Thursday, January 25, 2007

#7 in my advice for mormon leadership series

Some of you might be wondering why I even care what the mormon church does or says about anything. And you would probably be right since I haven't considered myself mormon for 15 years.

**Any believing mormons/LDS will no doubt find this post offensive and should stop reading now**

I was thinking the other day about how pervasive American mass media is about weddings. There are magazines devoted to weddings and receptions. There are conventions with wedding planners, hair stylists, florists, pastry chefs, photographers, etc. It is an enormous, billion dollar industry.

Whether or not it's empowering for women - the vast majority of little girls will be sucked into this culture. Bridal gowns are costumes for halloween. Music videos are filled with weddings and wedding imagery (Think a simple kind of life with Gwen Stefani). Many successful movies (Father of the Bride, both versions) are based around this pie in the sky wedding fantasy that many women have. In an episode of the sitcom Friends a few years ago, one of the characters brings out a binder filled with clips and cutouts for her wedding she had come up with at the age of 10. I saw a children's cartoon (Little Bear) with a fake wedding with an aisle the other day. These fantasies all have aisles and brides in gowns and veils. It's literally everywhere.

So - with this tremendous pressure on mormon women to marry and to marry a mormon, what kind of planning does a mormon woman get to do for her actual wedding ceremony? Nothing. She actually has no idea what the ceremony will be like. No one, not her mother, teachers or friends are allowed to talk about what happens. There is no beautiful strapless white gown in her future as she walks down the aisle.

There is no aisle.

In popular culture - people can choose to do lots of things. They can exchange vows in front of immediate family or just a justice of the peace. Getting married outdoors, on a beach, on a baseball diamond is trendy. She can wear pants. While a gay couple can't get married legally, there are plenty of gay weddings. In the end, who cares what a couple decides to do? It's what the couple wants. A mormon woman has no idea what she is in for.

As an adult, I've read more about the mormon ceremony - it's published lots of places on the net and in books. Of course it's seen as horribly offensive to active mormons - who feel the ceremony is sacred and should never be shown to outsiders. (Never mind the fact that it is directly lifted from the Masonic rituals). Many might argue that I should respect others' beliefs - yet this is one part that I find hard to respect. The sacred part of the ceremony should not be the knowledge of the ceremony itself - but the spiritual reaction. AND at this point - when anyone who looked could easily find what happens - why does the secrecy matter? What purpose does it serve?

I agree that some of the wedding culture (like prom culture) is just plain sexist and bullshit. Some women spend so much time planning for their weddings that actually being married seems like an afterthought. Others become depressed after the wedding is over in a "what now" type funk. And yes, at one point the wedding and dowry were an exchange of property (women) from their fathers to their husbands. Weddings and marriage have not always had a glorious tolerant history.

Yet Utah LDS/mormon leadership is (as usual) completely out of touch with popular culture. This isn't surprising since most of them are over 90, white, male and rarely leave Utah.

There is no cultural comparison for a mormon woman to look forward to her wedding ceremony.

I'm not suggesting that I would have stayed mormon if I had actually been able to look forward to my wedding. There are so many reasons why I left - this wasn't even a blip on my radar.

All I'm suggesting is - how can a wedding or marriage be an ideal for a young woman if she doesn't even know what she's in for? It's not an attractive prospect. It's terrifying. Not only does she not know what she's in for, she has to remain pure and chaste in order to get to that pinnacle. Again - she has to sacrifice, possibly lie to herself and others about something in which she is completely in the dark about what happens there.

I cannot imagine how I would have reacted at my wedding in the temple when I saw the men putting on green aprons and chef hats. Then - I would put on a veil - covering my face! Because there is a definite separation there of what the men do and what the women do.

Sure, the leadership does a phenomenal job of indoctrinating children into going to the temple. "I love to see the temple" is a common primary (young children) song - or "My body is a temple". Songs like this are sung by little mormons (as young as three) all the time. They never sing about how going to the temple requires 10% of your income to the mormon church. I guess that's not as important.

It's simply not fair to keep women (and men) out of the process. I'm sure by keeping everything secret that people don't think about how wacky everything really is. It's a method of control and manipulation. There's no question the mormon/LDS church is moving towards a more non-descript, not as separate religious order. If so, this ceremony will have to go - or at least, the secrecy will have to go.


Just one of many said...

I love the overall theme of your blog...empowering women! I hope I am not being too presumptive!

Freckle Face Girl said...

This is one of the (Mormon) things I always felt weird about. The strange & secret ceremony is bizarre to say the least. Some of my friends struggled with it for a long time.

There are other issues along with marriage, that I don't particularly care for either. As part of the culture, girls (especially ones in Utah) are expected to get married to have kids & be housewives. Getting married becomes more about not being an old maid (at the age of 20) rather than the dream wedding. Who likes green punch and mints in a decorated cultural hall anyway? They are expected to go along with the family plan.

Aerin said...

Just one of many - It's true - I guess I have been blogging about women and women's issues recently. I do like the empowering women angle. I do intend to talk about other things though.

FFG - very true. Marriage is just a bizarre institution for many mormons.

My dad said that his grandmother used to think that you could line up 50 mormon men and 50 mormon women and pair them off to have successful marriages. At least my dad admits that this is no longer be the case.

I'm sure that great grandmother would be shocked by the current temple divorce rate.

C. L. Hanson said...

I know how you feel...

There's this weird dissonance between the common wedding culture and the Mormon wedding culture (the long list of "we don't do that...").

And each has its perverse draw and its sickly aftertaste...