A friend and I had an exchange on social media the other day that left me thinking for a long time. His argument was that the temple does not need to be gendered because men and women are equally good at things and should both have the priesthood. He used anatomical terms to make his point--the existence of male or female body parts does not determine competency, and therefore the temple should not be gendered.
I would feel a distinct loss if the temple were not gendered. It's one of the few places left where I feel that women are cherished for being women.
See, the problem is that the standard in our culture is still men--especially, ironically, among feminists. We still say things like "Women are just as capable as men." People still flinch and think it's odd when someone says something like "Men are just as capable as women." When there is a problem in business between the innate way men do things vs women do things, we ask the women to change to conform to the male way ("lean in" and "speak up" and "say it again" and "mention your female companion who said it first" and all that garbage.) Nobody EVER chides the men and insists they need to learn to hear how women speak, rather than women learning to speak how men hear. This is because the standard is men.
And the definition of women is actually degrading the more we insist that women are equal (equal to men...you see the problem with the very concept of discussing equality? It assumes there is a standard that everyone is equal to, and that standard is men.) I don't mean degrading as in demeaning. I mean degrading as in coming apart. You can see it in Caitlyn Jenner insisting she knew she was a woman at heart because she loved fingernail polish. As if that has something to do with female-ness. You see it when, as my friend did, women are reduced to vaginas. As if the existence of that body part is the most important part and only distinguishing thing about being female. You see it when we think someone must be transgender because she likes trucks. What's wrong with women liking trucks? We have been reduced to superficial measurements, most of which are objectifying.
If we de-gender the temple because we insist we know best, as we often do (insist, I mean, not actually know), what will happen? We will erase women. We will insist that all of us are equally men. We can all be men together. We're all the same and as good as that male standard, even if some of us lack the body parts for it. You see what that is? That is awful. That is saying we are just as good as men....almost. We are not women--we are men who are missing a little something, but don't worry! It's okay! We'll pretend you have it and treat you like all the other guys. Because you can bet your bottom dollar they're not going to go genderless by making the men wear dresses and veils. But nobody would think twice if they made the women wear trousers. Quite the contrary--they would tout it as an advance instead of a loss. Making us more like men is success. (Alas.)
Women are not men. Women are not as good as men. Women are not body parts (or the lack thereof.)
And we lose something significant when we insist that we become genderless in places like the temple or society because genderless doesn't mean genderless. It means male.
I don't think genderless is possible, actually. I think gender is so inherent that you can't erase it and we can't even conceive of erased--we just conceive of male and call it genderless.
I, personally, love the idea that God understands and values his daughters not in some sort of equitable pity that we're actually as good as his sons, but that he actually values women for what they actually are. Women. Not broken men. Women.
Please don't take that away from us.