Response to Dehlin and Runnells
Recent events and women in apologetics
Recently, I made the following statement, “I don’t know who needs to hear this but reading the CES Letter and listening to Mormon Stories doesn’t qualify as rigorous research. Sorry not sorry. Engage tough history and doctrine. Jesus says that there are hard sayings. And there are. But if you want to engage tough history and doctrine, you have to put in the hard work of reading contemporary accounts and searching diligently.” This tweet soon gained traction and led John Dehlin to make a TikTok and Jeremy Runnells to include it in his common attacks section of the CES Letter website.
As I am a public figure, criticism of what I say and do is expected, but it does not negate the social responsibility that individuals have to approach discourse by being aware of particular power dynamics. In this case, both Dehlin and Runnells did not acknowledge the massive disparity between me and them in terms of privilege and power.
The disparities in privilege and power center around both the combination of my age and gender as well as platform size. I am a twenty-two year old woman operating in a male-dominated space. Latter-day Saint apologetics in particular has far more men involved than women, especially in terms of public apologetics. As one of the youngest apologists and one of the more public female apologists, my gender and age combination specifically restricts my power and privilege, especially compared to Dehlin and Runnells who do not experience those same obstacles as me.
My orthodoxy in conjunction with my age and gender work against me in this arena. I have to battle harder to be taken seriously than male apologists and I am reminded of this frequently. Dehlin and Runnells did not indicate any understanding of these complex power dynamics in their responses to me. While they are used to responding to men with comparable power and privilege to them, they indicated their blind spot here; a blind spot with which they and others need to grapple with to make space for other young women to be able to have a voice.
Luckily, I have friends willing to stand up for me publicly and to encourage me to keep carving out my own space in this arena, but I worry for the young women who might not have that same privilege or might experience massive overwhelm when older men with substantially larger platforms attack them. Responding to an attack as asymmetrical as happened to me takes courage.
I hope that Dehlin and Runnells do not dismiss my claims as easily as they dismiss the claims of other apologists, but more importantly than that, I hope that in the future, they exercise more consideration around these particular power dynamics that prevent so many bright women from entering into apologetics.
But I’m not stopping, I’m not backing down, I’m just getting started.