Posts Tagged gender relations

My beliefs on marriage and gender essentialism

This has got to be one of the most difficult topics to talk about, as I have a number of people I know and love who would not only disagree with me but see it as an attack on the fundamental beliefs they have on who they are. I’ve skirted around it in the past (“Who will we be when we wake?“,”Feminism and Same Sex Marriage are not compatible“,”Defining the uniqueness of men and women“), but I’ve thus far avoided trying to put down my rationales in full.

One of the poorest arguments I’ve seen against same sex marriage (SSM) is that SSM could not be legitimate because it does not have the possibility of producing children. This makes procreation the measure for legitimacy, leaving out many instances where procreation doesn’t happen or is impossible.

The better course of argument for two-gender marriage, even when no progeny is produced, is in that it provides an example of the advantages of joining together two disparate genders, male and female. Marriage is the bringing together of the greatest difference one person can have with another, creating something more than the sum of its parts. That this doesn’t always happen is immaterial. The intent in marriage is always to be a part of something greater than you can be with your own view of the world limited as it is by your gender.

Two gender marriage is better for children to grow up in as it affords them the opportunity to learn how to interact with those of each gender. Are there many ways this can be messed up, even by well meaning people? Absolutely! There are abusive marriages, families without an adult of one gender or the other, families where one or the other parent is gone for long periods of time, etc., etc., etc.. All of these, however, would be better off in a -good- marriage than in the state they are currently in. There are many kinds of families, from families of one person to families of many. All of these families, whatever their experiences and circumstances, should be celebrated and aided the best we can, even (and especially) our own family. All of these families are on a path of improvement, even those who seem to “have it all” and be perfectly happy.

Some would argue that gender should be immaterial. The problem is that there is something inherent in our gender, something nearly impossible to quantify. Our gender is the second strongest marker of our identity, the first being humanity. So much of our life is of experiences that only happen and relate to the gender we are. Changing completely from one to the other is simply not possible, as we cannot create the cache of gender based experiences we’ve not been part of, no matter how much we desire them. Those who are forced to or themselves attempt to become the other are at an extreme disadvantage, as their lived experiences will not be enough to know what it means to be that gender.

I’ll close this with a simple request. Respect the beliefs and decisions of others. You do not have to agree with their decisions, but you should respect the work, tears, prayers, and pains that they went through to arrive at their current situation. Your own experiences, progression, and faults can not make you better than them, only different in your journey.

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You’re not a gatekeeper if you don’t hold the key

I’ve come across a few articles recently which have gone back over the idea that men have Priesthood and women have Motherhood. These are trying to make the case that each gender has it’s own sphere and should be content with that. The reasoning used for this comes mainly from Valerie Hudson Casslers’ speech The Two Trees. She brings in information from the Eden story to declare that men are “gatekeepers” of the ordinances required for salvation while women are “gatekeepers” of mortality. She equates this with the two trees mentioned in the Eden story, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve ate the fruit of the second tree and gave to Adam from it, so women are in charge of making mortality. (She also asserts a few things that LDS “believe”, but that’s another post.)

Overall, I think it’s a good speech with some good ideas and thoughts, and while I’m glad for those who have found some measure of peace and understanding through it. However, I find the conclusion of it, the very premise that men are gatekeepers of salvation while women are gatekeepers of mortality, to be overly simplistic and potentially damaging. I know I’ve written on it before, but it needs to be said more often, so people will start to get it.

Making babies is not analogous to Priesthood.

To the point of rebutting Casslers’ analogy, the saving ordinances performed by men with the Priesthood can be done with no input whatsoever by a woman. As far as being a “gatekeeper” for them, the analogy works. Creating mortal bodies, however, cannot be done by a woman alone. Women may stand at the gate, doing the work of guarding and the very nearly all of the work of opening the gate,, but only men have the key. It takes both to open this gate. You can’t call women “gatekeepers” of a gate they have no power to open on their own.

There are also the standard arguments against equating Motherhood and Priesthood, like Motherhood being available to nearly all women while Priesthood is available to fairly few men, and that neither can be the ultimate meaning of a persons’ life, but I’m glad to leave those for other times.

I do think there are many, many wonderful things waiting for us in the future. I may be completely wrong on what they are, but I do know that whatever there is, it will be wondrous for all of us, men and women. I believe we will have the balance that we know exists in our Heavenly Parent’s love for us, but I despair at some of the rationales we develop to try and convince ourselves that we have that balance now.

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My opinion on women’s ordination

I try to avoid the general topics that are going around the Bloggernacle (LDS-themed blogs), but being an outspoken feminist that I am around work, I’ve had a few people want to talk to me about how I see this issue. Also, there’s a possibility my opinion will soon be published elsewhere, and I want to be sure to put what I feel in a full posting, rather than a simplified blurb.

First, as could probably be gleaned from previous postings, I absolutely believe in the existence of two genders, now, in the past life, and in the future. We have both a Heavenly Mother and a Heavenly Father, both working as one, just as the Trinity are one. All of these are working in perfect unity to help bring us back home. Yes, there are sexual ambiguities in some bodies, both in genetics and form, but I don’t believe these exceptions disprove the rule. Even though they are exceptionally hard to quantify, there is a difference between men and women, and only by working together can we hope to accomplish our potential. There is no gender we can do without, at any level of home or society, and our society has been stunted by our suppression and oppression of women that continues to this day.

I will stress, for those who will surely bring it up, that I do not believe that men should only work and women should only be at home with the children. I look forward to being independently wealthy enough that we could both be home (or even in the mission field) to build up our family. I don’t care about success in the world; my focus is in strengthening my marriage and trying to help my children be the best they can be. My working now is a “necessary evil” to help provide the funds needed to do that. And no, independently wealthy isn’t even on the horizon for us right now, but we all have dreams.

As I said, gender differentiation is really hard to quantify. But I do know it exists. We would be better off utilizing both genders together than we are now, making the most of one and insisting that the other would only be useful if fit into the mold of the first. I believe we should have more women finding and working in their interests in the world, but, as with men, the family, even a family of one, should be first. I despair at how rare women are in my field, but we’re drifting from the subject at hand.

I respect and admire many of the women involved in the current Ordain Women movement, and do my best to understand their feelings. I mourn with those who have been hurt by well meaning leaders doing the wrong thing. These are the hazards of a lay clergy, and every effort is being made to both reduce the suffering and teach how these decisions could have been different.

That being said, I do not believe the movement to ask entry to the Priesthood session of General Conference is being done in the best way. The Church does not work by public protest. Some would say that it’s not a protest, but a respectful query. The problem is that when you organize a large group of people to each, individually ask entry when they know they will be denied, it becomes a protest. It’s not signs and yelling and marching; it’s a sit in, without the sitting. To say it’s not disruptive is to ignore this reality.

Some have said that this is the only way to get the attention of Church leaders, doing as Zelophead’s daughters did in Moses’ time. Many changes in the Church have come from simple asking and doing, such as the Word of Wisdom (No tobacco, alcohol, etc.) and all of the Auxiliaries (Young Men, Relief Society, Primary, etc.), then these efforts being taken and moved to the entire church. However, some feel that there is no way to directly petition the leadership now, since the Church has gotten so big. I don’t believe this is strictly true. The leadership is not kept in a cocoon of male only voices, not hearing anything but the same from everyone they come into contact with. The trick is to find and connect with those who do know, and can more directly communicate with, the leaders. Do we think that Emma was the only one tired of cleaning up tobacco? Do we think Zelophead’s daughters (who probably had names, but that’s another issue) were the only women with inheritance issues? Of course not. But these are the ones we hear of, the ones who get credit, simply because they were in a position to ask. That is what Ordain Women is missing, and what they should be concentrating on. You don’t communicate to someone you can’t reach across the room by pulling out a bull horn; you send a message through the people nearby.

I do not believe that women should or will be ordained to the Priesthood. I do not accept that for women to fulfill their potential, they need what helps men toward their potential. I look forward to a different way, a Priestesshood that can only be used by women, that can be used together with the Priesthood and will be more than either could do alone and even more than the sum of what each could do.

My view of how we would get the Priestesshood (which could be completely wrong, and I’d be ok with that), would be for it to come as the Priesthood did, through the laying on of hands by those in authority. This could not be done by the authority of the Priesthood, but by those who we may barely know who had the Priestesshood before. This would be done with a full confirmation that it happened by the General Authorities of the Church, who would introduce the changes that would be needed for the Church to move together with the new Priestesshood. It would not be an easy transition, and I don’t think we’re ready for it, but I look forward to the changes that are continuing to be made to try and prepare us for it.

Men and women working together, taking advantage of what both have to offer, is the only way for all of us to reach our full potential, becoming like our Heavenly Parents, in perfect unity. The hard part will be being patient with our rate of growth and the rate of growth of those around us; to not get discouraged or despair because it seems so far away as to be unattainable. Even if I can hardly see a glimmer of how or when, I know it will happen.

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Neither marry nor are given in marriage

I’m going to touch on another part of our temple worship that I hope will be changed. This one applies to the LDS marriage and sealing to spouse that is done specifically in the temple. At this time, the woman is asked if she will receive her perspective husband and if she will give herself to him. The man is asked only if he will receive. There have been various reasons given for this inequality by various sealers, working from their own understanding on it. (no, none of them immediately come to mind.)

To me, this inequality can be removed by following the direction given by the Savior for the state of marriage in the afterlife:

And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: (Luke 20:34-35, also in Mark 12:25)

Some have taken this to mean there will be no more marriage. LDS thought takes this to mean that only those that have been sealed together by God (or those given the power to seal), will remain together. I think we should not wait til the resurrection to get to this.

To marry is to take a woman and make her your wife, to give in marriage is to take your daughter and give her to another man as his wife. In neither is the will of the woman considered. She is simply the object of the transaction, to be given and taken as the men see fit. Our usage of giving and receiving (even though the woman now gives herself) is a remnant of this. A sealing for eternity should be about being together as a couple, not as master and property. Just because “this world” has started with women being objects does not mean we need to keep it that way. Rather than asking both in the couple if they give themselves and receive the other (doubling being made an object), we need to remove this part of the marriage and replace it with a simple “do you agree to be sealed to this person for time and all eternity?”

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I am not a feminist ally – I am a feminist

If some of my posts before this haven’t been a clue (or even the links on the page), I consider myself to be a feminist. Not a feminist ally, but a full feminist.

Feminism, to me, is the desire to remove the barriers of opportunity between the sexes, as far as they can be while being constrained by some things biologically. I find that women and men are equally capable in their work, home, and leisure, and while there are some generalized differences, there is also quite a bit of overlap. For example, women are generally shorter than men, but there are men who are shorter than most women and women who are taller than most men. There is only one aspect of gender that I am sure is delineated between the two, and that is in the creation of children.

Feminism (again, to me) is not all about opportunity for women. It is about removing sexism, of any kind, from our society. Feminists have a wide range of views, from those who think men are wholly unnecessary and should be vilified, belittled, and dismissed at any chance, to those who are simply glad for the work that has been done to allow the advantages they have. I fall somewhere in the middle – there has been much good work done, and there is yet much work to do.

Now, to my point. An ally is someone who supports, but is not really active in the cause. Some think that men can only be feminist allies, since they are not discriminated against in our culture as a whole. These people think men should be seen and not heard, relegated to the back of support rallies, brushed aside as “someone who can’t ever really understand”. To me, this should never be the case. Injury is injury, no matter who the perpetrator. Women cannot be absolved of oppressing men because their overall oppression is worse. A kid who beats up other kids is not absolved of it when it is found they are beaten by their parents at home. Two wrongs, nor even an hundred wrongs on one side to one on the other, do not make a right. No one should be a 2nd class citizen. We should be moving forward together, hand in hand.

Have I ever been hurt by sexism? I certainly have. It may not be to the extent of the sexism committed on some (or even many) women, but it is still there. I am a feminist because I want to make sure pains of sexist actions and ideals do not happen to anyone, no matter what their gender. This is my fight.

I am not an ally – I am a feminist, and proud to be so.

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Feminism and Same Sex Marriage are not compatible

One of the current arguments for Same Sex Marriage (SSM) is that children can be raised just as well by two men or two women as they can by a woman and a man.  It is essentially saying that in matters of parenting, gender does not matter.  This seems to me to be directly contrary to feminism, since if gender did not matter, why should it matter if women are or are not in the same leadership positions as men?  I can understand the attraction of connecting homosexual marriage and feminism; both have a desire to see that everyone is treated equally and fairly.  However, to me, the persual of gay marriage undermines the feminist ideas that women cannot be served just as well by having only male leadership.

In LDS belief, men and women have always been and always will be men and women, respectively.  Your gender, whatever it is, is eternal.  No, this does not answer the state of those who have ambiguous gender, but for the majority it is simple enough – the gender you were born with is the gender you always were and always will be.  Could we be wrong?  Absolutely.  I could get to the next life and find that I really am female, and that would take some getting used to, but I can leave that dilemma for then, rather than worrying about it now.

We do not react to men and women in the same manner, no matter who we are.  If we are in a situation where the gender is ambiguous, we automatically assign one gender or the other until we can determine otherwise.  If we discover we were wrong in our assignment of gender, our reactions to and perceptions of that person change with some difficulty, because we have so closely connected that particular gender to that particular person.  Even in reading this post, you are making different judgements based on both my gender and yours.  Men and women are different.  They have physical, mental, and spiritual attributes that <i>in general</i> conform to their specified gender.  Can these attributes be found outside of the given gender?  Certainly, but as an exception, not as a rule.  Do we know what these differences are?  Very, very rarely.  Even with our instinctual knowledge of the differences between men and women, these differences are very difficult to quantify and define.

Studies show (forgive my lack of links) that there is a difference in the general outcome of raising children in homes with both a mother and father committed to marriage, as opposed to a mother or father alone, two fathers, two mothers, or a mother and father with an unstable marriage.  As children, we look to our fathers and mothers to see how we should react to others of that same gender, which cannot be accomplished as well as a single or same sex parent.  It certainly <i>can</i> be done, but it is not accomplished as easily as it would be in a stable two-parent, two-gender home.

Some of the pains often pointed out by feminists are that it would be more preferable for women to be able to confess to other women (rather than male-only Bishops), pray to their Mother in Heaven who would be able to empathize with women better, and that women leaders would be more sensitive to womens issues.  Men and women are not the same, but they should be treated equally, have equal opportunity for advancement even in those areas where men and women are seperated by those physical, mental, and spiritual differences.  Even though equality of treatment is an important aspect of both feminism and advocating for the LGBTQ amoung us, the loss of gender roles in marriage and parenthood desired in same sex marriage are in direct opposition to feminism – that even though women and men are different, they should both be treated and respected equally.

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Boy Scouts, camping, and learning independence

Last Sunday, the Scout leaders in our ward went to the Relief Society and brought out the following factlet – “97% of missionaries who leave their mission early do so because of homesickness”.  I don’t know where they get their data, but the usage of this statistic bothered me because it was used as a rationale to guilt the mothers into sending their scout aged sons to a National Scout Jamboree.  Little details: the trip is three weeks long, takes place in West Virginia, and costs $2500 per boy.  To me, the cost is much too high, but that is beside the point.  The thought seems to be that campouts (and especially things like this extended uber-campout) fosters independence.  We don’t want our boys afraid to leave home, do we?  Send ’em on a three-week trip, completely chaperoned, where they get all of their meals, travel, entertainment, crafts, and housing without any significant effort on their part!

When the local high school marching band had an opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl Parade (held on New Years Day in Pasadena, California), the money had to be raised to get them there.  Each student had a significant amount of money they had to come up with to be able to go.  So, they had several fundraisers, one of which was door-to-door sales.  They worked together to raise the funds so that every member of the marching band could go.

The young women in our ward are currently having a fundraiser to pay for the costs they have in going to Girls Camp.  The cost per girls is nowhere near the amount being asked for the Scout camp, and it is likely that the cost of sending just one boy to this camp could pay for several years of Girls Camp.  Maybe I’ve been reading too many feminist blogs, but this doesn’t seem right.

You want to encourage independence?  Have your kid get a job and make decisions on their own as to what to spend their own hard-earned money on.  Help them learn the value of the money they are earning.  Trips and campouts can be fun, but just throwing in money isn’t going to foster independence; quite the opposite, in fact.

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