I think it’s really important that when discussing women’s issues, we keep a safe space for men to express their concerns, as well. Don’t get me wrong, with some issues, I stick with the motto “No Uterus, No Opinion,” but in the interest of making the feminist movement as effective as possible, it only makes sense to get as many folks on board as we can.
In order to contribute to this idea, I have taken the liberty of interviewing a couple of male feminists to get a feel for what they find problematic in regards to the Church.
I am so blessed to have not just one but TWO feminist parents in my life. The first male feminist I interviewed is my dad, who, unfortunately, has not developed this viewpoint until recently, which meant that I suffered some blackmailing in order to attend and participate and comply with YW stuff as a teen.
The prompt I provided my interviewees is as follows: “As a father (or father to be) of a daughter in the YW program, what themes, if any, taught by the program strike you as problematic, and what will you do as a parent to ensure that these themes are not absorbed by your daughter?”
“The first thing is how limited women are in the church. We are taught that a woman’s role is in the home raising children. Women who chose a career are guilt-ed into thinking they are being selfish for wanting a career. They are guilt-ed by the GA’s, local ward, friends and family. It is a cultural problem created from the top down. Women are being taught to be subservient to their husbands and that they can’t obtain eternal life without one. Our lesson manuals teach that and it is taught all the way up to the temple. Women can’t talk to God directly or covenant with God directly. They must do it through their Priesthood holding husbands. The problem is that most of these women are more worthy than their husbands in terms of keeping commandments, serving God, and being Christlike, but when it comes to rank in the church, they are not considered equal. As long as he [the husband] pays his tithing, he’s in good standing. But a woman who stays at home to raise the kids can’t have a recommend if her husband doesn’t pay tithing. Keep in mind this housewife has no income and cannot pay tithing, yet is punished because her man doesn’t pay tithing. Where is the equality in that?
“The church needs to teach that women can be anything they want to be. They should strive for education, strive for success professionally. They have so much to offer than this male-dominated society. Women are capable of amazing things but we as men are afraid of that, of losing control, just like the church is so they try and keep everyone in their little boxes and roles. I teach my kids they can be anything they want to be and should strive to be anything they want to be. God wants us all to be the best and most we can be, not just men. Women matter.”
My second interviewee is a colleague of my father’s who is married but has not had children yet. He had some insight to share on how he intends to raise his (hopefully) future daughters.
The first, focusing on a very specific role to define a women’s divine purpose, makes a young woman feel that if they aren’t wired with these exact traits or desires that something is wrong with them in the eyes of God. Even when a women has these desires, it makes them feel that this is the only thing essential to their happiness. I do not wish the devalue the importance of being a mother and bringing and child into this world but I do NOT want my daughters – or anyone’s daughter- to feel that their eternal worth and overall happiness in this life is intrinsically linked to motherhood. If you want to have a career, you can still be an incredible mother. If you do not wish to have children or cannot have children for whatever reason, you still have the same divine purpose and value. If you do devote much of your life to being a mother and a homemaker, there are still other things you should seek after as well. Whatever makes you, YOU is your divine worth and using that to make this world a better place and enrich the lives of those around you is what makes you worthy in the eyes of God. It all seems very simple but I hope to instill this in my children by encouraging them to find who they are and develop all the goodness in them into whatever type of individual that may be.
The second, which I think can be even more problematic, indirectly teaches women that they lack a fundamental connection, and have to rely on their husbands, fathers, brothers, bishops, or other “worthy” male influences in their lives for some divine inspiration and guidance. I hope to teach my future daughter(s) that she has a personal connection with God that is just as strong as mine. He will give her as much personal inspiration, guidance, and power to make decisions as he will to me or anyone else. Pray and receive inspiration. Ask your heart and your soul deep questions and God will direct you. The questions you have in this life, the inspiration you receive, and the decisions you make never have to be filtered through any sort of male counterpart. This ties back in with divine worth. Your worth in the eyes of God is equal no matter who you are or what path you decide to follow. Embrace all the goodness in you, develop who you are, make decisions for yourself, and know that God will empower you with as much inspiration as anyone to make this world a better place.
The most difficult part of your question is how do you teach these things in your children. My wife and I actually disagree on this because sometimes she thinks it isn’t possible. I try to remain optimistic that it is. Maybe we have trouble answering it because we haven’t experienced parenthood yet. But how am I going to get my kids to believe something differently than what they hear in Sunday school and what most of their peers subscribe to? I would hope the answer lies in my ability to connect with my children and the trust they will have in me. I would also hope that I can always provide them with an environment that really encourages them to focus on developing into a unique and inspiring individual. Be who you are and I promise there is as much happiness and divine worth available to that person as there is to anyone else in the world. I have to hope they can live that and find it for themselves.
Not that women’s issues require acknowledgement from men in order to be validated, but it is definitely encouraging that these issues are being recognized by more than just the oppressed.
Special thanks to my interviewees for contributing to today’s post. You guys are number one.