Monday, September 23, 2013

I don't think it means what you think it means...

Are men and women different? Yes.  Yes we are.  I’ll be the first to admit that, and really, when it comes down to it, you can’t really make an argument to the contrary.  Men and women are different.  We know this.  I can say this and you can nod your head, assenting without me having to quote the latest neurological or sociological study on the matter.  Yes we are different.  But that doesn’t mean that one is above the other.  In fact, I am a firm believer that God’s plan is that we are exactly and perfectly equal, and opposite.  Much like reflections of one another, or like parallel lines running from eternity to eternity. 
Yesterday was another hard Sunday for me.  Another girl gets up and gives a long (like 15-20 minutes) talk on how she’s so glad she got married and how it’s her calling and she’s so righteous because she’s made this decision to be a housewife and to take a backseat to her husband and now she knows she’s righteous because she’s so happy.  And it just makes me sick inside.  I’m not upset because she’s happy, no not at all! I’m happy that she’s happy! Honestly, I really am.  I’m just sick of the social stigma that makes girls like me whither away into nothingness because if we’re unhappy it’s because ‘we’re unrighteous’. 
I’ve had a few of these Sundays over the last couple of (really difficult) years, where a girl gets up and bears solemn testimony of how she’s so happy that she’s married and now can fulfill her destiny to be a mother and a housewife and how it’s God’s plan and how she’s so grateful to have these righteous desires in her heart.  If you want to be a housewife… go right on ahead.  Go for it.  It’s wonderful, it’s rewarding, it’s important.  It’s also not for me.  And it’s not for everyone.  But it’s so pushed from the time we’re 8 that it’s God’s plan and it’s the only righteous course for a woman to take that once you make the realization that it’s not for you… you’re shunned.
Trust me, I know firsthand. 
So, after crying through most of sacrament meeting (I cry when I’m angry as well as when I’m sad.  Pretty much any powerful emotion actually.) my dear sweet, wonderful husband took me home.  I told him I couldn’t just sit in Relief Society and hear everyone cooing over her talk and how she was so right and we are all so grateful that she made such good decisions and had such a wonderful warm and caring heart. 
Gag me with a spoon.
I just couldn’t take that.  Not again.  And I was too emotional to stand up and put in my two cents and still be taken seriously. 
Perhaps what bothered me the most in her talk, and about all the talks I’ve heard before that have boiled my stomach, isn’t when they say things like how they “got their priorities straight” or “received a change of heart,” (although those really piss me off because then I’m sitting there thinking how I prayed earnestly everyday for nearly a year to have a change of heart and to get my priorities straight and the only thing I got was a desire to kill myself) it’s more the use of the Proclamation on the Family and this concept of “Gender Roles”
As I said before, men and women are different, and so gender is something that we use to identify between the two.  Men and women. Male and female.  Masculine and feminine.  Now the Proclamation has this sentence that says, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”
Any of you who have heard me talk about the Proclamation before know that I believe it is true.  I also believe that a lot of people interpret it with closed minds and narrow hearts.  Much like the Bible.  Or any scripture, really.  Everyone has their own opinion on what each verse means.  And well, each time I bring up the proclamation is to say, “Hey, I don’t know about you, but I’ve read it many times, I’ve studied it from every angle I can think of both contemporary and traditional, and this is what I think.” Just so you know, I’m not saying this document is untrue.  I am, however, saying that 1. It is not law. And 2. Read the damn thing before you shove it under my nose to tell me I’m unrighteous.
So, getting back to gender.  Gender is usually used to define the difference between men and women in a sociological or spiritual or cultural sense as opposed to a biological one.  Are men and women different? Yes. Yes we are.  Women are better at multitasking.  Men are better at focusing.  Women are better at compassion.  Men are better at decision making.  Now here’s the key word: Usually.  Now, we have a lot of men and women who embody both masculine and feminine traits.  They take the best of both worlds and you get a well rounded, wonderful human being. 
I believe in the premortal existence.  Do I believe that I was a “woman” in the premortal life? No, not really.  Do I believe that I was marked with certain qualities like empathy, tendency to be more emotional than not, self doubt, wanting to do and accomplish everything at once, etc etc? yes.  Yes I do.  And this is what I believe about gender.  I believe that it is a part of our soul, not our genetic make up.  I believe that women and men are different and that USUALLY men embody masculine traits and USUALLY women embody feminine traits.  But also that it’s not absolute.  I have ambition. I am passionate. And protective.  My husband is caring and sweet.  Does that mean I’m any less feminine or he’s any less masculine? No.  no it does not. 
Gender-Female souls usually do better with internal pain, and so you have women, who go through pregnancy, emotional strives, and self doubt.  And Gender-male souls do better with outside pain, hence you have male bodies that they take into war with long arms and muscled torsos who crush and run and would rather punch someone in the face than talk about what they’re “feeling”.  The system works.  Usually.  For most people.  There’s a reason we have these stereotypes, you know.  But stereotypes are not laws.  And I think we know that, but also that we forget that we know that. 
I know I’m not alone.  I know there are thousands of women in my same church with my same predicament.  But I also know we’re still a minority.  But there’s enough of us that we need to stand up and say hey! I’m not unrighteous, I’m just different from you.  And you know what? That’s okay. 
If God made us all so different, why are we trying so hard to be the same?
So going back to gender roles and sexism and our society and I’m a feminist but a liberal feminist which means…. Okay yeah I’ll stop rambling now and get back on track. 
Can a woman lead men? Yes.  Have you read the Old Testament? Read Judges.  God couldn’t find a man to deliver in righteousness so he found a woman. And she was awesome.  Or read a history book.  Joan of Arc.  Can men lead women? Yes, okay that one’s been over done.  Is it unrighteous for a woman to lead men?  No.  Is it unrighteous for a woman to have passion or ambition? No.  Is it unrighteous for a man to have a deep bond with his children and work from home or to be a stay at home dad? No.  not at all.  But these choice aren’t for everyone.  Just like Sushi isn’t for everyone or Battlestar Galactica isn’t for everyone (wait, yes it is.  That show’s awesome.  Although not for ages 13 and under…) the point is you have to make your own decisions.  And you have to live with them.  But you don’t have to live with them forever.
I was raised to believe that being a stay at home mom was gonna be awesome and fun and amazing and spiritually uplifting.  And then I got married.  And I tried it.  I tried taking a backseat.  And I’ve babysat and nannied etc etc.  and you know what? It’s not for me.  And I’m so glad I know that now, even though it was a really rough road to realization.  It’s not for me.  And it never will be.  And that’s fine. 
We’re not supposed to take a backseat anyway.  We’re supposed to be opposite and equal, like forces of nature.  People say “women are so emotional, they cry when they’re mad and they cry when they’re sad and they cry when they’re happy, they don’t make any sense.” Well you know what?  Men yell when they’re happy, and when they’re sad, and when they’re angry.  Parallel lines people.  Without one another we’d just be a line.  Boring.  Can’t make shapes, can’t see where we’re going, can’t judge the distance.  But when we’re together with another line, we can fall into a pattern.  We can fit.  We can see when we’re veering off course and help one another out.  Opposite and equal.  No matter what plane you’re on. 
So here’s to all the stay at home moms and dads out there.  You’re wonderful.  And if you’re happy, I’m so happy for you.  And to all the working moms and dads out there, you’re wonderful and if you’re happy, I’m happy for you.  And here’s to all the men and women out there who know that they’re different or that they have different trials or that they have a different purpose and who struggle to make people understand.  Keep up the good fight.  You’ll get there sooner or later.  I’m still battling, but I’m a lot more at peace about it now than I was even six months ago.



Elizabeth said...

I know for a fact that God wants me to finish my education (probably with a Doctorate) and do something with the skills and talents he gave me that don't directly apply to motherhood. This requires sacrifices from me, my husband, and my kids, but I find comfort in the assurance that its right. I no longer pay attention to the people who think I'm screwing it up because my testimony that I'm doing what Heavenly Father has asked me to is so strong now. It's hard and it hurts sometimes, but I know this is the path I'm supposed to be on. I have a husband who is tender and kind whom I can trust to be good to my kids -- otherwise I couldn't do what I do -- and not every woman has that. I feel really lucky that I do. Some people are jealous of that. I feel sorry for them. Mark says one of the reasons I'm on this path is to set an example for other women who need to work, and do things outside the home, for whatever reason. If that's true, I'll be glad. The bottom line is to get your marching orders from God and do the best you can. I love my kids and do my best to be a good mom. They're pretty dang awesome, so I can't be doing too bad (and I'm really lucky to have gotten such awesome kids!) and that's comforting, too.

Cate, I hope you can do grad school later and share your talents with the world. If you have kids you'll be an awesome mom (even if you're not a "traditional" one, whatever that's supposed to mean). If you feel like the Lord says don't have kids, you'll still have so many ways to contribute to building the kingdom of God. You're an awesome person. Chin up and go do what you're meant to. The narrow-minded people will get it eventually. *hugs*