Saturday, May 05, 2007

So. Soapbox.

This may or may not be entirely related to the PBS documentary, but I've been thinking things. As most of us do. But the thing(s) that keep coming up is (are) all about how I fit in the church as a woman, as an artist, as a dancer, as a mother, as a calling-holder, etc. It's all about me! But honestly, it's interesting to think about how we fit in to our ward families, our home families, and the roles set forth for our sexes.

As a woman: I feel like there is a combination of things happening in a ward. There is what I feel a good part of the time, which is acceptance and love. But then there's the feeling of the most obvious gender exclusion, which a woman on the documentary talked about: I don't have the priesthood and am therefore not as important in decision-making, nor do I have power that is equal. I don't get as caught up in this as Margaret Toscano (the documentary woman), but I think it may affect a lot of women in the church. Women who might be thinking that there's got to be a better answer to the question of equality.

One thing I will say: women in the church cannot be expected to accept the simple distinction of "men have priesthood, and women have motherhood" as a catch-all for any feelings of doubt or inferiority. For some this is enough. But for others it might not fully address all the questions. Is it wrong to go further? I mean, men do have the priesthood, and women do have motherhood. But not all women are mothers. And men have fatherhood. So we only have part of an answer.

I'm not sure what the whole answer is myself. But I would like to feel comfortable enough in a ward where we could talk about it free from the fear of sounding ungrateful, non-spiritual, and stupid for wondering. Personal feeling: I love being a mother. It's hard, boring, heart-wrenching, wonderful, scary, meaningful, and generally the most important thing I will ever do. I respect the priesthood, I think it's important, my husband is worthy of it, and our family can have a blessing if we ever need one. But even though I believe these things, I would still hesitate to openly discuss gender role issues in the church, for fear of ridicule. And that is the problem.

9 comments:

Robin said...

Oh wise Kendahl... it's things like this that make me MISS YOUR FACE so much. Some great discussion topics here. I also wish that it could be discussed more without feeling like it somehow diminishes one's testimony. These are important topics, and I'd like to think that a further (and honest) discussion of them at church would really help eveyone strengthen their testimony and bring greater unity to the ward. Maybe we should start a club. :)

When is the big move?

Love ya!

kendahl said...

thanks! sometimes i write these things and get paranoid, like i'm the only one wondering. so it's good to know, whew. and i'm moving in just a couple of weeks. weeks! ryan graduated today and everything, and now we have movers coming in a few weeks. crazy.

Megs said...

agreed on the open discussion at church without worrying about appearing to be a cynic/trouble maker. i think i agree on that point when it comes to several issues. because it's discussion to come to truth/real understanding, not to undermine what is true. if we have open hearts, hopefully that is what will happen.
AND i thought of you and ryan because in church someone tearily quoted a bryan adams' song in his talk (true story).

kendahl said...

ah bryan adams. ryan's favorite voice ever!

marizasmom said...

I have always felt like the whole men get the priesthood/women get motherhood answer is the lamest cop-out ever. It's not really even an answer to my mind. That said, I do think that Heavenly Father gives us what we need. Do you think perhaps women need to work more on humility and taking direction, and perhaps men need to work more on righteous dominion of power (by persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love)? That is the answer that is working for me right now. Also, the thought that I have less responsibility for huge groups of people than men who hold the priesthood is not disturbing to me. And also, I really have seen the church being run righteously, according to the scripture in D&C 121. And in our ward, that has even included an abundance of gender sensitivity on the part of the leadership.

Melissa said...

This may be just as judgmental as we're afraid everyone at church will be of doubts, but I think that every thinking member of the church has these kinds of doubts. And because they're so common, I think it's kind of disingenuous to gloss over them publically. People will say that there was a time during which they "struggled" or "had doubts" or whatever, but they never really get into it. Of course, there's probably a few good reasons for that, too: we don't need public confessions of past transgressions, and people may also focus unduly on their issues.

But I really think that we'd be spiritually stronger and less vulnerable if we discussed concerns--and the process to peace (that sounds cheesy, but it's the generaly idea)--more frequently. I think our collective silence on the matter causes more personal crises than there need to be.

As for my own role as a woman in the church, I'm highly arbitrary (thus the attempt at graduate school while still staying home). Do I particularly want a career? No, I really don't. Besides, I know I'd feel entirely guilt-ridden if it weren't fiscally necessary. At the same time, staying home is often unfulfilling and maddening (which is also guilt-inducing because I'm not 110% loving my so-called God-given responsibility) (but Paul doesn't love going to meetings as part of his "God-given responsibility" either) (although not loving going to meetings is hardly comparable to not wanting to be with your children).

I could go on. But since this is your blog, I'll stop. Sorry to be long-winded.

kendahl said...

i suppose one good answer is what we're doing right now: feeling like it's a topic to be unafraid of. now the trick is to gradually implement into a less safe arena, if we can. like church (appropriately), or talking to people we might normally be afraid of (to breach touchy subjects with).

i must also say that the leadership in this particular ward has been good to me. (i haven't had any run-ins that left me with less faith, in terms of unrighteous priesthood-wielding. if anything, i've been impressed with how well the priesthood holders i've come into contact with have treated their responsibility.)

my goal is to be less afraid, and to perhaps inspire others to overcome their fear. who will then reciprocate it back to me when i doubt myself again. hopefully there will always be a brave one :)

Travis Butterfield said...

Well, I think as a male I should put in my two-cents on this issue. I'm glad to hear you ladies talking about it, because I think about this issue a lot. When I was at BYU I took a class where we read a lot of feminist stuff, and it really got me to thinking. In the church (and in political conservativism generally), it seems that "feminism" has become a dirty word. However, I think it is a really important thing in this world. I don't agree with all the issues feminists bring forth, but I do agree with a lot of them. Having said that . . . I will try to respond to your particular issue.

I also agree that the "men get the priesthood, women get motherhood" thing is kind of lame. I often wonder about what my testimony would be like if I were a woman in the church. I'm reminded of the blacks and other groups who were not allowed to have the priesthood for so long. It was a real trial for the men who knew that they were not allowed to have the priesthood, simply because they were of a different skin color. I always think of women not being allowed to have the priesthood because of their gender.

I often wonder about things like why Heavenly Mother isn't really talked about much. And, I wonder about what it must have been like for the women who had to share their husband in polygamy.

I have no answers for these questions. Honestly, I don't think very many people, if any, do have the answers to these questions: which is probably why we get trite answers like the ones that have been pointed out. When it really comes down to it, though, I think it has a great deal to do with faith. I'm reminded of the apostle Paul's notion of the church as a body. Not everyone can be the head, or the eyes, or the feet, or the hands. It is entirely possible that the desire to be the head (have the priesthood) is merely something Satan has tried to get women to fixate on, so that they will not be happy with their own role as hands, or feet, or neck (as in My Big Fat Greek Wedding).

The other thing that I wanted to mention is that having the priesthood isn't exactly this wonderful, glorious, and magical thing. It is important, yes, but there isn't anything about it that makes the experience of any man in the church more rich, fulfilling, or special than the experience of any woman, or any non-priesthood holder. Being a bishop isn't a whole lot different from being a Relief Society President, for example. The only really big difference is that bishops have the responsibility to listen to people's confessions. That's not exactly something I would wish for. They have to deal with a lot of things that are really unpleasant. But, I still agree that there is sometimes a perceived hierarchy within the church, based on patriarchy and priesthood. I don't really know the answer. But, I admire the women who are willing to stay true to their testimonies despite this difficult issue. Who knows? Maybe in the Millenium women will have the priesthood too. Or, maybe a better reason will be given as to why they don't have it.

Anyway. This is really long. Sorry. It is just something that I have thought about, and I was glad to see an opportunity to voice my opinion on things.

kendahl said...

I'm glad for the male perspective. As Ryan and I spoke, he brought up a lot of similar notions that you brought up. Most notably, that it's not like the priesthood offices are always very fun, desired, easy, or glamorous. Which happens to be my own personal reason for not being too upset by the perceived non-balance of power.

Certainly the priesthood has more glamorous aspects, or perhaps to put it differently, more visible and recognized aspects, but it doesn't mean I want it! I am pretty happy with my role, and even prefer it. But that's where it gets hairy. I personally feel like I want to be a mother, stay home, etc. Some women don't, and yet still have testimonies. It must be hard to reconcile.

Basically, the thoughts go on...