Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mormon fairy tales

One of the problems with Mormon culture is the pervasive use of fairy tales. You can see it popping up in lots of places, but where you see it the most is with the Young Women (the female teenagers). This is probably the most dangerous place it could be at, too.

The first place where I remember seeing it is in a popular (and adorable) Mormon movie called Charly (IMDB "Charly"). This movie is about Charly, a worldly woman who comes to Salt Lake City from New York City to escape deciding whether or not to accept the proposal of her boyfriend. Even though she's living with him, she's confused. In SLC, the first person she meets is Sam, who is an Eagle Scout and Return Missionary and he tucks in his polo shirt into his jeans and he is just waiting to teach this heathen how to pray. They go on a date, and she accuses him of believing in fairy tales, complete with a castle (the SLC temple). I guess he believes in fairy tales because he believes in this picture perfect idea of marriage and soul mates and etc. (I haven't watched the movie enough to be able to quote lines), while Charly is much more skeptical and pessimistic.

This reference to temple marriage as a fairy tale isn't that bad, though, because it's a criticism on the part of someone who is not LDS (at least her character isn't. I suspect that the actress is). It's more of a statement that LDS members believe in a more innocent, less messy, concept of love and marriage.

Church members must've taken this idea and run with it. I, personally, could not escape it when I was in the Young Women's program.

You start seeing crowns and princess references everywhere, like this picture that I got from a random blog. I think maybe the intent was to teach girls self-worth, something that I'm a big fan of. Girls should feel special and divine, like princesses. I believe they should feel exactly like the girl in The Little Princess by Frances Hodges Burnett.

The problem, for me, arrises with the "Remember who you are," part, conveniently starred for emphasis. Instead of being like, 'hey, don't let high school bullies and regular teenage insecurities get you down. You're great the way you are,' it becomes, 'hey, don't make bad choices because you're a better person than that.' To me, it feels more like a guilt trip than an esteem boost.

Then there's this wonderful picture to the right. This is a picture of an LDS temple somewhere, not sure which one. The idea of the slogan is supposed to be 'if you can't marry me in the temple, then I'm not going to even bother with you. So you better shape up, because I need a man.' So again, we're doing the guilt trip thing, except this time we're using our "womanly wiles" to try to "flirt to convert." Which is flat-out TERRIBLE.

The Church has always had a very strong emphasis on marrying someone who is LDS and someone who is temple-worthy. It makes sense that they would want you to marry someone with the same belief system as you, because not only can you produce lots of LDS babies, but it does also make life a lot easier when you can agree on something so huge. That part does make sense. The temple thing comes because a core part of LDS beliefs is getting sealed in the temple together. Okay, again, that works.

By why are we emphasizing this so strongly that we are teaching young girls to refuse to even consider a man of another faith? How wrong is that? There are PLENTY of good men who aren't LDS, and plenty of horrible ones who are LDS. Having this belief system and having a temple recommend does not automatically make you a good person, or a good husband.

So lots of leaders and teachers of the Church have created this culture of teaching girls that they are princesses in order to keep them in line. Other problems that are arising? For one, we are again pounding into young teenagers' heads that they should be thinking about marriage ALL OF THE TIME. I definitely experienced this personally. I was so convinced that I was going to marry the first boy that I kissed that I got way too intense way too quickly for this poor sixteen-year-old boy and scared him away.

Young LDS girls get it into their heads that they need to have the fairy tale ending. This cute graphic contains a quote made by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who has one of the highest and most respected leadership positions in the LDS church. This is a cute and hopeful quote that girls take to heart, and instead of thinking 'I have so much divine potential. I should work hard at my religious studies, as well as other wholesome things, so that I can be happy in self-improvement,' they internalize junk like this into 'where is my prince to sweep me off of my feet?!?! As soon as some wonderful man says all the romantic things that actors say in chick flicks, then I can be fully happy in my life.' Marriage gets warped into something easy and only happy, instead of the reality that it is hard and takes work. True love becomes a race, instead of becoming a lucky part of life that will come along when it is meant to.

And for me, church activities became all about opportunities to talk to and look at boys, instead of a place where I could increase my faith and friendships.

Not to mention, historically, princesses were commodities that were basically "sold" away as a way of brokering peace with neighboring monarchies. They were expected to look good, produce heirs, and sew useless things. Is this archaic idea something we really want to ingrain into impressionable girls for the sake of a clever metaphor? I wouldn't think so.

13 comments:

  1. Hello there! I stumbled upon your blog and I am intrigued! As a married LDS woman, I completely agree with you that the minds of the young women in the church are being warped. I also feel like the young women are being taught that they can't do anything unless they have a husband. Lessons in Young Women's today are teaching these young women how to be reliant on someone else. Also, what is up with this castle and prince charming stuff?? Why is the church endorsing this?? You're right, this is setting up women in the church to think that the man you marry will be inhumanly perfect. He will basically do everything for you and take such good care of you by making tons of money so that you will not have to worry about doing anything other than getting pregnant and raising kids. What man can live up to this expectation? There are feelings of self entitlement among the women of the church, both single and married. Life and marriage isn't a fairy tale, it takes work and humility. Just because you're married in the church does not give you a pass to be lazy and self righteous. I was very pleased when I read this article regarding the women in the church: http://ldsmag.com/article/8174/1

    Sorry if I have offended anyone with my whole just get pregnant and raise kids rant. I just wish the women in the church can understand that you don't need this fairy tale stuff. You can choose to be happy, and you don't need another person to make you feel loved and you especially don't need another person to make you feel like a daughter of God.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comments! I never thought of what you're saying, that women with this attitude can lead to wives who don't work at their marriage. I'm sure it's not true of everyone, but that attitude of entitlement really does no one any good. I think at least women are going to end up disappointed or with browbeaten husbands.

      I generally agreed with the article posted (though I had to start skimming because it is very long). I didn't like this part, however:

      "• Be a lady.

      Is there a difference between a woman and lady? When a female client was recently asked this question she said, “Woman is a gender, lady is an attitude.” An excellent definition of the difference. One man said, “My wife is my yardstick for womanhood. She acts like a lady, she dresses like a lady, she talks like a lady, and expects to be treated like a lady. And she’s fun to be around.”

      Men love being with a lady. They’re surrounded by men all day, or some women who are trying to be like men, so give him the gift of having a wife who is a true lady. He’ll love it. And yes, ladies can do all kinds of tough tasks and still be a lady. Does that mean she has to wear a skirt all the time. Of course not. That’s not even practical. It means she acts in gentleness, but can work like a trooper. She is strong, and yet is respectful and gentle in her strength. She doesn’t curse or act vulgar. She speaks in loving ways. She embraces her femininity. That’s being a lady. Remember, it’s an attitude.

      President Faust said, “Femininity is part of your inner beauty.” (Ensign, May 2000, 96) So let it show by how you act."

      I don't believe that you need to be anything just because a man/your husband wants you to be. And I believe that femininity, as a gender, can present itself in many ways. I think many General Authorities emphasize this as a desirable trait in women simply because of the generation they grew up in. They are always talking about women being "gentle." But we aren't in the 1950s anymore, so women, and men, should feel free to be whatever they want to be. Gender can manifest itself in many ways, and I don't see that as a bad thing.

      Thanks again for your comments!

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    2. I think that you don't understand President Uchtdorf's talk as I did. I am a young woman of 16 and I did not think any of those things when I heard this talk. I don't feel as if I have to sit around and wait for someone to save me I know that I am perfectly capable with the Lord's help. I don't always love fairytale stories after all I wore my brother's clothes up to 6th grade. I was a tom-boy, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the stories such as Bell from Beauty and the Beast or Sleeping Beauty or Snow White or Cinderella. These characters exemplify wonderful traits. Bell had intelligence, loyalty, and courage, she also learned to love someone who was the epitome of the anti thesis of prince charming. Sleeping Beauty followed her heart. Snow White was kind to all, and knew how to serve and work. Cinderella fought for the underdog and worked with those who were unkind to her without having any bitterness. I'm not saying they have no faults but they were human. What I got out of his talk was that we have a divine potential as daughters of a king and we should strive to live up to it. I am a feminist as well though my definition may vary from yours. My definition is congruent with the urban dictionary. Feminism is the belief that all people are entitled to the same civil rights and liberties and can be intellectual equals regardless of gender. However, you should still hold the door for a feminist; this is known as respect or politeness and need have nothing whatever to do with gender discrimination.

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    3. I think you need to go back and reread my post, because it was a response to the fairy tale aspects in LDS culture and not to any specific talk. I'm happy that you recognize your divine potential, but I do not see "princesses" or "kings" as an appropriate metaphor for the reasons I outlined above. You mentioned that Disney re-tellings of some of these fairy tales have women with some great traits, which is true, but I'm sure you've heard how problematic Disney princesses are as well. For example, Sleeping Beauty didn't actually "follow her heart," whatever that means - she waited around for a princess to rescue her, as many of the Disney princesses are forced to do. Cinderella eventually escaped her abusive family through marriage, which Prince Charming only wanted because he fell in love with her beauty (same with Prince Phillip in Sleeping Beauty, actually, seeing how they didn't know each other). Belle loved her prince for something beyond his looks, but the Beast also had a raging anger problem that was never solved.

      Feminists don't get their definition from Urban Dictionary. Feminism is comprised of complex academic thought that women have added to for over a century. Holding the door is ... so the tiniest, littlest issue when it comes to feminism. And no, it does not have nothing whatsoever to do with gender discrimination, because anything that you would not do for a man is a discrimination based on genitalia. That's the definition of gender discrimination. As Caitlin Moran said “You can tell whether some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring, ‘And are the men doing this, as well?’ If they aren’t, chances are you’re dealing with what we strident feminists refer to as ‘some total fucking bullshit’.”

      As a young woman of 16, I'm sure you know you have a lot to learn. I would suggest looking into more actual, real feminist sources rather than trusting an open-source colloquial dictionary to make the definition for you.

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    4. I took your advice and reread your post. I understand your opinion but do not fully agree. I admire that you can state your opinion and are strait forward with your beliefs.
      I have had times when I felt the same way but then I realized it wasn't the doctrine that was wrong it was me. Yes I've felt as if mutual was a time to hang out with the guys but then I came to the understanding that it was for us to grow spiritually together. The only thing that had changed at this time was my perspective. My parents always say that the church is a perfect gospel filled with imperfect people. I truly believe this.
      All the talks you referred to were messages from God. Who are we to defy the Lord and his messages. We in all reality are daughters of a king. That is a truth. Our understanding of what all this entails may be imperfect but the message itself is. I don't believe the youth are being brainwashed. The only way something can enter your being is if you allow it access. Satan taints the lords messages and brings doubts to our minds. We must doubt the doubts before we doubt our faith.
      Thank you for stating your beliefs it has helped me solidify mine.

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    5. You're right, the only way the messages of the General Authorities, who are humans, could have harmful affects or interpretations is because Satan. Thank you for stopping by and confirming that Mormons will do absolutely anything to avoid having beliefs challenged. Have a wonderful day.

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  2. I am a married LDS women with seven (yes seven) BEAUTIFUL darling, messy, fun and crazy kids. I have 4 daughters and often call them my princess's. They love it. I love it because to me they are my princess's. And yes I call my boys Prince Charming, but they don't really like that very much. I loved Elder Uchtdorfs talk about your "Once Upon A Time Is Now". Fairy Tales are magical, and being married and raising children is the most incredible, magical fulfilling thing I have ever done (this includes sailing through the South Pacific, jumping off misty waterfalls, hiking through rainforests or going to Grad school in Hawaii). My days are filled with such hard, dirty, gritty wonderful work. I often watch my kids working, riding horses, dancing under the stars and even arguing with each other and wonder how I got so blessed. Life is tough, but that does not mean it can still be filled with a good douse of magical moments. Marriage is hard, but it is so worth it. Eternal marriage I believe is even harder, but even more worth it. To some my life would be considered a fairy tale (in fact I have had more than a few people tell me that one day I am going to wake up to reality and see that life can't really be this good-they didn't know my husband) but believe me, I know I have changed enough diapers, swept enough floors and wiped enough noses to know that this is real life and I am loving every minute of it.

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    1. I'm not sure what your point is. Are you saying that your life is a fairy tale, so everyone should act as if their marriage and family is going to be the same one day? It sounds to me like your life has been full of hard work that pays off with happy moments. Good for you. But that's not a fairy tale. In fairy tales, princesses are rescued by handsome princes who fall in love with them based on their beauty. Women are passive figures who do very little other than be beautiful and need to be rescued. If we were to take Uchtdorf's quote literally, that would mean teaching YW to do not but wait to be rescued and value only their appearance. In that quote, Uchtdorf didn't give any instructions, encouragement, anything useful at all. Perhaps the rest of his talk is different - I haven't read it in a while. If you are raising your "princesses" that way, that is your prerogative, but that's not something I agree that the Church should be teaching YW.

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  3. All this stuff just make me feel bad. I´m mormon and I´m 30 and, plus, single. I feel completely "unworthy" in the Church, meanwhile "in the world" I´m a good friend, daughter, sister, worker, student... but in the Church i´m just the single woman on her 30´s crisis. It was driving me crazy and sad until the day I decided to let it go... now I´m back, but however I´m still not so confident that Church will ever change it...

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    1. Change is what you decide to make it:)

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    2. I'm terribly sorry for your bad experience within the church. I married young, so I don't fully understand what you've been through, but I've heard and read a lot from other members who have been through the YSA programs for years that they feel very neglected by church culture and members. For me personally, leaving the church was the answer. Somewhere in the scriptures it says "by their fruits you shall know them," and that's been my experience with the church: it made me very unhappy and always made me feel bad, so I left. I'm so much happier now. Of course, that isn't the answer for everyone. If you continue to stay with the church despite the difficulties, I admire and support you. If you leave, that would also be a brave and admirable act, and there are many resources that would help you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and best of luck!

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  4. Your husband is a lucky guy - how often do you let him fuck your pretty face?

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  5. I appreciate this articles for bringing up an important subject: the pedagogy of gospel principles in the church. I think there can be problems with the way things are presented to the young women, specifically modesty and marriage.

    However this post began first about Mormon culture and steadily turned into criticizing the church itself. Believe it or not Mormon culture does not always line up in harmony with the church itself!

    You have quoted leaders to prove a point but have completely neglected to mention that there are many, many talks and teachings about how we cannot expect life to be perfect, we cannot expect ourselves to be perfect, and we cannot expect the people around us to be perfect (including the people we are married to!). There are countless talks and teachings on adversity and how it manifests itself it many different ways in all of our lives, and how we can each receive personal revelation for our individual circumstances. There are also many talks on how MEN should be gentle, after all that is one of the loveliest qualities of Jesus Christ.

    The church is often reprimanding these Mormon culture ideals that women have a checklist for their future spouse.

    If one feels that Remember who you are is some kind of guilt trip, then there's something this person needs to work on... The gospel is all about self-improvement but it's also all about not beating yourself up. If one can rise above the Mormon culture, and truly search and study the truths of this gospel, then they would recognize this.

    Also the church does not discipline anyone for marrying outside of the church (though Mormon culture may). The church simply warns people about the difficulties that arise when marrying outside of your faith. Many people experience these difficulties... It's hard when one of your parents refuses to go to church or participate in family home evening or family scripture study. It hurts, in fact. But the leaders of the church do not push these families to separate... They uplift these spouses and children with messages of love and faith.

    Finally I think that when the church does make comparisons to heirs and princes and princesses and kings and queens and kingdoms... They are not referring to worldly ones. They are referring to eternal ones and there is a difference.

    I think it's great to make improvements to a culture. I think we digress when we get angry and point blame in the wrong places.

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