The Calculated Suppression of Misogyny

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. [1] I was very alarmed to see such behavior radiating from someone who claimed to represent a Christian church. [2]

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.

NOTES:

[1] 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.

[2] 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.


Comments

The Calculated Suppression of Misogyny — 18 Comments

  1. It’s interesting that even in defending himself as one capable of representing BYU, the MI, and the LDS church via publications, Mr. Schryver cannot refrain from using sexually charged language to insult others. Notice he describes his perceived enemies as celebrating in orgy.

    Mr. Schryver seems to enjoy playing the provocateur and employing double entendre in his online antics even when his attacks aren’t blatantly offensive. I can’t imagine that kind of behavior would sit well with Church authorities or any university that values its reputation.

  2. I hesitate to weigh in at all on this issue, given my unpleasant history with William Schryver, but I wanted you to know that I support you. What you did was not only appropriate but brave, and I’m proud that BYU did the right thing in disassociating themselves from him. What boggles my mind is that William’s words are right there, in context, for everyone to see, and yet he denies them. I’m glad there are people like you to stand up for what’s right.

  3. Hi, Ms. Jack,
    I’m kjones on Mormon Discussions. I think I’ve come across you before, in my reading here and there. Have you been on Mormon Stories? Was it there I came across you? I don’t remember, and maybe you are not who I think you are. In any event, if you are, I liked very much what I read.
    This Will S. sounds like he is an embarrassment to Mormonism and the apologetic community. I’ve been reading about him but don’t think I’ve every actually read anything by him. Does he go by a special avatar on the MDB? Interesting that they let him stay while banning so many others.

  4. A lot of people were complaining about Schryver’s remarks being taken out of context.

    I simply respond that Schryver’s remarks have been disgusting and evil – IN ANY CONTEXT. There is not context that makes some of the things he said acceptable in any sense.

    A worthy Priesthood holder does not speak that way in the presence of women – period.

    No context needed.

  5. Thanks everyone for weighing in.

    #4 Larry ~ Welcome to the blog. I used to be a panelist on the Mormon Expressions podcast. I’ve never been on Mormon Stories, but that may change soon.

    William’s handles at MDB were predominantly “William Schryver” and “Will Schryver.” He has utilized a number of sock puppets in different places over the years, the likely ones being “Ludd,” “Wheat,” “Provis,” “Nomad,” “Chozah,” “mattie,” “Silver Hammer,” and “Opie Rockwell”—and I can tell you that one of those was confirmed as being his via IP match. He deleted his “Will Schryver” account, making it more difficult to search his posts, but his “William Schryver” account can still be searched here. He hasn’t posted at MDB under any of his named accounts in some time.

  6. Sorry you had to go through all this, Jack.

    Thank you for doing us a favor and blowing the whistle. I appreciate you.

  7. Ms. Jack,

    Articulate, timely, well written and absolutely accurate according to the available evidence. Well done.

  8. I am always just baffled when LDS apologists act nasty. Even if (if) their opponents act nasty, aren’t LDS apologists supposed to be defending God’s kingdom? Shouldn’t they act like it? So what if that makes the playing field uneven. Isn’t God supposed ot be on their side?

  9. Wow! I am impressed by the original post on Mormon Discussions! Not only because of the topic but also because of the scholarly nature in which it was written. A long, detailed, multipart, well documented post could well be published in a magazine or turned into a professor for a good grade. Given the casual nature of most blogs, it is nice to see someone put that much work into their post.

    I agree with you that William Schryver is sexist in that he aims insults at women based on their physical characteristics, especially their sexual characteristics, something he does not seem to do to men. I’ve always hated it when random people on the internet dismiss my view of society by assuming that it is just based on some problem in my personal life. Luckily most of the time I don’t need to deal with that. It must be horrible for women to have to face it much more frequently than I do and on far more topics.

    The only place I would disagree with you is on the issue of gender specific insults. I am not defending a vile person like William, but rather talking about society. It is true that there are gender specific insults like “bitch”, “dick”, and “bastard” (some people have claimed that “bastard” is not gender specific, but disliked women are not regularly called “bastards”. I’ve never personally seen an example. I think the term “bastard” can reasonably be called a gender specific insult). While each of these insults is normally only received by people of a specific gender, they are aimed at individuals, not the entire group. A person who calls a woman a “bitch” is saying that she is an unpleasant person who happens to be a women, not that all women are unpleasant. Likewise someone who calls a man a “dick” is saying that he is an unpleasant person who happens to be a man, not that all men are unpleasant. While there seems to be ample evidence that William Schryver is sexist, the vast majority of people who use the word “bitch” or “dick” are not. While it may be very rude to call someone a bitch or a dick, that is not the same thing as sexism.

    I don’t want that one quibble to take away too much attention from your superb writing. Good job!

  10. #12 Hibernia86 ~ I agree that not everyone who uses terms like “bitch” or “dick” is being intentionally sexist/misogynist/misandrist. I do think those terms are rooted in sexism/misogyny/misandry/gender stereotyping and should be discouraged for those reasons, but certainly use of them on its own does not automatically equal intentional sexism. A good example of this occurred at the 2011 VGAs, where host Zachary Levi went on a rant against sexism and misogyny amongst gamers. His speech involved saying that people who engage in sexism and misogyny in video games are “douches.” I loved that he was trying to speak out against sexism, but characterizing sexist people as “douches” was probably the wrong way to do it. Just the same, I’d never call him a misogynist because of it.

    However, if someone has a history of behaving in a sexist fashion in other ways, then I do think use of terms like “bitch” can be seen as sexist. Especially if it’s used as frequently as William applied it to the female posters at MDB.

    EAllusion had a good post on this:

    Will didn’t just use sexist epithets. That’d be easier to ignore. Will habitually insulted female posters by going after their sexual attractiveness to him. He continually engaged in hoary gender stereotyping and the language of sexism because he knew it would upset the female posters.

    Take this thread I brought up as an example recently.

    http://mormondiscussions.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=9756&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&start=105

    In it, Will is busy arguing that natural selection is a tautology, among other ignorant things about evolutionary theory. The Dude, JSM, and myself are mainly the people replying. Beastie chimes in some posts as well. How does Will respond to her?

    You’re in completely over your head here, baby. You don’t have a freaking clue what is even going on. You’re just here for what you believe is a circle-jerk pile on, with me as the target.

    But if you’d like to attempt to disprove my assessment, feel free to restate, or even directly quote, those instances where anyone has demonstrated that “natural selection” (absent the influence of external forces, such as described above) amounts to anything more than “those who reproduce best are selected.” I’m quite confident you cannot do it. The best you can hope for is to play cheerleader for someone else who might try. So grab your pompoms, beastlie baby, and cheer on your boys.

    I am convinced that no single group of humans can be more wilfully blind and dogmatic than is the overwhelmingly majority of LDS apostates. Fortunately, catastrophic events, such as the one presumed to have deselected the dinosaurs, can forcibly bring reproduction to an end. That’s what will happen to apostates at the second coming. And, believe me, deselection will never have come more deserved.

    That’s sexist as all get out, and a dime a dozen post from his history. That’s Will. It’s not just him occasionally calling someone a b-word.

  11. Jack — After reading your post and following a few links here and there, I ran across some recent comments by Mr. Schryver. I’m almost left speechless: What an unrepentant jerk! (It’s probably a good thing I’m not his bishop or stake president.) He just keeps on digging himself deeper and doesn’t see it; even some of his supporters are telling him that he’s not doing himself any favors. I don’t even know the guy, and yet I find it very sad, tragic even.

  12. Ha!

    A month or two ago I was researching Schryver and some of his ideas on the BoA . . . and I read your extensive post documenting his poor behavior . . . and now I have “met” you online because I read posts about Dean Jackson and one of those posts linked to this blog here!

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