In October conference, President Hinckley made an interesting statement about marriage, education, and equality between spouses. He said:
Women have earned more bachelor’s degrees than men every year since 1982 and more master’s degrees since 1986. It is plainly evident from these statistics that young women are exceeding young men in pursuing educational programs. And so I say to you young men, rise up and discipline yourself to take advantage of educational opportunities. Do you wish to marry a girl whose education has been far superior to your own? We speak of being “equally yoked.” That applies, I think, to the matter of education.
There are some interesting implications from that statement.
First, there are some potentially problematic implications. The implication is that men will not — perhaps should not — want to marry women who have a superior education. It is not clear whether this line is meant solely descriptively, or whether it is meant as an endorsement of that standard, or as a normative statement that men should not marry women whose educational credentials surpass their own. If the latter, there are a number of potential implications. We already know that intelligent and educated women are sometimes at a disadvantage when seeking for a marriage partner. This statement might worsen that trend.
However, there are some surprising, strongly pro-feminist implications of this statement as well. There is no reason on the face of it why the language on spouses and being “equally yoked” should be limited to men marrying superior women. Under President Hinckley’s logic (that educational disparity creates an unequal yoke), it may be a problem of unequal yoke if a man is married to a woman with a superior education — but won’t the yoke be similarly unequal for a woman married to a man with superior education? Under President Hickley’s reasoning, it seems, the yoke will always be unequal if one partner is more highly educated than the other — regardless of which partner that is. And if a marriage is in this situation (unequal yoke), isn’t there an implication that the partners in the marriage should take steps to ameliorate the concern?
Thus, President Hinckley’s statement can be read as a very strong, pro-feminist mandate: Women who are married to men who have superior education should go back to school. Otherwise, the marriage will be one of unequal yoke, and that is not acceptable.