“Not in some sissy way”

Feminism Parenting Women

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been out of Mormonism so long that I can hardly remember what it was like. Yet it’s in there — deep in the bowels of my brain — perhaps built into the foundation of my personality.

Since my kids have gotten old enough to enjoy Legos (which I love!) — and since now I’ve been enjoying some Minecraft adventures with them — I caught this message involuntarily popping into my thoughts:

Once there was a little boy named Jamie. He had some great friends, but his greatest friend was his mom. Not in some sissy way. She was just different than the other moms. While they were busy going to her fashion shows and bridge parties, she was home with him. They would go on bike rides and hiking and have long talks. She was the best football player on the whole block! At least, that’s what the other guys said. They wished their moms were more like her.

Now, I’m not going to sing you the rest — perhaps you recall, it’s a song about a boy whose mom dies. But the above-quoted paragraph is the part that really stuck with me — it’s the part I remember from my childhood.

Sure, guys-who-just-wanna-be-guys are people too, and deserve to have their stories told. Yet, I suspect that the point to the above is rather that the writers don’t want the males who are sensitive about their masculinity to just tune out when they see that this is a sentimental story. So they throw in a gratuitous jab at “sissies”. And at women who like hanging out with other adult women. Not that there’s anything wrong with moms who play bridge or go to fashion shows, it’s just that they’re not quite as deserving of un-sissy-like love as moms who stay home to play football with their sons.

The problem is that boys on their way to becoming manly men aren’t the only kids in the audience. Try watching it from the perspective of a girl who’s being constantly told in a million subtle ways that her worth is determined by how pleasing she is to the males in her life; that the boys have exciting dreams and ambitions, whereas her interests aren’t much more than a plus that makes her potentially cute or useful.

Now if you’re a girl and you love American-style football, that’s great! Personally, I can hardly imagine anything more boring (at least anything that takes place outside the 3-hour block). So, as a kid, I kind of had difficulty relating to this filmstrip. Of course, I also find fashion and bridge uninteresting, but to me it said that what made those other moms inferior was that they had their own friends and their own interests. Yet, my own mom was a faithful, stay-at-home Mormon mom, and she absolutely had her own friends and interests. To me, that’s a big part of what made her a fantastic mom!

Now that I have my own kids — two sons, ages 8 and 10 — I’m happy when I can find common interests with them, so we can enjoy doing something fun and creative together. I’m also happy that I have my own life, my own friends, and my own hobbies and interests (some of which, perhaps, my children will someday share). And they can feel free to love me in a “sissy way” or a non-sissy way or however they like!

Did any of the rest of you have similar memories or reactions…?

3 thoughts on ““Not in some sissy way”

  1. I think it’s important for parents to find a balance between being a parent and still maintaining their own lives and interests. Kids grow up, and it’s healthy for parents to be able to let go. It’s really unhealthy when parents are not able to separate from their adult children.

    That process has changed in the past hundred years (fortunately). It used to be that some of the only power accessible to women was through their sons. Not sure how this relates to mormonism, aside from women only being allowed a certain role (devoted, sacrificing mom). I think that this is changing – the focus in mormonism (and elsewhere) on having interests outside of child-raising. I think it’s part of smaller family size and other reasons…

    chanson – in terms of male/female dynamic, my dad has never liked American football (famously). We never watched the super bowl, the NCAA tournament, etc. I’m sure there are many different reasons he’s socially on the outskirts of the various wards he’s been in, despite being a traditional full believing temple-going member. Yet even he has admitted that he’s not the type a mormon male (i.e. devoted to sports).

    I don’t know if that’s mormonism, or American culture or what, but I think it’s interesting. Some interests, activities are acceptable for men and women – and other things are not acceptable. And these appear to be very culturally based, in some cultures ballroom dancing (for example) is more acceptable for men than in others. Or women playing soccer.

  2. I was talking to a friend the other day who told me that the Church was the only place he didn’t feel judged for being effeminate. He felt he had good male role models at church (e.g, his bishop), but ultimately had to leave because he’s gay. So, perhaps some locales of the Church have “evolved” to a point where gender variance is considered okay so long as gender roles are maintained. E.g, you can be a “sissy” so long as you know you’re going to be a father and a husband someday. A woman can play football, so long as she’s doing it as a mother…or at the end of the day, knows her role as “mother” is most important.

    the focus in mormonism (and elsewhere) on having interests outside of child-raising.

    A lot of mormon.org commercials seem to have to this theme…men and women doing all kinds of different things. But in the end, the familial roles are deemed most important.

    I think that’s a message that does resonate with people…heterosexuals especially, and homosexuals increasingly. The thing is, you don’t need all the extra “Mormonness” to come to a conclusion that familial relationships are important. Plus, I don’t think the nuclear family is the only kind of kinship that should be celebrated.

  3. I was talking to a friend the other day who told me that the Church was the only place he didnt feel judged for being effeminate. He felt he had good male role models at church (e.g, his bishop), but ultimately had to leave because hes gay. So, perhaps some locales of the Church have evolved to a point where gender variance is considered okay so long as gender roles are maintained.

    You may well have a point, considering how men are expected to express emotion during testimony bearing, which some have pointed to as the secret of Glenn Beck’s success.

    I was going to say that the whole idea of calling people “sissy” was (fortunately) already kind of old-fashioned when I was a kid (in the 70’s), and is even more old-fashioned now — not just in Mormonism, but in the culture at large — (see here). Yet Andrew’s latest post makes me wonder if I’m engaging in wishful thinking…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *