An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘gender stereotypes’

Real Men and Real Women

“I think I’m losing my masculinity,” George said yesterday after attending a League of Women Voters meeting with me. “I’ve been doing the Susan Komen Race for the Cure—even wearing the T-shirt with pink logo. Now, I’m thinking of joining the League of Women Voters.” (The LWV has included male members for several years). George even gave up deer hunting several years ago when he saw the deer’s eyelashes through his rifle scope.

George’s lament made me think of my brother’s comments at our dad’s funeral. Dooby talked about our dad functioning as both mom and dad after our mother died leaving him to raise a 10-year-old, 8-year-old and 2-year-old alone. Dooby talked about Dad working long hours in his grocery store while juggling meals, child care, parent-teacher conferences, doctor and dentist appointments. “He showed me what it is to be a man,” Dooby said.

Dooby’s right. Being a man isn’t about killing animals, building biceps, or forcing others to submit to his will. It’s about doing what needs to be done—whether he wants to or not.

Likewise, being a real women isn’t about bra cup size, reproduction, or cupcake decorating. A good friend undergoing chemotherapy last summer wrote me about three women in her ward who showed up to do her yard work. These women didn’t ask the bishop to send over the priesthood to help their friend. They saw a need and took care of it.

I really did have a neighbor once whose husband worked out of town—sometimes for weeks at a time. Her family spent the whole winter slipping and sliding on snow-packed sidewalks and driveway—apparently because neither she nor her three teenage daughters could figure out how to operate a snow shovel.

Thank heaven our culture has moved beyond the stereotype of rigid gender roles. And more power to NFL football teams who wear pink during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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Gender Stereotypes

My blog on gender inequality drew the greatest number of hits so far. Apparently sex sells. I suspect some, maybe most, of the traffic was from Mormon males suspicious of feminists  masquerading as devout Mormons. Okay, so I’m stereotyping. I just hope the BYU Rush Limbaugh Dittoheads of the ‘90s have grown up and moved on—although Rush’s label, Feminazi, is still used as a pejorative by adolescent Utah males.

But I digress. Back to stereotypes which 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 this week 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 son 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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