Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Men are from earth, women are from earth, and we're all children of God

I had a lecture on "differences between men and women" in my marriage and family religion class today, and it took all the energy I had and a lot of teeth (tooth?) gritting not to fight the teacher on every point. It did help that the guy sitting in front of me was just as annoyed as I was, and we spent the hour making snide remarks to each other.

I get it that men and women have differences, that there are general tendencies, etc.. but the (male) professor spent half the class making "cute" jokes about women's emotions and irrationality vs. men's inability to get it.
REALLY?! is this what we're being taught at BYU? I'm quite a rational intelligent being, thank you very much, and my husband happens to be very sensitive.

Enough with the stereotypes already!

One of his slides had a table of "what women say vs. what they really mean", and of course there was the classic yes means no and no means yes. That sort of belief is how a lot of date rape happens...

I know that women are biologically cyclical, and that we have stronger hormonal swings, etc. HOWEVER COMMA that does not excuse women for being ranting maniacs come cycle time! I disagree with laughing it off to PMS; that is no excuse for bratty behavior, and there are plenty of women throughout the world who (pardon the pun) man up and go walk 15 miles to get water for their family anyway. Or who roll up their sleeves and kill the goat themselves so their kids can eat dinner. Why should we get the princess treatment? (and I am aware that hormonal swings are more severe for some than for others, please don't think I am condemning the whole wide world... just most of it :)

But honestly, what I'm talking about is sort of the idea of "nature vs. nurture,"and I am very firmly on the nurture side: we are what we make ourselves, and just because society has constructed norms for men and women does not mean those are "natural" or what they really should be.

In fact, it is very clear where the Church stands on this. "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose... By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners" (The Family: A Proclamation to the World)

That's pretty vague outside of basic responsibilities. It doesn't say "girls should like pink and gossiping and boys don't get to hold the priesthood if they didn't play with building blocks as a 5 year old." 

Ahem. I realize I'm playing devil's advocate here but.... why don't we give boys baby dolls too? (we can even make them boy baby dolls and have onesies with dinosaurs and hammers on them so nobody gets confused) Shouldn't they be preparing just as much for their divine roles as fathers?

In my pop culture class we talked about gender as a construct of society. Sex is biological, gender is societal. In the Church, we learn that gender is eternal, but have you ever stopped to wonder how much of what we assign to gender is actually divinely defined? 

Think about it. Christ was the ultimate nurturer and giver of comfort, and He was also a leader and priest. Many characteristics we consider "female" are ones that could also be used to describe our Savior, and my understanding is that we're trying to be like Jesus.

Incidentally, I was just trying to find a quote from Elder Wirthlin on creating the person you want to be, and Google's fifth hit was entitled "Psychic Vampires and the Use of Etheric Energy" ...


  1. Thank you for writing this. Even though I love LDS doctrine about women and where they fit into the world, there are a lot of attitudes among people in the church that drive me crazy. One of them is the patronizing attitude towards women's "irrationality." I really hate hearing a talk about how women are wonderful and spiritual and naturally sweeter than men and then at the same time the speaker sort of laughs off the "silly" things they do. "Oh, those women, so silly with their clothes and their gossip and those irrelevant things women love. But they're just so sweet and perfect."

    It's dehumanizing. That's the problem. By acting as if bad behavior on the part of women (being catty, nagging or gossiping) is just something they're born with, it's treating them like animals who can't help themselves. And by insisting that they're on some spiritual plane that men can't appreciate, it's turning them into a noble savage. Those noble savages - they're just such heavenly people, so humble and sweet. And those horrid things they do sometimes, well that's just their nature, they can't help it.

    I hope I don't sound really radical here or like I'm criticizing all the men in the church. There are some very awesome men in the church who really get it. I'm just sensitive to that particular attitude that I run across sometimes. The best thing I ever heard was when Elder Eyring came to our mission and he was talking about how your mission would prepare you for marriage. He said that it helps to learn how to get along and live with an imperfect person. "Unless you're lucky like me and marry a perfect person," he chuckled, and the audience chuckled too. But then he stopped and said, "No, I'm sorry. She wouldn't want me to say that. She's human too."

    I appreciate being acknowledged as a human who is responsible for my failings and shortcomings, because then I am also responsible for the good I do in the world.

  2. You don't know me, but I know your friend, Andrea. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that my two nephews have dolls! So there's hope.

    Good post.

  3. Amen, sister! It's beyond irritating when people like your professor are still adhering to trite and incorrect ideas about gender and act like their jokes on the matter are funny. Just because it's apparently backed up biologically that women are inclined to certain behaviors makes them feel like their patronizing ideas are OK to teach.

    Men and women are much more alike than many people think and separating them so much just makes it harder for us to understand each other.

    It's especially troubling that quasi sexist ideas are being taught at BYU, where people think the belief that gender is an eternal characteristic gives them permission to criticize women.

  4. This makes me happy!

    You should read Odd Girl Out. The books main focus is on understanding and stopping aggression and bullying between school age girls, but I think it touches on a lot of what you have stated. I would try to sum up the book, but I think it would be better for you to just read it.

    Such a breath of fresh air. Thanks Lydia!