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Men of God Are More Than “Just Ken”

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As a woman who has experienced severe abuse at the hands of multiple men, all supposed faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I understand the need for a movie like Barbie. There are cultural systems worldwide that not only denigrate women but harm them. I’m one of the first to talk about how to amplify women’s voices not only in the Church but in our wider communities. When America Ferrara’s character Gloria gave her great monologue (if you know you know), I was teary-eyed.

However, the more I work to understand and live the principle that “all are alike unto God,” I’ve noticed something troubling. Men of God, the good ones, the ones that are trying their hardest, are being poisoned by the way we internalized, talk about, and treat their worldly counterparts.

It was the thing that I cringed at most as I sat in the theater surrounded by a sea of pink. (It’s important to note I was in gold leggings and a pink sweatshirt myself). Men are clearly inferior to Barbie and the other female characters. That’s the point of the “just Ken” mentality. Ken is an accessory and nothing more. While the end of the film speaks to potential growth, I thought of the great need I’ve seen to help men understand who they really are. Right now, it seems they are presented with only two opposition options—either they are masters of the universe or they are buffoons, something to laugh at and step over.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson addressed this phenomenon in his talk, “Brethren, We Have Work to Do.” He said, “In too many Hollywood films, TV and cable shows, and even commercials, men are portrayed as incompetent, immature, or self-absorbed. This cultural emasculation of males is having a damaging effect.”

As movies like Barbie strive to do the good work of giving voice to the struggles of womanhood, it is often at the expense and fun of men. Why is this important to us as Latter-day Saints? Because we often treat men like “just Ken” in our Church. I’ve written before about the toxics myths about men I’ve heard from over the pulpit—that men aren’t naturally inclined to charity and service, that men aren’t as spiritual as women, that men need a woman to inspire them to be righteous…the list goes on and on.

We shouldn’t ever forget that men are created in the image of God and divine creatures with great potential to emulate their Redeemer. This isn’t just about puffing them up in pride or continuing to support stereotypical roles that prevent being equally yoked in Christ. It’s about healing.

We are all hurt by Satan’s twisted deceptions about men and women. An understanding of our divine nature and potential through Jesus Christ, deeply embedded in humble hearts, is one of the most powerful antidotes to the ills in our world. When a man knows who he is and what it truly means to be like Christ, he won’t be overbearing, abusive, or prideful. He also won’t be silly, desperate, foolish, gullible, or empty-headed, as Ryan Gosling’s Ken was portrayed in the movie. He will be gentle, meek, courageous, charitable, and full of vision of what he can be and what he can do for God’s kingdom.

Do we have that vision? Do we see men like this and work to help them feel loved and supported? As I’ve talked with dear male friends in my life, I’ve seen them beaten down and lacking in vision because of what the world tells them. We need to bring healing and compassion to men who are willing to walk the covenant path. Healing doesn’t ever come from the denigration or lampooning of others.

Elder Christofferson continued by saying, “We must be men that women can trust, that children can trust, and that God can trust. In the Church and kingdom of God in these latter days, we cannot afford to have boys and men who are drifting. We cannot afford young men who lack self-discipline and live only to be entertained. We cannot afford young adult men who are going nowhere in life, who are not serious about forming families and making a real contribution in this world. We cannot afford husbands and fathers who fail to provide spiritual leadership in the home. We cannot afford to have those who exercise the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God, waste their strength in pornography or spend their lives in cyberspace (ironically being of the world while not being in the world). Brethren, we have work to do.”

I believe we all have work to do. Without champions of their potential, men are left vulnerable to an onslaught of vicious attacks. It’s myopic (to use President Nelson’s words) of us to expect so much from men while simultaneously expecting nothing at all.

We live in the real world. The opposition we face is real. However, we can heed Sister Linda K. Burton’s call: “As covenant-keeping women and men, we need to lift each other and help each other become the people the Lord would have us become.”

When we do, our reality will become more glorious than any Barbie-land can offer.

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Aleah Ingram
Aleah Ingram
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.

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