Trying to Understand Feminism and Patriarchy

To many in the world, “feminism” refers to fanatical women who hate men, who have no sense of humor, and enjoy braiding their leg hair. To many LDS men, any LDS woman who considers herself a feminist wants the priesthood, and wants to wear the pants, preferring the husband to stay at home with the kids. This is sad, and definitely not true of most feminists. On the flip side, you have a culture in most of the world based on a twisted form of patriarchy. Men dominate the world. Fact. Is it right? No. But are all men domineering and power-hungry, wishing to control women and put them in positions of inferiority, viewing them as a commodity instead of as humans? No. Both philosophies at their core are good, and righteous. When put together righteously, patriarchy and feminism compliment and advance each other. A true patriarch recognizes the worth and equality of his wife (and all women), and a true feminist recognizes the worth and equality of her husband (and all men). The clincher here, is that they BOTH recognize their need for the other. My faith teaches me that while salvation is a personal matter, exaltation is family matter, and no one is exalted without their spouse. No one. Therefore, there must be equality in a marriage relationship, or exaltation cannot be realized by either party.

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So, now that you understand where I stand on equality, lets talk about feminism and patriarchy.

Who is a feminist? When I first heard about feminism, I thought to myself that never in a million years would I be, or even be friends with, a feminist. I held the above mentioned assumptions about them, and looked upon the whole movement with a certain degree of disgust. Then my sister asked me a few questions that caught me off guard and left me completely unprepared for her immediate conclusion (which was premeditated). The conversation went something like this:

“Do you think women should have an equal opportunity as men in the workplace?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that men and women working the exact same job with the same credentials should receive the same pay?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that men and women in a marriage relationship are equal partners?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that women should enjoy all the same rights that men do?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that women are born with the same capacity for intellect that men are?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that a woman should have control over her own body?”

“Yes.”

“Then you’re a feminist.”

“…What?”

Needless to say, I’ve revised my thinking somewhat since that time. If you look up the definition of feminism in the dictionary you’ll find something along the lines of, “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of women to men.” So, while this is a very simple way of defining it, its true. If you can agree with the above statements, you are a feminist. If you need a little more convincing, this article is great: Yes, You Are.

So whats wrong with being a feminist? Short answer, nothing. In fact, if you believe that men and women should be equal politically, economically and socially, you are one.

That all being said, if you believe in gender equality at all, you subscribe to patriarchy. Now, before you get all up in arms saying that patriarchy is all about male dominance, let me explain what I mean. Patriarchy started with Adam. Eve was his equal. Adam was a patriarch and Eve was a feminist. Neither exercised control over the other. They even made the decision to leave the garden of Eden together, and neither forced the other to stay or go. Patriarchy, in its original, and God-given sense, had nothing to do with male dominance, and had more to do with being a good husband and father. Eve, in her feminism, was also taught how to be a good wife and mother, and together they were united in teaching their children about God, and about life in general. Were they perfect? Of course not. Were their children? No, and some of them were about as far from it as you can get. Thus, patriarchy began to be twisted.

The sad truth today is that we still live in a male-dominated society. The sad truth today is that even within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, there are men who think that their priesthood means they have some authority over their wife, or women in general. The sad truth is that men abuse women way more than women abuse men, and the atrocities are countless. Is there a problem with patriarchy today? You bet. There are several problems with it. But those problems have been caused by the world’s definition of patriarchy, not God’s, and not the Church’s either. All people are equal in God’s eyes. He does not care if you are a man or a woman.  He doesn’t care if you’re homosexual or straight.  He doesn’t care if you’re black, white, green, blue, or orange. He favors no one above anyone.

I claim to follow God, and I strive to be like him, just like most people in the church. I believe that to become like God, I have to stop having prejudices. I have the greatest respect for women, and I will even go so far as to say that I am a feminist. But I am not perfect, and I do not love everyone like I should. I’m working on it. As I continue to study the equality of the sexes and then the equality of all human beings, I hope to break down some of my own barriers, and hopefully help anyone willing to listen break down some of theirs.

Hopefully, I’ve answered the question as to what feminism and patriarchy are. Hopefully, I’ve effectively portrayed what they ought to, and can be. I intend to refer to them in their perfect sense, while discussing the flaws that the world has added to them.

If you have anything you would like me address, answer or research, please let me know! I’m still learning, and I always love to learn more!

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3 comments on “Trying to Understand Feminism and Patriarchy

  1. Adam says:

    While men and women are equally important, they are very different, but it takes a mature man and a mature women to create in essence a perfect being, they both compliment each other and if one tries to dominate then that is in essence a half of a real relationship. A man can not reach his full potential with out a supporting, caring wife and visa versa a women cant reach her full potential with out a caring supportive husband. Just like you cant make a baby (or in essence a person) with out a man and a women. If we did not need each other we would not both be here. “It takes two”

  2. BJ says:

    I remember that conversation well. I enjoyed it much. 🙂 I would note that while in God’s eye, we are all equal, we are also divinely created different. We have been given different roles. The world struggles with the concept of “different but equal”. As if to prove that, the term “separate but equal” was coined to mask evil ideas in keeping blacks down. Satan is very crafty at making good look evil. However, even so, being as Christ-like as we can, I believe we can show the world that God’s path is always the best path. However, no matter how good we are, we still live in a fallen world, and our wives still have to deal with that. Even with the most caring of husbands, a wife who chooses to stay at home with her children must on occasion deal with others who look down on her for doing so (or for any number of other things). Consequently, we must praise our wives for the good they do, and strengthen them against the world which will consistently try to put them down.

  3. BJ says:

    I should also add that this would be the case as well if your wife does work. It seems that no matter what a women does with her life, there are people who are willing to cast judgment on her. I know of women who have been judged by their peers on both sides. And even if that isn’t the issue for them, then there is almost always something. When our culture is unsettled on what the correct path for a women is, there really is no path that doesn’t come with difficulty.

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