I may choose to ignore people who comment anonymously. I choose never to be anonymous online myself. I have little tolerance for this behavior.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Issue That Never Goes Away: Women in the Church

Sometimes I point out to people that if women were really devalued in the Church then one of the most outraged should be me. With a Ph.D. in management, albeit public management, shouldn't I be a prime candidate for leadership?


So, how come I'm not miffed?


Well, it's complicated. Isn't it always? This issue is once again in the news. Michael Otterson addresses it in The Washington PostJana Reiss has to air her views and, of course, The Salt Lake Tribune must enter the fray.


Question: Why doesn't anyone express any outrage as to why men aren't allowed to do specific jobs completely reserved for women in the Church? Answer: Because the men are assumed to do jobs that are superior to that reserved for women. In my opinion, THAT view is what is really sexist.


In fact, God is sexist. He must be. Why else would He only make women capable of bearing children instead of both men and women?


Look at it another way. Heavenly Father reserves different roles for men and women. Our current, secular society, values the men's roles higher than the women's roles. However, that does NOT mean Heavenly Father values them differently.


In fact, the roles are (drum roll) "separate but equal." Oh great, that argument is just going to build me legions of fans. . . 


If Mormons truly value all callings as equal, and simply as opportunities to serve, why do we even have this discussion? Answer: Because even Mormons don't really believe that a nursery leader's status is on par with a that of a stake president. We are captives of our secular society values that tarnish our religious beliefs.


Maybe it is the way in which it is phrased, "Would you prefer to be a co-creator with Heavenly Father in bringing new life into this world? Or, would you like to be an administrator?" If it is phrased like that, I'll take co-creator any day.


Let's start calling our Church leaders "bureaucrats" instead of "leaders" or "managers." That makes it sound much less desirable.


I'm a 7th generation Utah Mormon, born, raised and educated. If the system is so repressive, how did the system create me? I exist. Something has to explain me.


In fact, the core belief in Mormondom is that our ultimate goal is the highest echelon of the Celestial Kingdom. Interestingly enough, men cannot make it there without women and women cannot make it there without men, as equal partners.


That's right, I can make it there without being a Bishop, Branch President, Stake President, Seventy, Apostle or even President of the Church! In fact, I am not kept from anything necessary for my eventual advancement even if I NEVER hold any supposed position of responsibility in this life.


Is that supposed to comfort me? I guess it will have to, me and other women.  I think I'll just sit in my cushy, comfortable seat in the Relief Society Room and reflect on it. That is the special room, exclusively for women in meetinghouses, that is always more comfortable and elaborate than the fold-up chairs men place in a corner where they have to meet.


What was that about equality again?


I think the kicker is that the men's responsibilities, like Bishop and Stake President, have personal glory involved. Okay, so I'm denied personal glory. Wait a minute, isn't that what Satan was after in the premortal life?


Okay, if I had the vaunted corner office in Mormondom, would I start acting brain damaged? Modern science suggests I would. In Mormondom we call it "unrighteous dominion" though.


A sister in one of our church congregations complained to my husband that her husband, not a member yet, told her he thought Mormon women should be docile and pointed to what he thought were examples of docility in our Mormon congregation. My husband's rejoinder: "He can't say that about MY wife."


My husband actually likes having a smart, capable woman as a spouse. What's wrong with him? Nothing, in my opinion. The second time around, General Authorities also seem to prefer smart, capable women too.


I'll close for now. There are simply too many tangents and too little time.

4 comments:

  1. I don't think it has anything with a need for equality regarding who gets personal glory. The problem is that men can tell women what to do, while no woman ever holds a role in which she has the power to tell men what to do.

    Women never fill the roles where the important choices are made that affect the lives of women. As far as their faith is concerned, Mormon women have no official role of authority to make decisions about reproductive issues, modesty and appearance, how to be a good sister, daughter, wife, mother, etc.

    Young women can only confess their sins, which might be sexual in nature, to a man, never a woman (this one is particularly bothersome to me).

    The problem is that it puts women in a position of having less power over their own lives than men.

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  2. Macha, you are confusing the concepts of "authority" and "power." These are different and distinct concepts.

    By choosing to use the phrase "important choices" you yourself are denigrating women's roles suggesting you are a hostage of society's values.

    I don't agree that "women have no official role of authority . . ." To me this appears to be a tortured representation of Mormon women and Mormon women leaders.

    There is only a small portion of sins that need to be confessed at all. I don't see why women should be more embarrassed by this process than men. Gender may only be one of many factors that could make it difficult for someone to confess.

    I had a Bishop in a singles ward assemble all the women together one Sunday and relate how he had just seen a television movie that ended by relating sexual abuse of women statistics. He told us, "If any of those numbers are anywhere near accurate there are more of you out there than I know about."

    He told us since he was a man it may be difficult for any of us to come to him for help. He had requested help from approximately 5 women in the ward who had gone through the healing process and were willing to have themselves identified. He encouraged any of us to seek these women out first for help if they felt more comfortable doing so.

    Personally, I feel more comfortable with men rather than women. If I had to confess, I prefer to do it to men. You cannot assume all women would prefer to confess to other women.

    I don't see where the Church's structure or operation "puts women in a position of having less power over their own lives then men." You assert this as self-evident.

    I don't find it self-evident and never have. You cannot dismiss my opinion as being uneducated, inexperienced, naive or anything else. I am none of these.

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  3. I am not assuming, nor did I in any way imply, that all women would want to confess to other women. However, it cannot be said that all women would want to confess to men either, and while there may be only a few sins that need to be confessed, those which do are generally of a more serious, sensitive, and personally distressing nature - all the more reason for it to be with somebody you trust and feel comfortable with. Otherwise the encounter will without a doubt be traumatic for the person confessing. There is no denying that some women, especially victims of sexual abuse who uncomfortable being alone with a man in normal circumstances, let alone in order to discuss mentally and emotionally distressing personal issues, would prefer to speak with a woman.

    Unless you're going to argue that the things I listed as "important choices" are not of any importance, I don't see your point. There is nothing denigrating about saying, "These are important issues that affect women's lives and it's wrong that they don't have any say in them." It doesn't lessen the importance of what women, as Mormons, do have a say in, any more than saying women should have the right to an education lessens the importance of being a wife and/or mother. Those things are important too. And women should have a say in all the important issues that affect their lives, not just some; just as men do.

    I do not believe that in this case there is much difference between power and authority. If you have the authority to say such and such is church policy or doctrine, then you have the power to affect people's lives with what you say. It amounts to the same thing.

    Also I did not make any assumptions about your education, experience, or naivete. And I am not dismissing your opinion. I disagree with you. I understand that you might be used to such attacks, but to assume that I was making such judgments against you is just as insulting to me as it would be to you if I had.

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  4. "I am not assuming, nor did I in any way imply, that all women would want to confess to other women. However, it cannot be said that all women would want to confess to men either, and while there may be only a few sins that need to be confessed, those which do are generally of a more serious, sensitive, and personally distressing nature - all the more reason for it to be with somebody you trust and feel comfortable with. Otherwise the encounter will without a doubt be traumatic for the person confessing. There is no denying that some women, especially victims of sexual abuse who uncomfortable being alone with a man in normal circumstances, let alone in order to discuss mentally and emotionally distressing personal issues, would prefer to speak with a woman."

    My answer: I already stated I do not think this is self-evident. There are many other issues that can affect "comfortableness" including whether the woman's sexual abuser was another woman rather than a man.

    In addition, your argument assumes that people MUST be COMFORTABLE with the person they confess to and I don't accept that as a given at all.

    "Unless you're going to argue that the things I listed as "important choices" are not of any importance, I don't see your point. There is nothing denigrating about saying, "These are important issues that affect women's lives and it's wrong that they don't have any say in them." It doesn't lessen the importance of what women, as Mormons, do have a say in, any more than saying women should have the right to an education lessens the importance of being a wife and/or mother. Those things are important too. And women should have a say in all the important issues that affect their lives, not just some; just as men do."

    My answer: It is evident from this statement that you missed a central point, perhaps THE central point of my argument in my initial post. So, I will simply refer you back to it. (Fourth paragraph after "Answer" and sixth paragraph.)

    "I do not believe that in this case there is much difference between power and authority. If you have the authority to say such and such is church policy or doctrine, then you have the power to affect people's lives with what you say. It amounts to the same thing."

    My answer: Authority and power are very different concepts. You can refuse to acknowledge this if you want to, but I don't have time to teach you political science and management. The concepts often occur together but not always. The scriptures use the terms in the technical sense as two different concepts. For example, Mormon women can wield power without having authority, so it can't be assumed that if they have no authority they are powerless.

    "Also I did not make any assumptions about your education, experience, or naivete. And I am not dismissing your opinion. I disagree with you. I understand that you might be used to such attacks, but to assume that I was making such judgments against you is just as insulting to me as it would be to you if I had."

    My answer: It was a preemptive argument. I stick to the merits.

    ReplyDelete