Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Value of a Woman

I am a mother who has worked outside of the home by necessity. Part of me has resented the fact that I've not had a choice. As I look at the current climate of women's issues, an intriguing thought occurred to me.

Historically, there has been an undeniable lacuna between the value of a man and the value of the woman. Men have been valued by how robust they are, by how much money and how many decisions they can make. Women have been valued by their domestic skills, taking care of others. By their very natures, both have ideally been about putting others needs above their own, but for men that means being assertive, even aggressive to protect the interests of his family, for women it means being passive, yielding and gentle. For ease of reference, I'll call the stereotypical male values as "hard" and the stereotypical female values as "soft".

Over the course of time, intelligent women have looked around and noticed that soft values allowed those more "assertive" to take advantage of them, leading to abuse. Whenever someone is of a giving nature, there is always someone else waiting to push the boundaries of that giving, to strip as much advantage out of it as possible. So, those intelligent women saw a need to become more assertive, to adopt the harder qualities and prove that they, too, could be hard.

As a result, they have elevated the worth of those values even further. By looking at the difference in perceived value, and deciding that in order to become more valued, they must adopt hard qualities, they have essentially bought into the myth that the hard qualities are of more value than the soft ones. In a way of speaking stereotypically, women have sought value by becoming more like men.

I think this is addresses the symptoms of the problem, and ignores the real problem, which is that historically speaking, women do not feel valued.

Interestingly, the gospel teaches us the exact opposite: that the softer qualities are more valuable.

We see in scripture, however, that there are times which softer qualities are in danger of being completely wiped out by those willing to take advantage of them. In such cases, it is appropriate to take a stand. In other words, when abuse threatens, those harder qualities of assertiveness and even aggression have value.

So my thoughts are summed up like this: I think that women (and men) will be more benefited by lifting the value of softer qualities, rather than continuing to support the value of the harder ones. Let submission be seen as praiseworthy, let avoidance of the limelight be valued. Let those who sacrifice their own interests to clean house, take care of kids, serve in the community behind the scenes, be honored equally with those who gain educational achievements or business success.

The trick is knowing how to do it without being condescending. They have to be honored with more than lip service.

And, of course, by honoring those values loudly and publicly, perhaps their worth would be compromised.


  1. Excellent thoughts. Thank you for all of your inspiring blogging.

  2. Very important concepts...

  3. But I believe I can be "softer" by being "harder." Or, be assertive about being kind, humble, caring, and doing good.
    I have developed all my good qualities, and every mother knows that you have to be assertive to make the best choice for your children.
    So, to make the best choice for yourself you need to be assertive.
    You even need to be assertive to help others around you NOT make bad decisions.
    I think the Savior was a great example. He was a leader. He was assertive. He resisted temptation. He did what HE chose to do which included doing right. He answered questions with confidence. He acted.

    However, I don't mean to sound like I disagree with all of your post. You make some good points and we should be aware of what qualities we praise and admire.

  4. I think the problem with the struggle you represent here, as well as your proposed solution, is that this isn't meant to be an either-or decision.

    When it's time to fight, peace is the wrong decision. When it's time for peace, war is the wrong decision. Neither one, on their own, is inherently right or wrong. I point to Ecclesiastes 3 for a better illustration of what I mean.

    The loving heart of a woman is beautiful and divine, powerful and amazing. It has an astounding capacity for both joy and pain. But that same heart can love with fierceness and with a demand for that which is righteous. In the face of evil, both men and women alike must be willing to stand in ferocious opposition. That is not just a man's right and responsibility. It is the obligation of every God-loving soul in and out this world.

    There is a time for hardness, and a time for softness. There is a time to know good AND evil, not just good FROM evil. That is the only way to obtain the wisdom we promised to obtain by coming here. Which isn't to suggest that we partake of that evil for the sake of knowledge. That is still a sin. But we need to look upon sin with open eyes and reject it, or we are still going to be unprofitable servants upon our deaths.

  5. Thank you, everyone, for your comments.

    Anonymous & Paradox—thank you for expanding on points I only touched lightly in the post.

  6. I love discussing these things. I agree with Paradox, but what I sensed from your post was that our culture needs to value the 'soft' more than it does.

    I actually don't think it will do that for us, though, so I personally feel that we have to come to that ourselves and maybe hope to help change the culture a little.

    Which is also what I felt was part of your message, yes? We need to find ways to honor these virtues publicly.

    Personally, that is one reason I'm grateful for our leaders - because they do that often. They remind us that the most important work ANY of us will do will be work of the heart, of relationships, especially of family but also of service and love to others.

  7. Yes, it was a sort of "we need to value these things more publicly" yet, on the other hand, if we do will they lose some of their value?

  8. I am not sure if this is what you mean, but if "softer" qualities were to become more trendy, either from some kind of public acknowledgment or otherwise, some may feign these qualities just for appearance and to be part of the "in" crowd and not really for their own virtue.

  9. ome may feign these qualities just for appearance and to be part of the "in" crowd and not really for their own virtue.

    I think no matter what, this will always happen. True righteousness is a state of heart, not something that can be feigned. God knows whether or not we are sincere.

  10. Wow! Awesome thoughts. I may be on an island here but wouldn't it be awesome if men not only accepted the "softer" side of women but realized that God made them that way to help teach us as men to be softer.


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