When a friend’s ward duns him for the Boy Scout drive, he tells them he will contribute to the Scouts as soon as the Church has an equivalent program for his daughter. He’ll probably save a lot of money waiting for that to happen. An LDS woman recently expressed a wish for LDS girls to have the kind of “coming of age” event a mission is for LDS boys. But she missed the point. Gender inequality in Church programs starts well before missionary age. At age 8 boys go into Cub Scouts with varied educational activities. Dens take field trips to learn about nature, visit museums and places of business such as newspaper offices. The boys complete merit badges which teach them about nature and history as well as useful survival and everyday skills. Girls have Primary activities such as “Bride’s Day” where they dress up as brides and plan their weddings.
My daughter wishes the Church supported the Girl Scout program. Our granddaughter will soon be 7 and would benefit from Brownie Scouts. Of course, some LDS families do enroll their daughters in Girl Scouts, but Lolly feels she has no time to add a non-Church activity to all their Church obligations. For me the obvious answer is to skip Primary activities if Girl Scouts is more beneficial. But I would not have done that 30 years ago and Lolly will not do that now. The reward for trying to bridge two cultures is rejection by both.
From the time they enter Primary, Mormon boys are groomed to hold the priesthood, to serve a mission, to preside in the Church. Mormon girls are groomed to land a husband and produce a family. Now, which role model looks more appealing to a kid, the bishopric presiding from the stand or their pregnant wives wrestling noisy children alone throughout Sacrament Meeting?
The strangest thing about the lack of gender equity in Church programs is the puzzlement Church leaders express over the loss of activity of women in the 18-30 age group. I’ve heard speculation that it may be as high as 50%. If young LDS women are dropping from Church activity, why doesn’t someone look at the cause? I suspect that many young LDS women cannot limit themselves to the narrow roles allotted them in Mormon culture.
Now I’m not opposed to marriage and motherhood—it’s just that these are goals over which women don’t have total control. A woman who doesn’t attain marriage and motherhood has not failed. Even without the blessing of children, women can lead rich, full lives. And the child-bearing and rearing years are a relatively brief period of a modern woman’s life.
I don’t understand why Church leaders have the idea that if girls aren’t bombarded with messages about motherhood all the time they’re growing up, they will reject the opportunity as adults. I have loved and raised five children wholeheartedly although that was never my childhood vocational goal. Likewise, my daughter who is raising four lovely children now. Most women have a nurturing instinct and take to the role quite naturally when they are ready for it. Women without the nurturing instinct will not develop it from hearing sermons.
Can we give girls the same kinds of Church opportunities boys have without extending the priesthood to worthy female members? Maybe not. But we should at least offer our girls a broader goal in life than a wedding dress followed by a maternity dress.