Welcome to the post series of this blog where we respond to terrible Mormon content! Today’s article is a gem someone posted on Reddit that’s just begging to be talked about. I’m not going to pretend this post is a work of art, but it’s fun to address frustrating articles I read rather than just shake my fist over them.
In November of 2014, LDS Living posted an article called, “3 Compliments that Hurt Women More Than Help Them“. There was a lot of potential there. They could have addressed certain elements of rape culture, for example. But of course they didn’t do that.
The article starts out by shaming the mother of a returned sister missionary, who upon seeing her daughter at the airport when she got home, said, “Honey, I am so proud of you. A year and a half surrounded by French dishes and all those crepes, and you stayed so thin!”
An obvious light-hearted joke, right? Yep. But according to LDS Living, “the overall message it sent was horribly wrong. What about her year and half of devoted service to the Lord?”
I don’t know what to say here other than Get off your freaking high horse, LDS Living. Since when is it up to you to determine whether or not a mother’s joke to her daughter was appropriate or not? You do realize that since she’s LDS, there’s a reasonable chance she might read this article and feel like absolute crap, right?
LDS Living goes on to talk about selfie culture (fair enough), and how superficial compliments “encourage behaviors that are ridiculous, if not outright dangerous.” There’s no elaboration on that — no research or actual explanation for why it may be dangerous. So I can’t give them any points for it.
It’s especially fascinating that this anti-superficial attitude is portrayed by a Mormon magazine when we recently heard Elder Ballard tell women that if they wanted to get married they just needed to wear a bit of lipstick.
Moving on, the article discusses how comments about size can be damaging. I agree — they can be. That’s why I was particularly disturbed to listen to John Dehlin’s interview with Elder Ballard’s granddaughter last week. She told a heartbreaking story of when she called her grandpa for advice when she was facing a divorce. Guess what his advice was! To lose some weight. Does that scream “inspired servant of the Lord” or what?
As someone who has a rich family history of eating disorders and body dysmorphia, I am frustrated by LDS Living’s seemingly shallow understanding of weight issues. They tell a story of a woman who lost weight, received compliments for it, then continued losing weight once she was healthy and “the compliments stopped”. Therefore, LDS Living deduced, those compliments were damaging and/or to blame. I recommend you learn more about eating disorders before you try to speak as an authority on them, guys. Most people who develop legitimate eating disorders don’t do so because of compliments or a lack of them. Though, to be fair, LDS Living did say that this girl “was able to catch this unhealthy mentality before it could develop into something more serious. But, to this day, she sometimes still needs to remind herself that her pant size or that extra bite of cookie in no way reflect on who she is a person.” It might not reflect who you are as a person, but it can destroy your eternal marriage, according to Elder Ballard! So I mean . . . be careful.
I agree with this article that compliments about a person’s inner beauty are the best kind. Superficial compliments definitely have their place — it’s good to make your friend feel good about her hair or her outfit or her perfectly winged eyeliner! It’s also really good to let people know when you are grateful for their kindness, or their hard work, or any of their other noble qualities. I can’t help but feel that this post was a bit of a “content for the sake of content” piece, or just a woman wanting to sound like she gets things more than she does. Hey, we’ve all done it, girl. (Did I pull that off? Did that seem “girls sticking together-y”?)
It’s interesting that the next part of the article talks about a high school girl who was praised more for her beauty than her academic achievements. It almost sounds like the message of the post is that women shouldn’t just become wives and baby makers who don’t pursue careers in academia. (I really do despise beauty pageants though, so you get a point there, LDS Living.)
I appreciate the Elder Holland quote they then used, about how children shouldn’t feel compared to one another. Elder Holland has actually said some really good things about body image and self-esteem, and I’m grateful for that. It’s a shame that his inspired colleague, Elder Ballard, has fallen so short in that regard.
Ok, the next part of the article is my favorite. As in, it made me cringe the most. LDS Living says that compliments using the phrasing “You are just so ____” implies that a person is ONLY those things. You know, because of the “just”. Apparently they don’t understand American semantics whatsoever, because we’re all well aware that saying “You are just so cute!” IN NO WAY WHATSOEVER means, “You have absolutely nothing to offer the world other than how cute you are!” But, again — to give credit where credit is due — they do encourage more sincere, creative compliments, which is good. I wish relief society sisters had taken that advice when I was a member. It was definitely a bit uncomfortable having some drop-dead flawless girl sickly-sweetly tell me I looked beautiful on a day where WE ALL KNEW I LOOKED LIKE SHIT, CASSIE. WE ALL KNEW. NOW TELL ME HOW TO MAKE MY FACE LOOK AS SYMMETRICAL AS YOURS AND WHAT TEETH WHITENER YOU USE, BECAUSE I AM BLINDED RIGHT NOW.
P.S. I thought it was really funny that LDS Living’s compliment suggestion/example was, “Not only are you smart, you’re an incredible cook as well.” Really raising women up only to bring them back where they belong. 😉
I think the final message about not comparing yourselves to others is a good one, though I don’t love the weak arguments for the message. Whatever. I’ll give them another point, as I’ve torn down the majority of this article.
Now go and be SUPER CAREFUL about how you compliment your loved ones, guys, or LDS Living might slam you in a future post! NO JOKES ABOUT CREPES AFTER YOUR DAUGHTER GETS BACK FROM HER MISSION IN FRANCE, YOU SUPERFICIAL SINNER.