Although she’s been all over the news all week, I’ve been cautiously waiting to write more about Gabrielle Petito. Even though I kind of knew deep down that the dead body found in Wyoming would probably end up belonging to her, I hesitated to state outright that she was deceased. I didn’t want to get on the bandwagon of assumptions that people often get on in cases like hers.
I also initially couldn’t bring myself to comment much on this case. So many people were offering opinions that they were very certain about. I still didn’t feel like I had enough information, although the signs were certainly there that Gabrielle Petito was a victim of abuse perpetrated by her boyfriend. Even now, in spite of the many creepy and disturbing signs that Gabby’s boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, is an abuser and potentially a murderer, I don’t want to make that statement outright. Because, in spite of all of the damning signs, I still don’t know for sure. I can only strongly assume, and I feel like there’s enough assuming going on right now. The truth is, a lot of this story is still pretty mysterious, especially since Mr. Laundrie is still missing. At this point, he’s still just a “person of interest”.
What I do know is that abusers come in all shapes, sizes, sexes, and flavors. So, I also hesitate to be among my friends who have been posting things like this…
Also, sadly, I don’t think this is a lesson that can always be taught. Sometimes a parent can do their very best to teach their children right from wrong, and the kid still grows up to be an abuser. I think some people are just naturally prone to have bad intentions. I can think of a lot of families I’ve known… good, hardworking, decent folks… who have one or two people in their ranks that aren’t quite as upstanding as the rest of the family. So I don’t automatically put the actions of an abuser on the parents. It’s not always their fault.
I don’t know a thing about Brian Laundrie or his parents, so at this point, I really can’t judge the parents for what their son might have done to his girlfriend. But, the other day, I did watch the entire body cam video of the traffic stop involving Laundrie and Gabrielle Petito in Moab, Utah. The video was over an hour in length, so I can’t say I was watching it very intently. I do remember hearing how friendly and at ease Brian seemed to be with the police, even as Gabrielle was crying and clearly upset.
I do want to commend the cops for treating Petito and Laundrie professionally. They were especially kind to Gabby, letting her sit in air conditioning and giving her water. On the other hand, I heard the main cop, who was primarily in charge, repeatedly talking about Gabby to Brian as if they were buddies. He related his story about his own wife, who has “anxiety issues” and needs medication. I don’t think the cop’s wife’s mental health issues are necessarily relevant to this situation. It sounded to me like the officer was making some assumptions without knowing all of the facts. I can’t blame him too much for that. We all do it to some extent. I also think he truly was trying to help, which is commendable, although I think maybe he got a little too friendly with Laundrie. I wonder if the cop would have been as friendly if Laundrie and Petito weren’t young, attractive, white people.
In the wake of the video and the news about Petito’s remains being found, more people have come out to say that they saw Brian mistreating Gabby in public. But even if those people had come forward sooner, I’m not sure what could have been done. I do remember reading one account of a park ranger who told Gabby that her relationship with Brian appeared to be “toxic”. Melissa Hulls, a visitor and resource protection supervisor at Arches National Park in Utah, was among the officers who dealt with the couple when they were stopped in Utah. We don’t see much of what was said to Gabby during the stop, although I do remember hearing the officers discuss whether or not they were going to arrest her for domestic violence against Brian Laundrie. According to the link:
“I was imploring with her to reevaluate the relationship, asking her if she was happy in the relationship with him, and basically saying this was an opportunity for her to find another path, to make a change in her life,” Hulls said of Petito, who was living with Laundrie and his parents in Florida prior to the trip.
“She had a lot of anxiety about being away from him, I honestly thought if anything was going to change it would be after they got home to Florida,” Hulls added.
I remember all too well crying like Gabby in the calm, assured faces of abusers. They made it seem like I was the “crazy” one. For a long time, I felt like I was crazy. And then, when no one else was watching– or the only other witness was a “flying monkey”– the abusers would go off on a rage. I can also see a red flag in Melissa Hulls’ statement about how Gabby was afraid to be away from Brian. Abusive people like to isolate their victims. They get to the point at which they don’t think they can function on their own. That’s how the abuser wants it to be, because then the victim will always be there to take more abuse.
In the end, the cops decided not to file charges against Petito. Even if they had arrested her, I’m not sure if the outcome would have been any different in the long run. But the fact that Gabby might have been arrested is another wrinkle in this situation. Oftentimes, people who are being abused don’t want to ask for help because if they do fight back, there is a chance that they will be the ones who end up in cuffs. My husband was abused by his ex wife in just about every possible way. He never reported her behavior to the police because he knew that it was just as likely that he’d wind up in trouble. She also had him convinced that everything was his fault. In the above police body cam video, you can hear Gabby talking about how she’d made Brian angry.
Hulls adds that when the stop was made, the police officers really did think it was a mental health situation caused by the two of them being together for too long, living in austere conditions. They had no reason to believe at the time that either party was truly in any danger. More than once, I heard the police refer to Gabrielle’s diminutive size compared to Brian’s, although Brian was the one with visible injuries. And Brian was very calm and friendly, while Gabby was crying and distraught. I think it’s important for people to remember that police officers aren’t necessarily mental health experts. Their job is to assess whether or not crimes are committed and enforce the laws. But clearly, Melissa Hulls got a bad feeling about Brian Laundrie.
Another couple from Louisiana, who happened to be vacationing in Jackson, Wyoming when Gabby and Brian were passing through, remember witnessing a “commotion” at a restaurant. Nina Angelo, and her boyfriend, Matt England, saw Gabby and Brian leaving The Merry Piglets Tex-Mex restaurant on August 27th. Brian was reportedly clearly agitated and angry, going in and out of the restaurant and being abusive toward the wait staff and hostess. The waitress who took care of Gabby and Brian also experienced abuse from Brian and was very shaken. Later that same day, Gabby’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, received a strange text that supposedly came from Gabby. It was the last communication she got from her daughter.
Later, on August 29th, a couple in Wyoming gave Brian a ride. They said he offered to pay $200 for the ride, even before he got in their car. The couple said Brian told them Gabby was at the van, working on her blog. But when it turned out the couple was going to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, rather than Jackson, Brian allegedly became “very agitated” and asked them to stop the car. He got out of the vehicle near Jackson Dam, less than 30 minutes after they’d picked him up.
These signs that are surfacing now tell us that maybe people should have done more. I think it’s hard to take action in a case that doesn’t seem cut and dry. We’re taught to mind our own business and give people the benefit of the doubt… and there’s also the very real risk that the abuser will turn on those who intervene. There were a few people who did try to do something.
On August 12, someone called the police to report a domestic dispute between Petito and Laundrie. In the 911 call, the caller says “We drove by and the gentleman was slapping the girl… Then we stopped. They ran up and down the sidewalk. He proceeded to hit her, hopped in the car, and they drove off.” Another bystander named Chris reported to the police that he saw Gabby and Brian fighting in Utah. He heard Gabby say something along the lines of “Why do you have to be so mean?” He also saw Gabby punching Brian in the arm and the face, trying to take a cell phone from him. He described their interaction as “aggressive.” Below is a video by the Body Language Guy, who analyzes Laundrie’s body language.
And yet, even though all of this was going on, no one was willing or able to intervene in time to stop Gabrielle Petito’s murder. The autopsy does confirm that she was killed in a homicide. It certainly looks very much like Brian Laundrie had something to do with it. In fact, it looks like he had everything to do with it. I will be very surprised if it turns out he’s innocent. But until I know that for sure, I hesitate to say he’s asbolutely guilty of murder, because we haven’t heard the whole story yet. What I do think is clear is that he regularly abused his girlfriend and, whether or not she “gave as good as she got”, she’s the one who is definitely dead.
Of course, at this point, it looks like Brian might possibly also be deceased. He has somehow disappeared in Florida, and officials there have brought in deep divers and special equipment to see if he’s somewhere at the bottom of an alligator and snake infested swamp or something. The mystery continues.
Last night, I read the news that noted Mormon sex therapist, 49 year old Natasha Helfer, was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Helfer is the latest person to challenge some of the LDS church’s more toxic beliefs. Typically, when someone does that, especially when the someone is a female, the church responds by holding a “court of love” and kicking them out. I wonder if excommunicated members get an insulting pamphlet inviting them to come back, like my husband did when he resigned his church membership.
Helfer has said that she thinks the LDS church is targeting the mental health profession, while church officials claim that she was disciplined for her public opposition to the church’s teachings. I suspect that church officials aren’t too pleased that Helfer, who is an attractive and intelligent woman with a powerful voice, is leading members away from the counsel of the old white dudes who have been running the church since its inception. That, and Helfer obviously knows a little something about clubbing, as she said “It was so ridiculous. I was treated like I was at a club with a bouncer in it.” Helfer said that when they didn’t let her into the council with her phone, “I did not plead or beg.” It wouldn’t surprise me if her lack of pleading and begging was also offensive. Evidently, church Helfer signed an agreement that she wouldn’t record the proceedings. Church officials asked her to turn off her phone. Since she had prepared her notes on the phone, Helfer declined to turn it off and left.
While I do have a basic understanding of how important religious beliefs can be to people, I also think that Helfer is probably much too good for the LDS church and she’s better off without being constrained by church leadership. I’m sure it was painful on some level for Helfer to be excommunicated, particularly since it was such a public decision. However, I also believe that now she has the freedom she needs to be completely open and honest. It’s like her eyes have been opened to the truth. And now, she can open other people’s eyes.
According to The Washington Post, Helfer ran into issues with church officials when she started saying such horrifying things like masturbation is not a sin, pornography should not be treated as an addiction, and same-sex marriage should be supported. Church stake president, Stephen Daley, who is also Helfer’s husband’s former boss, sent Helfer a nastygram about how “negative” Helfer’s posts were toward the church and its leaders. However, Helfer’s positions are in line with what licensed mental health professionals promote. So… it sounds as if Helfer chose to be a good sex therapist rather than a good (and obedient) Mormon woman.
Helfer specifically posted on her personal Facebook account and podcast comment sections, “The last thing I want for my people is to replace one patriarchal prick for another. You can quote me on that one. Beware of any person/organization/system that assumes they know better than you about what you need.”
Daley took note of that comment and its “colorful” qualities when he chastised Helfer. To her credit, Helfer’s response was, “When will they stop calling homosexual people degenerate and perverse and unholy? They’re upset that I called them patriarchal pricks. If they want me to stop saying bad words, they need to stop calling other people bad words.”
Helfer, and other progressive Mormon therapists, noted that many of her clients were left damaged by things they heard said from the pulpit, and they are left to “pick up the pieces” when members with sexual issues that go against the church’s teachings come to them for help. And Mormons, who mostly seem to support science and research efforts, are much less progressive when it comes to issues like sexuality. Below is a video I have shared many times in my blogs about Mormonism and why I think it’s so fucked up. Here’s a reminder for those who haven’t seen it or need to refresh their memories.
And here is a more humorous take on Mormons beliefs regarding masturbation. It’s partly based on a now retired pamphlet called “To Young Man Only”, which was passed out to young men from 1976 until 2016. The pamphlet was all about how to avoid masturbation. In it, Boyd K. Packer, a former church leader, refers to “the little factory”, which causes wet dreams.
And those who haven’t died often suffer needlessly, thanks to unsound and inhumane beliefs that are promoted within the church. I dare anyone who doubts how painful and damaging this “therapy” is to read Jayce Cox’s account of his time at Evergreen, a conversion therapy program that was offered at Brigham Young University and employed electric shocks to reverse homosexuality. Cox’s experiences were featured on MTV in 2004. Evergreen is now defunct, but it was renamed North Star and revamped… and sadly, Jayce Cox, died in 2013. Prior to his death, he worked as a suicide prevention coordinator in Helena, Montana. He was a much beloved friend who died much too young.
Natasha Helfer clearly cares about her clients and doing good work that is promoted by professional mental health organizations. I congratulate her for her bravery, for I know that it’s not easy for people to leave Mormonism, particularly if one’s entire family is in the church and believes wholeheartedly in its tenets. But she’s in good company. According to The Washington Post:
Helfer’s disciplinary case follows those of at least three high-profile former members who were excommunicated from the church for apostasy. Kate Kelly, who advocated for the ordination of women in the church, was excommunicated in 2014. John Dehlin, a well-known advocate for dissenting Mormons, created a forum online to help them gather and was expelled in 2015. And Sam Young, who protested one-on-one interviews between clergy and youth, was excommunicated in 2018.
Helfer has said she plans to appeal the church’s ruling. She has thirty days to do that. Personally, I think she should just abandon the church and go on doing good work for people who need her help. Life is short, and I doubt she’s going to change the church’s stance on these issues. On the other hand, she’s definitely made some big waves… and, as famous Mormon woman Laurel Thatcher Ulrich once said, “well-behaved women seldom make history.” We’ll see what happens.
Last night, as I watched Liam Neeson kicking ass in his Taken series, I was scanning the news for interesting headlines. Sure enough, The New York Times delivered with a story about a new law set to go into effect in Utah next month. The headline read, “Utah Will Require Fathers to Help With Pregnancy Bills”. It was inspired by a law signed by Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox on March 16th, which amends Utah’s Child Support Act by “requiring any father whose paternity has been established to pay half of the mother’s insurance premiums while she is pregnant, and any related medical costs, including the birth.” The new law is set to take effect on May 5th of this year.
Utah’s new law comes from HB113, which was sponsored State Representative Brady Brammer and State Senator Daniel McCay, both of whom are Republicans. The men said they came up with this law as a way of addressing the very contentious abortion debates that have come up in recent years, as “pro-life” people try to convince the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Mr. Brammer confirmed that he hoped this bill would be sort of a “pro-life” measure, although he didn’t intend it to be about abortion, per se. It’s more that he recognizes that pregnant people are in a “really tough spot, making a really tough decision.” In other words, he acknowledges that many women decide to terminate their pregnancies because of the high cost of being pregnant and giving birth. Personally, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that Mr. Brammer acknowledges that simple fact. It’s true– fathers’ names aren’t the ones on the medical bills when it comes to pregnancy, and since they are responsible for making women pregnant, theoretically, they should be paying.
On the surface, this new law, which may be the nation’s first stand-alone law to mandate prenatal child support, sounds like a good thing. In fact, given the culture of Utah, I can see why prenatal child support has now been made a state law. Utah is a state full of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and Mormons are famously pro-marriage and family– as long as the marriage and family involves a man and a woman… or women, as they case may be. Utah is historically not so tough on polygamist families. However, once I started thinking about the law, I realized that it could cause some problems. And then I looked at the comment section, and sure enough, I saw how this new law could end up complicating matters for a lot of women. The first point made in the story, in fact, illustrates that the new law doesn’t directly assist pregnant women and could tie them to abusive partners.
In Utah, a person who is considering having an abortion must wait 72 hours and receive “counseling”. The counseling includes information that is designed to discourage abortion, rather than allowing pregnant people to simply hear the facts about the procedure and determine the right course of action for themselves. Supposedly, if the woman also has some help paying the bills, that might also convince her to have the baby instead of terminating the pregnancy. That is probably true in some cases, although it doesn’t address the fact that some women just plain don’t want to be pregnant or go through childbirth, particularly if the baby is the product of a tryst with someone she doesn’t know or care about. While adoption is still an option for people who don’t wish to parent their offspring, a lot of pregnant people decide not to choose adoption. They have some good reasons for not choosing that path, too. Frankly, if I were pregnant and didn’t want a baby, I would probably not choose adoption over abortion. But I have always wanted to have kids and didn’t get the chance.
Looking at the comment section, I saw many men opining that thanks to this law, men might FINALLY have a say in forcing women to birth babies when they don’t wish to be pregnant. After all, if he’s paying his fair share, shouldn’t he be able to dictate that the woman stay pregnant? Personally, I don’t think so. It’s still her body that is being used as a vessel. It’s still her health on the line. It’s her kidneys and bladder being danced upon in the middle of the night, and her nether regions that will be ripped apart as the baby passes through the birth canal… and it’s her blood pressure that might rise to unhealthy levels that could lead to a stroke and permanent disability or even death. Financial support from fathers is a very good and necessary thing for pregnant people, but it’s still not an equalizer of the situation at hand when it comes to making babies.
The bill would also require the paternity to be confirmed. There are situations in which the paternity can’t be confirmed, or perhaps the pregnant person does not wish to identify the father. In those situations, the mother would presumably still be paying her own bills. Although I know that there are initiatives that exist that encourage mothers to identify the fathers of their babies– mainly so that the government can go after deadbeat fathers. I was once interviewed for a job that would have had me encouraging new mothers to name the fathers of their babies if they hadn’t already. It wasn’t about involving dads, though. It was mainly about money, and preventing mothers from using welfare or other social safety nets.
If you’ve followed my story, you know that I’m very much in favor of father’s rights, once the babies are born. Even if the mother thinks the father is a total shithead, I think the father should have rights. After all, in most situations, the women chose the fathers of their children when they consented to having sex with them. And before anyone jumps my shit, let me reiterate that I also know that there are exceptions. In fact, the exceptions are one reason why I strongly believe in a person’s right to have an abortion. However, if the baby is born, and there is a father, and he wants to be in the baby’s life, I think it should be allowed and encouraged. If fathers had stronger rights when Bill’s kids were young and Bill could have feasibly gotten custody of his daughters, maybe they wouldn’t have gone through all they did. And I write that knowing that Bill also chose a poor mother for his daughters.
However, I don’t think the time leading up to parenthood is the same for males and females. Men do their part at the time of conception. So many of them do choose to walk away from their responsibilities, and it seems that a lot of them either never think twice about it or don’t ever know the difference because they’re never told about the pregnancy. Either way, once they’ve fertilized the egg, their path to parenthood involves waiting and, if they’re a decent sort or the relationship is amicable, supporting the woman through the pregnancy. Women, on the other hand, have to deal with the physical, emotional, mental, and hormonal effects of being pregnant. Some of it, I’ve heard, is pretty amazing and interesting. A lot of it is unpleasant or even dangerous. All of it is potentially very expensive.
Anyway… it wouldn’t be one of my blog posts without a few reactions from the peanut gallery. Here are some of the unedited comments that made me laugh, scratch my head, or feel genuine concern for the people of Utah who will be testing this new law. As you can see, reactions ran the gamut. Some people, whose comments I didn’t include, were aghast because they live in countries where this isn’t an issue because healthcare is a fundamental right, rather than an overpriced privilege.
Agreed, however this is more about Mormons and polygamy than it is about a cultural problem with men taking paternal responsibility for creating children. It’s Utah. (probably)
When I was pregnant in the 80’s I was told that the most dangerous time in a women’s life was when she was pregnant. This just makes it more dangerous to be a woman. (this could be true, too… there will be some men that won’t pay and will think murder is a better solution)
That’s a start. The impregnator should also pay all the funeral expenses, if the pregnant woman dies from complications caused by the pregnancy. The impregnator should also be assessed a portion of the funds necessary to care for any underage children the pregnant woman might have as a result of other impregnators, since she’s no longer alive to contribute her share of support for those children.
Story cut out on me but that’s what I’m talking about. And don’t stop with pregnancy bills. Get some hard and fast bills on the floor to make sure these fathers are paying child support. Real child support; not 5.25/wk you (I, anyway) see these moms receiving. Of course, women are more susceptible to being murdered by an alleged love one during pregnancy than any other time. Maybe we need to rethink that whole mandatory vasectomy thing. Do it at age 15 – when they’re mature enough, and wish to start a family, reverse it. After all, a male can impregnate multiple women a day if he were so inclined whereas a woman if going to produce 1 child in 40 weeks. (side note– not all vasectomies are reversible. I know this from Bill’s experience. I would NEVER support mandatory vasectomies, for the same reason I support a woman’s right to have an abortion. No one should have a say over another person’s bodily autonomy.)
Utah is creative in its efforts to allow men to control women’s reproduction.
I have a strong feeling were going to be seeing a lot of fathers move out of Utah and make it a strictly women only state.
They should make this retroactive. It would bankrupt the LDS Church.
Great, as long as the putative father has the right to demand an abortion. (make up your minds, guys…)
But they don’t get any say about abortion.
So are they having a voice on abortion or not ? (Why is this so important?)
Good….now it paves the way for father’s to have a say in abortion too.
Nice. Can fathers block abortions now? Accountability is a two way street. (not in cases of rape or incest, you cave dwelling twit.)
Great, but also should have concent before his baby is murdered as well.
They should be able to veto abortion decisions then. Their money their choice. (This comment got a shitload of replies. Why do so many people seem to think that an investment of money trumps everything? This guy seems to think that paying money for pregnancy and pre-natal support is akin to paying a prostitute.)
So the father has to pay half the medical bills (I agree because he helped make that baby) but the father has no say if the mother wants to commit murder and have an abortion? (ABORTION ISN’T MURDER!)
If guys have no say in preventing an abortion, then they shouldn’t be forced to pay pre baby costs. (They DO have a say. Don’t have sex with a woman with whom you don’t wish to make babies.)
And just like that – the words “it doesn’t feel as good with a condom” were never said in Utah ever again… (bwahahaahaa!)
This is what happens when you let men set the “birthing” agenda. Next thing you know, we’ll be requiring DNA testing of every fetus to determine the father. How long is that gonna take, who’s gonna pay for it and what if a woman refuses to name the father, or the man she names refuses to provide a sample? Too ridiculous. (I think she’s right.)
First, how do you establish paternity before birth? Second, does this give the presumed father the right to monitor the woman’s pregnancy and behavior? Will he have a say in the birth plan? Is he allowed to attend medical appointments? Will he be there for the birth? Or does he just get to foot the bill with the mother? What if the mother doesn’t desire or need his assistance? This could go south really quickly. (Yep… this was my thought, too.)
As long as the mother and fetus can be on my family insurance during the pregnancy then I don’t have a problem with it. The problem is that if I’m not married to the woman, how can she be on my insurance? (this guy is clearly NOT a mental giant… dude, maybe you shouldn’t be having sex with people to whom you aren’t married, if her not being on your “family insurance” is a concern? In fairness to him, he did come back and clarify, showing that he’s not really as dumb as that comment seems… Besides, the law indicates that the man must pay half of the woman’s health insurance premium, not put her on his insurance. And with a pregnancy rider, that’s probably gonna be pricey.)
And one guy, whose comment I can no longer find, said he was fine with the new law as long as a woman didn’t “trap” him into being a father. Now– I know for a fact that men CAN be raped, but the odds of a male rape leading to pregnancy are pretty small. I think the bigger issue is convincing men to use condoms and/or not have sex so freely with women they don’t wish to make babies with. I doubt being trapped in fatherhood is a real thing for the vast majority of men, if the man is being responsible.
There were many more comments, but I don’t have all day to share them. Bill was up very late last night, working in the office. We got a late start this morning and I want to practice guitar and do some reading. Anyway, after March’s visit from Aunt Flow, which was a bit irregular, I realize that this is an issue that really won’t affect me at all for much longer… and probably doesn’t affect me now, if I’m honest. It’ll be interesting to see what Utah does with this new legislation and how it changes things in the Beehive State. I’ll be watching for the headlines.
This is a reposted book review I wrote for Epinions.com in May 2006. It’s being reposted as/is.
“The choice to believe or disbelieve, that’s what makes you free.”
I didn’t know it when I purchased it last week, but the book I’m going to review today, Martha Beck’s Leaving The Saints: How I Lost The Mormons And Found My Faith (2005) made a lot of waves when it came out last year. Of course, having never been a Mormon myself, I had no reason to be scandalized by the subject matter in Martha Beck’s book, nor did I have an inkling that I would be reading a somewhat scathing indictment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I didn’t know anything about Martha Beck or her famous father, Hugh Nibley. While I don’t claim to be anywhere near an expert on the subject of Mormonism, I have known a few members of the church in my lifetime and most of them have, at least on the surface, been fine people. In fact, I even married a member of the LDS church, although he very recently formally resigned from the faith. In any case, I was looking for something interesting to read when I found Martha Beck’s book, and indeed, I did find something interesting.
Leaving The Saints begins in the early 1990s, as Martha Beck and her husband, John, decided to move back to Provo, Utah after their second child, Adam, was born with Down Syndrome. They left their home in Massachusetts, even though Martha was finishing up her doctoral degree in sociology at Harvard University. The Becks longed for the security and sense of community they would get in Provo, Utah, where both John and Martha had grown up and where many of their family members still lived. They knew their son, Adam, would be universally accepted by their neighbors and they would be around people who would understand and support them. Like most of the people living in Provo, the Becks were devout Mormons. Martha Beck is the daughter of the late Hugh Nibley, a very famous and much revered man in LDS circles.
Beck writes that when she and her husband arrived in Provo, they were given the sort of enthusiastic welcome they had been expecting when they made their decision to move. Both Martha and John Beck started teaching at Brigham Young University (BYU); Martha taught on a part time basis while she finished up her doctorate. Before too long, she and John welcomed their third child, a girl named Elizabeth. For awhile, the Becks assimilated into life in Utah.
Beck became disenchanted with Mormonism when she started to discover how much the LDS church influenced the curriculum at BYU. She watched many of her most brilliant and talented colleagues get fired from their jobs simply for voicing opinions that undermined the church’s teachings. She both experienced and witnessed blatant gender bias on the job and claims that the church actually censored controversial topics. Despite the fact that she worked in what she describes as a very repressive environment, Beck counseled her students to question whatever didn’t ring true to them. However, according to Beck, BYU was not the intellectual bastion it was purported to be, as professors anxious about losing their jobs stifled themselves in order to keep church officials happy.
The bigger bombshell within this memoir, of course, is the fact that Beck openly accuses her father, the beloved Hugh Nibley, of sexually abusing her when she was a child. She writes about the memories of the abuse, which she recalled after she and her husband moved back to Utah. She also writes about some of the physical evidence of the abuse which was supposedly discovered during medical exams. Because Hugh Nibley was so well regarded within the LDS church, this aspect of the memoir is particularly scandalous, and if what Beck writes is true, quite damning.
Beck confronted her father before he died and intersperses the story of how that meeting went between anecdotes about her marriage, career, children, and the local culture. Toward the end of the book, she writes the story of how she and her husband left Mormonism and Utah. Evidently, the couple was forced to start their lives anew once they resigned from the faith. By Beck’s account, they were lucky enough to have the ability to start over elsewhere; apparently, other LDS members who doubt the veracity of the church do not have that luxury, mostly due to career or family constraints.
I found Beck’s writing to be very colorful and interesting; in fact, it was also often very funny, even as she lambasted the LDS church and made serious sexual abuse allegations against her father. Although at times Beck’s writing has a sarcastic, angry flavor, she’s able to temper her edginess with humor and warmth. Beck uses a lot of hyperbole to get her point across, which may actually make her account less believable to some readers. After all, when a person often exaggerates in order to make a point, it becomes harder to know where the exaggeration stops and reality begins. However, even though Martha Beck accuses her father of molesting her, I still got the idea that she still loved him and on some level, respected him. Even as she confronts him, she still is able to relate to him in a bittersweet way.
Before I read Leaving The Saints, I had heard of Hugh Nibley, but I didn’t really associate anything with him, positive or negative. For instance, I did not know that Hugh Nibley was a revered LDS apologist and scholar, nor did I know anything about his distinguished career at Brigham Young University, the premier institution of higher learning among devout Mormons. More importantly, I had also never heard of Martha Beck, herself a Harvard educated scholar, author of several books, Oprah Winfrey darling, columnist, and life coach. This is important, because in the few days it has taken me to read Beck’s book, Leaving The Saints, I have run across a number of different opinions about the book. Some people have praised it, calling it a moving, well-written memoir and heralding Beck as a brave heroine for sharing her intensely personal story. Other people have called the book an unfair, inaccurate, and hurtful attack against the LDS church and Hugh Nibley. I want to note that many of the people whose opinions I’ve read have had some direct exposure to the LDS church, either as current or past members. Again, I’ve never been a member of the church, so I’ve based my opinion only on how I feel about the book, instead of trying to determine whether or not Beck has written the truth.
Frankly, whether or not Leaving The Saints is an entirely true account, I found it a fascinating and engaging read. It appears to me, however, that if Beck did not write the truth, she paid quite a price for writing this book. First of all, Martha Beck and her husband, John Beck, are now divorced, a fact that she does not reveal in Leaving The Saints. John Beck has even posted a negative review of Leaving The Saints on Amazon.com, claiming that she lied about some of the content. Secondly, Beck’s family has publicly come out against her, accusing her of lying about the alleged sexual abuse. I don’t know if Martha Beck is telling the truth or not. At this point, I have no reason to disbelieve her, since I don’t know anything about her aside from what I’ve read. And again, since my religious faith is not being attacked in this book, I have no reason to criticize what Beck has written about the LDS church. I can only base my opinion about her allegations against the church on what I’ve heard and read about from other people. Based on those aspects alone, I’m inclined to believe at least most of Beck’s story. Even if what she wrote isn’t entirely true, it’s still a hell of a story.
That leaves me to explain the title of this review. I found the above quote toward the end of Leaving The Saints. John Beck had just resigned his church membership and it had been all over the local news. Martha Beck was still a member in good standing and was moderating a women’s issues forum being held at BYU. The forum was discussing domestic violence and sexual abuse in a roundabout way. Some of the attendees were getting upset, claiming that no one on the panel had ever experienced sexual abuse and therefore none of them knew what they were talking about. Martha Beck had, up until that point, been portrayed to the women as a blueblooded Mormon above reproach, even though her husband had just left the church and privately, she was often “counseled” about her outspokenness. As the angry women in the crowd continued to grumble among themselves, Martha Beck stood up and announced to the attendees that she was an incest survivor. And after she told them about her personal experience as an incest survivor, she said those empowering words, “Choose to believe or disbelieve, that’s what makes you free.”
The aftermath of Beck’s public confession was not exactly what she had expected it to be. After the conference, she was swarmed by appreciative women who thanked her for sharing her story. Now that her story is in print, many others have also thanked her for sharing her story. It’s clear to me that even if Martha Beck hasn’t told the truth, she has helped a lot of people who have lived with the shame of sexual abuse and moved many others who haven’t lived that unfortunate reality. If she has unfairly tarnished her late father’s name, I suspect she will answer for that someday.
I doubt most devout Mormons, especially those who admired Hugh Nibley’s work, would enjoy reading Leaving The Saints. Martha Beck certainly does not cast the LDS church in a flattering light and I suspect that many Mormons will feel that she is attacking their beliefs. Personally, I liked this book. Now that I’ve finished it, my husband Bill will read it and hopefully he will add his own review from the perspective of someone who has direct experience with Mormonism.
This morning, as my eyes were opening to another Friday, I checked my Facebook notifications. I noticed I got a comment from someone I don’t know. It was in response to a comment I made five days ago on a conservative friend’s meme.
I usually try not to comment too much on other people’s political posts. The reason why I have that policy is because I’ve found that I don’t enjoy getting sucked into arguments with people I don’t know. I also think it’s kind of rude to try to impress my opposing views on someone else’s page. I’d rather do that on my own page or on my blog. But I couldn’t help myself… because not only did I disagree with the meme, I also got triggered by poor spelling.
My response to this meme was “*your… and many people hate him for good reason.” When my friend wrote that she hadn’t written the meme and knows the difference between “you’re” and “your”, I explained that one of my pet peeves is when something is supposedly shared as “wisdom”, but isn’t even properly written. Ordinarily, I do scroll past, but sometimes I slip.
I think this particular post was about Trump, although this same friend also posted how disgusted she is that people are “celebrating” Rush Limbaugh’s death. That post has, at this writing, swelled to over 119 comments, with some people trying to justify their negative opinions and feelings, and others shaming them for having and expressing them. A healthy smattering of “I wasn’t his biggest fan, but…” comments were also included.
This morning, I noticed the comment I made on the above post five days ago got a response from some confrontational guy I don’t know. He wrote:
Hate who and what good reason?
And my response was, “You should have asked me five days ago. “
I don’t like it when people revive stuff that died ages ago. It’s like having a conversation with someone and, a few days later, having some uninvolved stranger ask me about it. I also don’t like it when some stranger confronts me for my response to a friend. Dude, I wasn’t talking to you, and if you wanted to address my thoughts on Mr. Trump, you should have done it before the discussion effectively ended days ago.
I think this guy was just feeling energized and wanted to stir up some shit. My hunch was confirmed when I noticed his comments on the aforementioned Limbaugh thread. I did not comment on that thread myself, but I can see that it generated a lot of controversy. Most of the comments were made by women, and most of the women are quite intelligent and articulate. Naturally, intelligent and articulate comments from women sometimes invite dumb commentary from mansplaining men. One lady wrote this:
I adore you, but I don’t think it’s fair to condemn people that hate Rush and celebrate his death. This is a man who celebrated the death of gay people from AIDS on air with whistles etc. That is just one example of his heinous behaviour. Some people are entitled to their hatred of him and that is a good and healthy thing. My brother in law is gay and men like Rush have attacked him intending to cause harm. So no pity, no sorrow or sympathy for him and his family. He had no sympathy for other people’s families when he mocked and celebrated their deaths. Everyone has a story and we shouldn’t judge before we know it.
The same guy who confronted me about my comment had this to say to the woman who defended those who disliked Rush Limbaugh and are glad he’s dead. He wrote:
Have we become so polarizes that we no longer offer grace to those who repent publicly. He apologized and said that that was “the most regretful thing Ive ever done. “He was on radio waves 3 hours a day for 30 years. Of course, he, like anyone else, is going to say something regretful. Can you honestly say that you didn’t say something 20-30 years ago that today would be considered hateful? More than that, have you ever been offered the gift of forgiveness? Maybe I’ve got you all wrong. Maybe you are the shining jewel of perfection in this sea of scum and villany in the world…idk..maybe you’ve never had to have been forgiven. But if you have, maybe, for the sake of unity, stop celebrating the death of human or promoting it. Hatred only produces more hatred.
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. There is a HUGE difference between saying something regrettable once or twice 30 years ago, and saying regrettable things EVERY DAY for over 30 years. Apologies are all well and good, but they are absolutely meaningless if the bad behavior continues. I don’t think Rush Limbaugh ever seriously repented. He still said a lot of really offensive and fucked up shit that hurt people. As someone who clearly honors the “good book”, the dude who was shaming those who were cheering about Rush’s death might want to remember that age old proverb from the Bible. You reap what you sow.
Personally, I didn’t follow Rush Limbaugh. I remember hearing his program at my granny’s house and my father watching his show on TV in the 1990s. I could barely stand to listen to him, so I didn’t pay attention to, and consequently wasn’t affected by, the more inflammatory things he said. Other people did listen, and a lot of them didn’t like what they heard. They were hurt and offended by Rush Limbaugh. Conversely, some people loved what Rush said, and are genuinely sad that his life is finished.
I think both groups have the right to have and express their opinions. I’d want and expect people to respect my right to have and state my own opinions. I can’t, in good conscience, want and expect that for myself and not for others. I can understand why many people legitimately hated Limbaugh and are glad he’s dead. I can also understand why others loved what he had to say, even if I disagree.
In yesterday’s post, I wrote that I am not in any of the groups Rush openly mocked. One of my readers corrected me, saying that as a woman, I am in a group Rush mocked. She says he was a misogynist. She’s probably right about that, but when I made that comment, I meant that I’m not in any of the groups that Rush had a special habit of tormenting, like homosexuals and people of color. But then, I do call myself the “overeducated housewife”, and I realize that Rush probably would have ridiculed me for that. Lots of people do. In yesterday’s post, I included a video of Rush insulting a woman he considered “overeducated” as opposed to “intelligent”. I disagree with Rush Limbaugh that the woman wasn’t intelligent, as well as educated, but kudos to him for sort of understanding the term “overeducated” as I view it.
I have gotten LOTS of shit from people about the name of my blog, especially in the military community. Many people in the military community like to laugh at those they think of as “butthurt”, although they don’t seem to like it so much when they get labeled and laughed at the same way. They also like to make fun of anyone who doesn’t fit the norm. God forbid you’re an intelligent woman who went to graduate school and dared to marry a man in the military. The people who are offended by my blog’s title probably hate people like me even more than they hate so-called “dependas“.
Smart women can be most threatening to men in the military culture because they’re not as easily controlled or impressed by them. And despite their bravado and the hot air they spew about their service, I have found that underneath that exterior, a lot of them are closed-minded cowards. For instance, instead of actually talking to me and finding out the origin of my blog’s name, these narrow minded folks will simply make assumptions about the kind of person they think I am.
They’ll assume I’m arrogant and disdainful, looking down on them for not going to college. They will hate me for existing and having a voice. They have no problem trying to put me in my place, sometimes aggressively, and with hateful, misogynistic language like Rush Limbaugh’s. And then, when I respond in a way that ends up embarrassing or humiliating them, many of them do, indeed, get quite “butthurt” about it. I’ve been blocked by them so many times! It’s not just the men, though. Some of the women hate me, too. Not only do I have three degrees and work as a “housewife” (horrors), but I also never managed to have any children! I’m also fat, not particularly pretty, probably a lousy lay, and I don’t put out very often. So what the hell good am I? (/facetious)
The people who have given me a hard time about the name of my blog are mostly folks who haven’t stopped to wonder why anyone would call themselves “overeducated”. For those who do wonder about that, here’s an explanation of why I titled my blog “The Overeducated Housewife”. I am a housewife. I have three college degrees. I don’t need three college degrees to do what I do every day. I am literally overeducated for my lot in life.
People have pointed out to me that it’s “impossible” to be overeducated. It may surprise them to know that, in theory, I agree with them. The name of my blog wasn’t meant to be taken so seriously or literally. And I never thought it might cause annoyance or offense, because when I first started writing it, I didn’t share it with others. The title was meant to be taken tongue in cheek, and was just something I came up with one day. I’m not the first or even the only person to call a blog “the overeducated housewife”, either. However, I probably am the most persistent and prolific one.
I was cleaning the toilets one day in March 2010. We were living in Georgia, and my husband was still on active duty. We had only just moved to Georgia, having come from Germany, and I knew we would soon be moving again, as Fort McPherson was going to be closing. I knew our time at the next installation, which turned out to be Fort Bragg, would also be short. So there was really no reason to try to get my career launched, because I knew I might spend months job hunting, only to have to move yet again.
As I squirted blue toilet detergent into the commode and commenced to cleaning and disinfecting, it occurred to me that I’d spent seven years in college, fully expecting to launch a paying career. Then I fell in love with a soldier, married him, and commenced to moving multiple times. It would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for me to launch a career in the field I trained for in graduate school and still be with my husband, so I eventually decided to just be a housewife. Then I started writing, which is what I’d wanted to do in the first place. I don’t make a lot of money doing what I do, and some perspective challenged people would say I don’t really have a job or even a “purpose”. But it’s all worked out fine, even if it’s not what I planned for myself.
If I had known that I would be vacuuming and scrubbing toilets instead of being a public health social worker, I certainly would not have gone to graduate school. Not that I regret the experience, mind you. I learned a lot, proved to myself that I could do it, and had some truly excellent experiences. But I would have preferred to save the money. It seems like I wasted a lot of time on something that didn’t come to fruition in the way I hoped it would. On the other hand, I can’t truthfully say that I don’t use that education. So maybe it wasn’t such a waste.
I think the guy who called me out and took another one of our mutual Facebook friend’s friends to task is a bit “perspective challenged”. It’s obvious that he’s one of the people who liked Rush Limbaugh’s messages. Or, even if he wasn’t a Rush Limbaugh fan, he feels compelled to check and correct the thoughts, opinions, and behaviors of other people. He’s obviously uncomfortable letting people be who they are. I wonder why that is.
It may be time to close this post, as I’ve pontificated quite a bit already. However, in the interest of annoying those who don’t like that I get “hung up” on comments and like to criticize me for that, I’m going to relay another story. I hope you’ll bear with me, even though this part probably warrants a new post.
This morning in my Facebook memories, I noticed a post that got quite contentious. It was from seven years ago, when Bill and I lived in Texas. He was just a few months from retirement and we were about to experience one of the worst summers of our lives before we finally moved back to Germany. At that time, I was still kind of fixated on Mormonism and resentful of people who felt it was their duty to “correct” other people’s morals.
I had shared an article from the Salt Lake Tribune about a woman named Judy Cox. She was in the news because she’d been shopping with her 18 year old son at the University Mall in Orem, Utah, when she noticed some t-shirts on display at a store called PacSun. Cox didn’t like the t-shirts. She found them “indecent” and akin to pornography. So she complained to the store manager, requesting that they be removed from the window display. The manager told Mrs. Cox that the shirts couldn’t be removed without approval from the corporate office. So Cox decided that she would take matters into her own hands. She bought every single t-shirt, spending about $567. She vowed that she would eventually return them at the end of the store’s 60-day return period.
The photo that accompanied the news article was pretty funny. Judy Cox wore an expression of utter disgust. She looked like someone had just taken a dump in her living room or something. I thought it was funny, so I proceeded to make fun of Judy Cox’s photo. I will admit, it wasn’t particularly mature behavior on my part, but I have never claimed to be a super mature person, especially on social media. A few others joined in and we enjoyed some laughs.
Well… it wasn’t long before we felt the wrath of Papa Smurf. His name wasn’t really Papa Smurf. I just called him that because a lot of us knew him from Epinions.com and he often acted like he wanted to be everybody’s daddy and the voice of reason. If you’ve read my blogs for any length of time, you might know that I disdain “overly helpful voice of reason” types. I may act like an adolescent sometimes, but I already have a mom and dad and I’m 48 fucking years old. If I’m not grown up yet, it’s probably not gonna happen.
Anyway, Papa Smurf, who was visiting my page, wrote this:
Talk about teen kids bullying on a web site. Some of you need to look at yourselves. Just because this woman took an action you may not believe in, doesn’t mean you need to disrespect her in personal ways. Just sayin’.
Horrors! I just got upbraided by Papa Smurf. I wasn’t impressed, so I posted “Thanks for the lecture.”
A couple of other people chimed in, rejecting Papa Smurf’s self-righteous discipline. One person, who had insinuated that Cox had a stick up her ass, wrote “You mean like the sharp pointy stick? I confess I don’t know for a fact that she has one.”
Papa Smurf came back, still a bit butthurt, since his attempt to check us hooligans hadn’t worked and we weren’t suitably chastened. He wrote:
You mean about disrespecting this woman in many ways because she has a different mindset than many of you. No, I don’t believe the ends justifies the meanness. I could respect those who would express why they differ in views in regard to her actions but this petty vindictiveness shows a dark side to our supposed new and enlightened world.
Incidentally, Papa Smurf is a card carrying Trumper and probably mourns Rush Limbaugh. He’s no longer a “friend”, so I don’t know if he is or isn’t a Limbaugh fan. It wouldn’t surprise me, though, if he is upset that Rush died and people are dancing in the streets about it.
I wrote this in response to Papa Smurf:
I’m sure she is a very nice lady when she’s not scowling over piles of t-shirts that she claims are indecent. In the above photo, she genuinely looks like a barrel of laughs. Frankly, all she’s done is draw more attention to the product she seeks to have banned which kind of defeats her stated goals. I don’t see what is respectable about that. I also tend to be disrespectful toward people who presume to tell other adults what is and isn’t appropriate. It’s her choice to waste her money if she wants to, but I don’t have to respect her for it.
And Papa Smurf wrote, “Please spare me. Be well.” (ugh… where’s my violin?)
You would think this would be the end of the shamefest, right? But it wasn’t. Although he kept saying he was leaving, he continued to read and respond to the comments. One person eventually called Papa Smurf out for bullying us with his overbearing shaming and lecturing. Not willing to honor his comment that he’d be taking his leave, Papa Smurf wrote:
…if you read the article you would know she had no plans to keep the merchandise. Upset? You ask. I suppose reading she needs to get laid. Needs beers. Has a stick supporting her and all just didn’t sit right. As you were. Enjoy yourselves. I spoke my mind and now I’m atta here.
(actually, I didn’t say she needed beers… I said she’s a “case”– as in, one needs a case of beer to wake up next to her every morning… I suspect Papa Smurf is also a “case”.)
My friend hilariously quipped, “Aw, c’mon–please *stick* around. “
And Papa Smurf wrote, “I see you fidget to finally read the article. Again bye to all .” (huh?)
I tried to send him off with this… “Have fun riding your moral high horse off into the sunset.”
Another commenter wrote she thought it was funny that Papa Smurf got “chased off”. Papa Smurf didn’t like that, either, so he wrote rather maudlinly:
Chased off? Hardly. I just know I don’t belong at the “cool” table. (yeah, I’d say so…)
Then someone else attempted to validate Papa Smurf’s concerns about how “adolescent” we were being about this subject. Papa Smurf appreciated that, so he wrote this:
Your word, “adolescent,” is definitely a better discription. My point and yours seem to agree in that though we may disagree with someone, there’s no need to revert to “adolescents.” Cheap personal shots to me is disrespectful, doesn’t strengthen an argument and adds to divisiveness. Thank you for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts in a clear thoughtful manner. (He’s thanking her for “stopping by” on my page? Does he go to other people’s homes and thank random visitors for “stopping by? What is he, a sovereign citizen?)
Ooh! A treat for the commenter who was giving Papa Smurf some credence! But it didn’t last long, because I finally got completely fed up and wrote this comment, which effectively shut down the tit for tat mansplaining bullshit:
Oh for God’s sake. I confess I often act like an adolescent and am generally not the most polite person in the world. Anyone who knows me well, already knows this about me. This is my Facebook page, though, and I feel free to post whatever I want on it and make whatever snarky comments I want to make. If you have a problem with that, hit the unfriend button. I guarantee that much worse things about this woman have been said and written elsewhere. As a general rule, I don’t go on other people’s pages and leave them self-righteous comments about the things they post. As rude as my comments may have been, I think publicly shaming someone on Facebook is also very rude.
Seriously… it started out as harmless funny banter about a woman’s over the top reaction to t-shirts that she thought were obscene. Judy Cox took it upon herself for decide for everyone else what is or is not morally acceptable. Who appointed her judge and jury of what is appropriate in fashion merchandising? While she was within her rights to buy up all the t-shirts, I take exception to her attitude that she needs to be the morality police for everyone else. It looks like she fully cooperated with being in the news, too. She’s probably the one who called the media, and it’s obvious that she willingly posed for the above photograph, complete with disgusted scowl. Moreover, her action was futile, because PacSun doesn’t care why she bought the shirts. They care that they got her money, and they no doubt sent a new shipment of shirts to the Orem store. And even if she did return them, all she really did was give them free advertising and make herself look like an uptight busybody. So yes, it was stupid on her part, and her “church lady” fart expression does make me think she badly needs to get laid. But then, I probably need to get laid, too.
Either way, no one wants or needs some random guy to come along to lecture everyone about their thoughts and opinions. Save that crap for your (minor) kids. Papa Smurf has much in common with the guy up post who was appealing to our sense of shame about Rush Limbaugh’s death. You may find it vulgar and disgusting to laugh at people, particularly those who have died. I often feel that way myself. But when it comes down to it, especially if you’re a religious person, your opinions about me are none of my business. God is the ultimate judge. I am not a particularly religious person anyway. Moreover, I guess it’s alright if you think I’m an asshole. I can’t help what you think. You have the right to your opinions, too. Please respect my right to my opinions and spare me the confrontations. I’d rather have a pap smear than be constructively criticized by some random guy who thinks I should be ashamed of myself. My days of tolerating that from anyone are OVER.
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