28 January 2013

I Am a Feminist

I recently read a post called, "Why do you write strong female characters?" by Shannon Hale, and shortly thereafter I read Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, by Mary Pipher. I also read Joanna Brooks' The Book of Mormon Girl, last fall, which touched on a few women's issues as well. I have considered myself a feminist since early adolescence, and these reads, along with the Pants to Church protest and backlash, prompted me to wonder about the details of my own feminism. Here are a few things I have decided.

Here are things I do not identify with:

Bra burners. This is much to Alex's relief. He asked if I could envision myself on that path down the road, and I barely had to pause before answering in the negative that no, I am not a bra burner, nor do I think I ever will be. When it comes to underthings, I support women's support.

Man haters. I would cite as evidence of my man-love the following: Grace, Henry, Scott, a large quilt I finished last fall for my father, and my recent gratitude when I had a spring of water flowing in my back yard which was stanched by Alex's dear father's muscles and tools.

People who are down on feminists' cases. The pants to church thing brought this to the forefront for me. While I did not feel the need to wear pants to church to show solidarity with that particular group, I did feel very defensive of their right to do it. The LDS Church, as it said in its statement on the subject, does not have any sort of stringent requirement that women wear dresses to church. I didn't even feel defensive in their behalf until I heard all of the angry comments and even rude things people said about feminists. When critics started in on their feminist "sisters," I started to think that maybe the pants people had more of a point than I had thought before.

Here are things I do identify with:

I believe in a woman's right to say "no," and mean "no," and not have to engage in a wrestling match to get out of the car at any juncture of a date.

I support a woman's right to feel good about herself whether she decides to paint her face before she leaves the house every day or not. I paint my face when I go to work or church because I feel marginally better about myself when I do. But I oppose our culture and industry's messages that women must change their bodies significantly in order to conform to standards and norms of very unattainable beauty, particularly as we age.

I oppose the sexual double standard. I dislike that women in the media and film have to look 27 or younger. They don't just think they have to. They literally must look that way in order to get a job. Unless they are the amazing Dame Judy Dench. I think it is wrong that when men make sexual "conquests" they are afforded "stud" status and women performing the same actions with the same partners are called all of the nasty nicknames for prostitutes. It takes two people to tango, and I think both should be afforded equal social responsibility when there is consent.

When there is not consent, I think the man should be tied upside down by his toenails and have his eyes and other sensitive body parts slowly pecked out by disease infested ravens, or some other appropriate measure for rapists. I think it is a signal of our toxic culture that I, with a limited urban slang vocabulary, can think of many pejorative terms for a prostitute, but not one slang pejorative comes to mind that dismisses as valueless a man who rapes a woman.

I oppose object lessons in which girls are compared to sweated-on candy or chewed up gum. I do not like any lesson or metaphor in which a woman is taught that she is an "object" rather than a "subject." We English nerds know that the subject of a sentence performs the action. The object does not have any choice, and only receives the action from the subject. Women are the subjects of their own lives, and as such, they get to make their own choices, and it is the same with men. We should not be teaching boys similar lessons about not chewing the gum or holding handfuls of M&Ms. Pretty much, in my narrow opinion, the very best way to teach the law of chastity is making all people watch "Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments," by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland repeatedly until the gravity of giving the gift of life sinks in as deeply as the gravity of taking a life already seems to have done.

I vehemently oppose pornography in all forms. It is insidious and makes women into objects and disables the natural affection of men. I do believe in being more patient and open with people who have addiction problems. I think that if we were not so culturally negative about it (Yeah, guilty as charged with that first part of the paragraph. What to do?) that perhaps the guilt which makes addiction such a rush would be eased, and it might be easier to fight the problem sensibly.

Women should have the right to receive equal pay for equal work in a place of employment. That one is kind of a no-brainer for me.

I believe if a woman has the desire or need to work outside of the home, we should not judge her. I believe if a woman has the desire or need to stay home with her children, we should not judge her. I believe if a woman stops at one child, or decides she wants ten, we should not judge her. I believe if a woman feels that home birth will work for her, we should not judge her. I believe that if a woman would never consider home birth, we should not judge her. I believe you get the idea. 

I teach English to teenage boys in a residential treatment home, and the other day our sentence of the day was, "Mayor Smith took her guitar to the event and sang some songs," and one of the boys said, "Change 'her' to 'him,'" as one of the corrections. After the steam finished whistling out of my ears and the flames stopped shooting out of my eyes, I informed him that women can be mayors, or doctors, or engineers, and that there are many careers that are traditionally male careers in which women can succeed. My conclusion from this is that maybe it is time for me to come out and say, I support women. I hope that one day through the actions of individuals and institutions our culture will not produce minds that think the only accurate pronoun for a mayor is "he."


amy said...

I love you and this and I agree with everything you said more articulately than I've ever managed. I will perhaps memorize it so I can simply recite it when I'm in a position to explain my views.

The bra burning thing is a myth. Might make for an interesting google.

I also think man-hating is just as prevalent among non feminist-identified women as it is among their feminist counterparts.

This was so lovely to read. I like your brain. So sensible and articulate. Thank you.

Marie Says Yes said...

Wow. Bravo.

I appreciate the very articulate way you expressed the very way I feel!

Amen, amen, amen.
I think the great risk for all of us is extremes. This includes extremes in the gender issue. I appreciate how well you articulated your thoughts. So happy to be a woman -- so happy the men in my life our men. We both have such great good to offer.

Amanda said...

Oh, if only we had expressed and known our mutual feminist interests when we were companions...! :)
I whole-heartedly agree. Especially with women being subjects instead of objects. To be acted upon. (Please forgive my non-English-major grammar).

I did wear pants. I wasn't initially planning to until I saw the backlash. I was so surprised by how much meaning it had for me.

It's sad that there is any need to be explicit that you are NOT a man-hater....Thank you for supporting women and for speaking out about it.

Kyle, Alicia, and Jaxson said...

All I could think, the whole time I was reading was AMEN Sista! I totally agree. You explained exactly how I feel PERFECTLY! Ask Kyle, he knows my feelings on these things, and Loves me for it! Thanks for posting that. Amazing!

It's kind of fun to see that the butter cream gang of La Verkin (Kyle, Alex, Ben, & Matt) married women with very similar views. LOVE it!

Ps. I love that they are all friends and I love that they are all some of the most Christlike men I know! YAY!

Veiltender said...

I completely agree! Which means that now I have nothing to add, except that I especially connect with what you said about the pants thing - what really bothered me there was people's reactions to it. I also agree with on of the commentators, Amy, who talks about man hating. I think that this is a widespread insidious cultural norm, just like mysogyny is for men. Like women deriding their husband to other women for his inability to shop, to cook, to clean, to childwatch, etc. Men can do all those things! Yes, sometimes they were not taught to growing up, but they can do them.

Liz said...

Amen. AMEN!

I love love love this.

As always, right to the point and right on!

The Rookie said...

Standing ovation. Encore, encore. (I may steal your post idea because I'm totally behind on blogging anyway and I have had many a discussion about this as it is.)

Also, can we just be best friends forever? Please.

Saddie said...

Isn't feminism such an interesting word? A very charged word, that has increasingly disparate definitions. I also like this blog post on the subject: http://womeninthescriptures.blogspot.com/2011/03/this-is-type-of-feminist-i-am.html

As for the pants upheaval - I feel it (just like breast feeding in public)should really be a non-issue. Unfortunately our world (church included) has a long way to go to attain Christlike charity and the ability to both withhold judgement and to refrain from taking offense. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could each work on controlling our own actions instead of controlling others (ha ha! Talk about being a subject not an object!)and work to support (bra pun!)instead of tear down (interrobang)

BTW I plan on filing "subject" under ideas to integrate in my children's brains.

Kate said...

Fabulous post!

The Yoder's Four said...