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I have been taking a class on the socialization of individuals. We look at the whole macrosystem’s and chronosystem’s influence. This week, we have discussed gender – that horrible construct of feminist theory. According to that theory, sex is biological, but gender is expressed. I think that feminist theory is riddled with contradictions. On the one hand, we are supposedly socialized into “male” or “female” behavior. Yet a man may choose to express himself as a female and a female as a male – and those feelings of wanting to express him or herself that way is beyond his/her control. How can that be if we are socialized into our genders and society forces men and women to behave, and view the opposite sex, in certain ways? I’m sure they have a convoluted answer for that that creates even more contradictions. That’s the beauty of feminist theory. It doesn’t have to make sense.

Anyway, we had a prompt this week about gender characteristics in light of science and the Proclamation. I had these thoughts:

Many people believe that all gender differences are socialized. However, research on the brains of males and females consistently reveal structural differences in how men’s and women’s brains work. Research also concludes that in addition to biological difference, men and women also display cognitive differences. It is important to remember that not only are there differences between sexes, but there is variation within sexes, which explains things like “tomboys”. In general, males are more aggressive and have greater visual-spatial ability. In general, females have greater verbal ability. 

I believe that when the Proclamation speaks of gender differences, it is speaking more of responsibilities and not behaviors. If we look at the words we use to describe the Savior (meek, compassionate), they are descriptors that our society usually identifies as “female”. I believe that the Proclamation, in contrasting the sexes, is speaking of areas of responsibility, with men presiding, providing, and protecting and women nurturing, and not gender attributes as it relates to socialized or innate behavior.

Where the Proclamation speaks of divine nature, it does so apart from the directives about responsibilities of mothers and fathers:

ALL HUMAN BEINGS—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

I think our having a divine nature and destiny has more to do with our divine heritage and destiny as “heirs of eternal life” and less to do with gender differences. And by saying that “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose”, the prophets are clarifying that gender, as it is understood today, is not something that is expressed outside of biological sex. Our identity and eternal purpose is tied to our sex/gender. Elder Ballard confirms that pronouncement: 

Men are given stewardship over the sacred ordinances of the priesthood. To women, God gives stewardship over bestowing and nurturing mortal life, including providing physical bodies for God’s spirit children and guiding those children toward a knowledge of gospel truths. These stewardships, equally sacred and important, do not involve any false ideas about domination or subordination. Each stewardship is essential for the spiritual progression of all family members—parents and children alike.

These stewardships are eternal and tied to our eternal identity as males and females, men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers.  The Proclamation declares we are an eternal, divine complement of stewardships, not gendered characteristics.