Gender roles

Last Sunday, and Last night.

Posted on February 26, 2010. Filed under: Belief, Doubt, Gender roles, missionary work, Mormon women |

by Starfoxy
Last Sunday we had a talk in sacrament meeting about the Priesthood. The talk was rather informative and rather good as far as these things go. Though I’m always baffled how someone can first say that administering Priesthood ordinances is a sacred privilege and blessing, then go on to claim that the blessings of the Priesthood are available to all so those who don’t hold the Priesthood aren’t missing out on anything.
After that in Gospel Essentials we had a lesson on roles and responsibilities in the family. (more…)

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Follow my Lead

Posted on February 4, 2010. Filed under: Gender roles, Relationships | Tags: , , |

Posted by Zenaida

Recently I had a fabulous opportunity to attend a swing dancing workshop. It was so much fun!  It was really satisfying to immerse myself in learning a skill.  At the end I felt like I had made new friends, challenged myself, and learned something more about myself.  Though, also by the end, I felt like I was saturated with being a Follow.

“The Lead’s role is to create and direct momentum.  The Follow’s role is to maintain momentum and follow the lead.  Both partners may add their own styling.”  One moment that stood out to me was being shown that without the lead, the follow does not have directional movement.  She must move her feet in one position until the lead directs her.  Implementing this piece of advice created a partnership that turned out something fluid and beautiful.  Once the Leads learned to communicate clearly, and the Follows learned to listen clearly, then the dancers on the floor began gliding effortlessly in the twisty circles of the dance.

It is not easy to be a Follow.   You have to concentrate on listening and not insert your own interpretation over what is being communicated.  Sometimes this is very difficult because everyone communicates differently.  It really is fun to learn the cipher for each dancer.   But, I couldn’t help but envy the challenges of the Lead.  This seems like the creative center with the decision-making power and the responsibility to insert musicality and style. But, that wasn’t my role!!

I have resolved to learn to lead, but what man would follow Me??

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Guest Post: I’m Not One of Those Women. I’m Just Thinking, Don’t Worry

Posted on January 17, 2010. Filed under: Gender roles, women | Tags: , , |

by mValient

mValiant is a reformed-Exponent-lurker who lives with her husband in one of the bluest states in the union.  She knows all the words to Saturday’s Warrior, served a mission, and loves visiting teaching.

When I was growing up, I often heard a cautionary tale from my mother about what happens to women who want the priesthood. According to the story, a group in her old stake in the northeast had sat around and talked so much about how much they wanted the priesthood that they all became lesbians and left their husbands and their six children (each).  This was back when I had no idea what a lesbian was, but it sounded scary.  Ye olde LDS slippery slope was alive and well:  IF you want the priesthood THEN you are going to become a lesbian and abandon your children.

Nowadays, having met plenty of perfectly wonderful lesbians (with children, mind you), the “THEN” part of that warning doesn’t sound so bad at all, but I am still very frightened by the IF part.  IF you want the priesthood, and – BAM-  I immediately start to disclaim, “Of course I don’t want the priesthood, I’m just thinking about gender roles in the church, but I don’t actually want anything to change, I’m not one of those women, I’m not trying to upheave everything that makes your life feel safe and secure and comfortable.  I’m just thinking, don’t worry.”

However my “just thinking” on the matter has recently been galvanized by an article in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof that calls for an end to discriminatory practices against women in religion including the exclusion of women from the religious hierarchy.  He reports on a group called The Elders (which includes women… and very hopefully lesbians, right?) led by Nelson Mandela that issued a call to all world religions that says (among other things, I suggest you read the whole piece here) that “the justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a higher authority is unacceptable” and further “we believe that women and girls share equal rights with men and boys in all aspects of life.”

LIGHTENING BOLTS!  THUNDER!  MY HEART LEAPS INTO MY THROAT!  That is what I believe! I have been saying that for years (to people I trust not to throw me to the priesthood-lesbian conversion squad for saying so).  It was the most exciting thing I had read in years.

So I started talking to my LDS friends of all political persuasions.  What do you think this means for us?  What are the implications of such a statement for LDS women?  And I have been surprised to find that very few seem to think that this applies to the exclusion of women from the LDS religious hierarchy.

There are lots of reasons given for why it doesn’t apply to LDS women, and as I listened to them, it occurred to me:  you could have said any of these things about black men pre-1978.  They can still “fully” participate in their own way, they can make their own meaning, they have informal power in the church, maybe they are in it for the community rather than for the power, etc.  But even with all of those reasons to make it OK for excluding black men, we are still horrified that it ever happened.  Our church was racist, gasp, we discriminated against black men by excluding them from the religious hierarchy: a dark era in our church’s history.

And yet, it seems perfectly acceptable to us to choose another characteristic and say, “Ah, but this one is different.  This isn’t just skin color, these are genitals!” as a reason for excluding another group from the religious hierarchy.  I don’t get it.  Like Kristof said, I think there are negative consequences to a fully male hierarchy that is supposed to be ordered and ordained by God.  I want to be in a church where women interview men to determine their worthiness to enter the temple (and vice versa), women receive inspiration from God about men’s callings (and vice versa), women approve men’s expenditures using the church’s assets (and vice versa), women count the tithing, women can be bishops.  I don’t care how we get there, but that’s what I want.

Do you think that The Elder’s call applies to the exclusion of LDS women from the religious hierarchy?  Why or why not?  Do you think there are substantive differences between excluding a group from the religious hierarchy because of their race versus because of theirgender?  Why or why not?  And do you want my six children?  I seem to have started down the slippery slope by saying all of this out loud…

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Fascinating Manhood Fireside

Posted on November 20, 2009. Filed under: Gender roles | Tags: , , |

by Jana

Fascinating Manhood

Young Men’s Fireside next Sunday at the Stake Center

Speaker: Brother Clinton Kelly

For more info and directions

Learn what messages your clothes are sending to women, how to make the most of your wardrobe, and how to groom yourself for ETERNAL SUCCESS!

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post-gender: on having it all and happiness, too

Posted on November 16, 2009. Filed under: feminism, Gender roles | Tags: , |

by Amelia

in the introduction to the most recent edition of the feminine mystique, betty friedan argues that women’s progress will essentially halt until our society makes changes in men’s gender roles.  i couldn’t agree more.  but i’d like to focus my discussion of male gender roles on the possibility of women’s happiness, just for a moment.

recently, mfranti over at feminist Mormon housewives called attention to a little article in the mormon times which begins by asserting that feminism tacitly implies “that in order for women to have worth they had to be just like men” and ends with the pithy statement that “it’s interesting, important stuff, feminism, i’m just not sure why anybody ever believed it was the ticket to happiness.”  let’s start with these two lovely points and work from there.  first, i–a staunch (some would say flaming), long-time feminist–i have no desire to be “just like men.”  i’m a woman, thank you very much.  and i’m perfectly happy being a woman, even if i engage in a little gender bending on occasion.  feminism has never claimed that women will only have worth if they’re just like men, even if it has claimed for women the same rights men have.  perhaps this subtle distinction is lost on palmer.  and then there’s the question of feminism and happiness.  i’m not sure anyone has ever claimed that feminism was a “ticket to happiness,” either, though i’m sure most feminists would argue that feminism has very clearly allowed for more equal access to things that generate happiness.  but more on that in a moment.

aside from earning my scorn for its rather superficial and inaccurate treatment of feminism, palmer’s article got me thinking about the question of having it all.  contemplating the question of why it is, after 40 years of feminism, women are reportedly unhappy, palmer proposes that said unhappiness “is a product of the crashing reality that, no matter what we may have heard, and despite all our options, we still can’t have it all. No matter what we choose, it will inescapably come at the cost of something else.”  now, i’m not going to argue with the fact that making choices involves cost.  if i choose to work full time, i clearly will not be with my (hypothetical) children full time and vice versa.  but i maintain that there is a way for women to have it all–including happiness.  and that’s where men’s gender roles come in.

(more…)

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What’s a Feminist Mom to Do? Gender Roles and Primary

Posted on November 4, 2009. Filed under: Gender roles | Tags: , , |

by Caroline

I recently learned about a song primary kids all over the country are learning. It’s called “The Family is of God” and here are the 2nd and 3rd verses.

A father’s place is to preside, provide,
To love and teach the gospel to his children.
A father leads in fam’ly prayer to share
Their love for Father in Heaven.

3. A mother’s purpose is to care, prepare,
To nurture and to strengthen all her children.
She teaches children to obey, to pray,
To love and serve in the fam’ly.

Finding out that this is the type of song that is being taught in primary has unsettled me. Particularly so since my son is entering primary this January. I never worried about what he was being taught in nursery – benign lessons about how God and Jesus love children don’t set off any major alarm bells. But songs like this…? Oh my.

I’ve been wondering this whole week what I can do about the presentation of gender roles that my child will be encountering in primary. I’m very uncomfortable with such stark presentations of the subject – it’s important to me that my son understand that both moms and dads can provide and preside and nurture, and that it’s wonderful when that works for a particular family.

So what’s a feminist mom to do in this situation? Here are some options I’ve been considering:

a) talk to the primary president and express my concerns about the presentation of gender roles. Ask her her thoughts on the subject. Ask if there’s any way she can affirm, acknowledge and present families in all their varieties, in addition to teaching the ‘ideal’.
b) ask for a list of lessons that will be taught to my child throughout the year. be sure to be present on those Sundays when the Proclamation or family is to be discussed, so that I can do private damage control later.
c) offer to provide resources and ideas on how make lessons on the family more inclusive. For instance, I would be happy to obtain and print out pictures of diverse families, or find examples in the scriptures of righteous families who didn’t fit the mold.

-Do any of you have ideas on how to handle troubling teachings in primary?

-Do you think it’s best to take a proactive approach, as I’ve outlined above, or do you think it’s better to just let kids be taught the black and white now, with the hope that they will learn nuance as they get older?

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The Maybes of Parity

Posted on October 20, 2009. Filed under: feminism, Gender roles, leadership, women | Tags: , , , |

by mraynes

Yesterday, in an effort to conquer a melancholy mood and get a break from the endless toddler demands for my attention, I went to the gym and hopped on one of the fancy elliptical machines with an attached tv. In the course of my work out, I happened to see an interview with Marie C. Wilson on CNN. Wilson was president of the Ms. Foundation for Women and more recently founded The White House Project, an organization dedicated to advancing women’s leadership in all sectors of American society.

At some point during the interview I was struck by an assertion Wilson made, that adding women to leadership within cultural institutions, businesses and politics would change the foundation of our society…that it would change everything. Generally assertions such as these make me uncomfortable. They make me uncomfortable because behind them lies the sticky ideology of gender essentialism; that somehow, somewhere inherent in women’s nature are kinder, gentler, more moral beings. Although it is a nice ego-stroke to believe these things, especially when they’re being used to promote female leadership, these same arguments have been used to keep women out of the public sphere, deny them the vote and keep them cloistered in a cult of domesticity. And as we Mormon women know, gender essentialism has been used as a handy, “god given” tool to place us on an out of the way and inescapable pedestal.

It has always been more comfortable for me to believe that both women and men have good, bad and ugly qualities. That women are just as likely to be despots, only they historically haven’t been given the chance. And I still believe this. I believe that men and women are equally as beautiful and virtuous, equally as capable and intelligent and equally as subject to human frailty.  But I also find myself concurring with Marie Wilson; I do believe that adding women to positions of power would drastically change our society. And while I can’t be sure that women’s increased presence would lead to an increase of virtue, it seems irrefutable to me that evening up the power distribution would change society, simply because the decision makers themselves would have changed. Currently women comprise only 18% of the leadership across all sectors: government, business, culture and religion. Surely even striving for parity would bring profound change to our society.

As I was running and contemplating these things, I remembered an experience I had a couple of weeks ago watching the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. mr. mraynes is an orchestral conductor by profession and so we often go on dates to classical music events so that he can watch and learn from other conductors.

This particular concert was conducted by the former music director of the Colorado Symphony, Marin Alsop. Now for those of you who don’t follow orchestral conductors, Marin Alsop is currently the most famous female conductor in the world. A protégé of Leonard Bernstein, Alsop has conducted some of the best orchestras in the world and was recently appointed as the first female music director of a major American orchestra. And yet she has had to work to overcome the amazing sexism of a profession still firmly rooted in the traditions of the 19th century. At the beginning of her career nobody would hire her, so she started her own orchestra. When she was given the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to lead, the musicians revolted.  Despite this, Alsop’s leadership has been an undeniable success; the BSO had a deficit of $19 million when she took over in 2007, today the orchestra is debt free.

But it was not Maestra Alsop’s leadership that impressed me; her conducting and musicianship were astounding, and frankly, it was like nothing I had ever seen. Alsop bounced, crouched and jumped, literally dancing on stage. Her physicality was erotic and erratic, but she was always in control. It was exhilarating to watch and by the end of the concert I found myself breathless, knowing I had experienced the music more fully than I ever had before

There was something, some ineffable quality in the way she feels the music and then interprets it in the movements of her body, that seemed to me uniquely feminine. Marin Alsop strives to make her conducting and appearance androgynous, she does not want the music to be about gender, and yet she is betrayed by her body, by her muscle memories. Because you could see the innate understanding in her body of the irony in the final movement of Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony. It was as if her body were saying, “I know what it is like to put on a happy face while I’m being discriminated against.” It was her personal experiences, experiences that she has never turned into victimhood, that made the music come alive.

This made me wonder, what are we losing in the gap between current reality and true equality:

How would Wall Street or Capitol Hill be different if women made up that extra 32% that would give them equal representation? Maybe it wouldn’t be different…but maybe it would.

Maybe a conductor like Marin Alsop is truly unique, above gender, but maybe women really have something profound they can offer classical music.

And maybe Mormonism would be the same if women were equally represented in the leadership of the church, but maybe we would have a fuller, deeper understanding of our purpose in mortality and eternity. Maybe we would see and feel God more clearly.

I don’t know the answers but I grieve for these maybes.

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Babies

Posted on October 13, 2009. Filed under: Family, fatherhood, Gender roles, Mormon Life, motherhood |

by JessawhyBaby

When I was young, the word “babies” gave me the creeps. Not just a little chill up my spine, but  I want to crawl behind the couch, creeps.  I have no idea what it was about that word, but I really disliked it.  Perhaps I always knew I wasn’t drawn to the nurturing, mothering role, which makes sense because I never liked playing house either.

Babies mean much more to me now, as a mother. I have three beautiful children, of the sweet and sour variety.  Sometimes I think they’re bipolar. One minute they are throwing toys, tantrums and toast, while the next minute they are kissing, cuddling, and cute.  Regardless, most of my time is spent with my three boys, ages 7, 3, and 1.

My smallest baby has a blue, snot-stained, fuzzy blanket/bear, called “Bear” for short, that he carries EVERYWHERE. It’s his lovey, and when operated alongside the thumb in mouth, spell contentment for our little guy.  No matter where we are, Bear will calm or thrill baby Finn in an instant.

So, imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when Finn, who at nearly two is now beginning to talk, starts to call his bear, “Baby.”  It melted my heart. He is so attached to his baby. It is the first thing he sees in the morning and the last thing he sees at night. He kisses and hugs it, and sings to it and snuggles it all day long.  And he named it “Baby” without even a suggestion from us.

Watching my baby love this little piece of fabric has given me new insight into the love I have for my own children, and the love God has for me.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that this most recent revelation of cuteness is a direct message from God to me because of the last few difficult months of parenting.

Here’s what I think God is saying, or at least what I’m hearing from this message about babies.

1. It’s not about who is there; mother or father, it’s about the amount of love and time we give our children.

2. Babies are hard, of course they’re hard and from my experience, they just get harder, so take the good moments and cherish them (write them down!).

3. Everybody is born with some nurturing abilities (even my child who throw trains at his brother’s heads) and we should encourage them in boys and girls. This also means we should admire and recognize good fathers as often was we can.

4. God loves us because he puts people here to help comfort us, make us laugh, hug us, and just help us know that we are not alone in the world.

Yep, I learned this all from a little blankie bear and his baby.

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Baby Blessing Dreams, Not Nightmares

Posted on October 8, 2009. Filed under: authority, Family, feminism, Gender roles, Mormon Life | Tags: , , , , |

by Alisa

I had my first dream about the baby boy I’m expecting last night. I dreamt that family was gathered in my large hospital room to celebrate the arrival of our baby. They were in their Sunday clothes, and I realized that the men were there to give my son his baby blessing and name. I sat holding our son as my husband and a few other men gathered around to give him his name. But I noticed that my dad and a few others in my immediate family didn’t come up to the circle, as if my husband had forgot to expressly invite them. As the circle closed in, I quickly looked up at my husband and told him that we hadn’t settled on a first name for the baby. He assured me that the Lord would reveal the name to him when he gave our son the blessing.
 
The blessing was over in a flash, and afterwards, I had to ask what my husband what he had said his name was. The first name was some gibberish thing, but I distinctly heard the middle name was “Benjamin,” and not my terminally-ill father’s name as we had agreed on. I became furious that my husband didn’t stick to any of the names on our list and, clutching our son to my chest, began to shout at my husband, insisting that I was going to write on the birth certificate one of the names from the list, hoping this government document would override any crazy revelatory name pronounced in the blessing.
 
I woke up still a little bit taken back by the emotion and intensity of the dream. For one thing, my husband’s actions were completely uncharacteristic of him, leaving me to think about this as a projection of my own insecurities about entering motherhood and the tensions I see between femininity and masculinity within the Church. The hopes I have for raising my son in balance are placed opposite the fears I have that external forces will take over the process of raising our son to hold more egalitarian views.

I admit that the baby blessing is something I’ve not been looking forward to. I’ve always felt it was silly for the men to exclude women from this mutual work of creation and hailing their babies. Even more than the blessing itself, I resent that the recently-labored mothers are left to clean and tidy the house while putting together a luncheon for the Priesthood holders and their families (just our two immediate families – grandparents, parents, siblings, spouses, and their children – living within 60 miles of our home will mean over 35 people crowded into my little living room and kitchen). When I’m thinking about it in cynical terms, this day seems to uphold the father as Patriarch and lord over his posterity and downgrades the mother to maid and caterer. I am sure I’ll have lots of help, most of all from my DH, who does most of the cooking in our home, but I still feel stress of having all these people over and packed in during cold and flu season.

I think in my dream I was trying to find some way to regain equal standing to the powerful men in the room: they clean-shaven in their suits, and me, sweat drenched and in a hospital gown. My hope in the dream was that I had a legal right to be involved in the naming of my child. Whatever it was to offer me some power back, I wanted to take it, but instead I saw my son being immediately swallowed up by an institution that not only excluded me and other women, but also some key male members of my family, following the strict patriarchal line uninterrupted by women.
 
In reality, when the baby comes, I am going to go along with and support the baby blessing. I think there is something beautiful in the elders of a tribe welcoming someone new in and claiming him or her as one of their own. That archetype resonates with me. While I wish it were more gender neutral who is considered an elder of the tribe, I can’t do much about that. So I will appreciate the symbolism from afar in my distant pew. And also, I want to consider the expectations of my family, which is a traditional baby blessing. I’m much more likely to have diverse thoughts (like these) that I don’t put into practice.

But I don’t think it can hurt to try to make this the best event I can for my husband, my child, and me. I am interested to know about your baby blessing experiences. Have you done something to be more involved? Is there something that you would be sure to leave out if you did it again? Any advice for those of us private, introverted types who are less-than-enthusiastic hostesses for parties in general to survive the post-baby blessing luncheon expectation? What beautities have you observed in the process of seeing your child blessed in our LDS tradition?

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Does Blogging Every day keep that nasty Feminine Mystique away?

Posted on September 19, 2009. Filed under: feminism, Gender roles, motherhood, women | Tags: , , , , |

by mraynes

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of reading through the Master’s thesis of one of the bloggernacle’s own.  Michelle Glauser has had a steady presence in our community for a couple of years and she is currently living in Germany and finishing up her Master’s degree in American Studies.  Michelle was kind enough to allow me to link to her thesis.

The topic Michelle chose to write about is one that is dear to all of us…blogging.  Her basic hypothesis is an audacious one:

The problem with no name which Betty Friedan wrote so famously about in The Feminine Mystique, has been all but cured for educated, middle-class housewives because of the advent of blogging and the community of moms that have developed around it.

One of the solutions that Betty Friedan gave for the problem was to encourage women to find some way out into the community and have their voices heard.  Stay-at-home moms have answered this call by blogging about their adventures in motherhood and homemaking.  Blogging is a hobby that can be done in the home, can be utilized by anybody who can write and has a computer and it has the potential for reaching vast audiences.

Mommy blogging also provides women with validation and support for their life choices.  This gives women a community in which to share the stories that are relevant to their lives.  Social scientists have argued that this virtual community is no substitute for the kind of support a real community can give, but recent occurrences like the interest and support for Stephanie Nielson prove otherwise.

But is mommy blogging, or blogging in general enough to circumvent the sense of dissatisfaction that often accompanies housewifery?

I’m not sure about this.  Personally speaking, my mommy blog doesn’t bring me a great deal of satisfaction; usually I just feel like I’m white-washing reality with cute pictures and warm fuzzies.  I do feel like I have found a network of like-minded people and friends through The Exponent and my personal feminist blog, First Fig.  But those people aren’t around in real life to help me vacuum my floor or take care of  one of my screaming toddlers.

And let’s not forget, finding community wasn’t Betty Friedan’s only prescription.  She also encouraged women to “unequivocally say ‘no’ to the housewife image” and not see marriage and motherhood as “the fulfillment of their lives.”  This would seem to fly in the face of what many mommy bloggers so often write about on their blogs and personally advocate for.

So who is right?  Are Betty Friedan and the 2nd Wave feminist bible  irrelevant for women in the 21st century who have access to social networking technology?  Can you really ward off the feminine mystique and its accompanying problems with tales of toddlers, tantrums and tablescapes?

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