Elder Christofferson’s Remarks on Manhood: Feminist Reflections
From Elder Todd Christofferson, who according to Peggy Fletcher Stack’s report in the Salt Lake Tribune, discussed men, women, and manhood during the Priesthood Session, including the following:
“In their zeal to promote opportunity for women, something we applaud, there are those who denigrate men and their contributions,” he [Christofferson] said. “They seem to think of life as a competition between male and female — that one must dominate the other, and now it’s the women’s turn. … This cultural emasculation of males is having a damaging effect.”
Some men, he said, use these signals as excuses to duck responsibility.
“In the church and kingdom of God in these latter days, we cannot afford to have boys and men who are drifting. We cannot afford young men who lack self-discipline and live only to be entertained,” Christofferson said. “We cannot afford young adult men who are going nowhere in life, who are not serious about forming families and making a real contribution in this world.”
These remarks sparked some conversation on The Exponent back email list. I thought I’d share a few of our comments with our readers to give you a sense of some various feminist reflections on these statements.
Amelia: I hate this old strawman characterization of feminism. It could not
be further from the truth for the vast majority of the feminists I’ve
encountered, and it justifies ongoing blame of feminism and the women’s
movement for the ills our society faces.
Libby: I just asked my husband about this. He said that he heard it more as “Society puts down men. Don’t use that as an excuse to be lazy.” Sigh. Let’s not use a (wholly appropriate) social tendency to make fun of American society in the 1950s and 60s (i.e. Two and a Half Men, Flight of the Concords, Anne Taintor greeting cards) as an excuse to claim that there’s a serious attack on men and maleness.
Deborah: “They seem to think of life as a competition between male and female — that one must dominate the other…” Is that an acknowledgement that men have dominated?
Mraynes: You know what hurts men — telling them they’re inherently less spiritual than women. You know what reduces and minimizes the presence of men in the home — telling men they are not natural nurturers, pushing retrograde policies that tell men they should be sole providers and tacitly encouraging professions that are family unfriendly, and then require mandatory priesthood service of many men that takes them out of the home during the few hours they have with their families.
Jessawhy: The tone of this quote bothers me because it shames the men and blames the women. However, I see examples of this phenomenon around me. When an LDS man gets married young, say right off his mission, he is more likely to commit to an education and a career and focus on family and work. On the other hand, some of the single Mormon men I’ve met, for example my chemistry lab partner, who are older are often still figuring out what they want to do with their lives. I don’t think this has much to do with women wanting to “dominate,” but more to do with younger couples falling into the strict Mormon gender roles that land women at home with babies (usually from the beginning) and men in school and then at work. I’d love to see the church focus more on how developing men and women’s abilities together can benefit their children and how sharing parenting and providing responsibilities
Caroline: I agree with Christofferson that we cannot afford to have men drifting and aimless. However, I think it should be pointed out that we also can’t afford to have women doing the same. Both young men and young women need to be serious about their lives, make plans to contribute to the world, and pursue them. As for his characterization of “those who denigrate men,” I agree with Amelia. That’s a strawman.
What are your thoughts about these remarks?