guest post by Liz Lemon
Being raised in the LDS church, I have been well-versed on the importance of marriage since I was a little girl. One thing I was sure about, at a fairly young age, was that I was going to be married in the temple. While most LDS sisters I’ve known growing up decided to get married at a young age (and I believe that it is their choice) I’m still skeptical of this choice when marriage is more or less taught as a sacred duty we’re here to fulfill. It is hard to deny that the Mormon position on marriage differs in a lot of ways from a feminist perspective (but, in fairness, this is not limited to the LDS Church).
I am not necessarily attempting to belittle young love; rather, I only hope that you take what I have to say into consideration. I can’t think of many things, if anything, better than falling in love. Falling in love, as Thomas Merton points out in his book Love and Living, is one of the rare exceptions where “falling” for something is not seen in a negative way. A notion of “falling in love” seems to indicate that we love irrationally, on a whim, without a lot of contemplation. Sometimes it does seem irrational – it’s something felt but cannot be explained, you just feel it. You cannot explain what it is like to be in love to someone who has never been in love without sounding irrational. So, sometimes it’s hard to take your feelings into rational consideration when you’re in love.
My second year of college, I read Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. Beauvoir believes that love is not always a positive force, especially in regards to women. She believes that oftentimes, women in love merely reflect their husband by living through him. Reading this reminded me of a “joke” that an elder shared with me when I asked him why women couldn’t hold the priesthood. He replied, “When you hug your husband, you’re holding the priesthood.” I know it’s supposed to be a joke, but he is saying that the closest that I could ever get to the Priesthood is by getting married. This means that this is something that I can only obtain, not through God or by myself, but through a man.
Simone de Beauvoir wrote that inequality between partners in marriage was based on gender expectations. She argues that because of this, men and women actually love differently (due to how we’re conditioned in our society). Beauvoir argues that women in love are susceptible to being narcissistic, as she seeks to fulfill the myth of femininity. What she has against this is that in supporting the myth of a feminine nature, women are told that we are “inherently” passive and this (in many regards) attempts to define who we are before we’re even born.
I do feel as though marriage can sometimes undermine some aspects of love, especially if we’re taught that it is impossible for you to be equal to your husband. Believing there is something innately superior in being a man degrades our concept of love within a marriage. For a husband to love and respect you, yet feel you’re not competent enough to hold the same responsibilities, tells you exactly how he values your capabilities and how he doesn’t see you as a partner but as “the other.”
Simone de Beauvoir refers to women as “the other,” because women are seen as an extension to “the self” – the man. By making a woman a mere extension of a man, this keeps inequality within a marriage. Some claim that this is the way that nature intended it to be. However, Beauvoir claims that this is merely an appeal to nature and that a woman is not born “…. but rather becomes, a woman.” Beauvoir was attempting to inform women of the radical freedom that is available to them, if they are willing to let go of the role of being “the other.”
While Beauvoir (along with many other great feminist philosophers) was against marriage and never married herself, I do believe that you can marry someone you love and still be your own person. I also believe that if the person truly loves you, they would want nothing less. However, going back to young love, it is important to know more about yourself and what you want in life before you make that commitment; otherwise, you’re leaving yourself to be susceptible to living your life in a way that might not be ideal to you. As Thomas Merton insisted, “being in love is a special way of being alive,” and what else should it be than just that? Love is complex, with its foundation deeply rooted in respect and friendship. So, when someone tells you that marriage is a sacred obligation, it’s important to know better — for everyone’s well being and happiness.
Liz is a recent graduate in philosophy and creative writing. She’s currently living in South Korea but is originally from Washington State. She was raised in the LDS church but is now inactive.