Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Neck High in Familiar Waters Pt IV

So to continue

The Preside Question –

Women in The Church are praised and generally thought of as being the more capable and spiritual sex, so the funny situation remains why, when there is this amazing resource of thought, insight and capacity are we not situated in callings and roles (ie: Leadership positions) where we can affect the most good?

As a secondary idea a gent from my ward gave a paper at the conference essentially stating the Silent(ced) Heavenly Mother roll/dynamic is a source and platform for male dominance in the Church.

All of my thoughts on this, I’ve realized, come from how, where, and with whom I grew up. I don’t know why but even being the only girl among boys (yet another aspect to my Other complex) I never once felt dominated. I don’t know if it’s just because of the metal that I’m made out of but it’s never once entered my brain.

To inform you better on my conclusions let me introduce you to the Men that I grew up with:

My Father:
convert to the church
Attended West Point
Married my mother at 21
Had is JD from J. Ruben Clark, worked full time, passed the Bar in two states on the first try, and had 3 kids by the time he was 30
When he and my mother were dating she realized that he was essentially a comic book geek that lived with his Grandma but had a good heart. One date she gave him a stack of books including Tolkein and CS Lewis and said “If we’re going to keep seeing each other you need to read these. We’re going to need something to talk about.” He did. He one upped her and enrolled in an Art History course as well. He married her and has forever counted himself blessed.

My Brothers:
There are 3, 2 younger one older. All of them are more intelligent than is probably good for them. Their minds never stop working. They’re all as big as buildings and have testosterone levels that could choke a bull at 50 paces. They’re also conversationalists, they were brought up by my hyper verbal mother. They’re all hilarious and socially literate. They were deeply affected by my Grandma Child as well. They have Southern manners and sensibilities. They open doors, carry luggage, scoot out chairs and do the dishes not because the women were too weak to do so, but because that’s how they show respect for us. They talk and talk and talk about everything. They have the capacity to articulate thought and angst and every so often their feelings. They know who Fellini and Chaucer are but they’re also what I lovingly refer to as Mountain Men. Scouting is a psudo-religion to them. They make jerky and carry knives and tie Australian mystery knots and know ju jitzu and read the tides and the stars and all that. They’re bulldogs of the best kind. Whenever I’m dating someone it’s a considerable effort to keep them at bay but when I ask something of them they do it even if they don’t like it. I don’t ask often because I know whatever I ask for they won’t stop until its done so when I *do* ask they know I mean it.

My cousins:
Everything I just said about my brothers but throw in even more charm, a bit more red hair and there you go. They’re essentially my brothers too.

Those are my best friends in the whole world in a nutshell.

I’ve already outlined the gents that I was surrounded with in the ward I grew up in and I could go on about my uncles (one bow hunts for fun) and the elders in my mission (there were many more like Elder Hughes) and my ex boyfriends. Those are better left alone actually…

But like I said, this is my sense of normal. These are not boys. These are Men. My mother raised my brothers to be Men. I would assert that the only way for relationships between men and women to work is if the men are Men and if the women are Women. Squabbles between grown boys and girls are responsible for about 99% of the dysfunction in this area, in my opinion.

I think that men can’t be Men unless they associate with women who are Women. I think the rolls are symbiotic, complementary, and inseparable. Likewise I don’t believe women can be proper Women without proper Men. My feminist compadres might grill me for that but it’s what I think. I credit a good portion of the confidence, poise, and intelligence I have to the influence of amazing Women obviously, but also to the Men in my life. They expected little else of me. That along with the respect they have for me and the safe places they provide for me to grow and learn have all been key to my success and development.

Men are called to preside in marriages, meetings, families and the Church in general. I don’t have a problem with that because I have always felt in capable hands. Also, like I said before, my take on things as a missionary hasn't changed much since I've been home. I like being free to do what I need to do and what I feel called to do and that is be on the ground talking, helping and loving people. Like the rest of the conscious world I work better when my mind is free of distraction. I’m a capable decision maker and don’t shy away from leadership opportunities but I breathe a little easier when I'm not in one. When I have been called to leadership rolls I have felt a double load. One to keep up the pace I want with The Work and two, the administration thereof. I think it shows great insight on the Lord’s part that His greatest resource (the Women) are completely free and at liberty to do the most good in the places He needs it done. We are mobile, capable, and powerful. Why wouldn’t you want that kind of person at the front of your efforts?

I know there are a large amount of douche bags that don’t get this and say its a woman’s job to shut up, make things pretty, and just essentially be a pretty thing. I would direct him to DC 121 and say men’s job is to keep themselves from being assholes and wish them luck at finding their amend Priesthood. And I have once. Or twice…

I think that kind of ignorance comes from simply not knowing yourself or being too lazy to try to do so. Not understanding yourself as a Man or a Woman is a cantankerous state and is further complicated by being ignorant as to how they fit together. No pun intended even though it is funny and odds are if a gent is of that temperament he probably has no clue about that either.

I have chosen not to be jaded by said sad individuals who I lovingly refer to as "works in progress". I choose to see and believe in the better parts of people. Men become Men as women become Women, they aren’t born that way. This means that there is a long and sometimes painful learning curve. It’s a tall order to be a Man. Men know how to listen. Men are honorable. Men are consistent and patient. Men understand that their strength is fleeting and dependent on the people around them. Men are grateful. Men communicate differently. They express love differently. Their greatest happiness is to make the Women in their lives happy. Women find their greatest happiness by being adored (meaning respected, listened to, and loved) and safe. Men let themselves openly adore their Women. They work to protect them. That is their basic primal and spiritual programming. What better way to play to the eternal identity of His sons and provide for His Daughters than for The Lord to give Men the Priesthood which only exists or has potency when it is engaged in the service others? It makes perfect sense to me.

So I would assert, in turn, that Women should let themselves be protected and provided for. Just as Men make space for us we need to make space for them. It’s never an issue that we couldn’t do that for ourselves, it’s the fact that we understand that that’s how Men communicate and show love and so we should let ourselves be loved. We have a hard time with this but that’s a whole different post.

I went hiking on Saturday. A few of us set out and I went up with my friend who is a Marine. A gun toting, battle scarred, eating snakes in the wilderness Marine. He is one of my best friend’s brothers and I’ve known him for forever. We’re pretty tight. We had to leave early and go back to the car and were hiking this really mellow trail with a lot of people on it. Threat level from people, flora, and fauna was somewhere between Chuck E. Cheese and the McDonald’s PlayPlace. However, whenever we passed someone on the trail he would get in front of me and stare down whoever was passing even if they were a girl scout troop. True story. Did he do this just to be dominant? No. He was protecting me. Even though I felt I didn’t need protection, he was doing his job. Did I take umbrage at him walking in front of me? No. Its actually something I expect from whomever I'm with. It's what my brothers would do. It's what my dad would do. It’s what I think any Man would do.

Also, I don’t see things the way some people might. To me, The Church is a construct. It’s a vessel constructed of doctrinal principles to carry us where we need to go. The ship isn’t the issue, it’s where we’re going and how well we're sailing it. We have to sail the ship and if it’s sailing poorly it’s not the ship’s fault, it’s the sailors. I think laziness is one of our greatest enemies. The more we exercise it the sooner it’s best friend selfishness pops around the corner and THEN the ropes pop up, the gloves come on and the bell rings and the only way it ends is with a broken heart or a hospital trip. Or both.

I say all of this as someone who has had a long road to Womanhood. I used to be a feisty over zealous scrappy Feminist. As a teenager I took issue with almost every little thing. Like why Primary, YW and Relief Society were called “Axillaries”. I found it diminutive and wrong. Polygamy was almost a deal breaker for me. It was a serious struggle for a long long long time. It took my mission to talk me down off of that ledge. Secular wise, I was totally convinced that I had the faculties to make my way in the world on my terms and didn’t have to answer to anyone. I was hungry for a career. Marriage and family would be nice but they weren't at the top of my list. The longer I spent in the work force, the longer I was on my own, the more I honestly pondered what I saw in the temple and my life, the more I let go of all that pride (cause that’s what it is – that umbrage is pride) and the more things clarified for me. I surprised myself one day realizing that I was an educated woman, a successful woman, that found myself wanting nothing more than simple domesticity. I'd like to make baby clothes and have a garden and reenact Where The Wild Thing Are to my hearts content. I don’t feel tamed by it all or that I’ve compromised or diluted. I just feel enlightened. However, I think that if I hadn’t been allowed to carve my own path and just jumped into marriage at 19 (like I almost did) I would have spitefully resented a lot of things and been a very different person.

I realize that a lot, if not all, of this is crazy and disjointed and I apologize if its fuzzy. I desperately hope that I've addressed something cogent. In summary, yes men have the Priesthood and Preside in the church but I assert that this is a good thing, a necessary thing. I think as a Feminist we got the good end of the bargain. When I say preside I define in two main components. One – in an administrative sense they take care of the running of The Church. This is a blessing because we as women, in turn, are free to do the hardest and most rewarding part of the Lord’s Work without out distraction or dilution of our faculties or energies.

Secondly I take it to mean protect, make, and keep sacred spaces and people so that growth can happen. The Priesthood has many other rolls in men's lives. It teaches accountability, charity and love in a way that men will learn but I only say and know this as an echo of my brother's voices. I have no experience to back that up.

However, progress – it's the real and material point isn't it? All of this hubbabaloo is working towards that. It’s the Lord’s bottom line. This is His ship so its our bottom line too. Men and Women alike are expected to come home better than they let, not fighting about who walks in the door first a they arrive.

Trying to define and see things like gender rolls and the construct of The Church through academic or historical eyes and ascertaining a divine agenda from it seems a little short sighted to me. Like 2D comic book short sighted. God's constructs are designed according to His norms. Judging them by man's measure seems fruitless. It comes across as trying to use a yard stick to measure the temperature of the sun. We're supposed to elevate our thinking to His not insist that He come down to ours. There are powers and works in play that it will take us a lifetime to understand and appreciate and I’m just glad that I do know what I do and that I’m at liberty to love what I do and am very confident and content with where and how I’m doing it.

The End

1 comment:

Liz W. said...

So much to think about.

Maybe after the movie at Brett's, we could have a little powwow.

Oh, and I LOVE your church/ship analogy. Very insightful...