By Derrick Clements
Last month my family got together and had a rousing discussion about feminism in the Church. Whenever my five older siblings and their spouses get together, there’s always a good discussion to be had. Even though a few of my siblings are, like me, registered Democrats, these conversations tend to cement my place as the most liberal member of my fully active LDS family.
A question was raised that we were unsuccessful at really answering: In the Church or at home, does patriarchy (however benevolent) make equality impossible?
I say yes. It’s a conversation worth having, and unfortunately, a few roadblocks make this a difficult question to even discuss. We ended up getting distracted by the following questions instead of focusing on the one in bold:
- Men and women are obviously different (just lift up their skirts!), but does that mean they have less meaningful roles than men do?
- Since women only need to follow righteous husbands, are unrighteous husbands the ones to blame (rather than the institution) for unrighteous dominion?
- Since biology discriminates against men (who do not give birth), isn’t it justifiable for Church policy to discriminate against women (who do not hold the priesthood or serve as ward clerks, etc.)?
- Aren’t men actually lucky that they don’t give birth, and aren’t women actually lucky that they don’t hold the priesthood or serve as ward clerks? One set of responsibilities is enough for each gender to be in charge of.
So, since we didn’t really answer the question in bold at my family reunion, I’m interested in your thoughts. Here are some more detailed statements of the question:
Stepping back, is it an inherent contradiction in the Family Proclamation to say both “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose” and “fathers and mothers [and, presumably, husbands and wives] are obligated to help one another as equal partners?”
If so, what can we do to help improve the situation in the Church culture?
If not, what does that look like in a home situation for a husband to preside in a relationship of equals?