Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Walking to Zion: Restoring Gender to the Family

This topic may seem the most surprising of my goals in Walking to Zion. Through the years I've come to see it as a serious problem infiltrating society today.

In the second paragraph of the Proclamation it reads, "Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose." Initially when I read this line of the Proclamation I always thought it was interesting that they included it in there. Of course gender is important. Recently however, I have come to see (of course) their divine wisdom in including this in a manifesto on the family.

I am amazed at the changes racing through our society. When we go to "town" my children often remark, "Is that a boy or a girl?" It is becoming harder and harder to tell. We are on a collision course in the world of a people that are unisex. This is manifested in many ways. Men are feminized and women are masculine. Women can work in any job, including front line combat while men are transitioning to stay at home nurturers. Women are crude and men wear make-up.

I see this "unisex" world having two parts. The first is that we are unisex is dress and the second we are unisex in action.

Speaking of the first the Lord told the children of Israel in the Law of Moses, "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do are abomination unto the Lord thy God." (Deuteronomy 22:5)

I have been pondering on this scripture for a long time. I have realized that we are dressing like men today! I have thought about my jeans, my pony tails, my tennis shoes, my baseball caps, my t-shirts, my sweatshirts….Ugh!!! In my state of 'frump' I have dressed like a man. Why? That's what they sell first and that's what everyone else wears.

Another tidbit is the slogan of, "Tough enough to wear pink." I know that breast cancer awareness is important. However, I don't think that feminizing our men is the right way to do it. Very subtle.
I'm sure the junction to not dress like a man only applied to the Law of Moses and the Children of Israel anyway. The law of was fulfilled so it doesn't have anything to do with me today. Whew! (Yeah, I wish that was true). Something to think about.

So besides the fact that we are dressing like men (or the men like women) we are not teaching masculine and feminine roles. We are teaching our children that they can do anything and be anything. The church understood the need to make sure parents teach their children correct gender roles by creating a section specifically aimed at this in the booklet, "A Parent's Guide," published in 1985. Here are some of their thoughts:
"Considerable controversy has been aroused of late around such terms as sexism, feminism, and machismo, as if there is something wrong with being too male, too female, or too virtuous. President Kimball said, 'I sincerely hope that our Latter-day Saint girls and women, and men and boys, will drink deeply of the water of life and conform their lives to the beautiful and comprehensive roles the Lord assigned to them.'
"But members of the Church must not be deceived about one immutable truth: there is eternal significance in being a man or a woman. The history of the gospel from Adam to this final dispensation documents equal respect for the roles of men and women and the need for all men and women to develop their gifts to the utmost through living the commandments of God. But within that same gospel framework are some realities about differences between the two genders. This means that there are some exclusive things men are to do and some that women are to do. A most appropriate time for this development is the interlude between early childhood and adolescence. President Kimball clarified the eternal significance of gender identity when he said:
"'Some people are ignorant or vicious and apparently attempting to destroy the concept of masculinity and femininity. More and more girls dress, groom, and act like men. More and more men dress, groom, and act like women. The high purposes of life are damaged and destroyed by the growing unisex theory. God made man in his own image, male and female made he them.'
"Girls ought to be taught the arts and sciences of housekeeping, domestic finances, sewing and cooking. Boys need to learn home repair, career preparation and the protection of women. Both girls and boys should know how to take care of themselves and how to help each other. By example and by discussion, both sexes need to learn about being male or female, which in summary, means becoming husbands and fathers or wives and mothers, here ore hereafter." (Pages 25-29)
Here are some general goals we have been working on:
  1. For the women/girls of the family to dress feminine.
  2. For the men/boys of the family to dress masculine.
  3. Create a culture saturated with men acting like men.
    1. Be around other families where the men/boys act like men/boys.
    2. Read books (and other media choices) where there are strong, tough men who protect women.  We enjoy the the books of the author Louis L'Amour.
    3. Men/boys expected to work and protect women including open doors, helps with coats, and talk respectfully around women.
    4. Learn masculine skills.
  4. Create a culture saturated with women acting like women.
    1. Be around other families where the women/girls act like women/girls.
    2. Read books (and other media choices) where women are feminine from books written by Louisa May Alcott, L.M. Montgomery, etc.
    3. Women/girls are expected to feed, clothe, and encourage their men.
    4. Learn feminine skills.
  5. Learn and study what nurture, preside, protect, and provide really mean.
I think that it is important that we reclaim our families from the unisex culture that is threatening our destruction.


Fiberwhimstress said...

I have been pondering that same scripture for awhile (Deuteronomy). We wouldn't think of attending church or the Temple without wearing a dress, so why do we the rest of the week wear pants and many other less feminine clothes. I have yet to commit to it. Do you plan to wear only dresses in the near future?
It was pointed out to me by a fellow blogger who is of another faith about it, she has some very strong ideas and wearing dresses is one of hers.
I think this a "Walk to Zion" I am feel impelled to take too. I have a few friends in our church that have done it, very few, but I see great results for them.
I have enjoyed reading your blog recently and love all the we have in common.

Jocelyn Christensen said...

I would be interested in a post by you detailing what it really means to "nurture,preside,provide, and protect". I'm sure you'll get to that in the process of what you are doing but a dedicated post could be very powerful...and while I'm making requests...would you mind contributing that post as part of our Family Proclamation celebration in September (Montserrat and I are doing it again this year...)

My only criticism of your argument about unisex dress is that wearing the color pink has meant different things at different times in history, so your example wasn't that convincing on that point.

I'd like to know more about your feminine dress code, because to me,one can look mighty feminine in a blouse and pants and mighty manly with hair pulled back tight wearing a jean dress! :) That might just be my personal bias...but I'd be all for wearing pretty blouses...they are just so difficult to find...modest, pretty shirts!

ℛℯℬℯḉḉα said...

Our gender roles are so important. I remember reading Dr. Dobson's Raising Up Boys and having my eyes opened to how much boys have been downgraded and taught to be more like girls while girls are taught to be more like boys. It is so mixed up and wrong.

I thought you might want to clarify a couple of things. You say: Read books (and other media choices) where there are strong, tough, women-protecting men like the books of the author Louis L'Amour. I read it wrong thinking you were saying women protecting men.

I do believe that when we embrace our gender and it's traditional roles we find joy. My 9 yo son loves to open my car door. It is so fun to nurture that protecting need and quality in boys. When we enjoy our roles it give them freedom to enjoy theirs.

Kestrel said...

This is one I have a hard time with.

My hair is very short. It's about 1.5 inches long at its longest part right now, and I just got it cut two weeks ago because oh noes! it was up to 4 inches and driving me crazy. I've had short hair most of my life. I hate, hate long hair (on me) and I can't style it to save my life so I just wear it in a pony tail but not a nice one so it doesn't look good. Argh.

I also struggle with dresses. I despise them. Give me jeans any day. I have been trying lately to wear more feminine shirts, but some days it's all I can do to stick a t shirt and jeans on and call it good.

I absolutely see the value in raising our children with clear gender roles but I do love my short hair. Maybe if I wore bloomers or something, I wouldn't mind dresses so much. There's something to think about..hmm...

Christy said...

It is interesting that so many women dress like men and don't even think about it, but I don't really see men dressing like women. My children always notice "feminine" hairstyles on boys and men in older movies though, particularly pioneer era, etc. I often have to explain that yes, that is a man, and that hairstyle was common on hen in those days. You could still easily tell the difference between the men and women. Maybe that is the key.

Last summer I wore skirts and blouses almost exclusively. So much cooler than pants! I think people often thought I was "overdressed" for the activity that I was participating in. Always assuming that I had just come from the temple or something. "Why are you so dressed up?" (these were just casual, yet feminine blouses and skirts, nothing fancy.)

Now that it is colder I have been wearing pants a little bit more, but still often wear my skirts. It is interesting how many people think that I am overdressed when I wear a skirt to a midweek Relief Society Meeting at the church. They look at me almost apologetically, and sometimes comment, "It's OK to wear pants. We're not in the chapel or anything." So, why do they think it is not OK to wear a skirt? I guess it is hard for some women to imagine that maybe I like to wear skirts.

I haven't always dressed this way. Growing up I think I only wore dresses to church, because that's what everyone else did. Monkey bars and skirts don't go together very well. My daughter used to like to wear dresses a lot, but she is very active and doesn't like to wear tights, so she mostly wears (feminine) pants now so as not to be immodest. Sometimes she will wear shorts under a dress.

I have been enjoying this series of posts you are writing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Cassandra said...

I agree with everything you posted but have a question on one line.

I have thought about my jeans, my pony tails, my tennis shoes, my baseball caps, my t-shirts, my sweatshirts….Ugh!!! In my state of 'frump' I have dressed like a man.

Pony tails are manly? Tennis shoes? I'm really curious. I find almost all dress shoes for women are extremely uncomfortable/bad for the feet. Heels are terrible for your health and it's hard to find nice looking shoes that don't have heels. I wear skirts 100% of the time but sometimes I wear tennis shoes with my skirts because dress shoes are inconvenient/unsafe/etc. Hiking? Long walks? You can't do that in dress shoes without injuring your feet...

Mr. Smith said...

Re: Fiberwhimstress

My wife and I attended the Boise Temple once in our pajamas. Admittedly, we felt acutely out of place when we entered - every glance in our direction was magnified 100 fold from what the Temple workers intended, I'm sure.

However, when we left hours later we did not feel the least discomfort. Our clothing hadn't changed, we had. Such is the nature of the Temple. Among other reasons, this experience has been invaluable to help avoid absolutes that may not, in fact, be absolute.

Zion is an absolute. What steps and changes are needed in our respective families are not. I appreciate the wonderful comments and posts that help each of us assess what's needed in our own spheres to realize the absolute Zion.

Mama Rachel said...

Thank you, Deanna! :-) It's nice to know I'm not alone! As a child, I would cry whenever my mom put me in pants. I wanted to look pretty!

To this day, I own ONE pair of jeans, and I save them for when I have really deep cleaning I need to do. I have been wearing almost exclusively skirts and dresses for four years now, and I LOVE it! I feel more attractive, and people really treat me differently. I have observed that when people are "dressed up", they ACT differently.

Other added bonuses have been that wearing dresses is cooler (I live in a very HOT place!), AND dresses and skirts flatter my chubby figure much better, too. :-)

I wrote a blog post, too on this a while back: http://blog.oldfashionedmotherhood.com/2009/05/one-audacious-opinion-on-dress-ing-up.html

Thanks again for the great post, Deanna! :-)

crazy4boys said...

One area I've really struggled with in defining gender roles is housework. There are 5 males in our home and just me, the lone female. While I view the cooking and cleaning as "female" work, I can't realistically do it alone. And someday soon all 4 of my boys will be serving missions and living on their own before they're married...so they HAVE to learn how to cook, do laundry and clean up after themselves. I'm trying to find the balance of training them to know how to do those things vs. requiring them to do them daily.

Any suggestions dear friends????

Being A Mother Who Knows said...

Thank you for your thought provoking comments!

I have been thinking about the "pony tail" issue along with the jeans, etc. Of course all of this is subjective to each person. I guess I was simply saying that I personally no longer feel comfortable wearing them. I can still see myself painting in jeans or working in the garden.

I wrote a post on this topic a couple of weeks ago, I'll share it soon. The church leaders had MUCH to say at the turn of the century in regards to dress that has me thinking.

Another thought with this is that dressing "unisex" is not our only problem in our society. We also have the opposite problem. We have gone to sexy vs. feminine. My husband says that I look "hot" when I wear jeans and a pony tail and that I'm not "allowed" to leave the house.

So of course this is all very personal. I have come to realize there are so many hazy details. What do we do? wear?

I try to ask myself, "Does this make me look like a male?" "Does this make me look sexy/hot?" or "Does this make me look feminine?"

That's why I'm walking not running to Zion-there is so much to figure out!

This post was just intended to make you personally think and ponder on. May you be blessed with your own revelation on how to counter this unisex culture that Pres. Kimball spoke on.

Thanks again ladies! (and gents-Mr. Smith) I value your imput and ideas. We have long way to go in untangling ourselves from Zion and it's done one step at a time.

Ranee said...

I enjoyed this post Deanna, and as I read, I found myself thinking about how I behave when I am dressed in a skirt or dress vs. jeans. I am more careful with my posture and how I sit, I carry myself differently and in a more feminine and gentle way! I would even say that my attitude toward my duties as a wife and mother, are more positive and reverent, when I dress femininely. I even think that I talk differently. This is a very thought provoking post! Such wonderful food for thought! :0)

Strong Man said...

I love this and especially your title. I found your blog by searching for Proclamation on the Family.

I'm less concerned about dress than about behavior, like manners--but sometimes dress also influences behavior.

Hope you also allow and even encourage your boys to wrestle and be physical, even at the risk they'll occasionally get bumped and hurt.

I have a collection of definitions of these words on my blog at Dictionary .

I've also enjoyed reviewing some old romantic movies, like <a href="http://goodstrongmen.blogspot.com/2010/04/fun-romantic-movie.html> It Happened One night </a> that feature strong men and feminine women, and would love your thoughts on others.

Being A Mother Who Knows said...

I was a little frustrated with myself over my last comments. I wanted to clarify.

I also am more concerned about behavior and that was more my point, but for some reason I ended up on pony tails which is really dumb and not even the point so forgive me!

My writings are with the intend to not judge how you or I do something, but it is all for thinking and generating ideas. Hopefully with that each with be able to recieve revelation for their unique circumstances. Blessings to you there!

Are my boys rough and tumble? Very. They have swords, bows, knives, rope, etc. They slept outside in 20 degree winter weather in a shelter they made in back yard a couple of weeks ago. The youngest has a goose egg right now because his older brothers were hoisting him up to the tree house window with a block and tackle. They have a sweet life. : )

Strong Man said...

Please don't worry at all--the crux of my comment was at the beginning: "I love this post. . ."

You're overall message comes through well.

Kestrel said...

Argh, I hate "sexy." My husband uses it as a compliment all the time, but to me it's NOT a compliment at all. It's not necessarily degrading but just... not what I want to be seen as. Does that make sense? I've tried talking with him about it and he says "to me it means you look pretty and attractive," so I try to take it nicely but it just rubs me the wrong way. Bleck.

Sorry, I just had to get that out of my system!

Chocolate on my Cranium said...

This is one we have to be creative with because working on a farm does NOT go well with wearing skirts. It is just too dangerous to be around all the machinery with flowing skirts. For most of the summer you will find all of us in jeans but prettied up t-shirts. And as soon as we are in the house we wear pretty aprons over our work clothes - mostly to protect the food and furniture from the grease and dirt on our clothes. But I realize our situation is much different than most. :D

Oh, yes, you must join us again for the Family Proclamation Celebration in September!

jsb said...

I know I'm a bit behind on reading and commenting on this post. You've got great comments and ideas Deanna. I also have been pondering on how our daily life and educational pursuits need to be different to restore correct gender to the family.

How do you think scholar phase will be different for boy and particularly for girls?

I'm interested in all your comments.