An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Gender Stereotypes

Compassionate service until Oct. 13. A longer version of this blog appeared originally on Oct. 30, 2009.

Stereotypes exist, of course, because they are based on general truths.  The problem comes when we apply them to everybody. My visiting teachers gave a lesson recently on the importance of nurturing children and repeated the statement oft repeated in RS lessons: “Women are more nurturing than men.” What century is that notion from? Both my sons and my son-in-law are nurturing fathers. When I visit my grandchildren, I call either their father or mother when a dirty diaper needs attention. My nurturing instincts now halt at the first whiff of baby poop.

Yes, I did change my own babies’ diapers and I loved and nurtured my children in every way but one. I never made baby quilts for them or sewed their clothes. God chose not to bless me with the spatial ability necessary to cut up a two-dimensional piece of fabric and stitch it into a three-dimensional garment. I tried saving money by shopping at thrift stores and botching do-it-yourself decorating projects. Eventually, I found our family benefited more by my using the talents I have been blessed with to help earn the living rather than by trying to develop non-existent abilities.

Since my mother was the super-homemaker type, I must have received more of my aunt’s genes. George realized my family’s less than conventional bend the day he met Aunt Loosy. She drove up in a dump truck from which she alighted wearing a dress and heels. Her car wasn’t running, so she had driven the truck to a Relief Society meeting. I don’t remember why she had a dump truck as a spare vehicle—maybe to keep her tractor company.

While I’m attacking stereotypes, what about the idea that women are romantics while men are only interested in sex? I taught junior high long enough to be disabused of that notion. A note a 13-year-old girl writes about the thrill of having a guy’s hands next to her butt is sexual, not romantic. And 14-year-old boys discussing the hope that when they’re 16, maybe they’ll be driving down the freeway and see their student teacher and wave to her is romantic. Dumb, but romantic.

George froths at priesthood lessons that instruct the brethren to tell their wives they love them every day. He knows his wife’s attitude is, “Why do you need to tell me unless you change your mind?” But maybe most women do enjoy hearing, “I love you” every day. And maybe I should quit complaining and just be grateful that Relief Society lessons don’t admonish the sisters to reassure their husbands of their manhood in bed every night.

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