Much has been said about the roles of men and women in society. Here in Utah, I have found that women are defined by their specific place in their family and community. Much of that identity has been advocated by the Mormon Church’s beliefs about the woman’s duties as wife and mother. As a woman who gave up her career 20 years ago to stay at home with my two children, I clearly do not have a problem with choosing those roles instead of a career. My objection is that those who make different choices may be criticized for them. In many ways, Utah is decades behind in women’s issues.
I remember one evening a few months after we moved to Draper, a man knocked on my door wanting me to purchase groceries from his home delivery service. I kindly told him I was not interested and he replied, “Why don’t I come back when your husband is home and speak with him about it.” Excuse me!!! My husband has no interest in those decisions and the idea that somehow I could not make any decision without him was insulting. I told this salesman so and he just looked at me like I had appeared out of some futuristic movie where women had a voice in their own lives.
Last week while substituting at an elementary school here in Draper, I attended an assembly to encourage students to participate in the “Fun Run” to raise money for the school. To add to the excitement, 2 BYU football players came to speak. While I am not a BYU fan, I think having players from a local college team speak to students is a great idea. Kids love to see them and imagine themselves someday in those uniforms. However, this assembly was about more than just the “Fun Run” and I was astounded and offended by the comments from these players. First of all, in their bios which were on the big screen in the gym was information about where they had served their two year missions. Why is that important? Would it be relevant in a public school to say where you had your Bar Mitzvah? I think not!!!! One of the players even spoke about how great it was to teach the Gospel for two years. Good to know, but inappropriate in a public school where like it or not, not everyone has plans to go on a mission. Remarkably, this commentary was not as objectionable as what was about to follow.
This young man proceeded to talk about the goals he had as a child in elementary school and to encourage fitness in all the young people listening. Fantastic right??? He spoke about his goal of getting good enough to bounce a basketball a couple hundred times without stop. Sounds great! Here comes the zinger – so he says you should set similar kinds of goals and “girls – you could learn to do the splits or something”. I literally almost fell off my chair. Had I entered some sort of time machine and been transported back to the 1950’s – nope I am just in Utah. Seriously, my daughter can bounce a basketball better and longer than most of the boys she knows. What the hell was this kid implying?
All I know is I am glad my children were not raised in a place where “heroes” are presented to them at school and then they are subtlety told that they cannot be like them because they are different. Is this the message the public schools want to give to their young students? I hope not, but frankly, this assembly said that if you are sitting out there and you are not of our faith or our gender than you will not be one of us. I wanted to take my little first graders back to class and tell them that is untrue, but I could not do that for several reasons. First of all, I doubt I would be asked to substitute there again and secondly I can’t honestly say that if they are different they will not be treated unfairly by their friends and community. I left school that day very angry and heartbroken.
Yes, boys and girls are different. People are all different! So what. Why must we stick to certain roles just because we are in a certain group? I challenge my daughter to be athletic and challenge my son to dance. I hope my daughter is strong and my son is sensitive. I hope to see them choose their own roles, both traditional and non traditional. I do not want them to have limits based upon their gender or their faith. I want them to be happy and free to choose their own path. I want them to embrace who they are and their differences. So, why can't we can just accept all people where they are and maybe, just maybe even "crying in baseball" would not be so terrible after all.
Hi! My name is Jill and my family and I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Draper, Utah in December of 2005 due to my husband’s job. We were “warned” over and over again that we would not fit into our new environment. “You know everyone there is Mormon don’t you? And you guys are Jewish?” My children and I had never lived outside of California, so as you may imagine we were poised for a bit of culture shock. Our first year here was generally wonderful. I felt safe and cozy in my new home nestled at the base of the Wasatch Mountains. This new community was kind of beautiful and quaint, and I quickly pushed aside any worries I had. People in Utah were just so pleasant. Well, after some time, the impact of the predominant culture hit my life like a two by four to the head. Soon, we all felt stifled by the constant religious overtones and the daily reminders that we were simply not a part of “their” world. Of course, by “their” I mean the Mormon Church and its members. A counter culture does exist in this "beehive state". Many Utahns who are not Mormon do everything in their power to show they are not associated with anything the Church does or teaches. You can spot these people a mile away. Unfortunately, this can lead to excessive behavior and negativity. I found that my family did not belong in that culture either. Where did we fit? Were there people like us in Utah? To clarify, I love my morning coffee, look forward to a nice glass of wine with my dinner, enjoy all kinds of films (even “R” rated ones), watch HBO for entertainment and get most of my news from MSNBC. Despite these DANGEROUS tendencies, my husband and I have managed to raise two fabulous children. In fact, we are mistaken for a Mormon family ALL THE TIME! I would be rich if I had a dime for every incredulous sputter, “You’re not Mormon???” When asked why they think I am Mormon, the answer is almost always an embarrassed reply “Well your family is just so nice!” WOW! Who knew Mormons had a monopoly on nice. Mormon Church members refer to themselves as LDS (Latter Day Saints). I hope to form a new group PLU (PEOPLE LIKE US!) to provide a place to commiserate, laugh and share frustrations. And so my fellow PLU’s, feel free to join me with your thoughts and your own stories. I can’t wait to hear them. Together, I know we will find comfort in knowing we are not alone. ***There is one requirement - This blog will not turn into a place for Mormon bashing. There is plenty of that in Utah. While I understand how and why this comes about, I do not wish to participate. Almost all of the Mormon people I have met here are genuinely good, kind people and I think they will learn from us about what it feels like to be on the outside of their very tight community. I welcome LDS members to join in our conversation.
I am a 52 year old mother of two. My daughter is 22 and in graduate school. She is smart, kind-hearted and gorgeous. My freakishly intelligent son is 18 and thinks he is the funniest person in the world. I must admit sometimes I agree. My husband is a brilliant man who dazzles me with his knowledge and quick wit. I love them all more than life.
I am a politics junkie and I love Barack Obama, but I will try hard not to get on my soapbox too often. I have a love/hate relationship with Utah and that has led me to start this blog.