Saturday, January 31, 2015

Watch your Words for Women

"You're a young lady, can I call you by your first name?"
No, because "doctor" implies power and authority. 

Perhaps because I've had to fight hard to maintain my status at work, I've been even more sensitive to how women are described in the Church.

Today I was reading the Ensign and there was yet another story about a woman who gladly sacrificed for her husband's career and callings. Next to that, a writer described the joy he had when he found a woman who wanted her husband to "love the Lord more than [her]." Ugh.

OK, I get it, the first great commandment is to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength. No one should be above Him, not even your spouse. But for whatever reason it finally hit me. You guys, have you ever heard a man say he's looking for a woman who loves God more than him? In all my years I've never. (This just in. My husband said he heard it once, more than 12 years ago.)

Another thing I heard with fresh feminist ears was the following: "You are vital to the work we do." I'm used to hearing the brethren say this with regard to the role of women in the Church. I normally find that statement comforting, but I had an experience at work that changed that. We were celebrating the expansion of our medical unit in the hospital. A lot of thought and voting went into making this happen. The business managers, nurse administrator, and physicians met together to push it forward. As part of the opening ceremonies the head nurse began thanking all the staff members and, seeing a janitor in the crowd, thanked her for her "vital work." And it's true, without housekeeping services we couldn't run a proper hospital. We desperately need them. But that doesn't mean they have any say in important matters. It can also come across as lip service if the subject is not otherwise held in high regard. (The janitor was referred to as "you" because the speaker didn't know her name.)

Words matter.

This post isn't about bashing anyone. It is about taking a good look at how we discuss the role of women in the Church and making a conscious effort to improve that. To that end, I'm going to create a table with commonly used phrases that fall short of empowering LDS women and provide alternatives.

Here goes.

“We need women in the Church. They are vital.”
“I want a man who loves the Lord more than me.”
“My spouse and I will progress towards godhood together. We will both put the Lord first.”
“Temple Matron”
I hope to live and see the day when we officially go back to “Temple Priestess.”
“I will cover up my body.”
“I will dress in a way that respects my body as a temple.”
“I suppose I can nurture.”
“I can employ my unique endowments as a woman.”
“Sister Smith is the primary president.”
“President Smith leads the Primary.”

What do you think? Do you have any other ideas or recommendations? I would love to receive more and include them in this list!

Update: A friend of mine pointed me to this article, which outlines the differences between two segments of the February 2015 New Era Magazine as they address young women and young men separately.  I am putting them in table format here:

Goals for Young Women
Goals for Young Men
Developing Talents
Doing Hard Things
Discovering True Beauty
Learning Useful Skills
Embracing Motherhood
Respecting Womanhood
Focusing on Eternal Goals
Serving In and Strengthening Your Priesthood Quorum
*Ran out of things to say*
Gaining An Education

Could we not come up with something better? Say...

Goals for Young Latter-day Saints
Challenge Yourself in Worthy Endeavors
Gain an Education and Skill Set
Maintain Standards of Purity & Chastity
Serve in Priesthood Callings

Also, in the name of giving credit where it's due, the Church has made significant changes to its curriculum in order to give substance to women's roles. See here.

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