Sunday, March 17, 2013

A (Long-Winded) Reflection On Womanhood

So, here I am in sunny California.  Because I work for my brother, who actually lives in the Bay Area, I come around periodically to check in and catch up.  I'm here for 10 days this round.  As much as I love my brother and his wife, 24 hours a day of work and home can be a bit much.  Luckily, the Oakland Temple, the Genealogy Library and Sunday services offer a lovely respite.  Though I must say, my time at the temple this week has been  I met a very nice woman.  Very nice.   But she holds some views that are quite opposite of mine and I'm trying to reconcile them. 

The first is that wearing dresses to church and the temple is - it appears - is a silly tradition - and if I understood it correctly, instituted by unenlightened men.

So to prove her point, she wore a pantsuit to the temple.  It was a lovely pantsuit.  Truly not something that would rock the world, but certainly something done to make a statement.

Indeed, it turns out that she felt so strongly about this issue that she had participated earlier in a women's "wear pants to church day" in her ward.  As stated earlier, I found this attitude most unnerving. 

Now people not of the LDS faith  are going to be very confused by two things.  First, that anyone should have a problem with women wearing pants and second that I, a most liberal woman in many regards, would have a problem with women wearing pants to these two functions.

But I believe that it was the attitude that I couldn't reconcile with.

Basically, I do not see dresses as some sort of oppressive tool instituted by men to keep us in our place.  I love to wear dresses ON SPECIAL OCCASIONS.  I feel pretty; special; girlie.  I see it as a celebration of womanhood.  Beyond that, I believe that it shows that I am considering the occasion as something special.  To me, there is nothing more important in my week as Sacrament Meeting and my trips to the temple are very personal and sacred.  I therefore dress outside of my normal, everyday attire in order to show my respect.

Might I mention that men, also dress well for the temple and church services?  Our men and boys are asked to wear slacks, a nice shirt and tie.  Many men opt for wearing a full suit.  A proper standard of dress is encouraged for all who attend.

Would my church or temple service be ruined just because another woman decided to wear pants rather than a dress?  Of course not, and I completely understand that there are circumstances based on need or ability that can affect such decisions.  But to do so militantly, as some form of protest?  I think it's a slippery slope based on a feeling of pride and entitlement which generates an attitude of defiance and discord, and I personally want no part of it.

Another issue was presented to me by this woman. She was quite clear that she "has a problem" with the following scripture:   

Genesis 3:16 Unto the awoman he said, I will greatly bmultiply thy csorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth dchildren; and thy desire shall be to thy ehusband, and he shall rule over thee.

She even explained how she brought this issue up at a women's function, pointing to the scripture and asking the other women if they too had a problem with this verse.  She was quite pleased to report that the answer was "yes".

There are two issues at play here.  First would be the limited interpretation of the phrase "..and he shall rule over thee".  If I felt for one moment that the men in my church and even more so, the man in my home thought themselves my 'ruler', then yes, I would have a problem.  I have one ruler and king and he is Christ, the Lord.  But I am not that interested in picking apart scriptures and their meaning so that I can say "look, God thinks less of me."  I know from experience that He does not.  I know that my church leaders do not and I most DEFINITELY know that my husband does not.  I am treated better by all of these men then the everyday guy on the street.

Does church doctrine back me up?  In researching this passage on the web, I found the following:  The Hebrew word translated as "sorrow" in this passage refers to "pain," not "sadness."  "Multiply" means repetition, not an increase in intensity.  So Eve was promised that she would pass through the pain of childbirth many times (Camille Fronk Olson, Women of the Old Testament, p. 16).  This was exactly what she wanted, and what God wanted.  In addition, she was blessed to desire her husband, bringing joy to her marriage and her life.  And she was blessed to have her husband "rule over her."  This meant he had a "governing responsibility to provide for, to protect, to strengthen and shield [his] wife" (Pres. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 1991, p. 99).

The world wants to convince us that women mean nothing, not our religion.  My faith tells me that my role as a mother is the most sacred and honored role in the universe.  We women have been given the gift and task of bearing Heavenly Father's spirit children.  Men, on the other hand, are given the instruction to protect and provide for their family.  Both are halves of a whole unit.

We, as women, expect our men to honor and respect the fact that we have born their children, do we not?  We would be offended if our husband considered such responsibility as trite and worthless and taking this a step further, would undoubtedly find it amusing should they proclaim that they deserved the right to bear children themselves.

But are we honoring our husbands?  How is doing any less than that fair or righteous?

In the LDS faith, men are given what is called "The Priesthood".  The Priesthood was established from the very beginning.  Here is the definition from our church:

The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God. Through the priesthood God created and governs the heavens and the earth. Through this power He redeems and exalts His children, bringing to pass "the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). God gives priesthood authority to worthy male members of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of His children. Priesthood holders can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and govern the kingdom of God on the earth.

Sherri Dew, a respected leader in our Women's Organization gives an excellent overview of Motherhood:

Motherhood is more than bearing children, though it is certainly that. It is the essence of who we are as women. It defines our very identity, our divine stature and nature, and the unique traits our Father gave us.

Ron jokingly states that men have 'the priesthood' because they need it so badly in order to become as righteous and compassionate as a woman.  I think maybe both responsibilities (motherhood and priesthood) are two paths to the same goal and equal in stature and importance.

So, my basic contention is that denying our sacred roles and responsibilities is truly what disrespects and demeans women.  I am so honored that Heavenly Father trusted me to bear and raise my precious children.  Demeaning?  I think not!  Yes, it is hard work, as well as emotionally draining and at times heart wrenching, but I chose this role.  I made the decision to have my children.  In fact, I was willing to go through heaven and hell for the chance.  I am, therefore, the one responsible for fulfilling this role, which means that there are times that I must place my own comfort and needs aside in order to fulfill it.  After all, "to give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift." (Steve Prefontaine)

I am equally grateful that I have a righteous priesthood holder for a husband.  One who honors me and feels protective of me.  He does not treat me as anything but equal and I do not wish to treat him any less either.

Now this may seem all a bit over thought and inflexible and at the very least, opinionated.  I will not deny this, but neither do I make any apologies for my position.  I do not think that it is appropriate to judge or look down my nose at anyone who has a different view.  Conversely, I do not think it is wise to stir up contention just because I think I know better than everyone.  I learn everyday that I, alone, am nothing, and am actually better and happier when I follow my Savior's example and humbly exercise both faith and temperance. 


  1. I love this mom! It is everything I would express if I were as good at it as you. Personally, I feel that my childhood was balanced and healthy because my parents honored their roles as husband, wife, mother and father.

    And any one who thinks our leaders are chauvinistic need only read/watch a talk by either President Monson or President Hinckley (most, if not all of the apostles) where they talk about their wives. There is no more respect shown for women and mothers than from the Priesthood holders of our church.

  2. I agree with you - and their wives reflect the same in their talks. But beyond that, I think that there is a situation that develops when we become convinced that we are getting less than others....and looking for proof to support that. Of course there is discrimination in the world and it is an ugly evil that must be fought, but I don't believed that either my happiness or my value is dependent upon the opinions of others. Because of that, I'm not out there trying to fight battles with people whose opinion, though interesting, do not matter that much to me personally. My self worth should be between God and me. I may see myself as a sometimes effective freedom fighter for the oppressed, but as my heroes have shown - Mandela, Gandhi, King, J Smith - you can do it with respect and dignity. Oh, I should point out that I don't particularly think that showing up to church dressed in pants is necessarily disrespectful. I just found the excuses and arguments behind the attitude as somewhat questionable. Say to me "I am more comfortable in a pantsuit" and you have my support. Say "I'm here to force an opinion because these people are neanderthals" and you've lost me.