One sexist "doctrine" that really frosts my cookies is that women are naturally more spiritual than men. Let us have a little chat about benevolent sexism. Benevolent sexism stems from the interdependence of the sexes. It consists of ideas that women need to be cherished and protected by men, that men depend on women to fulfill the "essential" roles of parenting and homemaking, and that men need women (to be romantic sexual objects) to feel complete. It is different from hostile sexism, which branch is more familiar to most people. Benevolent sexism is a hot topic in sex and gender scientific literature right now because, more and more, studies are showing that it is just as harmful as hostile sexism. People who embrace benevolent sexism are more likely to also embrace hostile sexism. Studies have shown that benevolent sexism is a more subtle and cunning way to subjugate women. As men treat women in a benevolently sexist manner, women often begin to accept male dominance. This then propagates the cycle of inequality.
Back to women's "innate" spirituality. This common sentiment in Mormanity (my word for the culture entwined in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is a form of benevolent sexism. Many members, including general authorities, use this sentiment to justify every instance of differential treatment of the sexes. It is often said that women don't need the priesthood because they're naturally more spiritual, while men need the opportunity to serve and grow. Another common one is that a woman must nurture the children because she innately walks closer to God. Sometimes I wonder if these dogmas are spouted off so frequently as a way to keep women complacent in their places of lesser power in Church authority. The fact is, women are more active in religion the world over. Why the difference, you ask? I have come to the conclusion that, since women have historically been held in inferiority and powerlessness by men, they have become more humble. This, then, has become a societal norm, and the social differences still present today continue the trend. As we all know, humility begets faith in God. Those who have less have greater need to believe in and rely on a higher spiritual power; they hope that this divine being will give them their just reward in time. Therefore, the humbled women throughout history have turned to God for comfort.
Some other benevolently sexist attitudes common in the Church:
- We don't talk about Heavenly Mother because Heavenly Father is protecting her name from the abuse and slander of the world (if that is the case, then maybe I don't want to be a Heavenly Mother someday. This paints a picture of a rather weak and inconsequential divine feminine, don't you think? By the way, this was initially said by a primary teacher. Also, there is no doctrine that says that the topic of Heavenly Mother is taboo and should not be discussed. In my opinion, we should be a little wary when discussing her in a formal church setting only because there is so little doctrine on her).
- Men have the priesthood and women, instead of the priesthood, have motherhood (as if fatherhood can in no way compare to motherhood. Granted, only women can give birth and nurse. But men can bottle feed, hold, nurture, and show just as much love as women can. Cultural bounds lead us to believe this is not true, but it is).
- Whereas in the priesthood session of conference men get the third degree, women in the relief society session are patted and praised and coddled for how good they are (in my opinion, women are just as intrinsically bad as men are; culture has just taught them to be more subtle about it. Any differences in bad conduct is the product of societal norms and not of innate goodness).
To find out how much sexism you espouse, take this quiz.