Zelophehad’s Daughters

Costs and Benefits of Patriarchy

Posted by Lynnette

As a feminist, I frequently blog about what I see as the problematic elements of patriarchy.  However, I realize that many members of the Church (not to mention Church leaders!) see the situation quite differently.  So I thought it might be interesting to simply see what I could come up with as far as potential costs and benefits of a patriarchal system.  I realize that given my own views on this topic, there’s probably no way I can do this in a fair manner, but I’ll give it my best shot, and trust our astute readers to correct any  misperceptions and point out things that I’ve overlooked.

Note: for purposes of these lists, I’m conflating patriarchy in the home, male-only priesthood, and patriarchy in the Church, though I’m aware that these are all to some extent separate issues.

Possible Benefits:

(1) Continuity. To completely abandon patriarchy would be a clear break with the past; a model in which men lead/preside and women obey/hearken can be found throughout our scripture and our tradition.

(2) Patriarchy is necessary to preserve the family. Specifically, if I understand the argument correctly, it gives fathers a necessary role and encourages them to be involved, and thereby  counteracts cultural trends toward children being raised without fathers.

(3) For many women (again, if I’m understanding this correctly), the patriarchal system actually puts them in a role in which they feel valued for their unique contributions.

(4) For practical purposes, someone has to have the final say (this is possibly contradicted by more recent statements which emphasizes that men do not in fact have the final say, but I mention it anyway because the argument still gets invoked).

(5) This system brings greater unity to a married couple.  I’m not sure I completely understand this one, but I’ve seen the idea floated more than once.  Perhaps making one person the leader helps bring the two together in a common purpose?

(6) Not being burdened with leadership or priesthood responsibilities gives women more energy to focus on their primary responsibility of nurturing children.

(7) The priesthood serves as a kind of check on some of the excesses of male behavior.  In other words, priesthood-bearing LDS men might be somewhat more likely to behave like decent human beings than your standard American party-going male.

(8) Similarly, requiring men to act in a capacity of spiritual leadership encourages them to develop their spirituality, which is important in a culture in which—for a variety of reasons—spirituality seems to be more closely associated with women.  (Or, possibly, women are simply inherently more spiritual.)

(9) Having men perform priesthood ordinances for their children connects them to them in a way that women are already connected, having given birth to them.

(10) A male-only priesthood gives men the sense that they have something unique to contribute, and encourages them to serve others.

Possible Costs:

(1) The autonomy and agency of women are curtailed.

(2) Inevitably, as D&C 121 tells us, giving men authority is going to lead to situations of unrighteous dominion.

(3) Women don’t have the chance to develop what capacities they might have for spiritual leadership (and conversely, men don’t have the chance to develop the spiritual capacities which are best developed in other roles.)

(4) Telling men that their job is to preside can have the effect of making them less involved in the nurturing aspects of child-raising.

(5) A number of women (and some men as well) find the system intolerable and simply leave the Church.

(6) It potentially makes it more difficult for men to see women as equals.

(7) It leaves the role of women in the Plan of Salvation theologically ambiguous; it is not clear whether they are agents in their own right, or their primary role is to enable male exaltation.   For some women, the possibility of the latter, and the related possibility that God relates to women in a fundamentally differently way than he does to men, is a source of tremendous spiritual anguish.

(8) It limits the pool of priesthood leadership, which is particularly a problem in areas where many more women than men are active in the Church.

(9) Women are denied access to the blessings that go with exercising the priesthood, and men have the disadvantage of not being able to ask their spouses for blessings.

(10) Women’s voices and perspectives are not much represented in the highest councils of Church decision-making, and are only represented to a limited extent at the local level.

This is just off the top of my head, so I realize the way I’ve formulated these arguments may be flawed.  But feel free to chime in and tell me what other costs or benefits you see, or how these  ideas  might be better stated.

(By the way, I am well aware that the Church’s primary justification for the patriarchal order is that it’s the will of God.  So if that’s all you have to say, it’s probably not worth expending your valuable time and energy writing a comment to that effect.)

37 Responses to “Costs and Benefits of Patriarchy”

  1. 1.

    Here’s a possible benefit or cost, depending on your perspective: lots ans lots of babies. See Quiverfull, the Christian Patriarchy movement, in which it’s babies a-go-go, and if you can’t call your husband “lord,” you shouldn’t marry him.

    (I just read about this in the Chicago Tribune the other day; I had never heard of this movement before.)

  2. 2.

    Nice analysis. I think you’re quite generous with the possible benefits.

  3. 3.

    In general I think that we’re in an awkward position where our traditional, coherent rationales for patriarchy have largely deteriorated and in their absence we’re left floundering around conjuring up a phantasmagoria to prop up patriarchy’s raison d’être.

    One benefit to patriarchy, though, is that women are protected. Part of what they’re being protected from is responsibility, which involves making choices and suffering consequences for them. And it’s on those grounds that I object to it.

  4. 4.

    Kevin, I didn’t even think of the link between patriarchy and reproduction! Thanks for bringing that element into the discussion.

    Thanks, Emily. I’m thinking that feminist analysis of patriarchy might have more credibility if it were more willing to look seriously at the benefits of the system.

    Kiskilili, I think you’re on to something with the “protection” element being a key part of this. I want to think more about that, because isn’t one of the traditional justifications for patriarchy that it in some ways protects women and children?

    A couple of other thoughts. It occurred to me that under “costs” I could have included the consequences of benefits (7) and (8), in that men get treated as the morally inferior sex. But I’m not sure whether that’s a direct cost of patriarchy, or an indirect cost, in that it’s more a consequence of particular rhetoric defending patriarchy than of patriarchy per se.

    I also didn’t include the obvious benefit that men who like to be in charge and feel that’s their God-ordained role are going to be kept content. :) Conversely, under “costs,” it’s presumably not so great for men who don’t really want that role.

    Another possibility—something that wouldn’t have occurred to me, I don’t think, except that I’ve heard something like this articulated by some women—is that one potential benefit, if you go with the model in which the husband represents God to the wife, is that women have a direct representative of God in their lives (while men are left with a relation to the divine that is somewhat less tangible).

  5. 5.

    How timely this post is for me. Forgive me for being a bit more emotional than rational at the moment…

    Reproduction is definitely a key obstacle for me. I had high hopes for equality in marriage relationships, but have recently been faced again with the physical differences between men and women. It seems that it is simply a reality that women far more vulnerable than men in the entire reproductive process. Why wouldn’t women and children need protection that a patriarchal system seems to provide?

    If men are treated as “morally inferior,” won’t they simply rise to the occasion?

    Although, I definitely chafe at the idea of the husband representing God to the wife. That undercuts the idea of a personal relationship with God, and places enormous pressure on the husband. It seems like it should be much more of a partnership. Does the rhetoric of being equally yoked compensate for this? The husband and wife should be in equal partnership with the husband acting as spokesman? But then, what does it mean to hearken down the chain? Does the caveat of ‘as the man hearkens unto the Lord’s counsel’ allow room for the wife to supercede his judgement?

  6. 6.

    Here’s a cost:

    Patriarchy requires rigid gender roles in order to function. Those who don’t fit neatly into the prescribed roles are casualties. This includes a lot of people:

    – women with careers or other inclination toward independence
    – men with nurturing personalities

    – men who are not “alpha males” or who do not have high social rank (patriarchy treats males differently based on rank)

    – gay people
    – the intersexed and transgendered

    While patriarchy may work well for some, it makes the lives of others very painful. Isn’t this one of the main costs of the system?

  7. 7.

    Very good Lynnette. A couple of quibbles. I see Pro (1) as being partially related to Con (5), but the Pro is worded much more weakly than the Con. Rather than calling it out simply as a continuity issue, isn’t it fair to say that if we granted women leadership roles in the priesthood some people would find this unacceptable (either for perceived theological reasons or for reasons opposite the women who leave due to patriarchy) and leave the church? I don’t know if this has occurred in other denominations that have given women the priesthood, but I suspect it has and that the effect might be even more dramatic in our church.

    A second quibble is with Con (2), which tells us that if anyone (regardless of gender) is put in authority there will inevitably be unrighteous dominion. I see this as a cost of having leadership, not specifically a cost of patriarchy. Of course, you can point out that with only male leadership (which is not quite right, but largely) the unrighteous dominion is bound to be lopsided on the side of males unrighteously dominating. But, even this objection is not entirely cogent to me because leaders have an equal opportunity to unrighteously dominate both male and female subordinates. So, for this to be a con, I would want some evidence that males in power unrighteously dominate more than females in power, or that males disproportionately discriminate against subordinate females. I don’t see either of these as self-evident.

    By the way, for context, I am in favor of allowing women to exercise their priesthood much more broadly than they do today.

  8. 8.

    This is a great list. Bonus points for doing your best to suggest very good benefits for the pov you disagree with—it takes a truly thoughtful person to do that.

  9. 9.

    Patriarchy, heavily enforced within church leadership, seems to me to promote a reaction amongst some women who feel they have to sort-of “hen-peck” their husbands at home since they don’t get to have any voice anywhere else if they choose to be “active” in the church. An over-reaction to a problem, I think, but I have seen it manifest often in marriages. Some women also subtly “hen-peck” church leadership where they can, just to have some say it what is going on in the church world they participate in. I can’t say that this is an oft occurrence, but it’s enough to at least note it in the discussion.

  10. 10.

    Interesting points, Jacob. I actually think there’s a useful distinction to be made between the continuity issue and the issue you’re suggesting–that some people would find a non-patriarchal system unacceptable. Maybe the Church doesn’t change because egalitarianism is viewed as objectionable. And maybe the Church doesn’t change simply because it has no really viable paradigm for change. Some people might object to the content of a change where others might object to the fact of a change. (It seems like that was certainly the case with the 1990 changes to the temple–and I’m betting there were more of the latter than the former.)

    As to this:

    But, even this objection is not entirely cogent to me because leaders have an equal opportunity to unrighteously dominate both male and female subordinates.

    It sounds like you’re thinking about this in a context of church governance. If we’re talking about patriarchy in the home–traditionally, all husbands are given authority over all wives–it’s hard not to see women bearing the burden of being dominated disproportionately.

  11. 11.

    Patriarchy is the cause of ~80% of the discussions here at ZDs.

    ZDs is awesome.

    Therefore, patriarchy rocks! :)

    Thus, #11 on the pluses side: Patriarchy causes smart and articulate women to have really interesting conversations sometimes . . .

  12. 12.

    Kiskilili,

    Both of your points are cogent to me :) I guess this suggests an additional point in the benefits list (rather than a rewording of point 1). On the second point, I was definitely thinking in terms of the institutional church and not to home. I am not sure I have ever witnessed a patriarchal home, so I forget about that issue.

  13. 13.

    Yeah, where would fire-breathing feminists be without patriarchy? Equality might domesticate us. :P

  14. 14.

    I dunno if this is even worth commenting on. The “patriarchal system” you insist on describing (and thanks for the acknowledgement that it is not what many members or leaders agree with) is not the patriarchy I live.

    For example, advantage #4 does not exist in my home because if there is a final say (and usually there is not), it is determined by things like who has more expertise, who it affects more, rather than who has a penis.

    So this all becomes very theoretical, but has nothing to do with the LDS church.

  15. 15.

    On the Pros side: The Church’s support of Patriarchy enables them to have more acceptable in cultures where patriarchy is normative (Philippines, Samoa, South America)

    On the Cons Side: The Church’s support of Patriarchy causes confusion regarding the church’s support of equal partnership and diminishes it’s abilities in the above mentioned cultures to move people away from excessive patriarchy.

    Side note: Patriarchy seems much more normative in countries and areas where it is more necessary in regards to availability of infant formula, refrigeration, birth control, and aids for menstruation (midol, pads and tampons). Is Patriarchy more acceptable in those situations?

  16. 16.

    Naismith,

    While you might not consider your marriage a patriarchal (hierarchical) relationship, I think those comments were directed to those who do. Many of the pros relate to the patriarchal nature of the church itself, which is really self-evident and has everything to do with the LDS church.

    Matt W., you said

    Side note: Patriarchy seems much more normative in countries and areas where it is more necessary in regards to availability of infant formula, refrigeration, birth control, and aids for menstruation (midol, pads and tampons). Is Patriarchy more acceptable in those situations?

    I really didn’t understand this. It might be because I haven’t gotten nearly enough sleep this week, but would you try rephrasing it for my tired brain?

  17. 17.

    Lynnette, I think you did a pretty good job explaining the benefits. That can be hard to do when you don’t agree/understand. I would like to add a few more off the top of my head.
    -Motherhood is viewed as a special role and women are validated for their work at home, which means a lot when appreciation of traditionally feminine roles from the world is lacking.
    -Some women and men think it is a benefit that the general thought is that mothers should get custody in divorce unless there is a specific reason against it.

    I can’t take God out of the equation. I assume God has done the cost benefit analysis and has decided that the benefit for his work outweighs the cost. Obviously, God works in this way in many areas. The cost of mortal life (disease, natural disasters, crime, abuse, pain) have to be tolerated because the benefits of the mortal experience outweigh the cost.

  18. 18.

    I dunno if this is even worth commenting on

    Some friendly advice to all potential ZD commenters. If you don’t think a post is worth commenting on, there is an elegantly simple course of action available to you: Don’t comment.

    Thank you for your attention. You may now return to your previously scheduled debate about patriarchy.

  19. 19.

    Thanks for all the contributions! You’ve brought up a number of points that hadn’t occurred to me. So in an attempt to distill some of the things mentioned (yes, I like lists):

    More Benefits:

    –Women have particular vulnerabilities due to the role they play in reproduction, as pointed out by Zenaida.

    –Changing the system would likely lead to some loss of membership, as well as cause a certain amount of stress, upheaval, angst, etc. for others. Thanks to Jacob for pointing this out—it does seem a fair counterpoint to my observations about those who leave and/or suffer stress and angst over the system as currently constituted. (Please note my GA-like use of the phrase “as currently constituted.”)

    –Kaimi points out that patriarchy leads to some fabulous feminist blogging. If we didn’t have patriarchy to critique, what would we feminist bloggers do with our time?

    –As Matt W. notes, there may be advantages to patriarchy in cultural settings where it is seen as normative.

    –The patriarchal system places high value on motherhood, as JKS notes. This means that mothers get validation for this choice that they may not be able to get elsewhere. It also leads to laws which favor mothers in particular situations, such as custody disputes.

    More Costs:

    –As MoHoHawaii mentions, the system excludes a number of people who don’t quite fit, including men and women who are inclined toward nontraditional gender roles, as well as gays and lesbians.

    –KevinR brings up the possibility that patriarchy leads to a kind of over-reaction among women, who don’t have the opportunity to have their voices heard in other ways.

    –Zenaida mentions the ambiguity about the meaning of the hearken covenant, and whether a woman’s judgment is ever allowed to supersede a man’s.

    –Matt W. observes that a patriarchal system causes confusion about the meaning of “equal partnership,” and may make it harder to condemn patriarchal excesses.

    More Thoughts:

    I’m not sure where to put this, but I think Jacob makes a fair point about unrighteous dominion being an inevitable consequence of authority generally, not only male authority. There may be no way around this is an institutional context. Though I also think Kiskilili makes a valid point about the home context, where it seems that a straightforwardly egalitarian model could potentially serve as a check on this tendency.

    Also, I agree with Kiskilili that the question of change really needs to be nuanced somewhat, when talking about why and how change might cause unrest. It kind of depends, I think, on whether those who have a positive view of patriarchy hold this because of a belief in its inherent goodness, or a belief that this is what God wants (though I realize the two are not mutually exclusive—I’m just noting that change, if it came through revelation, would be less problematic in the case of the latter).

    Naismith, I’m honestly baffled by your assertion that patriarchy has nothing to do with the LDS church. I realize that questions regarding gender roles in the home are fraught with debate. But like Vada, I don’t see how it’s any kind of stretch to say that the Church endorses patriarchy: the FamProc tells men that their divine role is to preside, and LDS leaders make comments to the effect that the patriarchal order is eternal, and instituted by God. Also, only men are ordained to the priesthood, and the church as an institution is run by men—the final authority in every ward, stake, and the church as a whole is male. I realize there is a good deal of debate about what this all means; my intent here was simply to suggest some possible (and not necessarily universally applicable) consequences of those realities.

    JKS, I do think it’s fair to bring God into the equation—my caveat at the end was meant to discourage comments along the lines of, “this is God’s system, so who are you to even ask questions about it?” :) So maybe one way of framing your point (if I’m getting it right) would be to say that for those who believe this is of divine origin, an additional benefit is that in supporting it, they are demonstrating their faith and trust that God knows what he’s doing.

    (By the way, I’m not going to be around for a while, so I won’t be able to respond to comments–okay, okay, like I ever respond to comments in a timely fashion. But I’m headed off, first to this very fun-looking conference at Claremont, where I hope to see at least a few fellow bloggers and other cool people and have many exciting discussions of patriarchy, and then to Sunstone West, where I hope for basically the same thing.)

  20. 20.

    re: the conference, I am quite bummed to be missing all those great speakers and intriguing subjects and possibly meet some dear bloggers, but I just can’t get away to So Cal tonight. Believe me, I tried to find a way!

  21. 21.

    Chrissy,

    I hope you’re able to make the much shorter trip to Sunstone West then!

  22. 22.

    Naismith, I’m honestly baffled by your assertion that patriarchy has nothing to do with the LDS church.

    I’m not saying that patriarchy has nothing to do with the church. I am saying that what you describe here is not the patriarchy taught by the LDS church. You are trying to take the world’s definition of patriarchy, and inflict it on the church, despite contrary evidence from leaders’ counsel, such as Elder Oaks’ talk on the meaning of preside.

    The consequences don’t exist if the practice is not there. Much of the pros and cons you list apply to the world’s definition of patriarchy not the church’s definition.

  23. 23.

    I wonder if there is another “benefit” to consider: that it is not possible for women (female spirits) to hold the priesthood. Even if we wanted them to, the leadership wanted them to, even God wanted them to—it’s just not possible (for whatever reason).

    I see this as different from what was said during the priesthood ban era. The issue then was that some male spirits supposedly were not worthy to hold the priesthood, but there was no question about capacity.

    (I’ll make it clear that don’t support this view, just think it should be added it to the list.)

  24. 24.

    Kaimi – actually I think I can, at least from lunch onward. I know several ward members attending, including your 2:00 presenter :)

  25. 25.

    I’m not saying that patriarchy has nothing to do with the church. I am saying that what you describe here is not the patriarchy taught by the LDS church. You are trying to take the world’s definition of patriarchy, and inflict it on the church, despite contrary evidence from leaders’ counsel, such as Elder Oaks’ talk on the meaning of preside.

    Okay, I can see that as a critique of my #4. But as I mentioned in the original post, I’m aware that the notion that the man has the final say has been challenged by several recent Church leaders. I included it anyway because I don’t think the idea is gone just because there has been a shift in the way in which “preside” is defined. In my experience, the traditional explanation (someone has to make the final decision, and that someone is the man), is still out there among Latter-day Saints, especially of a certain generation—and I suspect that for many of them, that’s simply the model they grew up with, the model which used to be endorsed. I don’t see how that observation is inflicting the world’s definition of patriarchy on the Church, because I’m not even looking at the world’s definition—I’m looking at the way in which Latter-day Saints themselves have understood the teaching.

    But setting my (4) aside, which I can see you have strong objections to, I’m not really sure how any of my other points fall into the “world’s definition of patriarchy,” either. For purposes of this post, I’m not actually all that interested in the latter–what I’m trying to grapple with is in fact the specific way in which patriarchy takes form in the LDS church. So maybe it would be more helpful if I dropped the possibly problematic term “patriarchy” and simply framed this as a question of, what are the effects of (1) the Church being governed by males, (2) male-only priesthood, and (3) men being given the role of spiritual leaders in the home.

  26. 26.

    Thanks for the addition, BrianJ. I do think you could make a plausible argument in the context of LDS theology, especially the teaching about eternal gender, that something about femaleness is inherently antithetical to priesthood—and that would certainly play a role in this discussion. Interestingly, that would suggest a model in which men hold the priesthood not because God arbitrarily decided that, but because that’s part of being male. (Like you, I’m not endorsing the idea, but I do think it’s worth putting on the table.)

    A couple of other thoughts. I had an interesting conversation at Sunstone with someone who mentioned that it was in giving blessings that he could express his love to his children, in a way that he found difficult if not impossible to do directly. It does seem that those kinds of expressions are frequently more challenging for males (for whatever combination of cultural and biological reasons), and priesthood ritual can serve as a counter to that.

    Also, I thought of a way of reformulating my cost (2), in light of Jacob’s critique—I think what I was trying to say was that in the current set-up, the costs of unrighteous dominion are borne disproportionately by women. I agree that there’s no reason to think that if the situation were reversed, women would be any less prone to such behavior.

  27. 27.

    In my experience, the traditional explanation (someone has to make the final decision, and that someone is the man), is still out there among Latter-day Saints, especially of a certain generation—and I suspect that for many of them, that’s simply the model they grew up with, the model which used to be endorsed.

    In my opinion this is indisputable. ( I am of the generation to know.) The problem I run into is in getting women to even acknowledge that others are experiencing negative experiences. The immediate response is that they don’t want the priesthood or feel less than so problem settled. We also have to always acknowledge that the church is largely a local affair and everyone is having different experiences while assuming everyone else shares them. I attended the CGU conference (wow!) and after a day of head nodding I had an unsettling thought…if we are going to start the discussion with the assumption that the church is what it claims to be….do we have a responsibility as academics to keep all positions on the table. In other words….what if God does intend women to be subordinate? What if the Bible got it right? On a different topic, I do not find Mormon blogs to be particularly warm or welcoming. There is a very different “feel” here and I’m very grateful that I learned of this blog at the conference.

  28. 28.

    I think what I was trying to say was that in the current set-up, the costs of unrighteous dominion are borne disproportionately by women. I agree that there’s no reason to think that if the situation were reversed, women would be any less prone to such behavior.

    Exactly. And men are not being denied anything because some might not behave appropriately so that seems something of a non sequitur. I liked how Claudia Bushman described it…women are going out into the workforce as equals and then have to “shrink down” on Sunday.

  29. 29.

    Lynnette, “…he could express his love to his children, in a way that he found difficult if not impossible to do directly.”

    I know a father who is like this. And I know one of his kids. And this kid does not want a blessing from Dad because of the perception that that is the only way Dad ever tries to connect. It’s an entirely new way of looking at:

    No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned

  30. 30.

    Good points, Juliann–I’m glad you stopped by! I hope we can live up to our reputation for friendliness.

    if we are going to start the discussion with the assumption that the church is what it claims to be….do we have a responsibility as academics to keep all positions on the table. In other words….what if God does intend women to be subordinate?

    I absolutely think we have to keep all positions on the table. I don’t think we can take for granted that women are full people just because we want it to be so. But then I’m a doom-and-gloom feminist of the darkest stripe. :(

    I really like your point, Brian–I completely agree that the problem with creating a formal mode of interaction between father and children, through priesthood, is that this isn’t a relationship in itself, and might become a substitute for an actual relationship. And why would children seek that kind of interaction from fathers outside the larger context of a relationship with them?

  31. 31.

    Another very pragmatic cost of patriarchy (meaning sites in Mormon thought at which authority is granted to men to the exclusion of women) is that women are asked to confess to men or receive counsel from men regardless of the issue. I know there are women who would prefer to discuss certain things with women.

  32. 32.

    Im a little late to this discussion and a bit of a drive by poster but I would like to bring up an additional influence that affects the thinking of church leadership on the “differences of administration and diversity of operations”.

    Specifically one of the major formative experiences of much of the senior leadership is WWII, and until recently many of them had experienced that war as members of the military. One of the chief principles of good Military organization is clearly defined” chain of command and authority. As an example; in the recent welfare training we had he story of one of the Apostles asking a Bishop to go see to a families needs because only a bishop could authorize withdrawals from he Bishop’s Store House. One of the chief functions of the chain is to determine communication lines and organizational structure. Another important aspect of CoC is that just be cause I’m a a General and your a Private it doesn’t mean I can give you orders. Even if you are i still have to send them down through the proper channels.

    I also see this as a computer programmer where if, as I understand it, in the celestial kingdom there is no difference between Family Government, Church Government, and State Government, than patriarchal organization is the framework that defines the “data structure” of the connections in the human family. In this case a tree:-).
    Another possible metaphore; in the fabric of eternity the male line is the warp and the female the weft.

    As a side note I am an EQ President and My Dad has been a Bishop, both of us are, personality wise, much more typically “female” then our spouses :-P

  33. 33.

    Another very pragmatic cost of patriarchy (meaning sites in Mormon thought at which authority is granted to men to the exclusion of women) is that women are asked to confess to men or receive counsel from men regardless of the issue.

    There are practical reasons to stop this in our current culture as well. I think two things could happen without challenging the priesthood. The first is not putting young women alone in a room with an older man to talk about things like sex. Another is to stop making priesthood a job description and opening up most church callings to women. If they can be “presided” over in the RS they can be presided over in any other calling.

  34. 34.

    Steel, I heard a complaint (can’t remember where) that was supposed to illustrate the oppressed state of Mormon women. The women’s bathroom door was broken and the bishop was accused of not fixing it where he would have fixed it if it was the men’s bathroom. I can’t remember what strategy was played to remedy the injustice but the result was the church maintenance guy finally showed up and fixed it (he was probably the problem all along). Unfortunately, all this really demonstrated is that the church maintenance guy had more power than the bishop. The only triumph I could see in the story would be if the church maintenance guy turned out to be a woman.

  35. 35.

    I read some of the quiverful discussions for supporting patriarchy. Are these men trying to lose their wives in the crowd?
    Re:

    women are asked to confess to men or receive counsel from men regardless of the issue.

    Be very afraid of even talking with men who want to counsel in the church. As a school psychologist and counselor, I know, firsthand that Bishops believe that confidentiality means “Whoever they think needs to know.” When it is supposed to be a private conversation between a Bishop and a member.
    They have nothing to lose if they break confidentiality and there is no oversight or accountability when Bishops violate ethics. The good ol’ boys will cover for the violator. I have a two page letter, from a sister in my ward congregation, following the non-interview, where I asked that the Bishop to recuse himself from the non-interview, after he asked for a questionable requirement, before he would interview me. I did not wish to spend a year soliciting his favor in the way he requested in order to have my temple recommend renewed.
    The same requirement was not asked of my father or my son-in-law. I faced retalitory actions from the leadership after I offered to teach his stake leadership group the ethics of confidentiality according to our state psychologist’s ethics boards. I student taught this to Oregon educators at college level as part of my graduate degree and I work as a psychologist/counselor in my state. Currently, my husband and I are shunned, and relieved to be left alone. The priesthood is open to unrighteous dominion and there is little oversight process or accountability when unrighteous dominion is committed, at least in my personal experience in this stake. They could change this practice by allowing women to interview women for temple recommends. At least women would be less likely to embellish the procedure for their own personal gain.

  36. 36.

    I’m really sorry your experiences have been so negative, Jo. I agree that we should exercise caution in what we tell priesthood leaders, who might not feel the same formal obligation to confidentiality that professionals are held to, for example.

  37. 37.

    re: Patriarchies leading to the reproductive exploitation of women.

    I have heard for years (especially from Relief Society ladies) about this mythical man that lurked inside most mild-mannered priesthood holders: a man who would, given his druthers, keep his wife barefoot, pregnant, and without book-larnin’.

    I have never met this man. Not in my generation (I’m 29, with 5 kids) and not in my parent’s.

    However, among the husbands of my same-age acquaintances, I have noted that more and more husbands ARE calling the shots on reproduction, but in the other direction. They put off starting families, they limit family size, and they shame other men who don’t choose as they do.

    Many of the sisters I know have told me they would like to have more chidlren but their husband “wouldn’t let them”, or their husbands pressured them to keep part-time or full-time employment, sometimes to finance basic life stuff (mortgage, etc.) and sometimes for the extras (BIG house, boat).

    But there’s not a lot of support for this problem. I used to mention this to Relief Society sisters; the older ones told me I should be grateful I wasn’t being kept barefoot and pregnant; the bishops I’ve discussed the issue with seemed to blink and say, “But why would you WANT to have more children?” and generally supported whatever the husband decided on limiting family size.

    Maybe the problem isn’t a patriarchy; it’s a patriarchy that insufficiently respects and accepts the feminine. In all its forms, including in childbearing and childrearing.

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