Today at lunch a friend of mine told me that she had just been informed that Mormon women are bred to consider themselves inferior to their husbands. Appalled, I asked her to explain. She went on to tell me about a secretary she knows who works for the only Mormon partner at our firm. As with most secretaries, this secretary is very aware of the personal matters of her employer. Basically, she hasn't liked what she has found---particularly the fact that the wife is unable/not allowed to make even the smallest decision without consulting her husband. In most cases this kind of behavior would probably be chalked up to "co-dependence" or one of those other terms we use to describe unhealthy relationships, but, in this case, his being Mormon provides the secretary with an alternative explanation. "Mormon women are just bred that way," she tells people.
I have to admit, when I first heard this, I was very tempted to sit down and right a scathing email to this partner about the example he was setting and the detrimental effect it was having on the missionary work that I was trying to do. But the more I thought about it the more I become concerned that, maybe, this is a real problem. Now I need to point out that I do not think that the Church advocates or approves of this type of behavior in any way, shape, or form. In fact, the do quite the opposite. Instead, my question is whether, as a culture, we promote this philsophy.
Growing up I saw no sign of it in my home. There weren't girl chores and boy chores. There was no descrepincy in the encouragment each child recieved to pursue an education to the highest degree possible or to go on a mission. But, when I step out of my immediate family, I have to admit I do see some signs of it. My aunt, for instance, is shocked that I'm planning on going back for my Masters (often making comments such as, wow, you're family really does emphasize education), yet she thinks its perfectly normal that her son, my cousin, plans on getting his MBA.
I have also seen traces of this philosphy at BYU where, each year, a number of girls quit just short of finishing their degree in order to have children. How do we explain this behavior? Certainly, having children is the higher calling, but can't it wait a year? Does it make you less righteous or more selfish if you educate yourself first? What makes me question this even further is that, though I know many women who have made this decision, I don't know one man who has. In fact, I think it would be fairly frowned upon by the community at large if a man came forward and said, "I want to have babies so I'm going to quit school now, okay?"