Saturday, March 25

Be men!

Both Hugo and John have recently mentioned the need for a men's movement. Not the Roe v. Wade for men, but a movement of a different sort. A movement that is based on the idea that men are hurt by the 'patriarchy' (or, as I like to call it, the system) if not as deeply, then at least as often as women are. Read the posts by John and Hugo for a more thorough explanation.
In thinking about it, I have come to the conclusion that the Priesthood could be this men's movement inasmuch as it has outlined a pattern of behavior for those who would hold it. The trick is that it is only efficient as the men who are a part of it make it. Let's compare and contrast, (I'm looking at this strictly with men in mind, much of what I say is equally applicable to women but we're not talking about them now.):
The first thing that the system tells men is that you are the center of the universe. *Everyone* exists in terms of you, how they can serve or be of use to you. Women look nice to attract you. Other men are around to give praise or punishment to you. The first thing the priesthood requires is service. Service given often, freely, and with no expectation of compensation or reward. In fact, any service you do is best done anonymously whenever possible. Not just lawn mowing and house moving, emotional service too. Commiserating, listening and comforting. Which brings us to the next point.
The second thing the system tells men is that weakness is bad, and therefore anything that hints at weakness is bad too. Crying in public, bad. Admitting you love someone, bad. Admitting to being wrong, bad. Accepting critisism, bad. And by extention, strength is good and anything that shows strength is good too. Being heartless, good. Taking control, good. Shows of physical strength (esp hitting) good. Laughing at other people, good. Being unapologetic, good. The next the priesthood requires is love, kindness, tenderness, and longsuffering. It requires men to bear their testimony, which often will move the bearer to tears. It requires men to respect authority and be obedient and meek and humble. And everyone's favorite, no unrighteous dominion. At the very hint of abusing another person in any way you are out of the club immediately.
The system says that men should meet together only to talk about beer, sex, and football. The priesthood requires men to meet together to talk about Christ, plan service projects, and share their feelings.
The system tells men that women are there to serve them, to make them dinner and clean their houses. The priesthood tells men that they have to serve, love and care for women especially. As much as it pains me to say this, perhaps priesthood ordinances are performed only by men to make it necessary for men to serve women. When I ask my husband for a blessing there is a strange power dynamic there, where my request is binding upon him and he is unfaithful if he refuses me (assuming my request is made in righteousness).
I suspect that the system has even redefined the way we view the priesthood to make it all about power, strength, dominion, and control. Reading all the things that are required *behaviorally* of priesthood holders it is exactly what a men's movement would need, if only we can get people to subscribe to the notion.


Anonymous said...

Holy crap, you've given me a lot to think about! I've had feelings/promptings along these lines, but nothing with this kind of clarity and articulation. And I've been mulling over the priesthood for many, many years. The more I read the more impressed I am with you (and I'm freaking old enough to be your dad!). Anyway, impressive. I'm gonna have to mull this over a while and get back to you...

Posted by Rich

John said...

This is definitely food for thought--I have a tendency to view priesthood organizations as perpetuating patriarchy (the system, as you call it). You've complicated matters by suggesting that the priesthood as an organization and as a spiritual gift are anti-patriarchal in nature.

As I think about it, it seems that there are many anti-system ideals connected to the priesthoodthat just break down when a bunch of Mormon men get together. They talk sports, make jokes about their wives, and are really, really bad at admitting weakness (the emphasis on perfect appearances is one of my biggest beefs about LDS Church culture). But these things I see as 'the system' tainting the men holding the priesthood.

Anyhow, there's some crazy mental gymnastics happening here (working muscles I haven't used for awhile :) ), and while I can see LDS priesthood as having anti-patriarchal characteristics, I'm not sure that I can be so flexible as to call it anti-patriarchal, anti-system at its core. If nothing else, the priesthood still represents a male monopoly on social- institutional power. As with many Church issues, I think the trick is trying to figure out what is at the gospel core, and what is merely cultural.

Anonymous said...

John, I agree that the priesthood as it is practiced  is very much a part of the system. I also see, as you mention, the priesthood's monopoly on institutional power as contributing to the problem rather than detracting from it. I think though, that on a personal behavioral level (as opposed to a organizational structure) the priesthood tells men to be what most feminists would hope men would be. I agree wholeheartedly that the trick is dividing the cultural issues from the gospel core.
Thanks for the comments. :) I was curious what people who have experience with the priesthood would have to say about this one.  

Posted by Starfoxy

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