Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Guest Post: Rationality, Thy Name Is (Not?) Woman




Let me be clear up front: I am not a feminist.

Personally I don’t support the Ordain Women movement. When they had ‘wear pants (trousers, for my UK friends) to church day,’ I rolled my eyes. I’m pretty much a traditionalist on women’s issues, regardless of my other political and scientific views.

But a recent turn of events really got my hackles up on a ‘woman’s issue’ and I want to hear from men, particularly Modern Mormon Men, on what they think.

Recently, due to a change in life circumstances (newborn baby) I was released at my request from being the primary president in our ward and was called instead to teach in Relief Society once a month. This means that my husband and I now teach the same lesson on fourth Sundays, the Teachings For Our Time General Conference address chosen by the Stake Presidency.

In the run up to my first lesson, I was listening to General Conference again and pretty much called which talks we would be teaching, though the Stake hadn’t yet released the list for the next six months. However, there was one talk (Elder W. Craig Zwick's) that I was less than eager to listen to, let alone consider teaching to a roomful of 18-90 year-old women.

I don’t dislike his message. In fact, it’s a very important one that I feel needs to be discussed and understood.

What bothered me was his use of the word ‘irrational.’

Let me point out that in the text version of the talk, the word ‘irrational’ is not there, where it is in the video – about 2:58, followed by laughter from the congregation – which makes me think that it either wasn’t there in the original, vetted text of his talk, or was taken out afterwards due to possibly (in my case definitely) being inflammatory. The text and video do agree, however, when he later states that Sariah, Lehi’s wife, was ‘not [rational]’ in being mad and worried when her sons didn’t return from Jerusalem.

In both stories, being ‘irrational’ was assigned to the woman, while being ‘rational’ was assigned to the man.

Elder Zwick is undoubtedly an inspired man, no arguments there. I just think his message would have been better served by not calling two strong, righteous women ‘irrational’ when that is a word choice that isn’t usually flattering.

Discussing this with my husband, he had no idea what I was so worked up about, until I said to stop the video at 1:02, just after Elder Zwick states that the cab of the semi filled with smoke so thick they could hardly see or breathe, and to think what the rational reaction to this situation would be.

Suddenly it became clear to my husband that Elder Zwick’s wife’s decision to get herself and their infant son out of the semi as quickly as possible was really quite rational, and he could see my point that it was irrational of Elder Zwick to assume that his wife would think everything was going to be okay, without any apparent effort on his part to communicate that to her.

Rational: based on or in accordance with reason or logic.

Both parties in both stories were acting rationally in my opinion, the men and the women. So why was it okay to say that the women were being irrational?

Modern Mormon Men, I want to hear your thoughts. As you consider this question, please consider the following and answer as honestly in the comments as you can:
  1. Have you ever in your life been called irrational? What were the circumstances?
  2. Have you ever in your life called someone else irrational?
  3. If you have called someone else irrational, was it a woman?
  4. Have you ever thought a woman was being irrational, even if you didn’t say anything?
  5. Have you been exposed to other men who call women in general ‘irrational’?
And to the women, please answer the following:
  1. How often have you been called irrational?
  2. Has a woman ever called you irrational?
  3. Has a man?
No, the questions aren’t the same for each gender. No, it’s not scientific to do it that way and yes, I realise what it would take to make it scientific.

Irrational? No. Just not the same as you.

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Jessie B is a 20-something wannabe-super-homemaker with a modern mormon husband and an obsession with blog stalking. Don't ask her how the book is coming, or what's for dinner.
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gifImage credit: Hey Paul Studios (used with permission).

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