Friday, March 05, 2010

Proclamations - Divine Nature

You're invited to join me in examining and deepening your convictions about the Family this month.

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

Two things -

Latter-Day Saints
have, I suppose, a unique perspective on divine nature. We believe that as children of God, we have the potential to become like Him. Yes, we believe we are gods in embryo. We believe you are too. Wild stuff. Consider this:

It may be possible for each of us to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden, of my neighbour's glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you may talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet if at all only in a nightmare.

C.S. Lewis - The Weight of Glory

With this audacious belief (that I happen to believe in with all my heart) we are also left to believe that families are the perfect workshop for helping us develop toward becoming Heavenly Parents in the likeness of our Heavenly Father. This is, perhaps, what we mean by destiny.

Also - any statement on gender is bound to get hate-mail in this day and age. I hope to tactfully state some of my beliefs in the course of this series. I can only state what I know based on my own experiences, and I am more than happy to admit there are significant limitations to my experiences. I hope I do not claim to know things that I do not actually know; I certainly intend to be careful in this way. But what I do know, based on my own experiences, is that the culture of feminism has done me (personally) no favors. As a woman I have distinct characteristics and strengths, and in the name of valuing the woman, feminism (though well-meaning) largely missed the mark by continuing to devalue her strengths and the significance of the contributions women are uniquely equipped to make to society. Feminism with it's determination that women can do everything men can do, and do it better, has emasculated men and stripped women of their femininity. Even worse, it put them at perpetual odds with one another. When we become mothers to future men and women, it becomes difficult to thank feminism for this contribution and the cruel and unnecessary pressure it will put on our children.

But enough about feminism. {And I'm not equipped to safely say much regarding the characteristics of men} Women are by-and-large given the gift and ability to be emotionally perceptive, to be patient, to anticipate needs, and to generally be a soft place for weary souls to land. Not coincidentally, these traits make one ideally suited for motherhood. These are not the traits the world is valuing in women today. The world wants us to be "strong" in a sense that means tough, ambitious, competitive, and even merciless. I think there is a more desirable, refined strength in being kind, refined, and good.

Mormon women have been admonished:

"The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity. "
~Margaret D. Nadauld~


hairyshoefairy said...

I love that quote from Sister Nadauld. I must agree with your thoughts. Why are so many women bound and determined to do everything men can do? Men can't do everything women can do. Why can't we just be happy with our respective strengths and try to develop those to the best of our abilities?

Katie May said...

I wish I had more time, energy and mental capacity to comment on this. I'm loving this series!

Clay always says I'm almost an anti-feminist because, when given the chance, I tend to run away with my thoughts about embracing our womanhood, and not being ashamed of it. (I could go on and on, if the kiddos weren't begging for attention...)

Thanks for being another force to help support the family!

The Libutti Family said...

I was a women's studies minor in college and have come so far from that point... while I enjoyed learning about different women's situations across cultures and reading what I truly believe were some brilliant thinkers, I left school feeling like Women's Studies advocates wanted women's choices supported, but only if it was the choices THEY agreed with. Forget it if you wanted to devote your life to family and love and children and calm: that was clearly a WRONG choice. And an OPPRESSED choice.
Well, not any of the women I know who have chosen this life feel oppressed. I certainly don't.
I feel like I had the ability to hone the gifts and essentially female qualities God blessed me with: like you said, patience, softness, and love.
And I wouldn't trade that for anything!
Great post and thanks for helping me use my brain today!!

Tracy M said...

I would like to gently add something from a slightly different point of view- and I underscore Gently.

I understand what you are saying. I don't want to be a man, and I certainly don't wish to emasculate my sons or the men in my life. Nor do believe I should be able to do anything a man can- it's not possible, and vise versa.

I also agree with the comment by the Libutti Family:

Well, not any of the women I know who have chosen this life feel oppressed. I certainly don't.
I feel like I had the ability to hone the gifts and essentially female qualities God blessed me with: like you said, patience, softness, and love.
And I wouldn't trade that for anything!


I would like to offer for your consideration that your (and my) ability to have these points of view is the very product of the first and second waves of feminism that we sometimes casually deride. The very fact that we have the option of choosing how and what way we wish to spend our time is a product of women who worked hard, marched for suffrage and demanded equal pay from their sweatshop sewing machines.

It's easy from the comfort of our living rooms, where we truly want to be, to claim we have no need of feminism. I would point out that what perhaps we really are rejecting is militant sexism, not true feminism. Unfortunately, they have become convoluted, and sometimes women like you and I, who are happy in more traditional roles, feel alienated by the radical stereotypes of the extremes.

Feminism is not a dirty word. It does not require me to be aggressive or masculine or not shave my legs. Heaven knows I love my make-up and being a stay-at-home-mom. Feminism is what allows me to to make those choices. Feminism is part of what allows us as women to choose to follow God, to obey what we hold to be spiritual truths, and have the freedom to do so.

Women in other parts of the world are chattel, are impoverished and often don't even have a channel to voice and cry out for their rights as daughters of God. We do. We are blessed. To claim the right to stay home and raise our children is a privilege many women only dream of- despite it being a directive from the Lord. That's why feminism is important.

I hope I said that in a way that was gentle and respectful- because I understand what you are saying, and have even said much the same thing myself. But my view has broadened, I think, and I'm pondering some things, and just wanted to share what I'm thinking.

Cam said...

Amen and amen.

As far as Tracy's well spoken comments, I think that the word "feminism" means different things to different people. I agree that there is a difference between supporting women's suffrage or equal pay for equal work and radical feminism. One does not need to be a feminist to support humane and equal treatment for women in 3rd world countries where women are still viewed and treated as property and subject to death sentences to restore family "honor" for such "crimes" as going out in public, showing their face, getting an education, or wishing to marry someone of their own choosing.

Em said...

I was really tempted to use the phrase "post-feminism" but was worried it would be confusing. Clearly any effort to value women is important! (I just take issue with the approach that home-making is oppressive and bad for women, when I feel it's the greatest contribution women can make).

la_sale_bete said...

Feminism – noun
1. The doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
2. (Sometimes initial capital letter) an organized movement for the attainment of such rights for women.
3. Feminine character.

It is the aim of feminism to work toward systems that enable women to exercise their agency, which has historically been restricted by all sorts of cultural and legal structures. The agency that women exercise, of course, includes choices like whether they want to work out of the home, or to stay at home with their kids. What feminists value is not necessarily what the choice is, but the fact that the woman was free to make it.

The image of feminists as women who hate mothers that stay at home is a gross generalization and judgmental. Do such radical and dogmatic individuals affiliated with the feminist movement exist? Certainly. But to point to those groups and claim that they represent feminism as a whole is like pointing to a backwoodsy fundamentalist LDS sect and equate it with the Church at large. Any set of principles can inspire a range of interpretations by splinter groups, and can veer from its original aims. That doesn’t make the underlying premise faulty.

Furthermore, plenty of recent feminist scholarship focuses on the importance of motherhood and the ways it has been and is undervalued.

If you say that you value humane and equal treatment for women in third world countries, that is, by definition, a feminist perspective.

Em said...

I can only base my conclusions on my own experiences, and the message I was taught, particularly in academic circumstances, WAS largely anti-SAHM. I openly admit that my experience is limited to a very small portion of the time and space that the vast movement named "feminism" or even "post-feminism" encompasses. At this point in my experience, I base most of my feelings (which are not intended to be comprehensive, nor academic) on real-life experience and encounters with others via virtual and social relationships and the indoctrinations that have defined them and their behavior.

I did not mean to imply that nothing good has come of feminism in all the world. Clearly that would be a false statement. I am very grateful for those who strive to recognize the value of women. But I do very strongly feel that in the culture in which I was raised, there has been pressure on girls to outperform boys in all the areas that boys naturally excel. And if anyone praises the accomplishments of men without also recognizing those of women, they still tend to get reamed. (See CJane's ode to Provo post.... her comment on knowing wonderful men who were professors got some nasty comments wondering where the women professors were.....I can't find the post, maybe she deleted it. But she followed it up with her thoughts on feminism

This is experience that I and many others of my acquaintance are, in reality, having with the realm of post-femint culture. It is in no way reflective of feminism as it relates to academia, or social policy. It's our experience of social trends and pressures.

Em said...

To add another tangent; compassionate, respectful treatment of women is far more intrinsically a Christian perspective (as per Christ-centered doctrine, not necessarily observed throughout the history of Christianity) than one associated with any philosophy of man. Any movement that takes Christian principles, removes God from them, and then turns them into an agenda CANNOT be as effective as the gospel pure and unadulterated. I will not say that they cannot accomplish important things, but there's something better out there.

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