Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Patriarchy, redux

A recent post on a Mormon-themed group blog asked the question What are some of the common themes that emerge in patriarchal societies? It then compared these societies with Mormonism. There were a number of parallels.

To me, the most interesting aspect of this article was what it didn't mention. Here are the salient items that I thought were missing:

  • Persecution of homosexuals. Iran and Saudi Arabia prescribe the death penalty for homosexuality. Other patriarchal societies criminalize it. In Mormonism, homosexuality is the sin next to murder, and the Church uses its political muscle against gay civil rights.

    Homosexuality, especially male homosexuality, is a repudiation of the patriarchal order’s insistence on strict sexual roles. Gender roles, as Elder Bruce Porter recently put it, are “woven into the very fabric of the universe” for patriarchal cultures. They are the one nonnegotiable item of patriarchal power structures.

    The Church’s most strongly worded statement of patriarchal gender roles, The Family: A Proclamation to the World, was issued in response to increasing civil tolerance for homosexuals. This isn’t a coincidence.

  • Male preoccupation with female modesty. Patriarchal societies in the Arab world and elsewhere enforce restrictive clothing standards for women, up to and including full veil.

    In LDS culture, female modesty is a frequent sermon topic. (“Male modesty” doesn’t exist. The shirts and skins basketball game in the Cultural Hall is still around. Male modesty can only jokingly be referred to in LDS circles, usually in relation to homosexuality. Like a lot things in LDS culture, “modesty” involves gender.)

  • Denial of female sexuality. Patriarchal cultures do not generally do not admit the possibility of women as people with legitimate sexual needs of their own. Instead, women are viewed by their “roles” as wives (providers of sexual release to men) and mothers (asexual nurturers of children).

    In Mormon culture, you often see women put on the pedestal of motherhood in a way that neglects the existence of female sexual desire and the need for female sexual fulfillment. The sexually empowered woman is not an LDS archetype.

    An odd reflection of the patriarchal denial of female sexuality can be seen in how partriarchal societies treat male homosexuality compared to female homosexuality. In places like Saudi Arabia, female homosexuality is not against the law. Basically, it is not acknowledged to exist. The reason is that the patriarchal view of sex requires a penis to be present. No penis, no sex. No penetration, no sex. In LDS culture, male homosexuality receives the lion's share of attention. Lesbians are rarely mentioned by Mormon leaders. (Penises are, like, way super important in the dudeocracy.)

  • Polygamy.Patriarchal societies, such as Islam, often practice polygyny (and never polyandry).

    Mormon culture has polygamist roots, and elements of polygamist teachings (D&C 132, along with asymmetrical rules for the sealing ordinance, for example) are still on the books.

  • Placement of responsibility for male sexual behavior upon women. Most patriarchal cultures view male sexual desire for women as a consequence of female seduction. In these cultures, women who are raped are punished for inflaming male desire.

    In LDS culture, there have been recent sermons that tell young women that they are responsible for the moral purity of young men.

I'm probably not alone in finding this list a bit creepy.


Mr. Fob said...

Wow. Not only are the parallels disturbing, it's disturbing that your points didn't come up in the original discussion. The parallels are very clear, so that suggests that the people involved in the discussion perhaps had some blinders on?

MoHoHawaii said...

Hey Mr. Fob,

I have no idea why these obvious points were missed. The person who wrote that post is generally perceptive. Who knows?

Mr. Fob said...

Yeah, I looked at the post after commenting here and saw that it's by no means trying to protect the church--I suppose she was just focusing on other points. At any rate, your post makes for a poignant addendum to hers.

Trev said...

You should leave a link to your post in the comments thread, if you haven't already.

Sean said...

Since the author appears to be female and the odds favor her being straight, it's likely she simply has a different focus. Her final question seems odd to me. The church is a patriarchy. As you point out, it is "the divine order" of things. Her question seems to imply an assumption of progressiveness and democracy that doesn't exist.

I also don't think her "narrow interpretation of religious texts" point goes far enough. Patriarchies rely heavily on divine (and thus unassailable) mandates.

It's this kind of stuff that makes me sick I was ever a part of it. And I want to cry when I see my sisters perpetuating it.