotations.

Here are some of the responses:

“No they are childish and I don’t relate”
“No, I break the rules and have less than worthy friends”
“EFY soundtracks extinguish my testimony”
“I don’t want to conform to buying all of my jewelry at Deseret Book and the BYU bookstore.” and
“I watch R-rated movies if they’re awesome. Also, I ain’t letting no man tell me that I belong in the kitchen.”

The most common answer indicated that they did not consider themselves to be self-righteous. They spoke of how they try to be inclusive instead of exclusive and love others instead of judging them. The sarcasm in this group suggests that they place themselves far away from Molly on the spectrum of identity. Though some did say that they were willing to break some of the rules, the over all feeling was that they were trying to explain that they had more mortal tendencies and unique personalities. They expressed that though they were imperfect, they did still feel Christian.

NO- But I do have parts of me that are like Molly. (13 fell into this category)

Those that were split in the middle did not seem to use any sarcasm. They tried to distance themselves from any rigidity or self-righteousness but absorb some of the good attributes associated with Molly. For example a common answer was similar to the following response;

“I would like the aspect of always being good, but I feel that there is a stuck up and prissy attitude associated with this title that I would not like.”

On the spectrum of female LDS identity this group would be placed a little closer to Molly than the previous group, however they would be distant because they choose to be.

YES!- (5 fell into this category)

The other two responses were the few that felt that Molly was not a derogatory title but instead a person that they aspire to be. Central to Mormon doctrine is the goal of reaching individual perfection. Mormons view life on this earth as an opportunity to learn from difficult times and to constantly improve one’s self. Molly is a figure that is working very hard to achieve this perfection. Only two of the thirty-five surveyed directly claimed this title.

The first said “I am, and proud of it”

and the other said “I fit my description and people tell me that I am”.

While the other three would not directly acknowledge or deny if they felt that they were a Molly Mormons, but they would say that other people do label them that way.

NO- I am not good enough (4 fell into this category)

The smallest group of responses consisted of those that lamented that their imperfections prevented them from being a Molly Mormon. Each of the four named off the faults that got in the way. They listed things such as a bad attitude, lack of skill in sewing, cooking and cleaning, sloppiness, or not being well rounded.

In my paper I used some anthropological theory to talk about how we create figures that are extreme in order to create a spectrum of identity.

(I got the mormonad from this blog: http://aglimpseofmelissa.blogspot.com/2009/07/mormonads.html)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

25 is going to be good.

25 here I come!
So here I am in my mid-twenties. That's right, I just hit the big TWO-FIVE! Age is such a surreal thing. I know I am not old yet but I already don't feel like I am in my mid-twenties. I feel like on the inside I will always be 22. I always imagined that by 25 my life would be set. I would be married, maybe have a kid and be living in a permanent house. Ha ha... how naive I was. However, I must admit, I am so glad things have not turned out that way. The life I am living is so full of happy memories, growing experiences and amazing people. It is fitting for me that I am about to close a pretty big chapter in my life. I am graduating! (don't judge.. I took two years off for volunteer work in China and missionary work in Argentina). Graduation not only means that I now loose all of my student discounts, it also means that its time for me to pack my life up and leave my beloved Provo. The last couple of weeks have been a roller-coaster of nostalgia, anxiety, excitement and apathy. It is time to move on. However, there is so much I love about this place. So much that I am going to miss.
Luckily my immediate future is full of adventure and it is doing a pretty good job at distracting me. According to my countdown calendar widget on my desk top, I have 19 days, 14 hours and 42 minutes until I leave to BOLIVIA! I will be doing my capstone research for three months on the Copacabana peninsula of Lake Titicaca! I must admit I am FREAKING out! I will meet my professor for a few weeks so that he can introduce me to a few people and then he has to return to Utah. So for the majority of my time I will be on my own. I will be posting a lot about my trip on this blog. I look forward to going to Macchu Picchu on my way home! After Bolivia I get to go to ITALY for 10 days with the fam! I am very excited for that! After my travel filled summer I will be moving to Washington D.C. to become a grown up. The more I think about it, the more excited I get. D.C. really is the city for me. I can already tell that we are going to get along great. Our personalities are very compatible.