Much has been written here about the struggles Mormon women face in carving out their own identities and finding personal happiness while fulfilling expectations of the Church and the broader society, particularly with respect to pursuing both a career and a family. This issue is a hot button topic for many. But what about the men? Are there similar contradictions in Mormon doctrine and culture that make it difficult for Mormon men to reach personal happiness and fulfillment in the Church, while living up to the expectations of the “real” world?
For example, think of the stereotypical male portrayed in popular culture. I think of someone like Al Pacino in the Godfather I and II movies, or Gordon Gekko (Donald Trump?) from the classic ’80s movie, “Wall Street” (Greed is good!). These men are tough (you’re FIRED!), they do not show any weaknesses. They use violence and their power and financial influence to control the actions of others. These men also typically enjoy drinking and carousing with women, gambling, and flouting the law.
Mormon men, on the other hand, cry publicly at Fast and Testimony meeting when sharing personal spiritual experiences. Mormon men are forbidden to participate in the quintessential male bonding activity of drinking. Ideally, Mormon men sleep with only one woman their entire lives. A completely unrealistic expectation in American culture today. Not only that, there’s no fighting allowed, no violence to get what you want or to control others. Mormon men must persuade through “long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.”
Recently, I read an article in the New York Times discussing the rise of morally ambiguous characters on television (i.e., Sawyer on “Lost” and Dr. House on “House”), and how these characters are very popular with men. The article quoted a scholar saying that men identify with these characters because they are frustrated that society “has told them to be powerful and effective and to get things done, and at the same time they’re living, operating and working in places that are constantly defying that.” (Professor Robert Thompson, Syracuse University).
Do you agree with this statement? Do you think that Mormon men are frustrated by the constraints imposed on them by the Church? And, more generally, how do Mormon men balance the expectations of society with the expectations of the Church in finding their place in this world?