Pink for Boys and Blue for Girls: The Trouble with Gender Roles

I grew up in Provo, Utah—the traditional-values capital of the world—during the 1970s, an era characterized by radical social changes. Provo was more Leave It to Beaver than One Day at a Time, Three’s Company or Maude. Certainly it was not Modern Family. None of my friends’ mothers worked outside the home, none of their parents were divorced, and none of their siblings were doing drugs, listening to acid rock, or marching in peace protests. It was a Captain and Tennille kind of town in the middle of a Jefferson Airplane decade.

Unlike most of our neighbors, my parents did not attend Church very often and they both disliked President Nixon; nevertheless, they fit right into Provo’s traditional role values even if they didn’t fit into the conventional Mormon mold. My father was a steelworker. He carried a lunchbox, wore a hardhat, and operated a crane, hoisting smoldering twenty-ton steel ingots above red-hot pit furnaces. On his off-time, he watched football and boxing, went hunting and fishing, and changed the oil and brakes on our cars. Dad was a manly-man kind of guy.

Like other mothers in 1960’s and 70’s Provo, my mother had quit work as soon as she became pregnant with me. When filling out a form that asked for “occupation” my mother always wrote “house wife.” She was a wonderful cook, a careful seamstress, a crafts-maker, and a cake-decorator. She got up every morning to cook breakfast for my sister and me before sending us off to school and would greet us at the door when we returned, sometimes with fresh-baked cookies or sweet rolls. She was home to nurse us each through a case of chickenpox, mumps, and countless flues and fevers.

Yet despite my father’s mug-a-lunch persona and my mother’s glass-grapes and macramé lifestyle, my parents never adhered to traditional gender roles when it came to work around the house. My father cleaned bathrooms, washed dishes, and vacuumed floors almost as often as my mother. He was also great in the kitchen. His scrambled eggs were better scrambled, his meatloaf was meatier, and his home-made bread was lighter and more luscious than Mom’s. Each year when canning season arrived, my parents were a team. From harvesting the vegetables from our back-yard garden through steaming and pressurizing them in Ball Jars, Mom and Dad worked side-by-side, and my sister and I were usually recruited to help through the whole hot-and-steamy ordeal.

And if Dad was well-domesticated, Mom could be down-right rugged when employing a garden hoe or shovel. When we moved to our home in the Edgemont area in 1968, our yard was nothing but rocks, wild bushes, and weeds. The Edgemont clay was so hard we broke more than a dozen shovel, pick, and hoe handles in the decade it took us to work in some topsoil for a lawn and tame our property. Mom grew up on a farm, so hard work was nothing new to her. Whether in our large garden or planting petunias in the flowerbeds, Mom was there working next to Dad. They were also a team when managing the checkbook, furnishing the house, and shopping for groceries. And while I knew I could count on Dad to protect our family, it was my mom who I looked to for protection on nights my father worked graveyards, and if there were neighbor kids making fun of me or school kids bullying me, it was mom who stood between me and them and set things right. She was also the one who stood up to teachers or other adults on the rare occasions when she thought I was being unfairly treated. On the surface, Mom and Dad fit the traditional gender stereotypes of the era, but at a deeper level they worked together in ways that defied those very roles.

Then, in 1987, Geneva Steel closed its doors and my dad was out of a job. He was 60 years old, but suddenly he was facing a new world. I know he was preparing for retirement, but had not planned on it starting so soon. When, a short time later, the plant reopened under new management, Dad was hired back on to train his replacement. The company just assumed that he would leave. Dad was too young to retire and too old to start over. My parents had to face the problem of how to pay the bills. Surely Dad’s retirement savings wouldn’t go far if they had to live on it for thirty years or more. I remember my dad sitting in his rocker watching day-time shows on television, looking like a small child: anxious, worried, inadequate. So Mom did what had to be done. She went out looking for a job. We all assumed that she was too old and had been out of the work force too long for her to be hired. After all, it had been over 25 years since she’d had a paying job. But Mom typed up her resume on her Selectric typewriter, put on her most business-like outfit, and hit the pavement. By the end of the week, she was employed as a teller at a credit union, and within a year she was a loan officer. The real revelation came, however, as we saw the change that working outside the home made on her personality. She grew more confident, energetic, and happy. She was not only providing for her family, she was out in the world, meeting people, helping people, and receiving praise from supervisors and managers. Mom flourished even as my father’s world contracted.

So I grew up in a family where the boundaries of traditional role models were very firmly established yet everywhere transgressed. When I announced my engagement to Zina, I am confident that Mother would have preferred I marry another more dainty and domesticated young woman I had dated—Zina still claims she would rather build a sewing machine than use one. I think Mom felt like I had rejected her own mothering ways in preference for a “liberated woman,” as we called them back then. However, I also know that my mother and Zina were both more alike than either imagined. Mom was, like Zina, a strong woman who never let gender roles get in her way if there was something she wanted or needed to accomplish. And in some ways I’ve followed, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously, my father’s example of not seeing housework as woman’s work. I am grateful to both of my parents for the example they set, for the relationship they had, and for the valuable lessons they taught me. My sister and I grew up in a nurturing and protective environment, and their marriage of over fifty years provided stability in our lives and an example of love and devotion.

I suspect that most families are similar to mine in establishing family dynamics that both reinforce and defy the roles that society hands us. And certainly those roles have become less rigid since the 1970s. In our 2012 Utah Valley neighborhood, many mothers work outside the home and I see men called out of church meetings to comfort their children or change their diapers on a regular basis, something I never saw in the 1970s. But we still face gender roles that confine us, even as we are complicit in creating them. I suspect that, at some conscious or unconscious level, we even crave these stereotypical roles as a way to measure our personal worth against that of our peers, while at the same time we resent the confining nature of these roles when we don’t measure up.

Many of these gender roles are as old as Western civilization itself and are, quite often, based on some very outmoded ideas. Prudence Allen has argued that Aristotle not only “provided the foundation for the systematic advancement of knowledge” in Western culture, but also “for the intellectual roots of theories that distorted woman’s identity”[1] for millennia to come.  Aristotle believed men to be the ultimate realization of humanity. Women, in contrast, were defective, deficient, and deformed. Procreation, he believed, involved an active, masculine element giving shape to a passive female element, as men provided the pattern for the fetus while women provided the matter out of which it was composed. He compared the process to creating cheese, “as rennet acts upon milk, for rennet is a kind of milk containing vital heat, which brings into one mass and fixes the similar material.”[2] Our words “father” and “mother” originate in this strange conception of biology: father is a cognate of the Latin pater which comes from the same root as “pattern”; mother is a cognate of the Latin māter which comes from the same root as “matter.” Whether Aristotle’s philosophy led to his bungled views of biology or vice versa, both were warped and decidedly wrong.

Bad theology further contributed to these twisted roles. From the time of the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria in the first century and Augustine of Hippo in the fourth, well into the Middle Ages, the common interpretation of Genesis 1:26, where God proposed “let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” was that that the male was created in the “image” of God, whereas woman was after the image of man. By being both corporeal and woman, Eve was two steps removed from God, whereas Adam was only one. Ultimately, the bifurcation between the sexes resulted in the following taxonomy:

Man Woman
Created in the image of God Created in the image of man
The active element The passive element
Ruled by reason Ruled by Passions
Fit for rule Fit to obey
Dominant in the civic sphere Dominant in the domestic sphere

The Greeks drew a sharp distinction between the public sphere of men (the polis), and the sphere of women, the house (oikos). The oikos was the inferior realm of gross material infrastructure managed by women and slaves, whereas the male-controlled polis was, as J.G.A. Pocock writes, “the ideal superstructure in which one took actions which were not means to ends but ends in themselves.”[3]  (Ironically, our word “economics” comes from the Greek oikos and nomos meaning “ordering of the household,” and we have come to associate both the world of economics and the world of politics with the same realm outside of home and hearth.)

The view that men inhabit the public sphere of politics, economy, commerce, and law, while women inhabit the domestic sphere of child-rearing, housekeeping, and religious education carried on down through the Victorian era. Victorians almost universally accepted the doctrine of “separate spheres,” where women were guardians of home and hearth. As Susanna Morrill describes this concept, the “home-centered roles of mother and wife” were “seen as the glue that keeps society together.”[4]  The problem with this kind of bifurcation of gender roles is that we inevitably value one side more than the other, paying lip service to one while the other gets promotions, raises, attention, and praise.

Today, economists count every aspect of our economy: the GNP, GDP, and CPI; the DOW, Nasdaq, and S&P; manufacturing, government, and private sector job creation. They look at every imaginable measure of the production, distribution or trade, and consumption of goods and services. Yet none of these measurements take into account the value of work done in the home. I think this is why my mother blossomed when she entered the work force. She loved her family and loved the selfless service of motherhood, but in the public sphere of the credit union she received a higher degree of praise, recognition, and accolades than she ever received as a mother. She also got a paycheck that she had control over. Mom was not selfish—she was one of the most generous people I’ve ever met—yet these psychological and economic rewards for work made her feel validated and valued for her work.[5]

Even though our understanding of biology is vastly different today than it was anciently and despite our modern rejection of sexist behavior, we continue to be influenced by antiquated ideas about gender roles. It is still common to hear men joke about how women are too emotional, or for both men and women to talk about how women are more nurturing. And while the Women’s Rights Movement of the 1970s made it politically incorrect to say things like “a woman’s place is in the home,” the notion that women should be more “domestic”—in charge of cooking, cleaning, washing, and caring for children—still flourishes within our contemporary society. Between 1970 and 2001, the percentage of families with an exclusive breadwinning father dropped from 56 to 25 percent in the United States.[6]  Mormon families have been slower to follow this trend, with Mormon women twice as likely in 2008 to report they are housewives as non-Mormon women (26% vs. 13%); nevertheless, almost fifty percent of Mormon women work either full-time or part-time outside the home.[7]  Despite the fact that women have taken on more of the financial burden of raising their families, they still perform three times more of the household labor than men.[8]  Many tasks, such as meal preparation, housecleaning, shopping for groceries, washing dishes and doing laundry, are still considered “female” tasks. Combining their new responsibilities to help support the family with their traditional household tasks, many women are suffering from what researchers are calling “role overload,” a stress factor that has a significant adverse effect on the mental and physical health of women.[9]  Realistically in a world economy, families will be forced to make further adjustments as these trends continue.

We often experience backlash as societal changes occur; feelings of insecurity inevitably accompany new roles and expectations. People tend to reinforce the traditional roles even as they are becoming more and more outdated and impossible to live. The main problem with gender roles is that, for the most part, they are arbitrary. Take, for instance, the near universal acceptance of baby colors: blue for boys and pink for girls. For centuries, most children, boys and girls, were dressed in practical white dresses that could be easily raised for diaper changing and easily bleached when diapers exploded. Pastel colors began to be introduced in the mid-nineteenth century, however, there was disagreement about which sex should wear which color. A Ladies’ Home Journal article in June 1918 said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Still others argued blonds should wear blue and brunettes should wear pink, while others argued that blue went was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies. In 1927, Time magazine provided readers with a chart documenting what the major U.S. stores felt to be the most appropriate colors for girls and boys. Filene’s in Boston told parents to dress boys in pink, as did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle’s in Cleveland and Marshall Field in Chicago. It wasn’t until the 1940s that industries settled on the blue/boy, pink/girl standard of today, but, without really thinking about it, we assume it is monolithic and never-changing, something given, perhaps, by God to Adam and Eve in the Garden.[10]

Once it was considered shockingly un-ladylike for a woman to get an education or to vote. Nineteenth-century Mormon women were at the forefront of the suffrage movement and many sought an education. Nevertheless, no one would contradict Emily Spencer, a member of the first Relief Society founded at Nauvoo, when she wrote to the Woman’s Exponent in 1875, stating that the women’s rights movement had gone too far—that “to encourage women in wearing or imitating the dress of man is ridiculous.”[11] Our ancestors would be scandalized by some things that we simply take for granted today. History proves that a specific generation’s expectations about gender behavior (or colors) are not eternal, unchanging, and universal, yet we assume concreteness in something that is arbitrary, universality in something that is localized, and timelessness in something that is utterly bound in time.

Some gender roles made sense historically. Male dominance in upper body strength explains why men and women divided labor the way they did over the centuries. It’s simply easier for a man to heft a bale of hay than it is for a woman. Likewise, with women giving birth to children, it is logical that they would be concerned with creating a safe and comfortable “nest” for their children. Yet across history and cultures, the specifics of gender roles are far from universal. Women were known as healers through the Middle Ages, until European universities (which excluded women) professionalized medicine and, at the same time, clerical and civil authorities began a campaign to brand women healers as witches.12 Clerical work was seen as men’s work until World War II, when women occupied these jobs as men went off to war. When the men returned, however, the jobs were seen as “feminized” and clerks were renamed “secretaries” and “typists,” and both the pay and the prestige for these jobs took a significant hit. Of course, in different cultures these gendered divisions of labor vary. In Saudi Arabia, women’s roles are severely restricted, whereas women have served as ministers in the governments of Syrian, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, and Tunisia, and as Vice President in Iran. Nevertheless, in the West, gender roles in work have traditionally followed an Aristotelian principle: public work is for men and private work is for women—even if it accomplishes much the same tasks: if it is work performed by or associated with male/public, it has prestige and high pay; if it is performed by or associated with female/personal or private, is has less of both. Thus, men were chefs, while women were cooks; men were doctors, while women were nurses; men were professors, while women were school teachers. On rare occasions when women have had the primary role in a Western or Westernized government—Queen Elizabeth, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher—they were mostly successful in so far as they lead “like men”; they were not so much females as leaders as they were females as Honorary Male leaders. It’s also interesting that the United States has never had one.

Unfortunately many of these rigidly defined traditional gender roles have been adopted into Mormon culture. In a pamphlet A Parent’s Guide, which the Church released in 1985, it gives role-specific instructions in a chapter called “Teaching Children: from Four to Eleven Years.” Much of the advice is good, like the following:

Teach your daughters and your sons to seek opportunities to learn and to exploit every such opportunity fully. Girls and boys should learn all they can about every subject within their capabilities. They should nurture and develop their gifts (see D&C 46:11-26), striving always to achieve their full potential and to fill the measure of their cration (see D&C 88:19).

But the message goes on to suggest that girls need to learn “the arts and sciences of housekeeping, domestic finances, sewing, and cooking,” whereas boys should learn “home repair, career preparation, and the protection of women.” The pamphlet stresses that the realities of the world—divorced, death of spouse, etc.—may necessitate some modification and that men need to know some basic domestic skills and women may need to plan for a career, but it insists that “for all of the children of God, this life is primarily a probationary existence designed to prepare them for the eternal roles of husband and father, wife and mother.” The implication here is that in the eternities husbands and fathers will be repairing homes, working in careers, and protecting women, while wives and mothers will be practicing “the arts and sciences” of cooking, cleaning, and sewing. This 1950s sitcom version of heaven sounds rather flat compared with the broad theological doctrines of Mormonism, of endless worlds and ever-expanding knowledge and dominion.

Compared to the 1985 Parents Guide, the Proclamation on the Family[13] is much less specific at defining gender roles, and in many places it is even quite progressive. It begins by affirming that that “all human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God” (there is no difference between women and men as there was for Philo and Augustine) and that “fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.” The Proclamation goes on, however, to stress that “by divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.” Mothers, on the other hand, “are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” The basic taxonomy is this:

Father

Mother

Preside “Primary” nurture
Provide
Protect

It is apparent, first of all, that there are more responsibilities listed on the father’s side than the mother’s side, and they all sound similar to the Aristotelian model of gender roles, with men occupying the public sphere and women the domestic. The call to preside could be to establish fathers as the CEO of the family, the manager who makes all decisions. The call to provide could be intended to lay the job of working for a family’s livelihood at the man’s feet. And the call to protect could suggest that fathers use their brute force to keep bad guys from hurting wife and children. However, this sounds nothing like the world I live in. The Church constantly counsels husbands and wives to make decisions together, the realities of the economy have forced many women to enter the labor force, and it’s a blessedly rare instance when a father has to defend his family with force. Surely this is not what it means to be a father.

Yet, if men take these roles seriously, which I think they should, they will necessarily find that each one of these roles involves nurture. A man who presides over anything and is not aware of what goes on, does not know those he’s responsible for, does not help them to achieve their best, and is not intimately involved in strengthening them is not really presiding. A father who truly presides in his family must do more than simply call on someone to pray at dinner. He must know his children’s lives, their teachers, their friends. He must be involved in parent-teacher conferences and doctor’s appointments. He must be attending the school plays and band performances as well as the soccer games and little league. To preside necessarily involves nurture.

Likewise providing must be more than simply providing a paycheck. We know the dangers of giving money to children without providing direction and counsel; we surely cannot see the role of providing as simply providing an income. A good provider will be concerned about providing for his family’s needs more broadly—providing time, experiences, love, a listening ear, kind counsel, in short, nurture. Finally, we must view the admonition to protect our families as something more than getting a concealed weapons permit and stocking up on ammo. I think a father must protect his family from spiritual, emotional, and physical threats—warning his children about addictive substances and behaviors, helping them recognize demeaning sexual messages, noticing what friends they are playing with, keeping them from being bullied or becoming bullies, knowing who their doctors and dentists are, assuring they have adequate health care coverage, making sure they have been immunized and received physical exams, etc. Each of these duties must be performed in public and in private, in the polis and in the oikos. Again, each of these three fatherly tasks, if we really think about them, involves what we could sum up with one word: nurture.

Mothers and fathers should both be involved in presiding, providing, and protecting if seen in this broader sense and both should be nurturers. The only way I can see that women would be placed “primarily responsible for the nurture of their children” is if we read the word “primarily” not in its first definition as “principally; chiefly; or mainly” but in its second definition as “at first; originally.” Women are the original nurturers of children because they provide nurture with their own bodies during the nine months of fetal development. Biology assures that women are the primary nurturers in this sense; instruction cannot dictate what nature already owns.

While the Proclamation does state that “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose,” I believe the authors use the term gender as a substitute for the word sex. In contemporary gender studies, sex is defined as the biological morphology of the individual, while gender is defined as the performative aspect; our behavior: we’re born with sex, but we learn to act according to gender norms. Prior to the early mid-20th century, the word sex was defined as either of the two categories humans and most other living things can be divided on the basis of their reproductive organs. Sex was a classificatory signifier, but not a signifier for copulation. According to the OED, the expression “to have sex” meaning to engage in intercourse, originates in D.H. Lawrence’s 1929 poetry collection Pansies. Since the time word sex became synonymous with sexual activity, we often use the word gender interchangeably with, as a euphemism for, the category marker “sex.” But there is a difference. Significantly, James E. Talmage, a Victorian who would have been too prudish to use a term like sex if hinted at sexual activity, published his essay “The Eternity of Sex” in 1914, just prior to the usage change. But Talmage says in his essay essentially what the Proclamation says, except that he uses the word sex rather than gender. As Talmage put it, “The distinction between male and female is no condition peculiar to the relatively brief period of mortal life; it was an essential characteristic of our pre-existent state, even as it shall continue after death, in both the disembodied and resurrected states.” [14]  So when the Proclamation speaks of “gender being eternal,” I assume with a great deal of confidence that the Church really means sex. For it is obvious to me that gender roles and standards evolve and shift in time and between cultures. Our great grandmothers would have been scandalized by women wearing trousers and jeans. Today, women wearing pants is a norm. (Although when it was suggested this year that perhaps women could wear nice pants suits to church, many Mormons found that outrageous. Our grandchildren will likely laugh when they look back at many of our concerns about gender.)

The trouble with gender roles is that they restrict our behavior and development, confining us to outmoded ideas about what it means to be a woman or a man, a mother or a father, a wife or a husband. They force us into doing things we don’t like or are not good at; they keep us from learning things that may be enriching or give our lives meaning; they force us into careers for which we may not be suited; and they keep us away from careers that may be our true callings. They give us reason to judge others unfairly and make us feel guilty because we can never measure up.

When I read about Christ, I am often struck by how he constantly defies gender roles. He is a carpenter who weeps, a revolutionary who tells people to love each other, a man who confronts Caesar but meekly bears his own cross. It is he who asks us all to “be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Ne. 12:48). Christ’s call is to become complete, whole, and holy, and I don’t believe we can truly do that if we’re bound to human gender roles that keep us fragmentary and divided, cut off from each other and from our ultimate potential.


[1] Prudence Allen, The Concept of Woman: The Early Humanist Reformation, 1250-1500 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 65. See generally chapter 2 “Aristotelian Roots of Gender Identity in Academia.”

[2] Marten Stol, “Embryology in Babylonia and the Bible,” Imagining the Fetus: The Unborn in Myth, Religion, and Culture Ed. Vanessa R Sasson and Jane Marie Law (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 144.

[3] J.G.A. Pocock, “The Ideal of Citizenship Since Classical Times,” Theorizing Citizenship. Ed. Ronald Beiner. (Albany: State University of New York, 1995), 32.

[4] Susana Morrill, White Roses on the Floor of Heaven: Mormon Women’s Popular Theology, 1880-1920 (New York: Routlege, 2006), 20.

[5] For an economist who does calculate the unpaid domestic contributions of mostly women, see Ann Crittenden, The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001).

[6] Sara B. Raley, Marybeth J. Mattingly, and Suzanne M. Bianchi. “How Dual Are Dual-Income Couples? Documenting Change From 1970 to 2001.” Journal Of Marriage & Family 68, no. 1 (February 2006): 11-28. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed October 18, 2012).

[7] Rick Phillips and Ryan T. Cragun. Mormons in the United States, 1990-2008: Socio-Demographic Trends and Regional Differences: A Report Based on the American Religious Identification Survey 2008.  (Hartford: Trinity College, 2011 (accessed October 18, 2012 at  http://commons.trincoll.edu/aris/files/2011/12/Mormons2008.pdf)

[8] See for example, Ganga Vijayasiri. “The Allocation of Housework: Extending the Gender Display Approach.” Gender Issues 28, no. 3 (September 2011): 155-174. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed October 18, 2012); Mylène Lachance-Grzela and Geneviève Bouchard. “Why Do Women Do the Lion’s Share of Housework? A Decade of Research.” Sex Roles 63, no. 11/12 (December 2010): 767-780. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed October 18, 2012).

[9] Keva Glynn, Heather Maclean, Tonia Forte, and Marsha Cohen. “The Association between Role Overload and Women’s Mental Health.” Journal Of Women’s Health 18, no. 2 (February 2009): 217-223. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed October 18, 2012).

[10] Jeanne Maglaty “When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink?” Smithsonian. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/When-Did-Girls-Start-Wearing-Pink.html.

[11] Emily B. Spencer, “Answer to Inez,” Woman’s Exponent 4, no. 2 (15 June 1875), 16.

[12] See, for example, W L Minkowski, “Women Healers of the Middle Ages: Selected Aspects of Their History.” American Journal of Public Health 82, no. 2(February 1992): 288–295.

[13] The Proclamation on the Family was first read by President Hinckley on September 23, 1995, at the General Relief Society Meeting. Signed by both the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, the Proclamation carries an authoritative but non-canonical status within the Church. Interestingly, Elder Boyd K. Packer referred to the Proclamation “as a revelation and would do well that members of the church to read and follow it.” However, when the talk was later published, the wording was changed so it was called “a guide that members of the Church would do well to read and to follow.”The original talk is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2C1wUI5xuhs, while the published version is available at “Cleansing the Inner Vessel.” General Conference October 2010 (accessed October 18, 2012 from http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/cleansing-the-inner-vessel?lang=eng). The danger of ignoring the Proclamation is that we miss the wisdom that is there; however, the danger of granting it the status of scripture is that it would force us first, to decide what a proclamation is—and how they differ from “Official Declarations,” “Doctrinal Expositions,” and “Epistles.” It would also force us to determine which “official statements” made by the first presidency and the twelve qualify as proclamations. In his carefully worded article for the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Robert Mathews states that he is going to consider five in his Encyclopedia of Mormonism article, but he does not state that they are the only five. There are many documents that, having been issued under similar circumstances and for similar purposes, could qualify as a proclamation. (Most recently, the Apostolic Circular on the Economy of 1875 which was, recently, being typeset and framed to imitate the Proclamation on the Family certainly could be accepted within that “canon” but there are no firm rules to establish the genre. Finally, we would then have to regard all Church Proclamations as scripture, even ones that are completely irrelevant to our day. My own guess is that the leaders of our Church would rather we live with the Proclamation’s ambiguous status.

[14]James E. Talmage Essential James E. Talmage Ed. James P. Harris. Originally published in Young Woman’s Journal 25 [October 1914]: 600-604 Signature Books Library http://signaturebookslibrary.org/?p=14234


2 thoughts on “Pink for Boys and Blue for Girls: The Trouble with Gender Roles

  1. This was so great. I nurture my kids because I love them not because I feel that it is “my place.” The roles that the church culture has placed on my marriage has at times put considerable strain on the relationship. Sometimes our defense of the Proclamation of the Family turns into a overzealous defense of the 1950’s nuclear family which one can argue never really existed. This misplaced nostalgia has kept us from seeing the bigger picture. Check this out:
    http://aspiringmormonwomen.org/

  2. Thank you for posting this. I really enjoyed hearing your perspectives. Gender roles are something I have always struggled with; I’ve always had strong opinions and never had fear of expressing them. I’ve always believed in fairness and equality, which has fueled my feminism my whole life. In addition, I have a master’s degree and I work full time. For many people, these are not desirably “feminine” characteristics. As a result, I’ve been challenged, ridiculed, and patronized; people criticize me, and my relationship with my husband, and occasionally mock him for having a “strong” wife (i.e. I “wear the pants” or he doesn’t know how to “put me in my place”.) And while none of that really matters/ makes an impact on my family’s decisions, because I know who I am and my husband and I have made our decisions together, prayerfully, it’s still hurtful to be judged and/or to be told that I have limits on what I should do, but that my husband does not. I have felt personally many of the injustices you highlighted in your post.

    I agree that gender roles are restrictive in the sense that it makes it difficult for individuals to follow their own path, and makes most people feel pressure to fit in a mold that may or may not align with who they truly are.

    I also agree that if we are to truly work as a marital partnership, both parties will have to engender all qualities, just as Christ did. I appreciate your post, and I appreciate you putting into words so aptly the things that have bothered me since before I can remember.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s