Zelophehad’s Daughters

But what do I need a man _for_?

Posted by Melyngoch

This is the question I asked last week in Relief Society. It didn’t start a huge fight, but only because I’d already started one, by pointing out that I could change my own tires and would rather find a husband who could get the baby back to sleep. (Or, depending whom you ask, someone else started it even before that, by suggesting that women demand their husbands change the tires, and that they [wives] be sure to force them [husbands] to preside. I don’t even know, guys. Yeesh.) But, in any case, gasoline on a match, dead-Mercutio on a family feud, whatevs. At least no one was bored during third hour.

I stand by it, though: Not as a rhetorical question, but as a real one we should actually know how to answer. What do I need a man for? (Note that emphasizing the verb or the preposition makes this into not a rhetorical question being dismissive of the value of men, and I emphasized both when I asked it.)

The teacher (to whom I did apologize later, because really, no one deserves to have me feeling antsy in their RS class, even if they’re wrong about everything) had just explained that while she wants her daughters to be smart and strong and independent, she doesn’t want them to be “so independent that they don’t need a man.” I find this appalling, because what if, in spite of all her hopes and dreams for her daughters, one of them ends up without a man? That seems like an awkward position to be in: to have carefully cultivated a need which remains unfulfilled, meaning that you are, unless you un-cultivate that need, stuck being needy. Worked all those years to need a man, and now you don’t even have one? Also, I’m not totally sure I like the model of relationship this sets up: So Gwyneth marries Billy, but she might as well have married Herbert or Carlton, because she really just needed A Man, not any man in particular. (Yeah, that’s a reductio, but do you want that to be the reductio living at the core of your marriage?)

(It also occurs to me that something like this attitude is also hiding out behind that quote I hate. Hrmmph.)

Here’s the thing: I don’t need a man. Now, you might be thinking, Yep, Melyngoch, and that’s why you don’t have one! Maybe, but I’m optimistic for the future, despite the grim statistics, and my failure to be properly needy. I can take care of myself pretty well, and when I need help, I have friends and family who can and are willing to step in. (Full confession: I actually didn’t change my last tire, because the lugnuts were on too tight. I need to lift more weights, and make sure they don’t machine-spin my lugnuts on in the future. Happily, I have friends with tools, which are the best kind of friends.) If I never find a man, I’ll be sometimes sad and lonely about it, but I’ll also be fine, and I’ll do lots of cool stuff with friends who are also man-less. (Or even those who are en-man-ed. Crazy talk, but sometimes married people like to have fun too.)

I don’t need a man, but I do want one. And I don’t need A Man, but I do need people, in general — I may be pretty independent, but I absolutely couldn’t get by without those friends and family. I want a man because I want someone to hang out with, go on road trips with, watch terrible movies with, lean on when things suck, be lean-on-able when things suck for him, and generally make a companionable life with. (Oh, and cause I want to have lots of sex. I’m pretty tired of not having lots of sex.) I want a man because if relationships are (as I believe) what makes life meaningful, than a super-close relationship like a marriage seems like it would be extra-meaningful. (I speak from the experience of having only dated, not married, any men, so I’m open to being wrong about this.)

Let’s just be cautious of reducing husbands to a temporal necessity, i.e., that they’re useful because they make money, and they tend to have more upper body strength than women. For one thing, if this is all the benefit there is to marriage, then the panicked family-values backlash has it right — feminism will absolutely make marriage less appealing, because women can make their own money, and then hire people with upper body strength to do the grunt work. For another, this is just as offensive as reducing women to their child-bearing capacity and supposed uber-spiritual-nurturing-bletch-bletch-sweetness. Men with not-so-much upper body strength who choose low-earning careers they’re passionate about deserve love too! (Really good high school teachers are a rare necessity, and also hot!) Men are individual people, not just a paycheck and a penis, and I think they want to be loved and appreciated personally, not just for their earning potential and triceps.

But most of all, if we really see marriage as The Relationship that we’re all striving to get into, make work, and maintain forever, then that relationship is already justified; our theology (at least as it’s construed post-polygamy) makes marraige self-justifying. We don’t need to justify it by carefully making sure that we absolutely can’t get by without it,  we don’t need to be worried about being too self-sufficient so that we accidentally forget to need it, and we certainly, certainly don’t have to limit ourselves as individuals in order to artificially make marriage into a necessity.

**

Next time on Arrested Development: Melyngoch inadvertently learns the thing that tips her into critical mass, finally educating herself out of a husband.

51 Responses to “But what do I need a man _for_?”

  1. 1.

    “The teacher had just explained that while she wants her daughters to be smart and strong and independent, she doesn’t want them to be ‘so independent that they don’t need a man.’ ”

    The injunction that women should keep themselves needy/vulnerable seems to have two purposes. One is to encourage women to seek out men because they need them. The implication being that “strong and independent women” will have no desire to marry or have children because they will have no need for them. I find this implication highly problematic, as you explain so well. However, I think the second purpose is to make women desirable to men. The implication being that men will only want to marry women who “need” them and will have no desire to marry women who could live just fine without them.

    The problem with this second purpose is that it doesn’t go both ways. We don’t tell men to not become too independent/educated/capable so as not to become undesirable to women. On the contrary, the popular perception is that women like independent/educated/capable men, while men like women who are somewhat independent/educated/capable, but not too much. I find this whole system insulting to both men and women. For one, it assumes that men need their egos stroked by their ability to be smarter or more capable than their wives in order to be happy in a relationship.

  2. 2.

    So Gwyneth marries Billy, but she might as well have married Herbert or Carlton, because she really just needed A Man, not any man in particular. (Yeah, that’s a reductio, but do you want that to be the reductio living at the core of your marriage?)

    Not only does this attitude imply that a woman should marry whoever comes along, it’s an attitude that will keep a woman in a bad marriage, because she’s convinced that she can’t manage on her own. The former I find unpleasant, but the latter is damning, not just for the woman, but for her children (who will grow up with a bad relationship model) and her husband (who won’t have to take responsibility for how he treats his wife, because his wife will never call him out on it).

  3. 3.

    Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:11).

    Together, the man and the woman form a complete human being by the sealing power of God. Separately, they are incomplete in a fundamental manner, even if it is not perceived (mercifully) most of the time. Once sealed by the power of God, and made of one heart and one flesh, that they dwell in each others’ heart as stars shining and know how each other feels at all times, they function similar to the spindles of the Liahona, the both of them orienting each other towards the source of love and light. When the two point in different directions, you may know the marriage is not functioning and that faith is lacking on one or both parts. A single being could never be assured of its stability throughout the eternities.

    The Lord God is the Divine Matchmaker, and he is actively crafting his sons and daughters for one another and brings them together by his power if they are faithful in him; it is, after all, his work and his glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, and he loves his job!

  4. 4.

    Log, I find that idea that God is the Divine Matchmaker silly. He never claims it in scripture. He just tells us to find someone, and sure, that’s great–a good partnership like that is good. But does that mean that God doesn’t love me because he isn’t actually out there actively crafting any sons of his to marry me? Please.

  5. 5.

    Log, it is critical that you remember that not every woman in the Church will find her eternal companion in this life. I have some wonderful friends who have never found a good man to marry and have created happy, beautiful lives by learning, giving, serving, and loving others.

    I have been happily married for 43 years, but my husband travels extensively so I like to spend time with my single friends who inspire me by their faith, courage, wisdom, and kindness. We cannot assume that God is out finding mates for everyone. That does not happen and makes our single sisters who are worthy in every way for a wonderful companion feel marginalized. They are some of our finest sisters and deserve our respect and admiration for not settling for someone who would not be worthy of their love.

  6. 6.

    The easiest way to be a happy person with a spouse is to have been a happy person without one.
    I’ll admit, I’m very needy. I did NEED a man, though I don’t know how much of that is social conditioning. But I married someone also needy, and I’m content that we both hate being away from each other and don’t function as well without each other.
    But oh, how I wish I had spent my single years appreciating just how awesome I am on my own. I was so much more than a future mother waiting for a child and a future wife waiting for a groom.

    I also STRONGLY agree with the idea that we discredit men when we boil them down to their bread-winning role. My husband was not a great breadwinner. Too noble to be rich (Stupid public school teacher’s salary). But he is an AWESOME stay-at-home-dad: something neither of us ever would have fathomed while we were dating. Fortunately we skipped the gender roles and both do what we’re best at.

  7. 7.

    Great post, Melyngoch. I particularly like this:

    I find this appalling, because what if, in spite of all her hopes and dreams for her daughters, one of them ends up without a man? That seems like an awkward position to be in: to have carefully cultivated a need which remains unfulfilled, meaning that you are, unless you un-cultivate that need, stuck being needy.

    and Beatrice and Katya, your follow-up points about the lack of reciprocity and the problem this causes for women (not) getting out of bad marriages. I guess I don’t have anything to add; I just wanted to add an “Amen!”

  8. 8.

    #4, #5,

    And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments (D&C 59:21).

    Love is of God (1 John 4:7).

    Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (Matt 19:4-6).

    “I received from [Joseph] the first idea of eternal family organization, and the eternal union of the sexes in those inexpressibly endearing relationships which none but the highly intellectual, the refined and pure in heart, know how to prize, and which are at the very foundation of everything worthy to be called happiness.

    “Till then I had learned to esteem kindred affections and sympathies as appertaining solely to this transitory state, as something from which the heart must be entirely weaned, in order to be fitted for its heavenly state.

    “It was Joseph Smith who taught me how to prize the endearing relationships of father and mother, husband and wife; of brother and sister, son and daughter.

    “It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity; while the result of our endless union would be an offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea shore. …

    “I had loved before, but I knew not why. But now I loved—with a pureness—an intensity of elevated, exalted feeling, which would lift my soul from the transitory things of this grovelling sphere and expand it as the ocean. I felt that God was my heavenly Father indeed; that Jesus was my brother, and that the wife of my bosom was an immortal, eternal companion; a kind ministering angel, given to me as a comfort, and a crown of glory for ever and ever. In short, I could now love with the spirit and with the understanding also” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979, pp. 297–98).

  9. 9.

    I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man – the immortal part, because it had no beginning. Suppose you cut it in two; then it has a beginning and an end; but join it again, and it continues one eternal round. So with the spirit of man. AS THE LORD LIVETH, IF IT HAD A BEGINNING, IT WILL HAVE AN END. All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation, who say the spirit of man had a beginning, PROVE that it must have an end; and if that doctrine is true, then the doctrine of annihilation would be true.”
    DHC 6:311

    The same reasoning applies to eternal marriage. Let them with ears to hear, hear.

  10. 10.

    And yes, there is a dearth of worthy men in the Church. But to a woman whose eye is single to the glory of God, true and faithful in all things, walking in the full light of the Spirit continually, and worthy of exaltation, no blessing shall be withheld, and all losses shall be recompensed to the fullest.

  11. 11.

    I’ve done pretty well over the past year in merely shrugging and keeping my fingers off the keys when some pretentious idiot blathers on as if he were God’s gift to, well, God. I’m precariously close to losing that self control — Bouncer, slap my hands away from the keyboard, please, before I kindle a fire with those logs.

  12. 12.

    Study the word of God, and preach it and not your opinions, for no man’s opinion is worth a straw. Advance no principle but what you can prove, for one scriptural proof is worth ten thousand opinions.

  13. 13.

    If you want to share a quote, log, make it short or just link to it. If you want to join the discussion more generally, drop your holier-than-thou attitude and come down and converse with us mere mortals. “You’ll get everything you want if you’d just hurry up and die” is cold comfort for real people on the ground.

  14. 14.

    It is cold comfort if you don’t belief it, sure. I totally agree with you.

    And where have I proclaimed my righteousness?

    Of course, I may have mistaken this post as something else… is it really a complaint and not a search for knowledge? Sometimes, I cannot tell the difference between the two, and I respond as though the questions were sincere and not rhetorical. Sorry about that!

  15. 15.

    Arise from the slime of your own opinions into the sunset of the Word. For thy own self is like a bug that flitteth in the dark forest, and if thou considerest thyself a maker of light then thou art as a firefly whose fire is very hell fire and thou shalt be consumed in the bug zapper on the porch that doth draw thee towards the false light, but the sunset of God abideth until it setteth soon and the whole world will verily lie in darkness.

  16. 16.

    Of course I didn’t NEED a man. But I needed a man to acheive what I wanted to achieve. Of course I don’t NEED my husband, but I need him to have the successful family I want to have.
    I would have absolutely walked away from him if he wasn’t someone I thought I could build a good marriage. I didn’t need just any man.
    I would right now or in the future or at any point in my 20 year marriage be willing to walk away from my marriage if being in the marriage is damaging to myself or my children. But since that is not the case, then he is needed. My children need him. I need him.
    How can my children NOT need him? Of course they need him. But of course if they have to they would survive without him, and so would I.
    This word need means need, yet it doesn’t completely, I guess. Maybe we should use percentages of need.
    I 95% need my husband because having him means I have the marriage, family and life I want. If I can’t have that with him, I don’t need him.

  17. 17.

    Love it, Love it, LOVE IT!!!

    And can I say, I find what the teacher said, ““so independent that they don’t need a man.” APPALLING. Absolutely appalling. She is basically teaching her kids to not live up to their full potential, because of the perceived needs of others. And the criticism that is implied by that statement is all weird. She’s basically saying if women fulfill their potential then “men” won’t want them, and the purpose of women’s life on this Earth is to have men want them – so if you’re single then it’s your own fault for being a complete person? How does this even work in her mind? How? It’s demeaning to both men and women. And frankly, ridiculous.

  18. 18.

    I often find myself using the word ‘need’ when what I really mean is ‘want.’
    I need a new car.
    I need a haircut.
    I need more shoes.
    I need a new vacuum.

    ‘Need’ feels more powerful, more legitimate. You can argue against your needs.
    “I want ——–” just feels whiny, and grasping. Greedy.

    I would bet money that the RS teacher really would rather that her daughters not need a man, but want one. She just needs to get past the idea that it is wrong to actually want something for oneself.

  19. 19.

    Two parts I’d care to address. First:

    “The teacher had just explained that while she wants her daughters to be smart and strong and independent, she doesn’t want them to be ‘so independent that they don’t need a man”

    Would this teacher ever say the same about her sons? Like, “I want to raise my sons to be good at household duties and good nurturers, but not so nurturing that they don’t need a wife.” I highly doubt it. It saddens me that women — modern women! — can’t be thrilled at the idea of their daughters having a wonderful, intelligent life with or without a man. I know the teacher didn’t intend it, but her statement alone infers that women are lesser creatures.

    The next point I’d like to address (from the comments section):

    “The Lord God is the Divine Matchmaker, and he is actively crafting his sons and daughters for one another and brings them together by his power if they are faithful in him …”

    There is just so many sad and untrue things about that statement. God is not a matchmaker. If he were, we wouldn’t hear the (utterly ridiculous quote) by Kimball about how ANY two people can get married (compatible or not) as long as they are both faithful/religious.

    I used to believe a little bit in the comment quoted. I spent a lot of time in my early-to-mid twenties praying that God would send me a man to marry or lead me to him. I made a lot of my decisions based on the idea of staying faithful and far away from sin so I’d be worthy of a husband. I then came to realize I had two choices: 1. Believe God didn’t love me or other single people enough to help us find love or 2. realize that God isn’t a matchmaker and, thus, my value didn’t depend on a husband (or mean any less to God because of a lack of one).

  20. 20.

    Kimball actually said “almost any two…”.

    The point is not to be a good person so that God gives us stuff – he’s not Santa.

    The point is to be a servant of God first and foremost, to the exclusion of any other concern. Then shall all things be added unto you.

    For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.

  21. 21.

    log (#14 in particular), if you read the OP carefully, you might see that it lies on some ground other than the [false] binary of “complaint” and “sincere question,” and I think you might even see that it’s expressing an opinion about a (to me) complicated topic, not asking a question that needs to be answered with a bunch of quotations. (In fact, even if I were just asking the question and looking for an answer, I’m not sure I’d want it answered with a bunch of quotations. I think getting people’s experiences, opinions, and interpretations is much more significant and interesting than copying and pasting from other sources.) But more to the point, your comments aren’t really addressing the topic of the post, which is not about whether marriage is necessary in LDS theology (I’ve got that, thanks), but rather the way we construct marriage, what it is we seem to think is necessary about it, and how that works within our framework of gender and gender roles.

    I’m also quite skeptical of God as a divine matchmaker, mostly because I’m skeptical of a God who’s consistently that much of a micromanager. I think God gets very involved sometimes, but is very hands off sometimes, and is obviously comfortable letting all kinds of evil persist in the world, so I can’t take it so very personally if he hasn’t stepped into deliver me a husband so far (or to deliver a spouse to may of my friends). Nor do I feel compelled to blame that on my own failings, or on the failings of the men around me. If you feel God has matchmade you and your spouse, then congratulations. But you might refrain from interpreting others’ experiences for them.

    Anyway, now I’m just following you on down the threadjack. Back to the topic at hand.

  22. 22.

    Beatrice (and BethSmash), I suspect you’re on to something, and I completely agree that it’s as insulting to men as it is to woman, in exactly the way Fascinating Womanhood is. If there are men who are too insecure, or like too much their one-up position, to be able to date a woman who’s there equal, who chooses to be with him rather than needing to be with him, then let’s re-examine the way we’re thinking about (and teaching our children about) masculinity and relationships, not tell the women to keep themselves in check.

    And, essc, I think you nail it here:

    Would this teacher ever say the same about her sons? Like, “I want to raise my sons to be good at household duties and good nurturers, but not so nurturing that they don’t need a wife.”

    jks, Jenn, and Starfoxy, I think there’s some interesting overlap/tension between the words “need” and “want,” which I’m definitely not taking enough account of in the OP, and that they can be hard to parse out in context. Unfortunately, in the context of the conversation we were having in RS (which was focused very much on the “providing and protecting” element of masculinity, the things your man should be able and willing to do for you), it seemed pretty clear to me that the teacher did, indeed, mean that she didn’t want her daughters to be able to take care of themselves too well, lest they find themselves not “needing” a man.

    The specific remark aside, though, it is clear in LDS theology that everyone needs a spouse to land in CK Level 1. And if all we have to do is check off that box, then we’re back to Gwyneth and Billy. (Maybe that’s what’s behind the thinking in stuff like the Kimball quote — the point is that you get married, not that you have a good, uplifting, satisfying marriage.)

    You may be right, Starfoxy, that expressing this in terms of want sounds too selfish to us: I want a particular kind of man with whom I can have a particular kind of relationship, and it’s not that it’s a necessity that I get that kind of man (since I could just grab the nearest single Priesthood-holder and call it good enough and CK1-bound, right?) Since we’re obviously invested in all kinds of things about the here-and-now of marriage, not just its Celestial destination (thus the FamProc), maybe we’re looking for ways to re-code our “wants” as “needs”?

  23. 23.

    Thomas Parkin For. The. Win.

  24. 24.

    Men with not-so-much upper body strength who choose low-earning careers they’re passionate about deserve love too!

    Amen — though let us not assume a correlation between salary and upper body strength. (I know this isn’t what you’re saying. I just want to defend the space of musclebound, underpaid intellectual types.)

    Also, the Arrested Development bit… Gold.

  25. 25.

    I just want to defend the space of musclebound, underpaid intellectual types.

    Now that is the kind of man I need!

  26. 26.

    This has been bothering me for a full day now. It shouldn’t – I don’t suppose the teacher really knew what she meant by saying it, but was merely repeating something that sounds wise and witty until you actually try to break it down into specific applications, as Melyngoch did. But it bugs the heck out of me, because of what it seems to imply about me personally.

    In the context of a Relief Society lesson, the remark could only reasonably have referred to qualities or skills or habits over which class members might have some impact in their daughters’ lives (otherwise, the teacher’s wish is as meaningless as wanting her daughters to have blue eyes or a liking for fresh water). That means that all of the hard-wired parts of “needing a man” are off the table – the need of love and companionship, the craving for exclusive social/emotional/intellectual intimacy, heterosexual attraction – are off the table. It would be a weird and perverted sort of mothering that could train a daughter into or out of those basic, seemingly in-born traits.

    That leaves the traits and skills and activities that a mother could actually develop in her daughter, or that she could actively refrain from developing, so that a girl might “need a man” to do or fulfill or perform.

    Does the teacher want her daughter to rely on a man to explain the scriptures to her or interpret her religious impulses, by neglecting to help a daughter learn to pray and read and respond to those spiritual impulses herself? Does the teacher want her daughter to cower from a spider on the wall, or be stranded on the highway because she can’t change a tire, or forever live with a leaky faucet, just so her daughter will need a man to kill the bugs, fix the flats, and change a washer? Does the teacher want her daughter to live in poverty or be dependent on charity by teaching her to be unemployable or wasteful, so that she will always have to depend on a man for every bite of bread? Does the teacher want her daughter to be uninformed and vote for the candidate with the cutest hair until she has a man to explain current issues to her?

    I just can’t fathom any woman wishing for her daughter to be ignorant, helpless, foolish, inadequate and lost so that she will “need a man” to supply her artificially created handicaps. So I have to conclude that the Relief Society teacher was a foolish woman, repeating something she heard somewhere because it sounded clever. But it isn’t clever. It’s foolish.

    Apologies for the length, and for not saying anything the OP didn’t say. It’s just been bugging me, and I hoped that by spelling it out I could forget it.

  27. 27.

    The parents and other adults in my life were always trying to get me to be a little less independent and be more male-pleasing. My uncle even told me I’d probably find a husband if I just spent more time on my hair.

    I was an active member at the time, so I knew eternal marriage was important, but I didn’t want “a man” to fulfill a role, because then that person would want “a wife” to fulfill a role, to always look pretty, always have dinner ready at a certain time, always be self-sacrificing. What I WANTED was a best friend, someone who wouldn’t start loving me less because I didn’t use a curling iron.

    And, I found one. He is my buddy, my partner, and we laugh together. 13 years of marriage and we still enjoy each other’s company. Meanwhile, I have a friend whose husband left her because she wasn’t losing the baby fat fast enough after a birth. That is what happens when people marry “someone” to fulfill the “role” of wife. I didn’t want to be a “wife.” I wanted to be someone’s companion forever. When I gained weight after a difficult birth, he told me my large backside was super sexy. THAT is a marriage.

  28. 28.

    What Melyngoch and Ardis said.

    The only thing I’d add is that if there’s anything worse than deliberately handicapping a girl to make her more marriageable in this life, it’s framing that deliberate handicapping as fitting her for her eternal gender role.

    One of the things I love to exasperation about Mormonism is its soaring vision of human potential. The glory of God is intelligence; as man is, God once was, etc. Audacious, heady, stunning stuff. And then we’re producing seminary videos that instruct girls to turn down college math scholarships for no apparent reason except that they’re girls.

    I am aware of no faith in which the cavern between general rhetoric on the nature of mankind (man being normative, it goes without saying) and the specific, gendered rhetoric on womanhood is so deep and so vast.

  29. 29.

    I have always felt the same way as The Blasphemous Homemaker: I’m looking for a best friend, a life companion who will eventually be my eternal companion. And I haven’t found one. That doesn’t mean I’m too independent or too into my career (I’ve heard those so many times). It means I simply haven’t found a guy yet who is into those specific things that make me me. And if he’s the kind of person who thinks I ought to be filling a role rather than being myself, ain’t no way in the world we’d be right for each other.

  30. 30.

    Ardis, I love this:

    Does the teacher want her daughter to rely on a man to explain the scriptures to her or interpret her religious impulses, by neglecting to help a daughter learn to pray and read and respond to those spiritual impulses herself? Does the teacher want her daughter to cower from a spider on the wall, or be stranded on the highway because she can’t change a tire, or forever live with a leaky faucet, just so her daughter will need a man to kill the bugs, fix the flats, and change a washer? Does the teacher want her daughter to live in poverty or be dependent on charity by teaching her to be unemployable or wasteful, so that she will always have to depend on a man for every bite of bread? Does the teacher want her daughter to be uninformed and vote for the candidate with the cutest hair until she has a man to explain current issues to her?

    A completely perfect response!

  31. 31.

    To me, the ideal is that the man can get along without the woman, and the woman can get along without the man. They don’t need each other to survive, or even to live comfortably. I still believe in the Genesis maxim “It is not good that the man (and by extension, woman) should be alone”, but when a man and woman meet, each being self-sufficient in their own right, there is no worldly need to come between them and the need that is established in Genesis.

    That being said, I was pretty self-sufficient when I met my wife, but now I can’t live without her. I have succombed.

    Glenn

  32. 32.

    Also, to those of you who are criticizing the Relief Society Teacher so relentlessly by boring down into he words and reading into it things she did not say, maybe she meant it just the way I meant my first post.

    I raised my daughters to stand on their own to feet, to learn for themselves about the Gospel, to be independant. This task was thrust mostly upon me by the death of my first wife.

    So, what do they need men for? For love and companionship. For a person with whom they can become “one” with. Maybe that was what the Relief Society teacher was trying to say.

    But don’t mind me. I am just another chauvinist male.

    Glenn

  33. 33.

    .

    Thank you.

    I always suspected I might be hot.

  34. 34.

    Glenn, I’m sympathetic to your view and love it when you comment on any blog.

    But I’m not especially criticizing the RS teacher for something she didn’t say, as trying to understand what, in practical terms, she meant by what she did say. I don’t really know what she meant, and if my comment seemed critical, it was because I am critical of the only meaning I’ve been able to squeeze from what she did say.

    What could she possibly have had in mind by “so independent that she didn’t need a man”? What was she criticizing about independence that meant a [heterosexual] woman would NOT want a man for love and companionship and to be “one” with? What did the teacher want her class members to avoid?

    That’s all we’re trying to figure out.

  35. 35.

    There isn’t any way to know what the teacher meant, since she isn’t here to try to explain.

    But as a single who is probably in the exact state of mind she was warning against, I can imagine what could have been meant.

    She was most likely saying she didn’t want her daughter at the point where a man seemed superfluous. Right now, even if the “perfect” man for me walked up to me and proposed, I don’t know that I’d have the courage to accept. Marriage seems too great a risk for too little purpose.

    Of course, it wasn’t my mom who taught me that, it was men. Still, as a mom of daughters, I desperately hope they will never be in the state of heart that I am now.

  36. 36.

    I really hope you’re exaggerated, SR, by dismissing my attempt to figure out what the teacher meant on the flimsy excuse that she isn’t here to explain. By that standard, you shouldn’t bother trying to understand God, George Washington, Emily Dickinson, your grandmother, or the guy peddling dog food on TV, because they aren’t here to explain themselves.

  37. 37.

    Sigh. That is a quite thorough misreading if my meaning, Ardis. I am sorry for thinking I maybe had something to add. Carry on.

  38. 38.

    Loved the post! I’ve nothing intelligent to add, other than to say that referring to Arrested Development is proof to me that ZD is a true and living blog. Thanks!

  39. 39.

    Ardis, have you ever met a woman who was so self-sufficient that they did not need or want a man in their life? I think that this is possibly what the Relief Society teacher had in mind. Her words “she wants her daughters to be smart and strong and independent, she doesn’t want them to be “so independent that they don’t need a man.” would seem to me that she doesn’t want them to be so self-sufficient that they would not care to have a man around to cramp their style.

    I think that the part where she wants her daughters to be strong and independent would seem to say that she does not want them to be dependent on a man for everything. Independent and dependent are mutually exclusive.

    If you go back and read your post, isn’t that the picture that you painted, i.e. daughters almost completely dependent?

    Thanks,
    Glenn

  40. 40.

    OK, guys, a couple of things are so obvious I can’t help pointing them out. (I like my fruit low-hanging.)

    1. Nope, none of us can know Sister Teacher Woman was thinking.

    2. We can, however, know what she said, because I told you.

    (2a. You might also review comment 22, where I clarify how the context of this remark informs my interpretation of what she said, if you’re concerned.)

    3. Given 1 and 2, all we can do is evaluate the actual words that were said (which, I will emphasize, does not entail judging this woman who probably never wanted to be having this fight in RS in the first place) in their context. The verb she used was “need” (not ‘want” or “care for”), and the context was very much about practical, temporal gender roles. Even if you can imagine that someone who said that might have meant something differently, the post is actually about the thing that was said, and what the consequences of and problems with that are. It might not contribute as much as you think to just say that she must have meant something else.

    4. ZD is indeed true and living. Wow, we’re just blowing through naptime, aren’t we?

    5. Th. is hot.

  41. 41.

    Ardis, this:

    it bugs the heck out of me, because of what it seems to imply about me personally.

    feels familiar to me as well. I know that this isn’t (most likely) what anyone’s thinking when they make comments like this, but it follows logically: I don’t want my daughters to be so independent that they don’t need a man — not like some of you, who clearly aren’t married because they’re just too darn independent. It’s never an awesome idea to go around telling single women why they’re single, but it’s ten or fifty times worse when the sentiment reads like, You’re single because you’ve implicitly chosen to be, by being silly enough to think you were supposed to be a fully-realized self-sufficient person. All those strengths and abilities and good qualities of yours? Yep, those are the reasons you’re alone. Gah.

    (I don’t know if this is why it feels personally injurious to you, too, so apologies if I’m just projecting my own issues onto yours!)

    Glen, I think this is a perfectly lovely sentiment:

    I was pretty self-sufficient when I met my wife, but now I can’t live without her.

  42. 42.

    What if RS teacher had said “that while she wants her daughters to be smart and strong and independent, she doesn’t want them to be “so independent that they don’t need God.” (And NO, I am not equating man to God.) I’m simply pointing out that I interpret her comment as some others do, that she probably meant she didn’t want her daughter to, at some point, move from independence to arrogance. Sure, it’s great to be spiritually, emotionally, temporally self-reliant. We preach that. But if we’re not careful, that feeling of self reliance can turn into pride. The fact is, in the broadest of senses men need women, and women need men, to form families. No one is looking down their nose at those who, for whatever reason, aren’t married.. I don’t think the RS teacher meant “if my daughter doesn’t find a man to hook up with she’ll shrivel up and die.” But even the OP states: I may be pretty independent, but I absolutely couldn’t get by without those friends and family. Yes, you actually could get by without them. If you had to. We understand that your phrase was just an expression of how important those friends and family are to you, but if they were to disappear from your life tomorrow, the sun would still rise and you would carry on. I think everyone has taken the teacher’s phrase way too literally, and are reading into much more than what was intended.

  43. 43.

    I think that it is important to remember that comments about not becoming too independent are most often directed at women. So, yeah, it is good to have other people to support you (whether they be friends for family), and it is good to be able to stand on your own two feet when you need to stand alone. These messages should be directed at both men and women. However, the cultural trend that I and many other women have experienced is that if you are an “older” women who is not married, it is not uncommon for someone to pat you on the hand and tell you that the reason you are not married is that you are too independent or too educated. This rarely happens to men.

    It is not uncommon for LDS women to plan their financial futures as if they will get married someday and to have people tell them that doing otherwise is interfering with their ability to marry (and thus their ability to fulfill their divine role). The question in my mind is why are these things are even related? Why does becoming financially stable and educated make women less marriageable? I think the answer is found in the center of the “mommy-wars” in that we tend to think of women very dichotomously. They are either “career-women” or “family-women”. However, imo, this way of thinking harms everyone. Lots of women want and/or need careers and lots of women want families, and in many, many cases, they are the same women.

  44. 44.

    I think the teacher just ended up saying one of those well-meaning things we collect that we don’t really think about. I hope you were able to teach her the error of her reasoning. Well intentioned as it was, it was still wrong.

    Part of the problem in our discussion of the necessity of marriage in the LDS faith is that it is the only ordinance we cannot do on our own. We can’t just try harder and make it happen, yet we know it is essential to our eternal progression.

    It’s kind of like knowing that you need to be baptized, but not knowing where to find someone with the proper authority. You’d get people trying to be helpful with well-meaning but misguided and hurtful statements like “God will take care of that in the afterlife” and “Its so important, just anyone will do to baptize you, even if they aren’t quite right, so you better do it now”.

    I’ve been through two marriages (well, not through the second, cause I’ll never be done with her). The first was a desperate attempt to have someone, and anyone would do. its a dangerous way to go about it, and it ended very badly all around. Afterward, I spent some time listeless, and eventually got an answer for what I eneded to be doing. The inspiration was that sure, someone would come eventually, but the most important for me was to learn to live on my own; to get my own life in order without having someone else to fill some part of my life.

    I’m desperate to teach my sons and my daughter to stand on their own. To be that comlplete person, then to watch for someone they want to marry and be with forever. Their life may have gaps, but they can’t expect someone else to fill them simply by entering into a contract. Even as a married couple there will still be gaps, but they will be shortcomings that can be worked on together, jsut as you worked on your own gaps when you were alone.

    Anyway, I’m straying. The idea that anyone should set themselves up to be deficient in some areas is wrong, and contradictory to the Prophets that teach we should get all the education we can, since we never know what’s going to happen.

  45. 45.

    Beatrice, great points and I think you’ve further illustrated why the rhetoric of exclusively “needing” a man to fulfill temporal concerns is also damaging to men. Because if boys and men are taught that their ONLY value lies in their ability to provide financially, what “use” will that man see himself as having to a woman who is financially stable?

    However, as Melyngoch so eloquently suggests, if we are instead teaching boys/girls/men/women that we are ultimately seeking each other to provide companionship, friendship and mutual caring in a marriage, then that changes things. Being a good companion and friend and caring about someone else are qualities everyone can strive for and are (amazingly!) useful even outside of marriage.

    Interestingly, myself having gone through not a few years of YSA ward dwelling (actually Melyngoch and I were in the same unit for years) and countless talks/firesides/Institute lessons/conferences on marriage, I think the rhetoric of “marriage as companionship” is there and preached as such. So where is this other stuff coming from? Taking one statement in the FamProc way too far? Gender roles still entrenched in the 1950’s? Silly Mormon culture? I dunno.

  46. 46.

    First time poster / long-time reader alert: I find this conversation compelling. I am such a woman as the teacher appeared to warn her daughters not to become. I am in my 40s, a returned missionary, successful in a career and a single parent by choice – through the adoption of 2 amazing girls. I am faithful in my callings and don’t waver much in way of core testimony (but lots of “stuff” about the church drives me batty).

    I truly don’t “need” a man for anything (except for lots of that good sex stuff the OP referenced). I can change a tire or call a tow truck. I make an excellent salary and can mow the lawn or sew a Halloween costume. I would love to have a partner / friend / companion / husband – if and only if he would make our lives better (and we could reciprocate). We (my girls and I) have a wonderful life and it would take someone pretty amazing to enhance it.

    I believe that I have grown to become the best possible daughter of loving Heavenly Parents in ways that I never would have if marriage had come earlier in my life. For the condescending people who use the “promise” of no blessings being withheld, I have no response. It is honestly a load of crap. I believe that practically no blessing has been withheld from me in this life to date. I am blessed beyond measure – any blessings yet to come are going to be amazing to add to what I have already been given!

  47. 47.

    The idea of what makes someone need someone versus what makes someone needy (the opposite of strong, independent, capable) is an interesting conundrum.

    As someone who has spent most of my life needing other people because I didn’t know or trust my own voice, it’s a concept that I’m working a lot on changing (and, for the record, this is not a “because I grew up in an LDS home” situation, where I was taught to need men–I neither grew up in an LDS home nor was taught to be dependent on a man. I came to this place through some other influences on my life). Changing it means having to re-negotiate my 15-year-old marriage.

    Some really good points have been made (46, 45, 6, among others). I would only toss this into the ring: what if instead of calling it “needy” we recognized that most of us have a human need for connection. This can be met multiple ways, but it does require a willingness to be vulnerable.

    I don’t know that I agree or disagree with the teacher, but maybe I’d say it a different way altogether. What I would want my children to know or do a) how to fully function as a single adult from a practical standpoint–they are financially independent, and if they can’t do stuff, they know where to turn to get it done and can do so with confidence; b) how to be emotionally healthy–to know their feelings, to identify what they need, and to ask for it; c) exercise self-compassion when they feel vulnerable, and have some understanding of how to take risks in any relationship (as a potential partner or in a friendship)–keeping some healthy boundaries, but also not keeping people out such that they find themselves to be very lonely (even if they’re surrounded by others).

    Though this framework may not be perfect at getting all the outliers, in my mind it takes care of some of the concerns–the practicality of living alone (my mom certainly didn’t anticipate being widowed at age 63), the ability to be open to a healthy, partnered relationship if one is so desired, and also making sure that this intimate relationship has a measure of emotional health as well.

  48. 48.

    I like IDIAT’s observation that the teacher may have meant that she “didn’t want her daughter to, at some point, move from independence to arrogance”.

    Dismissive arrogance is a pitfall that both men and women fall into in their views of each other. Media is rife with it. And either one of them or both of them do fall into that error, it will seriously sabotage their ability to create a companionship of equals.

    Granted, it’s not what the teacher actually SAID, so perhaps she didn’t mean that. But whether or not she meant that, I think it is an important thing to consider as one seeks to balance self-sufficiency, competence, confidence and inter-dependence in a mutually supportive relationship.

  49. 49.

    What’s wrong with people needing other people? We aren’t
    meant to be alone. I’d like to think a man needs me and I need him. I also happen to like sex.

  50. 50.

    Hear, hear, Ardis! I’m sure the teacher did not intend to suggest that her daughters should be quite so deficient as you suggest daughters taught to need men could be. On the other hand, it sounds (based on the OP and Melyngoch’s comments) pretty clear that this woman was discussing temporal needs as opposed to emotional/spiritual/relationship needs. And that’s the key distinction I see Ardis drawing: there are temporal needs, and then there are relationship needs. And “independence” really has very little to do with fulfilling those relationships needs. Yes, when we end up in relationships our partners do help with temporal needs. My partner does bring income into our household. He helps buy gas and food and pay bills. By combining our incomes, we’ll be able to take trips we couldn’t take on our own and do things to our yard we couldn’t have done alone. Hell, we only have a house because we joined forces temporally.

    But I don’t *need* him for any of those things. I could provide for all of my temporal needs just fine without partnering myself with anyone else. What I *do* need from him (and I believe it to be a need, not just a want) is an emotional haven, a source of unquestioning love, a shelter in the storm of life. Before Paul, I got those needs filled, albeit imperfectly, through friends and family. So I’m not suggesting that a woman without a man (or vice versa) cannot possibly find this kind of emotional and relationship fulfillment. And I think some women could get to the point where the risk and vulnerability involved in turning to a man for fulfilling this need could outweigh the benefit (see Silver Rain’s comment; the risk she’s talking about could be a purely temporal risk and you do take chances with property when you marry, but it sounds to me like she’s referencing more emotional or psychological risks). But I think all human beings have a basic need to form social bonds that are deep and fulfilling, which provide ballast to our lives. That is what I need a man for. And there is nothing about being incapable of meeting my own temporal needs that will make me more likely to find it.

    It sounds to me like this is the classic case of associating one thing (emotional, spiritual, psychological intimacy and strength found in relationship) with another (temporal needs being met through someone else), so we teaching people to look for the thing that’s easier to see rather than the more ephemeral thing. It is much easier for me to assess a man’s earning potential and work ethic, than for me to assess his ability to provide me with an emotional safe haven–especially when what is encouraged is short, mostly sexless courtships that lead to making decisions in the heat of early infatuation. It may be true that finding a good temporal fit often leads to finding a good emotional fit, but it doesn’t always do so.

    So yeah. Why do I need a man? because I need a partner who provides me a shelter, who loves me and cares for me, who supports me as I make hard decisions and confront difficult circumstances. I do not need him because I can’t meet my own physical needs. And I’d feel pretty bad about myself if that was why I did need him. I’m happy to let him help provide for my physical needs, and I happily help provide for his, because I know that the foundation of what we have is love, not temporal inadequacy.

  51. 51.

    i need a woman, that we can be with in the rest of my life, if there is any interested person should contact me now.

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