Babies or the Priesthood?
Feminist Mormon Housewives has assembled an excellent series of posts on the occasion of women’s history month. I am particularly impressed by Carol Lynn Pearson’s A Walk in Pink Moccasins, which reverses the gender roles in a general authority’s conference speech. Leveraging the golden rule, Pearson claims the theological high ground by pointing out that Mormon men would not want to be treated like Mormon women.
A common rejoinder, advocated by Hugh Nibley, for example, is that the exclusively male priesthood cannot be shared with women for females can have babies. The priesthood barely puts males on a level playing field.
People might disagree whether or not gender equality requires that women have the priesthood. However, the argument that women do not need the priesthood because they can have babies is problematic insofar as analogous statements can justify every gender inequity.
For example, one can argue that women donâ€™t need as much money as men because they can have babies.
One can justify that women have to veil their bodies head to toe because they can have babies.
One can insist that women have to pray in the outer areas of the mosque because they can have babies.
Surely, we all agree that this is nonsense. Every healthy woman can have babies regardless what religion, culture, or ethnicity she belongs to. Some non-Mormon women have even been known to be competent in child rearing. Yet we would not accept other culturesâ€™ gender inequities with a feeble reference that women get pregnant.
Sex is important. So is institutional power. The lesson of liberal democracy is that human beings prosper best when there is a balance of power.
I am sure that there are excellent womenâ€™s programs somewhere in Mormonism. That would be the result of local righteousness and initiative. Results would be more consistent, however, if women played an equal role in decision making.