Monday, June 17, 2013

The Imagined Community of Ideal Mormon Women

First, let me elaborate two terms found in the title, “Imagined Community” and “Ideal Mormon Women”.

The concept of “Imagined Community” is from Benedict Anderson, Professor Emeritus from Cornell University. He is famous for his book Imagined Communities. According to Anderson, he defines nation as “an imagined political community and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of the communion” (Note 1). Simply saying, nation is somehow intangible and it is imagined. Its people connect themselves through commonalities and other forms.

As for “Ideal Mormon Women”, the “Mother-In-Zion Syndrome”, an article found in Sunstone, depicts the meaning of ideal Mormon womanhood. It said “…grinding your own wheat and making your own bread and have your own garden and taking casseroles over to all the sick and … also being a perfect mother and an ideal housewife and well-groomed and reading scriptures every day…the women themselves who carry around with them excessive expectations of what they should or should not be as Mormons… some of the feel they have to reach this kind of idealized, crystallized, beautiful Mormon woman...” (Note 2).

I borrow Anderson’s concept and apply it to the Mormon women world. The Mormon women group is definitely not a nation, but we cannot deny that this group of Mormon women connect themselves together via this imagined ideal Mormon women image regardless of where each Mormon woman is from, and despite the fact that they do not know each other in person. There is no written handbook or guidelines on “How to Be the Perfect Mormon Woman”, but we unconsciously allow the ideal Mormon women image embedded in our minds and it seems like this is the only legit way to connect Mormon women from all corners of the earth.

We are living in this imagined community of ideal Mormon women, no matter you are Mormon women from Hong Kong, Japan, Samoa, Ghana, Sweden, Canada…etc.

How many of us realize that the “perfect” Mormon woman actually doesn't exist at all? This “perfect” Mormon woman “…who is really a myth, a mystique. She doesn't exist at all, in fact. But all Mormon women in almost any ward you wanted to go into would tell you they know a woman who is like that…” (Note 3). Have you ever experienced that? Have you ever questioned this “perfect” Mormon woman?

It is a personal choice for Mormon women to choose whether to follow these unwritten guidelines on “How to Be the Perfect Mormon Woman” or be true to herself. I am not here to judge whether the concept of perfect Mormon women is problematic, instead, I would like to introduce this concept to you and to provide you another way to see yourself within the circle of Mormon women. I hope this concept can help you to see yourself from a different point of view.

I hope you do.

If you don’t, that’s okay too. I wish you are happy on what you are pursuing and please, don’t get depressed because you are not close to become the perfect Mormon woman.

Note 1: Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. London & New York: Verso, 2006.
Note 2&3: Sunstone. “Mother-In-Zion Syndrome”. Sunstone (1999):16.


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