Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mormonism and Feminism

Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man- there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them... who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend.
-Dorothy Sayers 

Tuesday was my first Women in Art class. If the title of the course is any indication, you might guess that the class will be a little bit about feminism.

I don't know if it's my major, my gender, or just because right now is the so-called "Mormon Moment," but this topic seems to come up quite a bit in my life. Because of this, there's been a lot of soul searching on my part to figure out exactly how I feel about the whole "feminist" thang.

Last year, I wrote a post about motherhood. The response was interesting. I found that most girls my age, regardless of their major felt the same way that I do. There's this stigma attached to a woman that wants a  career. Art history is my passion, and I would love nothing more than to spend the rest of my life teaching about, writing about, and breathing in art. But that's not all that I want. And if I had to choose between being a mother and being a professor; there's no question what my decision would be.
I want to be a mom.

But there's still this constant battle as we're faced with the most important question of all: Can we do both? And then there's the whisper of a second question not so far behind: Is it ok to want both?

I think that struggle, although fairly universal, is felt pretty poignantly by Mormon women. We're taught from a very young age how sacred the role of a mother is. That is something that I not only believe, but I know to be true. If being a mother was my only calling or job in life, it would be enough for me.

But still there's this idea floating around outside the church that Mormon women are subjugated into staying at home, changing the diapers of a dozen babies. And that somehow we're treated as second class citizens because we don't hold the Priesthood.

This is absolutely untrue. I have never felt that I've been treated any less because of my sex. In fact, I don't think there's any other place in the world where I have truly come to know my value and divinity as a woman than in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

So can one be a Mormon feminist? And what does that even mean? I guess my answer to that question is, I don't really know.  I don't think I even agree with parts of the quote at the beginning of this post. But that's the cool thing about college. And just life in general.

I have a while to figure things out.

This semester will be a good one.


Vickie said...

I have never understood why the words feminine and feminist are so totally opposite of each other. So I ask, "Can you be feminine and a feminist at the same time?"

Christopher Diep said...

Let's see. Speaking for me, I do not like being defined by a job or a career. I am happy with the thought that I will be a husband and a father. Those will be the titles that define me.

I picture my job and career will be something I do and not really the person I am. The job and career I will eventually choose will just be a short way of describing the tasks I do. That's all that really matters: the tasks I do for work. So if I had to switch to another job/title, I would continue learning to do more tasks.

I think as a woman who pursues a career it would be the same thing. We pick up new skills and tasks. Then put them into practice. Then we continue picking up more. The question really is: Is feminism about women learning to do more tasks and skills? I believe mothers would need to adapt and develop skills to deal with growing children.

Also, there's no pressure. Just do what you want. And usually I end up doing what I should.