Wednesday

Why do I judge you? Because my brand of feminism is better than yours.

We like to talk about food a lot on this blog. I hope that doesn't diminish our feminist credibility, because in the next weeks, you can expect a few posts on the topic.


Which track to take? That is the question.
Next question? How I can make the woman who took a different road feel bad about herself.
Actually, maybe that shouldn't be the question at all.


I was 18. It was midnight and my best friends were over. Katie, Ruth and I were an ambitious troupe with very clear goals. Ruth wanted to be a mother and musician. Katie wanted to be an academic. I loved opera and writing, but all I really wanted to do was go on a Mormon mission. We were eating frozen fruit as I read the central thesis of my newly written, favorite college paper ever. It was a magnum opus on a coming fourth wave of feminism that would broaden the scope of a once, narrow idea of female empowerment. The paper was good; it got an A. But the gathering foretold truths about modern womanhood that I would have never anticipated.

Today, we're riding that fourth wave of feminism I wrote about in 2002. From Hillary Clinton to Sherry Dew, Sheryl Sanberg to Sarah Palin, Susan Patton to Anne Marie Slaughter, Beyonce, Lena Dunham, Jezebel.com to FeministMormonHousewives.org, there seems to be a renewed understanding of the realities of womanhood. But it feels like the world of feminism is all Lean In vs. You Can't do It All, Ordain Women vs. I-Don't-Want-The-Priesthood, or Professional Lady vs. Parenting Warrior. In my life, the issue isn't either/or, it's achieving excellence and happiness in my path while experiencing joy in the roles of others.

I don't know of many people who stayed home with their kids while running a super successful business who became pop stars, politicians, gagillionaires, best-selling authors, astronauts, Olympians, scientists and concert pianists at the same time. Maybe I am alone in this, but if I want to be truly excellent in one thing, I need to focus. One of Paul's epistles says each of us are given different gifts. He goes onto enumerate some of the gifts: languages, healing, faith, knowledge, wisdom, discernment, the list goes on and on. I don't think this epistle was reserved for men.

Women are finally coming to terms with the vast number of acceptable and valuable occupations open to us. There are many noble professions, parenting being just one, incredibly valuable option. Happiness becomes much more difficult when we are preoccupied with expecting others to have the same skills, talents and gifts that we do. In my never-as-humble-as-it-should-be opinion, true feminism is about fulfilling our potential and encouraging others as they do the same -- regardless of their gender.

Take me and my sisters. We have as similar of a baseline as possible: same parents, same city, same gene pool and similar educations. But we're all different. Kimber is a full-time mom. I'm an artist. Liberty is a young professional. Mercina is a missionary. Glorianna is a student. I could envy Kimber's stable income, fabulous aesthetic and perfect children, Liberty's rational professionalism and effortless style, Mercina's work ethic and perfect chic, or Glorianna's Yale education, brilliance and self assurance. Sometimes, I do. But more often than not, I feel blessed by their different gifts.

Within a few years of that late night in Denver, me and my friends were living out each other's dreams. Katie was getting married. Ruth was going on a mission and I was at a top music school. It would have been easy for jealousies and envy to get in the way of friendship. Instead, something wonderful happened: I learned to experience vicarious joy in a way I never knew was possible. These days, Katie is being an amazing mother to her four kids, Ruth is a respected researcher and I am making music. We're still friends and I continue to receive a great deal of satisfaction from their successes. When we stop judging one another and focus on doing our best in the life we're living, we can experience the satisfaction that comes from doing it all without doing everything by ourselves.

What do you wish was part of the current discussion of women, womanhood and feminism?
What do you think is being overlooked? We'd love to hear your thoughts here. We might even write a post about them. Whether you're a lady or man-type, thank you for reading! We <3 you! 

17 comments:

  1. Chari-beer, this is a truly lovely rumination. Thank you for so eloquently--though *scoff* somewhat judgmentally (I kid, I kid)--highlighting one of the biggest stumbling blocks women of our era face.

    te adoro!

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  2. This really hits the nail on the head. Using our agency to follow our dreams and being kind to one another and ourselves. We need so much more of this in the world. Thanks for writing so eloquently about this. I'm very glad I know you.

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  3. Yes. Let's all live our own Truth with integrity! And - importantly! - cheer our sisters along as they make the best choices they can with the circumstances they face. Thank you so much for you wisdom and humor, Charity, and for taking the time to share both so generously.

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    1. Also -- to your question -- I LOVE the open and positive celebration of difference and faith at the Mormon Women Project (mormonwomen.com). It's such a beautiful collection of personal stories from women who walk very diverse paths through the same religious landscape.

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  4. I read once that true feminism was the ability for women to make choices. That is what the 1960's and 1970's wave of feminism is all about. This new brand of feminism is about what to do with the choices we have. It's interesting to watch how the LDS Church is responding to all this.

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  5. My feminism looks a lot like your feminism. Focus. Timing. Opportunities. Confidence. Self-love. We have a lot to gain from listening to all our stories.

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  6. Anonymous19.3.14

    A couple thoughts on feminism:

    1) This statement by Ranier Maria Rilke "Letters to A Young Poet" letter #7

    This humanity of woman, carried in her womb through all her suffering and humiliation, will come to light when she has stripped off the conventions of mere femaleness in the transformations of her outward status, and those men who do not yet feel it approaching will be astonished by it. Someday (and even now, especially in the countries of northern Europe, trustworthy signs are already speaking and shining), someday there will be girls and women whose name will no longer mean the mere opposite of the male, but something in itself, something that makes one think not of any complement and limit, but only of life and reality: the female human being.

    2) Authority in the church unlike authority in the world does not mean dominion it means service. See Luke 22:24-27 Christ the greatest of all spent his whole life in service. Motherhood is a great way to serve, having the Priesthood is a great way to serve, if you don't have either of these there are still so many ways you can serve others. Helping people is always the central theme not, power, honor or our own glory. We miss the point when we quibble about who is the most important.

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    1. "This humanity of woman, carried in her womb. . ."

      MERP. MERP MERP MERP.

      P.S. This is lovely Charity.

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    2. And if our wombs are barren? Then our humanity lies in our excess income ... or beautiful jewelry. he he he...

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  7. It is healing to hear some kindness and inclusion in this very, very old debate. I confess being weary of it all, because I feel a competitive spirit at the base, well identified envy. I appreciate Charity's voice re-framing that prickly foundation with something more stable. Appreciative love.

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  8. I think we tend to change our opinions with time, as well. The same (types of women, and actually maybe more often, men!) who were judging me for "choosing a career over family" when I decided to go to dental school at the age of 20 (wow, really delaying things there!) now seem to be applauding me for doing something "so cool." Ironically, I met my husband after going to dental school and am battling infertility. I feel grateful I was led to "choose" this path so I would have something fulfilling and exciting to do while I wait until the time I will maybe be blessed with a family of my own. That is when the hard choices will come, I think--how to manage my time as a mom and a career woman.

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  9. linda20.3.14

    As long as heinous rituals such as female genital mutilation continue to be practiced anywhere in this world and still perceived by anyone as a culture's tradition or religious right, feminist meaning and discussion for me today, or any day, remains stuck in philosophical rumination. Yes, we've come a long way baby, but we should be so much more evolved by now, not just our gender, but all of humanity. I guess I am too impatient.

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  10. Very well said. I was recently part of a BYU Sociology study where they interviewed women who had once been STEM majors and had then switched to non-STEM majors. They asked a lot of questions about how I felt when I was a Wildlife Conservation major; with my classes being male-dominated and all. Unfortunately I didn't remember very much because I was only a Wildlife Conservation major for one semester before switching to Marriage and Family Studies my freshman year. I tried to make it very clear that the reason I switched was NOT because I felt oppressed in a male-dominated major or because it was just to sciencey for me, but because I realized my TRUE passion was studying people and relationships, rather than animals (although I still love wildlife). I also stated that I would hope that everyone at BYU, male and female, would not feel pressured to choose a certain field and that they would simply choose what they are TRULY, genuinely passionate about. I know many men in the Marriage and Family major who felt a little judged. But they shouldn't be! They're all going to be fabulous marriage and family therapists!

    Anyway, I'll get off my soap box now. Beautiful thoughts though.

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  11. I loved your thoughts on the matter. With the ever increasing expectation to "have it all", some of us women are feeling less than because we feel that we cannot successfully be contributing to both the workplace and home life, thus putting women in a place of self-doubt, the exact place women have worked so hard in the past to get out of. We women are forgetting to applaud those who are primarily caregivers or are primarily in the workforce, but are constantly praising those who can manage both successfully. It should not be like this, feminism is not about doing it all, it is about having the opportunity to have pride and success in any capacity you choose. So yes, as Sheryl Sandberg would say, "Lean in", but lean into what you feel you can do well and do happily, don't lean into something because it is expected of you.

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  12. Donna22.3.14

    Thank you for your thoughtful contribution to the "debate" that women experience within themselves and with others. There is no free lunch, to coin a simple economic concept. Opportunity costs exist throughout one's life. I celebrate the wondrous diversity of women's lives! The continuing legacy of the "feminist movement" is not that we have everything simultaneously but that we have access to all and the love and support of our fellow sisters in our choices.

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  13. It's so true that there are several factions within the feminist movement which are often at odds with each other. Is a provocatively dressed woman displaying sexpositivity or degrading herself to win male approval? If a married woman takes her husband's last name is she conforming to misogynistic societal expectations or simply exercising individual free choice? Usually I find that either side has some valid points so I do feel there should be space for discussion and debate. However, it's a very fine line between helping to free oppressed women and oppressing women who don't want help. Take the Femen movement, for example. They stage naked protests against Islamic head coverings. The French government has banned hijabs from schools and government buildings altogether. Are they really freeing women from oppression or just oppressing them for not conforming to THEIR dress standards?

    However, I see the controversy surrounding the Ordain Women movement as a bit different because women simply don't have a choice regarding the priesthood. Unlike education, career, motherhood, etc. the Priesthood is not an option for women to pursue (or not pursue). To me it's less about making peace with the various options that are available to women and more about making peace (or not) with what isn't an option.

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