not in Primary anymore

one size does not fit all

guest post by Maddisen Tingey

 

It’s no secret that we Mormons have a culture of our own.

That culture is extremely prevalent in my home state of Utah. One of the key elements of the LDS lifestyle is the family structure. This structure consists of a hard-working father with a desk job, brief case, and conventional car with exceptional gas mileage. It also consists of a nurturing, soft-spoken homemaking mother, and upwards of 4 offspring. This structure is neatly outlined in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.” Perhaps this is the ideal family situation, given that each family member is fulfilled with his/her role. However, there are individuals out there who don’t fit this destined mold.

I am one of those misfits.

At 19 years old, I am in my “golden years” — the time of my life where I should be pretty darn close, if not already, betrothed to a young man, preparing to reproduce, and perfecting my mad home-making skills that will inevitably preoccupy the remainder of my life. After not even two decades of existing in mortal form, 30% of my graduating class is engaged, married, or married with kiddo #1 on the way.

I have never been able to see myself choosing this path.

I have ambitious academic and professional goals. Rather than having baby showers and saving up for a minivan with built-in car seats, I see myself attending study-abroad programs and getting multiple diplomas. However, when people ask me about my plans for the future, the question always arises: “Well, where does having a family fit in?”

If a young man of my similar situation shared his ambitions, he would rarely, if ever, be questioned about when he plans on starting a family. Because men get to do both. Men HAVE to do both. This whole early marriage and baby-making thing is actually rather convenient for men, I’d say.  Men can, and must, according to the church, be the providers for their families. They are free to get a degree and have a powerful career, and after their 8-5 shift they can come home and play catch with Junior while Mom slaves away in the kitchen. Best of both worlds.

Rarely is that the case for a woman. Every situation is different, and a lot of women have to work in order to support their families. I feel that the Church tries to make everything one-size-fits-all instead of recognizing its members as individuals – that there is no blanket-solution to the right way to set up your family.

What if the 8-5 gig is exactly what I, an LDS female, desire?

But Maddie, your role is to be a nurturing mother, chauffeur, and diaper-changer.

I’m sorry, but I refuse to believe that my gender has THAT much determination of what I can and cannot do with my life. I personally believe that God wants all his children to be happy, and that He won’t love me any less for prioritizing a career at the top of my life’s to-do list. My ambitions are just as important as my future husband’s.

However, my church doesn’t seem to agree with me.

President Spencer W. Kimball said, ““No career approaches in importance that of wife, homemaker, mother—cooking meals, washing dishes, making beds for one’s precious husband and children… “… I beg of you, you who could and should be bearing and rearing a family: Wives, come home from the typewriter, the laundry, the nursing, come home from the factory, the café.”

It’s frustrating to hear all this talk of how women are the stronger gender because we can give birth (and have a nurturing intuition and all that jazz), but we’re expected to devote our lives to pursuing that route of mother and homemaker regardless of our differing interests. What if working outside the home makes me happy? What if a career gives me a sense of empowerment and fulfillment that I simply cannot feel any way else? I know of multiple instances in which the father is the primary caretaker of the children, and the mother plays the role of the breadwinner. Guess what? These families are just as functional as the ones in which the roles are reversed.

All I want is to be given the same career opportunities as my male peers, without the expectation to drop my aspirations and dreams in exchange for the ability to have a family. I should be able to have both, just as any husband is able. I want to be reassured that my own ambitions are important, and I want to be encouraged to pursue these ambitions.

Enough of this “gender role” nonsense.

Let’s start recognizing individuals as individuals and come to terms with the fact that not every woman is meant to work strictly within the home. Quite frankly, I believe that I would go absolutely crazy.

 

Maddisen Tingey is currently a sophomore studying English and Women’s Studies. She is working towards a PhD in English with the desire to become an author or editor. She loves to travel and hopes to see the entire world someday. Maddisen is currently the author of her own personal feminist blog, DownWithTheNorm.com, in which she discusses more of her feminist philosophies and experiences in daily life.

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20 Responses to “one size does not fit all”

  1. Locke

    “This whole early marriage and baby-making thing is actually rather convenient for men, I’d say. ”

    LOL. This statement really made me laugh. Look, I get it. You don’t want to make the sacrifices traditionally required of women to have a family. That’s great. But don’t knock the sacrifices traditionally required of men in the process.

    I’m sure your 19 year old male counterparts are just oozing with excitement to give up their video games and buckle down in school so they can receive that “powerful” 8-5 desk job. Then they can finally live their glorious dream of pushing papers around 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Yeah, I really don’t think she was knocking “sacrifices traditionally required of men.” I think the point she was making is that these traditions are more of a convenience for men than women. What a lot of people don’t realize is that when men are done with their day job, they can come home and be DONE working for the day — they can play video-games, sit on the couch and watch TV, and generally unwind. Because women are heavily expected to be homemakers, the child-rearing, meal-preparation, cleaning, etc. are things she works on either all day OR in addition to when she comes home from her own job/career. The work is never ending, and there’s little to no validation. Doesn’t sound very fair, does it?

      Reply
      • Locke

        “What a lot of people don’t realize is that when men are done with their day job, they can come home and be DONE working for the day — they can play video-games, sit on the couch and watch TV, and generally unwind.”

        I can’t speak for what happens in other people’s homes. But as far as cultural expectations, what you describe seems more on par with the Simpsons than what Church leaders teach men to do. I feel sorry that you can only see men as the media portrays them – lazy dads who “play video-games, sit on the couch and watch TV.”I hope one day you can see them for more. But in our fight for equal rights, there is no reason to knock the other gender.

    • missmaddie95

      The whole problem is that each role is defined by GENDER, rather than individual differences. Hell, if I could find me a hubby that would play Mr. Mom while I went to work and “pushed papers” all day, that would be peachy. I just don’t think that I should be limited in some ridiculous gender role based on my genitals is all.

      Reply
  2. Daniel Bride

    Maddisen, thanks for a well-written and important call to increase flexibility and openness in Mormon cultural expectations. I’m with you in wishing for more acceptance and encouragement of diverse educational, career, and life goals for Mormon women. But I’m not sure your description of current Mormon culture (even in Utah) is accurate or useful.

    I’m not a woman, so I’m very willing to allow the possibility that your description accurately represents the cultural messages directed at you from the church and its members, but I see less uniformity in the attitudes of church leaders and members than you’ve given them credit for. I think a good proportion of members and leaders would snicker at President Kimball’s quote as out-dated, and you sort of caricaturized the cultural “ideal” of family structure in a way that seems unnecessarily hyperbolistic. Just as it’s unhelpful to paint all Mormon feminists with the broad brush of “female, angry, and apostate,” I think it’s unhelpful to outline a broad “they” of non-feminist Mormons and portray them as a “one-size-fits-all” mass who want women in the kitchen.

    Instead, you might describe a fuller range of cultural attitudes and acknowledge positive variations. In general (shoot, now I’m doing a “one-size-fits-all”!) people do more of what they get praised for, but often dig in their heels to defend behaviors or beliefs they feel are mischaracterized.

    Reply
    • missmaddie95

      All i’m trying to get at here is that I deserve the same opportunities as my male peers to pursue whichever life path I please. This article reflects my personal experiences and perceptions within my local community, not the way things are for the entire church. I even specified that I was talking about the Utahn culture, which, i’d be willing to bet a majority of Utahns would agree that we live in the “Mormon Bubble.” I acknowledge that this type of cultural attitude is not uniform in all places in the Church.

      Reply
      • danielbride86

        I agree with you that men and women ought to have the same opportunities to pursue their chosen life goals. I hope you get to meet and feel the support of the many Mormons who feel the same way.

  3. anonymous

    That is a very outdated comment from President Kimball and I know there a lot more updated ones that don’t seem so sexist.

    As far as the Utah Mormon Culture, I live in Utah, am 26, and married with two kids. The typical family you describe is not as normal as you may think. I am currently working on my degree and have held a part time job off and on since I had kids. My husband comes home from a long day of work and helps with the kids. Were as most of my non-mormon friend’s husbands just sit on their butts and do nothing while the wife does everything.

    My ward is diverse and many women work. I think this “stereotypical” Utah family isn’t as typical as people make it seem.

    Reply
  4. Marina

    Locke – what exactly is your definition of “our fight for equal rights” in your comment above? In order to achieve this, isn’t it necessary to call out/discern discrepancies and unfair practices between men and women’s traditional roles? I understand that in doing so, certain parties are bound to take offense.

    I personally enjoyed reading this. I felt much of the same way when I was about 19. Despite the Kimball quote, which I also find somewhat outdated, it’s overwhelmingly obvious that a majority of Mormon women still feel pressure to be full time homemakers & stay-at-home moms (I know I definitely did at first.) We’re encouraged to get an education and obtain job skills — but mostly under the “just in case of emergency” impression versus the “I choose to work because this job is fulfilling” notion. Growing up, my mother felt ostracized from some women at Church because she chose to work full-time (apparently she wasn’t “spending enough time being a mother.”)

    On the other hand, times are definitely changing, and I see a lot of married couples taking on more egalitarian roles. I’m grateful for what progression has been accomplished, but I also acknowledge that we’ve got a long way to go in regards to gender roles and equality.

    Reply
    • Locke

      You’re right, it is kind of an awkward phrase. I think I was about to write “the fight” but in mid-thought changed it to “our fight”–conveying the sense that there are some men involved and putting them down only hurts the cause.

      Reply
  5. Anonymous

    Her feelings and perceptions and problems are just as valid as anyone else’s.

    Reply

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