Monday, June 18, 2012

Are Mormons Sexist?

I'm really upset right now.  I just read an article on addictinginfo.org that sent me up a wall.  Note I didn't link to the article.  It is so far off base and wrong, that I don't want them getting the click-through.  If you must, the article is titled "Sexism: Are Mormons The American Taliban?"  I hope you can see some of my concern just from the title.

The basis of the article is a profane video tirade (even addictinginfo notes it is profane) that once again takes truths, mixes in half-truths and lies liberally, and spits out a vitriolic article.  Let's address a few of the main arguments.
Mormons, like most religions, believe that the woman in a relationship bears the guilt for any sexual wrongdoing. Girls are told that if they “let” a man touch them, he will not respect them, even though he is the one doing the touching. One Mormon woman’s date, at the front door of her house at the end of a perfectly sinless night, ordered her to enter her house, fall on her knees, and pray for forgiveness for the sins that she had made him want to commit (Johnson 79)
Ummm...yea.

First off, let us just start with the fact that while women are instructed to maintain their virtue, men are just as rigorously told to do so.  If a man were to touch a woman without her consent, he would be the one that should not only repent, but would face any discipline, religious or legal, that may apply.  The reverse would be true too.  This is a two way street that has equal lanes on both sides.  You may disagree with trying to maintain your virginity until marriage, but you cannot call the practice "sexist".  It is enforced on both sides.

Are there stories about guys like in the quote?  Heavens yes.  Sadly it is true.  They don't know how to keep themselves in line and try to blame others.  This is a jerk of a guy who not only doesn't represent the views of the church, but is offensive to those who are members.  Every group has losers.  Sadly she managed to find one.

The Mormon church of today is still clinging to the beliefs of the nineteenth century; ideas which are becoming more outmoded every day. A few women in the Mormon church are trying to make a difference, but they are usually swiftly excommunicated (Laake 342; Johnson 351).
Yup.  We still believe that it is best to have a worthy father and a worthy mother raise a family in a monogamous relationship.  You know what, we even have the audacity to think that perhaps having one of the parents home with the kids seems to be a good idea.  Shocking, I know.  Guess what, study after study show that a nuclear family tends to produce children with fewer issues than any other configurations.  Are single parents looked down upon?  No.  Though the family and community will usually rally around non-traditional families to try to help make up the difference.

Yes.  Mormon women work outside the home all the time, and are not even punished for it.  In fact the are assisted as much as possible in many ways.  In my wife's case she was stressing out with work as a teacher, two boys that probably count as a platoon in and of themselves, and a very high profile calling in our ward (equivalent to a parish).  After a significant amount of discussion she was released and given a calling that took far less time, but still allowed her to serve as she desired to do.  She considered it a great move that simplified her life.

I think Joanna Brooks would be a great representation of the fact that while there was an intolerance for some of these counter views within the church, today that is not the case.  I also think that the cases of excommunication that occurred 20 years ago would be retroactively viewed as, in some cases, a mistake.  But that isn't for me to say.
If you choose to investigate the religion cult further, you will find that it is primarily “white” with elitist attitudes. Homosexuality is wrong, women are second-class and underwear will save them from evil.

I can’t imagine that Romney is pleased with the “Vagina” and “Slut” revolution that is taking place as a result of the attack on women. He doesn’t really talk about it...
Where to start with this?  In Utah, and perhaps the US it is primarily white.  As is America thank you very much.  If you have doubts about the diversity of the LDS faith, go to mormon.org and watch some of the 'I'm a Mormon" videos.  It may help you understand we aren't the homogenous group people like to think we are.  Even in Utah there are whole congregations of Laotians, Tongans, and Japanese.  There are Spanish speaking wards, and even deaf wards where everything is in sign language.  There are a large mix of cultures in the Mormon church.  Not to mention that the majority of adherents are now OUTSIDE of the US now.  The white card is an old one that is rapidly becoming old news.

As for "elitist" attitudes?  Do we think we have something worth having, and is better than the alternatives?  You betcha!  Where I disagree with the article's statement is that we also recognize the good in other religions and organizations.  Yes, we feel we have the whole thing.  But that doesn't mean that what you have isn't good too.  If you want what we have, we are thrilled to share, if you don't, let's still be friends and work together to make this world a better place.  If that is elitist, so be it.

As for homosexuality being wrong, yes, it falls well without the teachings of the church.  No apologies.  Does it make them second class citizens?  No.  In fact you should love them just as much as anyone else.  Anyone in or out of the church who persecutes homosexuals is just plain wrong.  Christ taught us to love everyone.  That doesn't mean we have to agree with what is being done.  This is a whole post in and of itself, but in short, is there a place for homosexuals within the church?  Yes, but it means some compromise on their part.  They have to live within the same rules as any single member of the church does.  This means no sexual relations with anyone outside of marriage between a man and a woman.  Is it perfect? No.  But there is a way to make it work, and many have found that balance. 

Boiled down, homosexuality really is a sub-heading of staying virtuous outside of marriage.  If you have a problem with one, you will probably have a problem with the other.

I hire and work with homosexuals every day in my family owned business. I have a manager that I trust with my livelihood and deeply care about.  Do I wish he lived a different lifestyle?  For his sake, yes.  Do I let it affect my decisions otherwise?  No. He is a good man that has earned my trust over the years, and I regularly trust him with some of my most important and business and personal matters.  I would hope he feels likewise.

As for women being second-class citizens, I counter that with my experience that in fact they are revered and almost put upon a pedestal as what everyone should try and attain.  Again, a whole post could go here, but this accusation is looking at structure without context.  Yes the upper leadership of the church is almost exclusively male.  Yes the priesthood is all male.  From the outside I can see why that looks sexist.  Here is the reality.  I am not aware of any context where you gain anything, money or otherwise, or are able to do anything for yourself with the priesthood.  In every case it is exclusively exercised in helping others.  In my opinion, and many others feel as I do, the priesthood isn't because men are better, but rather it nudges them to serve in ways that wouldn't be natural.

Speaking generally, women tend to be givers.  This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint (and yes, many Mormons accept evolution as fact, including me) in that it takes a tremendous amount of altruism to raise children, and to help other women raise theirs.  Men on the other hand have generally been takers.  Go out, kill food, and bring it back.  They tend to not have the involvement in the home that would be desired by most religions.  Thus the priesthood creates a balance that counters the impulse to look within and to not share, and is only active when one actually is serving others.  If you don't serve others, you aren't using it, and are thus not honoring it.

As for the aforementioned revolution, I guess she can be on that side of the fence if she so chooses.  I hope her choice of words, which are hers and not mine, stand in contrast to my goals, and I believe the goal of the LDS Church:  To have happy families that raise strong, good people with strong moral character.  That just doesn't sound like something cultish to me.  Now a "Vagina and Slut" revolution: that wreaks of cultism to me.

But what do I know.  I'm just a white heterosexual Mormon man.  The four worst things one can be in this day and age all wrapped up in one.  Heaven help me.