Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
217: How Patriarchy Hurts Men and Boys: Wendy Christian

217: How Patriarchy Hurts Men and Boys: Wendy Christian

Manhattan-based Psychotherapist Wendy Christian discusses patriarchy in the LDS Church and how this system hurts everyone including men and boys.

Credit: Astrid Westvang @Flickr

The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John Gottman & Nan Silver Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships, by John Gottman & Joan DeClaire   “The Mask You Live In” (Documentary about boys’ and men’s struggles with society’s limited definition of masculinity)   “Why Do We Murder the Beautiful Friendships of Boys?” Article on The Good Men Project web site Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection, by Niobe Way Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World, by Nilofer Merchant   “Companies with Women in Leadership Roles Crush the Competition.” (Article on Business Insider web site)


  1. Mary Jo

    Listening to your discussion about girls camp and wearing bathing suits with t shirts. Reminded me of when I went to girls camp (in the hot California heat). We were not allowed to wear shorts! We had to wear jeans and it was so unbearably hot. I think we would see the priesthood leader maybe once a day in the evenings so I am not sure who they were trying to protect us from? I have always felt that when among other women we all kind of let our hair down and relax. These were my peers and classmates, we would always change in front of one another and often times we would all go skinny dipping so then being forced to wear pants was soo ridiculous and confusing. Upon further reflection I cannot remember if we were forced to wear shirts over bathing suits?

  2. Reagan Barbosa

    I live in NYC and would have loved to go to this women’s retreat, but I had no idea it was happening. How can I be sure to find out about retreats like this going on in NYC in the future?

      1. Wendy

        Hi Reagan! We currently only market them on social media, but do so repeatedly. If you haven’t joined Exponent II Facebook group or fMh they are two places you will see these kinds of retreats promoted. For NYC specifically, look into joining the NYC MoFem Facebook group. Would love to have you at our next retreat!

  3. Paul

    I know that I am a little late to this party, but wanted to make a few comments as I have finally gotten around to listening to this.

    Gina, I love you and this podcast, but as a man, I felt that your discussion was a fair amount of “woman-‘splainin”. Not having a male on the podcast to discuss the issue seemed a little odd. I could only imagine the response if the subject was turned and not a single female voice was heard about how the patriarchy hurts women.

    So if I may, perhaps just a couple of comments that I didn’t hear, that I was hoping would be discussed about issues that I see as a male in the church about some ways that the patriarchy hurts men.

    One way that the current instantiation of church patriarchy is harmful to men is that since you as an individual are not allowed to “hear” the call to ministry yourself , but are “called” from someone who may barely know you, and you become rather subject to the powers that be. Our spiritual, outward roles as men in the church are left to the whims of those above us. If you get tagged for leadership, great, but if not, you are kind of seen as a second class man. For example, if you are 45, 50 or even 60 years old and have not been “called” to be a bishop or other High Priest type calling, you are left to wonder about your worthiness or abilities. Your wife may wonder about where you stand spiritually, and others in the ward realize that you’re definitely not on the leadership track and you just become kind of a ho-hum person in the ward. Additionally, you are left in Elders Quorum as a man with grown children discussing child rearing, careers, and asked to help people move furniture that your back tells you that you shouldn’t be lifting. In our ward, the Stake President has had to give “special dispensation” to allow some over-60 men to attend High Priests group just so they could be with men that are their age. Unlike Relief Society, men are segregated, and it means something. This is much bigger than it may sound like to you, but I have spoken with several men who really wonder about their worth in the church when all they can manage is to be “called” to be the Sunday School President. I feel for those guys as I was one until I was over 50 and finally “called” into a bishopric. Quite literally, overnight, my church stock soared and people who had not given me the time of day previously were suddenly coming up and talking to me, a lot!

    Also, as part of the “splainin” that you did, I was interested in your perspective on male bonding, closeness and sharing deep feelings, etc. As one who has spent countless hours in private meetings with bishopric members and ward members, I developed many bonds of love and friendship that I cherish even these many years later. While I have changed much of my perspective on church and god, I cannot say enough about how deeply intimate my feelings are about many men that I have associated with in very personal settings. When you are in a private setting, discussing very personal details of people in the ward, and you are trying to do the best you can for them, you gain incredible closeness to another man; what his nature is, how he thinks, who is really is.

    The other huge issue where patriarchy hurts is that because power is closely held as you ascend the leadership ladder, decisions are made way too often “top-down”. Men are limited in so many ways since “approval” for so many things has to come from higher ups. This makes you entirely limited in your own ability to make decisions or want to make decision, as you often second guess yourself, wondering if what you do is going to be acceptable or approved by those higher up the chain, and thus acceptable to “God”. This stifles creativity, imagination and “the spirit”. This is hard to describe, so to be short, the withering oversight of a patriarchal system turns men into figurative cowering subjects, hoping for approval and acceptance, and not a person who is able to think freely and take charge of their own domain and does what seems to make the most sense.

    One other thing on the podcast that I thought was somewhat amusing was that with just the girls talking about patriarchy, you kept drifting off topic and continually drifted into how this was affecting women. Yeah, I know that it runs deep! I agree with what you were saying, and realize how deep the sentiment of patriarchy affecting all in the church in a very negative way is with you and so many of us. I am sorry, this is not to say that I didn’t enjoy this podcast (as well as the many that I also have enjoyed), just some random wanderings of my mind after listening.

    Carry on with your excellent work. I love it.

  4. Isaac

    Gina, love your podcasts! I loved this podcast too, HOWEVER, I do wish you would do a show on this topic again but include a male psychiatrist too! In fact, even do a part 2 with Wendy and a male psychiatrist. Not a bad discussion, but as a man I felt that it didn’t feel balanced with a male perspective, which I would hope that any time there is any podcast about genders and sexuality you will include a man and a woman in the discussion.

  5. Pingback: Toxic Mormon Masculinity: How Patriarchy Poisons our Men and Boys – The Exponent

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