Friends, I'm fired up and about to go off.
I don't have time or the inclination to point out everything that is wrong with this thread. There are a few reasonable comments. However, the general direction of the thread, and much of the commentary, exemplifies a bad intellectual habit I often see in Mormon thinking. It's one of the issues that bothered me as a member, and I think it’s part of the reason the debate over whether Mormons are "Christian" or not continues to get Mormons riled up.
Frequently in intellectual discourse, Mormons redefine standard terms in order to better suit their purposes. This is usually done without any acknowledgment that terms are being used in a nonstandard way, and sometimes results in the informal fallacy of equivocation (whether intentional or not). I don't think Mormons do this on purpose-- I really think it is a product of gross ignorance and conceptual confusion.
This gross ignorance is especially evident when Mormons talk about feminist hot-button issues-- like "patriarchy" and "equality of the sexes". In the case of the above referenced discussion thread, a few LDS thinkers are suggesting that the "patriarchy" of the church can be understood in a way that is somehow compatible with "equality of the sexes".
Here's the thing: When feminists, intellectuals and folks who know what they're talking about (or at least consult a dictionary) talk about "patriarchy", it's very clear that "equality of the sexes" is precluded in virtue of the subordination of women which is fundamental to the concept of patriarchy in the first place.
As one poster was kind enough to point out, here's your standard dictionary definition:
>Definition of PATRIARCHY
>1: social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line; broadly : control by men of a disproportionately large share of power
>2: a society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy
Patriarchy is fundamentally about differential POWER RELATIONSHIPS.
Patriarchy isn't patriarchy without the subordination of women. If the man is presiding in virtue of his priesthood, it doesn't matter how well a marriage works or whether the woman feels "equally" loved or valued. There's an unequal power relationship, and that is what is at issue when people are talking about “patriarchy” in related intellectual discourse.
Despite the tendency of Mormons to couch talk of priesthood authority in less-offensive terms like “stewardship” and “responsibility”, I think an honest look at the nature of the patriarchal order in the church makes it quite clear that differential power relationships are endorsed by the church. I don’t think a Mormon can seriously suggest that Mormonism doesn’t adhere to the “dictionary” definition of patriarchy. Anyone disputing this should verse themselves with what the church is telling the Aaronic priesthood these days:http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=752a97a7c1d20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=ba805f74db46c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD
Mormons also seem to like a nonstandard working definition of "equality of the sexes". For example, the initial poster posited: "By "equality" I mean something like 'treating both sexes as being of equal value and with equal respect.'"
1.)That's not what is generally understood when educated people are talking about "equality of the sexes"-- and particularly NOT in the context of a discussion of PATRIARCHY. When people are talking about “gender equality” related to patriarchy they are typically referring to power relationships (social, political and economic) and their consequences.
2.)Mormon opposition to the ERA, which attempted to codify “equality of the sexes” establishes that Mormons have historically opposed these standard views on what gender equality means. While many Mormons might support various versions of ERA tenets today, the patriarchal order of the church, the Proclamation on the Family and various other teachings of the church do not reflect these values.
Admittedly, there have been varieties of “difference feminism”, which suggest that women are fundamentally different, though equal (or even superior) in value in virtue of sex differences, but these feminisms:
a.Have been based, historically, on what is now acknowledged to be bad science (and religious dogma).
b.Acknowledge the nonstandard use of the term
c.In no way represent the general view of what “equality of the sexes” entails.
I suppose the conceptual confusion over what “equality” means is encouraged by claims such as this: “In the Church there is full equality between man and woman. The gospel … was devised by the Lord for men and women alike. … The privileges and requirements of the gospel are fundamentally alike for men and women. The Lord loves His daughters as well as He loves His sons” (John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960], p. 305). This would be nice if it were true. But it's clearly not. Dogmatically asserting that the church embraces “full equality” while ignoring the essential inequality inherent in LDS patriarchy is at best confused and at worst, malicious and dishonest.
By the received view of “Patriarchy” and “Equality of the Sexes”:
•"Patriarchy", at its root, is a structure of authority and power in which women and men are not equal (women are subordinate, men have authority).
•"Equality of the Sexes", is fundamentally about structures of power and authority in which women and men ARE equal (socially, politically, and economically).
It should be very clear that patriarchy and gender equality so-construed (in standard terms) are incompatible-- in fact diametrically opposed.
The only way "equality of the sexes" can be compatible with LDS patriarchy is if:
•We take a deflated view of patriarchy in which the man’s role as priesthood-holder and presiding authority in the home is titular, and doesn’t really represent a difference in power and authority. I think this is obviously false. Is the priesthood and associated authority real or not, and do women hold it or not? Honesty requires a believing Mormon to reject this deflated view.
•If we completely ignore the fact that women serving in positions in the church are always answerable to male priesthood authority. Good luck with this one Mormons.
•If we're not talking about what people REALLY MEAN when they refer to the "equality of the sexes" in the context of a discussion about patriarchy.
When Mormons suggest that their sense of patriarchy is compatible with “full equality of the sexes” they are ignorant of the concepts involved, dishonest about the church’s authority structure, or making use of nonstandard definitions which don’t honestly answer related criticisms.
And there’s my 3¢ for the day, for what it’s worth.