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.