30 Questions Nobody Asks My Husband at Church

As a life-long member of the Church I’ve been involved in and have witnessed many casual conversations in foyers, cultural halls, classroom, and in a variety of social situations. I’ve also worked with many LDS psychotherapy clients who have recounted hundreds of conversations with fellow Church members to me. Through the years, I’ve noticed certain patterns, even in seemingly benign small talk, that send powerful cultural messages regarding gender, potential, life decisions, and worth. These patterns became even more apparent after I got married and observed the kinds of questions directed to me in comparison to my husband.

Although never (or very, very rarely) meant to be intentionally judgmental, the questions we ask, and to whom we direct our questions, often contain powerful cultural assumptions. Seemingly benign questions have the potential to convey a disapproving and limiting message. To illustrate, I’ve compiled a list of 30 things that female clients, female friends and family members, or I have been asked some version of…but that no one has ever asked my husband.

  1. How does your wife feel about you working?
  2. Why do you want to go on a mission?
  3. Will you go home and change? Your clothes are distracting the sisters.
  4. Do you realize how blessed you are that your wife will babysit for you?
  5. You got married so young and still graduated from college? You must have an incredibly supportive wife.
  6. Your wife has a good job, so why do you work?
  7. Do you realize that men are just as important as the women of the Church?
  8. Did you know why God made you so handsome? So women would desire you.
  9. You’re employed because you have to, right?
  10. Why are you getting a graduate degree?
  11. Don’t “let yourself go” after you have kids. You don’t want your wife to start looking elsewhere, do you?
  12. If you get an advanced degree, aren’t you worried your wife might feel intimidated?
  13. Have you told your boss that you’re quitting after the baby is born?
  14. Who’s watching your kids?
  15. Did you know that your greatest possession is your virtue?
  16. What are you bringing to the ward potluck dinner tomorrow?
  17. Oh, so you’re a “working father”?
  18. How do you feel about someone else raising your child?
  19. Do you really think your special gifts are best used in the world of commerce, politics, and higher education?
  20. Do you know how special you are?
  21. Did you know that you are a son of your Heavenly Mother?
  22. How do you balance it all?
  23. Don’t you feel bad for accepting that job? You could be taking it away from a woman who needs to support her family.
  24. Why do you need to know more about your Heavenly Father? Of course he exists. Isn’t that enough?
  25. You have somebody else clean your house?
  26. Have you considered going back to school so you have something to fall back on in case something happens to your wife?
  27. When it says “women” in books do you know it really means women and men?
  28. What does your wife do for a living?
  29. Do you still fit into your wedding tuxedo? We’re going to have a groom’s fashion show at Young Men’s this week.
  30. I’ve already checked with your wife and she’s said it’s OK, so will you accept this new calling?

Our questions matter. Our assumptions matter. What unintentional messages are these questions sending about other’s choices, roles, potential, and value? How can we improve?
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Comments 33

  1. Sorry, but I’ve been asked many of those questions as a male – and many other men I know have as well. It doesn’t matter enough for us to discuss it. The key thing about unintentional messages, is that we create them ourselves. We have a choice to take things positively or negatively, regardless of the intention. No one can make us feel bad, shamed or judged without our permission. And it’s not a gender issue.
    At least you can teach a children’s class without the overhead of having to have a window in the door and a second instructor because you’re a potential pedophile.
    It seems more good could come from helping people resist feeling shame and hurt rather than helping identify more ways to identify unintended slights.

  2. I was expecting a long list of questions I’ve never been asked but I’ve actually been asked a ton of these (Even a form of number three). I was once sent home from a stake dance and told I needed to change before being admitted. I’ll admit I’ve never been asked numbers 27 and 30, but my brother was asked 30 before. So that leaves number 27 which seems a little more based on the past than the present. The words “mankind” or “man” were traditionally used to describe all people in the past. We can’t rewrite history just to make it conform to our current time. I do think number two is an especially great question to ask every pre-missionary and I have never met one that wasn’t asked this question multiple times before going, during, and after. It’s honestly a very good soul searching question. I think it’s a disservice not to ask every young person this very question. Also I was told Number 15 all through my youth by teachers and priesthood leaders.
    Having said all of this, I still really appreciate your article. I do agree that all of us need to watch our words and thoughts in addition to our actions. Careless things have been said to women, men, children, and single people in the church. It’s true that people can choose to be offended or not, but we should all do everything in our power to present as few of these hard scenarios as possible. Life’s hard enough without making it difficult for each other. It’s not up to us to “toughen up each other” by pelting one another with random bits of careless dialogue. Even if a seemingly benign statement is taken the wrong way, that does not make the hurt feelings any less valid. I would hope the offended person would be honest enough with me, to let me know they didn’t appreciate the comment and why. One statement that does not offend one may offend another and we would all do well to remember that.
    I’m sure if we brainstormed we could come up with some more questions/assumptions that are seldom asked to guys just as I’m sure I can come up with questions/assumptions seldom asked to girls. For just one example, every group of teenage kids at some point finds themselves in trouble and talking to a janitor, principal, or a cop. In almost every situation (and definitely every one I’ve witnessed) it’s one or two of the boys who are singled out from the co-ed crowd and given the stern talking to. It’s assumed that they are always the one to blame, at fault, and the one responsible. Often men are not asked things, they are simply told things—harsh things. They are told to accept and do without complaint, to “man up” so to speak. If it was digging ditch, shoveling manure, or fishing dead birds out of the rain gutter without the use of gloves, all of this was supposed to “make a man out of you.” Coaches swear up a storm of profanity at young men which they would never say one word of to any girl. So you may find a few less sympathetic guys who have shoveled sh**, been covered in sh**, and personally called sh**. I’m not trying to justify lame comments made to women which should not be. I’m just saying that both sexes will deal with a lot of things said uniquely to them (right or wrong) and that somehow they need to communicate when it’s wrong or actually take it to heart when it may actually be right (such as in your question number two).

  3. I think you are stretching it a bit far. Is there something wrong with asking what a woman is bringing to the ward potluck? Should we make sure we ask her husband also, so as not to offend? “Oh, so you’re a working mother?” I wouldn’t be offended. I also wouldn’t be offended if the said, “Oh, so you’re a stay at home mother?” Let’s stop creating issues where there are none. And, if there are issues, maybe it isn’t with the general popoulation of the church.

  4. This is the biggest load of BS I’ve ever read. Just because this is the way it is in your little Mormon bubble doesn’t mean that it is this way everywhere. Go to Australia, New Zealand, or the Pacific Islands. Gender roles are almost completely reversed.

  5. This article hits the nail on the head. This is my everyday struggle with the culture that surrounds our religion and my concern with sending my daughters each week. We work at home to counter that culture and those messages, so hopefully when the time comes they will have seen both sides (mom as the breadwinner, dad as stay-at-home) and will choose what works for them. Thank you for illustrating the ridiculousness of those messages.

  6. I’ve been asked the last question a couple of times before my husband was extended a calling. I know my sister in law has as well. It’s not necessarily for every calling he’s been asked to do, but it does happen.

  7. You have a lot of influence, why use it to stir up contention? To make people look for a negative intent? Some of these question could be asked with only good intent, love and concern or even curiosity.
    It is true, though, that people are insensitive sometimes. We are human after all. Why not teach how to deal with other people’s insensitivity and different ideas, whether they stem from a different generation or culture? Yes, we can all improve our sensitivity to others and their situations, but we also can learn to not take offense!

  8. Thank you, Rick for mansplaining all of that to us women. We really needed your input on how our experiences aren’t really valid and we should just not take things so hard.

  9. “He who takes offense when offense was not intended is a fool, yet he who takes offense when offense is intended is an even greater fool for he has succumbed to the will of his adversary.”
    ― Brigham Young

  10. LOL okay Rick. Not a gender issue? Get real. It is important to discuss this and the fact that you would attempt to sweep it under the rug in such a way speaks volumes. And not everything is someone’s choice when it comes to “being offended”. For example, if I was to use a racial slur towards someone, they would have EVERY right to be hurt and offended. I think more people need to think about the words they use. Also, seems like you have some bitter feelings about being an assumed pedophile. If men can’t be alone while teaching then it seems odd they would let bishops/stake presidents do such a thing. Can you imagine being a young boy telling an old man about your sexual sins? Pretty uncomfortable. Alright I’ll finish this up, I was just so outraged by your comment I couldn’t stop 🙂

  11. I agree with you 100%. These questions, I would expect anywhere but in church. The last 20 years or so, most of these issues have been eliminated anyway.

  12. I agree with the previous comment. While some of these questions are legitimately rude and insensitive, most of them are not unreasonable. In our society, we have a habit of mentally whiting out the cultural and social contexts in which a comment is made, in order to take offense. That’s our choice. Considering the context in which many of these comments/questions would have been made, a lot of them are not unreasonable.
    I ought to mention too that many of the outrageous questions on this list are ones that I have never been asked or heard asked, and which the women I know well have never been asked. I feel that in this article, you are listing several questions that are not often posed as though they are part of everyday small talk for LDS women.
    Like questions about being a ‘working mom’ – in many church units, that is the exception, not the norm, and there’s nothing wrong with people, especially women, who have not experienced that situation or lifestyle, being curious about what it’s like. Maybe judgment is implied, maybe it isn’t. The point is that we can choose to take offense, or we can take the opportunity to give others insights into our lives and decisions, and give them the chance to be accepting of that.
    I don’t mind people asking who’s watching my kids. People are curious, and in the church, we are encourage to serve one another. If someone is asking probing questions, it may be because they are judging me or it might be because they’re trying to figure out if I need help, and how they can provide it. Oh, and like several other questions on your list, my husband gets this one about as much as I do.
    It doesn’t bother me that I’m mostly told that I’m a daughter of Heavenly Father rather than of Heavenly Mother. I think that’s a beautiful doctrine, but our Heavenly Parents don’t compete, and there’s no call for us to start doing so on their behalf.
    ‘Please go home and change your clothes.’ I’ve rarely seen a situation that warrants this and heard it asked even less, but sometimes it is appropriate. Feminist dogma would have us believe that modesty doesn’t matter. ‘You dress in a way that makes you feel pretty and everyone else can respect that or look somewhere else.’ But in LDS teachings, we are encouraged to respect and treasure our bodies and that means, among other things, dressing modestly. It matters, and unfortunately, it’s not an issue for boys and men in the same way it is for girls and women. There just aren’t a lot of revealing clothing options for guys to avoid.
    For questions like ‘do you know how special you are?’: boys and girls are different. Let’s please stop pretending otherwise. We complement each other and we need each other, but we aren’t the same and we don’t need to be treated the same. Equally, but not the same. Especially as a teenager, messages about individual worth – ‘you are special’ messages – were very meaningful to me, much more so than they were to my brothers. And on that note, I don’t believe that messages like that aren’t given to the men and young men.
    Life is hard. We often feel hurt and sad and worn down, and we often feel limited by expectations – our own expectations, expectations of our peers AND by our perception of other people’s expectations/opinions. That doesn’t mean we need to go looking for salt to pour on our wounds. On the whole I found this article petty and contentious.
    I apologize for the length of this comment, but I strongly oppose the message you are sending to women – to consider ourselves oppressed, to look for the negative in daily interactions, to chafe at misunderstandings rather than to correct them with love. This is not the culture in which I live or grew up and it is not the culture that I wish to promote by adopting this attitude.

  13. I would LOVE to see the men put on a fashion show. I have often thought many of our young women’s activities are frivolous and definitely not something we would ever suggest for young men.
    The babysitting thing also bugs me…
    BUT if anyone ever asked my husband before they asked me about a calling they would get an earful. I have accepted/fulfilled many callings without spouse support. It’s between me and Heavenly Father and the husband gets to decide whether or not he’s going to support Heavenly Father’s decision not whether or not I am.

  14. I agree 100% with the previous comment. It’s not important enough to discuss, and definitely not as important as choosing not to take offense when none is intended. Anyway, a lot of men who have been raised in the church have been asked #21, just read hymn #292, and as far as #27 goes, have we gotten to the point of accusing the ancient prophets of being sexist, or should we just change all the scriptures to say “people”? Also, you are narrow-minded if you think no stay-at-home father has been judged for how he and his wife have chosen to raise their family.

  15. “Whose watching the kids” is something I ask my women friends and I’m not some nutty woman-hater. And I appreciated leaders asking my husband if I would be okay with a calling or what my workload was at the time. I’ve even been asked the same questions for him when it came to callings. So I don’t think that particular question is gender-based, it’s just leaders trying to find a good fit or trying to avoid overwhelming someone. I’ve even had my dad tell the bishopric he was serving in to not give me a calling for a while (I was knee keep in young children and health problems) and I appreciated it. I’m ALWAYS willing and enthusiastic to serve, but I appreciate someone who knows my situation watching out for me and the calling itself.
    So although the questions were funny, it doesn’t make sense to nitpick at them. I could go through each one but I gotta go.
    I’m filing this one under “People Being Offended Just To Be Offended”.

  16. I can’t believe how many people are offended by this article and are saying that women shouldn’t get offended when these things happen. When I’ve had these things, most of the time I’ve chosen not to be offened and I just roll my eyes, but these things can seriously upset and hurt some women. We need to be aware that many women have had hurtful things happen to them at church and that their feelings are important and valid. Just because something isn’t a big deal to you doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal to someone else. I hate it when people act like my husband is so great because he takes care of his own kids and no one acts like I’m so great for taking care of my kids. It’s something that is changing and I’m so glad that dads are starting to be dads and not just babysitters. But it needs to be talked about in order for change to continue.

  17. These micro aggressions really are micro. They are a big deal because they are a part of the underlying message that women are less than. That they are not fully trusted to make their own decisions. My young Mormon friends tell me that they are shamed for working. They are told there is no excuse for not having a child now–or another child. Some have been shamed for getting advanced education. These are decisions that should be made at home, not over the pulpit.

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  19. Many of the comments that are obviously from active believers reminds me of why I am so thankful to be out of such an overtly sexist organization and away from all the followers that overtly support it within the culture and are so quick to invalidate the feelings of victims. It almost as if Mormons want to keep institutionalized sexism and have it thrive within the culture. Scary.

  20. These might not seem like a big deal to many people, but they are evidence of an overtly sexist church. I am a stay at home mom, by choice. I fully believe in the importance of children and motherhood. However, that does not diminish the fact that women are PEOPLE. Individuals with roles, talents, abilities, and purposes beyond motherhood and every right to pursue those things without being shamed for it.
    In addition to being a mother, I am a student. Truly, it is hurtful that people from my ward always ask me about my husband’s work and school, yet even those who know perfectly well that I am in school too don’t ask me about how my classes are going- only my husbands. I have been told both overtly and subtly that I should just be supporting my husband by running the home while he is in school and not furthering my own education.
    This attitude is abhorrent. I have been happier since going back to school. I have struggled with feelings of depression and isolation as a stay at home mom and furthering my education has helped in a way that nothing else has. Honestly, I don’t even know that I will use my degree if I don’t need to. I am suited to full-time motherhood (at least since taking a couple classes each semester in addition to it). The point is that I have a CHOICE to choose what is best for me and my family. I don’t need to stay home and fold laundry and change diapers all day. I can acknowledge the fact that I am more than a domestic servant and day care provider for my husband.

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  22. To those who are implying Dr. Banks is crafting offense when none is intended are completely missing the point.
    The church functions on a sexist structure. It is inherently designed to thus. It doesn’t need anyone to create or invent offense because he just is. By design.
    You can choose to ignore these very real issues, or maybe start to open to the idea that this is real, and hurtful. We are crippling our youth through these sexist practices. Times up. We need to shift our mindset to ACTUAL equality instead of lip service equality

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