Not infrequently statements from Church leaders contain instances of full-fledged Chicken Patriarchy in all its muddled, labyrinthine, self-contradictory splendor. But in other cases, both patriarchy and equality are being taught separately as appropriate ideals.
I’m not exactly wedded to what I’m about to propose, but I thought I’d float the idea here and solicit your own impressions of Church discourse, specifically the distribution of contexts in which these mutually incompatible ideals are being advocated. To some degree, does the Church preach equality to the men and subordination to the women? There are forums in which women are asked to submit to their husbands, but the counterpart seems to be lacking in the Church: contexts in which men are taught to dominate their wives.
For example, in the last Conference Elder Scott told the men specifically to practice egalitarianism in marriage:
The family proclamation states that a husband and wife should be equal partners. I feel assured that every wife in the Church would welcome that opportunity and support it. Whether it occurs or not depends upon the husband. Many husbands practice equal partnership with their companion to the benefit of both and the blessing of their children. However, many do not. I encourage any man who is reluctant to develop an equal partnership with his wife to obey the counsel inspired by the Lord and do it. Equal partnership yields its greatest benefit when both husband and wife seek the will of the Lord in making important decisions for themselves and for their family.
Several aspects of this statement interest me: (a) most strikingly, Elder Scott seems entirely oblivious that women might ever be required, for example, to hearken to their husbands, an undeniable instantiation of patriarchy; and (b) Elder Scott suggests that where equality does not prevail, men are the ones hindering it (apparently assuming husbands are by default the more powerful parties in the marriage).
Perhaps Church leaders, when they become aware of some women’s profound unease with instances of gendered hierarchy, attribute misbehavior to individual men, thereby sidestepping examination of structural inequalities. If so, men are being encouraged to treat their wives as equals specifically as a palliative for women’s discomfort with the patriarchy that the Church itself continues to advocate in its halting, non-public manner. My suspicion is that this only exacerbates the situation. Men are asked to take the heat for a systemic problem and can only scratch their heads that women get upset, where women wonder why men are blind to the inequalities that are being pushed on them at the institutional level.
As a tendency (and not necessarily a rule), does this fit your experience? If not, how do you see the distribution of the Church’s teachings about equality and patriarchy?
- 26 December 2008