Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Thoughts on the role of women

One of the most difficult things for me to face about our society is that there is very little understanding in the world about different forms of power and strength--we have been steadily erasing the vital and eternal roles--and differences--assigned to us in favor of a more superficial and, ultimately, destructive "equality".

I took my kids to see Brave this summer, and I loved it.  It hit home with me, as a brown-haired, relatively-mild-mannered-but-sometimes-still-prideful mother to two wild-haired, independent, willful and high-spirited red-headed Scottish daughters.  The thing about the movie I loved the very best, however, was how the men were all good-hearted but still barely civilized ruffians, who devolved to competition and then battle nearly any time they were left alone.  But the second a woman walked into the midst of their contentions, they immediately froze.  The battle stopped.  Too few people understand anymore why these men would've reacted this way, and why that division of and respect for the differing roles of men and women are vital to the success and health of communities and civilizations.  Sometimes it is very literally true that women can, by properly embracing the roles given to them by a wise Heavenly Father, and making righteous use of the power inherent in those roles, stop the bullets from flying.  My father shared this story on Facebook last week:

"In Gulag, Solzhenitsyn noted that when trains bearing prisoners to Siberia stopped in small towns to get water for the steam engines, guards were posted to prevent any contact between locals and the thirsty prisoners in the cattle guards. It was always old women who ignored the soldiers and their guns and did what they always did--responded to immediate human needs--,who took water and food to the prisoners.

I reminded James Billington of that story once after he told me about being in Moscow when the Soviet regime collapsed. He said that as the Soviet army surrounded the Kremlin with its tanks, no one knew how the story would end. He said that what really happened, that went unreported, was that the Russian babushkas, the grandmothers, went out among the tanks and told the young men to 'go home.' He said, "a different moral order asserted itself and the crisis passed.'"

These women did not defend their homeland with tanks and guns--they prevented battle altogether by properly using the moral authority inherent in their roles as mothers and grandmothers.  Women, who pass through the valley of the shadow of death to bring souls through the veil into this world, who expend so much of their time and energy and focus on protecting and comforting and nurturing those lives,  women who are required to bear so much of the brunt of the spiritual battle for the welfare of those souls, should not be asked to go to physical battle to see those lives cut short. Women should not be asked to see those bodies that they, with God's assistance, created from their own bodies, fed from their own bodies, mangled and mutilated.  Men should not 
be asked to train out of themselves their natural and good instinct to provide protection to the women around them first;  men should not be asked to extinguish the natural deference he has toward women, the natural inclination to see in all women the tenderness and nurturing that he has received at the hands of his mother, his wife, his sisters--he should have the privilege, especially in the ugliness of battle, to be able to see in women the loving glances and warm embraces of his beloved daughters.  As they return from battle, men must be met at the home front with softness and nurturing, to remember why they are fighting--the role of women needs to be preserved not as fellow soldier on the field, but as a reminder of all the good and gentle things for which they fight.  Otherwise, men who are asked to battle often turn from soldiers into monsters.  When men are trained to see women no differently than they see men in the most stressful and ugly and surreal circumstances in this world, the consequences for civilizations are grave. 

A few years ago, I was talking with my husband and several of his coworkers and friends discussing recent events in our community which had caused considerable stress and concern for all of us, and a couple of the men, in the course of the conversation, used a few vulgar swear words.  Almost immediately they caught themselves and turned to me--the only woman present--and apologized for their language.  I know many women who would've been offended or amused by that action, which seems quaint by many people's standards today.  I certainly did not expect it, but I was grateful for it.  I had worked with all these men myself, and had great affection for them.  I knew their characters well, and had no doubt of their respect for my intelligence and capabilities.  They did not show they respected me by treating me like "one of the guys", they showed that they respected me by remembering that I wasn't.

I have never believed that having different, but complementary, roles makes men and women unequal.  The sad reality of our times is that in attempting to make themselves "equal" to men, many women have in fact been seeking to make women "the same" as men, and in so doing have made themselves less powerful, less effective.  There are many women who are physically stronger than many men, and that is true of nearly every "manly" characteristic you could substitute into that sentence, but the characteristics and capabilities of men in general and women in general are different, and with good reason.  Women, in seeking to be powerful or strong in the same ways as men, have failed to recognize the incredible power and strength inherent in their female nature, and, in so doing, have weakened both themselves and men.  I'm not optimistic that that his a trend we can reverse, but I think it is one that could have some of the most dramatic effects on our society.

As a woman, the power rests largely with you to create.  It is largely the power of your body that creates new life.  It is largely your influence that shapes the character and decisions of those souls you bring into this world.  It is the result of that nurturing and those many years of sacrifice and service and love that gives you the power to step up to a man with a machine gun and a tank and tell him, "Go home" and have him listen.  Do not abandon that power for lesser things, for poorly defined ideas of "equality".  There is unspeakable strength and power, sisters, in the roles the Lord has given you as wives and mothers and sisters and daughters--as creators and nurturers.  Do not sell that marvelous birthright for a mess of porridge.

1 comment:

Christa said...

i love this post. i love it so much that i shared in on fb. you put everything into words that i feel, but have a hard time expressing sometimes. you should submit this one...somewhere. maybe the ensign? i don't know how that works, but paul's cousin is an editor there! ;)