The Rather Uncomfortable Constraints of Life on a Pedestal

You walk into Relief Society and someone hands you the pinterest-approved announcement for the next weeknight activity:  “Pretty Pretty Princess Girls Night Out!  Featuring a ‘Modest is Hottest’ Fashion Show!”  Or maybe you show up to your freshman year at BYU, interested in wildlife biology, only to learn very quickly that it is not a major or a career that is compatible with motherhood.  You go to girls camp, excited about the hiking, but spend most of your time preparing for a very special fireside in which the leaders will tell you what boys really expect of you and how you can conform your life to those expectations of being sweet and modest and spiritual (and pretty).  You attend a nationwide institute broadcast by a seventy and his wife where they give advice on marriage to men and women, including the admonition for girls to invest in a full length mirror.  As a teenager, you look around your ward for role models, and identify those women with multiple children, and sweet voices, and color coordinated houses, and husbands who were successful enough to support a PTA volunteer wife.  You try to stand out in your singles ward, because you want to find a husband, so you skip relief society to stay home and do your hair–but it’s not enough, you need an interesting hobby.  Music and crafts and traveling to the country where you served your mission are okay.  Herpetology is not.  You are taught at a Deseret Book sponsored “Especially for Women” event that lobbying is not ladylike, unless you’re lobbying for families.  In Relief Society, you ask why women don’t have the priesthood, and you hear the hushed chuckles as the teacher smiles at you sweetly and knowingly and tells you that women are more spiritual than men, and that men need the Priesthood to catch up to you.  You join a book club where you and the other sisters only read young adult novels, just to make sure that you are not exposed to ideas of “the world.” You are praised–unyieldingly praised for your innate sweetness and your spirituality and your defense of your family.  When the boys are in scouts working on career day merit badges, you are learning how to support them, how to encourage them to honor their priesthood, how to keep their thoughts pure by covering your body, and then you make them cookies.  It is relentless messaging, year after year after year, starting in the year you were born, and never letting up.  Your whole life has taught you to do exactly one thing.  This:

Life on this pedestal can be complicated.  It’s hard to keep your balance in those shoes.  It’s hard to make everyone listen to you when your head is so far away from their heads.  So you have to yell, but only in a soft, sweet voice–constantly pointing out ways your family could improve.  In order to avoid the inevitable neck cramps, you don’t want to look down at the men and the rebellious teenagers and the single women all the time, so you check out Sister Burton’s skirt, which is a little more hottest than modest and perhaps not appropriate.  Sister McBride’s skirt is a bit short too, but only because she’s put on some weight.  You want to make friends with your non-member neighbors, but they’re so short and out of reach, and it’s hard to keep your balance when you have to bend down to shake hands.  As you gaze down on your husband from the pedestal, you start to notice things that are not so pleasant.  He’s got a bald spot, and a bit of a paunch, and you suspect that if you could just lean the right way, you could see the image on his computer screen and it would involve nudity.

But there are some things that they never told you about life on the pedestal.  Sometimes it’s lonely.  Sometimes you get bored.  Sometimes you get hemorrhoids.  Sometimes your husband doesn’t get paid enough to support your family.  Sometimes your kids stick beans up their noses when you don’t have health insurance.  Sometimes you find out your nephew is gay.  Sometimes you really wish you would have studied wildlife biology because you never really thought elementary education was interesting and now you regret that choice.  Sometimes you cry for no reason.  Sometimes you wish you could just reconnect with your husband and stop being disappointed in him all the time.  Sometimes you want to sell your children to the mailman.  Sometimes you just want to read a dirty book.  Sometimes a very, very stiff wind picks you up off that pedestal and knocks you right on your spanx-encrusted ass.

Hi there, welcome to my world.  It’s nice to see you down here.  Don’t cry.  We’re actually pretty nice.  There’s your husband’s buddy Jimmy who insists on wearing a beard and Levis to church every Sunday.  There’s your accountant who goes to Sunstone every year.  There’s your Aunt Bubbles who puts vodka in her water bottle, but thinks the world of you.  There’s Sister Layton who has skipped the evening session of stake conference for the past eight years to have Halo 3 tournaments with her teenage sons.  There’s your non-member neighbors who want to invite you to dinner, but are afraid you’ll be offended if they drink wine.  Go ahead and put them at ease.  There’s Leona from down the street who hasn’t worn anything but a low-cut mumu in eight years, but has the funniest stories and most infectious laugh.  There’s your neighbor Sarah who has a dirty house and weedy garden, but loves her job at the hospital.  There’s your husband with his bald spot and paunch and some cheese dip on his chin who would like nothing more than to just watch a basketball game with you.  There’s a democrat–go ahead and hug him.  He’s lonely in the intermountain west.  Maybe you can be friends.  You both like wildlife.  There’s your niece dressed entirely in tattoos, spandex, and various bits of body jewelry.  She writes poetry and hopes you’ll take her seriously.  There’s your cheeto-encrusted child with an unfortunate profanity problem.  He needs a hug and a washcloth.  There’s your daughter who hasn’t been to church in a few years.  She loves you and she needs a hug too because she’s not always sure that the feeling is mutual.  There’s grumpy Mr. Paxton who smokes on his front porch on Sunday, but makes really nice bird feeders.  He has some great stories to tell about the old days when people appreciated the value of a dollar.

We could all help you get back up on that uncomfortable perch, but honestly, what’s the point?  You weren’t really enjoying it, were you?  Go ahead and relax.  Try on some elastic-waisted pants and these flats.  Crack open a diet coke.  Crack open a bodice-ripping novel.  Crack a smile.  Stop worrying about being a pretty princess and start enjoying being an emotional, stinky, loving, laughing, flawed but striving human.  And enjoy the company of the nuts who surround you.  You might find a kindred spirit.

Comments

  1. Senile Old Fart says:

    Looks like Kristine’s shoes, to me.

  2. Exactly. Thank you for this.

  3. Kristine says:

    The only difference is that all my shoes are equipped with pedestal-escape parachutes that activate as soon as anyone says “women are naturally spiritual/charitable/nurturing/etc.”

  4. Jason F says:

    Love this, I think that stories can make a point in a profound way that simply explaining a point of view cannot.

  5. Joshua B. says:

    you could see the image on his computer screen and it would involve nudity.

    If all the pron-phobics in the room could PLEASE keep in mind las computadoras != porn, we would all very much appreciate that. This is one reason I don’t care for that pedastal at all, and you can make this world a much nicer place to live for all of us. Ugh–Gag–Yuck.

    Signed, Joshua.

    P.S. @OP– awesome, I hung on to every word. I loved all of this except:

    Crack open a bodice-ripping novel.

    Please no double standards, fe-males :) But really, this is excellent stuff!

  6. I may print this out and read it from the podium next fast-Sunday. How long before the SP calls me in?

    Excellent, excellent piece, Karen.

  7. Aaron B says:

    This is so great, Karen.

  8. ” Sometimes you wish you could just reconnect with your husband and stop being disappointed in him all the time.”

    *gasp*

  9. By which I mean this post is pure joy.

  10. Absolutely love this.

  11. Mark Brown says:

    Great job, Karen, and a virtual high five.

    This post knocked me right on my non-spanx-encrusted ass.

  12. Thanks for this, Kristine.

  13. I meant Karen, but my fingers didn’t listen. Old age is as hard sometimes as pedestals.

  14. Gorgeous!

  15. Love this so much, Karen H. I’m putting you back on your pedestal (sorry).

  16. “We could all help you get back up on that uncomfortable perch, but honestly, what’s the point? You weren’t really enjoying it, were you? Go ahead and relax.” You have a way with words, Karen.

  17. Karen, in your case the pedestal is more of a tower of power from which you may more effectively rule over us. Keep on rocking.

  18. I wouldn’t mind a pedestal as long as some nice rock climbing holds are drilled into the sides so I can practice my moves.

  19. Mark Brown says:

    Karen, I really like how you subtly described the way a pedestal is a lot like a rameumptom.

  20. A Nonny Mouse says:

    He’s got a bald spot, and a bit of a paunch, and you suspect that if you could just lean the right way, you could see the image on his computer screen and it would involve nudity.

    Is this the anti-pedestal? An equally tired trope.

  21. MDearest says:

    A rameumptom. That’s genius.

    Also my imagined rameum– er, pedestal for Karen is a stack of brainiac books, low enough to sit on.

  22. Look, I really object. Girls who are pretty and sweet *in fact* get better husbands (on average, and by a large measure) than girls who wear “elastic-waisted pants and . . . flats.” and who are “stinky.” Telling pretty lies to our youth is only going to perpetuate the horrors of secular society onto them.

  23. and by better I mean higher SES.

  24. OK, this is a lovely bandwagon and I’m happy to jump aboard: This is fantastic! Thank you.

  25. Karen, amazing! Thank you !

  26. realist,
    Put up or shut up. Demonstrate your assertion with something other than “because I said so”. Or shut up.

  27. If ONLY this could be read aloud in every Relief Society and Young Women’s class in the United States (and probably two or three times in Utah just to be sure).

  28. KerBearRN says:

    Bravo! And fist-bumps too. Thank you so much for making me feel normal, even just for a while. Oh, and my *gasp of joy* was when you mentioned Sarah, who must be my identical twin sister.
    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

  29. My only quibble is with the line about young adult novels, since as anyone who actually reads a lot of them will attest, they are often are 1) just as conscious of the difficulties and diversity of “the world,” and 2) better written than a good deal of “adult” or “literary” fiction. But aside from that small note of complaint, this is a first rate post, brilliant and sharp and funny and true. I’m going to make sure that the women (young and otherwise) in my life read it. Thank you!

  30. RAF, I’m sure that everyone will have some quibbles with what is essentially meant to be symbolic. Just substitute whatever brand of “nobody’s perfect” currently applies and we’re all good to go.

    Thanks all for the kind words!

  31. I have no real way to relate to the first half…nothing like that ever happened to me. The extremist/symbolic or whatever nature of it seems a little straw womanish.

    Yet I have problems with pedestals. It’s the “I could never do that” “You must be so (patient, calm, pregnancy must be so easy, you must be a fast reader…insert irrational unrealistic perfection comment here)” Some rare people seem unable to understand that they are not held to my personal revelation and they are surely not responsible for my mission. Instead of being content with their own uniqueness, some people need to challenge my uniqueness as impossible for them. It’s spiderman walking, head down, ignoring his web building skills and instead forever focusing on his inability to fly. It’s as if they expect Noah, the brother of Jared and Nephi to all be thinking Moses doesn’t belong in heaven because he didn’t build a boat.

    It’s people looking at me and assuming I’m molly mormon…without ever taking time to get to know me, without ever realizing that molly doesn’t exist…she’s pretend. She’s not something I ever focused on until they kept pushing her in my face. EVERYONE has something interesting and unique about them…a story. I wish one of the “oh how interesting THIS person is” examples could have included the person behind the weird straw woman set up in the first part. there isn’t an average person.

  32. …assuming I’m molly mormon…without ever taking time to get to know me, without ever realizing that molly doesn’t exist…she’s pretend.

    britt, this is exactly what Karen is illustrating in the first paragraph you call the straw woman. It’s others imposing their idea of who and what we should be, and never bothering to get to know us. It’s “the relentless messaging, year after year” of no one getting to know you.

  33. Britt, if I thought that anyone would seriously relate to the pedestal lady (at least at BCC) I wouldn’t have written it. We’re all down on the ground rubbing our keisters and looking for hugs. That’s life.

    Also, 80% of the things in the first paragraph happened to me personally, the other 20% either happened to a close friend or are “ripped from the headlines” as it were.

  34. In general I have found the extremes unhelpful for learning. The people who might stumble across the post and need to learn not to put people up on pedestals, read the OP and think…I’ve never done THAT…I’m fine. 80% Karen…wow. I’m sorry! that stinks! I’m glad you stuck it out with your own choice of major.

  35. “It’s the “I could never do that” “You must be so (patient, calm, pregnancy must be so easy, you must be a fast reader…insert irrational unrealistic perfection comment here)” Some rare people seem unable to understand that they are not held to my personal revelation and they are surely not responsible for my mission. Instead of being content with their own uniqueness, some people need to challenge my uniqueness as impossible for them.”

    On the other hand, we all have to take responsibility for our own self-presentation in the community. If the only parts of ourselves we make visible to others are our patience and calm in the face of our many children and our mad speedreading skillz, [etc.]., then we are implicitly setting others up to feel envious and inadequate. Implicit community norms don’t come from nowhere. We all have a part in making them. I’m certainly not arguing for inappropriate disclosure of personal problems, which can of course be another form of attention seeking, but I deeply appreciate who don’t tote their pedestals to church with them and peer down at all the rest of us from on high, and then add insult to injury by blaming the groundlings for our annoyance at having to crane their necks around the pedestals to catch a glimpse of Jesus. Who wants to go to church with people who aren’t willing to be human?

    I deeply appreciate those who are willing to flash their Diet Coke, their borderline-immodest skirts, their problems, their humanity. I myself have an atheist husband, a son with dwarfism and associated developmental delays, and a lifelong problem with depression. And that’s just for starters: that’s not even the bad stuff. My family will never fit on a pedestal. Praise. The. Lord.

  36. Positively brilliant. Thank you for this post – I’m off to share it with my mama and sisters.

  37. I forgot the most important part: thank you, Karen. I love this.

  38. First-rate, Karen. I love it.

    The problem with eternal pedestalization is that sometimes *individuals* really should be put on pedestals, but for individual accomplishments, not because of inherent (and therefore choiceless and therefore not-praiseworthy) natures. For example, I think you should be on a pedestal right now–for this post, it’s so damn awesome. I thought the same of Morgan Davis’ recent guest post, and my kids when they achieve something noteworthy, etc. We rejoice in others’ achievements and get to thrill at their excellence, and then they rightly step down and it’s someone else’s turn, and the pedestal is communal and everyone gets the chance to ascend and hear the applause and admiration before taking their place applausing and admiring someone else’s ascent.

  39. If anyone is interested, I wrote the following back in October 2007:

    “The Wonder of Warts” (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2007/10/wonder-of-warts.html)

  40. Oh Ray.

  41. Oh Steve. I missed you.

  42. BethSmash says:

    @Russell Arben Fox “young adult novels, since as anyone who actually reads a lot of them will attest, they are often are 1) just as conscious of the difficulties and diversity of “the world,” and 2) better written than a good deal of “adult” or “literary” fiction.”

    SO, true! As a quick side note, as a librarian in Utah. People come to me all the time and tell me how they only read Juvenile Fiction, how they used to read YA fiction, but it’s too worldly or dirty or ‘adult’ now. le sigh

  43. Thank you. Loved this post. Loved it. It (and you) are impossibly terrific. Wait a minute… did I just put you on a pedestal?

  44. Mark B. says:

    The real problem with putting women on pedestals, as Steve Martin said, is that it simply makes it too easy to look up their skirts. (Actually, he didn’t think that was a problem.)

  45. Meldrum the Less says:

    I have only one word of response, the first name of my daughter now in college.

    I only wish you could meet her or that I could adequately describe her to you. How she led her little Mormon posse of 9 spirited girls growing up together in our ward to trample all over this kind of “Mormon silliness” (her words) with such cleverness, skill and humor. I’d like to take credit for it but truthfully my wife is about 90% responsible for the way she developed.

    After reading this, none of us have to put up with it. Speak up, be yourself and do it with confidence and humor.

  46. So a person I’ve never met when I’ve been in the congregation exactly one week—they work in primary, so less contact…that person. I’m responsible for what they see? that’s what this post is about? I’m supposed to be responsible for what image I present…shall I dump my troubles and imperfections on them the minute I meet them or is that too late? What if my imperfections aren’t visible? Or maybe I should be responsible to tattoo every imperfection on my belly and regularly flash people…sigh.

    by all means that’s the point of this article…it’s the responsibility of the person to make sure they present the proper image to make sure they are judged correctly. I thought part of the point is to look on the heart, to attempt to learn about and love other people.

    We did get to know each other. she did say at one point I wasn’t at all like she thought I was. (she saw me from way across the chapel and my 7yo told her I read a lot— My faults? I’m married, have many children and am not from Texas. —I stay at home–that’s what she knew and whatever my 7yo told her. I met her through my son. She was a terrific primary teacher who loved my son…that was a great introduction…I love her.

    I can’t control others thoughts and am not responsible for them. phbt

  47. Love this. However, I do have multiple children and a PhD in a “non mother hood friendly” field. So you can’t judge a book by it’s cover . . .

  48. Susan W H says:

    Sigh. We perfect people have such a difficult time relating to all the non-perfect folks in this world. . . it is lonely and cold up here.

    Wonderful post–thank you so much.

  49. realist,
    I just realized what SES stands for and it causes me to moderate my response. What you true is true and terrible. My sincere hope is that it won’t be relevant for long; but I agree it probably will be. Sigh. Anyhoo, sorry for calling you out when I didn’t know what the heck you were talking about.

  50. All responsible adult life has significant and uncomfortable constraints. This is as much a meaningful objection to growing into womanhood as would be the fact that you get taller.

  51. Is Karen objecting to growing into womanhood or to the pedestal culture that we’ve developed and maintain by our approach to acceptable women’s roles and uses in current Church culture?

  52. Jennifer in GA says:

    Wonderful!

  53. I make every effort to avoid pedestals, but I refuse to wear elastic-waist anything, and will continue to wear heels and make myself pretty. Because I like those things, and wearing yoga pants and a ponytail makes me feel horrible about myself. :)

  54. 45. Meldrum the Less–Love your daughter’s example!
    47. jen–Awesome!

    But I worry for the YW/women who aren’t really overtly aware (unlike commenters 45 and 47) of the messages put forth in the OP. Just means we have to be keenly aware of those opportunities we have with our YW and RS women in tearing down this pedestal ideology.

  55. Claire Baker says:

    Everyone is so funny here, I won’t be able to compete but I wonder, is the ‘pedestal’ problem a Utah thing? For all the years of living in UT, there was alot of ‘that’ going on, but I didn’t realize it till I moved to another state-Colorado. Once away from UT, I felt the pressure of being on the pedestal ALMOST gone, as Colorado is almost UT when it comes to Church stuff. But again, another move, even further east of UT and I don’t feel ANY pressure to conform, to be put onto a pedestal. I get my jollies from my own self-worth which I’ve cultivated over the years. When visiting UT, I immediately feel that pull to jump back on the pedestal and realize I have it really good where I am today. I will never be perfect, I don’t want to be viewed as perfect (afterall, my husband is in the Stake Presidency and oh, aren’t I blessed to have such a spiritual man in my life? We live a perfect life. Gag. If only people really knew…..) There is no pedestal in my home and I sure don’t have it at Church. I’m just me, imperfect and wonderful as ever!

  56. Ray, I loved the post you linked for us. It’s so true that I feel closest to the people who know the real me and love me anyway. But too frequently I don’t feel like people still like/love me when they know the real me or when I let too much of me show through. I think maybe that’s a pretty common feeling. But it sure would be nice if we could all love each other that way – in spite of or maybe even because of our imperfections. If we all start with ourselves, maybe one day it’ll just sneak up on us and we’ll realize we’ve found Zion – or perhaps more accurately, created it.

  57. “There are some things that they never told you about life on the pedestal. Sometimes it’s lonely. ”

    Made me think of the following from Gordon B. Hinckley:
    “It was ever thus. The price of leadership is loneliness. The price of adherence to conscience is loneliness. The price of adherence to principle is loneliness. I think it is inescapable. The Savior of the world was a Man who walked in loneliness. I do not know of any statement more underlined with the pathos of loneliness than His statement: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20).

    There is no lonelier picture in history than of the Savior upon the cross, alone, the Redeemer of mankind, the Savior of the world, bringing to pass the Atonement, the Son of God suffering for the sins of mankind. As I think of that, I reflect on a statement made by Channing Pollock: Judas with his thirty pieces of silver was a failure. Christ on the cross was the greatest figure of time and eternity. ”

    Many of the examples are somewhat trite (cookies, scouts, skirts, etc), but I think there is some truth that the pathway of true discipleship can often include loneliness. When you know what the Savior wants of you, what’s expected -but only if you are desirous to follow, and when you look at the world around you and the direction “they” are going, alone is something you might be quite a lot.

  58. it's a series of tubes says:

    alone is something you might be quite a lot.

    But on you will go
    though the ward may be foul
    On you will go
    though the ex-mo’s may prowl
    On you will go
    though the self-righteous howl
    Onward up many
    a frightening creek,
    though your heels may get sore
    and your panties may leak.

  59. Thomas Parkin says:

    “All responsible adult life has significant and uncomfortable constraints.”

    Sure. But in any given instance, odds are you’re just wound up too tight.

  60. JennyP1969 says:

    Too fun, Karen H.! Thank you very much. Let’s have a big ol’ boy scout Bon fire and burn the dang things — after all, there’s no room for husbands and children on them, no room for friends, or puppies, or even Jesus. You can’t take them with you — not that anyone would want to. So you bring the pedestals; I’ll bring the gasoline and matches, and stuff for s’mores!

    (Some of you people here need to find your sense of humor. It’s probably under the bed with the dust bunnies or some such place. Then come have a s’more….it’ll sweeten you up some.)

    And, hey, adult books of literature are priceless. Maybe a review of what constitutes excellent literature as opposed to contemporary pulp fiction would be helpful? I’m sure the good librarian would be helpful in distinguishing the two. Nothing against YA reads occasionally. But with such fine works from great authors to read, to absorb, grow from, ponder, delve into — oh my! There just isn’t enough time to read really, really fine literature!! Just saying…..

    See you at the Bon fire! I’ll burn my soap box too, ‘k? ;)

  61. Karen H. says:

    It’s a date JennyP! It’s been fun to read people’s comments. A few responses: jen, not judging you at all. This is more a call for folks to stop judging themselves. Congrats on your education and your kids. Meldrum, I think your daughter and wife are both amazing. Adam–sigh. We both know your comment isn’t relevant. Claire Baker, you had me laughing out loud at your “gag”! emh, symbolic elastic pants. :)

  62. Once upon a time. I used to run out of Relief Society crying. I am the only member in my family. I joined at 22 (am now 46) and am still single. I have next to nothing in common with the sisters (except the most important thing, the Gospel). It used to really bother me. I felt that I joined the Church too late to find my forever companion.

    Things are better now. I’m more comfortable with my singleness and childlessness. (I probably would’ve been a horrible mother.) But I still feel a little different from others. Especially since I’m not right wing in the remotest sense.

    Great post.

  63. Also, when I see that picture all I can think of is how long it’s been since I shaved my legs. I just thought you all might like to know.

  64. I jumped off/got knocked off my pedestal years ago when I divorced my temple-married long-time husband. Then I had the audacity to marry a NOMO who doesn’t want to join the church – oh my! Then I began to speak up about the temple being not so women-friendly – goodness! And now I am firmly planted on Mother Earth, a dedicated humanist/feminist and a truth seeker. Looking back on my life, raising nine kids and being married to an abusive hypocrite, that Mormon woman pedestal was mighty painful and to stay balanced on (poor grammar I know). I was a hollow version of who I am now. I vote for no more pedestals!

  65. David Elliott says:

    I heard recently that “The Feminine Mystique” just turned 50 years old. The original post reads like the Mormon corollary.

  66. Thanks for being REAL! So along with the burning of the pedestals, let’s have a spanx burning party. It will be the Mormon version of the bra burning. Who are we trying to kid/fool/impress? All Enlisted, I have your next project!

  67. I’m torn. I get the post, at least, I think I do. I also personally hate it when women are deified en mass, but there is a role that such ideals play that can be beneficial. The same civilizing role occurs as we lay expectations for men. If we leave behind women’s pedestals, do we also give men permission to stare at cleavage, talk indiscriminately about sex and manifest the natural man in other ways?

  68. Hagoth, huh?

  69. Karen H. says:

    “if we leave behind women’s pedestals” and “we also give men permission” are interesting turns of phrase. Why exactly is it your job to give other people permission to make decisions about their own lives?

  70. “If we leave behind women’s pedestals, do we also give men permission to stare at cleavage, talk indiscriminately about sex and manifest the natural man in other ways?”

    By all means, let’s dither about the door now that the horse left the barn and won the Preakness.

  71. Karen H. says:

    One of the reasons I dislike the women on pedestals mentality as much as I do is that it is insulting to men. It turns them into witless foils. The type of people who would be completely unable to control any type of behavior without the gendered “wonder twins” of priesthood/femininity. Every time you say that women are elevated by virtue of their gender, you are implying that men are still on flat ground (unless they have the priesthood to rescue them.) That kind of setup is unfair to everyone. It’s unfair to women who are utterly unable to live up to the hype. It’s unfair to men who don’t deserve the hype they got in the first place. It’s unfair to the priesthood because it reduces it to a kind of magic chastity belt for men. Every bit of that equation deserves more credit. Women deserve credit for being smart enough to make decisions based on their own judgement and desires. Men deserve credit for having evolved beyond troglodytes (and are in fact, like women, able to make decisions based on their own judgement and desires). And the Priesthood deserves to be seen within Mormon theology according to its scriptural description, and not weird folk tales designed to make women feel better.

  72. “Why exactly is it your job to give other people permission to make decisions about their own lives?” Perhaps I misunderstood your post. Don’t you argue that the pedestal assigned to LDS women is harmful, confining, and insulting? That we should stop setting standards of the ideal YW, ideal woman, etc.? Isn’t there also a sub theme that the imperfect among us are not worthy of our scorn, but to the contrary, can add some well-needed flavor to our absurdly sceptic lives? Put another way, expectational stereotypes and memes are bad, ill-informed, and overly constrictive? I think those points are well taken. I really do. When I say, “I’m torn,” I’m equally sincere. I think you make all the sense in the world, and yet, I see value in normative expectations. Freud posited, “Civilization is a thin veneer, and if you barely scratch the surface, you find a raging neanderthal.” That sentiment is perhaps overstated a little, but if we are being honest with ourselves, our inner neanderthals need some normalizing expectations and training. Have we benefited from those normalizing expectations? Some yes, some no. Perhaps one take away from your post is that not all normalizing expectations add value and need to be tweaked. In particular, you find the normalizing expectation of modesty, sweetness, spirituality, obedient to be a bit too much of a harmful Procrustean bed.
    The priesthood is a normalizing expectation, designed to shape lives of charity, humility, diligence, long-suffering, etc. but also comes with some lesser cultural normative expectations, as you say, pudgy, balding, porn sneaking, pedestal pushing insensitive men.

  73. MDearest says:

    Maybe a change of perspective will help, Hagoth.

    The priesthood is the authority to act in God’s name. You may be conflating a lot of cultural expectations and stereotypes with the priesthood. If so, stop it.

    If a person simply must have a template to fix upon in order to better oneself, there’s none more fit for that function than Jesus of Nazareth, and as a template for self-improvement, it applies equally well to both sexes.

  74. Karen H. says:

    Hagoth, that’s fair. However, I think that fundamentally, I disagree with both you and Freud on people’s basic natures. :) I am not such a pessimist.

    I do note, though, that I’m not advocating raising feral children absent any social influence. I just think that something has happened in Mormon culture to create a crushing weight of both pre-conceived notions about people (falling along gender fault lines) and expectations as to how they should react to them. It’s so far away from a “state of nature” type problem that I don’t know if your concerns are the most useful criticism of my OP. But thanks for airing them–interesting thoughts.

  75. I agree about not conflating cultural expectations, but aren’t there spiritual expectations that are associated with tasking an imperfect human with God’s authority? “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by pesuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness, meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge . . . without hypocrisy, and without guile . . . .”? The Lord doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called, sometimes a long, long time after the calling . . . and sometimes, not at all because the called is unwilling to assume these normative expectations. The Savior says to love the unlovely, bless the spiteful, do good to enemies. He tells us to be wise, be gentle, be meek, be peacemakers, be humble–not because those traits describe our natural states, but because those normative injunctions are necessary for our progression and (I’m taking this on faith, here), within our grace-assisted reach.

    If we merely take on the authority to act in God’s name, but shun the expectations that He (not the culture but He) requires of us, his authority will be ill-used and it really won’t be a redemptive experience for anyone. I think the real value of this post is to examine which of the “pretty princess” type of normative expectations are cultural and which are inspired. I can’t speak for you, but I need both divine expectations and divine grace to even come close to them. As imperfect as I am on my worst of days, I’m nothing compared to what I would be like without the extraordinary shaping influence that God and his expectations have had on me.

  76. Karen, you write, “I just think that something has happened in Mormon culture to create a crushing weight of both pre-conceived notions about people (falling along gender fault lines) and expectations as to how they should react to them.” I agree. I think that is why I find a lot of value in your well thought out post. (That, and it was cleverly written. Full points for your gift with language.)

    You also write, “I disagree with both you and Freud on people’s basic natures. :) I am not such a pessimist.” That’s only because women are more inclined to see the good in people. Doh! I did it again.

  77. MDearest says:

    I don’t think anyone is advocating that we shun the expectations that the Lord has of us. The point is that these expectations are not divided by gender when they come from the Lord. The expectations given in the scriptures are of great value to us all, but they apply equally to both sexes. For instance, when I read the promises and requirements associated with the oath and covenant of the priesthood, found in the D&C, I expect that they apply to women as well as men, both the requirements and the promises. Everything you stated in your comment about the Lord qualifying the called, are good and worthy goals, and they happen to apply to women as well.

  78. MDearest, I agree completely with your post in 77.

  79. Kerstin Koldewyn says:

    Thank you for this post. It’s not about lowering standards, it’s about being genuine and real. Honesty is so refreshing.

  80. Kerstin K says:

    Ok, I responded before reading everyone else’s comments. My bad. It seems that some have the idea that the “pretty princess” with all that entails is the ideal to be achieved. I don’t think those are the “expectations that the Lord has of us.” I think the Lord expects us to be equal partners with our spouses. Isn’t the hope that we will eventually rule together. I sure hope it isn’t my job just to keep the mansion clean and can heavenly beans while my very cool husband does all of the hard work because I’m not capable since I’m just a woman. I think that means we get to be more than a woman who is just a pretty package who crafts, cans, etc. What I got from Karen’s post is that women are more than accessories to men. We are equal parts that make a perfect whole. We get to think, ask questions, study, learn, have opinions and the courage to voice them, befriend ALL people and have compassion and true Christlike love for them without judgments and criticisms. We are capable, strong, smart, imperfect, struggling, happy, sad women who do not fit in one mold. Thank goodness we are different. I actually think if we look more closely at the women on pedestals we will find a very cracked pedestal, or a women who is hiding lots of imperfections, but I assure you, they are there. Just like the rest of us.

  81. Aunt Bubbles! Well, I’ve got one of those. Great article!!

  82. Maybe I am one of the few who think differently. I don’t try to put myself on a pedestal for all to admire, am I the minority in this? if anything, maybe you are insecure in how you view yourself and that is the root of the problem. When someone has a trait you desire it is your choice to feel inadequate.
    What matters? Being christlike. Gospel truths.
    Choosing to be thin, making cookies for your neighbor, wearing pants to church (as a woman), be-friending your Methodist neighbor, picking a major, loving Jane Autsen and Lee Collins at the same time: All your choice. We judge people who choose to be thin and bake cookies. We judge people for letting a swear word slip while they bear their testimony. We judge because it makes us feel better about who we are. Is the pedestal our culture? No. But sadly, Satan would make us feel so inadequate to believe it is. Stop comparing yourself.
    Be who you are, love who you are. Embrace those who aren’t. And let them embrace you back.

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