At the Gender Rolls Bakery

rollsThe customer reached for a roll, but the baker slapped her hand, “No!” he said. “That’s the Decide and Preside Roll.  It’s for men. Be careful not to take a roll that isn’t yours.”

The customer stepped back, “Can I have one of these?” she asked, pointing toward the Pastoral Care Rolls.

The baker shook his head.  “Let me show you to our Women’s Department.”

The customer followed the baker to the Women’s Department, which was well-stocked with Motherhood Rolls.

“There’s only one kind of roll here!” complained the customer.

“These rolls are divine,” replied the baker.

“They do smell good,” answered the customer.  “But there was so much more variety in the Men’s Department.  The Careers section alone had more options than I could count.”

“If you had a Career Roll, there might not be enough for the men.”

“But I’m really hungry!” protested the customer.

“Well, I guess you can take a Career Roll if you’re starving and have no other options,” conceded the baker.

“What if I just want a Career Roll? Because I might like it?” probed the customer.  “What if I took a Career Roll and a man could take one of these Motherhood Rolls?”

“We have a very similar brand of roll for men.  It’s called the Fatherhood Roll,” explained the baker. “Men eat them alongside their other rolls.”

“Why do men get to have so many rolls and women only get this one?” demanded the customer.

“Men and women are not the same.”

“Are women the same as each other?  Why should all women have the same roll?”

The baker was growing impatient.  “Just eat a Motherhood Roll and I am sure you will feel better.”

“But I’m not even a mother!”

“Never you mind, dear.  The rolls over on the far end are Faux Motherhood Rolls. They’re practically the same, but with no motherhood added. ‘Every woman a mother,’ we like to say!” The baker checked his watch.  “I really need to get going.  It’s time to get the Junior Ordinance Work Rolls and the Scouting Rolls into the oven.  You know how hungry boys get!”

“What about the girls?”

The baker laughed. “Girls don’t need rolls!”

April Young Bennett

April Young Bennett is an advocate, mother, professional, lover of the arts, hater (but doer) of housework and seeker of truth. Podcast: Religious Feminism Podcast Twitter: @aprilyoungb

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27 Responses

  1. Winifred says:

    From this post it’s easy to conclude that feminists don’t want equality they want supremacy

    • Bethany says:

      So why is it okay for men to want supremacy? I think that a woman asking to share the rolls is a far cry from demanding them all for herself, but what of the man who is hoarding? Why would it be wrong for her, but it is perfectly fine for him to do so?

    • Caroline says:

      What on earth is Winifred talking about? Anyone have a clue?

  2. Naismith says:

    The customer reached for a roll, but the baker said, “Are you sure you want that one? It’s still in the display case and a possible choice, but it has dirt and stains from the world on it. Have you seen this Equal Partners Roll? A lot of women find it very satisfying.”

    The customer looked at it. One half was lighter, the other darker, but they swirled together. “But both sides are not equal,” the customer protested. “They are different.”

    The baker nodded. “Yes, they are different, and they are so intertwined that they cannot be separated. Each side is interdependent on the other.”

    The customer stepped back, “Can I have one of these?” she asked, pointing toward the Pastoral Care Rolls.

    “Of course,” the baker said. “Those are baked together in a pan. It takes all different kinds to get the work done. But we could pull one off for you. Usually people don’t choose the one they want, they take what is offered to them.”

    Well, and I could go on. The point is that some of us see this differently.

    Why promote a hyperbolic stereotypical view of church teachings, which may have been truer in the past? When instead we can rejoice in the current acceptance of diverse lifestyles as noted in Elder Ballard’s observation (from 5 years ago!) that, “There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children. The choice is different and unique for each mother and each family.”

    There may indeed still be latter-day saints who believe the extreme views of this baker, but such people are out of step with current church teachings.

    • HRM says:

      Or are current church teachings proferred by elderly men out of step with the Lord’s desires for his daughters and our current human reality? As a married, infertile woman, I cannot tell you how much I hate (*HATE*) the “every woman a mother” stuff. So “there’s no one way to be good mother” might be true, but it has nothing to do with me. I’m not a mother. It’s painful. So as you might imagine, it’s also painful for me to be offered only one type of roll for which I don’t even qualify. Eliza R. Snow was certainly offered other rolls that the motherhood roll. Why have the passage of 150 years resulted in regression rather than progression?

      • spunky says:

        Thank you for being brave enough to voice something that is so personal, powerful and obvious– yet is systematically ignored in Mormonism.

        You are in good company, HRM. Thank you for raising your voice. You are appreciated and valued absolutely, just the way you are. Please fell welcome here, the Exponent bakery offers a large selection of every kind of pastry, in spite of connection to an organization that is focused only on traditional recipes.

      • Naismith says:

        HRM, I am sorry for your pain and I appreciate that nothing anyone can say can make it better in the least. Thanks for sharing your story.

        My son served a mission in which Ardeth Kapp and her husband presided. She had a huge impact on my son. I was vaguely aware that she had been the YW general president, had authored some books and one of the best talks ever about working with priesthood leaders in councils.

        I didn’t realize until my son kept talking about her and I looked up her writings on lds. org that not only were she and her husband unable to have children, but as they prayerfully considered adoption, they were told that is not what they should do, that they needed to serve in other ways. They were married before Roe v. Wade, when many more babies were available for adoption. She could have become a mother that way, but it was not what the Lord had in mind for her. So she filled other roles, and had a huge influence on many young people. I will be eternally grateful to her for what she taught my son.

        I also appreciate the women I know who were married and childless who served as primary, YW and RS presidents in my ward and stake.

        I agree that the church does promote motherhood, perhaps in response to other loud voices that make it seem less important. And I understand that can be painful for those who are not able to be biological mothers. The issue of infertility is addressed in many articles in the Ensign, one about every other year, and an online exclusive collection at
        https://www.lds.org/ensign/2011/04/faith-and-infertility-expanded?lang=eng

      • spunky says:

        Thank you for trying to address infertility and childlessness, Naismith.

        But as someone who is infertile and deals with the issue, let me assure you that the Ensign article you point to can be a suicide trigger for some women in the church who have been pushed too far in motherhood rhetoric, being constantly and violently pricked with “in the next life” lines– lines that invalidate our feelings of worthlessness which stem from the traditions we are taught in Mormondom.

        Please be careful where you tread and what links you advise to women to whom you do not relate lest you become the tipping point for someone to leave the church ….or leave this life.

      • need to be anon just now says:

        Please be careful where you tread and what links you advise to women to whom you do not relate lest you become the tipping point for someone to leave the church ….or leave this life.

        yeah. People often think you have to be extra wicked or extra crazy to feel this way, but seriously: there are so many suicide triggers in LDS writings.

        I knew I’d made the right choice in leaving the church when I stopped wanting to die all the time.

    • Holly says:

      The baker nodded. “Yes, they are different, and they are so intertwined that they cannot be separated. Each side is interdependent on the other.”

      In other words, individuals do not matter in Mormonism. You are only valuable if you are part of a couple.

      The number of divorced and single women who have figured out that they are worthless to the church is staggering.

      God is supposed to love each of us, in and of ourselves, for ourselves. Statements like Naismith’s show how false that message is in Mormonism. To be acceptable, we must be so blended with another person that we cannot be separated.

      Why promote a hyperbolic stereotypical view of church teachings, which may have been truer in the past?

      Because it helps people think more carefully about the current situation. Surely you’re not opposed to thinking, Naismith?

      • Lily says:

        I noticed that too. Even the attempt to “soothe” those that are childless did not include any mention of single women. This IS the ultimate old-fashioned stereotype for women: in order to matter you must have a man. Naismith is there ANY place in the Gospel for those of use that aren’t married?

    • April says:

      Aside from the valid concern about how rhetoric about motherhood can hurt our childless sisters, I do not think it is fair to say that the baker’s attitude is only from “the past.” Yes, rhetoric has improved, for which I am grateful. (I wrote a whole post about it: http://www.the-exponent.com/the-evolving-mormon-definition-of-preside/) However, women continue to be excluded from the roles of deciding and presiding over ecclesiastical councils today. Consider this quote, from a speech given in 2013, which has been reprinted in this month’s New Era magazine (I would say that is pretty darn current):

      Now, sisters, in speaking this frankly with men, may I also exercise a moment of candor with you. While your input is significant and welcomed in effective councils, you need to be careful not to assume a role that is not yours. Ward and stake councils that are the most successful are those in which priesthood leaders trust their sister leaders and encourage them to contribute to the discussions and in which sister leaders fully respect and sustain the decisions of the council made under the direction of priesthood leaders who hold keys.

  3. misunderstood says:

    Having similar rolls does not necessarily mean equality.

    • April says:

      True. But being excluded from certain roles, for no reason other than sex, is pretty indicative of inequality.

      • misunderstood says:

        I agree, but I do believe the priesthood is divinely appointed. I’m not trying to be antagonistic, I’m just trying to understand if you’re appealing to men or to God?

      • April says:

        I wouldn’t call this post an appeal. It’s more of a silly story designed to entertain and get people thinking. But I have written more serious stuff, too. If you are interested in more theological perspectives, you might try this post instead: http://www.the-exponent.com/confirming-our-hope-women-and-priesthood/

      • misunderstood says:

        Apologies, my question was geared more toward the OW movement rather then the analogy itself. I do not comprehend all the points of view, and I’d like to, so I ask questions.
        The story certainly entertained and got me thinking. I look forward to further reading. Thanks April!

  4. Caroline says:

    Ha! Nicely done, April. And particularly apropos because I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve seen from people telling me and my friends to embrace my women’s “roll” as mother and accept the priesthood as men’s “roll.”

    • April says:

      Yes. A bunch of reader comments about “rolls” inspired this post. (This happens to me, too. A lot of times my phone spellchecks me against my will and this is what comes out.)

  5. spunky says:

    Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live on bread alone….”

    This, and your example show how very UNHEALTHY the “gender rolls” bakery is for everyone!

    Thanks for a cheeky and clever post, April!

  6. misunderstood says:

    Loving the perspective of this bakery customer! However, why do you think taking a “male roll” would justify your womanhood? We are women! We are different! Get out of that bakery and go make your own rolls!

    • amelia says:

      I think the point is not that women want to or should take male “rolls” but rather that many rolls have been mischaracterized “male.” There is nothing male about career or pastoral care or presiding or exercising the priesthood. They are all things women can, and do, do with no hindrance caused by their sex organs.

      For probably the umpteenth time, my being a feminist has absolutely nothing to do with my wanting to be a man or claim for myself what is men’s. I don’t want to be a man, and I don’t claim for myself anything that is by definition men’s. I do claim for myself all the opportunities and options necessary to be the very best version of myself. Which does require laying claim to opportunities and options that have been unavailable to women in the past. But there’s a difference between that and wanting to take a “male roll.”

  7. Ziff says:

    Great analogy, April!

  8. X2 Dora says:

    This customer is even more dismayed at the limited selection of “rolls” for women, after reading about how many more types were available decades ago, in the winter edition of the Exponent II magazine. Starting on page 18, at http://www.exponentii.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Exponent-II-Magazine_Winter-2014-Edition-4-website.pdf

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