“Your problem,” he said, “is you don’t need a man.”

For those of you who haven't read the recent NY Times Op Ed entitled, "Single, Mormon, Female, Alone," who can read it here.  I read it a few weeks ago and knew that I would come to post here about my thoughts.  But I haven't yet because I've been trying to un-twist them (my thoughts) from the nuanced jumble in which I have found them in reaction to this article.

As a side note, I'm not going to write here my feelings concerning popular media's all-too-frequent publishing/broadcasting of the "fallen Mormon" caricature.  I assure you, there are plenty of LDS folk on the other end of the spectrum who serve as foils to this author and others.  Because that's another story for another day...

What I want to put out there–into the swirling internet cosmos–are just some thoughts.  Not vehement.  Not upset.  Not even claiming that Hardy's (the author of the article in question) is wrong or unfaithful.  Her piece hit close to home and, honestly, was food for thought.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't have any intentions to follow in her footsteps, nor do I think that some of her assertions are doctrinally accurate or true.

The real punchline of the piece was the following:
After overhearing a friend and me comparing our weekend horror-date stories, he walked up to me and asked, “You know what your problem is?”

No, I did not know what my problem was. And I was dying to find out.

“Your problem,” he said, “is you don’t need a man.”

I thought that was a good thing — to be able to take care of oneself.

He asked if I had a job.


“A car?”


“A house?”



“Of course.”



“That’s your problem.”

“Excuse me?”

“Men in the church are raised to be providers. We are the breadwinners, the stewards of the household. If you have all the things we’re supposed to provide, we have nothing to give you.”

 “What of love?” I asked. “What of intimacy and partnership and making a run at the world together?”

“Nope,” he said. “We’re providers.”

This idea of Mormon men being providers–being raised to be providers–was, I believe, insightful.  It was also perhaps the worst thing that this brother could have said to this particular woman.  Insightful, nonetheless.

I'm going to hit the pause button here for a moment to contextualize this post for any random people stopping by this blog that I don't personally know (there are a lot of you lately!).  I am a single, Mormon convert who also happens to be 24 and living in Provo, UT–a land wherein unmarried women over the age of 22 are merely fabled urban legends.  I am not discontent being single...mainly because I have a perfect brightness of hope in marriage and kids in this life, which takes the anxiety out of the whole thing.  I have a great job, I'm studying the thing in this world that I am most passionate about, I don't hurt for money.  I have a great car, a home (albeit rented) and friends that make me smile so wide and so long that my cheeks hurt when I go home at night.  I really love my life.

But I also don't need a man in the way that it is discussed above.  

I do have needs, though.  At first glance, it might appear as though my needs rest wholly outside of gender identification.  I don't need a man to support me financially.  In fact, it may very well be the case that I have the privilege of monetarily supporting my burgeoning family so that both my hypothetical husband and I can follow our passions–or perhaps better stated–so that we can both follow the plans that our Heavenly Parents have in store for individually and as a family.  I don't need a man to provide any of things in the list found above.

Here is what I do need:  real, true, honest to what I deserve love.  A man who honors the responsibility bestowed upon him in the priesthood and is committed and willing to blessing our home with it.  A man to share silly, stupid moments where we get to act like kids...and to balance them with deep, precious shared moments that help us grow closer to God and to each other.  A fulfillment of and wholeness in my temple covenants, which I hold dearer and truer to my being than perhaps anything else.

These are things that I cannot provide myself.  Not through great self-esteem.  Not through self-love.  Not through living to the fullest every moment of my awesome life as a single person.  Not through my devotion to my faith.

As a woman, I am able, in turn, to provide some of the same things.  As with men and the priesthood, I am also able to provide somethings that are uniquely female.

So, I guess all of this is to say that both genders are providers.  If we provide the really eternal things to one another the typical "male provider" laundry list might just...fade into the background.  To my male LDS friends–perhaps it is time to rethink what it means to be a provider.  To my female LDS friends–realize and live up to your responsibility to be a provider.


Anonymous said...

I didn't take the time to read the article but I wanted to reply to your thoughts of that mans statement, "“Men in the church are raised to be providers. We are the breadwinners, the stewards of the household. If you have all the things we’re supposed to provide, we have nothing to give you.”
I agree with you Lauren that both male and female have unique providing roles in a marriage. I guess the reason for my posting is to lend an eye into the LDS male psyche. Yes his statement may be false but that has been ingrained into us all growing up. Perhaps our teachers and leaders didn't know the effect they were having but we most often buy into it because we should "follow our leaders." Now I know that is a cop out(is that how that is stated in written form?) but this isn't a church that preaches "go against your leader." Perhaps this is where the saying, "question all things and hold fast to that which is true" should come into play.

Another huge part that supports the if women have it all already we men don't have a chance train of thought is self esteem I believe. If I don't think much of myself, which most men don't, then my only way to a girl's heart is to "provide" for her. And if she has it all then that leaves no room for me. I know this is such an illusion but it feels so real for a lot of men. I found the way out of this thinking while studying the talk by Ezra Taft Benson called Beware of Pride.

In it it states that if we will serve God and do His will, and Im only paraphrasing, We will have self esteem.

I have found that to be true in my life. It is a quite confidence that comes when we are doing what we are suppose to.

Well, let's face it, most young bretheren of this church are realizing a new life away from home while at college and, perhaps, rebelling against the very structured 2 years of their mission. This is a time for them to find out, on their own, what they really want, what they are really about, since they have been told what to do for most of their life. Their "finding themselves" could become more important to them than following the leaders of the church( this is what they are mostly likely questioning in these years). Thus, self esteem can be affected quite seriously.

Now I know I stated above that we do follow our leaders and that is part of the problem with out provider train of thought. Well, yeah, men will be men. Perhaps this is a human thing and not just men. We follow what serves what we want to believe. Many guys want to believe that their role is to provide and that is it. Some men, I think, conveniently want to forget about their other roles which you so eloquently stated already Lauren. Well, If we want to take the approach that we only need to provide security and finances, and a girl already has those things, well, now you see how men don't see where they fit in. Their role has been filled and that can be very intimidating to men. I would say most men don't go for those girls. Now you can see why the "great catches" stay single for so long sometimes.

I will admit I am so very guilty of this myself. I don't think I have a chance because I think she will think it is unfair to have to provide for the family for a time while I get my education and what not. But slightly to defense, there are girls out there like that but yeah, I have found more on the other side of the coin the more I observe women. My emerging thoughts on women is a whole other short story. I can only speak for myself that I have been so wrong for so long. Women is truly where the strength of the church resides but that being said, all things must coexist in perfect balance.

Well, these have been my scatter brained thoughts. I didn't organize them first to feel free to pick them apart as you see fit. Thanks again for your wonderful post Lauren. Sam

Lauren Kay said...

Thank you so much for your thoughts, Sam. I have let them percolate a little bit so that I can answer thoughtfully.

I appreciate your candor more than I can say. I agree that men in (and outside of) the Church have been taught to value their roles as providers. I also think that there can be room to have a traditional relationship wherein the men are not the sole provider in the common sense of the word.

I think that when it comes down to it, I would hope that each of us look for in a life partner someone who is willing to figure out the Lord's plan for them and that family, without yielding to the temptation to place unnecessary or restricting expectations on a prospective partner.

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