The Mormon Mystique

The image of a lipsticked lady pulling a homemade cake out of the oven as her children play in the yard and her husband sits in an armchair reading a paper seems more like a scene from The Donna Reed Show than a reality in the 21st century. Today, 39 percent of women in The United States work outside the home full-time. However, among the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “occupation: housewife” defies national statistics. According to a 2013 study done by sociologists Tim Heaton and Cardell Jacobson, only 25 percent of LDS women in the United States work outside the home full-time (Riess). At the same time, 41 percent work part-time, which is higher than the national average, and 26 percent identify as housewives, which is twice the national average. 

It is in this context that The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan’s famous book which confronts the idealized image of femininity for causing widespread unhappiness among the sex, reenters the conversation. In the 1960s, Friedan identified what she called the “Problem That Has No Name,” by which she meant the pervasive dissatisfaction among American middle class white women indicating “occupation: housewife” on the census. I’d argue that this discussion is still relevant for LDS women today where housewifery—or at least the plausible façade of housewifery (remember those part-time employment numbers)—is culturally admired. For instance, a Mormon housewife blogger commented this year (2015), 

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