Recently April posted about priesthood ordination and included the line “it doesn’t matter who holds the umbrella.” I had never heard that particular platitude before so I looked it up. Evidently it is a metaphor employed to respond to/deflect the criticism of Young Women who might be baffled by exclusion. As an object lesson, one young woman holds an umbrella and then others come stand under it. The teacher then asks “is the person holding the umbrella drier than the others?” To which the girls are supposed to respond “No.” Thus it doesn’t matter who holds the priesthood, because everyone benefits equally.
I suspect that one of the reasons I have never heard this before is because I have lived my whole life in western Oregon, and we tend to be experts on rain. The first thought I had when I read about the umbrella metaphor is that of course all of the participants were equally dry — they were indoors. If you take that experiment out into the rain it immediately falls apart.
My years of experience tromping through endless rain storms have taught me a bit about sharing umbrellas and I can confidently say that with a shared umbrella, the protection is always unequal.
Point 1: The holder of the umbrella will hold it at a height that is comfortable for him or her. As for the co-shelterer, the tall become hunchbacked, the short tend to get wet.
Point 2: Consciously or unconsciously, the holder tends to pull it over him or herself, so the other person gets wet. Even good efforts to protect the other person fall apart through inattention. No amount of cozy arm linking completely resolves this.
Point 3: It is possible, with a large enough umbrella, to both huddle under it and remain reasonably dry if you stay in one spot. If you try to move forward, however, the above two rules come into play quickly, and are exacerbated by the different gaits of the people in question.
In other words, the umbrella analogy illustrates precisely the opposite of the intended message. If you have to rely on someone else to hold the umbrella, you will come off worse no matter how benevolent they try to be. Without meaning to, they will allow you to get wet because they don’t know the angle of the rain where you are, or they are trying to protect themselves, or they forget your needs are different from their own.
The only way for everyone to receive equal protection is for everyone to hold their own umbrella. Indeed, if everyone in a crowd had an umbrella, there would be a roof and all would be protected. We don’t need to creep under some other person’s shelter and hope they will be merciful. We need a phalanx of able umbrella-teers.