Selfish Feminism

I am not a bra-burning feminist: first, because I think bras are a rather nifty invention, and second, because this is a bad time of the year to be burning anything. Check out those Utah wildfires, yes? That being said, I do consider myself a feminist–sort of a worried-about-stereotypes-and-rigid-roles, hate-being-penalized-or-pedestal-ized-just-because-I’m-a-woman, and fairly-sensitive-to-gender-issues type of feminist.

True story: Two years ago I taught my BYU freshman writing students a standard lesson on “critical analysis.” One group of four young women was randomly assigned a Time Botox ad and told to analyze the ad’s target audience. As the group presented their findings, the spokeswoman explained the target audience was a woman (the class and I nodded), probably in her 40s or 50s (we all nodded), someone who was well-educated, concerned about her appearance, and had disposable income (nodding again), someone who was—in short (and I quote)—a “liberal feminist” (my head halted mid-nod, while the rest of the class continued nodding).

I was totally confused. I replayed their presentation in my mind and stared at the ad for an hour after class: the caption, “I did it for me!” was supposedly spoken by the 50-ish-year-old, stylish and well-groomed woman in the photo, looking fresh, happy, and young from her Botox treatments. I think her words, more than anything else, helped me figure out what was going on: this woman was doing something for herself—clearly not focusing her efforts on her family or friends. Moreover, she was doing something that could be construed as shallow (cosmetic) rather than heartfelt or “deep.” It seems to me that my students were equating concerns for self with feminism. To “do it for me” rather than being focused on others is, apparently, a “liberal feminist” thing to do, at least according to 18-year-olds. Hmmm.

No doubt, a semester in a woman’s studies class would enlighten my students about their hasty generalizations and leaps in logic. But I can’t help wondering if the 20-year-olds in the upcoming generation equate feminism with selfishness. If so, why? What is the thought process? Plus, most of my freshman during most semesters are Latter-day Saints. Selfishness is more than a character flaw, right? Isn’t it the opposite of charity? And the lack of charity just might keep us out of heaven, which is something I take rather seriously. My students are making more than a philosophical statement in calling someone a feminist; they are judging someone’s righteousness, apparently.

So, is it selfish to think women are equal to men and should be treated as such? I say “no.” Of course, what does “equal” mean?

If someone is treating women unequally, is it selfish to bring it to their attention? I say “no,” but I try to do it nicely–usually.

Is it selfish to “do” something for yourself? Surely not one thing. But what about doing one “shallow” thing? How far can we go in “doing things” for ourselves? Where’s the selfish line? And how does being a feminist make you cross it? And why would being a feminist make you selfish? or shallow? or concerned about appearance?

Because I still consider myself a feminist. I’m just not sure we all agree on what that means.

36 thoughts on “Selfish Feminism

  1. Interesting post, Kylie. I’m looking forward to the comments!

    If I were looking to sterotype/draw sweeping generalizations in this case, I sure would not have used the words “liberal feminist” to describe someone considering Botox treatments. I guess I imagine a liberal feminist would be more, well, liberated from our cultural obsession with youth and idealized feminine beauty. Maybe you’re right that among that group of conservative youth “liberal feminist” was a general derogatory term for a woman whose values seemed out of synch with their expectations.

    That said, I’m not interested in Botox, and I don’t consider myself a feminist, mostly for selfish reasons. I came out of grad school heady with ideas about egalitarian relationships and women’s rights. In my head it all made sense, but in practice it made me miserable. It wasn’t good for my marriage and it wasn’t good for me as a person. The more I have swung toward traditional gender roles the happier and more balanced I have felt. Although I recognize that I benefit in some ways from the work of early feminists, I also feel sad that as an educated woman I was socialized to believe in a whole worldview that is not in harmony with the gospel and was not a path to truth or happiness.

  2. Perhaps the notion comes from a view of feminists as women who eschew childrearing. My mother always worked — she didn’t have to for financial reasons, but she always insisted upon it. I always felt, even as a very young child, that my mother was being selfish for ‘abandoning’ me to the nanny. As a mother now, I can understand her desire to imprint herself upon the professional world, but I still have those lingering feelings that my mom was always trying to escape from me.

    That feeling hurts. And so it is, I feel I have swung the other direction. From that perspective, I can understand where the moniker comes from in your students. It might not have anything to do with women’s rights, pay equity, suffrage, sexual discrimination. It may have a lot more to do with the personal ramifications of women who, during the Betty Friedan rage, chose to run as fast as they could from their families.

  3. Yes. All feminists are selfish. Railing against inequality strikes me as envious, which is connected with pride. Of course, I say this as a perennial white male.

  4. I think we’re really looking at age-ism here. I don’t think BYU college girls think women over 40 should be doing anything other than self-sacrifice, and I don’t think BYU college girls think women over 40 should be “well-dressed” in anything other than flowered servant dresses. BYU college girls don’t see 40- or 50-something women as anything they’ll become. If the commercial was about cosmetic surgery or acne treatment for 20-somethings, they would never have labelled it feminism.

  5. The BYU students I know are a pretty sharp lot. Of course they are young, but youth is not a character flaw or a moral failing.

    When asked to generalize about the woman in the ad, they did, going exactly where the ad pointed. To get even, we can generalize about the BYU students. But maybe we should turn our attention to the advertisers instead. Their appeal to the baby boomer out to please herself is a clever tactic designed to sell.

    Surely a potential Botox customer would rather be portrayed as a smart feminist doing something for herself. How much Botox would they sell with a woman saying “I did it because my husband thinks I’m too wrinkled!” Or “I did it for my insecurity!” Not too catchy, is it?

    Maybe instead of being offended (an offended feminist?!) feminists should be affirmed. Botox thinks that a feminist slogan will hit the mark better than anything else they could have put in this ad. That “something for me” attitude so linked with feminism has broad appeal and sells stuff. No surprise.

  6. What an interesting response from your students, Kylie. I must admit that I’m rather baffled by it myself. The problem, of course, is that feminism is such a broad and slippery term, and one that’s become a dirty word in many circles.

    I certainly consider myself a feminist in the sense that I believe in equal and just treatment of all human beings, regardless of gender. I think we owe a tremendous debt to women such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Fanny Wright, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Emmeline Wells, and Simone de Beauvoir. Heck, we even owe a lot to Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem! We may not agree with them on many issues, but we certainly enjoy the fruits of their efforts.

    For most of history, women have been treated as lesser beings. It is, in large part, thanks to the courageous voices and actions of feminists that we now have: the right to own property, the right to vote, any claim at all for custody of our children in the case of divorce, access to university education, maternity leave, advances toward equal pay for equal work, protection against domestic violence and sexual harrasment, and on and on.

    I would say that as women of the 21st century we benefit TREMENDOUSLY from the work of the early feminists.

  7. I agree with Justine. Growing up a latch-key kid I’m turning away from the ‘I can work and have a family attitude’. My mom was so much less stressed when she was out of a job and it was just my father working. That was my view as a youth on what feminism was about. I didn’t want that. I still don’t, but I also know now, after a few years out of college, that a feminist can also be a SAHM.

    Though I still think the girls had it on the mark. A women who feels empowered, what better explanation than a feminist?

  8. I was startled by the “liberal feminist” response as I read your account.

    A women’s literature class would indeed do them some good. It did me. I learned more about feminism and my own definition and association with it while majoring in English at BYU more than 10 years ago in a women’s lit class.

    I once spent an entire road trip trying to explain feminism to my husband. He finally agreed that there was nothing wacky or out of line with feminism (at least as I see it). In fact, he even went so far as to say, “Well, that’s not feminism, that’s just common sense.” He really only had trouble with the word

    feminism.

  9. I don’t believe the suffragettes were selfish or prideful. They merely saw an injustice and dedicated themselves to making things right. I consider them feminists. My own great great grandmother was a suffragette, a feminist, a strong believer in polygamy and an activist for some of her African American friends. And she did not seem to be conflicted or apologetic about any of those things. I don’t consider her actions on any one of those fronts to be selfish.

    I used to begin my sentences with “I’m not a feminist, but…” When I realized being a feminist merely means being concerned about and interested in women’s issues I quit being apologetic about it. Yes, the term is relative. But I prefer to define it by my own beliefs and actions rather than allowing someone else to define it and therefore me according to their own biases. I do quite firmly believe one can be a feminist and also believe in and even prefer traditional gender roles. I am aware that there are a number of feminists who would disagree with that, but by disagreeing with my right to choose, they would be violating one of the main tenents of feminism.

    To be completely honest, I was never discriminated against because of my gender until I moved to Utah. Is it selfish of me to speak up when I see such descrimination or any kind of unfairness toward any person? No, not at all. I consider it my duty.

    As for doing something for oneself I don’t see that as necessarily being feminist or selfish. When you are on an airplane one of the first things they tell you is if there is an emergency you should put on your own oxygen mask first in order to be able to help others who may need your help. Doing something for yourself–even if it may seem shallow to someone else–in order to help yourself be in a good place to serve and take care of others is not selfish. Is there a line you can cross by which you become selfish? Sure. When you put yourself first at the expense of your spouse, you children or others for whom you have responsibility (you do not have responsibility to your spouse because you are subservient, you have responsibility to your spouse because you are his partner). But that kind of excess is not unique to any gender.

  10. Its interesting that while we find the causes of feminism compelling, we tend to say “I’m not a feminist, BUT…” or as Kylie put it, “I’m not a bra-burning feminist”. The feminist label conjures up the embarrassments of feminism: the man-basher, the radical, the selfish mom, the “feminazi.” So while I cherish certain ideals of feminism, I don’t want that label.

    LDS women vehemently reject anything that removes us from our context as wives and mothers. That is why “60’s-style” feminism has not flown with the sisters in Zion. We love opportunity, education, fairness, rights, etc, but we get mean real fast when someone disses our man or our baby, or suggests we have them because of some sickness in ourselves or society.

    If only there was an organization that championed women and supported them in the context of being wives and mothers….oh wait, there is. Yeah, I like going there and hearing that I am of infinite worth and what I do is the most important work in the world. And also that I should be educated and self-sufficient. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

  11. I consider myself a feminist without a “but.” I’m not ashamed or embarrassed of that title. And I’m a SAHM and “traditional” wife in many ways. I think women, the unique woman’s perspective, and the tale that only women can tell is supremely important.

    Thanks Kylie for this post.

  12. I think it’s important to remember that the label of feminist means so many things to so many people. Clearly your students have an image of what feminism means, and it may actually represent a sort of feminism. They just need to understand that being a feminist doesn’t have to be selfish, or at least that there are elements of feminism that affect each of our lives (the blessing of being able to vote, get an education, have opportunities for work, etc.)

    I also think that within the Church, there is a stigma associated with feminism in some people’s minds. This isn’t just because feminism has been mentioned now and again by leaders (moreso in the past) but also because there are feminists who will contradict and criticize our leaders and some who even seem to undermine the Church. (Of course, this doesn’t describe all feminists in the Church by any means, but it is there, and the misconceptions that all “feminists” are that way is still pretty real, IMO.) Therefore, I’m not surprised that some BYU students have a negative image of what feminism is.

    I am passionate about many women’s issues, but don’t like to call myself a feminist because there is so much negative stigma associated with it, and I don’t want to be associated with the negativity. I’d rather just be passionate about women’s issues without someone automatically assuming they know what that means for me.

    Again, for each “feminist” the definition, mindset and passion will be different.

    I actually wish we could figure out a better way to describe ourselves since there is so much variation. The relative nature of feminism gets hard to deal with, IMO.

  13. My first instinct is not to associate selfishness with feminism. Rather, after living in Sweden for 5 years, the mecca for feminism, I find that my definition of feminism has unfortunately become: anti-family, anti-woman and anti-man.
    Please understand that I too was deeply involved and identified myself with feminism. I studied, I read and was involved in student programs which espoused feminist virtues. Frankly, during that period I felt a lot of rage against the system which created such violence and danger for women at the hands of men. But after nearly 10 years as a wife and mother and living in Sweden, I feel that today’s feminism focuses on freeing women from the burden of childbearing and childrearing, freeing women from the supposed repression of marriage and its attendant responsibilities and sees the relationship between men and women as adversarial rather than complementary.
    I am deeply concerned over women’s issues and there are many things in our society which are far from perfect. I’m also aware that we owe a great deal of thanks to the early feminists who fought for voting rights, equal job opportunities and general rights for women. But I find the politics of prominent feminists in our current day society as destructive to the values and beliefs I hold dear. I particularly find these politics demeaning to mothers and wives everywhere and dangerous to families. Therefore, as with texasgal, I do not wish to label myself as a feminist. I don’t care to label myself with much because I think those labels trap us.
    Having said that, I don’t think that a woman who identifies herself as a feminist is evil or selfish. But, the political parties who consistently champion the causes of prominent feminists put me off– in whatever country I happen to live in.

  14. I admire the feminist pioneers, the ones mentioned by Sharlee. I am so grateful for them. I’m glad I get to read and own property and wear pants. Hooray for those women! And hooray for the men who listened to them!

    And I also agree with Tiffany–I’m disturbed by many aspects of feminism today. This is why I don’t self-identify as a feminist. Feminism today seems to be about freeing women from the things that will bring us joy. Often it does seem self-centered to me, and very anti-men. I am not comfortable with the idea that women need men like fish need bicycles. We need each other.

    Great post, Kylie.

  15. Emily M.– I don’t feel the need to agree with/condone all of the actions of feminists to self-identify as one. I think the truly revolutionary and fulfilling way to be a feminist is to make it your own, empathize where necessary, reserve judgment as much as possible. It’s not just pants-wearing and vote-demanding feminists that have helped us all. Frankly, without modern feminism, without the resurrection of the female voice beginning in the early 1900s, and the continuation of that effort in the 1960s,70s, 80s, and 90s, Segullah would have no place to publish, no audience to reach, no right to be in existence.

    Let us not forget those many feminists who we do not agree with and yet have opened doors as well.

  16. Maralise, I have such conflicting feelings about this issue. I’m grateful for modern feminism as well, to the extent that it has righted injustice. I am soooo grateful for Segullah, and I’m grateful for any woman who contributed to make this publication possible.

    But I dislike many of the things I hear from feminist sources: the man-hating, which can be subtle but very real. There are so many movies and books in which men are either sex-obsessed or bumbling fools, and the women are the kind and gracious and strong ones (“Steel Magnolias” is the first one that comes to mind. “The Secret Life of Bees” is a literary example. I enjoyed both of them, but there are no good, strong, kind men portrayed.) That portrayal of men does not reflect my reality, but it does reflect the basic assumption of many feminists: they are not just fighting for equal rights, but for acknowledgment of women as somehow superior. And I don’t buy it. But I fear that by portraying men so negatively, ranging from inept to evil, we are creating our own reality. And yes, I blame feminism for this.

    I also blame feminism for contributing to these twin lies about motherhood: 1-it’s too hard to do, you deserve to do something better with your life than tend kids all the time, and 2-it doesn’t matter anyway; anyone can take care of your kids, you’re not that important. No one comes out and says it like that, of course. It’s more subtle. But the attitude is real.

    So, despite my gratitude for the opportunities feminism has blessed me with, and my general outspoken ness on womens’ issues, I find it hard to self-identify with this movement. But that’s my choice; there are other groups I identify with who also do things I dislike. For me, the negative things I associate with the label of feminism outweigh the positive. That may be because I don’t fully appreciate all the positives… but that’s where I’m at right now.

  17. Emily M.–understood. Being the mother of two sons, I do not want them put at a disadvantage because of feminism. But, I don’t think that empowering young boys/future men/men and feminism are mutually exclusive. Neither do I think the oppression of males/maleness is a necessary outcome of the feminist movement. I am actually very interested in the often controversial feminism that explores what is uniquely female, not as a tool of exclusion but one that looks to support with logic the gender role mandates of the church. I think there are many kinds of feminism, it’s actually a weakness of the movement itself. But it’s a strength to women like myself who strongly identify with parts but not the whole.

  18. I think if I had been born earlier– around 1900 for example– I would have identified with feminism. I love the work the early feminists did, but I blame feminism for many social problems today. I think the movement has gone way too far. Most centrally, I see the cultural current trend toward not acknowledging any innate gender differences as a direct outgrowth of feminism that is very destructive to men and women. Yes, there are many different approaches that label themselves feminist. I would actually call that a strength of the movement– that there is room for differing opinions and thoughts– but I don’t see the direction that the overall combination is moving in as anything I want to be associated with. As I pondered this I found my thoughts following the same path that Texas Gal’s did.

  19. I think it has much more to do with conservative indoctrination at home than an indictment on feminism per say.

    Of course, I say that as a former BYU student who left school with an “I’m a Feminist and I’m Ok” shirt.

  20. p.s. If you want an idea of why we needed modern feminism, tune into the new AMC show Mad Men. Wow.

    I’m not necessarily defending where the movement went in the late 70s, but I am saying that there were and are good reasons for feminism.

  21. Here’s how I make peace internally:

    I claim the word Mormon as a self-descriptive, even though it is met with skepticism and cynicism by many in our society, even though I do not feel comfortable with some of the cultural aspects of the church, even though the church has had distinct “waves” in terms of doctrinal emphasis, and even though there have been prominent members whose beliefs and behaviors bother me. Why? Because Mormonism — and not just the Gospel — has been incalculable force for good in my life.

    I claim the word feminist as a self-descriptive, even though it is met with skepticism and cynicism by many in our church, even though feminism has had distinct “waves” in terms of political and social emphasis, and even though I do not feel comfortable with the writings or actions of some prominent activists. Why? Because when I think of the opportunities I and my students have been afforded on the backs of our foremothers, I want to weep. And when I look at the state of women around the world who still struggle to be afforded basic rights and regard, I still want to weep.

    I claim the words “sister” and “daughter of god” without any such caveats.

  22. I used to call myself a feminist without hesitation or qualification. My viewpoints about women haven’t changed much, but my comfort level with the label has. It’s a label so broad that it has pretty much lost its meaning. I still claim it, though.

    The two main schools of feminist thought are liberal feminism, which pushes to change society by removing gender segregation, and radical feminism, which seeks to reinvent society by fostering and elevating women’s culture, which is seen as superior to men’s. The two groups are much at odds with each other.

    There are elements I appreciate of each, and also elements I vehemently disagree with. For example, I want equal pay for women, but don’t want them to be drafted in wartime. I want to foster women’s culture, but I think men’s perspectives are just as valuable as women’s.

    Some people think women should call themselves feminists if they like parts of feminism, some people don’t. I choose not to, for the same reason why I don’t call myself a Republican or a Democrat.

    It’s tricky enough to assume a label when there’s a party platform in place that you agree with some of and disagree with some of. Feminism doesn’t have any one practical party platform. The bottom line–women matter as much as men, are as intelligent as men, deserve the same basic human rights as men–is something any thinking person would agree with. “Common sense,” as Rynell’s husband said. After that point the “ways and means” of pursuing that ideal splinter off sharply. And no matter which direction I consider, there’s a mixed bag of things I support and things I don’t.

    I agree with Maralise that it’s important to acknowledge this mixed bag. For example, Angie, you said “I don’t see the direction that the overall combination is moving in as anything I want to be associated with.” But aren’t there things modern feminists have done for society that you heartily applaud, no matter how much you abhor other outcomes?

    I think it’s interesting that Segullah has more in common with basic radical feminist thought than liberal feminist thought. With enormous differences, of course. But our primary purpose here is not to write and speak like men do, but rather to encourage the female voice, which we see as unique and valuable.

  23. I am away on vacation and not checking this often–but I am very interested in all these comments. Raher than discussing feminism per se, we are talking about labelling (more generally). It seems that feminism is a lightening-rod of a label, and so some are claiming it and some not–but all acknowledge that there is some (more or less amount of discomfort with that label. Or any label? I read into many of these comments the hesitation I feel with throwing myself whole-heartedly behind a cause. There is always (?) something that I don’t agree with. I wear the label “feminist” but do so somewhat hesitantly since I know other people define it differently and have different connotations/feelings about feminism. I don’t feel anti-man or anti-family, but it’s hard for me not to feel some concern about the issues when I realize that my great grandmother couldn’t vote and my grandmother had to pay her own way through college because my great grandfather (an amazingly righteous LDS man) refused a daughter the privileges accorded to a son. These are women that I know, that have lived in my lifetime. Perhaps I should self-define as a “gender-ist” rather than a feminist. Less baggage with the term, but is it even a word?

  24. Hi, I’m new to your blog, but have been hanging around the bloggernacle for a while. I read about your site at T&S.
    This conversation is interesting because although there has been much discussion of taking on the label of feminism, or what it means to each of us individually, there has been little mention of how feminism applies uniquely in the LDS church. Obviously the label is off-putting to many LDS women, as the BYU students demonstrated. But, in my experience, there is ample room for women who are pro-women (for those who renounce the feminist label) to establish their desires for equality, and correct inequality. In #9, Darlene said she encountered discrimination when she moved to UT and felt obligated to speak up for inequalities. I’m interested to hear if others see similar issues, and if so, how they address these issues when they come up in a church context. It seems that there is a pretty united vision of feminism (or pro-womenism) on this site, but I’m not clear on how it translates to action in a church setting (where men represent God as priesthood authority). This seems like a tricky balance, and one that has prevented our foremothers from making any great strides in the direction of feminism. (which, perhaps,has prevented a variety of problems) Many commenters have said that they are grateful for the work of the early feminists, but don’t see their lives as activist in a similar way.

  25. Tiffany,
    I mean that if a girl heard nothing but Talk Radio talking points growing up, with “femi-nazis” and liberal feminists being blamed for all of societies ills, it’s hardly a shock that she might come to associate feminism not with its original intent, but with a label that means “All That Is Bad.” I heard so many girls spout that kind of stuff without even thinking about what they were saying. They’d never even stopped to consider the incongruities.

  26. Yes, where does this idea of selfishness being equated with liberal feminism come from? It has just been within the past few years as I’ve been trying to come to terms with my own midlife crisis that a paradigm shift in my own thinking has occurred. I grew up with the “perfect” Mormon mother who sacrificed everything for her family and never had a life outside of serving all of us. But I knew that underneath the surface, she was deeply unhappy and unfulfilled at times. After I married and left the house and my younger siblings moved into their teens, she went to college and got an Associates degree. I have always been proud of her for doing that.

    Now, here I am at age 39 having the same challenges she had. I’ve devoted eighteen years to mothering and now I want to finish my degree and become a writer. Part of me feels a tremendous amount of guilt for wanting a life outside of mothering, for craving an identity outside of domesticity. But going back to school has invigorated my mind and revived my personality and faith in who I am as an individual. I am more generous and more loving towards my spouse and children when I spend some time nurturing myself. How can this be selfish?

    Yet, at times, I still harbor this secret fear that seeking self-fulfillment is somehow abhorrent and wicked, that when I do something for myself, I am negatively impacting my family. This message, that serving yourself equals neglecting your family and puts you in the bad motherhood camp is unfortunately deeply imbedded. It is this nagging voice that keeps pestering me to give in and give up–to quit resisting and fall back into the mode of housekeeper and taxi driver and forsake my dreams without a fight. But I just can’t do it because the evidence that I am bad for wanting to improve myself just isn’t true.

    Kylie asks “isn’t selfishness the opposite of charity?” Yes, this is what we’ve been taught–to consider the needs of others above ourselves ALWAYS or we are selfish. And this is where the paradox comes in, the question I grapple with on a daily basis: “What about the concept of treating ourselves with charity?” This idea, of taking care of ourselves so we can better care for others is a foreign concept to many Mormon women. In my mother’s time, to admit as a Mormon mother that you had “needs” and “desires” was totally taboo. I think that is starting to change in our generation, particularly as we communicate more honestly with one another in forums like this.

    Kylie asks,”Is it selfish to ‘do’ something for yourself? Surely not one thing. But what about doing one ‘shallow’ thing? How far can we go in ‘doing things’ for ourselves? Where’s the selfish line?”

    That’s a great question and one that I face with ambivalence daily. As a Mormon woman, I’ve always been afraid to align myself with any group or cause that appears too radical or feminist because I don’t want anyone to consider me unfaithful or an apostate. I’m glad I found this blog. It’s great to find a forum to discuss these touchy issues. I appreciate your insights and comments!

  27. Welcome, jessawhy! A tricky balance, is right. I think that would make a great post topic.

    Carina, I agree that unexamined anti-feminist rhetoric is just as dangerous as unexamined pro-feminist rhetoric.

    And Lisa, welcome! A hearty “amen” to your comments. I see several great post topics here.

  28. Jessawhy,

    I’ll give you an example, as a woman who embraces the Church’s doctrine and structure, but also considers herself an activist (even feminist) in many ways.

    Just this past Sunday, we had a fifth-week combined RS/Priesthood lesson on preparedness. The priests were there, too. The bishop talked about how they decided it would be good for them to get a vision of the kinds of issues that will be coming in their lives. I thought that was great, but was disappointed that the Laurels weren’t there.

    So after the meeting, I went to the RS president and suggested that next time, they be invited. She agreed, and explained that in this case, the decision to invite the priests was made last-minute. I wouldn’t be surprised if next time we might see something done differently.

    Another example of something I do is volunteer to talk to young women (via YW activities and with college-age young women) about the importance of eduction in their life plans. While I think that most young women are aiming in this direction, I have found some (at BYU where I have given presentations and also in other contexts) who have the goal of marrige and motherhood (good goals) but haven’t given thought to education.

    I think there is plenty of room, even within the structure of the Church, to make suggestions when we see things like this, to get involved to support girls and women while not undermine the Church or its leaders.

    I think it’s also important to remember in all of this that our perceptions of what is unequal may not always be correct. I can remember one time talking to the bishop about something that upset me, and he was able to explain why he had done what he did. Some of what we think is just downright wrong may simply be someone trying to do their best and seeing things differently. And there needs to be room for charity in those kinds of situations, IMO.

    There’s my $0.04. :)

  29. Interesting points, Lisa. I wasn’t raised in an active LDS family, so I don’t have much firsthand to say about cultural transmission within LDS families. I am fascinated by these issues in my own life, though. I can’t find any logical corner of my brain where I think or have ever thought that to have my own needs and interests is a bad thing. But, before I was active in the LDS Church I spent much time and money pursuing my own interests. Now I don’t. And sometimes I really wipe myself out in the business of caretaking. How much of that is me adapting the the cultural expectations of Mormonism, and how much of that is just me adapting to a different stage of life (having many young children at once . . . sometimes I introduce myself to people by saying I’m into extreme parenting). I don’t know. I do know that I have come to understand the Atonement better by being pushed to my limit in nurturing. In being forced to rely on the Savior I have learned that I don’t want to carry everything myself, and that His yoke really is light. I’m curious whether other LDS women experience that. The stereotype seems to be Mormon supermom who gives until she has nothing left, without much reference to where she fills her cup.

  30. And Kathy, the biggest thing I appreciate about feminism is that in opening doors and expanding freedoms for women, it has given me the opportunity to know by my own experience that being a wife and mother is what I really want to be doing. I’m not doing it only because I have to– I am exercising my agency. It seems to me that that is as it should be. What I hate is that I see it becoming increasingly difficult to make those traditional choices, both on a practical level (ie our economy is increasingly geared for dual income families)
    and on a social/cultural level (ie women feeling pressured to “be more” than a housewife. Or in my case never having been presented with that as a viable option). Is it possible to have one without the other?

    I also see our culture loosing an appreciation for the skills of homemaking. In college I had a job researching in old newspapers, and I was fascinated by the cultural differences just a few decades ago. Many newspaper columns from the 1950s shared tips geared for full time homemakers– say how to stretch a pound of ground beef, wheras today we read recipes geared for busy professionals with minimal time, that often call for exotic and expensive ingredients. I think so many women struggle to adapt to full time motherhood partially because after years of learning to succeed in academic and professional settings we realize that a totally different skill set is required at home. It’s discouraging, and it’s confusing, because supports aren’t readily available. I’ve also seen women decide they just can’t afford to be at home because they are trying to run their homes the same way a working mother might (ie buying frozen meals at Costco instead of canning tomatoes). So I guess I associate modern feminism with a larger cultural shift toward limiting freedom of women to be feminine.

    Maybe I need to start my own feminist splinter movement?

  31. I’m with you Angie. My mother, a product of the 60s, always worked, always hired a nanny and a cleaning lady, never cooked. She taught me to be a good person, to work hard, and to go for my dreams, but she didn’t teach me how to cook or clean or sew or can or launder or …

    Tough transition when I decided, much to her chagrin, that I would like to stay home and raise my children. It’s still tough for me. But I will say this. My college education prepared me mentally for facing the mental rigors of parenting, which I had always assumed were mythical. Finding out I could use my degree and training to enhance our home was a great relief to me (although not so much so for my parents perhaps, who shelled out for the thing.)

    I do credit my parents, however, for never ever ever telling me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. I graduated from High School under the youthfully arrogant assumption that I would be on the Supreme Court in under 20 years. I never knew there was a glass ceiling. They never once held me down. That was a great boon to me.

    Now if I could just figure out how to keep my house clean.

  32. to get involved to support girls and women while not undermine the Church or its leaders.

    Sheesh. It’s been a long week. That should be undermining.

    Angie, sign me up!!!!!

    Now if I could just figure out how to keep my house clean.

    Amen. I’m so grateful when someone will just say it so I know that I’m not alone, especially on one of those days when I’m drowning in clutter and discouragement. Thanks, Justine for saying that. Seriously.

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