OK, I started with the title “Why LDS Men Suck,” which I don’t in fact think at all, but it’s really easy to get that impression sometimes, especially in contrast to the praise heaped on the women in the church. I have met a few rare LDS men I couldn’t stand, but on the whole, LDS men are far better than the average Joe.
The inspiration for today’s post is that I was reading an OP at Put on the Armor of Light about the number one complaint LDS men had that they took to their bishop: that their wives, lovely doe-eyed creatures though they are, tend to be excessively critical of them. I was actually really surprised. I totally expected it to be something like “I can’t pay my tithing” or “I can’t stop looking at porn” or “why can’t I wear a blue shirt?” or “I’m secretly gay.” I think this is perhaps colored by my bloggernacle participation. So, the nagging wife thing, which is really kind of obvious, was new information about what troubles the less fair (darker? uglier? what do we call people not of the “fair sex”?) sex at church. I wanted to consider why this might be so. Here are my best theories.
- Men are crap. It’s possible. Supposedly the Celestial Kingdom is going to be brimming with women, all of whom will be glomming on to the one or two available males whose lives of Ghandi-like selfless service render them barely on the level of your average woman in terms of spirituality. I sure hope they’ve worked out the plumbing situation for that because it’s a proven fact that women take 72 seconds longer than men to do the needful. It’s not going to be very heavenly if there’s a line for the bathroom.
- Men are from Mars, Women from Venus. Basically, it’s a communication / expectations gap. Maybe women judge men based on a specific set of female standards (initially financial potential, but eventually things like how much they express their emotions, how intuitive they are, and whether or not they know how to cook), and men judge women based on a specific set of male standards (initially looks, but eventually things like ability to fix a lawnmower or troubleshoot a computer). Women, you can’t criticize your husband for not relishing weepy rom-coms. Men, you can’t criticize your wife for not being able to lift as much weight as you. I sometimes think people would be happier marrying someone of their own sex! The difference is that women are more expressive than men about their criticism because men are either afraid women will withhold sex if they tell the truth or they are too inarticulate to be able to get their feedback across. Is that enough stereotypes for one paragraph?
- The church coddles women and tears men a new one. Similar to #1 above, but perhaps the criticism of men is not justified. Perhaps the church just coddles women due to romantic paternalism, not because women are really superior to men. To hear some leaders talks, you would think most men are barely able to walk down the street without stopping to view pornography or exercise unrighteous dominion or otherwise breaking the hearts of their tender wives. Yet when I go to church, I see men who routinely change diapers, support their wives in their callings, and go out of their way to render service like helping people move and buying loaves of bread on Sunday so we can take the sacrament and renew our covenants not to buy things on Sunday. Where is the “LDS Men are Incredible” talk in General Conference?
- Mormons are perfectionists. There can be a lot of pressure when someone thinks everyone around them is perfect, but they don’t stack up. SAHMs especially can have unrealistic expectations of perfection if they consider the home and children (and husband) a direct reflection of themselves. The Mormon tendency to white-wash both our church history and even our personal histories can also result in a mistaken belief that everyone around us is perfect, but we have to hide our imperfections to fit in. Women may be worried that a less-than-perfect husband is a poor reflection on them by association. Personally, I say be proud of your slovenly mate!
- Women are resentful of limited roles. It’s been said that those who can’t do, teach; maybe those who can’t teach, criticize. Men are often told that they should offer to take the kids for a night or offer to do the dishes to give their wife a needed break. Of course, this assumes that the woman is a SAHM and the man the sole breadwinner who comes home nightly like Fred Flintstone demanding his dinner be on the table when he walks through the door. Clearly parenting is an equal responsibility. Yet even among dual-income households, studies (even studies by men!) show that women shoulder twice the housework. This doesn’t mean we’re happy about it, mind you. People have to own our own choices in order to be happy. Telling people what choices are acceptable (e.g. being a SAHM with a brood of young ‘uns) reduces our personal responsibility for those choices, and over time, resentment builds. If a wife feels that her husband has either limited her choices or benefited from her limited choices, that’s an issue the couple is going to have to work through. To me, this is the most likely root cause.
- Only whiners with bad marriages go to the bishop. Clearly, there’s a limited sample at play here. We can’t draw generalities about all men and women or even all LDS men and women based on the sample of those who go to the bishop with marital problems. Your results may vary. Frankly, I hope they do!
So, what do you think? Are LDS women more critical of men than the other way around? If so, why is this? If not, what is your experience? Is this also true of marriages in general? Discuss.