Friday, March 21, 2014

What I've noticed about Mormon Feminism in Korea

At church in America, babies run rampant during Sacrament meeting, figuratively and metaphorically. There's often wailing, cheeroes flying, and crayons rolling under all the pews. But with all these children comes a force of women to help. I've seen it countless times in hundreds of Sacrament meetings. Grandmothers, aunts, teenage girls, all swooping in to help a mother in need by taking a rowdy child off her hands if only just for an hour.

This happens in Korea too, but with one big difference. The men do it too. When I lived in Korea two years ago, I guess there weren't enough children in my ward for me to really notice the difference. But looking back, I can see it's probably the same in all Korean wards. In modern Korean culture, children seem to be some of the most prized people. So when the bishop's wife walks into our ward with her seven kids, the younger three are all immediately snatched up by whoever can get there first. Last week, one of the men walked in, quickly grabbed the youngest son, and promptly sat down in a pew with the rest of his family halfway across the chapel. The brother cooed, rocked, and just held the youngest son while he slept for most of the meeting. While I held one of the twins before the meeting started, I was a little shocked by the amount of men that approached the baby just to see her and say hi.

One thing I've learned since being here this go around that I didn't fully realize before is that children are one of the most valuable parts of Korean culture. Everyone in the family contributes to a child's well-being. Last week when I helped take the twins to the pediatrician for their shots, I saw that most children were there with both parents, and one child was even brought by her grandmother, aunt, and both parents.

The bloggernacle is blowing up right now with all sorts of Mormon feminist debate. I have my own opinions about it all that I've voiced countless times in countless ways. So I don't want to go over them here. But, as I've sat holed up in my apartment and seen the Facebook comments fly, I've felt so much more removed from it all then I have this past year, almost devoid of opinion anymore because I've said so much so many times and I've just gotten so tired of it all. I think the reason for my apathy this go around is probably because this western Mormon feminist discourse has no place in modern Korean culture for a multitude of reasons.

Last week, at the Relief Society birthday party, there were a lot of men there. They were in the background, making videos and taking pictures, getting the refreshments ready, and helping with the kids. It was all so absolutely normal and clear that each group, the men and women, the Relief Society and the Priesthood, stood in complement to one another. The men seemed as eager to celebrate the Relief Society as the women did! The women still outnumbered the men by a large amount, but instead of being a mutually exclusive activity for the women, this just seemed like a party for Relief Society, where anyone could celebrate- man, woman, or child.

I'm not saying the church in Korea is perfect, but there are some things I've seen done here that I really like.

I'm just saying we all (men and women) need to help young mothers, because it's hard for them. Especially at church. We need to value children the most, and we should show it by allowing both genders to freely demonstrate the value of children rather than delegate it to one sex. And we all (men and women) need to support the Relief Society and understand it's history just as much as we support and understand the Priesthood. I think that by changing these two things, we might be able to change a lot.

And that's my two cents about that.

1 comment:

Dawn Park said...

What an amazing experience! I, too, have learned a lot more about gender roles by living outside the U.S. Live and learn!