Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Touch of Human Kindness

I recently read The Touch of Human Kindness:  Women and the Moral Center of Gravity by Bruce & Marie Hafen given at BYU Women's Conference, May 2001.

There were a lot of good quotes in this article, but I'll jot down my favorites here.
  • Church members aren't immune from this confusion [regarding marriage, motherhood, and family life]. A Latter‐day Saint mother who was called to work with young single adults was expecting a new baby. One by one, several of her young women privately asked her how she really felt about having another child. In a spirit of deep womanly trust, they asked questions that reflected honest anxiety about being bound to husbands and assuming the burdens of motherhood. She told us she was surprised to hear concerns like this from young women who were believing, active Church members.
  • If being selfless means a woman must give up her own inner identity and personal growth, that understanding of selflessness is wrong. That was a weakness in some versions of the Victorian model of motherhood, which viewed women as excessively dependent on their husbands. But today's liberationist model goes too far the other way, stereotyping women as excessively independent of their families.
  • The critics who moved mothers from dependence to independence skipped the fertile middle ground of interdependence. Those who moved mothers from selflessness to selfishness skipped the fertile middle ground of self‐chosen sacrifice that contributes to a woman's personal growth. Because of these excesses, debates about the value of motherhood have, ironically, caused the general society to discount not only mothers but women in general.
  • "A woman's self‐worth depends not on how much other people seem to value her but rather on how well she is spiritually grounded. To depend on what others think of us lets them determine our sense of worth. When our happiness is based on someone else's choices, rather than our own, we become prime candidates for deadly hope. . . ."
The Hafen's also stated, similar to Wendy Shalit's ideas:
As scientist Leon Kass put it, "A fine woman understood that giving her body, even her kiss, meant giving her heart, which was too precious to be bestowed on anyone who would not prove worthy by pledging himself in marriage to be her defender and her lover forever." And so, "it is largely through the purity of her morals, self‐regulated," he said, "that woman wields her influence. Men will always do what is pleasing to women, but only if women suitably control and channel their own considerable sexual power."

This view of female sexuality deplores abuse of women. It also celebrates the spiritual and emotional fulfillment of marriage for both women and men. Yet women have too long endured the unfairness of a cultural double standard that tolerated promiscuity in men while condemning it in women. A sociologist named David Popenoe writes, "Men the world over are more sexually driven and 'promiscuous,' while women are more concerned with lasting relationships." So, he says, women have been "expected to set limits on the extent of intimacy."

A double standard that winks at this male laxness enough to excuse it is unequal and unfair. Society might have responded to this inequality by demanding fidelity of men. It is as if our culture had two hands, a female hand that was morally healthy, and a male hand that was morally withered. In the name of equality, we held up both hands and said, "Please make both my hands the same," and what happened? Both hands became withered. And so our generation has romped into history's most staggering sexual revolution, seeking male/female equality by encouraging women to imitate the habitual promiscuity of men.
. . .
And why is this a female predisposition [toward permanent pair bonding]? New evidence suggests that women have innate qualities that differ from men's, including a stronger desire for long‐term marriage. "Women, who can bear only a limited number of children" and who must nurture them through years of dependency, "have a great [inner] incentive to invest their energy in rearing [their] children, while men, who can father [many] offspring, do not."

I found that last statement concerning women wanting to settle down because they have limited time to reproduce, and a man's lack of desire to settle down because he can father offspring his entire life rather interesting.  The concept seems true to me (for instance, if I had unlimited money, I would probably be more careless with it because it would never run out.  Since I have limited money, though, I am very particular with it and and try to spend it wisely); however, does the conclusion really matter when most people don't even view life in regards to how much time they have to reproduce (unless you've had fertility problems)?

Well worth reading.  Gave me much to think about.


michelle said...

I really loved this by the Hafens. Lots to think about, indeed. Thanks for your summary, too.

Joe McKay said...

Wonderful summary of a soul refining talk by the Hafens. Many thanks.