Over the weekend, a talk was presented in a church meeting that encouraged women to embrace their roles as nurturers and peacemakers, and to be grateful that they are given those innate abilities. They were also advised to not worry too much about who is in charge, because much work is done behind the scenes, and it doesn’t really matter who gets credit. No, Silly, not that talk. This talk.
I’ll summarize it for you, in case you didn’t follow the link. As part of a women’s outreach program held at the Unitarian church, a famous feminist who has published books about discovering your inner Goddess made a presentation that praised women while simultaneously defining their roles in terms that are specific to their sex. But instead of reminding her listeners that children are worth sacrificing for, Dr. Bolen reminded them that they have an important part to play in saving the world. How do we account for the difference between the way Dr. Bolen’s and President Beck’s talks were received? Are feminists really offended by the notion of essential gender differences, or is it all just about having babies and doing housework? If President Beck had encouraged women to use their innate nurturing abilities to recycle and work for peace, would her talk have met the same objections? I’m not trying to single out feminists; there are plenty of other examples. The point of this post is to observe that we all are pretty good at selective listening.
I honestly feel sorry for teenage boys this week. After Elder Perry’s talk in priesthood meeting, young men are never going to hear the end of the take out your headphones/quit playing video games/get a job broken record. I wouldn’t be surprised if that topic was the subject of thousands of family home evenings last night. And as a veteran father of teenage boys, I know that it occasionally needs to be said. But does anybody want to bet me some real money that Moms and Dads will focus more on their son’s headphones that they will on their own anger, which was denounced by the prophet in the same meeting? I think the tendency to know exactly what other people ought to do while feeling pretty good about ourselves is a sin, and that it ought to be resisted.
I was part of a conversation yesterday in which a woman took some satisfaction in describing the hectic nature of her life. She not only homeschools her large family, she also runs a part-time business from her home. She spends several hours in the van every afternoon, shuttling her children to their school, athletic, drama, music, dance, and debate activities. She pronounced herself very happy with her role as mother, and was pleased that President Beck had bluntly and boldly told “those people” the facts of life. I was tempted to say, in a smartalecky manner, that “smart mothers do less”, but I doubt she would have even known what I meant. And in her zeal to hear only what she wanted, she apparently missed Elder Oaks’ talk completely.
When people talk about their favorite conference speakers, they often describe them in terms of speaking style. “He really lays it on the line.” “She doesn’t pussyfoot around.” “He give it to you straight.” It has been my experience that when I have used phrases like that, it has been when I have taken some glee in seeing someone else put in his place. If I start to look forward to listening to Gordon B. Hinckley in the hope that he will lay the smack down on somebody, I have reduced his role from spiritual leader to that of a trash talking NBA power forward. Are we not better than that?