A Very Short History of Gender and Participation at Times and Seasons

March 22, 2013 | 29 comments
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Times and Seasons began life, in November 2003, as an institution where men held all leadership and speaking positions. Really! There were four of us: Adam, Matt, Nate, and me; the first post was by Adam. And we men all felt very important in our roles as T&S bloggers. In fact, we felt so important that we added four more men to the group in quick succession: Greg, Gordon, Jim and Russell. You will note the distinct lack of women’s voices. It was a male-only Permabloggerhood, so to speak. Men and women are different, you know: Men blog, and women pinterest! It’s like two complementary shrubs with slightly different roles.

Alas, our well-tended shrubbery came crashing to a halt when Kristine joined the group in February of 2004. And while Kristine eventually embarked for parts unknown, Julie and other women continued to brazenly seek — and receive! — ordination to the previously-all-male Permabloggerhood. Against all historical precedent, too.

And as you can see, this shift has had nothing short of a devastating effect on male participation at T&S. Indeed, since that fateful day in 2004, the men of T&S have been forever silent.

29 Responses to A Very Short History of Gender and Participation at Times and Seasons

  1. Julie M. Smith on March 22, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    Kaimi, this is fun as a bit of navel-gazing history for T&S, but what neither you nor Sam nor Alison have addressed are the real issues related to the construction of LDS masculinity in the context of exclusive access to the priesthood.

    (Just the other day, my 8yo broke my heart by asking, “Just the boys get to do all the cool stuff at church, huh?”)

    I’d like to refer once again to Nate’s post:

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2012/09/gender-and-priesthood/

    Like Nate (and Alison and others), I can’t really think of any compelling theological, scriptural, doctrinal, moral, or philosophical reasons for the priesthood ban. But we are going to need to do an extreme make-over of male identity in its absence. (We’re probably already doing that by creating a situation where missionaries will be predominately female and the YM/YW curriculum is virtually the same.) To be sure, this is entirely a problem of our own creation, a problem created by rhetoric linking maleness to priesthood. But that doesn’t make it any less real.

  2. Sam Brunson on March 23, 2013 at 12:11 am

    Julie, I may be missing something (because I’m clearly up too late), but I’m not sure I understand why we need a special LDS construct of masculinity. The Church and (as much as I hate to admit it) Church culture influence who I am, true, but so does my career, the places I live, the books and movies and music I consume, etc.

    That is, I don’t see the construction of masculinity as being a duty of my Church experience. Instead, I consider the Church a way for me to check my worst impulses and become a better person within the masculinity I’ve constructed holistically from my broad experience(s).

    As such, I don’t really feel any compulsion to reevaluate the construction of Mormon masculinity in a world where men and women hold the priesthood.

  3. Sam Brunson on March 23, 2013 at 12:22 am

    Actually, to clarify further: I don’t see the necessity of priesthood as a socializing force because, frankly, I’m surrounded by men who are excellent husbands, fathers, colleagues, employees, and people in general. But the bulk of these men (largely the fathers of my daughters’ friends) are not Mormon, and, as such, they haven’t been socialized by exclusive access to the priesthood. Instead, presumably, they’ve been socialized by their parents, their spouses, their education, and the culture they live in.

    That’s not to say that priesthood has no value; I’d argue that it has immense value. But I don’t see it as necessary for male socialization, and I’m not convinced that it (as opposed to active participation in (church) service) plays any significant role in providing socialization (or fundamental masculine identity) in any event.

  4. nat kelly on March 23, 2013 at 12:39 am

    Julie, I have to disagree with you.

    Ordaining women to the priesthood will require/bring about a massive reconstruction of female identity in the church.

    Nothing about make identity changes. Except maybe some assumed superiority. I’m not gonna cry to see that one go.

  5. nat kelly on March 23, 2013 at 12:40 am

    *male identity. Not make identity. Stupid phone, ruining my pithy statements.

  6. Julie M. Smith on March 23, 2013 at 1:00 am

    Sam, if I were constructing a world from scratch, it would look like the one you describe. But in the world we live in, we have gender constructions that have given men meaning, and we can’t just yank that without thinking about how we are going to give them ways to think about it.

    It would be almost as if we’d spent 50 years telling women to do nothing but stay home with their kids and then, one day out of nowhere, started, as a church, celebrating women who had careers. (http://mormon.org/me/19nx) Or if one day the church told people that hierarchy in marriage was an eternal principle and then the next day they told them equality was (http://bycommonconsent.com/2013/03/21/truth-for-our-times/).

    You can’t just think that people can swallow that with no cognitive dissonance.

  7. nat kelly on March 23, 2013 at 1:10 am

    Who’s arguing for taking priesthood or leadership away from men?

    We’re not talking about yanking anything away from them.

    Women’s ordination is about WOMEN.

  8. Cameron N on March 23, 2013 at 1:15 am

    Okay, these are starting to get a bit obnoxious. The point is made. I’m ready to go either direction if anything ever happens. I hope everyone is. I might also add that some of these ideas seem distant from common language used in the Priesthood session of GC every 6 months. If something ever did change, I’m sure some gender separation would exist in quorums/groups. Perhaps there is merit to the benefits of gender-segregated opportunities for association and service? If anything I would see the Relief Society continuing with semantic differences.

  9. Alison Moore Smith on March 23, 2013 at 1:19 am

    heh

  10. JTZ on March 23, 2013 at 2:30 am

    “I’m ready to go either direction if anything ever happens. I hope everyone is.”

    Yes, as ready as Jane Manning James was when she was told “no” the first time she asked for her endowments.

  11. jks on March 23, 2013 at 2:46 am

    Julie is right and I am very surprised some of you can’t see it. My husband absolutely has an identity about being the priesthood holder in the family. While many don’t see a parallel, my husband grew up knowing his wife would do pregnancy and childbirth and he would give the baby blessing. He knew that it was important for him to be worthy so he could be a real man and baptize and confirm his children. It is a part of his motivation and identity that he would be letting me down and his children down if he failed to be the kind of father who could baptize his children.
    If his children’s mother could baptize and confirm them, suddenly it doesn’t matter. It no longer depends on him. One of his main motivations in life and in the gospel would disappear.
    I’m not saying he would never be able to find other motivations to be a good Mormon, or to be worthy to give a blessing, but I know several men who need to know their contribution is necessary in order to step up and do it and do it well. rather than just shrug and let their competent wives take care of it.
    I am quite sure that some of that can change easily for younger generations. I watch my children play and interact and they are far more integrated than kids were in my generation. But my 44 year old husband would absolutely have an identity crisis in the church and in our family if the priesthood wasn’t exclusively male.
    He isn’t a bad guy. He is very respectful and treats me as an equal partner. I feel very appreciated, loved and powerful in my marriage. But he is 44 and was raised with strict gender roles at home (that he has been willing to branch out from but not erase). If there isn’t room in the lifeboat for everyone he wouldn’t consider himself a man (or a worthwhile person who is a man) if he wasn’t the one to sacrifice his life so I could live. I have spent time considering gender roles and wondering if I could change enough for my daughter to be drafted or for me to be the one to not get in the life boat.
    Now some might say that is too dramatic to be worth discussing, but it actually isn’t. It goes to how someone views their place in the world. And my husband really did have cancer and he really did comfort himself that at least it wasn’t his wife or children, that he would a million times do this rather than them. I, having just gotten through pregnancy, postpartum, pregnancy, post partum thought to myself that thank goodness it wasn’t me because I was sick of my body making my life hell. But during those pregnancies it was part of my identity that I was a mother and pregnancy and childbirth is a part of that. If some doctor suddenly gave my husband the ability to grow a child inside him we both would have not taken it well and it would have required quite a lot of adjustment. Even though I hated breastfeeding, I am not sure I could have easily passed it off to him for my 3rd or 4th child and pregnancy? I can imagine some women being fine with sharing it, but many would find it traumatic to share that role that they’ve been assuming already or grown up expecting.

  12. Sam Brunson on March 23, 2013 at 8:03 am

    You can’t just think that people can swallow that with no cognitive dissonance

    Or 100 years saying blacks were unworthy of priesthood. Like nat said, we’re not talking about taking priesthood away from men; sure, there are probably men in the church who have developed their sense of masculinity (partly) from holding a male-only priesthood. But that’s a problematic construct, and one that I’m not convinced is worth spending a lot of time to address.

    So would there be shock and pushback? Almost definitely yes, just like there would be in any other significant change in the church. But forcing someone to deal with a change in his construct of masculinity?

  13. James on March 23, 2013 at 8:10 am

    Julie is right and I’m very surprised some of you can’t see it.

    Amen. Thanks, jks, for personally showing why female ordination would raise significant challenges for many families. That’s not to say it isn’t right or that maintaining the status quo doesn’t also cause pain, but we’re kidding ourselves if we think lifting the restriction wouldn’t have unforeseen consequences, or if we try to tell ourselves it’s okay because it would only impact misogynists.

  14. Aimee on March 23, 2013 at 9:38 am

    James and JKS, arguments identical to the one you are making were used to fight women’s suffrage as well. Nearly 100 years later men still comprise the vast majority of national elected leadership and are nearly 50% of the active voting percentage. The expectation that men will behave like petulant children who don’t feel special anymore because they will share some of the same gifts and experiences as women gives the vast majority of Mormon men far too little credit, in my opinion.

  15. Adam Greenwood on March 23, 2013 at 10:13 am

    “I can’t really think of any compelling theological, scriptural, doctrinal, moral, or philosophical reasons for the priesthood ban.”

    I can’t think of any any compelling theological, scriptural, doctrinal, moral, or philosophical reasons for unisex priesthood. Burden of proof switching like this is usually a sign of a weak argument.

    “I don’t see the necessity of priesthood as a socializing force because, frankly, I’m surrounded by men who are excellent husbands, fathers, colleagues, employees, and people in general. “

    No doubt, but (1) your information is anecdotal. Statistically American men are checking out of marriage and fatherhood. Statistically LDS families do better on a number of fronts, especially on the percentage who form families, stay married, and have kids. Demographics who do as well tend to be ones that also are more conservative on their gender norms. Affluent upper-middle class symbolic workers also tend to do ok (except on the replacement level childbearing front), but I doubt that’s a model for the church.
    (2) Your argument proves too much. If priesthood does nothing for Mormon men vis-a-vis their non-Mormon counterparts, the natural conclusion of the argument is that we should get rid of the priesthood or stop being Mormon, not that we should create a unisex priesthood.

    Or 100 years saying blacks were unworthy of priesthood. Like nat said, we’re not talking about taking priesthood away from men; sure, there are probably men in the church who have developed their sense of masculinity (partly) from holding a male-only priesthood. But that’s a problematic construct, and one that I’m not convinced is worth spending a lot of time to address.

    Some of y’all need to stop seeing blacks and the priesthood as the primary lens through which you understand the church. Race doesn’t map very well to gender. But if we must apply it as our model to everything, my guess is that part of the reason it took the Lord so long to authorize the change is that He and the leadership thankfully care more about the mass of the membership than you and others here do. Julie S. and Nate O. are really, really wrong that sex is just a construct, a kind of biological frill like race. But given their point of view, they are asking the right sorts of questions.

    James and JKS, arguments identical to the one you are making were used to fight women’s suffrage as well.

    That men would participate less in politics? I’d like to see the evidence of that. Of course, its true that men *do* participate in politics less now, although I doubt that women’s suffrage is the direct cause. It’s also true that there continues to be a differing male model of citizenship in any case, primarily with respect to military service. It’s also true that there are reasons why sex roles would be more important to marriage than to going to the polls. Priesthood is what Mormon men bring to marriage.

    The expectation that men will behave like petulant children who don’t feel special anymore

    This kind of talk does no good. It reminds us that in some aspects, feminism is female chauvinism. It also, in implicitly assuming that men should “man up” because they are men, undermines the unisex premises of the unisex priesthood argument.

    P.S. The opening post is infantile.

  16. James on March 23, 2013 at 10:25 am

    Aimee, I never said men would behave like petulant children. Does the concerns jks raised about the role her husband would play in your brave new world sound like petulance? You haven’t engaged the substance of those concerns and to reduce them to petulance smacks of a lack of argument. I’m not even arguing in favour of the restriction; just that we don’t reduce anxieties about lifting it to some perceived low opinion of men.

  17. Aimee on March 23, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Adam, I DON’T think that men *will* act like petulant children. That’s my point. Nor do I consider it “manning up” to see women as equals in both spiritual and leadership capacities. I actually think that *most* of the Mormon men I know would embrace thinking about Priesthood responsibility in more spiritual rather than strictly gendered terms. My feminism sees men and women as equals. Assuming men would act like petulant children who would give up on their priesthood responsibilities once shared with women, is JKS’s argument, not mine.

    As for anti-suffrage arguments which inferred that giving women the vote threatened to reverse gender roles and bring men into the home while women entered the political sphere, I’ll direct you to the following website with a collection of anti-suffrage cartoons. A picture is worth a thousand words, as they say. http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/11/08/vintage-anti-suffrage-postcards/

  18. James on March 23, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Assuming men would act like petulant children who would give up on their priesthood responsibilities once shared with women, is JKS’s argument, not mine.

    Just to be clear, jks offers a fairly nuanced argument – using her own husband as an example – about how generations of men raised in homes where traditional gender roles informed their worldview might struggle to adapt to homes and a church where women could do all that they had previously thought were their responsibilities – responsibilities they kept themselves worthy and worked hard to fulfill, and you reduce that to ‘jks thinks men would behave like petulant kids’?

  19. nat kelly on March 23, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Adam G.

    “But if we must apply it as our model to everything, my guess is that part of the reason it took the Lord so long to authorize the change is that He and the leadership thankfully care more about the mass of the membership than you and others here do.”

    Let me fix that for you: “The Lord and the leadership thankfully care more about the racist white membership than you and others here do.”

    God: “Sorry black folks. I want to do right by you, it’s just….. the racists…. Know what I mean? Thanks for understanding.”

    God: “Sorry women. I want to do right by you, it’s just…. the misogynists…. Know what I mean? Thanks for understanding.”

  20. Aimee on March 23, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    I did not mean to personally attack JKS or her husband but her argument that “I know several men who need to know their contribution is necessary in order to step up and do it and do it well. rather than just shrug and let their competent wives take care of it.” Why would sharing that responsibility result in men being unnecessary? Why couldn’t men and women performing these ordinances and priesthood duties together make that work all the more important?

    I don’t want men to feel tangential to the Church any more than I also don’t want women feeling tangential to it. This idea that men and women participating in Priesthood responsibilities together (just as they’re also supposed to participate in parenting responsibilities together) would reduce their sense of obligation to the priesthood just doesn’t ring true to me.

    In response to Adam’s assertion that “Priesthood is what Mormon men bring marriage,”(with the supposed parallel being that Mormon women bring motherhood)where do we place infertile women into this construct? What does a fertile woman bring to marriage that is particularly Mormon? We have got to stop equating womanhood with motherhood and manhood with priesthood. The equal of motherhood is fatherhood. The equal of priesthood is priestesshood.

    Again, I apologize if my previous comments sounded like a personal attack on JKS or her husband. I admire her candor and appreciate the fact that there are real-life consequences that deserve our consideration in these loaded discussions. But for years I have heard this argument that men wouldn’t feel special enough to participate in a male/female priesthood. This argument insults the spiritual maturity of the men in my own life who understand that women sharing the priesthood does not mean it’s being taken from them. As a culture and a Church, there would be work to do to help people see Priesthood as simply “the power to act in God’s name on earth” and not “Men’s power to act in God’s name on earth.” But I believe in a God who wants to help us with that and will.

  21. James on March 23, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Aimee, I’m sorry if I mischaracterised your remarks. Fwiw, I hope my daughters grow up in a much less sexist church than the one I did. I hope they have a greater voice than women do now. And if it’s God’s will (and I have no idea what that is), if one day they have the opportunity for priesthood service, or to bless or baptise their own children, I would rejoice with them.

    At the same time, the experience of jks’s husband sounds a lot like my own and like that of many of my peers. We grew up in homes and in a church that divided responsibilities along very traditional gender roles. I’m not saying that was or is right but it is where we’re at. I’m less optimistic that female ordination wouldn’t cause some degree of trauma for many men in the church raised in very traditional homes. Again, to be clear, that’s not an argument against lifting the restriction, just a recognition that I think such a move would have far reaching and as of yet unappreciated consequences.

  22. Aimee on March 23, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    I truly appreciate and respect that perspective, James. I think it’s imperative that we take life experiences and generational norms into account when thinking about what consequences a shared priesthood may have on individuals and families. I just don’t want fear of change to dictate the discussion (or halt it altogether). There are rhetorical moves that must be made for both men and women to understand their place and value in a shared priesthood, if it were to happen, and comments like yours and JKS prove the importance of beginning that conversation now. I really do appreciate the vulnerability of everyone even entering into this discussion and sharing what consequences they see possible changes having in their real lives. Thanks for being one of them.

  23. James on March 23, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Thanks Aimee.

    “There are rhetorical moves that must be made for both men and women to understand their place and value in a shared priesthood, if it were to happen, and comments like yours and JKS prove the importance of beginning that conversation now.”

    I totally agree. I’m happy to be a part of any conversation where there is appreciation and respect. Thanks for engaging with me.

  24. Kaimi on March 23, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Adam Greenwood, a portion of your comment is in violation of T&S comment policies. You know this, since you helped draft those policies. Please abide by our comment policies. If you are not able to do so, your comments may be placed in moderation. Thank you.

  25. john pamp on March 23, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    could we move on please. The subject has been done done done.

  26. Cynthia L. on March 24, 2013 at 1:02 am

    John, it must be difficult to be you. Having to endure, day after day, hearing other people talk about their pain. You keep telling them why what they are doing hurts and annoys you, but nothing ever changes! What an intolerable situation for you.

  27. john pamp on March 24, 2013 at 11:41 am

    I do not know if the john referred to in #26 is myself . If so I am surprised at the sarcasm. I have never left a comment on this blog before and have never either privately nor on the web implied and indicated that the subject of sharing pain or this subject of LDS women and the priesthood hurts or annoys me. I agree with James #23 on the subject of women and the priesthood and would be happy to be part of the conversation, Maybe I should have been more clear in that I feel that the comments to this original posting has been rehashed and rehashed and it is time to move on. I do hope that the John referred to by Cynthia is not myself and that he accepts this response better than I did. I will not be part of the comment to this blog in the future if this is the standard level of responses. Sorry for thinking this was an open forum.

  28. Nate Oman on March 25, 2013 at 7:13 am

    There are many responses that can be made to the question of how a male only priesthood serves to construct male identity within Mormonism and thereby buttress male participation and what it would mean for male participation and identity to ordain women. This post, however, is not an example of good way of discussing that question.

  29. john f. on March 25, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Nate, I kind of viewed it as on par with Frank’s armchair post — a response in kind, if you will. Adam really like that one. This one, not so much. And yet the main difference, as I see it, is in the substantive position that the post supports, not the logical or rhetorical force with which the point is argued as both posts are sort of on the same level, right?