Saturday, November 20, 2010

School Stresses

So, once again, I'm on the fence about what I want to study for the next however-long.

I'm trying to lock down a major, and I keep changing my mind. Currently, I'm leaning toward Anthropology with a Sociocultural emphasis (the options are sociocultural or archeological, and I think sociocultural sounds more interesting) with a minor in either French or Italian. I really don't know. I'd minor in Comparative lit, but it doesn't look like BYU offers Comparative lit as a minor.

I considered majoring in Comparative lit for a while, but while it would be interesting, I don't think it would be as interesting as Anthropology.

A few years ago, I met a date at Borders. We didn't know each other; I was working in a restaurant at the time, and he came in, decided I was cute or something, and asked me out. We decided to meet each other at Borders. The date itself was kind of a bust (I cannot now even remember his name), but while I was there, I found an extremely interesting book. It offers potential answers to societal and cultural questions, ie why some cultures revere pigs and some cultures view pigs as horrifically unclean.

Now, I don't by any means think that the theories posited are 100% correct. There is a segment dealing exclusively with the Christ myth, and the author bases many of his conclusions on "probablies." One of the basic tenants of his arguments is that the historical Christ was "probably" not as peace-loving as he is portrayed in the Gospels or as popular opinion would suggest, but that he was "probably" an anti-Roman radical zealot.

Complete conjecture. The author doesn't try to back up those particular claims with anything other than "it doesn't really make sense for Christ to have been as peace-loving and tolerant as he was portrayed." And then he drew all of his conclusions from that piece of erroneous conjecture, which I found annoying. It seemed like he wouldn't or couldn't believe that any person could have based a ministry on genuine altruism. That sort of skepticism is pretty representative of that found within the scientific community, but I think it was more detrimental than beneficial in this case. Rather than base his conclusions on any actual evidence, he based them on his personal feelings.

But his personal biases against Christ aside, I found his work fascinating. I still do. His anti-relgious biases are pretty prevalent, but I felt they were only problematic when he attempted to come up with an alternate explanation for the accounts of Christ's ministry. I believe that the Lord has good reasons for any commandment he gives his children, so I am willing to believe that the Lord's commandment to the Jews not to eat pork could have been because pigs and humans compete directly for food sources, so keeping pigs may have been a luxury the early Jews could not afford. The ancient Hebrews are pretty well-known for being a hard-headed people, so maybe branding pigs as unclean was the only way the Lord could keep them from giving food that should have gone to their children to their pigs.

Those of us who practice Christian religions and believe that the Jews were our predecessors do not currently believe that there is any inherent harm in eating pork or bacon once in a while, which would imply that something changed so that commandment would no longer be necessary. I don't necessarily believe that Christ's atonement cleansed the pigs of their impurities and made them okay to eat or keep as adorable pets.

I'm not saying that the solution put forward in this book is the only possible solution. I'm just saying that I think it's a valid hypothesis, and that the author's anti-religious bias wasn't an issue when trying to answer that particular question.

 Much of his research comes from studying indigenous tribes of South America and the Pacific Islands and deals with power hierarchies within these primitive cultures. Societal power structures fascinate me, and frequently make me incredibly angry. For example, the book tackles the issue of the unequal balance of power between males and females that exists almost ubiquitously. Theoretically, women's collective ability to have children and their generally increased involvement in their raising would give women the ability to root out any way of life that is threatening to them via positive reinforcement and selective neglect. Yet women continuously raise children who grow up to perpetuate the power imbalance between sexes.

In my husband's family, his mother is the primary breadwinner. His father does the majority of the child-rearing. As a result, my husband has a greater respect for women in general and a greater belief that women can be equally capable providers as men, and men can be equally capable child-raisers as women. By seeing the opposite of the stereotype perpetrated successfully in his home as a child, his entire perspective on male/female relations is substantially different than the norm. And then he married what some people might call an angry feminist*, so his opinions are reinforced in our marriage relationship, and it is likely that any children we have will share his opinions as well.

In this family dynamic, it is pretty clear that gender is irrelevant to personal strengths. Some men are naturally nurturing. My husband is that way, as is his father. Some women are not naturally nurturing. His mom seems to do fine with kids (I'm certainly not going to call her out that way in a public forum. Or any kind of forum, for that matter), but I don't mind admitting that they scare the hell out of me. My husband's mother does, however, seem to be extremely well-suited to being the family breadwinner. I currently make roughly twice as much money as my husband does, and I don't think either of us are at all bothered by it.

I once read a study in Psychology Today that said that women who make more money than their husbands tend to view them as less masculine and have less respect for them in the long run. I certainly don't feel that way. Then again, not even the tiniest bit of me believes that it is solely Nate's responsibility to be the primary breadwinner. Most women, I think, even if it's just subconsciously, think that their husbands should be responsible for the financial security of the family. Women are groomed to want to feel taken care of. Another Psychology Today study said that men tend to feel loved when they feel respected by their partners, but women tend to feel loved when they feel secure in their relationships.

I've been freakishly independent since I came out of the womb. The only reason I got married at all was because I love Nate and moving in together and seizing tax benefits seemed like a good idea (still does, by the way). I didn't marry him so he could take care of me. I certainly didn't marry him so he could be my meal ticket. I didn't marry him because I thought it would bring stability to my life.

I feel really bad for the girls who feel or felt compelled to always be in a romantic relationship. I mean, there were males I went to school with who felt the same way, and that sucks for them, but, and by all means, correct me if I'm wrong, I never saw society put pressure on guys the way it does on girls. In LDS society, you're a freak and an outcast if you're under thirty, unmarried, and not going on a date or two a week, but even in non-LDS society, the pressure to find someone who you can pretend to like and who will pretend to like you too is incredibly high.

From what I've seen, many relationships in the high school and college age groups are based on not sharing any interests or values. The girl pretends that she doesn't know that he's a jackass, the boy pretends he doesn't know that she's a harpy shrew, and their farcical relationship continues until one or both of them realizes that they have nothing in common except vanity and self-involvement, and then it all dissolves in a mess of tears and delusion.

Not all relationships are like this, obviously. But enough of them are that I fear for any people, of any gender, who are in this age group and are trying to navigate the tempestuous seas of dating. Avoiding jackasses and harpy shrews is a good start, I feel.

But, and this brings me back to my point, girls and women frequently feel so much pressure to look like they're in the perfect relationship that they overlook the jackassishness that's seeping out of these guys pores. It's often less about actual happiness, and more about appearance. Being happy is irrelevant as long as you look happy to your peers.

Is there a major in teaching people not to be stupid?

*In my defense, it's not just male/female inequality that gets me fired up. I'm deeply opposed to social inequality of any kind, except the sort that favors smart, hard-working people (regardless of their age, race, gender, religion, or social status) over not-so-smart, lazy people (regardless of their age, race, gender, religion, or social status). 

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