Thursday, November 4, 2010

Reflections on Marriage : A History

I just finished reading Marriage A History by Stephanie Coontz which has been talked about recently on the Exponent blog. Through out my reading, I saw how one of the most profound changes to marriage was (and I don't know if it was because of or is just a side-effect) women becoming recognized as people and not property. There is still much to do on that and our culture is still very much imbued with the past where women didn't matter. I realize that the freedoms we enjoy now are tenuous at best. We can count ourselves as lucky but we're conditioned to be afraid of pushing for more.

I really think that this translates into the church. You can't take the cultural and historical context of our society/country/cultural world out of the administration of the church. From reading Marriage a History, I'm not so confident in the concept of traditional marriage that is being upheld by the church. If traditional marriage was only a short-lived phenomenon which only came about as a natural progression of people trying to figure out what was right, fair and good for them while at the same having subtle but very negative effects on women especially, how is that the will of God? And if the church is wrong on the ideal structure to marriage and women's and men's responsibilities to their families, then perhaps the extension of the priesthood is a continuation of the progress that we as people need to continue making so women can finally after so many centuries be treated equally.

It seems to me that the leaders need to be convinced of this but they are so busy only seeing it from their perspective and believing that they have the clarity of vision to know how women feel in relation to it that there's not a whole lot of hope to see things change. But perhaps there is hope, 50 years ago things were really sucking for women and I have to say that I prefer the role strain and frustration of being a woman now to envisioning living in that world then. 50 years from now could be better than what we have now, right?

There's some positive things taking place. Equality in parenting and employment is becoming more of a reality (reading War on Moms now). WAVE exists. I do believe that women's opportunities will expand in the next 50 years to where women will not be penalized to the extent that they are now for being mothers and caring for their children. It may take a great deal of time and patience for the leaders of the church to embrace the new order of men and women working part-time and caring for children part time relying little on childcare and having respected careers while being able to afford living comfortably. It sounds so utopian but I think that it could happen in the next 50 years in the United States. That's already the reality in Holland. It makes me want to move to Holland. I've been threatening becoming an ex-pat for so long that I wonder if someday we'll actually do it.

If the leaders of the church saw that reality, it makes me think that women's involvement in the church would change too because they'd finally be willing to seriously consider the thoughts and feelings of the sisters.

I originally wrote these thoughts with the ideas of from this post floating in my head where the writer is decidedly pessimistic in hopes of these things happening within the church. Where do you stand?


TopHat said...

I just got "Marriage, A History" from the library yesterday. I look forward to reading it!

One thing I've been thinking about since one of your posts was the language we Mormons use around marriage. For example, I've listened to baby blessings where, if it's for a boy say something on the lines of "find and take a worthy young woman to the temple" and if it's for a girl say "you'll find a young man who will take you to the temple." What's with all this "taking'"? Who's taking who? Which one is the property here?

McKay knows not to use that sort of language in our children's blessings, so he doesn't, but I've been to a lot of baby blessings (having lived in Utah and also have 20+ nieces and nephews) and it's unfortunately language that still persists in our culture.

Anyway- I look forward to that book and no longer being a possession.

Jenne said...

That sort of language is also characteristic of the language used in the temple too. I wonder if that comes out in everyday talk and in a way is a form of preparation for what is said in the temple about women being under the stewardship of men. Women in some examples of temple language can be seen as possessions too.