Inmates Running the Asylum

Tweets are pretty ephemeral little things, but this one from a few weeks ago has stayed with me. What a perfect illustration of the ridiculous insanity today. Three screen shots will demonstrate some highlights (or lowlights), though the whole thread has many more of both. Go read the whole thing if you want to be sad.

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Gender Fantasy vs. Reality

I recently read two completely separate articles that make an intriguing contrast.

On one hand, “‘Preferred’ pronouns gain traction at US colleges:”

On high school and college campuses and in certain political and social media circles, the growing visibility of a small, but semantically committed cadre of young people who, like Crownover, self-identify as “genderqueer” — neither male nor female but an androgynous hybrid or rejection of both — is challenging anew the limits of Western comprehension and the English language.

Though still in search of mainstream acceptance, students and staff members who describe themselves in terms such as agender, bigender, third gender or gender-fluid are requesting — and sometimes finding — linguistic recognition.

Inviting students to state their preferred gender pronouns, known as PGPs for short, and encouraging classmates to use unfamiliar ones such as “ze,”’sie,” ”e,” ”ou” and “ve” has become an accepted back-to-school practice for professors, dorm advisers, club sponsors, workshop leaders and health care providers at several schools.

Note the tell-tale theme words: “self-identify,” “describe themselves in terms,” “preferred gender pronouns.”  I wonder why, when there’s a conflict between biological reality and psycho-emotional consciousness, we actually privilege the latter and disdain the former as some sort of obsolete relic.

I asked this of someone last summer and was immediately called a “transophobe.”  Apparently that settled things.

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No Woman Is An Island

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” So wrote John Donne.  This is true for all of us.

Donne’s point is that we’re interdependent, not autonomous.  In everything from its emphasis on the crucial need for service to the sealing requirements for exaltation, the gospel agrees with this philosophy of connectivity.

I was reminded of Donne by reading Alison Moore Smith’s, “A Mormon Mother of Daughters Talks to a YSA Bishop About Intimacy ,” a response to a Meridian piece about modesty for women.

Smith writes[i] that men need to do a better job of not objectifying women[ii].  Fair enough.  However, there are numerous flaws in her essay.  The greatest error isn’t in anything she writes, though.  It’s in what she doesn’t write.

She’s correct in her assertion that men have a duty not to lust after women.  But nowhere does she note any reciprocal duty of women towards men.

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On Exaltation, Unity, and Heavenly Mother

I recently read this excellent article, which defends the idea that female identity is essential to God’s plan of happiness.  One line in particular struck me as especially relevant for a train of thought that dominates some online discussions: an obsession with parsing speculations about Heavenly Mother.

[T]o assume that absence of mention is the same as absence is a logical fallacy…. it is possible to assert that whenever Elohim is mentioned, as it is in the creation story of Genesis (and by extension, the Pearl of Great Price), we are speaking of God, and “God” means an exalted woman and an exalted man married in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage (D&C 132…).  

Quite right.  Those who demand more insight into and some kind of interaction with Heavenly Mother have completely misunderstood the nature of God.  We can already know everything there is to know about her.

We know that exaltation requires a sealed marriage, and we also know that exaltation requires the kind of perfect unity enjoyed by Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father.   Continue reading

Does the Atonement Have Masculine and Feminine Halves?

Latter-day Saints typically see the Atonement of Christ as comprising the suffering in Gethsemane as well as the crucifixion.  I’ve been wondering if there’s some kind of duality implied by the contrasting details in these two halves.  Consider the following chart, giving some details from Jesus Christ’s suffering in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross at Golgotha:

Gethsemane

Golgotha

Night Day
Private Public
Introverted/Psychic Emotional Suffering Extroverted/Physical Violent Torture
Primary instrument = liquid (bleeding) Primary instrument = solid (cross)
Inside of a garden On top of a hill
Cyclical narrative Linear narrative

Is it a coincidence that the circumstances of Gethsemane are stereotypically feminine, and the circumstances at Golgotha are essentially masculine?  Continue reading

Name Ideas For Gender-Free Babies

By now, you’ve probably heard about the Canadian couple who are raising their baby without ever telling anyone what gender it is.  This is because they don’t want to shackle the poor little dear with the world’s cruel rules for the different sexes, and definitely not at all because they are weird hippie publicity seekers who are willing to mess with their child’s life just so they can be on the cutting edge of social coolness. 

The parents named their baby Storm, as that can’t identify either gender (or, for that matter, if it’s even human…but at least it’s still better than Moon Unit).  They say that, “We’ve decided not to share Storm’s sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation.”

Word.  I also can’t stand the fact that society chooses to limit women by making them sit down to pee, and have ovaries.  Men, of course, are similarly coerced into arbitrary stereotypes, like society’s totally biased and unfair demand that they have a higher rate of prostate cancer than women.  I wish we could be more enlightened. 

Should this Canadian couple have another boy, for example, here are some good, genderless names they might consider: It, Thing, That, You, Hey You, Person (or Persyn), Social Pariah, Unfortunate Victim of Politically Correct Experiment, Psych Ward Patient #6, or (after he turns 18 and makes a quick trip to City Hall’s Department of Records) Joe.   

Should Storm turn out to be a girl, though, (and accept the fact!), she could always join the X-Men.

Is Mario A Male Maria?

One aspect of my interest in language is names.  Tonight, as I drove home from work, I saw a restaurant sign that included the name Mario, and it hit me for the first time: this name seems to do the opposite of what I usually notice names do.

Many female names are clearly adapted from older male names: 

  • Stephanie is a female Stephen
  • Paulette is a female Paul
  • Andrea is a female Andrew
  • Roberta is a female Robert
  • Michaela is a female Michael
  • Patricia is a female Patrick
  • Joan is a female John
  • Christina is a female Christopher

Notice that most of these examples are from men in the Bible.  This is important.  As those names are very old and very influential in Western cultures, it’s natural that female versions would evolve.

Mario, however, seems to have gone the other way: if Mari-o and Mari-a are related, the older name is Maria, which in English is Mary.  It makes sense that if names get adapted across genders because of age and cultural influence, especially Biblical names, then the name of the ultimate woman in the Bible would naturally produce a male version. 

This is all just speculation, though–I’m not a linguist.  But I’d like to look into this to see if I’m right.

Absolute Girl Power Corrupts Absolutely

As I watched a cartoon with my kids on Saturday morning, I saw a commercial for Huffy bikes where two little girls on new “princess” bikes decide to go rescue a prince. They jet off on their shiny Disney machines and successfully retrieve a teddy bear that had apparently been held hostage by nefarious forces.

Now, I have no problem with girl power, and there’s nothing wrong with the ad itself, but it does make me think about just how totally society has not equalized, but rather reversed, gender roles, to the exclusion of what comes naturally to boys. Would anyone be willing to make an ad that showed two little boys riding to the rescue of a girl? Would anyone support a product that did? Such a simple show of chivalry may well be met with protests and discrimination lawsuits.

I think the first real wave of “girl power” media hit when I was growing up in the 80s, when more TV shows had girls being assertive and competing with boys (thank you, Punky Brewster and She-Ra). By the late 90’s it had actually become a cliché, when Lisa Simpson dared to try out for a boys’ football team, only to find a warm welcome and three other girls already playing. So, by today, the Huffy princess bike ad is literal, devoid of any irony and of any especially empowering message it may have once had. It’s par for the course.

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Girls and Self Destruction

Every year after I teach Lord of the Flies–the classic novel about a bunch of young boys who crash on a tropical island and have to survive on their own–I point out to classes that the novel was inspired by the brutality of World War II, in which the author saw the worst aspects of humanity run amok.  In the novel, the boys form a mildly successful society for a while, with authority and chores, but it eventually degrades into savage anarchy and chaos–the author’s grim commentary on his lack of faith in human nature. 

Among other things, since the book is based on unchecked masculinity, I ask students to then consider how they think the book might have been different if a plane full of girls had crashed there, instead of boys.  Their answers always fall into two clearly demarcated camps.  The vast majority of boys, every year, say that stranded girls would just “have tea parties and paint each other’s toenails and stuff.”  Far more disturbing than this simple stereotyping, though, is what an even larger majority of girls almost always says: “No, they’d all kill each other by the end of the first day.” 

A pessimistic confession of their own burgeoning awareness of the social flaws inculcated into their gender?  Hardly.  That wouldn’t explain why most of the girls who say this tend to say it while laughing and smiling, almost proud of their prediction of massive failure.  They practically high five each other while saying it. 

How exactly have we apparently taught our young women to expect so little of themselves, in stark imitation of their masculine counterparts, to the point of competing with the boys for who can be the least successful?  I wonder if this is the dark side of social progress, a worrisome elephant in the room: As we have tried to encourage girls to be more assertive and involved in the public realm over the last few generations, have we inadvertently also magnified within them or brought to the front of their personalities those negative characteristics that we traditionally associate with young men–the violence, thoughtlessness, and nihilism that we’re warned about in Lord of the Flies?