On Separate Spheres (Part 2)

This is a continuation of a post from yesterday, found here.

To overturn this idea of separate spheres, a shift in focus to acknowledge the public actions of the women in the church would be beneficial. Also, bringing the home life or private sphere contributions of men would pull the historical narrative into better balance. Both men and women are involved in and out of the home, and it is unrealistic to assume otherwise.  Both sexes perform vital roles in both spheres. Perhaps if a rewrite of the history is impossible, a focus on changing how this period of time will be recorded historically could begin. Men and women could live –and record- their activities outside of spheres and their involvement with the church.

As for suggestions on what to include in a revised history of the church, the options are broad, but not limitless. Any source where historians acquire men’s history could also be an opportunity to find similar women’s history. More specifically, themes regarding work outside the home, political activism (throughout the entirety of church history), early sister missionaries, and the relief society are good places to start to look for women outside of their traditional sphere. Much of this may be hard to incorporate in to the mainstream history of the church, as a lot of it is American history. This is just not significant to many members of a worldwide church.

As historians interested in revamping the history of the church work through the existing history, they could look for examples of instances where women went above and beyond what was expected of them for their time. Seeking to balance the number and quality of the stories shared in manuals to reflect men and women equally, so that members of the church can see that men and women throughout church history had valid contributions in many aspects of their lives. Also, acknowledging those who were faithful and disagreed with the actions of the church could provide some interesting insight. If this unity could be achieved, the potential benefits to the members of the church are significant. There is strength in unity and in a blend of the spheres (which by nature complement each other). The united front of men and women working in the area where they are best, regardless of the traditional sphere would bring about major changes in the culture and action of the church.

Through a rejection of the separate spheres notion, women as well as men could be better valued for their actual contributions. For example, in many families, the husband is unable to work due to medical or other problems, thus making the wife the primary breadwinner. Culturally, she is looked down upon because she is not in her ‘proper sphere’. The Proclamation is where many members get their ideas on roles. The proclamation explicitly states that its guidelines were to be adapted depending on individual family circumstances. Those who do not need it often ignore that phrase. If the history of the church better showed those ‘exceptions’, the members who are ostracized for being somewhat different would be able to feel more included, and those who look down on the ones who are not ‘normal’ would be able to learn to fix this problem.

A thorough rewrite of Mormon history would benefit the work of the church and the success of the families within the church. If lessons could focus on themes of unity, proactivity and determination equally between men and women, then it could change the way women are perceived in religion today. Instead of strictly men on the podium and women in the pews, women could be more active participants in their religiosity.

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