Monday, October 31, 2011

Nurture, Provide, Protect

I recently read something inferring that the counsel in The Family:  A Proclamation to the World was out-dated and highly influenced by a lot of old men who clung to old stereotypes.  I tend to believe it is Divinely inspired and teaches eternal truths about family, women, and men.  In support of our inherent male/female natures as reflected in the Proclamation, I recently read an interesting view from therapist, Maurice Harker.

Inside of every woman I have ever worked with these is a drive, a power, and insatiable urge to Celestialize everything. I call this blessing/curse, “Celestial Orientation”. Most of the masculine population has mocked it for years, but I fear that we will be punished for doing so. You hear this drive coming from women when you hear them say things like, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Or, “Why can’t week keep our home clean and beautiful like a temple?” In most cases, and unless otherwise “burned”, women tend to give others the benefit of the doubt. They tend to assume everyone is going to be kind and everyone is going to play fair, and it is often a surprise to them when this does not happen.

I will use a story that I often use in therapy to help a woman understand what is going on inside her [when things go wrong]. . . .

Pretend you . . . are a pioneer woman, and you are crossing the plains, all by yourself (other than your children) in a covered hand cart wagon. The journey is tough. . .but you are whistling a happy tune and making the best of it.

Out of no where, a half dozen Indian warriors on horse back come riding out of a near by valley and proceed to circle your little wagon. You have a little anxiety at first but then you do what any woman would do in the situation, and you greet them kindly in hopes of making new friends! How kind of the local tribe to send out a welcoming party! After greeting them with smiles, waves and pleasant chatter (Celestial interaction style), you are surprised to see them retaining their stone faced expressions.

The Indians sternly tell you, “Actually, we are here to rape you and take your children for our slaves.” Awkward!

So then you try a Terrestrial intervention. It occurs to you that these men have women and children at home and may have some unmet needs. “I have a little bit of extra flour and a few extra blankets we made in our quilting group back home. Perhaps I could give you those and you could take them back to your families and we could go on our merry way. Yes?”

The Indians look at each other, shake their heads and begin closing in. “Lady, we are here to rape you and take your children for our slaves.” Double awkward!

At this time, the female brain starts to go through something that is almost like a ripping sensation. 1000 miles per hour she tries to come up with alternatives. She remembers she has a shot gun in the wagon, but she also remembers these men probably have women and children back at home. She seeks for a way out, but eventually, the dark persistence of the men forces her to make a decision. She decides to use the gun on the Indians.

Ask the smoke clears, she finds 6 dead Indians on the ground and her children are safe. Then, she does what most women would do, she drops the gun, falls to the ground and bursts into tears; tears of guilt. And every day for many years to come, she is going to feel guilt, “Did I really have to kill those Indians? Maybe if I had listened to the Spirit more closely, I could have found a better way.”

We all know that a man in the same story would have skipped the first two interventions, killed the Indians, put six notches on the side of his wagon, and six scalps hanging from the back.

We learn in the Family Proclamation that women are designed to nurture. We learn that men are designed to provide and protect.


kels said...

Hmmm, I confess I'm not overly fond of this anecdote. Probably because my first reaction was "crap those Indians are going to rape her little girls." Doesn't help that I teach a university class that highlights the severe global violence against women and children... so maybe I have it on my mind more than normal people... but does that knee-jerk reaction imply that instead of nurturing, my divine nature lends itself to providing and protecting? That I'm designed to be a warrior?

I just struggle with this kind of blanket, generic gender stereotyping. I believe the Proclamation speaks more to our stewardships than to our gender stereotypes; there are plenty of gentle, peace-seeking men, and there are quite a few more leader-esque, very capable of providing for the family kind of women than those who love gender stereotypes would like to admit. I don't think we do ourselves any favors when we try to box the genders into stereotypes and use those to explain our divine nature (in this case, that women want to believe the best in every person.what?! I know so many catty women that love to judge others... to be frank, I'm not even sure where this stereotype is coming from). Instead, why don't we just acknowledge that we have divine responsibilities, and that all of us--men and women--are unique and have unique ways in which we will accomplish those stewardships?

Sorry, strong reaction. I've just been getting a bit exhausted of gender stereotypes that box us into some kind of expected behavior that is so often inaccurate and limiting. According to these stereotypes, which I've heard all my life and which vexed me quite a lot as an already insecure teenager, I would have turned out to be a great priesthood leader/presider/macho male. Unfortunately, I'm an LDS woman. So in this case, either women like me are a mistake, or these gender stereotypes are a bit off base. I'm going with the latter ;)

Anonymous said...

The thing I like about the Proclamation is that it only lines out stewardships, but does not prescribe or proscribe how those stewardships are to be exercised.

That leaves room for the unique protective, providing style of a very gentle, peaceful man, or for the nurturing motherhood of a vigorous, curious woman who extends her mothering to the children in her neighborhood, community, nation, and world.

I think the anecdote is a simplification, as all anecdotes are, and is told from a particular set of experiences (which may be very foreign to women in many parts of the world, whose experience tells them to jump to the final conclusion first). But, I also strongly dislike that Girls are Apples meme that's floating around just now.

I think too often, we mistake unity for uniformity; at no time does Heavenly Father say everyone has to be alike! The Proclamation has room in it, for mothers and fathers and individuals to work out how their own unique skills, strengths, and talents fit into the stewardships Heavenly Father would like them to fill. That unity through diversity is a tremendous strength!

kels said...

notmolly-- that was a more articulate way of saying what I was trying to say ;) nicely done. And I also loathe that apple meme... terrible.

Emily said...

OK, ok, so almost no one liked the example I posted from the guy, but I still like it -- particularly the conclusion that as a therapist he sees real differences in reactionary behavior of men and women.

I was thinking more about the word protect particularly. There's now way I would completely leave that up to my husband. That is why I am a "lioness," right? I guard my home and family. Plus, that awesome definition of virtuous sure seems to include protector in part. Now if it came down to pulling out the rifle to protect the family, I sure hope my husband would take over that one if he were home, but in the smaller, normal stuff, I certainly protect, too, and if I had to, I guess I'd pull out the rifle.

An interesting thing a friend also said regarding protect was in the example of these war-torn countries where the men take advantage of and abuse the women and children -- they are doing everything but protecting the weaker and the smaller. What a beautiful message of the gospel that the male duty is not to hurt the women and children, but to protect them.

I was also thinking of how my husband nurtures, and there's so much he does. The lines are definitely blurred, but I do believe, typically, men and women are more inclined for one or the other, even if it's taken to the bare minimum of he should protect because he is physically bigger and she should nurture because she's grows the babies inside her and nurses them (or can if she chooses).

I'd love to go on more, but just wanted to jot those thoughts down before they're gone.