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Mormon, Flemish, and female : a qualitative study of the perception of gender roles among mormon women in Flanders

Ellen Decoo (UGent)
(2021)
Author
Promoter
(UGent)
Organization
Abstract
Mormonism—officially the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—is known as a conservative religion of American origin, upholding gender essentialism and traditional gender roles. Though the center of Mormonism is still in the Western United States, missionary work has led to the establishment of congregations in many other countries, among which in Belgium. This dissertation investigates how female church members in Flanders, the northern part of Belgium, perceive their gender roles. How do they negotiate their place in a patriarchal religion of American origin and their own Flemish environment, where gender equality and sexual diversity are part of societal norms? The research applies the theory of structured ambivalence (SA), proceeding from the hypothesis that Mormon women in Flanders can encounter various gendered tensions and contradictions in and between the constructs in which they function. The framework uses five constructs, two being conceptual—gender and religiousness—and three social—church, family, and society. In May 2019, in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with thirteen Mormon women in Flanders, selected through purposive sampling with maximal variation over ten factors. Twenty-five key items were retained as relevant for analysis of SA related to gender roles. Results reveal a wide diversity of personalities and opinions demonstrating assertive agency. Within the construct of religiousness respondents perceived male/female gender roles as equal in a transcendental perspective. Regarding the church’s male-only priesthood and hierarchical authority, respondents negotiated SA by various strategies in order to conform to societal norms of gender equality. Still, more than half of the respondents were also critical of aspects of male dominance. Respondents accept male authority only if it doesn’t threaten gender equality. They did not indicate a need to confront SA over familial gender roles: the perception of their equality is simply a given. Overall, respondents perceive gender roles from the perspective of Flemish (or West-European) societal and familial norms of gender equality and sexual diversity. The research highlights the need for more differentiation in the analysis of “doing religion” and for more variation in societal perspectives when dealing with minority religions, in particular if their members also result from proselytism.
Keywords
Mormon, Flemish, women, gender, religion

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Citation

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MLA
Decoo, Ellen. Mormon, Flemish, and Female : A Qualitative Study of the Perception of Gender Roles among Mormon Women in Flanders. Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte, 2021.
APA
Decoo, E. (2021). Mormon, Flemish, and female : a qualitative study of the perception of gender roles among mormon women in Flanders. Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte.
Chicago author-date
Decoo, Ellen. 2021. “Mormon, Flemish, and Female : A Qualitative Study of the Perception of Gender Roles among Mormon Women in Flanders.” Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Decoo, Ellen. 2021. “Mormon, Flemish, and Female : A Qualitative Study of the Perception of Gender Roles among Mormon Women in Flanders.” Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte.
Vancouver
1.
Decoo E. Mormon, Flemish, and female : a qualitative study of the perception of gender roles among mormon women in Flanders. Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte; 2021.
IEEE
[1]
E. Decoo, “Mormon, Flemish, and female : a qualitative study of the perception of gender roles among mormon women in Flanders,” Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte, 2021.
@phdthesis{8708450,
  abstract     = {{Mormonism—officially the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—is known as a conservative religion of American origin, upholding gender essentialism and traditional gender roles. Though the center of Mormonism is still in the Western United States, missionary work has led to the establishment of congregations in many other countries, among which in Belgium. This dissertation investigates how female church members in Flanders, the northern part of Belgium, perceive their gender roles. How do they negotiate their place in a patriarchal religion of American origin and their own Flemish environment, where gender equality and sexual diversity are part of societal norms?
The research applies the theory of structured ambivalence (SA), proceeding from the hypothesis that Mormon women in Flanders can encounter various gendered tensions and contradictions in and between the constructs in which they function. The framework uses five constructs, two being conceptual—gender and religiousness—and three social—church, family, and society. In May 2019, in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with thirteen Mormon women in Flanders, selected through purposive sampling with maximal variation over ten factors. Twenty-five key items were retained as relevant for analysis of SA related to gender roles.
Results reveal a wide diversity of personalities and opinions demonstrating assertive agency. Within the construct of religiousness respondents perceived male/female gender roles as equal in a transcendental perspective. Regarding the church’s male-only priesthood and hierarchical authority, respondents negotiated SA by various strategies in order to conform to societal norms of gender equality. Still, more than half of the respondents were also critical of aspects of male dominance. Respondents accept male authority only if it doesn’t threaten gender equality. They did not indicate a need to confront SA over familial gender roles: the perception of their equality is simply a given. Overall, respondents perceive gender roles from the perspective of Flemish (or West-European) societal and familial norms of gender equality and sexual diversity.
The research highlights the need for more differentiation in the analysis of “doing religion” and for more variation in societal perspectives when dealing with minority religions, in particular if their members also result from proselytism.}},
  author       = {{Decoo, Ellen}},
  keywords     = {{Mormon,Flemish,women,gender,religion}},
  language     = {{eng}},
  pages        = {{xxiv, 465}},
  publisher    = {{Universiteit Gent. Faculteit Letteren en Wijsbegeerte}},
  school       = {{Ghent University}},
  title        = {{Mormon, Flemish, and female : a qualitative study of the perception of gender roles among mormon women in Flanders}},
  year         = {{2021}},
}