Some thoughts on how the LDS church impacts men

Today, as I was helping my son pick out a tie, some thoughts came to me that I wanted to jot down about what impact the church has on a man.

We talk, in the blogsphere, about how women are repressed in the LDS culture and doctrine, and certainly that is the bigger case.  But just because the house down the street is burning doesn’t mean one shouldn’t check one’s own fire alarms in between trying to help.

For example, everything that my kids bring home from primary for me has a tie on it.  In the church this is the defining characteristic of men.  It’s not my beard (Which; honestly is a lot more male than wearing a neck-cloth; just see Fred’s Ascot from Scooby-doo to know what I mean) or even my children drawing pictures of my face.  Father = tie.

My grandfather hated ties.  He said they were derived from the ropes put around slaves’ necks to show bondage to a master.  I researched it, and no; the modern tie does not in anyway derive from slaves.  It comes from the Cravat worn in the 1700’s as a starched cloth around the neck for fashion (Think of the Scarlet Pimpernel).  But yet there is something about the LDS church defining “Manhood” as wearing a tie that has a piece of owning the message to it.  I can tell it’s there, but I can’t quite define it.  It’s like if Underarmor had separate logos for men and women and taught children to only draw their logo for “Father” in weekly classes.  Mixing the marketing with the identity of the concept of “Father”.

And then there are the ideas like that a woman should only marry a return missionary; and someone faithful (meaning a super-active mormon boy; not regarding infidelity).  When my daughters talk about that it hurts.  It hurts because underneath that goal of finding a “Good man” are the shadow words “Not like your father”. It subtly calls my credence into question.

And there is also the line “Worthy priesthood holder”, that is used so often by teary-eyed stay-at-home moms.  It is certainly a pride-inducing and man-shaming concept (Because every guy who ever did anything less that perfection feels guilt when women say that), that puts a wedge between mixed-faith couples with absolutely no need.

And these items maybe more cultural than doctrinal, but growing up in the culture and a student of the doctrine and history; I think it valid to call out failings in all three areas.  Just because the Prophet didn’t say “And women will thank their husbands for being ‘righteous priesthood barers'” doesn’t mean that it has no effect on men.

A friend’s wife pointed out that I only referred to her as “My friend’s wife” and never as her own person (Yes, I’m aware I’m doing it here).  The comment was shocking; and I’ve thought long and hard about it ever since.  I am, so far, just not capable of separating the idea.  I ask myself how I came to think this way, and there is guilt in thinking of her as a separate person, guilt that flows back to mission rules about never being alone with the opposite gender and CHI instructions for dealing with members of the opposite gender and ideals about roles.

High school friends I can separate into individuals of both genders, but after my mission it is almost impossible to think of women as “Their own selves”.  Now maybe the church doesn’t have this impact on every person who serves a mission, but it had this impact on me, and I think it  worth mentioning so that individuals are aware of it and can self-investigate it to.

I know that one day, when I was serving as EQ president, I was working with a young couple who wanted to get married.  She had a history of eating disorders, and he was an artist; unable to get steady work.  I saw it as my duty to help him shepherd his artistic ability and provide for his family.  Exasperated after one conversation I commented on “What does she see in him” and someone else replied “He’s probably a good lover”.

And it hit me; the church never defines “a good lover” as a positive quality in a man.  Never, not once.  And yet women want that.  In all the lessons I had, we were never told to be romantic or to focus on a hobby.  To be interesting, creative, fun.  Never.  Provide, provide, provide.  And I still define most of my success by that metric.  “Did I provide for my family today?”

But life is about a lot more than that.  Spouses want more than that.  Female co-workers, and friends are more than that.   But that was the measuring stick I learned.

Anyway; This was probably a bit more rambling than my other posts, but it was bothering me today.  Thanks for listening while I got it out.

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Last edited by Mithryn on March 23, 2015 at 4:04 pm

7 Responses to Some thoughts on how the LDS church impacts men

  1. neolithic says:

    Really dug this post, can totally relate. I helped raise 5 children in the church so it resonates with me.

    I felt much the same about women for much of my life, then I had a paradigm shift while going through training as a volunteer for a crisis call center. Many of the women associated with the center had issues with men because of rape and/or abuse. Although they appreciated men such as myself going through the training, the fear of men was palpable to me and permeated the space. It began to negatively affect me in some ways as I was already struggling to develop a new sense of who I was without the church. But one very important and positive thing that arose from this training, which was conducted by women, was that I had an aha moment in which I suddenly realized that women were more than just sex objects, romantic partners and potential wives/mothers. This may seem like a given to many people, but in the hyper religious atmosphere of the church coupled with my own father’s sexist views which were passed to me, I grew up with a very slantd view of the opposite gender such that I came to a stark and sudden realization that I had never in my life had a friend of the female variety. I mean a real friend. I had acquaintences, girls and women I interacted with through church and school, but not once did I form a real friendship.

    After that realization, there was a shift in my life. I soon met and became close friends with a few different women, some of whom are still dear friends to this day, and that was nearly 20 years ago.

    Anyway, thanks for the things you shared in the post which triggered these memories for me, and I wish you all the best as you move forward in your life.

  2. sw says:

    Nice post, Mithryn. As a nevermo (f) dating an exmo (m), it’s an interesting insight into some of the damaging messages he was exposed to during his time in TSCC.

    Just a couple of notes:

    “And then there are the ideas like that a woman should only marry a return missionary; and someone faithful.”

    …It took me a couple of re-reads to determine that by “faithful” you probably meant “TBM”. Because I’m not religious, I hear the word “faithful” and immediately think of infidelity, in which case, counselling a daughter to marry someone who wouldn’t cheat on her would actually be good advice. (Not that infidelity is an absolute deal-breaker for every marriage, but it’s still fair for your daughters to hope for it.) I thought I’d let you know how this word reads to a nevermo, so you could consider clarifying that paragraph, regarding which of the supposedly negative implications apply to you as a father and role model.

    The other thing is just a typo: you said “a fiend’s wife”.

    I do appreciate you writing this, and I really hope you continue to pursue this avenue of self-reflection and share your discoveries with us. (I’m a longtime lurker on r/exmormon because I want to better understand my boyfriend and how to support his journey of recovery, both for the sake of his future happiness and for the health of our relationship.)

    I’m a feminist and egalitarian, and it’s always a relief when I see a man saying “Oh… I just realised something…!” Not that people should be thrown a parade for being decent human beings, but I totally understand that when you (a) have few first-hand reasons to notice an imbalance and (b) are actively brainwashed into having blind spots about the needs of women/minorities, it’s not easy to suddenly wake up from that sleepwalking state. It takes a lot of grace to realise the ways in which you’ve overlooked or pigeonholed other people, and it takes similar courage to try to rewrite your own role in your family’s life. I empathise with you when you say that your role as defined by LDS has been such a limiting one; I hope that you’re able to explore new avenues of creativity for yourself, and new dimensions of what fatherhood really means. I think it will be an exciting new chapter for your whole family.

  3. Adrienne says:

    Love this post!! To me this is what feminism is about. It is about how gender stereotypes and expectations can negatively affect BOTH genders. Someone made a comment in Relief Society about a month ago about how girls are such natural nurturers. I just sat there thinking about how that did not ring true in my life. My father is much more nurturing than my mother and my son is much more nurturing and interested in babies than either of my girls. I have also been thinking a lot about how this “provide” mantra for men and “mother” mantra for women will affect my children, and has affected me.

    • CC says:

      >To me this is what feminism is about. It is about how gender stereotypes and expectations can negatively affect BOTH genders.

      yeah, that’s why so many feminists protest the unsafe working conditions for loggers, roofers and construction workers. every time I drive by a construction site, there are dozens or hundreds of feminists carrying signs saying “STOP PATRIARCHAL BELIEFS THAT DEMAND MEN WORK OVERTIME AT DANGEROUS JOBS!”

      and let’s not forget that successful feminist initiative demanding affirmative action for women working as welders and garbage truck drivers. so many doors were opened for women’s careers!

      lastly, we should all praise feminists for passing the “Violence Against Men Act” that finally gives men the protection they need when they are victims of violent crime … it’s amazing how the “Violence Against Women Act” was somehow passed first when it’s actually men who were the majority of crime victims!

  4. Mike Day says:

    I hate that I have to wear a tie for work. Whoever started this tradition is going to hear from me when I get to the Spirit World. Dumb idea!

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