The Calculated Suppression of Misogyny: Or, the Real Story of My Involvement in L’affaire de William Schryver
William Schryver, a Mormon apologist known for his participation on several Mormon-themed message boards and for delivering a presentation on the Kirtland Egyptian Papers at the 2010 FAIR Conference, has a new post at his personal blog called, “The Calculated Suppression of Mormon Apologetics: The Case of William Schryver.” His post is, in part, a response to a thread that I posted at the Mormon Discussions forum in May 2011, and it contains some false information about me and the thread I created. This post is my attempt at setting the record straight.
As I have mentioned elsewhere, I have a long history of cordial relationships with Mormon apologists which stretches back into the late 90s, when I was 16 or 17. I did not become aware of William Schryver until September 2009. Between that point and mid-2010, I did not interact with him, but I did observe, and what I saw amazed me. William’s behavior towards other participants on MormonDiscussions.com (hereon MDB) was frequently, aggressively vulgar and rude. Sure, there were back-and-forths where other posters were rude to him first, but often it was William who threw the first punch (so to speak), and he would do it even to the politest of posters.  I was very alarmed to see such behavior radiating from someone who claimed to represent a Christian church. 
What came to trouble me most about William was the way he treated female posters. His response to female posters was to sexualize them by invoking their ages, their appearance, their attractiveness to him, or their bodies, in addition to using gendered slurs against them. Part of the reason I offered William no serious engagement prior to creating my thread on him in May 2011 was because I honestly feared that, if I did so, I would become the target of such attacks.
Almost as troubling as the behavior I was observing from William was the lack of response from the LDS apologetics community. Daniel C. Peterson, for example, had logged thousands of posts at MDB, yet had not said a single word about the way his friend was behaving. Other apologists would simply post around William’s behavior as though it had not happened. When William was added to the speaker line-up at the 2010 FAIR Conference, and as he began to boast of upcoming publications with the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, I really began to wonder what my LDS friends were thinking. After all, qui tacet consentire videtur. By embracing William without commenting on his behavior, my friends seemed to be tacitly endorsing vulgarity, incivility, and misogyny. However, I wanted to give my friends the benefit of the doubt. Few apologists posted at MDB. Perhaps most of them were honestly unaware of William’s penchant for such behavior.
Between July 2010 and March 2011, I spoke in private with several friends who are involved with LDS apologetics. I brought up my concerns with William’s behavior and the lack of response from the apologetics community. From them I ascertained that multiple people had attempted to broach the subject with William in private, only to be rebuffed by him, often to the tune of melodramatic accusations of treachery. It seemed impossible that my concerns could be resolved quietly, so I decided that further action was necessary.
In mid-April 2011, I began drafting the thread which would later be posted as “Mormon Apologetics & Misogyny: The Case of William Schryver.” Within it, I attempted to collect some of the offensive, sexist, and misogynist things which William had said to the female posters of MDB. I presented this with sub-sections, a table of contents, and links to the original context of every single statement I used, in order to preempt accusations of misrepresentation or of taking citations out of context. I firmly believed that the original context did nothing to rescue William’s material from an assessment of misogyny and wanted readers to be able to check for themselves. There was a single quote wherein a moderator had deleted what William originally said, so I reconstructed this with the testimony of those who had seen the quote.
My thread was almost entirely my own creation. One other person at MDB helped me gather quotations for just one of the sections, contributing 2-3 quotes that I had been unaware of and locating another 2-3 quotes which I had been aware of, but could not find myself. I also wrote to a few posters to verify their witness of the quotation which the moderator had deleted. That was it. There was no vast MDB or Maxwell Institute conspiracy against William. I acted almost entirely alone.
I had multiple goals for my thread:
- To present documentation of William’s treatment of women in such a way that it could not be denied.
- To persuade William to stop engaging in such behavior.
- To confront the LDS apologetics community and force them to take a position on the matter. They could endorse it or they could rebuke it, but they could no longer claim to be unaware of it.
- To raise the question of what effect it has on Mormon studies to publish individuals who engage in such public acts of misogyny. I had spent so long silently refusing to engage William’s posts for fear that I would become the next subject of his sexualized attacks. Would other women quietly choose not to respond to William’s published work for the same reason?
In response to my final point, many people I like and respect (and, indeed, critics of William) have stated that they believe scholarship is scholarship and that it should be published regardless of how one behaves elsewhere. I’m fine with this position; I respect it. I simply hope that people would be proactive in decrying the misogyny of such individuals so that female academics will not feel like it is a problem that they must face alone.
I posted my thread on May 1, 2011, where it immediately spawned pages upon pages of replies. The earliest responses from William vacillated between accusations of lies and propaganda on my part, denials of having said certain quotes, and gratitude towards me for putting the thread together. I never sent my thread to anyone at BYU, or to the editors of any other Mormon studies journals, and I never intended to. I had no contact with Gerald Bradford or Brian Hauglid or anyone else at the Maxwell Institute prior to my thread. Yet on May 19, 2011, I was told that, because of my thread, the Maxwell Institute had decided not to publish William’s work. It seemed that “the Lord’s University,” my alma mater, did not want to be affiliated with such un-christ-like behavior, and I could hardly blame them. To my knowledge, the rejection of William’s work for publication at BYU did not lead to the recent termination of Daniel C. Peterson as editor of the Mormon Studies Review, neither directly nor indirectly.
In short, here is the false information contained in William’s blog post:
- That I was part of a broader group of MDB or Maxwell Institute conspirators who repeatedly attempted to suppress the publication of and/or presentation of William’s work. This is false on all counts. In creating my thread, I acted almost entirely alone. If there was any conspiracy, then its numbers were limited to two.
- That I am part of a larger group of “militant anti-Mormon activists” from MDB. I have never heard a definition of the term “anti-Mormon” which could be fairly applied to me. I have no agenda against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or any branch of Mormonism, and I do not intend on developing one any time soon. If William (or anyone else) disagrees, I challenge him to explain his definition of the term and document how it applies to me. The reality is that I am an alumna of Brigham Young University, a former student employee of both L. Tom Perry Special Collections and the BYU Religion Department, and an aspiring Mormon studies scholar who is completing a thesis on Mormon exaltation.
- That my misogyny thread utilized “forgeries, gross exaggerations, deliberate misrepresentations, and otherwise out-of-context citations.” This is false, and William’s blog post presents no evidence to the contrary.
In closing, I would like to again express my gratitude to the Maxwell Institute for hearing my case last year and sending a clear message that such behavior is unacceptable. As a non-Mormon and a feminist, I have never in my life been ashamed of or regretted the fact that I obtained my undergraduate education from Brigham Young University. This is one of the many reasons why.
 For some examples of this, see William’s treatment of Brent Metcalfe here (9/2/2010), his treatment of Chris Smith here (9/3/2010), and his treatment of Brian Hauglid and David Bokovoy here (5/25/2011). These are all non-anonymous scholars who are published in the field of Mormon studies, all of them eminently polite in their online interactions with others. There is simply no excuse for William to treat them as he does.
 Please note that, in calling the LDS church a “Christian church,” I do not mean to provide commentary on ye olde “are Mormons Christians?” debate. I only mean that the LDS church considers itself to be a Christian church, and considers its members to be disciples of Christ. I find William’s behavior unbecoming of anyone who aspires to be a disciple of Christ.