I thought this would be an appropriate re-blog from August 2012….Happy Father’s Day!
Setting aside all the obvious sexual compatibility reasons, there’s something about being the man in a hetero-normative relationship that just didn’t settle comfortably on me.
The default assumption is that a straight man is a messy thoughtless and fumbling creature without the guidance and care of a good woman by his side.
Even as a father, taking an interest in the nurturing and care of children is seen as a part-time task for a normal straight man. When I’d stay home to care for the kids it was referred to as “babysitting.”
Actually being an engaged father and enthusiastic caretaker of our home made me the odd man out in the straight world I was pretending to inhabit. But it was more than just the nuances of my expected fatherly and husbandly roles that sat awkwardly with me, it was also the nature of the expected relationship with my wife.
Take the following comment on a completely unrelated Mormon Expression podcast:
When my wife is having insomnia and she is tired but really wants to go to sleep, I kid you not, she will ask me to talk to her about something that is interesting to me lately. Within 5 minutes she’s out. Its so funny to me.
My wife has described this phenomenon as a “Brandt Rant.” Then, when I start running out of steam and ask her a question, all I hear is “zzzzzzzzzzzz”
I think most people would read that and smile, thinking “how cute,” right? I read it and think what assholes their wives are (I apologize ahead of time to these 2 men and their wives. I’m sure they are all kind, loving people. At least I changed the names *smile*).
Just to understand my perspective a bit, let’s switch the roles around. Let’s say it’s Husband X that has insomnia and therefore he’s the one that says to his wife,
“Honey I’m having trouble sleeping. Tell me about something that interests you so that I can sleep.”
It’s not so funny that time is it? What woman wants to be married to that? I personally can’t understand why any man wants it either.
When he says it, he is a douche bag.
When she says it, she is a comedienne.I used to think this was a Mormon phenomenon because I’d hear stuff like this all the time in Elder’s Quorum and around the campfire at father-son campouts. But you can find that same sort of, “Aw shucks! I’m a fool and my wife saves me” male all over in TV sitcoms.
Here’s another quote I found…
My wife simultaneously enjoyed the fruits of my non-traditional nature while she also held the same stereotypical expectations of me. I’m not joking about this next one… once when I was choosing a new vehicle for me to get to and from work she became incensed that I didn’t actually want a pickup truck…like any man in her family or in our neighborhood would (yeah, we’re talking borderline redneckville here). In the Mormon world having a pickup truck is a big broadcast message saying, “I’ll help you move!” If you’re in Elders Quorum you’ll already be assigned to do that plenty with a just a sedan. There’s no need to invite it! Getting an economical Honda Civic that merely got me to work and back somehow made me less of a man.
There’s some sort of gene that a male is supposed to possess that encourages him to broadcasts his manliness to the world via cars, trucks and a bumbling nature around his wife that merely escaped me. Someone should search for THAT. It just may be the gay gene.The odd difference between being a man/woman or father/mother is nowhere more evident than in the contrast between Mothers and Fathers Day in the Mormon Church.
For Mothers Day, there are talks about the divinity of womanhood. Women are to be honored just because they have a vagina and even more so if there’s been some outgoing traffic in there. LDS wards pass out flowers or candy to all of the women. At the end of Sacrament Meeting they ask all the women to stand and the youth or Elder’s Quorum distributes the goodies…and in wards that I lived in they made certain that even childless women got one. They made it a celebration of womanhood, not just motherhood.
If, and that’s a big “IF”, Fathers Day is mentioned at all, it’s a lesson on how men need to be better fathers, honor their priesthood more, etc… Their penises apparently aren’t sufficient apparatuses for praise all by themselves.
Everyone knows men have all the power in Mormonism. So they try to downplay manhood and highlight womanhood so no one will take a good long look at the reality. Women are told how wonderful they are so they won’t notice that they are actually disregarded and have second-rate status in the church. Every other day of the year is a celebration of manhood in Mormonism.
As a man, though, and a pretty good father if I do say so myself, I find the attitude condescending. Often in priesthood meeting they’ll say something insulting to the young men like, “Well, you’re certainly not as good-looking as the young women, but hey you’re priesthood holders so there’s your worth.” Or the MTC Mission President who says, “Elders, look at these sisters. They’ll get done in 18 months what will take you 2 years.” I couldn’t stand that as a young boy and it never sat well with me as an adult either.
Even while gay pretending to be straight I was still a man and therefore had more power and authority in the LDS Church than ANY woman in it, yet I still didn’t like being talked down to like that.
Is the subtext that straight men hold all the power in our society the sole reason that it’s funny to demean them in a way that would be unacceptable for any woman? Is that why as a gay man I don’t buy it and never did? Because I don’t actually enjoy the fruits of heterosexual male privilege that I would if I were straight?
One of the things I really like about gay relationships is the lack of stereotypical expectations. Both partners can actually be intelligent and capable without the other being threatened. There’s not an inherent acceptance of one partner being demeaned. From what I’ve experienced and observed there’s more of an expectation of equality and more freedom to define the relationship outside societal norms…since by it’s mere existence it already is.
Ideas for Family Home Evening
- Watch a good old family sitcom together. As a fun exercise, try switching genders and repeating the joke. Would it still be funny?
- What did you do for your mother last Mother’s Day? What did you do for your Father? Were they equal in effort and care? Why or why not?
- Ignoring gender, would you want to be partnered with YOU?
- What would you change about your current gender roles or relationship expectations if you could?