Where Feminism Doesn’t Take Me

My brand of Mormon feminism has led me to plenty of feminist places. I kept my birth name. I want women leaders with equal opportunities to contribute in education, industry, government and church. I want equal pay for equal work. I would like Heavenly Mother acknowledged more often and more openly among Mormons. I am suspicious of gender roles and gender essentialism. I hope for less gender constriction for both women and men as they chart their lives.

However, Starfoxy’s excellent post from the other day, in which she discusses her feminist decision to not wear makeup, made me sit back and consider the places my feminism doesn’t take me. (And I’m not talking about extremist stuff – I’m considering the stands that many of my fellow Mormon feminists take.)

As I commented on her post, makeup is not a front I’ve chosen to make an ideological feminist stand, though I admire and support those who do. Likewise other “feminine” physical attributes — I wear high heels on occasion and highlight my hair.

My feminism has also not led me to personally embrace natural childbirth.  I know several women for whom natural childbirth is an important feminist issue. Taking control of their own birth experience and removing themselves from the male dominated, intervention heavy typical OB experience is crucial for them as feminists, and I am absolutely supportive of them and their choices. I myself, however, have been very grateful for my epidurals, even if it does mean less control.

I also allowed my son to be circumcized four years ago. I don’t know if I would do it again if I had another boy, but at the time my revulsion against female genital cutting didn’t extend so much to male genital cutting. I had mixed feelings, so I stepped back and washed my hands of it, and it was done.

In considering these areas I’ve chosen to not take feminist stands on, it seems one theme that runs through them is the body. When it comes to mainstream medical practices, as well as mainstream conceptions of physical appearance, I appear to be willing to fall in line personally. I’m not sure why this is the case – have I been so influenced by contemporary conceptions of beauty that I am unwilling to swim against the tide? Am I so afraid of pain that I willingly cede my body over to medicine in ways that are disempowering to women? Interesting, since I am willing to make myself uncomfortable in other areas because of my feminist principles.

Where does your feminism not take you? Do you see any themes? Any ideas of why you do or don’t take certain feminist stands?

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women's Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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36 Responses

  1. Corktree says:

    Interesting. I guess I’m a bit on the other side of things when I look at it that way. In areas that concern my (or my children’s) body, I seem to be more willing to take action to show my beliefs. I labor naturally and didn’t circumcise my son – but I didn’t really consider how much those decisions were based on my Feminism, though it makes a lot of sense. I think it is because in my mind, the body is what makes me a woman. Some may disagree on this if you want to bring the eternal nature of gender into it and whether our spirits had gender before this life, but the body is still critically tied to everything Feminist for me because it is solely anatomy that has driven sexism in the history of the world.

    So these physical manifestations of my choices come more naturally to me, but many of the other ways in which to be vocal about my concerns over inequality are harder for me to exhibit and act on. I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m just passive aggressive, and I like my choices to speak for themselves rather than having to verbally assert my opinions to others. Although I think this is something I need to work on and improve at. This is where I’m trying to stretch myself, by owning my discomfort with authority inequality and mistreatment of women so that I can be more outspoken with my opinions and maybe be a stronger force for change as I add my voice and help with getting some work done to improve things.

  2. Barbara says:

    Interesting perspective. Maybe I define feminism in a different way than the previous two posts. Feminism to me is supporting the right of women to be treated with equality and respect. Whether I chose to use makeup or have natural childbirth don’t seem to me to be feminist issues. Because those battles have already been fought – at least on the larger social scale, maybe not in individual homes. No one – male or female – is dictating whether or not I can/cannot wear makeup nor am I being forced to use/or not use drugs during childbirth. To me a situation that demands my feminist attention is one in which I am being restricted based solely on my gender – in which case neither of these apply. Did I miss the point?

  3. mb says:

    My feminism doesn’t take me to supporting the idea of extending the military draft to include women. In that arena, my pacifism trumps my feminism.

  4. Caroline says:

    Corktree,
    “but the body is still critically tied to everything Feminist for me.”

    I think a lot of feminists theorists would agree with you. I love the way your articulated your reasons for making those choices with your body.

    Barbara,
    “Feminism to me is supporting the right of women to be treated with equality and respect. ”

    That’s what it is for me too. I think some feminists extend that to certain body issues, though. For instance if we choose to wear makeup, stillettos, etc. are we perpetuating the expectation that this is what women should like — a standard of discomfort, time, and money that is not extended to men, and therefore are we making it that much harder for other women to choose to turn away from these societal expectations?

    “To me a situation that demands my feminist attention is one in which I am being restricted based solely on my gender.” These are the things that most call out to me, as well. But I think some feminists would argue that by buying into these expectations, we are in fact, as I mentioned above, in some sense restricting other women’s abilities to say no to it.

    mb,
    The draft. Well, I’m against a draft for men or women, so I’m with you in having more pacifist inclinations. But if there had to be a draft, I think I would be ok with having women drafted to serve in some sense – not necessarily combat, if that’s what they didn’t want. (But I would want the same option for men as well.)

    I think it therefore becomes a legitimate feminist stand to take to eschew some of this stuff.

  5. Caroline says:

    oops, ignore that last sentence. That was from a previous incarnation of my comment, and I forgot to delete it.

  6. aerin says:

    I personally don’t see the connection between natural childbirth and feminism. I agree with Naomi Wolf in “Misconceptions”, what’s important is that a woman and family have the right to define a birth plan – to figure out what is best for the family (and what is necessary for pain and safety). Different families and people respond to this in different ways and that’s okay.

    I could see the connection with the research and development of safe, effective forms of birth control – which haven’t really been studied as much as they could be.

    I could also see the connection between some of the “nerves” and “hysteria” of women in the late 19th/early 20th century – women, diagnosed by male psychiatrists. Some of the reaction (I believe) was simply living in a patriarchal world, where women had little to no control over their own lives, destinies and decisions. Some of those attitudes are still there – towards women being unreasonable and emotional – but some of them are gone.

    I am grateful for all the feminist pioneers who went before me, who have made my life so much easier. They’ve allowed me to be able to choose (to take my husband’s name and wear make-up) but also to work outside the home and know my children have a safe place to go. I love the fact that just because I wear some make-up, it doesn’t mean that I am not a feminist, interested in women’s rights, interested in equal chances for everyone in our society. Thanks for this post.

  7. CatherineWO says:

    Hmm. Interesting question, Caroline. As I evaluate my own actions, it is clear that I have taken a stand on the physical body issues. I don’t wear makeup or high heels and I strongly support natural childbirth/homebirth/midwives. I do see these as feminist issues, in that I think a woman should have control of these things in her life. On the other hand, I don’t have a problem with women who choose medicated hospital births, as long as they are informed choices. And I don’t have a problem with women who wear makeup either, as long as they don’t wear fragrances (which make me deathly ill). I support women who wear pants to church, but I personally like wearing a dress, just because I like pretty dresses.
    I guess the bottom (feminist) line for me is that I want women to have choices and the information they need to make those choices. I don’t think that’s going to happen until women have full representation in all professions and in church leadership.

  8. CatherineWO says:

    And Caroline, this is an appropriate topic for today, the 90th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment.

  9. Jenny says:

    As far as equal pay for equal work is involved, people need to know the facts before they bring it up. The facts right now are that females that graduate from college in 2010 in the U.S. DO receive equal pay for equal work.

    At this point, with equal credentials, and equal experience, women who have graduated from college in the last 5 years DO get paid the same as men for doing the SAME job.

    The discrepancy is in the overall average. ON AVERAGE, women receive 79% of what men make. This is because of the fact that in America right now, women tend to choose lower paying jobs.

    This is of course changing, it is largely a generational issue. But please quite demanding equal pay for equal work. We have already won that battle, and to continue it makes us look uneducated on the topic.

  10. Ziff says:

    Jenny, I think it’s the case, though, that women and men are paid very equally if the women don’t have children. That would suggest that it’s not just a generational issue, and that as college grads age, the pay disparity will continue to show up regardless of generation.

    I think you make a fair point that it makes us look bad to appear to continue fighting fights that have already been won, but I also think there’s a strong tendency to want to declare a point “won” before any real equality has been achieved.

  11. Corktree says:

    I’ve continued to think about this post and how much Feminism truly leads me in different areas of my life. (and my last paragraph made no sense…I was tired).

    I just wanted to add that I agree with Catherine on the childbirth issue. It’s not that natural childbirth makes you less of a Feminist, it’s that to me it represents more choice in general. Many informed and educated women choose a medicated hospital birth, and I think it’s wonderful that we have those options….BUT, I think that in general, physicians (mostly male) and a hospital environment, have moved toward removing our choices and rights and think they know better than we do about our bodies. That’s what gets my Feminist panties in a bunch. Too many women are still bullied and made afraid to speak up for themselves, and I want to support education that removes that element, and that adds beauty back to the process instead of fear.

  12. Corktree says:

    sorry, that should be “more” of a Feminist.

  13. Jenny says:

    Even lame old Wikipedia has a fairly decent description on “Equal Pay for Women”. It should be looked at by anyone really interested in what the real statistics are.

    Once women start having children (and leaving the workforce to bear them and care for them) they do start getting paid less. That is simply due to experience, not discrimination. If you leave a job for 3 to 5 months every 2 years, after 8 years you only really have 7 years of experience on the job.

    It is true that a 55 year old woman is still probably making less than a man with the same experience doing the same job. (That is the generational part I mentioned). This is not true with a 28 year old woman – whether she has children or not.

    The details are actually quite fascinating, it would be well worth the read.

  14. aerin says:

    I believe that the OT says that women are cursed with the pain of childbirth because of Eve’s fall (or some religions interpret it that way). Personally, I am glad that women have the option of different types of childbirth – and that c-sections are an option so it is much less likely for women to die in childbirth.

    I think that is a feminist gain – for women to have choices in childbirth. No longer do women have to be in hard labor for 36 hours. I have seen the statistics about c-sections in the U.S. (I believe it’s one out of five pregnancies); and I’m not completely comfortable with that either.

    I also know many female ob-gyns, including the doctor who delivered my twins. So it is difficult for me to see this as a male physician issue – with men telling women how to give birth.

    Some women may be bullied into various birth decisions. And I disagree with that. Particularly with insurance companies and hospital policies that are not flexible.

    But I also know someone (a mom of twins) whose second twin has birth defects due to complications during birth. There is a lot that can go wrong. Not that fear should govern decision making, but sometimes doctors can better manage some of the risks. It is true that women have given birth without doctors for millions of years, but maternal mortality was also high for those years as well.

    I do know that this issue (and some of other issues the OP mentions) become controversial very quickly. I made one educated choice, other people make other educated choices and that’s okay.

  15. Jessawhy says:

    Great post Caroline.
    This is an awesome conversation.

    I recently began to think of health care choices beyond childbirth when I was at a podatrist a few weeks ago discussing pain in my heel. I was concerned about further testing and potentially a recommendation for surgery. My doctor said, “You may not have a choice. You may need surgery.”

    He was very strong in his a opinion, this tall (young and good looking btw) male doctor standing over me while I sat in a chair with my foot under ultrasound. I felt very small and vulnerable. The whole conversation took me by surprise and I did feel like I was having my choices taken away from me.

    I didn’t feel that way when I gave birth to my children, but I know a lot of women do. I can’t imagine how much more painful and difficult it is to have to stand up to a doctor when you’re in labor. Yikes.

    As far as the main question of where feminism has not taken me, that’s into the workforce. I’m choosing to stay home with my children right now but I know that I want to go back to school and back to work in the near future (partly because my kids are driving me crazy). I know that both options are open for women and that we respect each others choices, but it’s hard to see my earning potential and career potential dwindling with each passing year. Perhaps I’m being melodramatic, but watching my husband’s career is a bittersweet experience for this reason.

  16. EmilyCC says:

    Fabulous post, Caroline! I think my definition of feminism is much like what others have said here…giving women the right to choose what they want.

    But, lately, I’ve been worried about how to do that. (sorry, I think this is kind of a thread-jack) I’ve been reading some womanist books and articles as well as some Muslim feminist work, and I think, “Yikes! I’m part of the oppressive problem they’re talking about!” And, I wonder how effective I am in the feminist movement by sticking with my narrow field of feminism, i.e. Mormon feminism. Should I get more involved in maternal feminism, would it be too imperialist of me to do more with Muslim feminism?

    Then again, I wonder how any of us can take on everything (or even a wider swath) feminism encompasses even if we wanted to?

  17. I keep wondering if there is a word that better captures what you are feeling, seeking, wanting.

  18. Naismith says:

    “The discrepancy is in the overall average. ON AVERAGE, women receive 79% of what men make. This is because of the fact that in America right now, women tend to choose lower paying jobs.”

    And the next question is, WHY do those jobs pay less? Why do daycare workers earn so little, even when they have training? Because it is a nurturing thing, so much like what mothers do, and therefore valued less. Ditto for social workers, even with a graduate degree.

    As far as years of experience, I strongly believe that years as a mom at home should be counted as “working in another field.” I worked hard during those years, and learned a lot of time management and people-motivating skills that translate into my work as a project coordinator.

    I agree that nowadays women get the SAME pay for the SAME work. Do we get equal pay for equal work? I think not. Nurturing is considered less valuable, or declared non-work. This is one reason why I am not a feminist, because much of modern feminism has accepted the notion that the way men do things is “normal” and devalues nurturing (e.g., Hirshman’s advice to have none or one child, never more).

  19. Dora says:

    “This is one reason why I am not a feminist, because much of modern feminism has accepted the notion that the way men do things is “normal” and devalues nurturing (e.g., Hirshman’s advice to have none or one child, never more).”

    Hmmm … while this may be true of some brands of feminism, I think it is a mistake to categorize all feminism based on this theory. That would be almost as bad as labelling all mormon women as uneducated, polygamist wives who wear nothing but homespun. If you notice the above comments, you will see that not everything appeals to everyone. However, the unifying theme is that now women are freer to choose how to direct their own lives.

    When I think of feminism, I think that it has enlarged and benefited the lives of women and men. Voting. Education. Career. Many of the myriad avenues of potential would not be available to us if not for feminists, whatever wave they are from.

  20. Caroline says:

    Aerin,
    “I am grateful for all the feminist pioneers who went before me, who have made my life so much easier.”

    amen!! I am so grateful for those women who worked so hard so that i can get a credit card in my own name, a loan in my own name, etc.

    CatherineWo,
    ” I want women to have choices and the information they need to make those choices. I don’t think that’s going to happen until women have full representation in all professions and in church leadership.”

    I so agree with you here.

    Jenny, I’m not sure if you’re directing your “quit demanding equal pay for equal work” at me, but I’ll still address it. I am happy to believe the stats you gave about women in the U.S. currently graduating from college. But I’m concerned with older women and with women in other parts of the world. I think this is still an important feminist issue.

    Jessawhy,
    “but watching my husband’s career is a bittersweet experience for this reason.” I feel the same. I watch my husband’s salary and professional opportunities rise as he ages, and I watch mine diminish. It makes me feel very vulnerable — one reason I’m starting grad school now.

  21. Caroline says:

    Emily,
    “I wonder how effective I am in the feminist movement by sticking with my narrow field of feminism, i.e. Mormon feminism. Should I get more involved in maternal feminism, would it be too imperialist of me to do more with Muslim feminism?”

    Good questions, Emily. I’m not sure I know the answers. I do feel that creating dialogues with other feminist groups is always valuable, so I see no problem with you learning and discussing Muslim feminism. I think the problem comes in when we 1st world white women come in and tell other women what they need or what they should be concerned about. Or when they define their brand of ‘feminism’ as feminism in general. I know that’s not your style, however, so I see nothing but good coming from you getting involved with other feminist groups.

    As for sticking with our own little narrow group… i do think it is valuable for us to look to the larger world of feminism and learn from others who have trod this path or who are producing cutting edge ideas. But I don’t think it’s a problem to focus our energies on Mormonism. Particularly since i think our church has some pressing problems that need to be addressed by Mormon feminists. I also like the idea of ‘bloom where I’m planted.” This is my culture, my people – I like the idea of focusing my energies here.

    Stephen,
    Do you have any ideas of a better name? Humanist? I know a lot of people have a bad taste in their mouth when they hear the word ‘feminism’ but I personally have no problem sticking with it. I think feminists have done a lot of wonderful things for women, and I don’t want extreme elements to take over the word and own it.

    Naismith,
    “Nurturing is considered less valuable, or declared non-work. This is one reason why I am not a feminist, because much of modern feminism has accepted the notion that the way men do things is “normal” and devalues nurturing”

    I agree that nurturing should absolutely be valued more. I would love to see our teachers paid more. And I agree that stay at home moms often have fantastic managerial skills that are often overlooked as they apply for jobs. But I don’t make that same connection about feminism devaluing nurturing. (I know some feminists have, but that’s not the kind of feminism that speaks to me.) When I think of feminism, I think of a movement that is working to open up choice and opportunity and respect for women, no matter what their professional or life choices are. I think the feminists who decry those that choose more traditionally “female” careers or the stay at home route shoot themselves in the foot.

    That said, I do understand the nervousness some feminists feel when the contemplate the stay at home life choice. I think choosing to take oneself out of the professional world does (usually) leave women more vulnerable than they would be if they had a career. I say this as a woman who has been a stay at home mom for the last two years. I live in fear that my husband will die unexpectedly, or become seriously disabled, or leave me out of the blue (unlikely, but still). With me off the career ladder, my ability to provide for my family is precarious. Do you ever feel that vulnerability? Maybe I’m just strange like that.

    Dora, Doh! you just said what I meant to say, but better. 🙂

  22. Rachey says:

    I don’t like the idea of male circumcision being linked to female genital mutilation for this reason, male circumcision has medical benefits, female genital mutilation does not. A boy who has been circumcised is far less likely to deal with UTI’s throughout his life while this is a complication that many non-circumcised men have to deal with. I was very torn on whether or not I agreed with circumcision until I did my research and discovered that many men have to be circumcised later in life due to chronic UTI’s. Not to mention less risk for yeast infection for their sexual partners.

    There is no medical benefit that I know of for female circumcision so really think they are different issues.

  23. Naismith says:

    “Hmmm … while this may be true of some brands of feminism, I think it is a mistake to categorize all feminism based on this theory. That would be almost as bad as labelling all mormon women as uneducated, polygamist wives who wear nothing but homespun.”

    I didn’t categorize all feminism that way; I only said that was why I personally choose not to self-identify as a feminist.

    While Mormon women who are “uneducated, polygamist wives who wear nothing but homespun” are either a teensy minority or thing of the past, the same is not true of feminists who devalue nurturing. Please let’s not pretend that they are a fringe element. Linda Hirshman and Leslie Bennetts have been the loudest feminist voices of the last decade.

    That is certainly the attitude of the current feminist groups where I live, so I choose not to join with them. I think their attitudes are hurtful to many women.

    I am happy to work with them on issues that involve values we share, such as last week’s Women Equality Day Celebration commemorating the right to vote. But I am not going to say that their pro-abortion, anti-family rhetoric is okay and I support it. I am not a feminist as they have defined it. Maybe if I lived elsewhere, things would be different. I’m not an anti-feminist, but I am a non-feminist.

    And while I acknowledge the contributions of our foremothers, let’s be clear that not every step toward equal rights came from feminists. A lot of it was from women who just wanted to keep their job or fulfill their dream, and filed a lawsuit with wide-ranging consequences. Not from any devotion to feminism.

  24. Naismith says:

    Caroline, I do understand the vulnerable feeling of being at home. But (at least in my state) any worker can be fired at will, and we all change jobs multiple times during a career. We are all very vulnerable. In a way, a mom at home is safer for future marketability, because while they don’t have the positives of current employment experience, neither do they have the negatives of working for a wacko who can destroy your career by bad-mouthing you.

    I think there is a lot that someone can do to retain marketability, even at home. For starters….

    1. When you do some awesome volunteer work, directing a church play or surpass PTO fundraising goals, ask for a letter right then, to document your performance. I was sorry I did not do this, and one of my references moved away before I applied for a job.

    2. Choose your volunteer opportunities to provide references. This sounds cold, but it’s the reality. It’s not all about altruism but also how well connected the board is. Also, in my case, one of my volunteer things turned into a paid job that provided an employment reference (the center director quit, and I offered to serve for a month while they found someone new; it was part-time and my husband watched the children).

    3. Of course keep up any certifications or licenses; do reading in the field; see if reputable distance-learning courses are available (I took some additional statistics and writing courses by home study, and one of those faculty later wrote a letter of recommendation for me).

    4. Exercise those muscles whenever you can. I took three years to write a paper, going to the library one night every other week or so while my husband watched the kids. Nowadays, I have to crank out such papers in a much shorter time frame for paid work, but the task is not unfamiliar. Also, I had used EndNote to do that paper, and when I was hired in 1998, none of the faculty in my new department were using it yet. I did several demonstrations, had them converted in a matter of months, and that whole college is now on board. But it was a skill I learned as full-time mom.

    5. If you are thinking of using some sort of graduate or professional school as a springboard to employment when your kids are older or the need arises, spend part of every week studying for the tests. My math scores were much higher thanks to studying, as I don’t do that on a daily basis. And because of my high test scores, I was awarded a university fellowship, which meant I didn’t have to teach, which meant more time at home (I was physically home after school with my kids most days of grad school, albeit studying while they played).

  25. spunky says:

    I am a little late to comment here, but thought I would throw in my $0.02 anyway. I agree with what most have said about equal pay and feminism being a personal choice. But to be very honest, I spent a short but profound yet short portion of my life when my gender was being questioned. My gender was ultimately (biologically) decided because of my chromosomes rather than my (lack of) sexual organs. (and blessings calling me a ‘daughter”). As a result, I feel very little in touch with my physical body as the definition or representation of the female in the way that many of the previous commenters have. I can’t have children do the childbirth thing means nothing to me.

    So- to be honest, I was raised by a feminist and have found comfort in feminist friends, BUT… when feminists use birth experiences or female genetalia as a type of unifying charatceristic of feminist understanding, I am at an absolute loss. And, as a result of momron feminism still being so very much (in my opinion) founded in the physical body, childbirth and unquestions knowledge of being female, I feel unsupported, unwelcome, and ignored in LDS feminist circles.

    Suffice to say, my feminism is limited to how women are treated and how women treat each other. For this reason, non-LDS feminism speaks to me much more than the LDS feminist forum.

    And I promise, I am not trying to offend or accuse anyone, I am just saying that I feel that in LDS feminist circles, my childlessness and mortal body are just as judged just as much as and even MORESO– than when I am in the most conservative Relief Society. (The conservative sisters semm to empathise and forgive me for my mortal body more than the feminists). So my feminism is limited – mostly- to feminist interests outside of the LDS feminist family (sisterhood?) circle.

    Just my $0.02, no need to kick my teeth in.

  26. Dora says:

    Naismith, I’m glad to hear you make this distinction, “I’m not an anti-feminist, but I am a non-feminist.” Sometimes it seems as if you are dismissing all feminists by painting us all with the same, broad brush. Do you mind if I ask where you live, that the feminism in your community seems so anti-family? What I have seen and experienced has advocated for more choices for women, not a definitive pro-abortion/anti-family stance. I certainly don’t think that that theory is espoused here at either the Exponent II blog or publication.

    Hi Spunky! I do like this statement you made, “Suffice to say, my feminism is limited to how women are treated and how women treat each other.” And you’re not alone in wishing for feminism that encompasses more than fertility. Hearkening back to Deborah’s post about Vocational Discernment, my hope is for women to use their talents and opportunities to live their own, best life.

  27. Corktree says:

    Spunky – I think it’s great to hear your perspective. It doesn’t change my experience with my body and how I connect it Feminism, but it opens my eyes to the experiences of others and how to be more inclusive. I’m sorry that you have felt isolated as a result of the commonalities of others. It’s hard not to talk about how what we experience colors our views in this life, but it’s important to be reminded to be sensitive. Thanks for adding your view.

    And to be honest, I think your definition of Feminism (how we are treated and treat each other) should be the starting point for all women, and that we can add what empowers us personally. It’s great that you identify with other groups, because that’s what will eventually bring us together I hope.

    Rachey – it’s a bit disputed that circumcision actually prevents UTIs, or at least, there isn’t enough real evidence to warrant a recommendation for it, even from the medical community. Data can be found to show favor for both sides of the argument, so from some people’s perspective, it is absolutely as unnecessary as female genital cutting.

    • spunky says:

      Thanks Dora and Corktree, especially for forgiving my typing with a broken finger and crashing braodband 🙂 I usually “lurk” in the LDS feminist arena as a result of the (unique) body issue, but might like to venture out a little more as my confidence and a sense of acceptance allows. (husband with no broken finger typed this for me ;).

  28. Jenne says:

    Barbara said,
    “Whether I chose to use makeup or have natural childbirth don’t seem to me to be feminist issues. Because those battles have already been fought – at least on the larger social scale, maybe not in individual homes. No one – male or female – is dictating whether or not I can/cannot wear makeup nor am I being forced to use/or not use drugs during childbirth.”

    Let me say that you are lucky that you have not had the experience of being forced to use or not use drugs during childbirth. I am of those who was bullied, pressured and coerced into doing so. It would be hard to explain to you what that experience’s effect on me was. I had PTSD from reliving the moments where I was trying to fight for my right to say no. You can read my birth story on my blog. My case was not isolated. Women are fighting the same fight in hospitals all over the country and the developed world. It seems to me that the ones who don’t feel pressured into using drugs in childbirth are those who plan for them anyway. Its the ones who are trying to avoid it who encounter the cultural and systematic preference that women are quiet, immobile, and compliant when giving birth. It was my birth experience and my subsequent birth activism that led me to feminism.

    On the topic of routine infant male circumcision, Corktree said it best. The most recent statistic is showing that only 33% of newborn boys are being circumcised. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not and no other professional medical organization recommends the practice. I would not be surprised if in the next decade public opinion shifted to circumcision as an unnecessary and more harmful than beneficial practice.

  29. Naismith says:

    I really appreciated Spunky’s comment and story, that casts a whole ‘nother light on the issue.

    “Do you mind if I ask where you live, that the feminism in your community seems so anti-family?”

    Well, I live East of the Mississipi River (hard to post anonymously while naming the town).

    “What I have seen and experienced has advocated for more choices for women, not a definitive pro-abortion/anti-family stance.”

    What I see is not labelled “anti-family,” of course. They think they are being equal, by treating women and men the same. I am employed by a university that doesn’t allow part-time enrollment. They don’t label it as an anti-family policy, but it eliminates an option for moms who want to finish a degree by taking classes part-time while their own kids are in school, forcing them into an all-or-nothing choice if they want to have a parent home after school. This university also does not have a policy that stops the tenure clock for childbirth. Faculty of either gender can petition their department for special consideration on a case-by-case basis.

    So in short, there is no consideration of the physical realities of pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding nor the demands of parenting. Women are allowed to study and work, but only according to men’s rules, as if there is another wife at home to raise the kids. The effect is very anti-family, in my opinion, because it results encouraging females to delay childbirth until after tenure (which may be too late for many), and denies fulltime moms the chance to finish a degree and be prepared to enter a post-childrearing career that will pay for missions and retirement.

    I am certainly not the only one to live in a place like this, as noted in

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/04/business/economy/04leonhardt.html?_r=1

    This article cites Jane Waldfogel, a Columbia University professor who studies families and work, saying, “American feminists made a conscious choice to emphasize equal rights and equal opportunities, but not to talk about policies that would address family responsibilities.”

    “I certainly don’t think that that theory is espoused here at either the Exponent II blog or publication.”

    Yes, and the feminists where I live would laugh you out of the room. You may feel comfortable with your definition of feminism, and it sounds entirely consistent with what Friedan says in THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE. But that was a long time ago.

  30. Dora says:

    Oh, Naismith. The policies at your university are an even greater reason why women should finish their degrees when they are young. What good advice from the leaders of the church … prepare yourselves for the realities of life by getting an education.

    How different my career is than yours. Being a nurse, my field is dominated by women. There are many options for being able to work part and full time. Many of my coworkers have come back to work after having a child (or several, or several different times) with no penalties. I think that women need to carefully choose what path to follow. Career? Fulltime mother? A blend of both? A little extra research done before the endeavor is bound to be an asset. Both Deborah and Stella have recently written pieces on choosing career paths that fall in line with one’s true desire, as opposed to someone else’s script.

    The physicians who work at my hospital (especially the residents and fellows) have a more rigorous schedule for training. While it would be pretty difficult for them to have children whenever they wanted, they take a hard look at their program, and find windows of time when having a child is most beneficial. In short, like a career, having a child is carefully planned for. It is the additional effort they must make to do both.

    I did like what Ms. Waldfogel wrote immediately following the statement you quoted. “In many ways, the choice was shrewd. The feminist movement has been fabulously successful fighting for antidiscrimination laws that require men and women to be treated equally … As a result, outright sexism is no longer the main barrier to gender equality.” Maybe more equal rights for mothers can be the next frontier, Maybe you, Naismith, can be a forerunner in advocating for them.

    While I don’t agree with everything in this article, Catherine Hakim seems more in line with what you idealize, in fostering nurturing, in this article.

    “Instead of looking for the one ‘best option’ policy, governments should offer several’, says Catherine Hakim. ‘One-sided policies that support employment and careers but ignore the productive work done in the family are, in effect, endorsing market place values over family values. But the altruistic and community values embraced by home-centred or adaptive individuals, such as sharing, trust and cohesion, are equally as important to a social democracy.

    “Furthermore, there is evidence that men are beginning to demand the same options and choices as women, with more claims of sex discrimination from men. Policy makers need to be aiming for gender-neutral policies that cater for all three main lifestyle choices.”

    And Naismith … as for your very last paragraph. It seemed totally unnecessary to your argument, and a slap at your hosts, so to speak. Tone can be very hard to read on-line. I’m not quite sure if you were trying to be insulting and belittling, or not. At this point, I’m not even sure which option I’d hope to ascribe to you.

  31. Naismith says:

    I totally agree that nursing is a great profession, with lots of potential for flexibility and above-average salaries.

    “And Naismith … as for your very last paragraph. It seemed totally unnecessary to your argument, and a slap at your hosts, so to speak. Tone can be very hard to read on-line. I’m not quite sure if you were trying to be insulting and belittling, or not.”

    Actually, no, I wasn’t…I was merely being factual. For example, I wrote a column for the local newspaper about pro-life Democrats, mentioning the group Feminists for Life (which I think is an amazing group). The president of the local NOW chapter wrote a letter about that group and me not being feminists, and it was quite condescending and nasty. And of course there were other incidents. So I am not imagining, I have actually experienced it.

    I actually agree with much of what Exponent II says, I just question whether “feminism” is the best word to describe those viewpoints, given the predominant meaning of the word in the greater society.

  32. Dora says:

    Well, if your aim was to be factual, stating that your local feminists would laugh me, the X2 blog, or the X2 publication “out of the room,” is entirely uncalled for. It is not factual, and makes you come across as a boor. If you would like to discuss mormon feminism, this is a good place to do it. If you want to complain about the rotten treatment you’ve received from secular feminists, whatever their bias, in your local area, this is probably not the best place to do so. And yes, while, from your description, the writer of the nasty letter sounds horrible, it’s a bit much for that person to appropriate the title of feminist only for herself and those exactly like her. Rather like conservative mormons telling less conservative (or even struggling) mormons that they should just leave the church.

    I am glad that you find much to agree with here. However, it is also rather inappropriate to question how we define ourselves. For myself, I find that Seraphine over at Zelophehad’s Daughters articulated my viewpoint of being a mormon feminist very well.

    ‘And honestly, some of the members of this blog find themselves quite wary of academic or activist feminism. Some of us are feminist *only* in the context of the Mormon church, and that “feminism” has more to do with an internal moral code than an allegiance to a movement. This means that we’re not necessary saying “look at how wonderful feminism is, and look at how awful the church is.” Instead, we’re saying, “my inner moral sense of what is good and right tells me that there should be more equality in the church (and feminism happened to be the movement that most clearly articulated this moral belief).” ‘

  33. Naismith says:

    “Well, if your aim was to be factual, stating that your local feminists would laugh me, the X2 blog, or the X2 publication “out of the room,” is entirely uncalled for.”

    Yeah, I can see that, and I apologize. I should have simply said that when I said things like that, I was laughed out of the room, and not project what may or may not happen to you.

  34. Stephanie says:

    Dora, could you please link to that article on ZD? I am interested in reading it. Thank you.

  35. Dora says:

    Naismith ~ thank you.

    Stephanie ~ It was comment #22 among 215 on Lynette’s excellent post, Feminism is not a trial.

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