Monday, April 18, 2011

Polygamy and Patriarchy and the Usurpers

I have been feeling really stressed at work lately. This group of children is so difficult. I come home and fall straight asleep. Anyway, I'm not going to write about that right now. It's all pretty standard anyway.

Lately, I've been watching Big Love seasons 1 and 2. I wanted to watch it because I have been watching the corresponding reality show, Sister Wives and found it fascinating.

Why do I find it fascinating? I think it is the mix of modern women and antiquated gender roles. My religion doesn't embrace polygamy, but it certainly endorses patriarchy.

At young age, I learned about the male being the head of the household and wives submitting to their husbands. I've heard more sermons on the differences between men and women than I can count.

Here's the most typical sermon I've heard: a woman's primary need is to be loved and taken care of and a man's primary need is to be respected. I heard this sermon when I was probably eight, for the first time. I remember thinking at eight years old, "Well, I would rather be loved and respected, but I would choose respected if I had to make a choice."

For a long time in my life I didn't say much about my problems with patriarchy. People told me all the time that women don't like to submit and that if they don't do it they will be poison to their families. I didn't want to be poison.

At a young age, I learned the word "usurping." It means that one is seizing power inappropriately. I think that I learned that young because everyone felt that I was at risk for being an "usurper." They were right; I totally am. The thing is that they mean by that that the women is passive aggressive, subversive, and manipulative. I've always been honest and forthright, but naturally I am not a follower.

Additionally, I think the culture I grew up in took this stuff a step further. Ambition, leadership, and even strength aren't generally appreciated in women in circles I've been raised in. It's better to be quiet and sweet natured.

I hear all the time about how emotional all women are, BUT I am an exception to that rule. I'm not naturally emotional, and I've always been confused when I've been told that I just need to be myself to find that side of me.

I think that growing up in that culture did change me. I hold back more of myself because I was taught to. Women being opinionated was bad. Women being in leadership was bad.

As I watch this show, I really identify with the oldest daughter of the family, Sarah. She doesn't like the way the women are sometimes treated in her faith, but she loves her family.

At one point, her mother asked her if she was sleeping with her boyfriend because she had been walking away from the family faith. "Mormons don't have the exlcusive rights to morality," she answered.

Now, at 26, I am starting to feel a bit like her (though my religion is a different one). I still believe in God. I still believe in Christianity. I just think that maybe people are using it wrongly. There was a time when people used it to keep slaves in bondage. There was a time when people used it to justify many terrible actions.

I think that I can be every bit as strong and independent as I feel and keep my Christian beliefs in tact.


Summers School said...

I had a whole long comment typed up... and then my computer ate it. Usually I'd give up, but I really want to make a point of emphasis on this topic of polygamy.

1. These people in these shows do not represent the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the /real/ Mormons.) We have no association with Polygamy. Polygamous marriages are not allowed to be performed in our temples or in our churches. Those who practice polygamy and refused to cease are excommunicated. We follow the laws of the land. While we may believe that Polygamy is alright under the direction of the Lord, we understand that at this time he has not directed anyone to practice it. (I have my own theories as to why, but that's neither here nor there.) Suffice it to say that we follow the law of the land.

2. Latter-day Saint Marriages are based off of equality. Husbands are warned against 'unrighteous dominion'. Couples are urged to work together through life. Often it is the wife that will receive revelation about the family, especially about the children. Both husband and wife are important. Neither can be left out of decision making without heartbreak happening.

"I think that I can be every bit as strong and independent as I feel and keep my Christian beliefs in tact." I agree with this because I live it. I am extremely strong in my Christian faith. Never have I been made to feel that I am less than another person. Except when people ask to see my horns. ;)

Mrs. H said...

Love Big Love! Wait till you get to the last season and see Barb's transformation. You will be inspired. I still can't believe the series is over.

Rachel said...

I would agree that if you think that Christianity represses women, then yes, that particular sect is using it wrongly. I would then encourage you to leave that church if you are unhappy there. I am also Christian (specifically Catholic Christian), and while I grew up believing in traditional family roles, I was never made to feel less for being a woman. I would say that I definitely learned about the differences between sexes growing up and that men & women filled different roles, but not because one is less than the other. Not because one is emotionally unstable and the other is logically sound, or one is servile and the other is master. There were/are many strong females to look up to like Mary, Deborah, Esther, Mother Theresa, countless saints, and women in my own home parish. One of my favorite examples of the appreciation of the two sexes is in a monastery in Indiana, there is a large pillar for their paschal candle which is carved up and down with images/stories of strong women throughout our religious history. Even at a monastery, they recognize the important role of women in the faith.

I'm not saying become Catholic necessarily -- I'm just saying the view you grew up hearing is not necessarily the perspective of all Christian churches. Thus, it IS possible for you to be strong & independent as a woman and a Christian. I would encourage you to find a church that will nurture you as a woman. I'm sorry you've had to struggle with this, but I hope you are able to find encouragement.

Clix said...

Suzanne Powers is always an encouraging read for me. The post I've linked is a recent one that struck me as possibly relevant for you. :)