Saturday, March 26, 2011

This is the Type of "Feminist" I Am

My family dressed up for Halloween

I've been thinkint about feminism the last several months. My thoughts have been tumbling around in my head since before Christmas and I figure it is time to get them out before they burn a hole in my head.

Feminism and I have had a long and tenuous relationship. I started struggling with "women's issues" when I was really young, around 11 or 12. I had lots of hard questions about why men’s and women's roles and places in society were so different. For most of my pre-teen and teen years my questions smoldered and confused me. I spouted popular feminist ideals and jumped on any feminist bandwagon I could find. Yet my confusion only got worse and it started to make me angry and resentful. The only thing that kept me anchored to my testimony was a sure knowledge of God's nature. I knew that He wasn't a respecter of persons, male or female, and knew that if I was confused it was probably because I didn't understand things well enough. It also helped that I was also a dedicated scripture reader and from a very young age turned to them for guidance with my questions.

By the time I got to college I had a burning desire in my heart to do something that would help improve the condition of women in the world. I remember once telling my roommate that I wish I'd lived in the early 1900's so I could be a suffragette. I needed and wanted a cause--any cause-- to fight for that would help women. At BYU I majored in Public Health and minored in Women's Studies. I also got a job as a research assistant at the Women's Research Institute (which sadly doesn't exist any more) and worked there for four years studying women and peace, peace education, and women's education. While there I met LDS women who healed my heart and taught me not to rely on blogs, lectures, videos, or books for an understanding of women's roles but to open my scriptures and ask God. Their advice has made all the difference. Through the scriptures, prayer, and fasting I gained a testimony of my divine nature as a daughter of God and my role as a woman on the earth. I gained a sure knowledge that the only way women (and men for that matter) will truly be empowered and realize their true value is through embracing and living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yet despite all my involvement with and passion for women's issues recently I've started feeling uncomfortable labeling myself as a feminist. Perhaps this is because feminism is often a loaded term and means different things to everyone, but I think it is mostly because I've never found a group of feminists or a feminist philosophy that describes or advocates for the sort of "feminism" I believe in-- not "Mormon Feminism"-- or any other brand I have come across in my years of searching.

I think the closest that anyone has come to putting into words the type of feminism I believe in is Rachel DeMille in her essay "’Steel to Gold’: Motherhood and Feminism" . She said,

There is a widespread myth that feminism came about in the 20th Century, that—along with Civil Rights and Environmentalism—feminism is one of our great modern advances. The truth is that feminism has a much earlier origin.

Ancient feminism, started by the initiative of Eve, and spurred on in the East by Taoist thought of Yin and Yang, and in West by the Odysseus-Penelope tradition, has one focused objective: the maintenance of the basic unit of society. In all three traditions equality was never in question, and the feminine provided spark, spice and initiative.

In the ancient stories it is woman who takes this initiative, woman who teaches that all other vows in society are only as strong as the marriage vow, woman who instills steel in young hearts—hearts which will not bend to temptation or loose traditions.

It is ironic then that modern feminism has attacked the marriage vows, pushing for religious, traditional and even legal approval of breaking them, of disconnecting us from each other, of replacing wholeness with individual license.

Eve didn’t need to be emancipated. Only where the marriage vows fail is there abuse and domination by male or female.

I think DeMille put into words so wonderfully what I have known in my heart for a long time. As I've studied the history of women in the scriptures I've seen that there are many, many strong, intelligent, and influential women who alter the course of history through their actions. I've seen the repeated emphasis on the family and have read time and time again (like in the story of the Concubine in Judges 19) how when the family is corrupted by unrighteous dominion or is abandoned as a societal goal that it results in violence, oppression, and the silencing of women's voices and influence.

I firmly believe that God loves both His daughters and his sons and that He divinely organized the best arrangement in which both men and women could reach their highest and greatest potential and that it is called-- the family. All other organizations, groups, movements, NGOs, or governments we create on this earth will always fall short of the impact that the righteous family will have in the lives of women, men and children. In my opinion the family, because of its ability to influence past, present and future generations, should be the focus of all our "feminist" energy.

Yet it is interesting to me just how much some feminists want to distance themselves from the family and don’t believe that women can truly be happy or empowered in a patriarchal society. I think that many of them, at their core, believe in the family and understand its importance but they get deceived into believing that things like NGOs, the UN, universities, law firms, medical schools, development programs, more political involvement, and countless other things will make more of a difference to women and to the world than the family. Instead of focusing on helping people improve their intimate, most basic relationships with themselves, God, and their family they run programs and petition governments, churches, and international organizations for greater gender equality. It is true that many of these actions are very praise worthy, and I have participated in some of them myself, but all they do is temporarily relieve women’s suffering. They are treating the symptoms of the disease rather than the cause and in doing so are missing what will really make the most difference in the lives of women.

In her essay DeMille goes on to say,

"There is a power that women bring to the table, the power of shaping a community—of changing its very heart—a power that lasts for generations, not just between elections. This power is best expressed by the woman who sets out to raise her great grandchildren. At first this seems obvious. A woman who raises her own children successfully will, of course, have direct and indirect impact on her grandchildren and even her great-grandchildren. But this is only the start.

Every great-grandchild is directly raised by twelve people. There are others who will influence the child, but twelve who directly raise, mentor, teach, lead, counsel and help the child reach adulthood. The power of womanhood is to directly train all twelve of these people, so that when her great-grandchild is raised, he or she is raised correctly and well.

The twelve people are the great-grandchild’s:
father
mother
grandfather
grandmother
grandpa
granny
uncle
aunt
rabbi (church leader)
teacher
friend
mayor (government)

These are the twelve most influential people on the life of your perhaps yet unborn great-grandchild. And if you don’t raise them right, who will? What an incredible challenge! Our role as women is to raise these twelve people right! No elected official can do all this, no judge, no senator, no CEO, no high school principal, no Hollywood executive, no media mogul or Federal Reserve banker. No President or Pope can do this. They just aren’t powerful enough.

No matter how successful such men or women may be in their sphere, they don’t have the power to raise these twelve people effectively. No constitution, law or policy has such power, but every woman has it, is born with it, can reach deep down inside and bring it to the surface, can spend her life doing it. If this seems overwhelming, welcome to womanhood."

It is getting harder and harder for women to remember but they way in which we in the United States live our lives is only a product of the last 150 years or so. For most of the rest of US history women didn't have to choose between "home" and "career" and neither did men. The home was the fundamental unit of society and all the important work of society centered around it. Men often did not work far from home (unless they were merchants, soldiers, or members of a privileged class) and women stayed home, not because they were unfit for other work, but because the amount of work required to keep a household running required a clear division of labor. Most businesses were family owned and were often run out of homes. All major life events like marriage, birth, and death were conducted in the home and all the members of the family were involved. There was no real divide between the home and the rest of the world and men and women worked side by side. Women and men were focused on raising, not only their children, but in creating a the type of world they wanted for their great-grandchildren and it was focused around the home.

In the United States it wasn't until the advent of the Industrial Revolution that both men, women, and children left home, on a widespread scale, to make their living. Our society’s focus shifted from the home and the family as the fundamental unit of society to the institution and the individual as the fundamental unit of society. Tasks that were once functions of the home and the responsibility of families were "outsourced" to institutions and corporations. Today we rely on governments, corporations, and organizations to do the jobs which men and women traditionally did in their homes together. Jobs like pre-school and foundational education, caring for the elderly, hosting guests, preparing meals, building, taking care of the poor, raising and preserving food, nursing the sick, birth and labor, weaving, spinning, making clothes, preparing and burying the dead, cleaning, and making the things necessary for the home are tasks that we have now turned over to organizations. These organizations, by their very nature, often require the break up of the home. They require that men and women be separated, working in separate spheres, buildings, and focusing on separate goals. Men and women no longer work side by side together all day like they once did and often times they forget that they are working towards the same goal and sometimes don’t even know what that goal is.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I think that our modern progress is in many ways a great blessing, but I think we are sometimes unaware of how it has affected and changed our most basic relationships. If our focus as a society was really on the family, rather than economic and individual gain, then women (and men) wouldn't have to choose between "working" in the home or working in "society" because the end goal of both would be the same-- creating strong and righteous families. Yet because our society is not focused on the family men and women spend all their time trying to balance two competing agendas-- that of creating a strong family and that of making money and creating a "good" world-- and often it just makes them stressed and results in a weak family and weak society instead.

I’ve been listening to the news for months waiting for any mention of how we need to strengthen families to improve our society. I haven’t heard anything. Instead all I’ve heard is that we need to improve our economics, our education, our health care, our gender equality, and our international relations and then all the world’s problems will be solved. The more I listen the more I realize that we really are living in a world in which the family is increasingly no longer the fundamental focus of our society. We are beginning to loose our center, the very core of who we are, and why we are here on the earth. We are becoming like Paul described in Eph. 4:14 a ship at sea “tossed to and fro” with no rudder and not direction. Patricia Holland elaborated more on this in her essay "One Needful Thing: Becoming Women of Greater Faith in Christ", she said:

"I am very appreciative of the added awareness that the women’s movement has given to a gospel principle we have had since Mother Eve and before—that of agency, the right to choose. But one of the most unfortunate side effects we have faced in this matter of agency is that, because of the increasing diversity of life-styles for women of today, we seem even more uncertain and less secure with each other… Surely there has not been another time in history when women have questioned their self-worth as harshly and critically as in the second half of the twentieth century. Many women are searching, almost frantically, as never before, for a sense of personal purpose and meaning; and many LDS women are searching, too, for eternal insight and meaning in their femaleness.

…If I were Satan and wanted to destroy a society, I think I would stage a full- blown blitz on women. I would keep them so distraught and distracted that they would never find the calming strength and serenity for which their sex has always been known…Satan has effectively done that, catching us in the crunch of trying to be superhuman instead of striving to reach our unique, God-given potential within such diversity…We can become so sidetracked in our compulsive search for identity and self-esteem that we really believe it can be found in having perfect figures or academic degrees or professional status or even absolute motherly success. Yet, in so searching externally, we can be torn from our true internal, eternal selves…

One woman…whose writings I love, is Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She comments on the female despair and general torment of our times: “The Feminists did not look … far [enough] ahead; they laid down no rules of conduct. For them it was enough to demand the privileges. … And [so] woman today is still searching. We are aware of our hunger and needs, but still ignorant of what will satisfy them. With our garnered free time, we are more apt to drain our creative springs than to refill them. With our pitchers [in hand] we attempt … to water a field, [instead of] a garden. We throw ourselves indiscriminately into the committees and causes. Not knowing how to feed the spirit, we try to muffle its demands in distractions. Instead of stilling the center, the axis of the wheel, we add more centrifugal activities to our lives—which tend to throw us [yet more] off balance.

“Mechanically we have gained, in the last generation, but spiritually we have … lost.” Regardless of the time period, she adds, “[for women] the problem is [still] how to feed the soul.”

DeMille also said something similar in her essay. She said,

"... the more unfortunate impact of 20th century feminism is antithetical to its aims: not strong, amazing women who know the power and beauty of their mission, but rather women who are doubting and tentative, even as they assertively rationalize their insecurities. If they have careers, they fear they are missing something. If they are homemakers, they fear they're missing something. If married, they're lectured about independence; if single, they're cautioned against it. This is the legacy of modern feminism-- Not independence. Not emancipation. Not opportunity. Not equality-- doubt."

I think that this doubt, competitiveness, and hunger about what women's roles are in the world is very obvious among women in our modern world. One only has to take a quick spin around the blog world to discover that there are countless forums and groups dedicated to making sense of women's roles within the workplace, the home, in religion, amongst other women, and in the world. Even among LDS women there is a whole lot of doubt, talk and chatter but very few answers. I think that when it comes right down to it most women-- not all-- are living their lives in a sense of half fulfillment, constantly doubting (inside themselves, if not out loud) that what they are doing or who they are is "enough". Like DeMille said, if they have a career their afraid that they are missing something and if they stay at home they are afraid they are missing something. When the real truth is that women need to be actively involved in their homes and in shaping society but that these things shouldn't be mutually exclusive.

We live in a world where women are starving for meaning, freedom and purpose in their lives but are looking for it in all the wrong places. They see the symptoms of the disease and assume they must be the cause. They spend all their time focusing on curing the symptoms, wondering why they never seem to be making a difference, when the real culprit-- the disintegration of the family as a societal goal-- sinks further and further into the abyss and the world gets sicker and sicker. What we need in this world is not more governments or private programs what we need is a huge re-evaluation of our goals as a society. We need to re-focus on the family and once again make it the fundamental unit of society. We need men and women to come back home. We need them to rediscover the value of children and their responsibility to perpetuate life. We need them to realize that as the world moves further and further away from the family that true gender equality and true "empowerment" for women is impossible. We need women who are not encased in doubt but who have strong and passionate testimonies of their divine roles. We need men and women (regardless of their marital status) who are dedicated to raising their great-grandchildren, focusing on making a home, a community, and world in which men and women see and respect the divine nature of each other and are dedicated to the continuation of life.

That is the type of "feminist" Eve ,

Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel,

Miriam, Esther, Mary the mother of Christ,

Emma Smith, Eliza R. Snow, and Emmeline B. Wells were.

That is the type of feminist I am.

41 comments:

  1. Oh I've been wanting to ask you this!! I don't have time to read it all right now, but I will hopefully tonight! Em

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  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!! You have written what I have been pondering for so long; you have said it better than I have thought it.

    Thank you!!

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  3. I recently found your blog, and I'm a new follower.

    WOW! Thank you so much for this post -- it put into words what I have been feeling, and I suspect what a lot of women feel. I actually recently started a blog because I wanted to add another strong but faith-filled female voice to the confusion there seems to be.

    I really appreciate your thought-provoking posts. I look forward to reading more.

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  4. Oh, I totally love this one today. It is things I have pondered on and feel very deeply about. I love all the information here and the way you put it together. Thank you!

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  5. I. LOVE. THIS!

    I have never called myself a feminist, the whole direction of feminism felt wrong to me.

    I love how you describe your type of feminism, I would call it "Godly Feminism". Where we stand up and are proud of our divine nature, our differences, and the power of each.

    Wonderful post!

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  6. Read it. Thank you! Totally agree! Esp liked: I’ve been listening to the news for months waiting for any mention of how we need to strengthen families to improve our society. I haven’t heard anything. Instead all I’ve heard is that we need to improve our economics, our education, our health care, our gender equality, and our international relations and then all the world’s problems will be solved.

    Did you see Erin's link on Mamas who Know to the Des News article on children and happiness? I was so ready to be irritated, but in the end the article showed that even though children take away our perceived "freedom," we wouldn't take those children away for anything. I need to go leave a comment over there!

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  7. Thank you. This puts into words all the thoughts that have been floating around in my head and heart.

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  8. Good piece! My only worry is that by saying we should focus on the family unit, you exclude wonderful movements and organizations that indirectly affect the family unit. As an undergrad PH student, like you, I was able to do a really amazing research project on the impacts of improved female literacy on the family. The outcomes are amazing. This is a great example, I think, of where focusing on "female empowerment" does in fact focus on the family. When girls and mothers are educated, the whole family benefits. So I agree with a few reservations, in that I do think there are many great organizations, non-profits, societies, that indirectly affect the family and are fabulous.

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  9. I was torn with feminism. I truly believe we should be "equal before laws" such as having the right to vote or own property when my husband dies or have some freedom some women in the past weren't blessed with, like maybe the ability to work when we're a widow. However, I despise feminism because if you study the gospel, you will understand God doesn't believe in fairness- he believes in what is best for us. For us women, we should be at home if circumstance allows it to happen. We should be PROUD to be a full time mom, wife, and homemaker! So I avoid labeling myself as feminist since I'm anti-abortion (so called "woman's right") and I don't believe what many modern day feminists believe. It drives me crazy. I'm VERY pro-family.

    Also if you're pro family, avoid some modern TV shows, especially comedies.

    If you want pro-family organizations I suggest Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family. They're excellent. I also heard Glenn Beck talking about families in his Foxnews as well.

    Thank you for your comment as well!!! :)

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  10. Thanks ladies I appreciate the feedback!

    Momzoo, I like the phrase "godly feminism" DeMille uses the phrase "Historical feminism" but i'm not too fond of that one. I've also thought of using the phrase "Family feminism". Maybe something will evolve eventually:)

    Kels, Thanks for your comment. I think you bring up a really good point. There are lots of wonderful programs that do a lot of good for women and for families. I don't think we should get rid of them nor do I think that women shouldn't be involved in them. I think that what I am concerned about is that often times development or empowerment programs are so focused on women, and economics, that they tend to exclude men and the family. I think that any program worth having and worth investing in is one that includes both men and women and is designed to be a supplement to the family rather than replace it. I think that lots of women's development programs just assume that marriages and gender relations are too messed up to deal with and so they try to go around them and focus on empowering women instead. I think that doing that is really harming women and that we need to include the family--men and women-- in any meaningful program.

    Also, you should go read the rest of DeMille's article that I linked to. Later on in her article she gives three suggestions for how women can raise their great grandchildren-- and one of the main ones is by becoming educated. This doesn't necessarily mean formal education or college degrees but it focuses on educating yourself so that you have something to share.

    Also, I think I need to clarify that I am not an "anti-feminist" I don't believe that women should ONLY focus on their families and that they shouldn't have involvement in other aspects of society. In fact I believe that women NEED TO be actively involved in shaping the world around them-- it is part of raising your great grand children. My point is just that the way we have structured our society makes everything so much harder for women and as a result the family and society suffers. We need to shift our focus back to what will really work.

    I hope that clarifies things a bit!

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  11. Heather,
    Thanks for the thoughtful response. Based on your clarifications, I agree. First, I agree that there are many "empowerment" interventions that can be done at the cost of the family-- microcredit is a good example. I'm not against it by any means, but sometimes it is employed in a way that is not culturally sensitive, nor sensitive to pre-established marriage relationships that could be salvaged (despite the fact that they're not typically ideal to start with) if the program were employed in a more sensitive/inclusive manner.

    I had a feeling we would agree on this, but I wanted to raise that idea and see what you thought. So, the hope is-- more family-focused programs, and even if they're applied in a peripheral manner (women's empowerment), they should still maintain family outcomes as the ultimate goal. And everyone wins with education :)

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  12. Once again, you've hit the nail on the head! Thanks for the lovely post.

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  13. You are a talented writer and I love reading your thoughtful posts. Thank you.

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  14. I love this. Thank you for thinking this through and putting it together. My favorite line: "We need men and women to come back home." Amen.

    Have you read Radical Homemakers? If I'm understanding correctly, that sounds like the concept you are talking about. Completely agree.

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  15. Thank you so much for this post. Your thoughtful treatment of this subject came as an answer to a question I've been praying about for quite some time. I am so glad I happened upon your blog today. Best wishes and regards! ♥

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  16. Fabulous essay. I'm glad you clarified that you're not an anti-feminist in response to Kelsey's question, because that was my main concern as well.

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  17. You are a very intelligent woman. It's nice to read something so intellectually, and spiritually moving... that also affirms truth, so obviously and powerfully. I've read some of your stuff, and I really think you have a gift. Thanks for helping me remember who I am, what I can accomplish and who I can be to make a difference in society. :)

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  18. Heather, I just posted the blog contest runner-up post on MormonMomma.com and dropped by to tell you. Found this post and had to read.

    I've never called myself a feminist — as you said, too much baggage — but I, too, have long had female "issues." First noticed when I was four and felt bad my dad got to baptize and confirm both my older siblings. :)

    Great, thoughtful post. I appreciate your perspective. But as I read, I was troubled by a couple of thing:

    (1) The common implication is made that those who have more questions or less contentment than you do with the position of women have not turned to the scriptures or to God. As I've said before, this is simply untrue as some general rule.

    Personally, I think it has something to do with the particular mission or purpose individuals have, but either way I think such determination is better left to the individual.

    (2) I seriously have to swallow hard to read anything by the DeMilles without bias. As a long-time homeschooler (17+ years) I have dealt so often with results from the flawed and profoundly erroneous TJED stuff and, more to the point, the utter misrepresentations by OD, that I cringe just seeing the names. Still, I tried to be fair.

    I agreed with some of what she said, but this stuck out to me, "Only where the marriage vows fail is there abuse and domination by male or female."

    I'm sure we're all aware that historically marriage vows were anything but even-handed. None of the vows had to be broken for a woman to be utterly mistreated by today's standard.

    I'm old enough (46) to have seen significant changes in the temple endowment and sealing -- though they are still BOTH different for men than for women. Some of the changes were specific toward making things more equitable to women. (Note: that means earlier than the late 80s they were LESS equitable than they are now.)

    As with the presentation of TJED as a whole (i.e. Thomas Jefferson was NOT schooled with the so-called "Thomas Jefferson Education" method -- and neither were the historical leaders they claim), DeMille seems unaware of what real history shows, in this case about treatment of women.

    We can easily look around the world today to see the (sometimes life-threatening) inequity women deal with every day.

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  19. Alison Moore,

    Thank you for coming back to drop in! I hope that I didn't imply in my post that women who still have questions about women's roles haven't searched the scriptures enough. That is not what my intent was. I was just sharing my testimony and letting women know that the answers ARE there. God teaches us all in different ways but He will give us answers that will bring us peace and heal our hearts. I testify, again and again, of that.

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  20. Heather, thanks for responding. You are one of the bloggers I most admire, so I hope you understand what I'm saying.

    ***I was just sharing my testimony and letting women know that the answers ARE there. God teaches us all in different ways but He will give us answers that will bring us peace and heal our hearts.****

    This is a fundamental issue that perhaps we disagree on. I think it's very different to have peace with something and to have answers for it.

    When the prophet himself says he doesn't know why the distinctions exist -- combined with multiple prophetic statements on other issues (the sealed portion, etc.) -- I think it's safe to say that the scriptures do NOT have all the answer and God isn't giving them all either. And that's OK.

    I agree that God can give us peace, but I don't think that's always what he does -- even when he might give it to others over the same issue. And I don't think it's some kind of sign of, say, being "in tune."

    Like I said, I think it has something to do with purpose/mission, but I think it's a sound idea.

    For example, President Benson hammered on the Book of Mormon, but President Kimball seemed more concerned about missionary work and other things. President Hinckley was pretty much beside himself with the idea to build temples everywhere. But President Hunter seemed pretty much at "peace" with the current rate of building. Does that make sense?

    JoAnn Hibbert Hamiliton talked frequently about "God-given unrest." I like that description and think it could be applied in many instances where one person is given peace by God and another given a desire to take action, perhaps even on the same issue. To me the assumption that *my* peace must mean there is no more to discuss is probably unfounded. Not that I always remember that in discussion. :/

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    1. Alison! Wow. You both inspire me with your insight. Thank you for this perspective. It resonates with me.

      Heather, brilliant essay.

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  21. Wow, very powerful post. I am going to have to read it several times to soak it all in.

    Did your thoughts about this start to form after the RS General Broadcast? You mention them starting late last year. I went into conference season wanting answers to my "feminism" and felt like Sister Beck's talk was just for me.

    My mom and I have talked a lot about this - about how we need to support the whole family, not just women. We need to be advocates for families. (And wow is Sister Beck hitting that hard - did you see her article in the recent Ensign?)

    How about the term "familism"? It basically means a social structure in which the family takes precedence over the individual. To me, it clearly conveys the intent.

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  22. Heather -

    I really appreciate this post. I've been looking for a definition of feminism I could relate to, and I think this comes the closest.

    What about those of us who never become mothers? I still feel left out of so many parts of Mormon 'culture' because my family is just my husband and me. And if it stays that way the rest of our lives, then what do I do to raise my great-grandchildren? I work in Primary, and I'm sure I could make a good argument that I'm helping raise other people's great-grandchildren, but do I stay a 'helper' the rest of my life? How can I apply your version of feminism to myself?

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  23. Uk Yankee,

    Thank you for your wonderful comment. I'm glad that you brought this up because I knew when I wrote it that there would be questions about this from single women and men and couples without children. I think that one of the most beautiful things about focusing on the family as the fundamental unit of society (rather than say just men or just women or just children) is that it includes EVERYONE.... no matter what your marital status, how many children you have or don't have, no matter if you have been good or horribly bad, or if you are handicapped or disabled... you are part of a family. It leaves NO ONE out.

    I think we often forget that we are part of ONE big family... God's family. True, he lets us "practice" by making our own families here on earth but the children we bear, nurture and raise are not really OUR children... they are God's children. They are our brothers and our sisters--- our equals spiritually-- and we ALL have the responsibility to help each other make it back to our Father in Heaven. True, parents have added responsibility over the children entrusted to them but I don't think that this means that other "brothers and sisters" don't have the same responsibility to teach, love and nurture them. In fact I think that often times non-parents can have more of an impact on a child's life than they can ever imagine.

    Think about it this way. Who will we have Family Home Evening with when we are in the Celestial Kingdom? If I was to have it with my children then we'd also have to have it with their children and their children and their children, etc. If I was to have it with my parents then we'd have to have it with their parents and their parents and their parents... until eventually the whole Celestial kingdom was having one big FHE. We are all interconnected... so much more than we can even fathom with our limited mortal brains. It is one of Satan's biggest tactics to try to make us forget that... to put up "sterotypes", "races", "nations" and "life stages" to divide us and keep us from being as powerful as we could be if we were unified.

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  24. Please don't EVER feel like your worth or your participation in the gospel is diminished in any way by not having children. Anyone who makes you feel like that is not acting in righteousness and doesn't understand the plan of salvation fully.

    This life isn't just about raising our OWN children-- It is about raising ALL the world's children to know who they are and to return to their Heavenly Father. Being able to do that has NOTHING to do with whether or not the children are actually "yours"... because even when they are "yours" they are first and foremost God's.

    I've shared this quote before by Patricia Holland but it is SO good so I'll share it again. She said,

    "I believe mother is one of those very carefully chosen words, one of those rich words—with meaning after meaning after meaning. We must not, at all costs, let that word divide us. I believe with all my heart that it is first and foremost a statement about our nature, not a head count of our children."

    UK Yankee, you are definitely NOT just a "helper". I know that your anguish over having your own children is real and that it is a hard cross to carry. I think that wanting to bear and nurture children is an innate part of what it means to be a woman. Even though you don't have your own children don't stifle those feelings or think they are worthless. There are SO MANY MANY MANY children out there who need that love. So MANY. Pray that God will direct you to them because I can bear testimony that He hears the righteous desires of our hearts and answers them in ways we never could imagine.

    My definition of family feminism does not leave you out... nor single men and women... because in the end we aren't just striving to strengthen and build our own mortal families but are striving for a higher, celestial and eternal family...And we all are a part of that.

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  25. I agree with a lot of this. But ladies, don't abandon the term feminism, change it. Also I like how you bring up how the industrial revolution took everyone out of the home, I think the technological revolution that will bring everyone back into the home. It's crazy society expects us to leave out homes for 60 hour work weeks when more than half of the work could be done at home via email etc. This means mothers and fathers will be in the home more. Because although I am grateful for the choices I have been afforded, I realize that my husband doesn't have the same choices according the majority of society. Like you say, the family isthe most important role or focus and my husband whiplike feel comfortable wanting to be the main caregiver. He loves the role when it is his, but doesn't have the same acceptance or expectations to help support his choice.

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  26. Heather thank you for responding to my comment. I think I'm still finding my way in regard to my place in the church - not the gospel, but the culture. It's difficult not to feel isolated and a bit marginalized sometimes. But I have strong faith & a testimony that the gospel is true, so I know I'll find the answers to bring me peace. Your thoughts do help me, though, so thank you again!

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  27. This is beautiful. An excellent summary that I love and support--especially the thought about raising your great-grand children.

    Motherhood is a high and noble calling.

    With you, I fully value and appreciate women--and I'm disappointed with how the word "feminism" has been distorted to result in changes that in fact, lead to unhappiness for women, as I've written in Feminism leads to Unhappiness for women.

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  28. Hi Heather--first time commenter; I spent some time browsing your blog and I love the efforts you are making to create a more inclusive environment for women in our religious discourse.

    You said, I’ve been listening to the news for months waiting for any mention of how we need to strengthen families to improve our society. I haven’t heard anything. Instead all I’ve heard is that we need to improve our economics, our education, our health care, our gender equality, and our international relations and then all the world’s problems will be solved. The more I listen the more I realize that we really are living in a world in which the family is increasingly no longer the fundamental focus of our society.

    I guess I don't see the discussions about our economy, our health care, our relations with other nations, or any of the other things you site as not being discussions of the family. When we go to war, it affects the family. When a member of the family is in need of health care and faces obstacles, it affects the family. When the economy is lopsided or in recession, it affects the family. When there is gender inequity and abuse of power, you bet it affects the family. In fact, I think it is vital for the family for all of those discussions to occur both in our nation and internationally. So I'm curious, what kinds of societal discussions would you characterize as being "about the family" that are not happening?

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  29. UK Yankee,

    Your comments about your desire to have children, but inability to have them reminded me of the story of Hannah in the Bible (which I happened to read today). It is also the story of other notable women in scripture such as Sarah and Rachael. The interesting thing about all these stories to me is that all of these women did eventually bear children. I know a few women who were barren and were healed by the power of the Priesthood, but I also know there are cases where a woman has to wait upon the Lord for this blessing. Stay humble and stay close to the scriptures and God will bless you in his own time and own way. Take care.

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  30. Thanks for this post it was what I needed to read at this moment in my life. I have been in a funk of late feeling as though my life was serving no purpose and feeling at a cross road. I didn't exactly thought of it along the lines of gender roles, but rather complacency. After contemplation, prayer, studying the scriptures, and reading the book, Almost Amish, I have felt a stronger desire to turn towards my family. I have been prompted to disconnect from virtual reality (blogs, twitter, facebook) and seek less validation from worldly "experts". Instead, I have a greater desire to spend more face time with my family, strengthening the three foundational pillars (fhe, family prayer, family scriptures), fortifying our home & making it a heaven on earth. I understand my influence, so I know that the change starts with me. Again, thank you for expressing what I have been feeling.

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  31. This is 100% spot on. For the longest time I've claimed antifeminism because as I recall, feminists were the females screaming shrilly against the prophet and in favor of ERA at the back of the Tabernacle at General Conference in my childhood. But I am not against the power, authority and divinity of my gender, and so that term does not fit.

    So I have questioned exactly where I stand. This is my conclusion:

    Must we call pro-womanhood "feminism" at all? I am so worn by the "F" word. Am I not divinely mighty in my womanly nature? Eve to my husband, mother before my children were born and long into the eternities—without the feminists label, I am most certainly "Woman" enough.

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  32. What a beautiful post! Thank you!

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  33. Heather, Thank you so much for this post and many of your others. You relfect so much of what I believe! You are an inspiration. Your posts are so uplifting and great. Thank you!

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  34. Thank you for posting this. This is how we have chosen to raise our daughters. They are still only 4 & 5, so we call it "Girl Power," but the focus in our family is to prepare them to be strong, independent-thinking missionaries, students, wives and mothers. I'm so glad that you put into words what we are trying to accomplish in our home. You have inspired me to create a family mission statement and plan! My husband and I talk about it quite often to each other. Now we need to make it an daily, actionable routine. Thank you for this inpiration!

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  35. I love this post! So glad my friend linked to it. Thank you for your lovely thoughts. I want to call it Family Friendly Feminism, but I think it is just so much more than that. Beautifully done.

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  36. This post is so beautifully written! You sure have a way with articulation. And I love all the additional links you add in. It makes for a very insightful and educational read. :)

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  37. This post just sang to me. I love and identify with everything you've said. And I'll have to look up that DeMille talk.

    People say that they like the good things about feminism. I say, who doesn't? The positive contributions have seeped deeply into our society--equality, education, health care, legal rights. . . they are part of everyone's ideals now. Even my grandpa's. But just like we don't check a box stating "human" on our paperwork, identifying with feminism because you agree with the general consensus of society seems too obvious, and a little dangerous. We ought to retain our voices for ourselves, and not join with a movement that we have no control over. Abortion, contraception, sexual liberation, egalitarianism rather than equality--these are loaded subjects to be messing around with. The women's delegation at the UN, the lobbying groups in congress, even CEOs and other important people--they are the driving force of feminist change. Not the blogging world. And naively hitching your wagon to the feminism horse without realizing who is really pulling it forward is foolish. Like you said, it brings doubt, resentment and anger.
    I love being a woman and feel strength and honor in doing what a woman, uniquely, can do. Society needs us. Our families need us.
    Phew. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. It's been building up for a while.

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    1. Loved this line "And naively hitching your wagon to the feminism horse without realizing who is really pulling it forward is foolish."

      So TRUE!

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