In my studies over the last couple weeks, I've come across many theories of peace and conflict, cultural and social frameworks, etc. that try to summarize and generalize the human experience by reducing it to power, social structure, various networks of kinship relations, or other seemingly trite differences. On Tuesday I had a reading about the Patriarchal Bargaining framework, which is a theory that describes how women basically have to bargain, manipulate, and strategize to survive within the patriarchal social and household structures in which they live. As I discussed these ideas with my group, I realized that something about this rigid interpretation of the world bothered me, but I couldn't quite pinpoint what about it seemed weak to me. All of the examples the author used (and more given by my classmates) made sense, and yet I still couldn't bring myself to embrace it as truth.
It's been bothering me ever since, so I've pondered on it an awful lot. This morning I think I finally realized why:
In relying only upon the ideas of power, status, agency, etc. to describe how (and why) a woman interacts within her marriage, household, kinship, and community, the concepts of love, kindness, sacrifice, trust, empathy, open communication, etc. are all cast by the wayside. I know in countless examples around the world, there is much truth in the reality that a woman only thrives if she learns the culturally appropriate strategies to gain and maintain access to socio-economic power (i.e. controlling the family finances, getting a say as to her children's educational and medical care opportunities, etc). But even so, I hate the idea that womanhood has even theoretically, and especially in reality, been reduced to such terms and has lost all that is "lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy."
This idea also assumes that every husband and father is a selfish, domineering social climber who only marries because of the increased social status and other benefits that he can gain from having a wife (read servant) to control. As cynical and degrading as I see the above view of womanhood, I equally reject this pessimistic view of men and manhood. In general, people are good, no matter where they come from!
No matter what culture a man or woman adheres to, I discount any idea that suggests social structure leaves little to no agency for an individual (and therefore a married couple) to express and experience kindness, respect, equality, communication, shared responsibilities, sacrifice, forgiveness, and love. There might be precious few examples of these kinds of relationships in certain cultures or regions of the world, but they do exist everywhere, and therefore they can exist even more abundantly if we choose to foster these types of relationships--no matter where we live. Of course, when it comes to marriage, it takes two people to work in tandem to create such a home, but I've seen examples of this everywhere I've been. And more importantly, the Spirit has confirmed in my soul that THIS is universal truth.
I really do LOVE what I'm studying, and I see many opportunities to apply these new principles I learn as I try to go about doing good to all men and women. But today, I'm especially grateful for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and his role to help me know truth wherever I find it.